Camorra: The Navy Street Gang
The Neapolitans, based in Brooklyn and Coney Island, fought for control of the New York rackets. Eventually decimated when it’s own members turned against them.
The New York based Camorra had two bases: the Neapolitan Navy Street gang headed by Leopoldo Lauritano and Allesandro Vollero, and the Neapolitan Coney Island gang headed by Pelligrino Morano from his Santa Lucia restaurant.
On June 24th 1916 a meeting took place at Coney Island between the Sicilian Morello gang, the Neapolitan Navy Street gang and the Neapolitan Coney Island gang. The idea of the meeting was to discuss the expansion of gambling dens in lower Manhattan. Pelligrino Morano, from Coney Island, began talking about the lucrative Italian zicchinetta card games. Nick Terranova and Steve LaSalle explained that Joe DeMarco would have to be killed before they could expand in the area. The Brooklyn gang also had an interest in killing DeMarco as he had recently taken over one their games on Mullberry Street.
After the removal of DeMarco, the Camorra devised a plan to kill the Morellos. Even though the two gangs had worked alongside each other for sometime, including jointly removing Giosue Gallucci from Harlem, Morano wanted them dead. Morano had been running a policy game in Harlem, the realm of the Morello family, but could not make it pay enough to cover the rake that the Morellos demanded from him, another factor was the killing of Nicola Del Gaudio had angered Allesandro Vollero and he now wanted the Morellos dead. The Neopolitans believed they could taken over the Harlem rackets if they could eliminate the Morello leadership. They hatched a plan where they would try and lure the entire Morello leadership down to Brooklyn and ambush them.
On September 7th 1916, Nicholas Terranova and Charles Ubriaco travelled downtown to meet with the Navy Street gang. Ralph Daniello served the men drinks before Pagano arrived to take them to a coffee house where Lauritano and Morano were waiting. The men walked together towards Myrtle Avenue when they were ambushed at the junction of Johnson Street and Hudson Avenue. Nicholas Terranova was shot dead by Tom Pagano, and Ubriaco was slain by Thomas Carillo and Lefty Esposito. Later that evening Ciro Terranova was called to identify his brothers body.
Allesandro Vollero was arrested the following day and put in police lineup. Witnesses to the murder were asked to identify him but he was released nineteen days later.
On October 6th, 1916, Charles Giordano from Staten Island, a policy man, saloon owner and friend of the Camorra made plans for the killing of Verizzano. Alphonso Sgroia, Mike Notaro, Ralph Daniello and John Mancini travelled to Manhattan where Giordano checked a saloon before locating Verizzano in the Italian Gardens restaurant in the Occidental Hotel, Broome Street. Sgroia and Notaro stood by the door shooting into the establishment. Verizzano was hit and killed. The gunmen escaped, one into the Bowery and one into Broome Street.
The Morello gang and the Brooklyn Camorra were at all out war. The Camorra hatched various plans to wipe out the rest of the Morello leadership, but they were either foiled or were never completed, however four associates of the Morello gang were murdered by the Camorra in Philadelphia.
The Navy Street gang prospered by taking over the Morello businesses for a short period. This was proved later in 1918 by a Harlem gambler, who testified that for a short period he had to travel to Brooklyn each week to have his books checked. The Camorra tried to move in on the artichoke business, but the wholesale dealers refused to give in to any threats, eventually a deal was struck where a ‘tax’ of twenty five dollars was paid on every car load of artichokes that were delivered. Coal and ice merchants also proved hard to threaten, and the Camorra’s business gains were not as they had expected.
In May 1917, a very important event took place that would begin the breakdown and unraveling of the long feud between the Sicilians and the Camorra. Ralph ‘The Barber’ Daniello, a member of the Brooklyn Navy Street gang, had been in court charged with robbery and abduction, he was released before eloping to Reno with his new love, Ms Amelia Valve from Prospect Street, South Brooklyn. He sent letters to his former Camorra gang asking for money to be sent to him, but his requests were ignored. The police eventually tracked Daniello down in Reno and brought him back to Brooklyn. When the indictments were brought against Daniello on the charge of murder, grand larceny and perjury he began to tell the police everything he knew about the Navy Street crew and the recent murders. When the police realised the extent of Daniello’s confessions he was sent to the office of Edward Swann the DA. For the next ten days Daniello told his story of the murders spanning the last ten years. On November 27th Daniello was arraigned with John Esposito, Allesandro Vollero and Alphonso Sgroia, and other members of the Navy Street gang who had been arrested on Daniello’s confessions. Also arraigned as material witnesses were Ciro Terranova, Vincent Terranova and Nicholas Arra, all were held on $15,000 bail.
According to the testimony by Daniello, Sicilians and Neapolitans were formed loosely in three main bands and controlled the rackets across New York. The bands were based in Harlem, downtown Mulberry bend and the last band covering Brooklyn and Coney Island. He went on to confess to his gangs involvement in the killings of both the DeMarco brothers, Nicholas Terranova with Charles Ubriaco and the ‘Chuck’ Nazzaro killing in Yonkers.
On November 30th 1917, the Grand Jury under Judge Nott handed out twelve indictments against the killing of Joseph DeMarco and Charles Lombardi. Five indictments had already been handed out against the murder of Salvatore DeMarco, and another four in the case of ‘Chuck’ Nazzaro. Since the beginning of Daniello’s confessions the police had been watching New York’s ports to make sure no gang members escaped conviction. Edward Swann sent Henry Renaud, head of homicide, off to Chicago to arrest some of the indicted. Swann also began working with Harry Lewis, the Kings County DA, to secure further convictions in Brooklyn. The 1918 trials that followed completely smashed the Navy Street gang, the protection that they enjoyed was demolished from the testimonies of their own men. It was the end of the Camorra in New York and the sway of power fell back to the Mafia.
