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Vito Genovese (Italian: [ˈviːto dʒenoˈveːse, -eːze]; November 21, 1897 – February 14, 1969) was an Italian-American mobster who rose to power during Prohibition as an enforcer in the American Mafia. A long-time associate and childhood friend of Charles Luciano, Genovese took part in the Castellammarese War and helped shape the rise of the Mafia and organized crime in the United States. He would later lead Luciano's crime family, which was renamed the Genovese crime family by the authorities.

Vito Genovese
Vito Genovese NYWTS.jpg
Genovese circa 1959
Born(1897-11-21)November 21, 1897
Risigliano, Tufino,
Province of Naples, Italy
DiedFebruary 14, 1969(1969-02-14) (aged 71)
Resting placeSaint John Cemetery,
Queens, New York
Other names"Don Vitone"
OccupationCrime boss
Anna Genovese (m. 1932)
RelativesMichael Genovese (cousin)
AllegianceGenovese crime family

He was known as Boss of all Bosses from 1957 to 1959 when he ruled one of the wealthiest, most dangerous, and most powerful criminal organizations in the world and maintained power and influence over other crime families in America.[1] Along with childhood friend and former boss Luciano, he is deemed responsible for expanding the heroin trade to an international level. For a brief period during World War II, he supported Benito Mussolini's regime in Italy for fear of being deported back to the United States to face murder charges. Genovese served as mentor to Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the future boss of the Genovese crime family.[2]

While he helped usher in a new era in organized crime, his tenure as boss led to several incidents that were detrimental to the American Mafia's power. He ordered several highly publicized murders and when he called a meeting with all the Mafia bosses in the country to consolidate his power, the meeting was raided by the police. He also scared underling Joe Valachi into becoming the first member of the American Mafia to publicly acknowledge its existence and testify as a government witness.

Early lifeEdit

Vito Genovese was born on November 21, 1897, in Risigliano, a frazione in the commune of Tufino, near Naples, in Italy.[3][4] His father was Felice and his mother Nunziata. Vito had a sister Jennie along with two brothers, Michael and Carmine, who also belonged to Genovese's crime family. His cousin, Michael, became boss of the Pittsburgh crime family.[1][5]

Genovese was 5 ft 7 in (170 cm).[6] He and his family lived a quiet life in a house in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.

As a child in Italy, Genovese completed school only to the American equivalent of the fifth grade.[7] When Genovese was 15, his family emigrated to the United States and took up residence in Little Italy, Manhattan.[8] Genovese started his criminal career stealing merchandise from pushcart vendors and running errands for mobsters. He later collected money from people who played illegal lotteries. One of Genovese's early friends was Lucky Luciano, later a major leader of the Cosa Nostra. At 19, Genovese spent a year in prison for illegal possession of a firearm.[1]

In the early 1920s, Genovese started working for Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, the boss of a powerful Manhattan gang. Involved in bootlegging and extortion, Genovese's main value to Masseria was his propensity for violence. In 1930, Genovese was indicted on counterfeiting charges when police found $1 million of counterfeit US currency in a Bath Beach, Brooklyn workshop.[9]

In 1930, Genovese allegedly murdered Gaetano Reina, the leader of a Bronx-based gang. Reina had been a Masseria ally, but Masseria decided to kill him after he began to suspect him of secretly helping Masseria's archrival, Brooklyn gang leader Salvatore Maranzano. On February 26, 1930, Genovese ambushed Reina as he was leaving his mistress's house in the Bronx and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. Masseria then took direct control of the Reina gang.[10]

Castellammarese WarEdit

In early 1931, the Castellammarese War broke out between Masseria and Maranzano. By April 1931, Luciano and Genovese were secretly conspiring with Maranzano to kill Masseria. On April 15, 1931, Genovese participated in Masseria's murder.

Luciano had lured Masseria to a meeting at a Coney Island, Brooklyn restaurant. During their meal, Luciano excused himself to go to the restroom. As soon as Luciano was gone, Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis, and Bugsy Siegel rushed into the dining room and shot Masseria to death. The war ended and Maranzano was the winner.[11]

No one was ever indicted in the Masseria murder. After Masseria's murder, Maranzano reorganized all the Sicilian and Italian gangs in New York into five crime families. Luciano took over Masseria's family, with Genovese as his underboss.

