The Early Years

by Jon Black

19001910. From the arrival of the Morello family, to the trial of Lupo the Wolf. The Secret Service hound New York’s first Mafia gang.

Arrival in America

In 1892 Giuseppe Morello arrived in New York from Corleone. He was fol­lowed six months lat­er by his moth­er, step-father, four sis­ters and his step broth­ers; Nicola, Ciro and Vincent Terranova.

The fam­i­ly stayed in New York for around a year, but suf­fer­ing from the lack of avail­able work they trav­elled to Louisiana to stay with a cous­in. For a year Morello worked with his father plant­i­ng sug­ar cane before mov­ing on to Bryan, Texas to work as a cot­ton pick­er. In 1896, the fam­i­ly arrived back in New York after being hit with Malaria.

In New York, Morello worked with his father as an orna­men­tal plas­ter­er, with his younger step-broth­ers, Ciro and Vincent, help­ing dur­ing the evenings and week­ends. He then opened a coal base­ment, but sold that after a year, and around 1900 he opened a saloon on 13th Street, soon fol­lowed by a sec­ond saloon on Stanton Street. Due to bad busi­ness, Morello closed the Stanton Street saloon and sold the one on 13th Street in 1901. He then opened a date fac­to­ry employ­ing around fif­teen peo­ple, but the busi­ness also ran at a loss.

Ignazio Lupo, who would lat­er become a pow­er­ful mem­ber of the gang and also mar­ry into the fam­i­ly, arrived in New York in 1898. Lupo was flee­ing arrest in Palermo after killing a busi­ness rival in the whole­sale gro­cery busi­ness. He opened a store on E72nd Street with a cous­in named Saietta, but moved his busi­ness to Brooklyn after a dis­agree­ment.

Early Counterfeiting

On June 11th 1900, Giuseppe Morello was arrest­ed along with Colagero Meggiore. They were accused of sell­ing coun­ter­feit mon­ey and held on $5000 bail. The arrests had grown out of a Secret Service inves­ti­ga­tion that began when $5 bills were being passed in Brooklyn and North Beach. Morello and Meggiore were believed to be the sup­pli­ers of the mon­ey, which was described as ‘being print­ed on very poor paper with crude work­man­ship’. However, Morello lat­er walked free from court. 

In 1901, Lupo 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.

After an anony­mous let­ter was sent to Detective Petrosino of the NYPD, the Secret Service raid­ed a pow­er­ful band of coun­ter­feit­ers on May 22st 1902. The tip off claimed that a gang had been man­u­fac­tur­ing coins at a cot­tage in Hackensack, New Jersey, rent­ed by Salvatore Clemente, an acquain­tance of Nicholas Terranova. Clemente and a wom­an named Stella Frauto, along with her son, were cap­tured at their home, 949 First Avenue. Agents also raid­ed a bar­ber­shop at 969 First Avenue, that was being used to dis­trib­ute the cur­ren­cy, arrest­ing Vito Cascioferro and Giuseppe Romano. Cascioferro, one of the most pow­er­ful Mafia lead­ers of the time, man­aged to escape con­vic­tion with an ali­bi that he worked at a local paper mill. 

One of the gang mem­bers, Giuseppe Romano, was well known to the police. He had been arrest­ed in January 1902, after vio­lent­ly rob­bing a jew­ellery ped­dler in Chrystie Street. A crime that was not­ed to be very sim­i­lar to the unsolved killing of Meyer Weisbard, a Jewish ped­dler, who was robbed and killed in 1901. Weisbard’s body had been found stuffed into a trunk, the throat had been cut, and the corpse dumped near the Lower East Side piers. 

Andrea Romano, anoth­er mem­ber of the Hackensack coun­ter­feit­ers, was lat­er arrest­ed in Niagara Falls whilst nego­ti­at­ing the sale of his saloon at 8 Prince Street, pos­si­bly to Lupo — who ran the estab­lish­ment around this time.

