|New York|  Joseph Lanza

Birth: August 18, 1901 - Sicily

Death: October 11, 1968 - New York

Joseph "Socks" Lanza was a capo in the Luciano/Genovese family and was known for his leadership in the Fulton Fish Market, back then the biggest wholesale fish market of North America.

Czar of the Fulton Fish Market
Joseph Lanza was born in Palermo, Sicily, in 1901. When arriving in America he settled in New York near the waterfront. From then on he started a life of crime. His earliest arrests included juvenile delinquency, carrying a gun, grand larceny and homicide. At the age of 17 he started working at the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. Then, in 1923, backed by the Luciano family, he founded Local 359, which represented workers at the fish market. Because of his position he could demand payoffs in order for him to retain a smood running market and labor peace. Through Lanza the Luciano family ran a protection racket and forced wholesalers to rent union signs and contribute to a Christmas fund. The Luciano Family also owned unloading companies which the sea captains were advised (or forced) to use.

In the early 1930's it was revealed that fishing boat captains were also forced to pay tributes to unload their catch. In 1933 the Manhattan US Attorney's Office indicted several members of Local 359 for violations against the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. They were also charged with the extortion of several fishing boat captains. Lanza and others pleaded guilty in 1937, he was sentenced to 2 years.

The SS Normandie
The SS Normandie in flames. February 9, 1942
During the early years of World War II America was at their highest alert for Nazi spies. Several boats had been sabotaged in the New York harbors including the SS Normandie, a French Ocean liner which was the largest and fastest passenger ship around. In 1941 the French donated the ship to America. The Navy then descided to transfer the SS Normandie into a troopship to use during the war and renamed it the USS Lafayette. However, during the reconstruction of the ship in February 1942 it suddenly caught fire, which eventually destroyed the ship.

The US government immediatly suspected sabotage and descided to use the help of the men in charge of the docks. One of them was Socks Lanza. He offered his help to Naval Intelligence agents to infiltrate the market and set up listening devices on fishing boats. However, Lanza could not grant his help without the OK from his boss, Charles Luciano. Luciano, who was jailed for prostitution, saw his chance to get out and made an arrangment with the government. He would offer his help in exchange for his transfer to Sing Sing prison, which was much closer to his associates than Dannemora prison.

The fire itself was ignited from sparks from a welding torch, as it happened to be right near a highly flammable material. Some historicians believe that the SS Normandie was in fact sabotaged in orders of Luciano himself and that he, Meyer Lansky and others did it so in return they could ask favors back from the government. Whatever the case, the burning of the SS Normandie was a breakthrough for Luciano who was released after the war as reward for his cooperation.

Convictions and death
In 1943 Lanza was convicted for extorting the president of a Teamsters union local and was jailed at Sing Sing prison. He was paroled again in 1950. In 1957 he was arrested again for violating his parole because he frequently met with organized crime figures such as Rocco Pellegrino, gambler Frank Erickson and various relatives of Frank Costello.

Lanza kept on controlling the Fish Market until his death in 1968. His brother, Nunzio Lanza, was also a member of Local 359. After his death Lanza was succeeded by Carmine Romano.

(Source: National Death Index, "Gotham Unbound" by James B. Jacobs, "Under the Williamsburg Bridge" by Frank Bari,,,

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