In September 1931, Luciano and Genovese planned the murder of Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano had received word that Maranzano was planning to kill him and Genovese, and prepared a hit team to kill Maranzano first. On September 10, 1931, when Maranzano summoned Luciano, Genovese, and Frank Costello to a meeting at his office, they knew Maranzano would kill them there. Instead, Luciano sent the hit squad to the office, where they shot Maranzano to death.[12]

In 1931, Genovese's first wife died of tuberculosis and he quickly announced his intention to marry Anna Petillo, who was already married to Gerard Vernotico.[7][13]

On March 16, 1932, Vernotico was found strangled to death on a Manhattan rooftop, and on March 28, 1932, Genovese married his widow, Anna, who was also Genovese's cousin.[7]

Boccia murder and exile to ItalyEdit

In 1934, Genovese allegedly killed mobster Ferdinand Boccia. Genovese and Boccia had conspired to cheat a wealthy gambler out of $150,000 in a high-stakes card game. After the game, Boccia demanded a share of $35,000 because he had introduced the victim to Genovese. Rather than pay Boccia anything, Genovese decided to murder him. On September 19, 1934, Genovese and five associates allegedly shot and killed Boccia in a coffee shop in Brooklyn.[14][15]

On June 18, 1936, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in state prison as a result of his conviction on pandering. With Luciano's imprisonment, Genovese became acting boss of the Luciano crime family.[16]

On November 25, 1936, Genovese became a naturalized United States citizen in New York City.[5] In 1937, fearing prosecution for the Boccia murder, Genovese fled to Italy with $750,000 cash and settled in the city of Nola, near Naples.[10] With Genovese's departure, Costello became acting boss.

Genovese prospered in Italy, becoming a prominent Mafia leader there. Genovese also ran an enormous black market operation with Calogero Vizzini, a powerful Mafia boss in Sicily.[17] After bribing some fascist party members, Genovese became a good friend of Galeazzo Ciano, Benito Mussolini's son-in-law; it is believed Genovese provided Ciano with cocaine.[1] Genovese donated nearly $4 million to Mussolini's fascist party by the end of World War II. He was also awarded the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and made a commendatore, after he participated in helping create a new fascist party headquarters in Nola.[18][19][20]

In 1943, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of Carlo Tresca, the publisher of an anarchist newspaper in New York and an enemy of Mussolini. Genovese allegedly facilitated the murder as a favor to the Italian government. On January 11, 1943, a gunman shot and killed Tresca outside his newspaper office in Manhattan.[21] The shooter was later alleged to be Carmine Galante, a member of the Bonanno crime family (eventually becoming acting boss). It was logical for him to work with the older and better-established Vito Genovese, especially given their common enemy in La Cosa Nostra - Carlo Gambino). No one was ever charged in the Tresca murder.[22]

Return to New YorkEdit

When the Allies invaded Italy in September 1943, Genovese switched sides and quickly offered his services to the U.S. Army. New York governor Charles Poletti was given a personal gift from Genovese which was a 1938 Packard Sedan, which he accepted. Genovese was appointed to a position of interpreter/liaison officer in the U.S. Army headquarters in Naples and quickly became one of Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories' (AMGOT) most trusted employees. Poletti and the entire AMGOT department were completely unaware of his history.[17]

In the summer of 1944 in New York, Genovese was implicated in the Boccia murder by mobster Ernest "The Hawk" Rupolo, a former Genovese associate. Facing a murder conviction, Rupolo had decided to become a government witness.[9]

On August 27, 1944, U.S. military police arrested Genovese in Italy during an investigation into his running of a black market ring. It was revealed that Genovese had been stealing trucks, flour, and sugar from the Army. When Agent Orange C. Dickey of the Criminal Investigation Division examined Genovese's background, he discovered that Genovese was a fugitive wanted for the 1934 Boccia killing. However, there was seemingly little interest from the Army or the federal government in pursuing Genovese.[23]

After months of frustration, Dickey was finally able to make preparations to ship Genovese back to New York to face trial, but came under increasing pressure. Genovese personally offered Dickey a $250,000 bribe to release him, then threatened Dickey when the offer was refused.[24] Dickey was even instructed by his superiors in the military chain of command to refrain from pursuing Genovese, but refused to be dissuaded.[23]

On June 2, 1945, after arriving in New York by ship the day before, Genovese was arraigned on murder charges for the 1934 Boccia killing. He pleaded not guilty.[25] On June 10, 1946, another prosecution witness, Jerry Esposito, was found shot to death beside a road in Norwood, New Jersey.[26] Earlier, another witness, Peter LaTempa, was found dead in a cell where he had been held in protective custody.