Giuseppe Catania, a Brooklyn gro­cer, was found mur­dered on July 23rd, 1902. At around 8pm, four boys went swim­ming at the Bay Bridge, 73rd Street. One of the boys spot­ted a pota­to sack a few yards from the bank. Inside they dis­cov­ered a bad­ly bruised corpse with the throat cut from ear to ear.

The Secret Service believed that Catania had been a mem­ber of the Morello gang. They sus­pect­ed the gang had dis­posed of him due to his habit of drink­ing and talk­ing too much. Ignazio Lupo was one of the last men seen with Catania, they had trav­elled to Manhattan togeth­er to get some stock out of bond from the importers office. The police nev­er gained enough evi­dence to war­rant any arrests in the case. Salvatore Clemente, of the Frauto gang, lat­er revealed that Giuseppe Morello and Dominico Pecoraro were behind the slay­ing.

Giuseppe Morello start­ed a real estate com­pa­ny in 1902, ‘The Ignatz Florio Co-Operative Association Among Corleonesi’, the com­pa­ny was involved in the con­struc­tion and sell­ing of prop­er­ties in New York. The names list­ed on the incor­po­ra­tion as direc­tors were Morello, Antonio Milone — a man who would lat­er be involved with their coun­ter­feit­ing schemes and Marco Macaluso. The com­pa­ny even­tu­al­ly col­lapsed, hin­dered by the eco­nom­ic down­turn in 1907. It was lat­er inves­ti­gat­ed by the American Bankers Association.

In 1901, Chief Wilkie, of the Secret Service, had not­ed the appear­ance coun­ter­feit five dol­lar bills in imi­ta­tion to cur­ren­cy issued by the National Iron Bank Morristown NJ. Well over a year lat­er, on 31st December, 1902, Secret Service agents fol­lowed Giueseppe Guillambardo, Giuseppe De Primo and Isadoro Crocervera as they walked along Main Street. 

The agents wit­nessed the men pass­ing the coun­ter­feit notes and placed them under arrest, how­ev­er Guillambardo man­aged to break free. He was arrest­ed two months lat­er after being spot­ted at a 226 Elizabeth Street, a café belong­ing to Pietro Inzerillo of the Morello gang. On March 12th 1903, the tri­al began. The three men were found guilty, Guillambardo received five years at Sing Sing, Giuseppe De Primo was sen­tenced to four years and Isadoro Crocervera received three years. The notes had been man­u­fac­tured in Italy and then shipped in emp­ty olive oil con­tain­ers to Manhattan. A man named Giuseppe Boscarino, who would fea­ture in the gangs down­fall in 1910, was sus­pect­ed of being in charge of con­trol­ling the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the Morristown notes.

Benedetto Madonnia, broth­er-in-law to the recent­ly jailed De Primo, was mur­dered in April 1903. The sen­sa­tion­al­ist case became known as ‘The Barrel Murder’ after Madonnia’s body was found cut and stuffed into an old bar­rel in East 11th Street. Most of the known mem­bers of the Morello gang were arrest­ed in con­nec­tion with the killing, but even­tu­al­ly cleared due to lack of evi­dence.

The Secret Service had been build­ing a case again­st the Morello gang in rela­tion to the coun­ter­feit ‘Morristown Fives’ for some time before the killing of Madonnia occurred. However, as Chief Wilkie of the Secret Service explained in his Annual Report of 1903, the gov­ern­ments case was dropped so that the gang could be tried for the more seri­ous crime of the Barrel Murder:

Permission was grant­ed to the New York agent of this ser­vice to give the police the ben­e­fit of our inves­ti­ga­tion, and with the mate­ri­al fur­nished and the co-oper­a­tion of our agents, who point­ed out and iden­ti­fied the var­i­ous mem­bers of the gang, the local author­i­ties were able to clear up the mys­tery and secure the indict­ment of most of the pris­on­ers … at any rate, the traf­fic in Morristowns National bank notes has been tem­porar­i­ly inter­rupt­ed.

