Giuseppe Morello

Giuseppe Morel­lo led the Cor­leone­si crime fam­i­ly in New York, which later divid­ed into what are known today as the Gen­ovese and Luc­ch­ese Families.

Giuseppe Morello mugshot (1910)

Giuseppe Morel­lo was born at Cor­leone, Sici­ly, in May 1867. His entry into the local Mafia was like­ly facil­i­tat­ed by his step­fa­ther Bernar­do Ter­ra­no­va and uncle Giuseppe Battaglia, mem­bers of the Cor­leone bor­ga­ta (a term mean­ing bor­ough or vil­lage, with­in the Mafia it defines a clan or crime fam­i­ly).1

At the age of twenty-five, Morel­lo left Sici­ly for Amer­i­ca. His depar­ture occurred around the time he was accused of killing a wit­ness to a mur­der in Cor­leone.2 He arrived in New York in 1892, fol­lowed a year later by his fam­i­ly which includ­ed his half-brothers Nico­la, Vin­cen­zo and Ciro Ter­ra­no­va. After spend­ing a year in New York, the fam­i­ly moved to Louisiana and then to Texas, before final­ly return­ing to New York around 1897.3 

Morel­lo first attract­ed the atten­tion of the Secret Ser­vice in March 1899, after a let­ter he’d sent to a Boston coun­ter­feit­ing gang was inter­cept­ed.4 He was sus­pect­ed of dis­trib­ut­ing poor qual­i­ty coun­ter­feit notes and was arrest­ed the fol­low­ing year on East 108th Street. Papers found in his pos­ses­sion con­nect­ed him to Calogero Gulot­ta, whose son Gas­pare was later involved the New Orleans Mafia. Morel­lo was dis­charged after no direct con­nec­tion could be made between him and the sale of coun­ter­feit notes.5

In Novem­ber 1900, Morel­lo leased a saloon and base­ment at 445 13th St from Francesco Lo Curto6, who was later mixed up in a Black Hand con­spir­a­cy run by saloon keep­ers on the East Side.7 Morel­lo gave up the busi­ness after just seven months. He later start­ed a restau­rant in the rear of the saloon at 8 Prince Street,8 a known hang­out for coun­ter­feit­ers and under reg­u­lar sur­veil­lance of the Secret Ser­vice. The saloon was often men­tioned in Secret Ser­vice reports. One agent stat­ed, “more coun­ter­feit­ers have been arrest­ed at this address than any other place I know, it is one of the worst joints in the city.9

It was often report­ed in sen­sa­tion­al arti­cles that Morel­lo was the “Head of the Black Hand.” While he was found with let­ters con­nect­ing him to extor­tion of wealthy Ital­ians, no arrests were made as a result.10 He repeat­ed­ly offered his ser­vices as a medi­a­tor between the Black Han­ders and their vic­tims and was said to have “made much money set­tling the fright­ened of let­ters.11 He acquired the gratis ser­vices of a fam­i­ly doc­tor after act­ing as his nego­tia­tor and was sus­pect­ed of secret­ly extort­ing his own attor­ney, think­ing his arbi­tra­tion could lead to lower legal fees.12

His power was first indi­cat­ed in July 1902, when he was report­ed to have “approved” the mur­der of Brook­lyn Mafioso Giuseppe Cata­nia. Cata­nia liked to drink and “talked too much when drunk.” His muti­lat­ed corpse was even­tu­al­ly dis­cov­ered dumped in Brook­lyn in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to the Bar­rel Mur­der.13

The Ignatz Florio Co-Operative Association Among Corleonesi
The Ignatz Florio Co-Operative Association Among Corleonesi

He 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. Pri­mar­i­ly a bank­ing and real estate com­pa­ny, the com­pa­ny bought and sold mul­ti­ple prop­er­ties in New York before begin­ning con­struc­tion of its own ten­e­ments in the Bronx. Shares in the com­pa­ny were sold to south­ern Ital­ians with the expec­ta­tion of div­i­dends. The names list­ed on the incor­po­ra­tion as direc­tors were Anto­nio Milone — a man who would later be involved with their coun­ter­feit­ing schemes; Marco Macalu­so, father of 1960s Luc­ch­ese Fam­i­ly “con­sigliere” (advi­sor) Mar­i­ano Macalu­so; and Frank Badala­to, who would later own the hay and grain store locat­ed next to infa­mous East 108th Street prop­er­ty known as the “Mur­der Sta­bles”.14

