Vito Genovese was the boss of the Genovese family and was one of the most powerfull mobsters in American history.
After Genovese arrived in New York from Naples, in 1916, he soon became associated with Mafia and Camorra clans. He started his career as a soldier of Joe Masseria in Harlem and worked as a bootlegger and gunman. By doing so he befriended upcoming gangsters such as Charles Luciano and Frank Costello. In February 1927 he went to see the jailed Anthony Paretti, a camorrista who was counting his days as he was sentenced to death for a murder which occurred 10 years prior. In 1930 Genovese was ordered by Masseria to murder Bronx Mafialeader Gaeatano Reina. His dead was one of the major events leading to the outbreak of the Castellammare war.
As the violence continued Masseria was at the losing side against the structured forces of the Castellemmarese. In 1931 he, Luciano and others bonded together to whack their boss in order to make peace with the Castellammarese and therefore sided with rival Salvatore Maranzano. Although never proven, it is assumed that Genovese was one of the four gunmen (others being Joe Adonis, Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel) who murdered Joe Masseria.
This lead to the victory of Salvatore Maranzano, who granted Luciano the remains of the former Masseria organization in Manhattan. Luciano then appointed Genovese to be his second in command. Six months later Luciano and his partners also ordered the murder of Maranzano since he was secretly setting up a list of men to be wacked, including Luciano. To stop this from happening Luciano hired a couple of Jewish killers to kill the boss of Bosses. Together with Luciano's Jewish councilor Meyer Lansky, he then set up a national commission in which future quarrels would be dealt with without further violence. Genovese, as underboss of the newly formed Luciano family, was a prominent member.
Italy and Mussolini
After Luciano got arrested in 1936 for leading a large prostitution ring, Genovese became the acting boss of the vastly growing organization. However, in 1937 Genovese was forced to flee the country to avoid murder charges. The victim was Ferdinand Boccia, a minor gambling racketeer, who had been killed in Genovese's order by Ernest Rupolo and Willie Gallo. Because Genovese worried about snitches he then ordered Rupolo to kill Gallo, in which he failed miserably, causing Gallo in fact to become an informant. Genovese left his wife behind and fled to the city of Nola in Italy. With him he had brought a briefcase full of lires and was able to live a comfortable life. During the fascist era in Italy he even met Galeazzo Ciano, the son-in-law of dictator Benito Mussolini. In 1943 he granted a favor to his fascist friends and, in cooperation with Bonanno member Frank Garafola ordered the killing of anti-fascist journalist Carlo Tresca. The hit was taken care of by 33-year old Carmine Galante. During WWII Genovese got involved in selling stolen military goods as part of a black market operation set up by Sicilian Mafiaboss Calogero Vizzini. However, the military cracked down his operation and discovered that Genovese was actually a wanted fugitive in America. After several weeks Genovese was eventually extradited to America to stand trial, but by then the last witness in the Boccia case was mysteriously killed in his cell, thus making Genovese a free man.
In the mean time Frank Costello had become the boss of the Luciano family with and Willie Moretti as his second in command. This meant that Genovese had to start all over to rise the ranks again, although he immediately was promoted to captain considering his history with the organization. Because of his past he was very respected on the streets.
Climb for power
During the 1950's Genovese began a campaign to take over the family leadership from Frank Costello, with who'm he had a fallback. Frank Costello was very much into white collar crime and acted more as a flamboyant businessman than a streetguy. Genovese on the other hand focused on drugdealing and violence.
Frank Costello's position as a Commission member and his popularity as a top boss kept him safe from rivals, but Genovese gained allot of followers.
It took him 10 long years to find the opportunity. At first Luciano underboss Moretti had to been executed for babbling around after the Kefauver hearings which was a major blow for Costello. Then, in 1956, another strong ally of Costello, Joe Adonis, was deported to Italy. Genovese was getting close to his goal.
But there was still one powerful Costello ally that needed to be taken care of, Albert Anastasia, the boss of the Brooklyn based Mangano family.
