The “Atlantic pact ”
Giuseppe Esposito was the first Sicilian mafia to emigrate to the United States. He fled to New York (along with six other “cronies”) after killing, in series, 11 wealthy landowners, a chancellor and a deputy chancellor. He was arrested in New Orleans in 1881 and extradited to Italy. And it is in New Orleans that there was the first “excellent murder” in the United States. On October 15, 1890, city police superintendent David Hennessey was killed in what was called an “execution” by the FBI. Repression follows, hundreds of Sicilians are arrested and 19 of them indicted for the murder. They were acquitted but, the indignation of the citizens of New Orleans, led to a real lynching, with the killing of 11 of the 19 defendants.
From that moment the American mafia has evolved up to the constitution of “La Cosa nostra” (LCN), differentiated from the Sicilian “Cosa Nostra”. But the key moment for American investigators was in 1956 when the New York State Police discovered a meeting of mobsters from all over the country in the small town of Apalachin.
Already mentioned Lucky Luciano (who founded the most important Genovese family), with the Americans who had already understood the violence of the mafia, we reached the seventies-eighties with the investigations of two judges and a policeman: Rocco Chinnici Giovanni Falcone and Boris Giuliano. It was Rocco Chinnici, at the time head of the Palermo Education Office, inventor of the anti-mafia ‘pool’, who entrusted Falcone with the investigation that would lead him to the center of drug trafficking between the two shores of the ocean: “A particular pride of mine – commented Chinnici – is the declaration of the Americans according to which the Education Office of Palermo has become the pilot center of the anti-mafia struggle, an example for other magistracies ”.
Giovanni Falcone focused his attention on the zips (slang term with which the new immigrants from Sicily are indicated in the United States) and on the ‘escaped’, i.e. those who had survived the carnage ordered by Totò Riina to conquer absolute power in Cosa Nostra fleeing to the other side of the world. They were, in particular, the Inzerillos, allies of Stefano Bontade, and in turn distantly related to the American Gambinos.
The organization of ‘La Cosa nostra’
In the United States it branched out more and more, until it was divided into five families (Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese), whose leaders sat in a revisited “dome” with a clear Sicilian flavor.
From the aforementioned Genovese family of Lucky Luciano – which extends its criminal power in all the five boroughs of New York, we arrive at that of the Gambinos, founded by Salvatore ‘Totò’ D’Aquila in 1910, and – according to the investigators – beyond Frank Calì is headed by Domenico Cefalù and Joseph Corozzo, but also by Joseph Lanni. He has a ‘reserved’ man, brother of a private investigator. The Gambinos, whose name still resonates in Sicily, more precisely in the Ragusa area.
Then there are the Bonanno who are one of the oldest mafia families, born in Castellamare del Golfo, in the last years of the nineteenth century. The Bonanno family had a moment of great power in the 1930s, under the leadership of Salvatore Maranzano, who was later killed by Lucky Luciano. They have always had strong interests in drug trafficking and construction, expanding into all five New York boroughs: Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
The Lucchese family, on the other hand, was founded in 1922 by Tommy (born Gaetano) Reina. Today it extends between the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn and has among its illegal activities those of “street business”: robbery, usury and receiving stolen goods. The last family of the “five” is the youngest, namely that of the Colombo family, founded in 1928 by Joe Profaci and always active, especially in Brooklyn.
Among the criminal activities that produce significant “revenue” are fraud in the construction sector, the classic drug trafficking, huge money laundering and the most innovative trafficking in which some families are specializing: the international pharmaceutical one. For the FBI, the greatest alarm is related to the “labor racket”, “in order to influence related companies and industries”. These include the Genovese and Gambino families, engaged in the labor racket in the “Port Everglades”. All this through the control of the trade unions and the funds available to them.
The “five families” also boast various corporate properties, including restaurants, car dealers, construction and real estate companies, up to strip clubs and topless bars.
