Vito "Don Vito" Genovese (November 27, 1897 – February 14, 1969) was an Italian mafioso who rose to power in America during the Castellammarese War to later become leader of the Genovese crime family. Genovese served as mentor to many future mob bosses including Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, 4th cousin Michael "Mike the Pipe" Genovese and Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino. He is also a relative of Thomas Genovese.
Uprising[edit | edit source]
After Genovese arrived in New York from Naples, he soon became associated with the Mafia and Camorra. He started his carreer as a member of Joe Masseria's organisation in Manhattan and worked as a bootlegger, gunman and extortionist. The young Genovese befriended men Charles Luciano and Frank Costello during the early 1920s. In February 1927 Vito visited the jailed Anthony Paretti, a camorra member who was living his last days as he was sentenced to death for a murder which occured 10 years prior. This could mean that Genovese honored his roots in some way and was associated with the Brooklyn Camorra. When the Castellammarese War was at it's hight from 1930 on, Masseria ordered Genovese to murder Gaeatano Reina, the boss of one of the major five Mafia organisations in New York. After Reina's death Masseria placed one of his most trusted members in Reina's place to get a bigger support during the war.
However, Masseria was at the losing side against the Brooklyn based Castellammarese. In 1931 Luciano gave the orders to kill his boss Joe Masseria, after he and his 'young turks' (including Genovese) secretly sided with rival Salvatore Maranzano. Genovese was one of the four gunmen, the other 3 where Joe Adonis, Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel. Salvatore Maranzano then appointed and recognized the new heads (except for Joe Profaci) to the original 5 families. Genovese's friend and associate Luciano became the boss of the former Masseria organisations in Manhattan. Luciano appointed Genovese to be his underboss. But six months later, Luciano also ordered the murder of Maranzano because he learned of a plot against him. Luciano and his most trusted members agreed uppon the plan and sent in Jewish killers (amongst them Bo Weinberg and Red Levine) the murder the Boss of Bosses in the American Mafia. Together with Luciano's Jewish counciler and boyhood friend, Meyer Lansky, he set up the national syndicate, where Genovese was prominent member of. This was a genius way to keep the peace between the American mafia families.
Back to Italy[edit | edit source]
When Luciano was arrested in 1936 for being the leader of a big prostitution ring, Genovese became the acting boss for Luciano. However, in 1937 Genovese fled to Italy to avoid murder charges on Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia in 1936. Ones he arrived in Italy he settled in the city of Nola, which is situated in the province of Naples. There he met Benito Mussolini (1883 - 1945) thanks to some of his associates. Vito became the main drug source for Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and was well liked within the family. Genovese wanted to impress Mussolini by ordering the murder of Carlo Tresca (1879-1943), a journalist whom Mussolini hated, in New York. The killer was 33 year old Carmine Galante. Genovese was and stayed a strong supporter of Mussolini during WWII. In 1944 Luciano was asked to help the allies to invade Sicily. Because of Luciano's connections in his homeland the US government needed his help. Genovese was one of the men who'm Luciano asked for help. During this period Genovese also had a black market operation with Sicilian boss Calogero Vizzini. However, the military cracked down their black market operation and found out that Genovese was a fugitive. After a couple of months they sent back Genovese to New York to set trial.
When Genovese came back to the States, all of the murder witnesses were gone (They were forced to keep there mouth shut or were poisoned such as Peter LaTempa) and Genovese remained a free man. However, it didn't stay good. The woman Genovese left because he fled to Italy was already dating a new man. Vito was angered when he heared the news and ordered to kill the man. This man was later on found death in an alee with his genital stuffed in his mouth. The bad news didn't stop there as he learned that Frank Costello had become the new boss of the Luciano family and Willie Moretti the new underboss. This meant that Genovese lost his short position as boss and also that of underboss. Now he was just a captain inside the organisation, however, Genovese had clearly made up a name for himself and was very well respected on the streets.
Climb for Power[edit | edit source]
During the 1950's Genovese began a campaign to regain the crime family leadership from Frank Costello. The first method he used was to obligate crime family soldiers to his cause by lending them money or by doing them favors that would have to be returned at some point. Frank Costello, who headed the white collar faction (the capos and soldiers who controlled such rackets as gambling, loansharking, construction, waste hauling. trucking, waterfront, garment center, labor and union operations) of the family, was by far not the same man as the violent Genovese. Frank Costello's position as a Commission member and his popularity as a top boss kept him safe from any assassination attempt or power move by Vito Genovese until Genovese could rally enough support from the majority of Luciano family members as well as support from other Commission members. Vito Genovese was also persuaded from a direct attack of Costello by the fact that Luciano family Underboss, Willie Moretti was a staunch Costello ally and supporter who commanded a small army of soldiers in New Jersey and was also Costello's cousin.