Anastasia and Costello had formed a strong partnership within the commission, but it did cause some tension with the conservative part of the commission being Joe Profaci and Stefano Magaddino.
Genovese took this opportunity to approach them and eventually also talk into Tommy Lucchese and Anastasia's own second in command, Carlo Gambino, to stop their dominance. They approved. Besides, Anastasia had still not been punished for the unsanctionned hit on his former boss Vincent Mangano, who was a good friend of Profaci. While Costello was in jail for jury tampering the commission was plotting against them.
Shortly after Costello's release from prison, Genovese made his first move. On May 2, 1957 he sent his protege Vince Gigante to eliminate Costello as he was walking in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment.
The murder attempt however failed because The Chin made a big mistake by first yelling "This is for you, Frank!" causing Costello to turn around before his shot. The bullet scalped in Costello's head but wasn't fatal. Gigante, however, thought it was and fled the scene. When Costello was questioned later on he didn't rat on Gigante nor Genovese, but he was shocked and decided to step down, letting Genovese to take his long awaited position as boss of the Luciano family.
With all of his allies removed, Anastasia had no more backings. In October 1957 he was shot and killed while sitting in a barber chair. The murder is credited to Genovese and Carlo Gambino, who was about to take over the leadership from Anastasia as new boss of the Mangano group. Both Genovese and Gambino changed the name of the organization into that of their own to give notice to the underworld that a big change had taken place.
The Apalachin Meeting
Later in 1957, Genovese set up a big meeting with all the allies and bosses of the American Mafia in order to be nationally recognized as the new boss of the Luciano, now Genovese, Family. Here they would also discuss a new drug trafficking ring which had been set up by members of the Bonanno and Magaddino family with allies from Sicily. The meeting took place in Apalachin, New York. However, the meeting went terribly wrong when the police raided the place and arrested several mob bosses. Others got away by running into the nearby woods. However, none of them were prosecuted because there simply was nothing to charge them with. But damage was done, as national newspapers had took notice of the meeting and declared that the Mafia did in fact exist and was organized on a large scale. This also triggered the FBI to increase their anti-organized crime units and go on a crusade against the Mafia. The mob bosses blamed Genovese and Magaddino for the disaster since they were the ones who had chosen the location of the meeting. Nonetheless Genovese did get what he wanted. He was recognized as the boss of the most powerful family in the US and now had taken a big piece of the upcoming drug trade. Those who didn't pay him respect payed with their lives, such as Anthony Carfano for instance, who was murdered on September 26, 1959, for still supporting former boss Costello.
Because Genovese had grown so powerful killing him in retaliation for what happened was not an option. But revenge was to nail Genovese anyway.
Meyer Lansky and Charles Luciano were still planning a plot to take on Genovese.
They accomplished this by framing him, Vince Gigante, and others in a large drug bust in 1959 by presumably tipping of the FBI.
Genovese was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in Atlanta. After only 2 years his dream was over. However, this didn't stop him of keeping the lead of the family. Even behind prison walls he was the undisputed king. More than 90 Mafia members lived inside the prison creating their own strong knit community. His consigliere Michele Miranda, underboss Gerrardo Catena and his appointed acting boss, Tommy Eboli now looked after the family affairs in New York while he was gone.
At the prison another one of his members was doing time because of his involvement in the narcotics trade.
This man was Joe Valachi, a minor soldier in Genovese ranks. Genovese had heard rumors though and feared that Valachi was going to talk to the FBI to reduce his sentence. Therefore he banished him from the prison community and put out a price on his head. Valachi was scared to death and in the fuss killed an innocent inmate whom he believed was a hitman. Valachi actually didn't plan on talking to the government until 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 were even shown on national television. The Mafia was no secret anymore and Valachi had openly broken the holy code of Omerta. After the trials Valachi tried to kill himself but wasn't succesful.
Genovese eventually suffered from cancer and died in 1969 while in prison.