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 210214 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.