Genovese waited 10 long years after his return in the States to take a move on Frank Costello, who'm he hated for taking away his position as boss. Underboss Moretti was allready murdered in 1951, causing Genovese to climb back to underboss inside the organisation. When in 1956, Joe Adonis, a strong Costello ally, deported back to Italy, Vito was getting close. But there still was one dangerous Costello supporter that needed to be taken care of, Albert Anastasia, boss of the Mangano family since 1951. Starting with the placement of Albert Anastasia on the Commission in 1951, the Liberal faction began to get stronger and by 1953 the Conservative faction that controlled the Commission from 1936-53, was now being rivaled by the Costello-Anastasia-Luchese alliance. Genovese took this opportunity of conflict within the Commission to approach Tommy Lucchese and Anastasia Underboss, Carlo Gambino in a final bid to eliminate Frank Costello and his ally Albert Anastasia, leaving the leadership of the Luciano and Anastasia crime families open for Genovese and Gambino to assume control. Shortly after Costello's release from prison in 1957, Genovese made his move. On May 2, 1957 he sent his protége Vincent "The Chin" Gigante to eliminate Costello as he was walking to the elevator in the lobby of his Manhattan apartment building. The murder attempt however, failed because The Chin made a big mistake by saying "This is for you, Frank!" just before he shot, causing Costello to turn arround to see who was calling. The bullet shot from Gigante scalped in Costello's head but wasn't fatal. Vincent, however, thought it was and fled the scene, Tommy Eboli was said to have drove the getaway car. When Costello was questionned later on he didn't rat on Gigante nor Genovese to respect the Omerta code.
The murder attempt on Castello was a shock to him so he decided to step down as a crime figure, letting Genovese to take the position as boss of the Luciano family and getting every rights from Costello on his rackets, gambling, ... In October 1957 Anastasia was murdered while sitting in a barber chair. Although the murder is credited to Gambino and Genovese, it is also possible that Anastasia was murdered for another reason, drugs. That same month the leaders of the Bonanno family, Magaddino family and the Detroit Outfit had a meeting with the major Sicilian bosses in Palermo. This meeting concerned the massive drug trade from Sicily to Canada/America. It is possible that Anastasia stood in their way and was therefore murdered.
The Meeting[edit | edit source]
Later in 1957, Genovese wanted to call in a big meeting with all the bosses from all over America. Here they would discuss drug trafficking. But Genovese also wanted to be recognized as the official boss of the family during the meeting. Together with Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino he organized the meeting, which they would held in Apalachin, New York. However, the meeting went wrong when the police started to notice a great number of Italian business men at one and the same house, that of a known mob boss, Joseph Barbara. The police went to investigate and entered the house and it's big garden, where many of the bosses were talking, smoking, eating or discussing business. When they saw the police this lead to panic and many of them started to flee into the woods, affraid for being captured. However, many were arrested, including Genovese, but none were prossecuted because there was no evidence (They all claimed they were visiting their sick friend, Joseph Barabara). Although they didn't face any prison terms, the general public now knew of the existance of the Mafia and most of all, knew it worked on a big national scale. The mob bosses all blaimed Genovese and Magaddino for the disaster. But, Genovese did get what he wanted, to be recognized as the boss of the Family and to have a big part of the drug trade. However, everybody who didn't want to recognize him as the new boss did pay with his life, such as Luciano representative Anthony Carfano on September 26, 1959. Now with Genovese as head of the family, he changed the name officially to the Genovese Family. The Genovese family was the biggest family because it had the most made members and foot soldiers on the streets.
Downfall and Death[edit | edit source]
Because Vito Genovese was very powerfull with lots of ally's, it wasn't an option to try to kill him in revenge for what happened the previous years. But revenge was to nail Genovese anyway. Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano were still planning a revenge on what happened with their good friend and ally Frank Costello. They accomplished this by framing Vito Genovese, Vincent Gigante, and others, including future Bonanno Family boss, Carmine Galante, in a drug bust in 1959, orchestrated by Lansky and Luciano. This also was good news to the ambitious Carlo Gambino, there again 2 obstacles were removed from his way to become the most powerfull boss of America. Vito Genovese was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in Atlanta prison while Carmine Galante was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in 1962.
After only 2 years of living his dream of being boss, he was allready imprissoned. However, this didn't stop him of keeping to lead the family. Consigliere Michele Miranda, underboss Gerrardo Catena and his appointed acting boss, Tommy Eboli looked after the family business while he was gone. In Atlanta another Genovese member was doing time because of his actions as a Mafia soldier and his involvment in the narcotics trade. This man was Joe Valachi. Genovese knew that Valachi was in prison and feared him talking to the authority's and put a price on his head. Valachi was scared to death of Genovese, even causing him to kill an 'innocent' inmate, believing it was a hitman of Genovese, which he was not. Valachi actually didn't plan on talking to the government untill Genovese wanted him dead. To save his own ass he went into the witness protection program and talked openly in court in 1963. The hearings even went on the television. The Mafia was no secret anymore there Valachi broke the code of Omerta. After the trials Valachi tried to kill himself but wasn't succesfull. Genovese eventually died in 1969 while he was imprisoned. Probably the most feared Mafia Boss in America had outlived his enemy with 7 years, Charles Luciano died in 1962 of a fatal heartattack in Naples. And again Joe Valachi outlived his nemesis, Genovese, by dying 2 years later, also in prison. Genovese is buried at the same cemetery as his nemesis, Charles "Lucky" Luciano.