Ignazio Lupo

Ignazio Lupo, Paler­mi­tani Mafia leader and brother-in-law of the first US Mafia boss-of-bosses, Giuseppe Morello.

Ignazio Lupo Mugshot (1903)
Ignazio Lupo Mugshot (1903)

Son of Rocco Lupo and Onofria Sait­ta, Ignazio Lupo was born in Paler­mo on 21st March 1877. He worked in the ‘dry goods’ busi­ness from the age of 10, at 35 Via Mat­eras­sai, Paler­mo. Dur­ing an argu­ment in his store, he shot and killed a busi­ness rival named Sal­va­tore Morel­lo.1

Lupo fled the coun­try and spent three months in Liv­er­pool, Eng­land, but soon depart­ed as “busi­ness in green fruit was not good”. He relo­cat­ed to Mon­tréal but left after a month and head­ed to Buf­fa­lo before final­ly set­tling in New York City in 1898.2 

In March 1899, legal pro­ceed­ings were held in Sici­ly, for Lupo’s mur­der of his busi­ness rival. Based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of his own employ­ees, Lupo was con­vict­ed of “delib­er­ate and wil­ful mur­der”.3

Lupo opened a store on East 72nd Street with a cousin named Sait­ta but moved his busi­ness to Brook­lyn fol­low­ing a dis­agree­ment. In 1901, he moved his busi­ness back to Man­hat­tan, open­ing a small import store at 9 Prince Street. He also ran the saloon at 8 Prince Street, a known hang­out for crim­i­nals and coun­ter­feit­ers with Giuseppe Morel­lo own­ing the restau­rant in the rear of the premis­es.4 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.”5  

Lupo was one of the last men seen with Giuseppe Cata­nia a Brook­lyn gro­cer, whose muti­lat­ed corpse was dis­cov­ered dumped in Brook­lyn July 23rd, 1902. The pair had trav­elled to Man­hat­tan togeth­er to get some gro­cery stock out of bond from the importer’s office. The police and Secret Ser­vice never gained enough evi­dence to war­rant any arrests in the case.6 An infor­mant later revealed that Giuseppe Morel­lo was behind the slay­ing. Catania’s nephew, Nico­lo Testa, was arrest­ed in 1903 as a wit­ness to the ‘Bar­rel Mur­der’ trial.7

In Feb­ru­ary 1903, a con­sign­ment of empty olive oil cans labelled “Rocco Lupo & Sons” was shipped from Sicly to the “Lupo Broth­ers”. The cans were impound­ed for inspec­tion by the Secret Ser­vice after a telegram sent by Vito Cas­cio­fer­ro led them to believe the gang were smug­gling coun­ter­feit cur­ren­cy into the city.8

Lupo was arrest­ed in April 1903, in con­nec­tion with the New York Bar­rel Mur­der. Vast amounts of cor­re­spon­dence from “all over Europe and Amer­i­ca” were found at his home on West 40th Street.9 He was even­tu­al­ly cleared due to lack of evi­dence. He was rear­rest­ed after the trial in rela­tion to a 1902 coun­ter­feit­ing case and charged by a Grand Jury on Thurs­day 30th April 1903 and held on $5000 bail. The charge dated back to 18th Sep­tem­ber 1902 when Lupo had mailed a let­ter to Cana­da. The let­ter was found to con­tain a sin­gle five-dollar coun­ter­feit note. The charges were even­tu­al­ly dropped.10

Early Jan­u­ary 1904, Lupo was arrest­ed in Brook­lyn. The police had seen Lupo loi­ter­ing at a ferry house in Hamil­ton Avenue. He was arrest­ed as he trav­elled across the river on his way to Man­hat­tan. When searched, the police found what they described as, “a big blue bar­relled revolver of the lat­est kind”. He was taken to the sta­tion and charged with car­ry­ing con­cealed weapons.11

Lupo marriage certificate (1904)
Ignazio Lupo marriage certificate (1904)

On 22nd Decem­ber, 1904, Lupo mar­ried Sal­va­trice Ter­ra­no­va, the half-sister of Giuseppe Morel­lo. The wit­ness­es were Giuseppe Morel­lo and his wife Nicol­i­na Sale­mi, who had been mar­ried 2 weeks ear­li­er with Lupo and Ter­ra­no­va as wit­ness­es.12

