Genovese Crime Family
Updated: Feb 14
By Christian Cipollini exclusively for MobCity Productions
Vito Genovese: Boss from 1957 to 1969
Years active 1890s– present
Founding location New York City, New York, U.S.
Primarily; New York City, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, South Florida, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
Ethnicity: Italians and other ethnicities / Approx. 300 made members and 1,000+ associates (2004) Activities; Racketeering, murder, labor union infiltration, extortion, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, loansharking, bookmaking, truck hijacking, fraud, prostitution, pornography, bribery, and assault.
Determined to organize major criminal factions in such a way that promoted a more universally
beneficial cooperative – with no singular ‘boss of bosses’ - the young Turks (an alliance of both
Italian and Jewish gangsters) lead by Salvatore Lucania, aka Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano
established an oversight committee in late 1931, aka the ‘Commission,’ to delineate (loosely)
geographic and demographic leadership and settle underworld business issues.
Members of the board included a who’s who of gangland personalities, such as Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin Siegel, Dutch Schultz, Frank Costello, Louis Buchalter, Joe Adonis, and many more. Various factions were sanctioned throughout the United States, including the creation of the
infamous ‘Five Families’ in New York. The original five came to be known as the Luciano
Family, Profaci Family, Mangano Family, Bonnano Family, and Gagliano Family.
How did this modernization of the American mob come to be in the first place?
There existed numerous Italian crime groups in New York prior to 1931, of course, but when
one faction’s boss took offense to another boss’s perceived invasion, the entire underworld felt
the sting. Giuseppe ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria’sdisdain for rival Salvatore Maranzano’s
encroachment spawned retaliation of a violent kind. Drawing first blood, Masseria sent Vito
Genovese on a mission to kill Gaetano Reina in February 1930. Reina, racketeer specializing in
the ice business, came face to face with a shotgun wielding hitman while trying to help his
mistress enter a parked car. The murder officially started the back and forth killings of soldiers
from both sides, many of whom otherwise were once friends or associates despite their
respective bosses. This war of course is known as the Castellammarese War. The battle
between bosses carried an underscore of resentment from the young warriors forced to kill each
other. Still, the bloodshed continued into the spring of 1931, and then a secret plot was hatched
to put an end to the fighting.
“Giuseppe Masseria, otherwise ‘Joe the Boss,’ described by newspapers as an associate
of Al Capone and by the police as ‘The biggest racketeer of them all,’ is dead from a foe’s
bullet and police feared there would be a gang war.” - AP, April 16, 1931
Led by Lucky Luciano, conspirators from both sides arrived at the inevitable conclusion that
Maranzano was the stronger entity and Masseria would ultimately have to be deposed in order
to bring the killing to a standstill. In a rare example of solidarity almost unheard of before or
since, everyone from Chicago’s Al Capone to Detroit’s Purple Gang leadership to Masseria’s
most trusted inner circle were made privy to the plot. Most amazingly – everyone kept their
mouths tightly shut. With everything in order, Luciano and Vito Genovese secretly met with
Maranzano to discuss switching sides. “You know why you’re here?” Maranzano rhetorically
asked the Masseria henchmen. Both Luciano and Genovese nodded in understanding. “Good,”
continued Maranzano, “Then I don’t have to tell you what needs to be done. I’m looking forward
to a peaceful Easter.” With that brief exchange the stage was set for one of the underworld’s boldest coups. It sealed Joe the Boss’s fate, but to Maranzano’s later dismay – it was only the
beginning of a gangland housecleaning.
On the afternoon of April 15, 1931, Gerard Scarpato, proprietor of restaurant Nuova Villa
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