Vito "Don Vitone" GenoveseVito Genovese was the archetypal power-hungry mafia boss. He was a manipulative, conspiring, backstabber around whom no one was safe from a double cross.
Vito's evil nature is best described through the story of a rigged card game he set up in the later 30's. Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia came to Vito with the name of a wealthy businessman who was fond of poker. Vito agreed to set up a game and invited the target, Boccia, and a couple of thugs to help out. At the end of the night, the businessman was down $60,000. To make matters worse for the poor bastard, Vito then sold him a bunk printing machine that he claimed would print ten dollar bills.
A few days later, Boccia came to Vito and demanded his 1/3 of the profits. Rather than pay off Ferdinand, Vito hired Willie Gallo and Ernest "The Hawk" Rupolo to bump off Boccia.
After Rupolo and Gallo dumped Boccia in the Hudson River, Vito paid Rupolo $175 to off Gallo. But Gallo escaped two separate attempts, and eventually turned Rupolo into the police where he received a 20 year sentence for attempted murder.
From Humble BeginningsGenovese started out as a simple street thug and was first arrested in 1917 for carrying a gun. As prohibition was instated, Vito began working full time as a hitman.
Soon after the death of his first wife, Genovese fell in love with a woman named Anna Petillo. Unfortunately she was married. Vito conned Anna's husband into meeting him on the top floor of a New York high rise, then sent the poor fellow back down to street level via the super-express elevator. Moments later, there was a second body on the pavement below: a witness who happened onto the roof just as Vito was tossing the body over the ledge. Two weeks later, Vito and Anna were married.
By 1930, Lucky Luciano and Genovese were working closely with Joe Masseria, the Sicilian hardliner who spoke no English. Genovese helped Luciano set up Masserial on April 15, 1931. After a four hour dinner with Luciano, Genovese, Bugsy Siegel, Joe Adonis, Albert Anastasia, and Carlo Gambino burst into the place and turned Masseria into swiss cheese. Luciano was in the bathroom when it happened.
Luciano took over America, and Genovese expanded his operations to every corner of the country. He used his Italian import-export company to bring heroin into the US. His ships would stop in the middle east to pick up loads of poppies, then stop in Sicily to gather meats and cheeses.
What a CardWhen Thomas Dewey started snooping around for leads on the Boccia murder, Genovese fled to Italy. Once there, he climbed into bed with El Ducce by contributing $350,000 to Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party.
Folks back in the US began to believe that Vito was killed in the Allied bombardment of Sicily, when, in fact, he was sitting on the docks waiting for the Americans to land. As soon as they showed, he began spilling the beans on the local black markets. When the American MPs arrested the drug weapons dealers, Genovese quickly replaced them with his own men.
Eventually, an MP realized that this helpful little Italian was really a wanted felon. Genovese was arrested and sent back to the US to face charges stemming from the murder of Ferdinand Boccia. He was quickly acquitted, however, when the only witness in the case was found to be suffering from a bad case of death.
As the years passed, Genovese's drug trade grew exponentially. By the time Lucky Luciano was pleading with his underlings to get out of the business, Genovese was lining up new deals with growers in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
In 1946, Luciano called a conference in Havana, Cuba. There, a number of issues were discussed, including Luciano's placement as head of the Syndicate, as well as the disdain he now had for the drug trade. Genovese asked Luciano to resign, since he was banned from entering the US. Vito also tipped the authorities off to Luciano's presence in Cuba, hoping that the aging kingpin would be arrested. Vito felt that he was next in line to head he Syndicate, and he made little effort to hide his greed.
HimoinIt was a good time in the late 40's and early 50's. The economy was booming and Americans were finally getting used to the idea of injection drugs. Genovese built himself into a major force in New York as the head of one of the five families. By 1957, Genovese began to lust after the families headed by Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia alive. He sent Vincent "The Chin" Gigante to off Costello, and then convinced Carlo Gambino that offing Anastasia was in his best interest. Costello lived, but got the message and immediately retired. Anastasia, however, was killed in a barber shop.
Genovese was poised to become king, but first, he had to attend a meeting. The famous Appalachian Conference was held soon after Anastasia's death, and all the big names were there: everyone from Meyer Lansky to J. Edgar Hoover. When Hoover's men arrived, however, the cream of the Mafia's crop went running through the woods like frightened deer.
When the smoke cleared, Genovese was the boss of bosses, the king of New York. But his reign didn't last long. His men quickly turned on him as soon as they were in police custody. When they started singing about Genovese's drug ring, the feds quickly picked him up and sent him to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Genovese was convicted on numerous counts of racketeering and drug trafficking. He was sentenced to 15 years.
Even prison could not contain Vito's murderous rampages. From jail, Genovese sent orders to his men on the streets, and had many of the witnesses from his trial whacked. Some fourteen old Genovese henchmen went missing while Vito was in jail. Fortunately for the remaining gang members, Genovese died of cancer in 1969. He was alone in his cell, and he died bitter, wrinkled, and alone.