The Morello and Lupo Trial

The Secret Ser­vice begin to track the Mafia lead­ers, Lupo and Morel­lo under sus­pi­cion of coun­ter­feit­ing, lead­ing to the pair’s downfall.

The spirit of Giuseppe Morello, one time chief of the Black Hand, is broken. Lupo (the Wolf), the proud and haughty one, the carrier of the mandates of the dread society, has been seen to throw himself upon his face in despair and weep. The gang that gathered about them is dispersed, broken in fragments, and without a head. For not only have their chiefs been sent to federal prisons, but along with them eight most active lieutenants.” — Uncle Sam’s Modern Miracles (1914)

Business Troubles

Ignazio Lupo

By late 1908, 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.1 The pair’s busi­ness deal­ings were also fac­ing inves­ti­ga­tions by the Amer­i­can Bankers Asso­ci­a­tion.2 Lupo fled from New York in Novem­ber, owing up to $100,000 to his cred­i­tors fol­low­ing a bank­rupt­cy scheme.3 Just months later, the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment request­ed his extra­di­tion in con­nec­tion with the 1898 mur­der of a Paler­mo busi­ness rival.4 He also had an out­stand­ing indict­ment against him from a 1903 coun­ter­feit­ing case.5

Giuseppe Morello

Morel­lo faced prob­lems from investors and lenders who threat­ened law­suits and worse after the col­lapse of his construction/banking co-operative.6 His failed soci­ety, the Ignatz Flo­rio Co-operative Asso­ci­a­tion Among Cor­leone­si, was incor­po­rat­ed in 1902. The com­pa­ny built and sold many prop­er­ties in New York at a time when shrewd spec­u­la­tors could con­struct New Law ten­e­ments with a $5,000 out­lay.7 

Described as a bank­ing and real estate busi­ness, the cor­po­ra­tion sold “mem­ber­ships” or shares by sub­scrip­tion at $1 per month.8 The company’s sec­re­tary revealed that “what­ev­er Morel­lo said was always con­sid­ered as law.” The sec­re­tary explained that mem­bers lost their invest­ments through ques­tion­able finan­cial deal­ings. A num­ber of Bronx prop­er­ties were used as secu­ri­ty for Ignazio Lupo’s gro­cery pur­chas­es and were then lost when Lupo’s busi­ness failed, his inven­to­ry van­ished and he fled his cred­i­tors.9 

An asso­ciate later explained, “It was Morel­lo who con­ceived the idea of coun­ter­feit­ing the notes on a large scale. Some­time after the Co-operative Asso­ci­a­tion failed, some of the mem­bers who had lost their money began to crowd Morel­lo and threat­ened to kill him. Morello’s idea was to reim­burse these men with coun­ter­feit money.10

Print Work

Silver Certificate
Silver Certificate

Morello’s busi­ness part­ner, Anto­nio Milone, ex-president of the failed Ignatz Flo­rio Co-Operative, began the task of etch­ing the lith­o­graph­ic plates for print­ing coun­ter­feit Cana­di­an five-dollar and US two-dollar bills.11 The band set up its print­ing oper­a­tion inside farm­hous­es in High­land, New York, and over the next six months print­ed about $50,000 in coun­ter­feits. Mul­ti­ple prob­lems with the qual­i­ty of the notes need­ed to be addressed before buy­ers would accept them.12 

In May 1909, the Secret Ser­vice began to receive com­plaints of coun­ter­feit notes in New Orleans and across the North­east.13 Agents were tipped off to sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty at an East Ninety-seventh Street whole­sale gro­cery belong­ing to Domeni­co Milone, one of the “Lupo crowd.” They prompt­ly set up sur­veil­lance on the store and observed “secret con­fer­ences” held there.14

