Ignazio Lupo

The Palermitani Mafia leader and brother-in-law of the first US Mafia boss-of-bosses.

Ignazio Lupo

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 Montreal 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)
  1. Trial 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)  ⇡
  2. ibid.  ⇡
  3. ibid. ⇡
  4. Giuseppe Calicchio et al. (Ignazio Lupo testimony)
    Flynn, W. J. (1919). The Barrel Mystery. New York: The James A. McCann Company.  9 ⇡
  5. U.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 5, 1902)  ⇡
  6. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Jan 12, 1904. p.20 ⇡
  7. NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn (Jan 4, 1903)
    The Evening World (Jul 24, 1902) 1
    New York Times. May 2, 1903.  p.16 ⇡
  8. NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. (Feb 15-17, 1903)  ⇡
  9. The New York Press. Apr 17, 1903. p.1 ⇡
  10. US 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.  ⇡
  11. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Jan 12, 1904. p.20 ⇡
  12. https://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 ⇡
  13. New 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)  ⇡
  14. New York Times, New York. March 20, 1905
    Giuseppe Calicchio et al. p.462-465 (John Lupo testimony)  ⇡
  15. New York Times, New York. March 20, 1905 ⇡
  16. NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.22 (Feb 25, 1908)  ⇡
  17. New York Times, New York. November 13, 1909.
    New York Times, New York. December 5, 1908
    Giuseppe Calicchio et al.  ⇡
  18. The Washington Post. May 3rd, 1914. p8 ⇡
  19. Giuseppe Calicchio et al.
    Gambino is listed in Lupo’s prison file correspondence: Atlanta Federal Penitentiary papers, RG 129, NARA-SE. #2883 Ignazio Lupo ⇡
  20. “1908 S2 US NEW YORK DRIVE 13 0027 ROLL 352 00340” ⇡
  21. Directory 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 ⇡
  22. New 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, 1907) 11 ⇡
  23. NARA, RG 87, DRA.  William J. Flynn. Vol.22 (Page #262)  ⇡
  24. The Sun. New York. September 6, 1908
    New York Times, New York. December 6, 1908
    New York Times, New York. March 17, 1909 ⇡
  25. Black, Jon. The Grocery Conspiracy https://www.gangrule.com/events/the-grocery-conspiracy. Accessed: 30-06-22 ⇡
  26. NARA. Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1763 – 2002. 1906 – 1910. Numerical File: 16606 – 16649/25. Roll 968. p 928. ⇡
  27. Washington Post (Jul 12, 1914) 6 ⇡
  28. Giuseppe Calicchio et al. 420 ⇡
  29. Black, Jon. The Morello and Lupo trial. https://www.gangrule.com/events/the-morello-lupo-trial-1910. Accessed: 30-06-22 ⇡
  30. NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 80 (Oct 5, 1922)  ⇡
  31. Black, Jon. Mafia: The Morello Gang. https://www.gangrule.com/gangs/the-morello-gang  Accessed: 30-06-22 ⇡
  32. Treasury Men in Action. (Sep 11, 1950) The Case of Lupo the Wolf. ⇡