Camorra: The Navy Street Gang

The Neapoli­tans, based in Brook­lyn and Coney Island, fought for con­trol of the New York rack­ets. Even­tu­al­ly dec­i­mat­ed when it’s own mem­bers turned against them.

Navy St Gang
Navy St Gang

The New York based Camor­ra had two bases: the Neapoli­tan Navy Street gang head­ed by Leopol­do Lau­ri­tano and Alle­san­dro Vollero, and the Neapoli­tan Coney Island gang head­ed by Pel­li­gri­no Mora­no from his Santa Lucia restaurant.

On June 24th 1916 a meet­ing took place at Coney Island between the Sicil­ian Morel­lo gang, the Neapoli­tan Navy Street gang and the Neapoli­tan Coney Island gang. The idea of the meet­ing was to dis­cuss the expan­sion of gam­bling dens in lower Man­hat­tan. Pel­li­gri­no Mora­no, from Coney Island, began talk­ing about the lucra­tive Ital­ian zicchinet­ta card games. Nick Ter­ra­no­va and Steve LaSalle explained that Joe DeMar­co would have to be killed before they could expand in the area. The Brook­lyn gang also had an inter­est in killing DeMar­co as he had recent­ly taken over one their games on Mull­ber­ry Street.

After the removal of DeMar­co, the Camor­ra devised a plan to kill the Morel­los. Even though the two gangs had worked along­side each other for some­time, includ­ing joint­ly remov­ing Gio­sue Gal­luc­ci from Harlem, Mora­no want­ed them dead. Mora­no had been run­ning a pol­i­cy game in Harlem, the realm of the Morel­lo fam­i­ly, but could not make it pay enough to cover the rake that the Morel­los demand­ed from him, anoth­er fac­tor was the killing of Nico­la Del Gau­dio had angered Alle­san­dro Vollero and he now want­ed the Morel­los dead. The Neopoli­tans believed they could taken over the Harlem rack­ets if they could elim­i­nate the Morel­lo lead­er­ship. They hatched a plan where they would try and lure the entire Morel­lo lead­er­ship down to Brook­lyn and ambush them.

On Sep­tem­ber 7th 1916, Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va and Charles Ubri­a­co trav­elled down­town to meet with the Navy Street gang. Ralph Daniel­lo served the men drinks before Pagano arrived to take them to a cof­fee house where Lau­ri­tano and Mora­no were wait­ing. The men walked togeth­er towards Myr­tle Avenue when they were ambushed at the junc­tion of John­son Street and Hud­son Avenue. Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va was shot dead by Tom Pagano, and Ubri­a­co was slain by Thomas Car­il­lo and Lefty Espos­i­to. Later that evening Ciro Ter­ra­no­va was called to iden­ti­fy his broth­ers body.

Alle­san­dro Vollero was arrest­ed the fol­low­ing day and put in police line­up. Wit­ness­es to the mur­der were asked to iden­ti­fy him but he was released nine­teen days later.

On Octo­ber 6th, 1916, Charles Gior­dano from Stat­en Island, a pol­i­cy man, saloon owner and friend of the Camor­ra made plans for the killing of Ver­iz­zano. Alphon­so Sgroia, Mike Notaro, Ralph Daniel­lo and John Manci­ni trav­elled to Man­hat­tan where Gior­dano checked a saloon before locat­ing Ver­iz­zano in the Ital­ian Gar­dens restau­rant in the Occi­den­tal Hotel, Broome Street. Sgroia and Notaro stood by the door shoot­ing into the estab­lish­ment. Ver­iz­zano was hit and killed. The gun­men escaped, one into the Bow­ery and one into Broome Street.

The Morel­lo gang and the Brook­lyn Camor­ra were at all out war. The Camor­ra hatched var­i­ous plans to wipe out the rest of the Morel­lo lead­er­ship, but they were either foiled or were never com­plet­ed, how­ev­er four asso­ciates of the Morel­lo gang were mur­dered by the Camor­ra in Philadelphia.

The Navy Street gang pros­pered by tak­ing over the Morel­lo busi­ness­es for a short peri­od. This was proved later in 1918 by a Harlem gam­bler, who tes­ti­fied that for a short peri­od he had to trav­el to Brook­lyn each week to have his books checked. The Camor­ra tried to move in on the arti­choke busi­ness, but the whole­sale deal­ers refused to give in to any threats, even­tu­al­ly a deal was struck where a ‘tax’ of twen­ty five dol­lars was paid on every car load of arti­chokes that were deliv­ered. Coal and ice mer­chants also proved hard to threat­en, and the Camor­ra’s busi­ness gains were not as they had expected.