The Secret Service

William Flynn 1910
William Flynn 1910

William Flynn of the Secret Ser­vice had tried to snare the gangs in 1903 by using an infor­mant to pur­chase coun­ter­feits with marked bills.15 His plan failed at the last minute when the Bar­rel Mur­der caused him to hand over inves­ti­ga­tions to the NYPD. Flynn res­ur­rect­ed the old ploy in 1909, and this time it worked. He used infor­mant Sam Lucchi­no from Pittston, Penn­syl­va­nia, to pur­chase notes from the gang. 16Lucchi­no was an ex-Black Han­der, who agreed to tes­ti­fy against the gang if he was given a posi­tion in the Secret Ser­vice. Flynn des­ig­nat­ed him a “tem­po­rary employ­ee” to “give him some stand­ing as a wit­ness.” (He later became a pri­vate detec­tive work­ing with the Pittston police and fed­er­al author­i­ties. Lucchi­no sur­vived sev­er­al assas­si­na­tion attempts before he was even­tu­al­ly killed in 1920.) 17

The Arrests

On Novem­ber 15, short­ly after Lucchi­no had pur­chased the coun­ter­feits, Morel­lo lieu­tenant Anto­nio Cecala, was arrest­ed and found in pos­ses­sion of the Secret Service’s marked bills. Flynn con­tact­ed the Ital­ian Squad to exe­cute search war­rants against the rest of the gang, which result­ed in the arrest of Morel­lo, his half-brother Nico­la Ter­ra­no­va and eleven asso­ciates. Morel­lo was cap­tured at his home, 207 East 107th Street, where the police uncov­ered “some very dam­ag­ing ‘Black Hand’ let­ters, which he had evi­dent­ly sent to dif­fer­ent Ital­ians and upon receiv­ing them, they paid the demand of Morel­lo …” Addi­tion­al arrests were made in the fol­low­ing months. Lupo was even­tu­al­ly cap­tured in Brook­lyn. The assis­tant dis­trict attor­ney stat­ed, “It is the biggest round-up of coun­ter­feit­ers in the his­to­ry of the coun­try.” 18

A let­ter dis­cov­ered in Morello’s apart­ment was addressed to Rosario Dis­pen­za, described as “one of the men high­est up in the Chica­go Mafia” and a busi­ness part­ner of Anto­nio D’Andrea. The let­ter revealed the exis­tence of a secre­tive Mafia Coun­cil and Assem­bly: “Dear Friend … Regard­ing the Coun­cil, you have no right to be present in the meet­ings. The Coun­cil is divid­ed and sep­a­rat­ed from the Assem­bly… Have I explained myself? This is for your guid­ance …19 Fur­ther details of the sys­tem were later revealed in the mem­oirs of Mafioso Nico­la Gen­tile. He described one par­tic­u­lar meet­ing of the Gen­er­al Assem­bly as a “gath­er­ing all of the rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Unit­ed States,” which was then fol­lowed by the Gen­er­al Coun­cil — a closed-door vote of the crime fam­i­ly heads.20 The sys­tem, which stood as “New World exam­ples of the older Sicil­ian region­al and provin­cial com­mis­sions” was replaced in 1931.21

The Court Case

Lupo, Morel­lo and six of their asso­ciates were put on trial in Jan­u­ary 1910. The government’s chief wit­ness was Anto­nio Comi­to, an out­sider who had been com­pelled to print the coun­ter­feit notes for them. After his arrest in early Jan­u­ary, he prompt­ly gave the Secret Ser­vice his full account of how the gang had pro­duced the coun­ter­feits, recall­ing details of meet­ings and con­ver­sa­tions he had over­heard.22 Comi­to revealed the gang had been wait­ing for news from Paler­mo, and when they learned of Petrosino’s mur­der “they were all elat­ed, and con­sumed wine, and had a feast.”23  

Dur­ing trial, a US Mar­shall dis­cov­ered a knife stuck into his office wall. The court was then trans­formed into an “armed camp” as the gov­ern­ment feared attempts to lib­er­ate the pris­on­ers or influ­ence wit­ness­es. The judge received sev­er­al Black Hand let­ters threat­en­ing his life, and gun car­tridges were left scat­tered under court seats appar­ent­ly to intim­i­date wit­ness­es and spec­ta­tors. Comi­to was the first wit­ness called by the gov­ern­ment, he gave a lengthy tes­ti­mo­ny against the gang under the guard of armed mar­shals and Secret Ser­vice agents.24