Without anyone to corroborate Rupolo's testimony, the government's case collapsed, and the charges against Genovese were dismissed on June 10, 1946. In making his decision, Judge Samuel Leibowitz commented:

I cannot speak for the jury, but I believe that if there were even a shred of corroborating evidence, you would have been condemned to the (electric) chair.[27]

Pursuit of powerEdit

With his release from custody in 1946, Genovese was able to rejoin the Luciano family in New York; however, neither Costello nor Moretti were willing to return power to him. In 1946, Lansky called a meeting of the heads of the major crime families in Havana that December. The ostensible reason was to see singer Frank Sinatra perform. However, the real reason was to discuss mob business with Luciano in attendance. The three topics which would come under discussion were: the heroin trade, Cuban gambling, and what to do about Siegel and the floundering Flamingo Hotel project in Las Vegas. The Conference took place at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba and lasted a little more than a week.

On December 20, during the conference, Luciano had a private meeting with Genovese in Luciano's hotel suite. Unlike Costello, Luciano had never trusted Genovese. In the meeting, Genovese tried to convince Luciano to become a titular boss of bosses and let Genovese run everything. Luciano calmly rejected Genovese's suggestion:

There is no Boss of Bosses. I turned it down in front of everybody. If I ever change my mind, I will take the title. But it won't be up to you. Right now you work for me and I ain't in the mood to retire. Don't you ever let me hear this again, or I'll lose my temper."[51]

Genovese was now a capo of his former Greenwich Village Crew. However, on October 4, 1951, Moretti was assassinated by order of the Mafia Commission; the mob bosses were unhappy with his testimony during the Kefauver Hearings, and were worried, with the syphilis now affecting his brain, he might start talking to the press. Costello appointed Genovese as the new underboss.[28]

In 1952, Anna Genovese sued her husband for financial support, an unheard-of action by the wife of a Cosa Nostra figure. Two years earlier, she had moved out of the family home in New Jersey.[29] In 1953, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of mobster Steven Franse. Genovese had tasked Franse with supervising Anna Genovese while her husband was hiding in Italy. Outraged over Anna's love affairs and her lawsuit against him, Genovese ordered two hitmen to brutally beat Franse and then slowly strangled him to death.[10]

During the mid-1950s, Genovese decided to move against Costello. However, Genovese needed to also remove Costello's strong ally on the Commission, Albert Anastasia, the boss of the Anastasia crime family. Genovese was soon conspiring with Carlo Gambino, Anastasia's underboss, to remove Anastasia.

In May 1957, Genovese ordered the Costello murder attempt. On May 2, as Costello was entering the lobby of his apartment building, mobster Vincent Gigante stepped out of a limousine, shot Costello once in the head, then left the scene. Fortunately for Costello, he suffered only a superficial scalp wound.[30] However, the experience convinced Costello to retire from the family. Genovese now became boss of what is known as the Genovese crime family and promoted his longtime lieutenant, Anthony Strollo, to underboss.

In late 1957, Genovese and Gambino allegedly ordered Anastasia's murder. Genovese had heard rumors that Costello was conspiring with Anastasia to regain power. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia arrived at the Park Central Hotel barber shop in Midtown, Manhattan, for a haircut and shave. As Anastasia relaxed in the barber chair, two men with their faces covered in scarves shot and killed Anastasia. Witnesses were unable to identify any of the gunmen and competing theories exist today as to their identities.[31][32]

The coup against Costello was not supported by one of the biggest earners in the family, Anthony Carfano. Soon after Genovese became the godfather, he would allegedly arrange for Carfano to be murdered. Genovese loyalists Philip Lombardo, Gerardo Catena and Mike Miranda would assume the top positions in the family by the early 1960s.

Apalachin and prisonEdit

Vito Genovese at the time of his arrest August 2, 1958 in New York City.

In November 1957, immediately after the Anastasia murder, Genovese called for a meeting of national Cosa Nostra leaders. Genovese wanted the commission leads to confirm him as his family's boss as well as to approve Carlo Gambino as boss of his family. Genovese set the meeting, known today as the Apalachin Conference, at the farm of mobster Joseph Barbara in the rural town of Apalachin, New York.

