Ignazio Lupo

by Jon Black

Alias: Lupo the Wolf

Born: March 19th 1877 Palermo

Nationality: Sicilian

Died: January 13th 1947

Where: Brooklyn

Cause: Natural Causes

Son of Rocco Lupo and Onofria Saietta, Ignazio Lupo was born in Palermo in March 1877. He had three brothers and one sister.

Lupo worked in the ‘dry goods’ business from the age of 10, at store at 35 ‘Matarazzia’, Palermo. During an argument in his store, he shot a business rival named Salvatore Morello.

Proceedings were held in Italy on 12th March, 1899, against Lupo. After the testimony of the clerks who worked in his store, he was convicted of ‘a deliberate and willful murder’. But Lupo had already fled the country, and eventually arrived in New York in 1898, via Liverpool, Canada and Buffalo.

He opened a store on E72nd Street with a cousin named Saitta, but moved his business to Brooklyn after a disagreement. In 1901, he moved his business from Brooklyn back to Manhattan, opening a small import store at 9 Prince Street, and also ran the saloon across the street at 8 Prince Street. A place that would become a known base for the Morello gang over the following years, with Giuseppe Morello owning the restaurant at the rear of the premises.

When Lupo’s father, Rocco, arrived in 1902, they opened a retail grocery store on 39th Street between 9th and 10th avenues, where he worked along with his brother, Giovanni Lupo.

Ignazio Lupo was one of the last men seen with Giuseppe Catania before his murder in July 1902, they had travelled to Manhattan together to get some grocery stock out of bond from the importers office. The police and Secret Service never gained enough evidence to warrant any arrests in the case.

In April 1903, ‘The Barrel Murder’ case began after a body was found in East 11th Street. On Thursday 16th April 1903, Lupo, was arrested at 433 40th Street in connection with the killing. His apartment was forcibly entered whilst he was asleep. Feigning illness, a physician was called from the Roosevelt Hospital to check him out, he was deemed fit and taken in to custody. In his flat they found a dagger and three revolvers. Lupo was eventually cleared due to lack of evidence.

He was arrested again after the trial in relation to a 1902 counterfeiting case, Lupo was charged by a Grand Jury on Thursday 30th April 1903 and held on $5000 bail. Pietro Inzerillo was also arrested on a bench warrant from the US District Court. He was indicted along with Lupo on the counterfeiting charge. The charge dated back to 18th September 1902 when Lupo had mailed a letter to Salvatore Matise aka Andrea Polora in Canada. The letter was found to contain a single five dollar counterfeit note. Inzerillo and Lupo were finally bailed from the counterfeting charge on June 25th, 1903. They would later forfeit this bail, but the charges were eventually dropped.

Following the ‘Barrel Murder’ trials Lupo expanded his import business and opened a new store at 210-214 Mott St. It was reported to be ‘one the most impressive stores in the neighborhood, many of the locals could only dream of shopping there’.

Early January 1904, Lupo was arrested by Sgt. Vachris. The police had seen Lupo loitering at a ferry house in Hamilton Avenue. He was arrested as he travelled across the river on his way to Manhattan. When searched, the police found what they described as, ‘a big blue barrelled revolver of the latest kind’. He was taken to the station and charged with carrying concealed weapons.

In 1904, Ignazio Lupo joined the Morello family when he married Salvatrice Terranova, a sister of the Terranova brothers. He was arrested on March 7th 1906, after being identified by Antonio Bozzuffi, an Italian boy who had been kidanpped and held on 59th Street. The kidnapped boy was the son of a wealthy Italian banker named John Bozzuffi, who had helped the Morello gang in the past by filing their incorporation certificate for the Ignatz Florio Co-Operative Association. Lupo was sent to the tombs in default of $1000 bail. However, Antonio Bozzuffi failed to identify Lupo once they were brought face to face in court.

In November 1908, Lupo claimed bankruptcy against his import business. On Monday 30th November 1908, the store was closed under order of the US Court. The receivers moved in, and the inventory for his store only reached $1,500. Lupo was missing, and his debts were up to $100,000. The attorneys for the receivers discovered that Lupo had made around $50,000 worth of purchases in the week leading up to his disappearance . Most of the goods had been delivered to warehouses, and paid for with loans that Lupo had taken out. The produce he purchased included meat ($5,000), oil ($5,000) and canned goods ($6,000).

On Friday 4th December 1908, $50,000 of Lupo’s grocery goods were found on a transatlantic pier in New York. Further produce, a hundred barrels of wine, and ninety eight bags of beans, was found in a warehouse on Washington Street.