Giuseppe Morello mugshot
Giuseppe Morello mugshot (1903)

Morel­lo was arrest­ed in April 1903, in con­nec­tion with the New York Bar­rel Mur­der. The police dis­cov­ered cor­re­spon­dence at his home at 218 Chrystie Street link­ing him to Santo Calamia and oth­ers in New Orleans. The Secret Ser­vice dis­cov­ered that Ital­ian coun­ter­feit­ers in New Orleans had begun to sell their fake cur­ren­cy to bol­ster Morello’s defence fund. Fol­low­ing his release from the Bar­rell Mur­der trial, Morel­lo was tracked in New Orleans with the Secret Ser­vice sus­pect­ing him of trans­port­ing coun­ter­feit plates from New York.15

In 1906, Morel­lo was sus­pect­ed of being involved with the mur­der of Andrea Fondi, a Sicil­ian who had recent­ly arrived in New York. The police charged Ignazio Milone with the mur­der, but the actu­al mur­der­er was later report­ed to be Morello’s bother-in-law, Gioachi­no Lima.16 

Morello’s Ignatz Flo­rio Co-Operative, ran into seri­ous finan­cial prob­lems around the time of the 1907 Bankers’ Panic. Anx­ious investors threat­ened to kill Morel­lo, con­trac­tors and lenders start­ed legal action against the busi­ness. In order to pay off his debts, Morel­lo, along with Ignazio Lupo, start­ed a coun­ter­feit­ing plant in High­land, New York. The plan would even­tu­al­ly land them both in prison.17

He was released from Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary in 1920. Morel­lo had lost close fam­i­ly to the gang feuds dur­ing his incar­cer­a­tion, includ­ing his half-brother Nico­la and his son Calogero. Upon his release, he quick­ly elim­i­nat­ed Sal­va­tore Loia­cano, who had risen to lead the Morel­lo Crime Fam­i­ly. Morel­lo had dis­ap­proved of his han­dling of the clan, pos­si­bly due to Loiacono’s sub­or­di­na­tion to boss of boss­es Toto D’Aquila. The killing sparked the begin­ning of a bit­ter three-year feud among the D’Aquila, Morel­lo and Schi­ro Fam­i­lies.18

Morel­lo, Lupo and other allies made a short trip to Paler­mo in late 1921.19 The rea­son for their voy­age was later described in a con­fi­den­tial Secret Ser­vice report: 20 

When Lupo and Morel­lo were con­vict­ed fif­teen or six­teen years ago on our coun­ter­feit­ing case, new lead­ers arose. Since that time they have grown very strong and very pop­u­lar. Upon the release of Lupo and Morel­lo they tried to come back into power, but the new orga­ni­za­tion here in Amer­i­ca would not per­mit this. Con­se­quent­ly, Lupo and Morel­lo and a few of their old ‘stand­bys’ went to Sici­ly, tak­ing it up there with the main head­quar­ters endeav­our­ing to be put back in power. They also refused … since that time Morel­lo has moved to the West Side and both he and Lupo are liv­ing behind bars and shut­ters. Their assas­si­na­tion is expect­ed momentarily.

Fur­ther detail was given in the mem­oirs of Mafioso Nico­la Gen­tile. He explained that Lupo, Morel­lo and ten oth­ers had been con­demned to death by boss of boss­es Sal­va­tore D’Aquila at a meet­ing of the US Mafia’s Gen­er­al Assem­bly. “It was a ques­tion of power. D’Aquila was a very author­i­ta­tive fig­ure and that meant that those who didn’t sup­port him were con­demned to death.21 

Giuseppe Morel­lo kept a low pro­file after his release from Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary. This was most­ly due to the feud with D’Aquila. A con­se­quence of Morello’s cau­tion was a sep­a­ra­tion between his activ­i­ties and the Secret Service’s net­work of spies. Although he was report­ed to be still active in coun­ter­feit­ing22 the Secret Ser­vice did not con­nect him direct­ly to any of their inves­ti­ga­tions. The war­ring fam­i­lies made tem­po­rary peace in August 1923 after a large con­fer­ence at High­land, New York. It was agreed that Lupo would be brought back into the Fratel­lan­za – but Morel­lo was still to be exclud­ed.23 