However, on November 14, a New York State Police trooper noticed the increased activity at the Barbara farm and called for reinforcements to surround it. When the attendees were alerted, they chaotically fled the location, some fleeing on foot into the woods. The police stopped Genovese as he was driving away from the farm. Genovese said he was just there for a barbecue and to discuss business with Barbara. The police let him go.[33]

On June 2, 1958, Genovese testified under subpoena in the U.S. Senate McClellan Hearings on organized crime. Genovese refused to answer any questions, citing the Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution 150 separate times.[24]

On July 7, 1958, Genovese was indicted on charges of conspiring to import and sell narcotics.[34] The government's star witness was Nelson Cantellops, a Puerto Rican drug dealer who claimed Genovese met with him.[35] In 1959, Genovese was convicted of selling a large quantity of heroin. On April 17, 1959, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.[36] Several court observers and organized-crime experts suspected that Cantellops was lying. Like most crime bosses, Genovese placed layers of insulation between himself and his family's criminal enterprises. It would have been significantly out of character for Genovese to have been directly involved in any criminal operation, let alone a drug deal. Similar questions have been posed about Luciano's conviction in 1936 for being the mastermind of a prostitution ring.[35]

Before he went to prison, Genovese created a ruling panel of high-level family members to supervise the family: Strollo, Catena, and Miranda. However, Genovese still retained ultimate control from prison.

In September 1959, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of mobster Anthony Carfano. Angered at the murder attempt on Costello, Carfano had skipped the Apalachin meeting in protest. In response, Genovese decided to murder him.[37] On September 25, 1959, Carfano and a female companion were found shot to death in his Cadillac automobile on a residential street in Jackson Heights, Queens.[38]

In April 1962, Genovese allegedly ordered the murder of Anthony Strollo after concluding that Strollo was part of the plot that put him in prison. On April 8, Strollo left his house to go for a walk and was never seen again. His body was never recovered.[39]

In 1962, an alleged murder threat from Genovese propelled mobster Joseph Valachi into the public spotlight. In June, Genovese supposedly accused Valachi, also imprisoned in Atlanta, of being an informer and gave Valachi the kiss of death.[40][41] In July, Valachi supposedly mistook another inmate for a mob hitman and killed him. A $100,000 bounty for Valachi's death, had been placed by Genovese.[42] After receiving a life sentence for that murder, Valachi decided to become a government witness.[43]

On August 24, 1964, Ernest Rupolo's body was recovered from Jamaica Bay, Queens. His killers had attached two concrete blocks to his legs and tied his hands. It was widely assumed that Genovese had ordered Rupolo's murder for testifying against him in the 1944 Boccia murder trial.[44]


