Born: January 22nd 1862, Palermo
Son of Accursio Cascioferro and Santa Ippolito, born on January 22nd 1862, in Palermo. Cascioferro’s criminal record began with assault in 1884, with later charges of arson, extortion and eventually to the kidnapping of the 19-year old Baroness di Valpetrosa in 1898, for which he received a three-year sentence.
Cascioferro travelled to America in September 1901. He lived with a sister, Francesca, and brother in law, Salvatore Armato in an apartment on 103rd Street, before finding his own place on Morgan Street. Later, among his papers, a letter was found that he had received shortly after arriving in New york:
New York, 12th September 1901
My very dear Don Vito,
I welcome you and allow myself the pleasure and the liberty of inviting you to my home. I have also taken the liberty of inviting friends, Giuseppe Morello, Francesco Megna, Giuseppe Fontana, Carlo Costantino, and Gioacchino di Martino to eat a plate of macaroni together. We thought that next Monday would be good and that the best time might be three o’clock in the afternoon. I hope that you will not fail to come, and, if the day and the time are not convenient for you, let me know by messenger.
I kiss your hand.
On May 21st 1902, Cascioferro was arrested on counterfeiting charges along with the Frauto/Clemente gang, he was found to the carrying a loaded gun and eighty dollars in real money. They had been manufacturing coins at a plant in Hackensack, NJ. He managed to escape conviction after none of the witnesses at the trial managed to identify him, and he presented an alibi that he worked at a local paper mill.
Cascioferro had been observed by Secret Service agents around this time in the company of many other Italian counterfeiters, including Giuseppe Morello. He was also seen embracing Angelo La Manno after his release from prison. La Manno had been part of a large gang of Italian counterfeiters who were convicted in 1899, however, Cascioferro was unaware that La Manno had turned informer to the Secret Service since his release.
The agents also noted that Cascioferro was involved with importing goods to New York as he had some Italian wine in bond, and was seen collecting overpaid duties from customs house.
Before the famous ‘Barrel Murder’, Cascioferro was seen with Giuseppe Morello at several steamship agents trying to locate the arrival of someone travelling to New York. He was also making enquiries about ‘working his passage back to Italy’ on one of the boats. He returned to Sicily in early 1903 via New Orleans.
Cascioferro is thought to be the mastermind behind the killing of New York policeman Giuseppe Petrosino on March 12th 1909. Petrosino was in Sicily to gather information from local police files to help deport Italian gangsters from New York.
On 3rd April 1909, Cascioferro was arrested in connection with the Petrosino murder. Among Cascioferro’s possessions were: a visiting card from “Vito LoBaido, Brooklyn”, hand written notes of defence prepared for two friends, both of whom had previous charges of counterfeiting, a photo showing Costantino, Morello, Cascioferro, Frank Aiello, Fontana and others. Cascioferro pleaded his innocence and provided a strong alibi for his whereabouts on the night of the killing. Nobody was never charged with the murder.
In 1926, Prefect Mori, under orders from Mussolini to destroy the Mafia, arrested Cascioferro. Tried in court for numerous crimes he was said to have stood and said:
Gentlemen, as you have been unable to obtain proof of any of the numerous crimes I have committed, you have been reduced to condemning me for the only one I never committed.
Cascioferro was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.