Giuseppe Morello (c. 1930)
Giuseppe Morello (c. 1930)

Con­flict between the Mafia Fam­i­lies flared-up again in 1928. Fifty-year-old Mafia leader D’Aquila was killed dur­ing a fam­i­ly visit to a doctor’s office in Man­hat­tan. The assas­si­na­tion was ordered by Giuseppe Masse­ria, who replaced D’Aquila as the new boss of boss­es, with Giuseppe Morel­lo as his sec­ond in com­mand. Masseria’s reign was brief. Both he and Morel­lo were killed in the “Castel­lam­marese War,” a vio­lent strug­gle for con­trol of the Mafia which began just two years later.24 Morel­lo was killed in August 1930 in Harlem at East 116th Street, bring­ing the career of the first boss of the US Mafia to an end.25 


1Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. The Informer. May 2014. Thomas Hunt. 42 – 43
Critch­ley, David (2009) The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca: The New York City Mafia, 1891 – 1931. New York: Rout­ledge. 52
2Gen­er­al Records of the Depart­ment of State, 17632002. Numer­i­cal Files, 19061910. M862 Roll 845. Giuseppe Morel­lo crim­i­nal record.
Flynn, W. J. (1919) The Bar­rel Mys­tery. New York: The James A. McCann Com­pa­ny. 243 – 261
3U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals for the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca vs. Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al, Tran­script of Record. Ciro Ter­ra­no­va testimony
4U.S. Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion (here­after referred to as NARA), RG 87, Daily Reports of Agents, (here­after referred to as DRA) William P. Hazen. Vol. 5 (Mar 181899
5NARA, RG 87, DRA. William P. Hazen. Vol. 9 (Jun 9, 12, 18, 28 1900)
Critch­ley. The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca. 58
6Real estate record and builders’ guide. vol.66 (1900) New York: F. W. Dodge Corp. 589
Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. 457
7The New York Times. July 6 & 8 1908
8Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. Ciro Ter­ra­no­va testimony
9NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.6 (May 51902
10El Paso Times (Apr 181903
11NARA, RG 87, DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 29 (Feb 271910
12Critch­ley. The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca. 31 – 32
NARA. RG 87. DRA. William Flynn. Vol. 28 (Dec 131909
13NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn (Jan 4, 1903)
The Evening World (Jul 24, 19021
14The Ignatz Flo­rio Co-Operative Asso­ci­a­tion Among Cor­leone­si. Cer­tifi­cate of Incor­po­ra­tion. 1902
Critch­ley. The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca. 46
15NARA, RG 87, DRA. Patrick Looby (New Orleans) Vol 9. (Santo Calamia) 
16Gen­er­al Records of the Depart­ment of State, 17632002. Numer­i­cal Files, 19061910. M862 Roll 845. Giuseppe Morel­lo crim­i­nal record.
The Yonkers States­man. Jul 7 & 9, 1909 (Gioachi­no Lima)
Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. 45
17NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol. 28 (Nov 22, 1909
Flynn. The Bar­rel Mys­tery. 30, 184
NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn (Feb 10, 1913) State­ment of Sal­va­tore Cina
Cen­tral Union Gas Co. vs Brown­ing (1911)
John A. Philbrick vs “Ignatz Flo­rio Co-Operative Asso­ci­a­tion Among Cor­leone­si”, et al. (1908)
18Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. 63 – 64 
“My ten biggest man hunts. William Flynn” Albu­querque Jour­nal (Mar 131922
19NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 76 (Dec 21921
20NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 80 (Oct 51922
21Critch­ley. The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca.. 155
 Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. 6468
22NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 83 (Mar 201923
23NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 85 (Aug 28, 30, 1923) & (Sep 21, 251923
24Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. 88 – 89
Critch­ley. The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca. 157, 181,185
Bonan­no, Joseph, and Ser­gio Lalli. A Man of Hon­our: the Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of a God­fa­ther. Deutsch, 1983. 100 (morel­lo 2nd in command) 
25New York Times (Aug 16, 1930) & (Apr 16, 19311