In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Grutzner, Charles (February 16, 1959). "Ruled 'Family' of 450. Genovese Dies in Prison at 71. 'Boss of Bosses' of Mafia Here". New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2011. Vito Genovese's throne, from which he ruled as "Boss of All Bosses" of the Mafia in the New York area, rested on the coffins of several predecessors -- in whose murders he is believed to have conspired. ...
  2. ^ DeVico, Peter J. "The Mafia Made Easy: The Anatomy and Culture of La Cosa Nostra". (p. 186).
  3. ^ Dom Frasca (1963). Vito Genovese: King of Crime. Avon Books.
  4. ^ Gil Reavill (2013). "Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting That Unmasked the Mob".
  5. ^ a b Bureau of Narcotics, Sam Giancana, The United States Treasury Department. Mafia: The Governments Secret File on Organized Crime. p. 307).
  6. ^ IMBD: Vito Genovese at Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ a b c Maas, Peter (2003). The Valachi papers (1st Perennial ed.). New York: Perennial. p. 130. ISBN 0-06-050742-X.
  8. ^ Philip Carlo The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer (pp. 68–69).
  9. ^ a b "Prisoner's Story Breaks 4 Murders by Brooklyn Ring" (PDF). New York Times. August 9, 1944. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Sifakis, Carl (2005). The Mafia encyclopedia (3. ed.). New York: Facts on File. p. 277. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3.
  11. ^ Davis, John H. (1994). Mafia dynasty : the rise and fall of the Gambino crime family (1st Harper paperbacks ed.). New York, N.Y.: HarperPaperbacks. p. 40. ISBN 0-06-109184-7.
  12. ^ Cohen, Rich (1999). Tough Jews (1st Vintage Books ed.). New York: Vintage Books. pp. 65–66. ISBN 0-375-70547-3.
  13. ^ Abadinsky, Howard (2010). Organized crime (9th ed.). Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-495-59966-1.
  14. ^ "Fugitive Miranda Gives Up" (PDF). New York Times. September 17, 1946. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  15. ^ "AMG Aide in Italy Held in Murder Here" (PDF). New York Times. November 25, 1944. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  16. ^ "Lucania Sentenced to 30 to 50 Years; Court Warns Ring" (PDF). New York Times. June 19, 1936. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  17. ^ a b The Mafia Restored: Fighters for Democracy in World War II Archived April 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Alfred W. McCoy.
  18. ^ Martone, Eric (December 12, 2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ISBN 9781610699952.
  19. ^ Mafia Summit. Gil Reavil. January 22, 2013. ISBN 9781250021106.
  20. ^ The Mafia at Apalachin, 1957. Michael Newton. 2012. ISBN 9780786489862. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "Assassin Slays Tresca, Radical, In Fifth Avenue". New York Times. January 12, 1943.
  22. ^ Franks, Lucinda (February 20, 1977). "Obscure Gangster Emerging as Mafia Chief in New York" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  23. ^ a b Hunting Down Vito Genovese by Tim Newark, June 2007.
  24. ^ a b Loftus, Joseph A. (July 3, 1958). "Genovese Invokes the Fifth 150 Times in Mafia Study" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  25. ^ "Genovese Denies Guit" (PDF). New York Times. June 3, 1945. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  26. ^ "Gang-Ride Victim Thrown in Brush" (PDF). New York Times. June 9, 1946. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  27. ^ "Genovese is Freed of Murder Charge" (PDF). New York Times. June 11, 1946. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  28. ^ Conklin, William R. (October 9, 1951). "Moretti is Buried in Gangster Style" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  29. ^ "Wife Suing Genovese" (PDF). New York Times. December 10, 1952. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  30. ^ "Costello is Shot Entering Home; Gunman Escapes" (PDF). New York Times. May 3, 1957. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  31. ^ "Anastasia Slain in a Hotel Here; Led Murder, Inc". New York Times. October 26, 1957.
  32. ^ "Albert Anastasia". Retrieved December 31, 2011.
  33. ^ Perlmutter, Emanuel (June 17, 1959). "Genovese Depicts Apalchin Visit" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  34. ^ "U.S. July Indicts Genovese, Gigante, in Narcotics Plot" (PDF). New York Times. July 8, 1958. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  35. ^ a b Raab, Selwyn. The Five Families: The Rise, Decline & Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empire. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005.
  36. ^ Feinberg, Alexander (April 18, 1959). "Genovese is Given 15 Years in Prison in Narcotics Case" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  37. ^ Grutzner, Charles (August 24, 1963). "Pisano Witnesses Changing Stories" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  38. ^ "Little Augie Pisano is Slain With Woman in Auto Here" (PDF). New York Times. September 26, 1959. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  39. ^ Sifkakis. p. 38. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  40. ^ Rudolf, Robert (1993). Mafia Wiseguys: The Mob That Took on the Feds. New York: SPI Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-56171-195-6.
  41. ^ Dietche, Scott M. (2009). The Everything Mafia Book: True-life accounts of legendary figures, infamous crime families, and nefarious deeds. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-1-59869-779-7.
  42. ^ "The rat who started it all; For 40 years, Joe Valachi has been in a Lewiston cemetery, a quiet end for the mobster who blew the lid off 'Cosa Nostra' when he testified before Congress in 1963". October 9, 2011.
  43. ^ Litchtenstein, Grace (April 4, 1971). "Held Nation in Thrall" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  44. ^ "Body of Informer, Tied to Concrete, Pulled from Bay" (PDF). New York Times. August 25, 1964. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  45. ^ "Mafia kingpin dies while serving time". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. February 14, 1969. p. 4A.
  46. ^ "Boss of Bosses". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  47. ^ "The Valachi Papers". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ name="bonanno story">
  51. ^ "The Making of the Mob". Retrieved April 7, 2018 – via

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

American Mafia
Preceded by
Lucky Luciano
Genovese crime family

Succeeded by
Frank "Chee" Gusage
Preceded by
Lucky Luciano
as boss
Genovese crime family
Acting boss

Succeeded by
Frank Costello
Preceded by
Willie Moretti
Genovese crime family

Succeeded by
Gerardo "Gerry" Catena
Preceded by
Frank Costello
Genovese crime family

Succeeded by
Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo
Preceded by
Frank Costello
Capo di tutti capi
Boss of bosses

Succeeded by
Joseph Bonanno
as chairman of the commission