Chicago gangster Ted Newberry says: "He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." Ted was rubbed out on January 7, 1933

Arrest of Francis 'Two Gun' Crowley

Meet Kiki

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rosario expires in his cario

Rosario Riggio was an ex-convict and racketeer who was paroled in May of 1934 after serving a ten year sentence in the Atlanta penitentiary for counterfeiting. Back in New York he opened a grocery store supposedly as a front for illegal activities.
Although they claimed he was a racketeer, police refused to say what racket he was involved in. His brother Joseph had been involved in the ice racket prior to being killed, possibly a victim in the Castellemmarese War, on March 19, 1930.*
Police said that fearing for his life, Riggio, who also feared violating his parole, took to using twenty-six year old Alfred Seru as a "gun-toter". It was Seru's job to be near his boss and supply him with a gun should the need arise. On January 31, an adversary of Riggio's dropped into the grocery store and Seru fired on him but unfortunately killed a young woman who was in the store shopping and was then hauled off to jail leaving his boss defenseless.
On this day in 1935, Riggio went to a house down the block from his store supposedly to inspect some art he was thinking about buying. At about 4:00pm he left the premises and as he walked up to his car, two men, both carrying pistols, quickly walked up behind him and fired simultaneously. Hit three times in the right side of the head and once in the neck, Riggio managed to stumble into his car before falling over the steering wheel dead.
One explanation for Riggio's murder is that it was an insurance hit. Perhaps the killers of his brother Joseph feared that he might make an attempt at retribution and so knocked him off just in case.

* For more on the Castellemmarese War read Gangster City

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Death from above

On this date in 1931 Mariano Alonzo was walking along the street when a shot rang out from a second story apartment. As he crumpled to the street two gunmen escaped out the back of the tenement into a waiting car and escaped. Alonzo probably had just exited a nearby building because as the crowds gathered to watch him take his last breathes a woman, assumed to be his wife Sally, elbowed her way through and threw herself on the now dead man and began screaming hysterically until the cops dragged her away.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This wasn't in the brochure

Eighty-five years ago today a busload of tourist got to witness a gangland killing first hand when their tour bus was going through Little Italy. The victim was Joseph Marone who was walking down the street when a car containing four men pulled up behind him and fired a shot. Marone dropped to the sidewalk with a bullet in his thigh. Before any more shots could be fired the tour bus pulled up between the car and Marone and the shooters sped off.
The tourist thought they were watching the filming of a movie and didn't realize that Marone was actually hurt but a pedestrian who knew better went and fetched a cop. At first Marone's leg wound appeared superficial and he was taken to Bellevue hospital where he was arrested. But at midnight the police received word from the hospital that he had died.
During his interrogation Marone kept his mouth shut and said nothing about his affairs or the men who shot him but police believed he was part of a burglary gang and double crossed the other members with the divvying up of spoils. The police also said that Marone knew he was a marked man and only left his house in the daytime. The killers, they speculated had been staking out his house and that's how they got him.

Friday, February 22, 2008

AA meeting

On this date in 1931 gangster brothers Al and Abe Wagner and their Brother in-law Harry Brown attended a supposed peace conference with rival gangsters at the Hatfield House Hotel in Manhattan. After a few hours of drinking and talking Abe left the room to make a phone call. While he was in the next room Al and Harry got into an argument with their rivals and bullets began to fly. Three of them slammed into Al's chest as another plowed into his head. Five found their mark in brother in-law Harry who managed to walk out of the Hotel and make his way to nearby Bellevue Hospital. Abe escaped unharmed.