Lupo lived with his par­ents and sib­lings at 433 West 40th Street.13 Togeth­er with his father he opened a retail gro­cery store “Rocco Lupo & Sons” at 310 West 39th Street, where he worked along with his broth­er, Gio­van­ni Lupo.14 The front the store was destroyed in an explo­sion in March 1905.15 Lupo opened anoth­er store at 209 Mott Street, and even­tu­al­ly occu­pied the entire ground floor of num­bers 210 – 214 on the oppo­site side of the street.16 The New York Times described it as ‘‘eas­i­ly the most pre­ten­tious mer­can­tile estab­lish­ment in that sec­tion of the city, with a stock of goods over which the neigh­bour­hood mar­velled … Lupo’s hors­es and deliv­ery wag­ons were the best that had ever been used in the neigh­bour­hood”. The turnover of the busi­ness reached between $500,000 and $600,000 a year.17 

William Flynn, chief of the Secret Ser­vice, who had an informed knowl­edge of Lupo’s meth­ods, described how Lupo threat­ened other busi­ness­es:18

The small Ital­ian gro­cers of the dis­trict were forced to buy their sup­plies from this store. If they did not their estab­lish­ments were in dan­ger of being wrecked by bombs or burned … By intim­i­dat­ing the local gro­cers into trad­ing at their whole­sale store, Lupo and Morel­lo accom­plished a dou­ble pur­pose. They swelled their so-called legit­i­mate prof­its and were able to get rid of some of [their] coun­ter­feit money.

Lupo import­ed Ital­ian goods from his brother-in-law, Francesco Gam­bi­no, via an import com­pa­ny run by Frank Zito.19 Zito and his wife would later be god­par­ents to Lupo’s daugh­ter Angeli­na in 1908.20 The “New York Fruit Exchange Incor­po­rat­ed”, which was described as the ‘largest and most influ­en­tial body of its kind’, list­ed Zito as a trustee of the com­pa­ny.21

In 1906, John Boz­zuf­fi, a suc­cess­ful New York banker was fac­ing demands for $20,000 for the return of his son. The boy man­aged to escape and iden­ti­fied his cap­tor as Ignazio Lupo. Lupo was taken into cus­tody but soon released due to a lack of evi­dence. An unre­lat­ed inves­ti­ga­tion into a Mafia killing in Par­tini­co, Sici­ly, led to the dis­cov­ery of a “direct con­nec­tion of the Sicil­ian Mafia with the Black Hand of New York.” Papers found in the home of Nun­zio Minore linked him direct­ly to the Boz­zuf­fi kid­nap­ing, the US Black Hand and the Sicil­ian Mafia.22

In 1908, Lupo fell ill. The Secret Ser­vice, who were fol­low­ing him in the Lower East Side, described him as “hard­ly able to walk, being very thin”.23 In late Novem­ber 1908, Lupo dis­ap­peared from New York owing up to $100,000 to his cred­i­tors, among whom were list­ed a trust com­pa­ny; a New York bank; and var­i­ous food and wine mer­chants.24 Many other Ital­ian stores in the city began to fail at the same time, esti­mat­ed at six in Brook­lyn and eleven in Man­hat­tan. The New York author­i­ties soon realised they were fac­ing an organ­ised con­spir­a­cy, with com­bined lia­bil­i­ties across Brook­lyn and Man­hat­tan esti­mat­ed at $500,000.25

Just months later, the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment request­ed his extra­di­tion in con­nec­tion to the 1898 mur­der of his Paler­mo busi­ness rival.26 The Lupo-Morello com­bine was fac­ing mul­ti­ple prob­lems. Before his death, Pet­rosi­no had hound­ed the two lead­ers to the point where they sent their legal coun­sel to threat­en him with crim­i­nal libel.27 Both Morel­lo and Lupo were also fac­ing inves­ti­ga­tions by the Amer­i­can Bankers Asso­ci­a­tion.28

Lupo was arrest­ed for coun­ter­feit­ing in 1909  and sen­tenced to thir­ty years at Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary.29

Ignazio Lupo Mugshot 1910
Ignazio Lupo mugshot (1910)

Lupo and Morel­lo were released from Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary in 1920. The pair made a short trip to Paler­mo in late 1921. The rea­son for their voy­age was later described in a con­fi­den­tial Secret Ser­vice report: 30 

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.”

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. Lupo, who had relo­cat­ed back to Brook­lyn in 1927, drift­ed back into his old habit of extort­ing store own­ers. Fol­low­ing Frankie Yale’s death, he acquired con­trol of the Brook­lyn bak­ery rack­et and was also sus­pect­ed run­ning pol­i­cy games in the area. He was arrest­ed at his son’s bak­ery and returned to Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary in 1936 as a parole vio­la­tor. He was to serve the remain­ing twen­ty years on his 1910 coun­ter­feit­ing sen­tence.31

Ignazio Lupo
Ignazio Lupo mugshot (1941)

Lupo died in 1947 three weeks after his early release from Atlanta. He was later made the sub­ject of the first episode of “Trea­sury Men in Action,” a pop­u­lar 1950s tele­vi­sion series based on the US Trea­sury Depart­ment.32