In May 1917, a very impor­tant event took place that would begin the break­down and unrav­el­ing of the long feud between the Sicil­ians and the Camor­ra. Ralph ‘The Bar­ber’ Daniel­lo, a mem­ber of the Brook­lyn Navy Street gang, had been in court charged with rob­bery and abduc­tion, he was released before elop­ing to Reno with his new love, Ms Amelia Valve from Prospect Street, South Brook­lyn. He sent let­ters to his for­mer Camor­ra gang ask­ing for money to be sent to him, but his requests were ignored. The police even­tu­al­ly tracked Daniel­lo down in Reno and brought him back to Brook­lyn. When the indict­ments were brought against Daniel­lo on the charge of mur­der, grand lar­ce­ny and per­jury he began to tell the police every­thing he knew about the Navy Street crew and the recent mur­ders. When the police realised the extent of Daniel­lo’s con­fes­sions he was sent to the office of Edward Swann the DA. For the next ten days Daniel­lo told his story of the mur­ders span­ning the last ten years. On Novem­ber 27th Daniel­lo was arraigned with John Espos­i­to, Alle­san­dro Vollero and Alphon­so Sgroia, and other mem­bers of the Navy Street gang who had been arrest­ed on Daniel­lo’s con­fes­sions. Also arraigned as mate­r­i­al wit­ness­es were Ciro Ter­ra­no­va, Vin­cent Ter­ra­no­va and Nicholas Arra, all were held on $15,000 bail.

Accord­ing to the tes­ti­mo­ny by Daniel­lo, Sicil­ians and Neapoli­tans were formed loose­ly in three main bands and con­trolled the rack­ets across New York. The bands were based in Harlem, down­town Mul­ber­ry bend and the last band cov­er­ing Brook­lyn and Coney Island. He went on to con­fess to his gangs involve­ment in the killings of both the DeMar­co broth­ers, Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va with Charles Ubri­a­co and the Chuck’ Naz­zaro killing in Yonkers.

On Novem­ber 30th 1917, the Grand Jury under Judge Nott hand­ed out twelve indict­ments against the killing of Joseph DeMar­co and Charles Lom­bar­di. Five indict­ments had already been hand­ed out against the mur­der of Sal­va­tore DeMar­co, and anoth­er four in the case of ‘Chuck’ Naz­zaro. Since the begin­ning of Daniel­lo’s con­fes­sions the police had been watch­ing New York’s ports to make sure no gang mem­bers escaped con­vic­tion. Edward Swann sent Henry Renaud, head of homi­cide, off to Chica­go to arrest some of the indict­ed. Swann also began work­ing with Harry Lewis, the Kings Coun­ty DA, to secure fur­ther con­vic­tions in Brook­lyn. The 1918 tri­als that fol­lowed com­plete­ly smashed the Navy Street gang, the pro­tec­tion that they enjoyed was demol­ished from the tes­ti­monies of their own men. It was the end of the Camor­ra in New York and the sway of power fell back to the Mafia.

The trials

Rocco Valen­ti was arrest­ed on Jan­u­ary 26th 1918, in Troy NY, for com­plic­i­ty in the DeMar­co / Lom­bar­di killing. He was jailed for ten months, before being dis­charged in Novem­ber 1918. He later appeared in court to tes­ti­fy in the appeal of Charles Gior­dano in March 1919.

Alle­san­dro Vollero, was tried for first degree mur­der in on Feb­ru­ary 15th, 1918, in the case of Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va and Charles Ubri­a­co. Ralph Daniel­lo tes­ti­fied against Vollero, and stat­ed that the gang paid money to a Detec­tive named Michael Meal­li. Meal­li was reduced in rank and assigned to patrol duty. Fol­low­ing this rev­e­la­tion, Judge Kap­per was taken ill on Feb­ru­ary 18th, caus­ing a mis­tri­al to be declared. Vollero was retried on March 4th and was sen­tenced to life at Sing Sing.

Pel­li­gri­no Mora­no, leader of the Coney Island fac­tion, was con­vict­ed of mur­der in the sec­ond degree, and sen­tenced to Sing Sing from twen­ty years to life.

Leopol­do Lau­ri­tano, received a twen­ty one year sen­tence for manslaugh­ter in 1918. On 12th Jan­u­ary, 1926, after serv­ing only seven and a half years, Lau­ri­tano was paroled from Sing Sing. He was imme­di­ate­ly rear­rest­ed under an indict­ment that had been served in 1918 in con­nec­tion with the mur­der of Ver­razano. On Thurs­day 14th, Judge Selah B. Strong, dis­charged Lau­ri­tano on a writ of habeas cor­pus. This action caused an open argu­ment between the Kings Coun­ty DA, Charles Dodd, and Judge Strong. Lau­ri­tano returned to court in Feb­ru­ary 1927, he was tried at the Brook­lyn Supreme Court under Judge James Cropsey. He was charged with per­jury dur­ing the trial of Antho­ny Paret­ti, where Lau­ri­tano had stat­ed he did not know the defen­dant or his asso­ciates. The ADA, James Cuff, had man­aged to pro­duce a photo of Lau­ri­tano in the Navy Street café with fel­low gang members,thus prov­ing his tes­ti­mo­ny false. Lau­ri­tano received five years in Sing Sing.