The trial con­clud­ed on Feb­ru­ary 19, 1910, with all eight defen­dants con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to hard labor at Atlanta Pen­i­ten­tiary. Ignazio Lupo was sen­tenced to thir­ty years; Giuseppe Morel­lo to twenty-five years; Giuseppe Paler­mo, who acted as financier, to eigh­teen years; Anto­nio Cecala, who dis­trib­uted the notes, to fif­teen years; Giuseppe Cal­ic­chio, a print­er who helped with pro­duc­tion, to sev­en­teen years; Vin­cen­zo Giglio and Sal­va­tore Cina, own­ers of the prop­er­ty where the notes were print­ed, to fif­teen years; Nicholas Sylvester, a young crim­i­nal asso­ciate, to fif­teen years.25 

Giuseppe Palermo, Nicholas Sylvester
Antonio Cecala, Giuseppe Boscarino

Desperate Measures

When Flynn was asked about the group’s polit­i­cal influ­ence, he replied, “The strongest I know of. It is almost impos­si­ble to com­bat it. It comes from both polit­i­cal par­ties.26 The gang was depend­ing on the polit­i­cal influ­ence of a Repub­li­can dis­trict leader in New York to assist with an appeal, they also nego­ti­at­ed with a Chica­go politi­cian who claimed he could free Morel­lo for $15,000.27 Just over a year later, enough money was raised to send the case to the Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, but the orig­i­nal judg­ment was affirmed.28 

Lupo’s broth­er, Gio­van­ni, was report­ed to have spent $65,000 on lawyer’s fees and endeav­ored to have the Supreme Court review the case. He also gave inter­views to the press accom­pa­nied by a dis­grun­tled for­mer Secret Ser­vice agent. The agent crit­i­cized Chief Flynn and accused the Secret Ser­vice of using a coun­ter­feit­er as a “decoy” and employ­ing ex-convicts. How­ev­er, a grand jury later dis­missed the agent’s claims and Flynn sued him for defama­tion.29

Ten months after the trial, the bulk of the coun­ter­feit notes had not been dis­cov­ered and were still in cir­cu­la­tion across the city.30 Some of the notes had been stashed in a feed store on East 108th Street belong­ing to employ­ee of Giuseppe Morello’s Ignatz Flo­rio Soci­ety.31 The remain­ing notes were later sold to a coun­ter­feit­er with con­nec­tions to Mafioso Man­fre­di Mineo.32 

Further Arrests

Thir­teen more arrests were made in Decem­ber. Giuseppe Boscari­no, the gang’s dis­trib­u­tor was sen­tenced to fif­teen years, with Comi­to and Lucchi­no appear­ing again as gov­ern­ment wit­ness­es.33 Detec­tives recalled Boscarino’s con­nec­tions going back to 1903, when he was involved with the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the “Mor­ris­town Five” coun­ter­feits at the time of the Bar­rel Mur­der. Fol­low­ing the addi­tion­al arrests and Boscarino’s con­vic­tion, gov­ern­ment offi­cials believed they had “demon­strat­ed that coun­ter­feit­ing is a dan­ger­ous busi­ness that is unpop­u­lar with the author­i­ties and dan­ger­ous to pur­sue.34

Andrew Drum­mond, the ex-chief of the Secret Ser­vice who had bat­tled Ital­ian coun­ter­feit­ers in 1885, con­grat­u­lat­ed Chief Flynn on his achieve­ments and for rid­ding the com­mu­ni­ty of “eight men more dan­ger­ous to life, I believe, than any eight men I ever saw tried for coun­ter­feit­ing.” The US attor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York told Flynn, “I con­sid­er the con­vic­tion and sen­tences in this case, one of the great­est vic­to­ries that this office has attained in many years.”35


