The Boss of All Bosses - Vito Genovese
Vito Genovese was born on November 27th in Risigliano near Naples, in Italy. When Genovese was 15 his family emmigrated to New York City in 1913 and settled in Little Italy, Manhattan. Genovese soon began hanging out with local gangs and running errands for mob members. He eventually fell in with Giuseppe ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria, alongside future mobsters Lucky Luciano, whom Genovese had met a few years earlier.
In 1930, Genovese allegedly murdered Gaetano Reina, the leader of a Bronx-based gang. Reina had been a Masseria ally, but Masseria decided to kill Reina when he began to suspect Reina of secretly helping his arch-rival, Brooklyn gang leader Salvatore Maranzano. On February 26th 1930, Genovese ambushed Reina as he was leaving his mistress' house in the Bronx and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. Masseria then took direct control of the Reina gang.
In early 1931, the Castellammarese War broke out between Masseria and Maranzano. By April 1931, Luciano and Genovese were secretly conspiring with Maranzano to kill Masseria. On April 15th 1931, Genovese participated in Masseria's murder.
Luciano had lured Masseria to a meeting at a Coney Island, Brooklyn restaurant. During their meal, Luciano excused himself to go to the restroom. As soon as Luciano was gone, Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis, and Bugsy Siegel rushed into the dining room and shot Masseria to death. The war ended and Maranzano was the winner.
No one was ever indicted in the Masseria murder. Maranzano subsequently became the ‘Boss of All Bosses,’ creating the five crime families (Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luccese) and a system of bosses and underbosses to give the mob much needed structure. Less than six months after Masseria's murder, though, Genovese and Luciano were plotting Maranzano's assassination, and thus soon came the end of the short-lived ‘Boss of All Bosses’ era.
It was in September 1931, Luciano and Genovese planned the murder of Salvatore Maranzano after Luciano had received word that Maranzano was planning to kill him. So he and Genovese, prepared a hit team to kill Maranzano first. On September 10th, 1931, when Maranzano summoned Luciano, Genovese, and Frank Costello to a meeting at his office, they knew Maranzano would kill them there. Instead, Luciano sent the hit squad of four men to the office, where they shot Maranzano to death.
In 1931, Genovese's first wife died of tuberculosis and he quickly announced his intention to marry Anna Petillo, who was already married to Gerard Vernotico. On March 16th 1932, Gerard Vernotico was found strangled to death on a Manhattan rooftop. On March 28th 1932, Genovese married Gerard's widow, Anna, who was also Genovese's cousin.
In 1936, Luciano was arrested for pandering and prostitution and sentenced to 30 years in prison, and Genovese became acting boss, making him an instant target for prosecutors. Genovese had ordered the murder of a man named Ferdinand Boccia in 1934, and the feds were now looking to make an arrest. Instead of facing the law, Genovese fled for Italy, where he teamed up with the Sicilian Mafia and became close friends with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
At the end of World War II, Genovese was brought back to the United Stated by federal agents to face trial on his earlier murder charge in the Boccia case. A key witness, however, was poisoned to death in 1945, and Genovese was thus set free. He slowly re-established his power in New York City, arranging the murders of several key rivals and becoming the newfound ‘Boss of All Bosses’ of the New York area.
The feds finally caught up to Genovese in 1958. The following year, he was convicted on narcotics charges and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. He continued lording over his empire from behind bars, and his rivals continued to be executed at will. Vito Genovese died of a heart attack at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, on Valentine's Day in 1969.