Colagero Morello

The son of US Mafia boss Giuseppe Morello.

Calogero “Charles” Morel­lo was born in Cor­leone in Novem­ber 1892. The son of Giuseppe Morel­lo and his first wife, Maria Rosa Marsal­isi.1

On April 17, 1912, wit­ness­es described a heat­ed dis­cus­sion between Calogero Morel­lo, Joe Poliz­zo and Charles “Baker” Can­gro, in a saloon at 3rd Avenue and East 114th Street. The group spilled into the street and sev­er­al shots were fired. Calogero ran towards East 114th Street and Lex­ing­ton. The police found him col­lapsed on a stoop and took him back to the scene of the fight. All three men were taken to Harlem Hos­pi­tal. Calogero soon passed away, with Poliz­zo and Can­gro described as being “in a grave con­di­tion.” 2

Colagero Morello death certificate
Colagero Morello death certificate

The papers claimed the fight was between the “Joe Baker” and “Morel­lo” gangs, due to the Morel­los rob­bing Joe Baker’s broth­er. Other papers stat­ed the two gangs were at odds over the divi­sion of loot and for giv­ing the police infor­ma­tion that had led to Polizzo’s arrest.3 (Poliz­zo had recent­ly been released on $2,000 bail for bur­glary.4)

The Baker gang was named after Joe Baker, whose real name was Joseph Can­gro, a rela­tion of Charles.5 He start­ed out as a boxer in Harlem. His fol­low­ers, then known as “The Joe Baker Asso­ci­a­tion”, had a club­house at 422 East 108th and host­ed ille­gal box­ing match­es that were some­times ref­er­eed by gang­ster Paul Kelly.6 The group were allies of the pow­er­ful Harlem leader Gio­sue Gal­luc­ci.7 In 1908, the police arrest­ed a Joe Baker who lived at 322 East 109th, one door down from Gallucci’s home.8

Baker was described as “the most dan­ger­ous gun man in Harlem” and an asso­ciate of Harry “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz. His fol­low­ers, who were based around East 114th and Lex­ing­ton Avenue, made most of their money from pros­ti­tu­tion. Many of his group were wealthy enough to own cars, which the papers described as a “fleet of mur­der cars” that gave the gang an advan­tage when flee­ing their crimes.9

Some papers described the Bak­ers as allies of the Morello’s, while oth­ers said they were sworn enemies. 

Dead­liest rivals of the Joe Bak­ers are the men who fol­low “Joe” Morel­lo. His region is the heart of what the police call the crime belt and extends from East 110th to 115th street along Sec­ond avenue. Some of the ter­ri­to­ry over­laps with that of the “Joe” Bak­ers and the one result, mur­der, fre­quent­ly hap­pens. Life is a small thing there.10 

Colagero’s uncle, Nick Ter­ra­no­va, met with his broth­ers Vin­cent and Ciro and said he knew who was respon­si­ble and “would butch­er every one of them.11 His first revenge killing was not picked up by the press. Ter­ra­no­va was seen in a Harlem saloon send­ing out for papers to see if the mur­der had been report­ed. He remarked that “last night he killed the first one and will kill the rest.12

The Terranova’s learnt that one of those involved in Colagero’s mur­der was a nephew of Benedet­to Mado­nia who had been killed in 1903. They rent­ed a room oppo­site the nephew’s home with the hope of ambush­ing him, but he’d already left to visit an aunt with the hope she could bro­ker a peace deal. The Terranova’s pre­sumed he had fled to Italy, so they planned to send a “com­mis­sion” to deal with him.13

Rocco Cusano death certificate / Joe Baker
Rocco Cusano death certificate / Joe Baker