For the full story on the Wagners check Gangster City

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Ace gets shot down

Seventy-seven years ago tonight a twenty year-old Italian hood named John "Aces" Mazza entered an East Villiage restaurant and searched the crowd for a familiar face. When he didn't see it he stepped back out onto the sidewalk where two men standing at the curb suddenly opened fire on him. "Aces" drew his own .45 and squeezed off a few rounds before collapsing dead. A religious fellow Mazza was wearing a number of medals, one of which read, "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth." and another saying "St. Joseph patron of the grace of a happy death. Protect me." Editors note: Neither medal appears to have been effective

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A few questions with Greg Vaccariello

Last month I had a chat with comedian Tim Krompier who was the grandson of Dutch Schultz Lt. Martin Krompier. This month I was able to chat with Greg Vaccariello a descendant of New York's crime boss Paul Kelly. Like Tim, Greg is also a comedian and actor. I've known Greg for a ten years or so, and like Tim, when I first learned his last name I thought to myself, "I wonder if...nah, what are the chances." Just like with Tim they were good. Some day I will learn.

Greg is based in L.A. and took a few minutes to answer a few questions.

Q: How exactly are you related to Paolo Vacarelli and when did you first become aware that he was actually the infamous Paul Kelly?

A: Uncle Paolo is my great uncle. We always knew that there was a connection but we never really talked about it. Mostly because my dad didn't talk about much of anything.

Q) There is a slight mispelling in your names. Why is that? Any idea if this was done a hundred or so years ago by your family to disassociate yourselves from Uncle Pauley?

A) The misspelling is simply a mistake made at Ellis Island. The correct spelling is 'Vaccariello'. Most of my relatives use that spelling. I don't think there was ever a desire to disassociate from Uncle Paulo at all. I get the impression that back in those days it was kind of an honor to have someone in that line of work in your family. My understanding is that although my family worked hard to make a living, it didn't hurt to drop a name or two in case of anything...if you know what I mean.

Q) When speaking with gangster descendants I find that two or three generations have to go by before anyone is willing to discuss said gangster. Is that the way it was with your family or was he discussed openly? If the latter were any family stories handed down?

A) We never really discussed Uncle Paolo. I don't think there was any reason for that other than the fact that my dad wasn't close to many people in his family. My dad was a cop so maybe that was part of the reason too.

Q) Were there any other Vaccarelli's involved in organized crime or would answering that guarantee us both a free trip to the bottom of the East river?

A) The East River is very very cold this time of year. But seriously, I don't think so. As far as I know it stopped with Uncle Paolo. As a matter of fact, my family has gone legit. At least that's what we're telling everyone. Some of my relatives have become quite successful, having careers in medicine, politics (both NY City and NY State), sports, on Broadway and as entrepreneurs. I think I'm actually the white trash of my family. One of my relatives was a professional boxer and was mentioned in Raging Bull, but as far as I know the name was changed to 'Baccariello' in the movie. I'm not sure why they changed it but I heard a rumor that they were 'asked' to. Another relative was the sanitation commissioner under Mayor Koch and later worked for the governor on NYS.

Q) Do mobophiles ever see your name in the paper and approach you at your shows for some gangster talk?

A) A few times over the years I've had people come up to me after shows and asked if I was related to Uncle Paolo. That's a weird situation. I usually respond with 'And you are?' The last thing I need is for someone to say''And this is for Monk and then blast away, especially after I just had a great show and didn't get a chance to sell my CDs. It's only happened a few times but I really think they were just descendants of business associates of my uncle. Curiosity more than anything. I did have one guy come up to me in Vegas and say, 'If you ever need anything, ANYTHING, call me.' Nice guy.

Q) Speaking of Monk, do you ever have an inexplicable urge to beat up anyone named Eastman?

A) Eastman, no. Downey, yes.

Thanks Greg!

For more info on Greg and to see if he is performing in your town soon check out:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roll 'em

Looks like they rounded out the rest of the cast for Public Enemies. According to IMDB here are the actors and the persons that they will be portraying.

