Top 10 Infamous American Gangsters & Mobsters
La Cosa Nostra is an Italian-American
criminal society that dominates
organized crime in
the United States. Many of the founding members of the
American mafia emigrated from Italy in the beginning
of the 20th century.
These individuals gained the nickname Mustache Petes and were members of
Mafia, looking to control the lucrative American market. The
younger Sicilian-Americans would later
form the Five Families of New York
and the Mafia Commission.
In the middle of the 20th century, the United States Government launched a
huge criminal campaign to rid the streets
of organized crime, many influential
mafia members and Capo di tutti capi’s (The boss of all bosses) were
exposed. This has given us a glimpse
into the true operations of organized
crime in 19th century America. During this time in history, many
influential gangsters controlled America's largest cities.
Boss” Masseria (1887-1931)
Giuseppe Masseria was
born in Marsala, Sicily. After immigrating to the United
States in 1903 to avoid murder charges, Masseria
became an enforcer for the
Morello Gang in the Lower East Side of New York City. After the death of
Nick Morello in 1916, he became the leader of one of several splinter groups
who fought a "civil war" for
control of the gang. Masseria is said to have had
the backing of Salvatore D'Aquila, the leader
of a Brooklyn-based crime
family. Salvatore D’Aquila was a boss of the early Gambino crime family
Capo di tutti
capi during this era. D’Aquila took the role of top boss from
Nicholas Morello in 1916.
Soon After, Masseria
arranged the death of
Umberto Valenti, who was the new boss of the Morello crime family. Masseria
now became head of the Morello family with Peter Morello as his number two.
Peter Morello was content with taking on
a secondary role as senior advisor
death of Frankie Yale in July 1928 appears to have been the catalyst for
Joe Masseria's ambition to become overall
leader of all the Mafia gangs of
New York. In October 1928, Toto D'Aquilla, the Mafia leader in
killed by Peter Morello and others. Alfred Mineo and his enforcer Steve
allies of Joe Masseria, then took over leadership of the D'Aquilla
family. Joe Masseria was now
"Joe the Boss," head of the largest Mafia
grouping in New York. Masseria turned to the Broadway Mob and identified
Lucky Luciano as the logical recipient of his demands for homage and tribute.
This was because Luciano was the only
Sicilian member of that group, Frank
Costello and Albert Anastasia were Calabrian, Joe Adonis and Vito Genovese
from Naples, and Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel were Jewish.
Masseria next began to put pressure on a Mafia family known as
Castellamarese from Sicily. Nicola "Cola" Schiro, the group’s official leader,
went into hiding
and was never heard from again. His place as leader was taken by
Maranzano was sent with several other men from Sicily in
1927 to gain control of the American Mafia for Don Vito
Cascio Ferro. Masseria
quickly issued a decree ordering the death of Maranzano. This event marks the
beginning of the Castellamarese War.
On April 15, 1931, Joe Masseria was assassinated at one of his favorite
restaurants, Nuova Villa Tammaro in Coney Island. His death was organized by his
friend Lucky Luciano.
Luciano then took over Masseria's family, which became one
of the Five Families. Salvatore
Maranzano became the Capo di tutti capi for about
six months until he was also ordered to death by Luciano.
Lucky Luciano then
established a power-sharing arrangement rather than a "boss of bosses" in an
attempt to prevent future
Charles Luciano was born in Lercara
Friddi, Sicily. His family immigrated to
the United States in 1907. On January
16, 1919, the 18th amendment to the
U.S. Constitution was ratified making the consumption of alcohol illegal.
1920, Luciano had been introduced to many Mafia heavyweights, including
Vito Genovese and Frank Costello,
together they began a bootlegging venture
using a trucking firm as a front. By the middle of the 1920’s
Luciano and his
partners ran the largest bootlegging business in New York. He was making
$100,000 a year. Luciano imported scotch directly from Scotland, rum
from the Caribbean, and whisky from Canada.
1928-1931, the Castellammarese War was waged on the streets of New
York. It was a bloody power struggle
for control of the Italian-American mafia
between partisans of Joe "The Boss" Masseria and those of Salvatore
Maranzano. During this time Luciano was working as 2nd in command to
One day in 1929, Luciano was forced into a limo at gun
point by three men, beaten, stabbed, and dumped on a beach
on New York
Bay. He survived the ordeal, but was forever marked with the now famous
In 1931, Luciano helped orchestrate the assassination of his boss Masseria in
a Coney Island restaurant by Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Joe Adonis.
In return for this he was made 2nd in command
to Salvatore Maranzano, who
became capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses), the undisputed leader of the
entire mafia. Masseria’s death ended the Castellammarese War. Maranzano
up the Five Families of New York, but ordered the individual bosses to pay
him royalties. Many did
not appreciate this and Luciano soon assembled a hit
squad to pose as government agents. They stormed
the offices of Maranzano
and shot him dead.
