Arrest of Francis 'Two Gun' Crowley

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Eyes in the back of the head would have helped

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, 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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This wasn't in the brochure.

Ninety-one 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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Diamonds are a girl's bad end



At approximately 11:00p.m. on this night back in 1931 titian haired (that’s fancy talk for redheaded) Vivian Gordon sashayed out of her apartment draped in a fur coat and adorned with fine jewelry. Being the sort who suckered many men out of many dollars in the past -“Had a lovely time Saturday night. In fact it was so special I wrote it all down and am thinking of sending it to your wife…”- she believed she was on her way to add one more notch on her cigarette case to the tune of a quarter mil in diamonds.

What she didn’t realize was that she was the sap in this set up. The whole thing about the stones was just a ruse to get her into the back seat of a Cadillac where she was strangled to death with a clothesline.

Her killers croaked her as a favor to someone they owed money to so hoping to come out ahead they stripped Viv of her fur and jewelry and ditched her in a ravine where she was found early the next morning by someone whose resume didn’t include murder or extortion.

Did I mention you can read all about it in Bad Seeds in the Big Apple? No? Oh, you can read all about it in Bad Seeds in the Big Apple.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Big Mac Attack

Ninety-years ago bookie Joe "Big Mac" Mahoney had a falling out with his partner John Quigley. In better days they both hung out at the same restaurant but since the break up Mahoney was asked to stay away. He did until this day in 1924.

Mahoney entered the place and started talking to Quigley, talk turned to arguing which lead to physical contact. "Big Mac" drew a .32.  Quigley grabbed him before he could pull the trigger and the men began  to wrestle. Quigley pinned Mac's arm behind his back and that's when the gun went off. That was Quigley's story anyways, Mahoney never got back up so we don't know his version.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sullivan's last travel

Eighty-nine years ago as this morning, around 9:00am,three shots rang out in the rear room of a speakeasy. About eight guys vacated the parlor in speedy fashion. Other fellers who were enjoying their morning hooch ventured to the back  room and found Mike Sullivan unconscious on the floor. They sent him to the hospital but he died.

Mike was an interesting guy. A good athlete who had done stunt work for D.W. Griffith, managed boxers and owned a semi pro baseball team. He also owned a speakeasy himself and a cigar store. Past achievements also included getting the vote out with some huskies from the Bronx.

Sports, movies, bootlegging, strong arm work...wonder which one caused his demise?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A&A Meeting

On this date in 1931 gangster brothers Al and Abe Wagner along with 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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pulpy goodness





A snake in the box, a gunman with an evil grin in the back in case the snake bite doesn't work, and our old friend the Phantom Detective sitting back and watching it all take place. I think he needs to change his title to the Phantom Observer.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Don't eat the red snow

Eighty-four years ago this morning an employee of a Brooklyn lumber yard showed up for work and found a blood trail. His curiosity peeked, he followed said trail which led to a pile of snow. Digging he found one James Tinorello who had been shot three times in the back of the head. Police said that Tinorello, who was 27 and had six arrest under his belt, was involved in a liquor syndicate that operated in Brooklyn and Queens.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

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 13, 2014

Newsie

Today's victim, Louis DeMaria, whose body was found on this date in 1932, 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 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.

How does Coll fit in? Glad you asked. 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 who walked out of the drug store, 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, if the news clippings were DeMaria's 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 use him in some capacity they probably decided that his loose tongue was liability and rubbed him out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pharaoh's curse

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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Do not litter.

The dead body of Joe Galas was carelessly tossed in the street on this date back in 1928 with a bullet in the head. Police said that Joe was the victim of a bootleggers feud. Police said a lot of things that weren't necessarily true but we will take their word for it in Joe's case

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Black Hand claims one of their own

One hundred and seven years ago today 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. the time was 11:20p.m. (long hours back then) 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 fighting 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.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If they had cell phones back then he may have lived another week

It was 82-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 rid 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 while his pal took a seat at the counter. While the Mad Dog and Owney were conversing, a car containing a hit squad pulled up front. Gunmen hopped out and covered the store's front door. Coll's pal was allowed to leave as a machine-gun toting hoodlum made his way back to the phone booths. 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:


Friday, February 7, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sunday night is alright for fighting

Ninety-three years ago tonight, a Sunday it was, 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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Owney earns a nick name

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. 102 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.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Leo should have stayed home

In June of 1930 Leo Noto, said to be an olive oil dealer, 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, including Noto, were apprehended.

Noto was released on $25,000 bail and made a deal with the authorities to testify against the rest of the gang. The gang made sure that Noto didn’t live to see the trial date. Eighty-three 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 he was still in the lot a Packard sedan containing three men pulled up. The doors flew open and two shotguns went off. Noto pitched forward dead.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Someone's knockin' at the door.

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) and 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.

More on the Schultz-Coll war can be found in Gangster City: The History of the New York Underworld 1900-1935