On the June 4th, Nick Ter­ra­no­va killed anoth­er of the Baker gang. He drove to the Bronx with Tom Lomonte and two oth­ers. The group exit­ed the car on 150th Street near Mor­ris Avenue, where a local detec­tive rec­og­nized them as mem­bers of the “Lupo-Morello gang” and quick­ly phoned for back­up. Moments later, four shots were fired at Rocco Cusano and the Ter­ra­no­va group escaped in their wait­ing car.14 When Nick Ter­ra­no­va arrived back in East 106th Street he called on friends to arrange his alibi as he was expect­ing to be arrest­ed for the mur­der.15

Born in the com­mune of Ben­even­to, Cam­pag­nia in 1891,16 Cusano was a prize-winning dancer, known as the “Beau Brum­mell of the Bronx”.17 He had been involved with pre­vi­ous dis­agree­ments with the Morel­los. They had threat­ened him at a dance­hall on more than one occa­sion, lead­ing to him being slashed across the face.18

A Secret Ser­vice infor­mant explained Nick Terranova’s rea­sons for killing Cusano. He claimed that on the night of Colagero’s mur­der, Cusano had spot­ted Colagero walk­ing up Third Avenue and ran ahead to warn the Baker gang, who then set up an ambush in the street. How­ev­er, eye­wit­ness reports sug­gest that Colagero was not ambushed and had been seen talk­ing to the Baker gang in a saloon before he was killed.19

The last known attack by the Morel­los was in Novem­ber. They had been lying in wait to shoot Charles Can­gro on West 137th Street, but they mis­tak­en­ly shot the wrong man. Charles may have been stay­ing with his rel­a­tive Joe “Baker” Can­gro who lived on the adja­cent block.20

Both Joe and Charles Can­gro sur­vived until at least the mid-twenties.21

Letter sent from the Morello family to Atlanta Penitentiary


1 (Man­aged by Justin Cas­cio) Accessed 08 – 07-22
2New York Her­ald. Apr 17, 1912. p.11
New York Her­ald. July 21, 1912. p.4
New York Evening Call. Apr 18, 1912. p.4
Bar­les vs. Baker name: The Evening World. Nov 11912 
3New York Times. Apr 17, 1912. p.24
4New York Her­ald. July 21, 1912. p.4
New York Times. Apr 17, 1912. p.24
5The Evening Post. New York. Jul 26, 1904. p.3
US Pop­u­la­tion cen­sus. 1920. New York City. ED: 964. (205 West 133rd St) 
6The Evening World. Dec 1, 1904. p.15
The Daily Stan­dard Union. Jul 26, 1904. p.8
The Police Gazette. New York City. Jul, 104. p.15
7The Sun­day Star. Wash­ing­ton. Oct 121930 
8The Sun. New York. Feb 14, 1908. “A John Doe Bribery Case”
9New York Her­ald. Jul 21, 1912. p.4
New York Her­ald. Aug 7, 1912. p.5
10New York Her­ald. Aug 7, 1912. p.5
11U.S. Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion (here­after referred to as NARA), RG 87, Daily Reports of Agents, (here­after referred to as DRA). William Flynn. Vol. 35. Page# 206
12NARA. DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 35. Page# 258 – 259
13NARA. DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 35. May 221912 
14Mid­dle­bury Reg­is­ter (Ver­mont) Jun 14, 1912.  p.4
The Sun. New York. Jun 5, 1912. p.2
15NARA. DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 35. Jun 171912
16Infor­ma­tion post­ed by Cusanos to in 2002. Accessed in 2022
17The Sun. New York. Jun 5, 1912. p.2
18The Evening World. Jun 5, 1912. “A Woman’s Smiles Lure Harlem Gang­ster to Death by Bullets”
19NARA. DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 35. Jun 6, 1912
New York Times. Apr 17, 1912. p.24
20US cen­sus. 1915. New York City. AD: 23. (189 West 136th St) 
21US Pop­u­la­tion cen­sus. 1920. New York City. ED: 964. (205 West 133rd St)
Mar­riage Cer­tifi­cate #33204 (Man­hat­tan) Charles Can­gro – Sep 19, 1923
US cen­sus. 1925. New York City. ED:28. AD: 13. p.22. Joseph Can­gro (2429 8th Avenue)