Giuseppe "Joe" Profaci (October 2, 1897 – June 7, 1962) was a New York La Cosa Nostra boss who was the founder of what is today known as the Colombo crime family. Established in 1928, this was the last of the Five Families to be organized. He was the family's boss for over three decades.
Family Ties[edit | edit source]
Profaci's brother was Salvatore Profaci, who served as his consigliere for years. One of Profaci's brother-in-laws was Joseph Magliocco, who would serve as Profaci's underboss. Profaci's niece Rosalie Profaci was married to Salvatore Bonanno, the son of Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Bonanno. Two of Profaci's daughters married the sons of Detroit Partnership mobsters William Tocco and Joseph Zerilli. Profaci was the uncle of the younger Salvatore Profaci and the father of Frank Profaci, both members of the Profaci crime family.
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Joseph Profaci was born in Villabate in the province of Palermo, Sicily. In 1916, Profaci was arrested in Sicily for attempted rape and theft, but was eventually released. In 1920, Profaci spent one year in prison on theft charges. Released in 1921, Profaci emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on September 21, 1921. Profaci settled in Chicago, where he opened a grocery store and bakery. However, the business was unsuccessful and in 1925 Profaci relocated to New York, where he entered the olive oil export business. On September 27, 1927, Profaci became a naturalized citizen of the United States. At some point after his move to Brooklyn, Profaci became involved with the Sicilian gangs in that borough.
Rise to Power[edit | edit source]
On December 5, 1928, Profaci attended a mob meeting in Cleveland, Ohio that would make him an organized crime boss in Brooklyn. In October 1928, Brooklyn boss Salvatore D'Aquila had been murdered during the Castellammarese War then raging among the New York gangs. An important part of the Cleveland meeting, attended by mobsters from Tampa, Florida, Chicago, and Brooklyn, was to appoint Profaci as Aquila's replacement so as to maintain calm among the Brooklyn gangs. It is speculated that Profaci received position due to the status of his family in Sicily and contacts made through his olive oil business. Cleveland police eventually raided the meeting, but Profaci's business was accomplished.
By 1930, Profaci was controlling numbers, prostitution, loansharking, and narcotics trafficking in Brooklyn. Some sources say that Profaci remained neutral during the Castellammarese War, while others say that Profaci was firmly aligned with Castellammarese boss Salvatore Maranzano. When the war finally ended in 1931, top mobster Charles "Lucky" Luciano reorganized the New York gangs into five organized crime families. At this point, the Profaci crime family was born, with Profaci as the boss, Magliocco as underboss, and Salvatore Profaci as consigliere. When Luciano created the National Crime Syndicate, Profaci became a member of the governing board. Profaci's closest ally on the council was Bonanno, who would cooperate with Profaci for the next 30 years. Profaci was also allied with Stefano Magaddino, the boss of the Buffalo crime family.
Business and Faith[edit | edit source]
Profaci obtained most of his wealth through traditional illegal enterprises such as protection rackets and extortion. However, to protect himself from tax evasion charges, Profaci still maintained his original olive oil business, leading to his nickname as "Olive Oil King". Profaci also owned 20 other businesses that employed hundreds of workers in New York.
Profaci lived a life of luxury with a large home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a 328-acre (1.33 km2) estate in New Jersey with its own private airport, and a home in Florida. Profaci was a devout Catholic who made generous cash donations to Catholic charities. His New Jersey estate contained a private chapel; Profaci would invite priests to the house to celebrate mass. On one occasion, two thieves stole a relic from a New York church. Profaci mobsters recovered the relic and reportedly strangled the two thieves with rosaries. In 1949, a group of New York Catholics, including several priests, petitioned Pope Pius XII to confer a knighthood on Profaci. However, when the Brooklyn District Attorney complained about the move, the Vatican denied the petition.
Legal Problems[edit | edit source]
In 1953, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sued Profaci for over $2 million in unpaid income taxes. In 1954, the US Department of Justice moved to revoke Profaci's citizenship, claiming that lied to immigration officials in 1921 about never being arrested in Italy. In 1960, a US Court of Appeals would reverse the deportation order.
In 1956, Profaci was recorded talking on the telephone about the export of Sicilian oranges with Antonio Cottone, a Sicilian mafiosi from Villabate. In 1959, US Customs agents intercepted one of those orange crates. Hollow wax oranges, 90 to a crate, were filled with heroin until they weighed as much as real oranges. Each crate carried 110 pounds (50 kg) of pure heroin.
In 1957, Profaci attended the national mob meeting known as the Apalachin Conference, held at the farm of mobster Joseph Barbara in rural Apalachin, New York. While the conference was in progress, New York State Troopers surrounded the farm and raided it. Profaci was one of 61 mobsters arrested that day. Charges against Profaci were later dropped.
Dispute with Gallo Brothers[edit | edit source]
By all accounts, Profaci was hated and feared by the members of his crime family. One reason for their rancor was that Profaci required each family member to pay him a $25 a month tithe, an old Sicilian gang custom. The money, which amounted to approximately $50,000 a month, was meant to support the families of mobsters in prison. However, most of this money stayed with Profaci. In addition, Profaci didn't tolerate any dissent to his policies. People who expressed discontent with the tithing policy or other matters were murdered.
In 1960, Profaci received the first challenge of his leadership from mobster "Crazy Joe" Gallo and his two brothers. The dispute broke out over the disposition of a profitable racket. In 1959, Profaci had ordered the murder of Frank Abbatemarco, a Profaci family bookmaker in Brooklyn. Abbatemarco had gotten behind on payments to Profaci during the late 1950s and refused to make a $50,000 catchup payment. After Abbatemarco's death, Profaci split the bookmaking business between himself, relatives and close associates. This infuriated the Gallo Brothers, who had worked with Abbatemarco and expected to get the business themselves.
In February 1961, the Gallos and their ally Carmine Persico retaliated by kidnapping Magliocco, Profaci's brother Frank, and ally Joseph Colombo. Profaci himself barely escaped, fleeing to a Florida hospital for safety. After a few weeks of negotiation, the Gallos released all of their hostages unharmed. However, while negotiating with the Gallos, Profaci also made a secret deal with Persico and other Gallo supporters to switch sides. In August 1961, Profaci loyalists lured Larry Gallo to a bar in Brooklyn and attempted to strangle him to death. Gallo averted death when a passing policeman interrupted the hit. The war with the Gallo brothers would continue until Profaci's death in 1962.
Mob Standoff[edit | edit source]
In early 1962,during the turmoil of the Gallo war, Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino and Lucchese crime family boss Tommy Lucchese suggested to the ailing Profaci that he retire to promote peace within his family. A bitter enemy of both bosses, Profaci strongly suspected that they were secretly supporting the Gallo brothers. In turn, Gambino and Lucchese wanted to limit the power of Profaci and Bonanno on the Mafia Commission. Profaci vehemently refused to resign and warned them about a wider gang war if anyone tried to remove him.
On June 6, 1962, Profaci died in Bayshore, New York of liver cancer and Magliocco succeeded him as head of the family. Within 18 months, Magliocco had also died of natural causes and leadership of the family had passed to Joseph Colombo. At this point, the Profaci crime family became the Colombo crime family.