Luciano stepped in and created the power-sharing arrangement called The
which was a group of five mafia families of equal stature.
Luciano sat atop the most powerful crime family in America,
which now bore
his name and controlled the most lucrative criminal rackets in New York, such
as gambling, bookmaking,
loan-sharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.
Luciano was very influential in labor and union activities and controlled
Manhattan Waterfront, garbage hauling, construction, Garment Center
businesses, and trucking organizations.
In 1936, Luciano was convicted of
running one of the biggest prostitution rings in U.S. history. He
control the Luciano Crime Family from prison, relaying his orders through his
first acting boss, Vito
Genovese fled to Naples, Italy in 1937 and Frank Costello became the new
and overseer of Luciano's interests. In 1946, Luciano was paroled
on the condition that he departed
the United States and returned to Sicily. He
secretly ran his operations out of Cuba.
On January 26, 1962, Luciano died
of a heart attack at Naples International Airport. Luciano
is considered the
father of modern organized crime and the mastermind behind the massive
of the international heroin trade. He was the first official
boss of the modern Genovese crime family.
The Leaders of the Original Five Families of
Al Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York and his parents were Southwestern
Italian immigrants. Early
in his life Capone joined the Five Points Gang and in 1921
he moved to southside Chicago. In Chigago,
Capone met up with friend and fellow
gangster Johnny Torrio. In 1923, Chicago's city government
began to put pressure
on the gangster elements inside the city limits. Capone and Torrio decided to move
into Cicero, Illinois. This angered fellow gangster Myles
O'Donnell who had controlled Cicero's
A mob war ensued, which resulted in over 200 deaths, including the infamous
gangster Bill McSwiggins.
Capone and his gang would eventually take over
Cicero's town government. The 1924 town council
elections in Cicero became
known as one of the most crooked elections in history. In 1925, Johnny
severely injured during an assassination attempt by the North Side Gang. He
to Italy and turned his business over to Capone.
built one of the biggest organized crime organizations in the world and
became a member of the Five Families of New York.
Al Capone was notorious
during the Prohibition Era for his control of large portions of the Chicago
which provided the Outfit with an estimated US $100 million per
year. The Outfits largest money maker
was liqueur, but they also generated
mass wealth from prostitution and gambling. Capone formed a smuggling
network and distributed alcohol to the East Coast, supplied The Purple Gang in
Detroit, and many areas in the Midwest.
Capone bribed many Chicago city officials, including Mayor William
This allowed him to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle, including
custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink.
Al Capone’s preferred liquor
was Templeton Rye from Iowa. Capone’s rise to the top was
not easy and
the rival North Side gangsters Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran made many
attempts on his life. It
prompted Capone to fit his car with bullet proof glass.
The car was later seized by the U.S. Treasury Department and
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's limousine.
Al Capone used the Lexington Hotel at 22nd Street as his primary home. He
had the grounds protected 24
hours a day. In 1929, Bugs Moran’s North Side
gang became increasingly bold at hijacking Capone’s
booze trucks. Capone’s
Outfit decided to strike back and he organized the Saint Valentine's
massacre, which became the most notorious gangland killing of the century.
Seven members of the North Side Gang
were lined up and executed by
gangsters disguised as police officers. In 1929, Bureau of Prohibition
Eliot Ness began a successful investigation of Capone and his business. Two
he was indicted and convicted of income tax evasion and various
violations of the Volstead Act.
Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary and then transferred to the
infamous Alcatraz Island Penitentiary
in 1932. While at Alcatraz his health
declined, do to his syphilis. The disease took over his
mind and he became
mentally and physically disabled. Capone was paroled from Alcatraz in 1939,
but was no longer able to run his organized crime family. Al Capone died in
1947 after suffering
a fatal stroke and cardiac arrest.
Siegel was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a poor Jewish family
from Letychiv, Podolia Governorate of the Russian
Empire, in modern
Ukraine. As a teenager Siegel worked with mobster Meyer Lansky running
gambling books and they formed a car theft ring. He was also a hired
hitman for various crime families.
In 1930, Siegel built ties to Charles "Lucky"
Luciano and Frank Costello, future bosses of the Genovese
crime family. He
became a ranking member of the family and was in charge of numerous
operations in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. He was
one of four gunmen who shot New York
mob boss Joe Masseria to death on
Luciano's orders, ending the Castellammarese War. In 1937, the
mob sent Siegel to California to develop syndicate gambling rackets with Los
Angeles mobster Jack Dragna.
November 22, 1939, Siegel, Whitey Krakower, and two other gang
members killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg.