Life after the Barrel Murder

After the tri­al fin­ished in June 1903, the whole Morello fam­i­ly were searched and hound­ed on a reg­u­lar basis. One night, Ciro Terranova was trav­el­ling home from work with his broth­er Vincent, nephew Charlie and Nick Sylvester when they were all arrest­ed and kept overnight. On anoth­er occa­sion, Ciro and Nicholas Terranova were arrest­ed whilst try­ing to locate a doc­tor for Giuseppe’s son, Colagero.

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’.

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. The father, John Bozzuffi, was lat­er con­vict­ed of Grand Larceny after declar­ing his him­self bank­rupt, and then using his clients bank deposits to start a real­ty com­pa­ny.

On 1st February 1907, Francesca Delise, of 198 Elizabeth Street, returned to her sec­ond floor apart­ment and found her front door had been smashed in. Inside she found Giuseppe Masseria and Giuseppe Lima steal­ing her valu­ables. Masseria, 20, gave his address as 217 Forsyth Street and claimed to have lived there for three years. He was held on $2000 bail and even­tu­al­ly received a sus­pend­ed sen­tence. Masseria would lat­er emerge as a pow­er­ful and impor­tant lead­er in Mafia his­to­ry.

On 20th February 1908, a body was dis­cov­ered in Brooklyn. Salvatore Marchinne was found with his nose removed, tongue cut out and his body cov­ered in stab wounds. In his pock­et was found a note addressed to Antonio Ganci say­ing ‘Times are hard here now in Palermo. Give my regards to Fanaro. And remem­ber one thing — cau­tion !’ — the note was from a man named Cantaldo in Sicily. The news­pa­pers were filled once again with men­tions of the Morello gang and the Barrel Murder.

Antonio Ganci, a coun­ter­feit­er, was arrest­ed when he pre­sent­ed him­self to Hamilton Avenue police sta­tion on Saturday 22nd February. He explained the pres­ence of his let­ter in Marchinne’s pock­et by say­ing he was unable to read, and often helped Marchinne to read his mail. The police also arrest­ed Giuseppe Fanaro, Ganci’s broth­er in law and Morello gang asso­ciate, at 158 Ninth Street. Fanaro described him­self as a long­shore­man work­ing in Brooklyn for a fruit import­ing com­pa­ny. No charges were filed. It was thought that Marchinne was killed by the Mafia in rela­tion to a mur­der case in Sicily before Marchinne had come to America.

The Collapse of Lupo and Morello’s Businesses

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 in Harlem, and assigned the leas­es to 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 Ignazio Lupo, and as a result his busi­ness was bank­rupt. He also claimed that Lupo, one week before he dis­ap­peared, had vis­it­ed his store and tak­en over $1000 in cash. In the search for Lupo, the police dis­cov­ered he had a broth­er, John Lupo, who ran a gro­cery store in Hoboken.

On February 11th 1909, Giuseppe Morello relo­cat­ed to 207 E 107th Street. His cur­rent home and office, at 630 138th Street, had been built by his fail­ing real estate com­pa­ny, the Ignatz Florio Corporation, back in 1905. The build­ing was lat­er auc­tioned off in October 1909, after the fore­clo­sure of the mort­gage due to Ignazio Lupo’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

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 claimed that he had been black­mailed for $10,000 which left him broke and had caused him to flee to Baltimore then Buffalo. Lupo was then 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, but lat­er released on $5,000 bail.

In 1910, after a sen­sa­tion­al court case, Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo were both sent to Atlanta Penitentiary under the charge of coun­ter­feit­ing.

Giuseppe Morello was 40 at the time of his arrest in 1910. The rule of Morello and Lupo came to an end, and the focus shift­ed to var­i­ous oth­er char­ac­ters in East Harlem