1Wash­ing­ton Post (Jul 12, 19146
2U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals for the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca vs. Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al., Tran­script of Record. (1910) 420
3Black, Jon (2014) The Gro­cery Con­spir­a­cy.
4NARA. Record Group 59: Gen­er­al Records of the Depart­ment of State, 17632002. 1906 – 1910. Numer­i­cal File: 16606 – 16649/25. Roll 968. p 928.
5NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Nov 231909
6NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Nov 221909
7The New York Times (Sep 13, 190330
8NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol. 9 (Apr 291903
9NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 33 (Dec 4, 1911)
Black, Jon (2014) The Gro­cery Con­spir­a­cy.
10NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn (Feb 10, 1913) State­ment of Sal­va­tore Cina
11Cer­tifi­cate of Incor­po­ra­tion of the Ignatz Flo­rio Co-operative Asso­ci­a­tion Among Cor­leone­si. 1902
Flynn, WIlliam. J. (1919) The Bar­rel Mys­tery. James A. McCann Com­pa­ny. 93
12U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals for the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca vs. Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al., Tran­script of Record. (1910)
Con­fes­sion of Anto­nio Comi­to. Lawrence Richey Papers. Black Hand Con­fes­sions, 1910. Her­bert Hoover Pres­i­den­tial Library.
13Flynn. The Bar­rel Mys­tery. 31
14NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.27 (Oct 1909)
Flynn. The Bar­rel Mys­tery. 39
15NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.9 (Apr 9, 141903
16Flynn. The Bar­rel Mys­tery. 37
17The Wilkes Barre News (Feb 25, 1907) 2
The Bal­ti­more Sun (Apr 27, 1907) 10
NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Nov 27, Dec 30, 1909)
The Wilkes Barre Record (Jul 9, 1915) 18
The Plain Speak­er (Apr 21, 1922) 3 
NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Jan 151910
18NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Nov 15, 1909)
The Wash­ing­ton Post (Jan 11, 19109
19Belvidere Daily Repub­li­can (Jan 23, 1914) 1
Chica­go Tri­bune (Jan 24, 1914) 1
Flynn. The Bar­rel Mys­tery. 207
20Trans­la­tion of Nico­la Gen­tile arti­cle by Felice Chi­lan­ti in Paese Sera. Rome (Sep 141963
21Warn­er, San­ti­no, Van‘t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alter­na­tive The­o­ry. The Informer. May 2014. Thomas Hunt. 13
Critch­ley, David (2009) The Ori­gin of Orga­nized Crime in Amer­i­ca: The New York City Mafia, 1891 – 1931. New York: Rout­ledge. 131
22Buf­fa­lo Evening News (Jan 27, 1910)
NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol. 28 (Jan 4, 121910
23NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Jan 71910
24The Buf­fa­lo Enquir­er (Jan 28, 1910)
The Wash­ing­ton Post (Jan 27, 1910)
Van­cou­ver Daily World (Jun 61914
25U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals for the Sec­ond Cir­cuit, The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca vs. Guiseppe Cal­ic­chio et al., Tran­script of Record. (1910)
26The Philadel­phia Inquir­er (Jun 31912
27NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.29 (May 13, 1910)
NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol.35 (Apr 31912
28Cir­cuit Court of Appeals, Sec­ond Cir­cuit. #263 Cal­ic­chio et al. June 191911
29The Burling­ton Free Press (May 23, 1912) 3
The Syra­cuse Her­ald (May 31, 1912) 21 
The Wash­ing­ton Times (Jun 6, 1912) 11
The New York Times (Jun 31912
30New York Tri­bune (Dec 2, 19102
31NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.28 (Nov 18, 22, 1909
The Trow copart­ner­ship and cor­po­ra­tion direc­to­ry of New York City (1912) 172 
32NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.29 (Jun 2, 1910)
Coun­ter­feit­er Carme­lo Cor­daro con­nect­ed to Mineo: NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol.32 (Jul)
33New York Tri­bune (Dec 2, 1910) 2
Pittston Gazette (Dec 6, 19101
34The New York Times (Dec 11, 19106 
35NARA, RG 87, DRA. William J. Flynn. Vol.29 (Feb 221910