Jason Clarke as John "Red" Hamilton (Dillinger gang)

Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd bankrobber

John Ortiz as Frank Nitti Chicago mob boss

Giovanni Ribisi as Alvin Karpis kidnapper/bank robber

stephen Dorff as Homer Van Meter (Dillinger gang)

Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette (Dillinger's girl friend)

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis (FBI)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Welcome back

According to police Alphonse Respivo was a small time racketeer who, although a native New Yorker, having lived both on Manhattan's eastside and in Brooklyn, divided his time between the Big Apple and Chicago.
In 1921 Respivo was arrested for robbery and sentenced to a term of eight to sixteen years but was released in 1927. He was also arrested in Chicago in 1931 for carrying a gun, an offense that cost him six months in jail and a $100 fine.
Back in New York, where he was wanted for violation of his 1927 parole, Restivo returned to the eastside and at 4 p.m. on this date in 1935 he was crossing the street when two men came up from behind and shot him in the back numerous times. The gunmen then tossed their guns (a .38 and a .45) in the street and ran in opposite directions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shoulda stayed in the Bronx Lefty

Though only 26 years old at the time of his death on this date in 1925, "Lefty" Kanter was a veteran of Gangland. He had sold drugs and committed a number of robberies one of which resulted in his being sent to the Elmira reformatory on May 4, 1915. "Lefty" was also a former member of the Johnny Spanish gang until it's name sake was killed by "Kid" Dropper in 1919. In 1921 he was picked up for the murder of Hymie Kellerman, a member of Kid Dropper's gang who may have played a part in the murder of Spanish, but was released.
At the time of his death Kanter had been living in the Bronx and had been keeping away from the old neighborhood but for some reason he began revisiting his old haunts. On the last of these visits he was seen walking through Forsythe Street nervously smoking a cigarette and glancing side to side with his hands in his pockets. He stopped in front of a building that was used as a musicians lodge and listened to the music for a moment before continuing along. When he was in front of 79 Forsythe St. two men approached him and they began to talk. After a moment an argument broke out and Kanter stepped back just as a woman came up and said something to one of the men "Lefty" had been speaking with. That man, who had a gun up his coat sleeve, stepped forward and placed the gun against Kanter's chest and fired. "Lefty" staggered but before he dropped the gunman fired again hitting him in the neck. In the short time it had taken the police to arrive "Lefty" was dead. All the cops knew him on sight and felt that he was murdered in revenge for the death of Hymie Kellerman.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

There's no such thing as bad publicity...unless you were involved in a murder

Today's victim, Louis DeMaria, was considered by police to be a small time racketeer. That may have been true but he also may have some how been involved with Vincent Coll or his murder five days before.
DeMaria's had been shot three times and his body dumped on a road, where it was spotted by a bus driver. Oddly, earlier that day the car used for the murder was found just a hundred feet away, wrecked, with bloodstains and a pistol missing three shots. Apparently the killers tossed DeMaria's corpse out of the car and then crashed moments later. No one inspecting the car however, found the dead man.
Interestingly DeMaria's body was found amidst a number of newspaper clippings pertaining to the Coll murder. Police were unable to place the dead man in either Coll's or Dutch Schultz's gangs so were unable to say with any certainty whether his death was a result of the murder. Perhaps he was some how involved either as a spotter or as the mystery man who entered the London Chemist drug store with the "Mad Dog" only to walk out moments later when Coll's killer entered. If in fact DeMaria was involved with Coll then there are three motives for his murder.
One, he was a Coll guy who simply liked to carry around news clippings of his boss and was a natural target as all Coll guys were.
Two, if DeMaria was the mystery man then the remaining members of the Coll mob figured out that he was the double crosser who set up their leader and meted out their own justice.
Three, since DeMaria took to carrying around souvenirs of the murder chances are he was talking about it to anyone who would listen as well, perhaps bragging in his neighborhood to show that he was more than the petty racketeer the police considered him. If the killers of Coll did you use him in some capacity they probably decided that his loose tongue was liability and rubbed him out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A double killing in the Bronx

