Camorra: The Navy Street Gang

by Jon Black

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.

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.