Antonino Passananti

by Jon Black



Nationality: Sicilian

Died: March 6 1969

Where: Partinico

Cause: Shot in head

Killer: n/a

Antonino Passananti was a member of the Morello gang, arriving in New York around 1902. His early crimes include extortion and bomb throwing, typical of a ‘Black Hand’ criminal.

Passananti was arrested under suspicion of setting a bomb in Brooklyn, after he had tried to extort money from man who failed to pay. He was caught in possession of a unique type of paper and envelopes that matched those sent to the victim.

He owned a wholesale liquor business at 593 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, which he ran into the ground in December 1908, the same time that Ignazio Lupo also bankrupted his own business. The receivers called in the police after discovering Passananti had been committing wilful fraud. They also noted he had been paying large amounts of money to Lupo before the pair went into hiding. During the investigations it was discovered that Passananti was not a US citizen, although he had managed to obtain a license to sell liquor through his business.

Passananti and Carlo Costantino sailed to Sicily around the same time as Lieutenant Petrosino in 1909. Upon their arrival Costantino sent a telegram to Giuseppe Morello, in New York: “I LoBaido work Fontana”.

Baldassare Ceola, the police commissioner of Palermo, drew a list of suspects connected with the killing. He eventually narrowed this list down to his prime suspects: Vito Cascioferro, Giovanni Pecoraro, and Carlo Costantino.

In a later report Baldassare Ceola spoke of the questioning of Carlo Costantino and Antonino Passananti. The report referred to the cable message, sent upon their return to Sicily, to Giuseppe Morello in New York: “I LoBaido work Fontana”. Ceola claimed that LoBaido was a fictitious name used by Passananti. Costantino had been found with photographs of a New York shop under the name “PECORARO-LOBAIDO”. The report concluded that Carlo Costantino and Antonino Passananti were the likely perpetrators of the crime, with Vito Cascioferro the mastermind.

According to the book, “The Origin of Organized Crime in America” by David Critchely, which studied the Sicilian documentation on this case, Costantino and Passananti were seen together in the vicinity of the killing. They both gave contradictory accounts to the police, and Passananti disappeared soon after the killing.

His criminal record in Sicily shows many further crimes and arrests until he killed himself on March 6, 1969.