Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Born: November 21, 1897, Tufino, Italy Died: February 14, 1969, Springfield, Missouri Nicknames: Don Vitone Associates: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Valachi Giuseppe Joe “the Boss” Masseria
Vito Genovese was one of the most fearful American Mafia dons of all time. His lust for power was unrivaled in the majority of the crime syndicate at his time. He was ruthless and was willing to kill anyone to get his way. He was a man with a simple backstory but an extremely convoluted career.
Vito Genovese was born on November 21st, 1897 (some historians believe it to be the 27th, but most documentation states otherwise) in Risigliano, Italy, to his father, Frances Felive Genovese, and his mother, Nunziata Aluotto. Genovese grew up with a sister and two brothers who would eventually join his Genovese’s crime family. It was not until Genovese was around 15 that he immigrated to New York City and quickly grew a close affiliation with the infamous mobster Lucky Luciano.
By the time Genovese was 20, he would already have served a year in prison after being charged with illegal gun possession. After getting out of prison, he would find himself working for one of the most powerful American Mafia boss’s Joe the Boss Masseria. During this time, Frank Costello, Luciano, and Genovese started running an illegal bootlegging business under the financial aid of the cunning business Jewish mob kingpin Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein.
In 1930 Genovese’s merciless nature rose to fruition, which was a significant reason for his success. It was during this time that two of the largest Mafia leaders, Salvatore Maranzano and Joe the Boss Masseria, evoked a turf war. Though Genovese and Luciano were working under Masseria, they saw an opportunity through all the chaos. Luciano made a deal with Maranzano to kill his boss Masseria so that Genovese and Luciano manage Masseria’s old turf. Maranzano agreed, and on April 15th, 1931, Genovese killed Masseria at Coney Island after being lured there by Luciano. Ultimately, ending the Castellammarese War between Salvatore Maranzano and Joe the Boss Masseria. However, this did not stop Genovese’s lust for power, and he only grew more eager.
Only one year later, in 1931, Genovese and Luciano planned to murder their new boss Maranzano. Maranzano was planning to do the same to the two, but Luciano was on to his scheme. Luciano would hire four Jewish mobsters to visit Maranzano in his office and murder him before a hit would be placed. After Maranzano’s death on September 10th, 1931, Luciano quickly took over his place as capo dei capi (“boss of [the] bosses”) in New York. Genovese would swiftly become Luciano’s underboss, or also known as his right-hand-man.
In 1931, Genovese’s wife, Donata Ragone, died from tuberculosis. Instead of mourning Genovese declared his intent on marrying Anna Petillo, who was already married to Gerard Vernotico. This did not stop Genovese from getting what he desired as Vernotico was murdered on March 16th, 1932, and only 12 days later, Genovese and Petillo were married.
Luciano and Genovese completely controlled New York until June 18th, 1936, when Luciano was imprisoned for 30 to 50 years. Genovese became the acting boss in Luciano’s place before fleeing to Italy in fear of begging prosecuted for the murder of Ferdinand Boccia. It is also theorized that Genovese was closely involved with the Mussolini family and did underground jobs for them as favors. However, as the United States Army invaded Italy, Genovese quickly switched alliances.
After being forced back to the United States to face charges, Genovese did everything he could to be found not guilty. This included killing two main witnesses, one of which was held in protective custody. Genovese was found not guilty and released in 1946.
As Genovese returned to New York, he found that Frank Costello and Willie Moretti were unwilling to implement him back as the leader. Moreover, Luciano was reluctant to vouch for Genovese to become the leader of everyone. Luckily for Genovese, Willie Moretti attained syphilis, and the mob was worried about what he might say to the police, so they assassinated him. Genovese was then placed as underboss by Frank Costello.
Genovese wanted to be in complete control and began plotting against Costello. After killing Costello’s ally, Allbert Anastasia, in 1957, Costello was willing to step down and retire. Genovese quickly became the leader. He would run the Genovese crime family until his death on February 14th, 1969, from a heart attack at age 71.
His ruthlessness and power-seeking demeanor is still active today in New York City in the form of his crime family. Genovese controlled so much power that his legacy is still affecting the world today and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Blog Written by: Sean Harless for MobCity Productions.