Greenberg had become a
police informant. Siegel was acquitted of the crime, but his reputation
ruins. During the trial, newspapers revealed Siegel's past and referred to him
"Bugsy.” A name that he despised, if you called him Bugsy to his face he
might have killed
you. In 1946, Bugsy Siegel was given the job of watching
the mobs interests in the growing gambling
paradise of Las Vegas, specifically
overseeing the construction of William R. Wilkerson's Flamingo. Siegel
proved useful to the project and obtained black market building materials. Due
to wartime conditions the cost
of materials was extremely inflated. It was a
time when Las Vegas was very small and the mob managed
and funded many
of the large casinos.
Siegel wanted The Flamingo to be the nicest casino in Las Vegas and he spent
staggering amounts of money on
construction features. By the spring of 1947
the Flamingo had cost an astounding $6 million and the
mob officially cut off
funding. It opened later that year and billed itself as the world’s most
hotel. Initially the profit margin struggled and the mob bosses became
Siegel skimming their cash. The Flamingo quickly turned around
the profit margin and became a successful
money maker. However, it was too
late and Siegel was killed by an unknown assailant who fired at him
.30-caliber military M1 carbine, hitting him many times, including twice in the
Siegel is historically recognized for establishing one of the first
lavish Las Vegas gambling empires.
Link to Siegel's Death Picture
Schultz was born and grew up in New York. At a young age he turned to
violence, theft, and crime.
Schultz had the reputation as one of the hardest
and short tempered characters in the neighborhood.
In 1928, gangster Joey
Noe set up the Hub Social Club, a rat hole speakeasy in a Brook Avenue
hired Schultz. Schultz quickly gained a reputation for brutality
and a short temper. Noe
made him a partner and the pair expanded their
bootlegging operations. They purchased trucks and supplied
speakeasies with alcohol. If someone refused service, Schultz would make
pay. The Noe and Schultz gang controlled the beer supply for the entire
Bronx. The operation
became the only non-Italian gang to rival those who
would become the heads of the Mafia's Five Families.
and Schultz expanded their operation into Manhattan and Jack "Legs"
Diamond did not appreciate it.
A mob war broke out. In 1928, Joey Noe was
gunned down outside of the Chateau Madrid on 54th
Street and the following
year Legs Diamond was riddled with machine gun fire, but lived only to leave
With the end of prohibition Schultz turned to the Harlem numbers
racket, which is an illegal lottery where the
player attempts to pick three or
four digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day.
hired accountant and math whiz Otto "Abbadabba" Berman to help him
fix the racket. Schultz
and his gang also began extorting New York restaurant
owners and workers, using strong-arm tactics such as beatings and
|Schultz and Dixie Davis
The Dutchman was a killer. Here is a recollection of gangster Dixie Davis.
“Dutch Schultz was ugly; he had been drinking
and suddenly he had his gun
out. The Dutchman wore his pistol under his vest, tucked inside his pants, right
his belly. One jerk at his vest and he had it in his hand. All in the same
quick motion he swung it up, stuck it in Jules
Martin’s mouth and pulled the
trigger. It was as simple and undramatic as that, just one quick motion of the
hand. The Dutchman did that murder just as casually as if he were picking his
|Dutch Schultz Last Picture
was indicted on federal tax invasion charges in 1935 and Lucky
Luciano divided his empire among his associates.
with the explanation that they were just 'looking after the shop while he was
away, only to ensure that
everything ran smoothly, and promised that control
of his rackets would be returned. While awaiting
trial Schultz went before the
Mafia Commission and asked for permission to kill his enemy, U.S. attorney
Dewey. They voted unanimously against the proposal claiming it
would bring too much heat. This
made Dutch Schultz a liability to The
Commission and on October 23, 1935, Schultz was shot and killed at the
Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey. He was only 33 years old. Dutch
Schultz last words
have become infamous as they were taken down by a
“A boy has never wept...nor
dashed a thousand kim. You can play jacks, and
girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it.
Oh, Oh, dog Biscuit, and
when he is happy he doesn't get snappy.”
Shortly before his death, fearing that he would be incarcerated
due to Dewey's
efforts, Schultz commissioned the construction of a special air-tight, waterproof
which he placed $7 million in cash and bonds. The safe was never
Lansky was born into a Jewish family in Grodno, which at the time was
part of Russia, now part of Belarus.
As a teenager he immigrated to America
and became acquaintances with Bugsy Siegel. The two
friends and during the 1920’s managed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which quickly
gained the reputation
as one of the most violent Prohibition gangs. Lansky
was instrumental in Lucky Luciano's rise
to power by organizing the 1931
murder of Mafia powerhouse Salvatore Maranzano. Lansky had a huge
influence, but preferred to maintain a low profile, avoid attention, and was not
interested in becoming The Boss of
Bosses. Lansky acted as a financial
advisor and partner to Lucky Luciano. He was
a high ranking member of The
Commission. He created lucrative gambling operations in Florida, New
Orleans, Las Vegas, and Cuba.