Carmine Barelli and May Smith had been a couple for about two years. Barelli was a safecracker and gambler and Smith was a hostess at the Dreamland Dance Academy on 125th Street. February 12, 1930 found the couple returning from somewhere and parking their car in the garage at 1416 Inwood Avenue, the Bronx. The couple was exiting the garage when a large sedan pulled up to the curb. The duo must have recognized the men in the car because the attendant on duty said that Barelli and May took off running in opposite directions with panic stricken faces. Four men jumped out of the sedan and two began to chase Smith and two went after Barelli. May only managed to run a few yards before tripping and falling down. The gunmen approached her and shot her in the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades. Meanwhile the two men who were chasing Barelli caught up with him on a ramp in the garage and fired five shots at him hitting him in both the chin and the chest, killing him instantly. After the killers got away Miss Smith was placed in a cab and died en-route to the hospital. Vincent Coll was picked up as one of the killers but nothing ever came of it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Curse of the Pharaoh

On this date in 1929 twenty-six year old James Rocco was in a Queens hangout known as the Pharaoh Social Club with four other guys. While the five men were discussing whatever it was that men inside the Pharaoh Social Club discussed three men entered and asked if any of them knew the address of a guy named James Marino. None of the men had heard of Marino so the trio left. The question about Marino was just a ruse however because the men were just checking to see if Rocco was on the premises. Once they knew their target was inside each man drew a gun and the threesome re-entered the club and fired a volley at Rocco. Rocco dropped dead with three bullets in him as the gunmen ran out to a waiting car and sped off.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Shot through the heart, your to blame. You give extortion a bad name (bad name)

At 11:20pm 101-years ago today, also a Saturday, thirty-five year old Felipo Randazzo locked the door to his butcher shop, located at 177 Christie Street, and turned to begin his walk home. After a couple of steps a large caliber bullet fired from a powerful rifle plowed through his heart, went out his back, passed through the shop door and hit a column inside before coming to a rest on the floor.
At first it was thought that he was an innocent victim of the Black Hand until a search of his shop turned up a dynamite cartridge of the type used in some recent Black Hand explosions.
The NYPD's famous Mafia fight cop Lt. Petrosino put his entire sixteen man Italian Squad on the case and soon they learned that Randazzo was indeed a member of the Black Hand. He had come over from Palermo three years previously and worked as a plasterer before hooking up with a nefarious band of extortionist. With his profits he was able to open his butcher shop three months before being shot down.
During the investigation the Italian Squad learned through one of Randazzo's friends that the dead man had had a falling out with some of the members of his gang and he [Randazzo] intended to supply the police with information that would have resulted in their arrests but his confederates were faster and took care of him first.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

It was 76-years ago today, a mere week after the bloodbath in the Bronx where some of his gang was decimated [see Feb. 1], that New York City ridded itself of Vince "the Mick" Coll, or "Irish" as his contemporaries also called him (It was the press that dubbed him Mad Dog.) after he and an associate entered a drug store on Manhattan's W. 23rd Street. The victim of a double cross, Irish entered a phone booth to make a prearranged call to underworld powerhouse Owney Madden (the Englishman, ok he was of Irish descent but he was born in England) while his pal took a seat at the counter. While the Mad Dog and Englishman were conversing a car containing a hit squad pulled up front and gunmen got out and covered the store's door. Coll's pal was allowed to leave as a machine-gun toting hoodlum made his way back to the phonebooths. Finding the booth containing Coll the gunman lined himself up and blasted the Mick into gangster history.

