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 61969.