Lansky convinced the Mafia to become a major investor in Bugsy Siegel's
Flamingo Hotel. He eventually
bought an offshore bank in Switzerland to
launder his funds. He is said to have collected over $400
million for the mob
in his lifetime. Coming from a Jewish heritage, Lansky despised the Nazi
on many instances regulated American rallies held by Nazi
sympathizers, basically his gang went in and beat them all
During World War II, Lansky was also instrumental in helping the Office of
Intelligence's Operation Underworld, in which the US government
recruited mobsters to look out for German infiltrators
saboteurs. According to Lucky Luciano's authorized biography, during this
time, Lansky helped arrange a deal with the US Government via a high ranking
U.S. Navy official. This
deal would secure the release of Lucky Luciano from
prison. In exchange the Italian mafia would provide
security for the war ships
that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor.
and Siegel’s major investment in The Flamingo hotel was not turning
over the profit it was supposed to and on two
or three separate occasions
Lansky had to convince The Mob Commission to spare the life of his childhood
The situation became too much for Lansky to handle and On June 20,
1947, Siegel was shot and killed in Beverly Hills,
California. Lansky also had
a close relationship with Cuban president General Fulgencio Batista, who
harboring Luciano after his deportation from the U.S. Lansky's last years
quietly at his home in Miami Beach. He died of lung cancer on
January 15, 1983, aged 81, leaving behind
a widow and three children. In
Mario Puzo's The Godfather Part II, the character
Hyman Roth, played by Lee
Strasberg, appears to be heavily based on Meyer Lansky.
Gambino was a native of the town Caccamo in Palermo, Sicily. In his teens
Gambino began carrying
out murders for Mob bosses. In 1921, at the age of
19, he became a "made man", and was inducted
into Cosa Nostra. He entered
the United States as an illegal immigrant on a shipping boat.
Upon arrival in
America he joined his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York City. Gambino
became a member
of the “Young Turks,” which was a group of Americanized
Italians in New York which included mobsters like
Frank Costello, Albert
Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Settimo Accardi, Gaetano Lucchese, Joe Adonis,
Vito Genovese, Meyer
Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and was headed by one of the
future's most powerful Mob bosses, Lucky Luciano.
became a captain in the Mangano crime family, where his illegal
activities were loan sharking and illegal gambling.
At some point Vincent
Mangano became irritated with his underboss Albert Anastasia, who was the
leader of the Cosa
Nostra's most notorious death squad, Murder, Inc. In
1951, Philip Mangano was found murdered and
Vincent Mangano himself
vanished the very same day and was never found. Anastasia became the
new boss of the
family, with Gambino as his underboss. It was a huge
promotion for Gambino and he was now one of the
most powerful mobsters in
During the early 1950’s Frank Costello was
facing increasing pressures from
Vito Genovese, who wanted to take over Luciano's organization now that
was in Italy. Costello was in need of some new muscle when his
former help New Jersey crime boss
Guarino "Willie" Moretti began to lose his
mind. Costello turned to Anastasia,
but his attempt failed and Genovese
moved against Costello, by hiring Vincent "Chin" Gigante to assassinate
The attempt failed, but Costello retired from the commission. Genovese was
now the head of the Luciano
crime family, which he renamed the Genovese
crime family. In 1957, Albert Anastasia was murdered,
which made Carlo
Gambino the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the
Gambino crime family.
In 1959, Genovese was arrested on drug charges. Gambino became the new
Boss of all Bosses.
Gambino had kept a low profile and still managed to
become the most powerful mob boss in the U.S. He also created
policy: "Deal and Die." This was Gambino's message to every family member;
heroin and cocaine were highly lucrative, but were dangerous, and would
attract attention. The punishment
for dealing drugs was death. This helped
the mob keep a low profile. Gambino died of a heart
attack on October 15,
1976, while watching a New York Yankees game at his home. At the time of
death he managed a crew of 1,000 soldiers. He lead the Gambino crime
family for 20 years and The Commission
Page 2 & The Conclusion of This List
Follow The List Blog - Top 10 on Twitter
Sheri - September 10, 2009 at 6:13 PM
information, very detailed on Mafioso.
Diamond - August 19, 2010
I'm Timothy Diamond, great cousin of Jack legs Diamond.
- January 4, 2011
How about Bobby Manna and Newsboy Moriaty of Jersey City New Jersey?
January 26, 2011
I believe you have a mistake on this page. The picture of Salvatore D'Aquila,
actually a photo of Albert Anastasia. I am very certain of this.
Bryan - January 26, 2011
You’re right. Thanks
for the info. I have made the corrections.