Rocco Valenti was arrested on January 26th 1918, in Troy NY, for complicity in the DeMarco / Lombardi killing. He was jailed for ten months, before being discharged in November 1918. He later appeared in court to testify in the appeal of Charles Giordano in March 1919.
Allesandro Vollero, was tried for first degree murder in on February 15th, 1918, in the case of Nicholas Terranova and Charles Ubriaco. Ralph Daniello testified against Vollero, and stated that the gang paid money to a Detective named Michael Mealli. Mealli was reduced in rank and assigned to patrol duty. Following this revelation, Judge Kapper was taken ill on February 18th, causing a mistrial to be declared. Vollero was retried on March 4th and was sentenced to life at Sing Sing.
Pelligrino Morano, leader of the Coney Island faction, was convicted of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to Sing Sing from twenty years to life.
Leopoldo Lauritano, received a twenty one year sentence for manslaughter in 1918. On 12th January, 1926, after serving only seven and a half years, Lauritano was paroled from Sing Sing. He was immediately rearrested under an indictment that had been served in 1918 in connection with the murder of Verrazano. On Thursday 14th, Judge Selah B. Strong, discharged Lauritano on a writ of habeas corpus. This action caused an open argument between the Kings County DA, Charles Dodd, and Judge Strong. Lauritano returned to court in February 1927, he was tried at the Brooklyn Supreme Court under Judge James Cropsey. He was charged with perjury during the trial of Anthony Paretti, where Lauritano had stated he did not know the defendant or his associates. The ADA, James Cuff, had managed to produce a photo of Lauritano in the Navy Street cafe with fellow gang members,thus proving his testimony false. Lauritano received five years in Sing Sing.
Angelo Giordano, a saloon keeper from Tompkinsville S.I. was put on trial on April 27th, 1918. He was charged with plotting the killing of Giuseppe Verrazano in October, 1916. Antonio Notaro and Ralph Daniello, from the Navy Street gang, testified against Giordano. Notaro was quoted as saying “Giordano told us that Verrazano had to be killed that night. When I said that I did not want to kill a man without orders from my boss, Giordano said he would do the job himself but that I would die the next day for refusing, then I changed my mind”. Notaro claimed that Giordano led him to the restaurant on Broome Street and pointed out Verrazano to be shot.
Alphonso Sgroia, from the Navy Street gang, was sentenced on June 17th 1918, he received twelve years in Dannemora for manslaughter in the case of Nicholas Terranova. Sgroia went on to testify against his fellow gunmen Paretti and Fevrola, he was rewarded with a shorter sentence and deportation to Italy.
Ciro Terranova was tried for complicity in June 1918, in connection with the DeMarco/Lombardi killing. Johnny Esposito, the killer of Lombardi, had turned state evidence the same Daniello, and testified against Terranova. Ciro was acquitted due to lack of corroboration when it was tenuously proved that Esposito and Terranova were part of the same gang.
Ralph Daniello was moved to a different prison due the abuse he received after he testified at the trial of Vollero. Daniello was given a suspended sentence in view of the testimony he had given. His freedom was short lived when he was later arrested for assaulting a man in Coney Island, Daniello claimed he had shot the victim thinking that he had been sent from the Navy Street gang on a vendetta. Daniello was sentenced to five years in prison. In 1925, after his release he was shot in his saloon, near Metuchen. New Jersey.
Frank Fevrola, on April 18th 1921, was tried for the murder of Joe ‘Chuck’ Nazzaro in 1917. Judge Tompkins found Fevrola guilty and sentenced him to the death house at Sing Sing. His conviction was largely due to his wife’s testimony against him. On April 14th, 1922, a notice was served on DA Weeks, that a motion would be made to grant a retrial on the case of Fevrola. Fevrola’s wife had withdrawn all her previous statements made against her husband, saying she had been threatened and bribed by the police. DA Weeks tried to oppose the retrial by rubbishing Tessie Fevrola’s new affidavit. On May 23rd, 1922, Justice Tompkins denied any motion for a retrial of Fevrola. On May 29th, 1923, lawyer Thomas O’Neil made a last minute attempt to save Fevrola from execution. His request for a retrial was again put before Supreme Court Justice Tompkins. On Thursday 28th June, 1923, with seven hours left until his execution and in a state of collapse, Fevrola received a reprieve, sparing his life until October 7th. The death sentence was eventually commuted.
Aniellio Paretti of 23 Sherman Av, Brooklyn, was tried for the murder of Joe ‘Chuck’ Nazzaro in 1917. In November 1921, Aniellio was sentenced to the death house in Sing Sing. His lawyer immediately appealed against the decision, and on January 3rd 1923 the Court of Appeals ordered a retrial. DA Weeks then had the indictment dropped, and Paretti was a free man. He was released from Sing Sing in July 1923.
Anthony Paretti, of 23 Skillman Av, Brooklyn, was sentenced to Sing Sing death house for his part in the slaying of Nicholas Terranova and Charles Ubriaco. Paretti originally fled to Italy to escape capture. He returned to New York in March, 1926, thinking that most of the witnesses against him would be gone. However, he was tried and convicted of murder in the first degree. His brother Aniellio Paretti, who had been released from Sing Sing in July 1923, came to visit several times. On the six weeks leading up to his execution, Warden Lawes ordered the prison and river front guarded 24 hours a day, rather than the usual 16 hours. On February 9th, 1927 Paretti was examined, declared sane and fit for execution. He was reported to be exerting powerful pressure upon politicians to get his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. On the day of execution, the usual electrocardiogram was not given due to lack of arrangements. He was electrocuted under the jurisdiction of the state of New York on 17th February, 1927 at the age of 35. One of the last men to visit Paretti before his death was a young Vito Genovese.