Lupo death certificate (1947)
Ignazio Lupo death certificate (1947)


1Trial tran­scripts of the US Cir­cuit Court for the Dis­trict of New York, 1790 – 1912. USA vs. Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. p.462 – 465 (Ignazio Lupo testimony) 
4Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. (Ignazio Lupo tes­ti­mo­ny)
Flynn, W. J. (1919). The Bar­rel Mys­tery. New York: The James A. McCann Com­pa­ny. 9
5U.S. Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion (here­after referred to as NARA), RG 87, Daily Reports of Agents, (here­after referred to as DRA).  William J. Flynn. Vol.6 (May 5, 1902)
The Sait­ta cousin that Lupo worked with was never named. The Secret Ser­vice later noted Lupo vis­it­ing M.L. Sait­ta who ran a gro­cery at 9 Spring Street, “in which there is a back room which is sort of a “hang-out”: NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.6 (May 51902
6The Brook­lyn Daily Eagle. Jan 12, 1904. p.20
7NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn (Jan 4, 1903)
The Evening World (Jul 24, 1902) 1
New York Times. May 2, 1903.  p.16
8NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. (Feb 15 – 171903
9The New York Press. Apr 17, 1903. p.1
10US Cicuit Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of NY. US vs Ignazio Lupo (C2869
US Cicuit Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of NY. US vs Ignazio Lupo and Pietro Inz­er­il­lo (C2870
Flynn, W. J. (1919). The Bar­rel Mys­tery. New York: The James A. McCann Company. 
11The Brook­lyn Daily Eagle. Jan 12, 1904. p.20
12https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Lupo-69 (Ignazio Lupo — man­aged by Justin Cas­cio) Accessed: 06 – 30-22
https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Morello-35 (Giuseppe Morel­lo — man­aged by Justin Cas­cio) Accessed: 06 – 30-22
13New York State Pop­u­la­tion Cen­sus, 1905; City: Man­hat­tan; Coun­ty: New York (433 W40th St.)
NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. (Apr 17, 1903)
Man­hat­tan Mar­riage Cer­tifi­cate #251 (Ignazio Lupo) 
14New York Times, New York. March 20, 1905
Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. p.462 – 465 (John Lupo testimony) 
15New York Times, New York. March 201905
16NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.22 (Feb 251908
17New York Times, New York. Novem­ber 13, 1909.
New York Times, New York. Decem­ber 5, 1908
Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. 
18The Wash­ing­ton Post. May 3rd, 1914. p8
19Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al.
Gam­bi­no is list­ed in Lupo’s prison file cor­re­spon­dence: Atlanta Fed­er­al Pen­i­ten­tiary papers, RG 129, NARA-SE. #2883 Ignazio Lupo
201908 S2 US NEW YORK DRIVE 13 0027 ROLL 352 00340
21Direc­to­ry of direc­tors in the city of New York. 1909 – 1910. p.860
Tar­iff hear­ings before the Com­mit­tee on ways and means of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. 1908 – 1909. Vol.IV. p.3979
22New York Times (Mar 7, 8, 1906
Cer­tifi­cate of Incor­po­ra­tion of the Ignatz Flo­rio Co-operative Asso­ci­a­tion Among Cor­leone­si. 1902
The Wash­ing­ton Post (Mar 16, 1906) 1
The Sun (Mar 9, 16, 1906)
St Louis Post Dis­patch (Mar 31, 1907) 2
Chica­go Tri­bune (Apr 1, 1907) 5
Bis­bee Daily Review (Apr 21, 190711
23NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.22 (Page #262)
24The Sun. New York. Sep­tem­ber 6, 1908
New York Times, New York. Decem­ber 6, 1908
New York Times, New York. March 171909
25Black, Jon. The Gro­cery Con­spir­a­cy https://www.gangrule.com/events/the-grocery-conspiracy. Accessed: 30 – 06-22
26NARA. Record Group 59: Gen­er­al Records of the Depart­ment of State, 17632002. 1906 – 1910. Numer­i­cal File: 16606 – 16649/25. Roll 968. p 928.
27Wash­ing­ton Post (Jul 12, 19146
28Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio et al. 420
29Black, Jon. The Morel­lo and Lupo trial. https://www.gangrule.com/events/the-morello-lupo-trial-1910. Accessed: 30 – 06-22
30NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 80 (Oct 51922
31Black, Jon. Mafia: The Morel­lo Gang. https://www.gangrule.com/gangs/the-morello-gang  Accessed: 30 – 06-22
32Trea­sury Men in Action. (Sep 11, 1950) The Case of Lupo the Wolf.