|“||In the Mafia, only the most vile or the most cunning rise to the top. But nothing is more dangerous than a mobster who is both. Vito Genovese's singular ambition to become capo di tutti capi - the boss of all bosses - puts him at the head of a crime family that will bear his name, and at the center of events that will shape the American Mob.||„|
|~ Intro to a documentary about Genovese.|
Vito Genovese aka Don Vitone (1897-1969) was a Mafia boss in the prohibition era. He was known as the "Boss of all Bosses" in the American organized crime world from 1957 to 1959 when he ruled one of the wealthiest, most dangerous, and most powerful criminal organizations in the world and maintained power and influence over other crime families in America.
Along with childhood friend and former boss Charles Luciano, he is deemed responsible for expanding the heroin trade to an international level. For a brief period during World War II, he supported Benito Mussolini's regime in Italy for fear of being deported back to the United States to face murder charges.
Before The Castellammarese War
Vito was born on the 27th of November in 1897 in Risigliano. When he was 15, the Genovese family moved to Little Italy in New York, where Vito began stealing and running errands for mobsters. He met Lucky Luciano, one of his most important friends, and was imprisoned for illegal possession of a firearm when he was 19. In the 1920s, Vito and Lucky began working for Giuseppe Masseria, one of the most powerful crime bosses at the time. Vito was indicted for counterfeiting, but was never charged. Vito eventually gained the trust of Masseria enough that he was sent to assassinate Masseria's ally Gaetano Reina, who Masseria suspected of plotting against him. Vito ambushed Reina in the street and shot him in the head.
In 1931, Masseria declared war on Salvatore Maranzano, his arch-rival, not realising that Vito and Lucky, who had become Masseria' s second in command, were secretly conspiring with Maranzano. On the 15th of April, Lucky met with Masseria in the Coney Island resort to discuss the situation with Maranzano. When Lucky excused himself, Vito, Albert Anastasia, Bugsy Siegel and Joe Adonis, acting under orders from Lucky and Marazano, rushed in wearing masks and gunned Masseria down. With Masseria dead, Lucky took over his family with Vito as his second in command. Soon after, Lucky realized Maranzano was going to kill him and Vito, so they sent a hit squad to kill him first. The following year, Vito married Anna Vernotico, after her husband Gerard was found strangled, likely on the orders of Vito or Lucky.
In 1934, crime boss Ferdinand Boccia conspired with Vito to swindle a rich gambler. After the fact, Vito got into an argument with Boccia over the profits, resulting in Vito and five lackeys opening fire on Boccia in a coffee shop, killing him. Soon after, Lucky was jailed and Vito became acting boss of the Luciano mob. In 1936, Vito gained US citizenship, only to flee the following year after becoming paranoid that law enforcement might connect him to the death of Boccia. Living in exile in Italy, Vito befriended Italian Mafia leaders and was able to become quite powerful within the organisation, even supplying the son-in-law of Benito Mussolini with cocaine and donating around $4 million to Mussolini's National Fascist Party and creating a new party headquarters. Vito also allegedly had Carmine Galante murder anarchist magazine publisher Carlo Tresca, possibly under orders from Mussolini. Vito's allegiance changed in 1942, when the allies overthrew Mussolini. he joined the US army as a liaison with the Italian people and an interpreter, however he was eventually arrested after informant Ernest Rupolo stated he was willing to testify that Vito murdered Ferdinand Boccia.
In 1944, Vito was deported to the US to face trial for the murder of Boccia. He pleaded not guilty, and on the 15th 0f January 1946, prosecution witness Peter LaTempa was found dead by witness protection officials, having been poisoned by an unknown party, presumably mob hitmen, tampering with his medicine. On the 10th of June, another witness, Jerry Esposito, was shot and killed by Vito's men.
With LaTempa and Esposito dead, Rupolo had no-one to back him up and the case collapsed. Vito was formally acquitted on the day Esposito died, and Rupolo was eventually found drowned in Jamaica Bay with concrete blocks tied to his hands and feet.
Life after the trial
The charges dropped, Vito attempted to re-join the Genovese family, however with Vito out of the country, then in court, although he had been released, Lucky and underbosses Frank Costello and Willie Moretti were in charge and refused to let Vito resume command. When Meyer Lansky called a meeting of gangsters in Havana to discuss the fate of Bugsy Siegel (one of the accomplices in the Masseria murder) and several other matters, Vito tried to convince Lucky to become "boss of bosses" and let him take control of the family, but Lucky refused, stating that the "Boss Of Bosses" wasn't a real position. Soon after, the Committee, a ruling body of gangsters, had Moretti killed after becoming worried he might testify against them and Costello appointed Vito in the late Moretti's position.
Anna sued Vito, claiming he failed to provide financial support. Vito discovered she was on fact having an affair with his associate Steven Franse, resulting in two of Vito's assassins beating Franse and choking him to death. Vito then began conspiring with Carlo Gambino, underboss to Costello's ally Albert Anastasia (another accomplice in the Masseria murder) to kill Anastasia and Costello so they could take over from them.
On the 2nd of May 1957, hood Vincent Gigante, who worked for Vito, approached Costello and shot him. Costello survived, but, realising he couldn't beat Vito, he left the family. This allowed Vito to take over his position, reporting directly to Lucky once more. Later that year, Anastasia was shot by several assassins allegedly working for Vito and Carlo while at the barbers, allowing Carlo to take over his position and leaving Genovese and Carlo as the godfathers of their families after various Mafia heads allowed them to take these positions.
On November 14th 1957, Vito arranged a meeting in Apalachin to confirm his position, but the police became suspicious and raided the conference. Vito managed to talk his way out. In June the following year, Vito was called in to testify in a hearing, during which he sited his right to remain silent 150 times. On July 7th, Vito was indicted for drug trafficking due to a conspiracy by other mobsters to get him out of the way. Several fake witness statements resulted in his conviction, and Vito was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On the twenty-fifth of November 1959, major underworld figure Anthony Carfano, a former ally of Costello, was attacked in his car by thugs who shot him and his girlfriend, in a hit ordered by Vito from prison. In 1962, Vito's lieutenant Anthony Strollo, who Vito believed to have conspired in the plan to get him jailed, disappeared and was never seen again, with the main theory being that Vito had him rubbed out.
The same year as Strollo's disappearance, mob member Joseph Valachi, serving a life sentence for killing a prison inmate he believed Vito had sent to kill him, agreed to inform on Vito to the authorities. His activities exposed, Vito's health took a downturn and he died of a heart attack in jail on the 14th of February 1969.