Ange­lo Gior­dano, a saloon keep­er from Tomp­kinsville S.I. was put on trial on April 27th, 1918. He was charged with plot­ting the killing of Giuseppe Ver­razano in Octo­ber, 1916. Anto­nio Notaro and Ralph Daniel­lo, from the Navy Street gang, tes­ti­fied against Gior­dano. Notaro was quot­ed as say­ing ‘Gior­dano told us that Ver­razano had to be killed that night. When I said that I did not want to kill a man with­out orders from my boss, Gior­dano said he would do the job him­self but that I would die the next day for refus­ing, then I changed my mind’. Notaro claimed that Gior­dano led him to the restau­rant on Broome Street and point­ed out Ver­razano to be shot.

Alphon­so Sgroia, from the Navy Street gang, was sen­tenced on June 17th 1918, he received twelve years in Dan­nemo­ra for manslaugh­ter in the case of Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va. Sgroia went on to tes­ti­fy against his fel­low gun­men Paret­ti and Fevro­la, he was reward­ed with a short­er sen­tence and depor­ta­tion to Italy.

John Espos­i­to and Anto­nio Notaro were sen­tenced in June 1918, from 6 to 10 years each in the case of Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va and Charles Ubriaco.

Ciro Ter­ra­no­va was tried for com­plic­i­ty in June 1918, in con­nec­tion with the DeMarco/Lombardi killing. John­ny Espos­i­to, the killer of Lom­bar­di, had turned state evi­dence the same Daniel­lo, and tes­ti­fied against Ter­ra­no­va. Ciro was acquit­ted due to lack of cor­rob­o­ra­tion when it was ten­u­ous­ly proved that Espos­i­to and Ter­ra­no­va were part of the same gang.

Ralph Daniel­lo was moved to a dif­fer­ent prison due the abuse he received after he tes­ti­fied at the trial of Vollero. Daniel­lo was given a sus­pend­ed sen­tence in view of the tes­ti­mo­ny he had given. His free­dom was short lived when he was later arrest­ed for assault­ing a man in Coney Island, Daniel­lo claimed he had shot the vic­tim think­ing that he had been sent from the Navy Street gang on a vendet­ta. Daniel­lo was sen­tenced to five years in prison. In 1925, after his release he was shot in his saloon, near Metuchen. New Jersey.

Frank Fevro­la, on April 18th 1921, was tried for the mur­der of Joe ‘Chuck’ Naz­zaro in 1917. Judge Tomp­kins found Fevro­la guilty and sen­tenced him to the death house at Sing Sing. His con­vic­tion was large­ly due to his wife’s tes­ti­mo­ny against him. On April 14th, 1922, a notice was served on DA Weeks, that a motion would be made to grant a retri­al on the case of Fevro­la. Fevro­la’s wife had with­drawn all her pre­vi­ous state­ments made against her hus­band, say­ing she had been threat­ened and bribed by the police. DA Weeks tried to oppose the retri­al by rub­bish­ing Tessie Fevro­la’s new affi­davit. On May 23rd, 1922, Jus­tice Tomp­kins denied any motion for a retri­al of Fevro­la. On May 29th, 1923, lawyer Thomas O’Neil made a last minute attempt to save Fevro­la from exe­cu­tion. His request for a retri­al was again put before Supreme Court Jus­tice Tomp­kins. On Thurs­day 28th June, 1923, with seven hours left until his exe­cu­tion and in a state of col­lapse, Fevro­la received a reprieve, spar­ing his life until Octo­ber 7th. The death sen­tence was even­tu­al­ly commuted.

Aniel­lio Paret­ti of 23 Sher­man Av, Brook­lyn, was tried for the mur­der of Joe ‘Chuck’ Naz­zaro in 1917. In Novem­ber 1921, Aniel­lio was sen­tenced to the death house in Sing Sing. His lawyer imme­di­ate­ly appealed against the deci­sion, and on Jan­u­ary 3rd 1923 the Court of Appeals ordered a retri­al. DA Weeks then had the indict­ment dropped, and Paret­ti was a free man. He was released from Sing Sing in July 1923.

Antho­ny Paret­ti, of 23 Skill­man Av, Brook­lyn, was sen­tenced to Sing Sing death house for his part in the slay­ing of Nicholas Ter­ra­no­va and Charles Ubri­a­co. Paret­ti orig­i­nal­ly fled to Italy to escape cap­ture. He returned to New York in March, 1926, think­ing that most of the wit­ness­es against him would be gone. How­ev­er, he was tried and con­vict­ed of mur­der in the first degree. His broth­er Aniel­lio Paret­ti, who had been released from Sing Sing in July 1923, came to visit sev­er­al times. On the six weeks lead­ing up to his exe­cu­tion, War­den Lawes ordered the prison and river front guard­ed 24 hours a day, rather than the usual 16 hours. On Feb­ru­ary 9th, 1927 Paret­ti was exam­ined, declared sane and fit for exe­cu­tion. He was report­ed to be exert­ing pow­er­ful pres­sure upon politi­cians to get his sen­tence com­mut­ed to life impris­on­ment. On the day of exe­cu­tion, the usual elec­tro­car­dio­gram was not given due to lack of arrange­ments. He was elec­tro­cut­ed under the juris­dic­tion of the state of New York on 17th Feb­ru­ary, 1927 at the age of 35. One of the last men to visit Paret­ti before his death was a young Vito Genovese.