The receivers discovered that Lupo had also recently remortgaged his real estate assets in Harlem, and had assigned the leases to an Antonio Rizzo. He had purchased the properties a year earlier from the Ignatz Florio Co-Operative, costing $71,000. The buildings were described as ‘two storey brick tenements, and stores’ located at 628 and 630 138th Street. The mortgage was foreclosed in December, with Joseph DiGiorgio listed as Lupo’s agent.

Antonino Passananti, a member of the Morello gang, who owned a wholesale wine business in Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, ran his business into the ground in December 1908. 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.

On December 16th, Salvatore Manzella, an importer of wine and Italian produce at 196 Elizabeth St, filed for bankruptcy. William Blau, the receiver, presented Manzella to Judge Holt when he refused to show his accounts. Manzella testified that for over three years he had been a victim of extortion from Lupo the Wolf, and as a result he had lost his business. He also claimed that Lupo, one week before he disappeared, had visited his store and taken over $1000 in cash.

Q. Were you afraid of Lupo?
A. If I wasn’t afraid of him I would not have signed them [blank cheques]

Q. What were you afraid of?
A. Because I was afraid of him. not that I alone was afraid of him. but there were many others who were afraid of him.

Q. What would he do if you had not signed notes and gave him money?
A. They probably might have killed me.

Q. Do you mean that you were held up for this money and gave it up under compulsion?
A. Yes sir.

Q. Do you think that this is a good answer to the claims of your creditors?
A. In my judgment. I think it is. because the law in this country does not protect the honest people. I am not the only victim myself: there are plenty of others.

Asked how long Lupo had been getting money from him. he said maybe two, three or four years. Asked why he made no complaint during that time he replied: “What was the use to make any complaint when my life was at stake?”

Q. Did Lupo threaten you with harm if you did not sign the notes?
A. I believe so.

Q. Were you afraid that you would be killed if you did not sign these notes and give up this.money?
A. Probably.

Q. Did Lupo threaten to kill you if you did not give up this money and give the notes?
A. Yes.

An auction was announced to sell Lupo’s grocery goods that had been captured on the pier.

In the matter of IGNAZIO LUPO, Bankrupt.-Chas. Shongood, U. S. Auctioneer for the Southern District of New York in Bankruptcy, sells this day, Monday, Dec. 21, 1908 by order of the court at 10:30 A.M at 113 Leonard St, Borough of Manhattan, assets of the above bankrupt, consisting of a large stock of ItalIan wines, liquors. grocerIes, barrels of claret, port and other wines, vinegar, barrels of soda, bags of beans, peas, nuts, salt, bales of stock fish, cases of soap, starch, washing powder, macaroni, bologna; also fixtures, consisting of safe, revolving chairs, desks, sealer, letter press …

After his business went bad in 1908, Lupo claimed that he travelled to Baltimore and Buffalo to try and raise money without luck.

In January 1909, Lupo stayed in Ardonia with the Oddo family. They ran a cheese farm about nine miles from Salvatore Cina’s farm. Lupo stayed there under the alias of Joseph La Presti as he was trying to avoid his creditors from his failed Mott Street business. Whilst staying at the farm Lupo also travelled to Highland to check the quality of the counterfeit printing that was being produced by Antonio Comito for the Morello gang.

Lupo was summoned by the NY Supreme Court in July 1909, in connection with his mortgage foreclosure on 630 138th Street. Others listed in the summons were: Salvatrice Lupo – his wife, The Ignatz Florio Co-operative, Antonio Rizzo, Joseph DiGiorgio, The Stone Hill Wine Company and Giuseppe Morello. The building was eventually sold by public auction in October.

On November 1st 1909, Lupo moved to Bath Beach and rented a house, again using the alias of Joe La Presti.

On November 12 1909, Ignazio Lupo walked into the office of his receivers with his counsel, Charles Barbier. He had been missing for a year after his store was served with bankruptcy. He made a claim that he had been blackmailed for $10,000 which left him broke and caused him to flee to Baltimore and Buffalo.

Lupo was arrested on November 17th in connection with the extortion of Salvatore Manzella. He was arraigned on November 22nd, however Manzella failed to appear and Lupo was discharged. He was immediately rearrested by a Deputy Marshall in relation to a counterfeiting charge from September 1902, he was later released on $5,000 bail.

On January 8th, Secret Service agents gathered at 8804 Bay 16th Street, Bath Beach, Brooklyn. A search of the upstairs rooms revealed a revolver, letters, passports, and a bank book containing the names John Lupo, Joseph La Presti and Giuseppe La Presti. They arrested Lupo and Palermo in connection with the Highland counterfeiting case.

In the resulting court case Lupo was sentenced on the first count to 15 years hard labour and a $500 fine. On the second count, 15 years hard labour and a $500 fine. He received a conditional commutation and was released in 1920.