The military strength of families
According to confidential documents from overseas – which the AGI has been able to view – the Genovese family can now count on 175 members, that of the Gambinos on 165, the Bonanno on 132, the Lucchese on 121 and the Colombo on 90. added hundreds of other people. Each member, in fact, has the possibility to affiliate between 5 and 10 people. In all, therefore, there are between 3400 and 6800 affiliated to “La Cosa nostra” in the state of New York alone.
Relations with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra
Once the veto imposed by Totò Riina fell, as early as 2003 Cosa Nostra Siciliana was divided among those who saw a new business perspective in overseas bosses (such as Salvatore Lo Piccolo, who hoped to climb the Sicilian dome with their help) and other bosses who, fearing retaliation, remained loyal to Riina. Up to the too “noisy” interest of Frank Calì, intercepted by American investigators. Calì had taken the reins of the Gambino family, which historically belonged to John Gotti, who died in 2002 after a conviction – among others – for twelve murders.
In the recent report of the Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate to Parliament, it is noted: “The escapees from the mafia war of the Eighties have established profitable entrepreneurial activities in the United States and the proceeds would have been destined for the maintenance of families and associates who remained in Sicily”. But the overcoming of Riina’s diktats can be seen in action. The Bonanno family, for example, saw “meetings” in Castellamare del Golfo, for a substantial “reconstruction”. Again, the boss of Cosa Nostra in Sciacca (Agrigento), Accursio Dimino, who had planned his escape while traveling to the USA. And then still other affiliates who continue to travel to and from NYC. In addition to the recent arrests of the Palermo DDA in the “New connection” blitz.
Cosa Nostra beyond New York City
There are not only the “five families” in the US. In Buffalo there is the Todaro family, whose head is Joseph Todaro jr and the sub-chief is Domenico Violi. According to what was learned from the AGI, the “family” controls the business of Niagara Falls and Hamilton in Ontario.
In Philadelphia there is the Merlino family, with at least thirty members and constantly growing. Here, the recent release of the boss Joseph Merlino is increasing the mafia caliber of the family in the so-called “Tri State Area” (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and has a strong relationship with the Genoese.
Another important area for the Cosa Nostra is that in Elizabeth, the county seat of Union County in New Jersey. Here we find the “strong family” of the DeCavalcante, with a hundred affiliates and an important contiguity with the Gambinos.
In Boston is the Patriarca family that controls drugs, gambling, usury and illegal labor racketeering. In Los Angeles we find some members of the Gambino family.
Finally, Miami: here the situation is very varied, a sort of “open city” with all the aforementioned families present and a “new entry”, the Caruana-Cuntrera, historic mafia family from Agrigento (known as the Rothschilds of the mafia or the bankers di Cosa Nostra) which has tentacles in the Miami economy, in absolute connection with the other “families”.
The Camorra does not have an autonomous structure in the US, but has historical ties with the Genovese family, some Italian affiliates have properties in Florida (particularly nightclubs).
According to AGI sources, the super fugitive Raffaele Imperiale also frequented these shores, today the sought-after drug trafficker number one of the Naples Anti-Mafia District Directorate (considered by many to be the largest drug broker of organized crime capable of flooding the Neapolitan dealing squares with cocaine ). With Imperiale also Attilio Eugenio Repetti – a Genoese broker arrested for the first time in the mid-90s and, after an acquittal, ended up in handcuffs again in 2016 on charges of cleaning up the proceeds of the Camorra narcos.
“One thing between them” to return to the words of Lucky Luciano. A “thing” to defeat, with investigations by investigators but also with knowledge. Because the strategy of camouflage (devised by the mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano) worked all the more in the US, with small “accidents” along the way, such as the assassination two years ago of the boss of one of the most important American mafia families, the Italian-American Francesco Paolo Augusto Calì, for all Frank.
The “Atlantic pact” between mafias, with the resumption at “full speed” of relations between the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the US, is of increasing concern. All the more so with the rain of billions (on the one hand the Biden Plan, on the other the Recovery Fund) sent to the economies of the United States and Europe. Between the shores of the ocean the sea is full of fish, the two mafias have their nets ready, we need to be vigilant starting from knowledge.