For more info on Vince Coll, Owney Madden and other gangsters of New York check out:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Unknown Gangster

Eighty-one years ago today a large package consisting of two burlap bags stitched together was dropped off in front of 318 East 8th Street in Manhattan's East Village. Inside, with his hands and feet bound behind his back and a sash cord around his throat, was man of approximately 35-years of age. According to the labels in his clothing he was from Detroit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sunday night's allright for fightin'

87-years ago tonight, a Sunday, a large group of guys and dolls were lining the stairwell of a lower eastside building waiting to get into a night club on the third floor. As the band was getting ready to play a couple of shots rang out and the throng of people ran out into the streets. One man, Michael Dimesci, ran across the street and dropped dead with a bullet in the heart.

Frankie Uale

The police sent officers to all the hospitals in the area to see if anyone else showed up. Within the hour Brooklyn mobster Frankie Uale stumbled into one with a bullet wound to the lung. Uale said he just happened to be walking by the club when the shooting took place and had no idea what it was about. Police later asserted that they believe the Brooklyn Mafioso was the intended target and that Dimesci may have been an innocent bystander.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Owney earns his nickname

Owney Madden, one of the top New York City mobsters of the prohibition era picked up the moniker "Killer" in his younger days as leader of the Gopher gang. Nintey-six years ago today he lived up to his nom de guerre. Twenty-one year old William Henshaw was preparing to board a streetcar when two men came up and shot him. He didn't die outright and was taken to the hospital. On his death bed, he identified Madden as his killer but for some reason the police didn't try to hard to find him, which confounded the dead man’s father, who told the press, “It seems queer to me that the police can not catch the murderer of my boy. This band of Gophers had it in for my boy for some time. I don’t know why they wanted to kill him but he often told me he was afraid of them.”

A little more than a week after the murder police captured Madden on the Westside after a brief chase. The cops could have saved their breath however as he was released and never called to trial for the murder.
For more on Owney Madden check out:

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nomo Noto

This date in 1931 found Leo Noto, said to be an olive oil dealer, out on $25,000 bail on a kidnapping charge. In June of 1930 Noto and his accomplices kidnapped the son of a wealthy Brooklyn baker that lived just down the street from him. The kidnappers demanded $10,000 and released the boy after $7000 was paid with the promise to make up the $3000 in the near future. In the interim the baker went to the police and a trap was laid to catch the gang when they came to claim the additional $3000. The trap worked and six members of the kidnap gang were apprehended.
Noto supposedly turned states evidence and made a deal with the authorities where he would testify against the rest of the gang but the gang made sure that Noto didn’t live to see the trial date. Seventy-seven years ago today twenty-nine year old Noto left the house that he shared with his wife and four children and, with his hands in his pockets, began walking across a vacant lot. While still in the lot a packard sedan containing three men pulled up. Suddenly the neigborhood was reverberating with the sound of two shotguns firing and Noto fell forward dead

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Knock, knock" "Who's there?" "Rat-a" "Rat-a who?""Rat-a-tat-tat-tat"

In the spring of 1931 Vincent Coll and a contingent of disgruntled gunmen broke off from Dutch Schultz's gang and waged war against their former boss. Over the course of the summer the Dutchman's boys started popping up dead. On this date back in 1932 however, Schultz gunmen delivered a crippling blow to their foe.

Coll gang members Louis and Fiore Basile and Patsy Del Greco (center of photo) were holed up in one of the gangs Bronx hideouts with a man named Joseph Paronne (whether or not he was part of the gang is unknown), a couple of women and some children. At approximately 9:30pm the doorbell rang. One of the gang answered the door and four or five gunmen pushed their way into the apartment and opened fire. Del Greco and the Basile Brothers were the main targets and took the majority of the lead. Patsy was killed with three shots and Louis Basile with four. His brother Fiore was severely wounded with bullets over the heart and in the left arm. Trying to escape, one of the women ran into the line of fire and was killed when a bullet pierced her head. The other woman and Paronne received non-life threatening wounds. The killer’s main target however had not been on the premises for two days. How the killers found out where the Coll gang was has never been ascertained but chances are there was a traitor in the midst.

For more on the Schultz-Coll war check out Gangster City: The History of the New York Underworld 1900-1935