NYC Camorra

The Brooklyn Camorra gang was a loose combination of two Neapolitan groups based in Navy Street and in Coney Island’s Santa Lucia Restaurant.

The Gangs

The New York Camorra was a loose combination of two Neapolitan groups; the Navy Street gang, headed by Leopoldo Lauritano and Allesandro Vollero; and a 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 two Neapolitan groups and the Sicilian Morello gang. The gangs discussed the expansion of gambling dens in lower Manhattan. The Sicilians explained that gangster Joe DeMarco would have to be killed before they could successfully expand into the area. The Neapolitans also had an interest in killing DeMarco as he had recently taken over one their card games on Mulberry Street.1

DeMarco was a Harlem gangster with known connections in the gambling world. Described in records as 5 1/2 ft, medium build, very dark complexion, “wears a blue suit with a scarf pin made of a sapphire surrounded with diamonds”. He was originally an ally of the Morello group, shown when he offered to help Nick Terranova secure Giuseppe Morello’s release from prison. Fortunato Lomonte and Nick Terranova also helped DeMarco to plan his girlfriend’s murder in July, 1912. They planned to use a car supplied by Charles Pandolfi, an associate whose car was used in the killing of Barnet Baff.2

For some unknown reason, DeMarco’s relationship with the Morello gang faded. He attempted to kill Nick Terranova in Harlem, but his effort failed. Two separate attempts were then made on his own life: he had been walking past 112th St and First Avenue in April 1913, when he was shot in the neck from behind a fence. DeMarco almost died from his wounds but surgeons in Harlem Hospital were able to save his life. The second attempt, in July 1914, was made when he was being shaved in a barber on E106th near 3rd Av, when two men fired at him with sawn off shotguns. More than a dozen slugs entered his body, but he later recovered. 3

DeMarco left his family in Harlem and moved downtown. He opened a restaurant at 163 W 49th Street, and later opened several gambling rooms in Mulberry Street and one located at 54 James Street. He began to lead a double life when he married Anna Maria Landri who lived above his Mulberry Street restaurant, failing to tell her about his current wife in Harlem.4

On June 24th 1916, a meeting took place at Coney Island between the Morello gang and the Brooklyn Camorra gangs. The groups had previously worked with the Morellos when they assasinated Giosue Gallucci in 1915 to take control of his criminal empire. The idea of the meeting was to discuss the expansion of gambling dens in lower Manhattan. 5

Nick Terranova and Steve LaSalle explained that Joe DeMarco would have to be killed before they could expand in the area. The Brooklyn gangs also had an interest in killing DeMarco as he had recently taken over one their games on Mulberry Street. On July 20th 1916, Navy Street gunmen made their way to a saloon on Elizabeth Street to await their signal to move. At around five o’clock, they were notified that DeMarco had arrived at James Street. Nick Sassi, an employee of DeMarco, let the gunmen inside. DeMarco sat playing cards with several other men with numerous spectators watching the game. After DeMarco was killed the gunmen made their escape through a bedroom window. 6

Following Gallucci’s death, control of his Harlem policy game had passed to Thomas Lo Monte, brother of the murdered Morello boss Fortunato Lo Monte.7 The game later passed to Pellegrino Morano, leader of the Coney Island group, under the agreement that he would pay the Morellos $25 a week for the privilege. Morano soon stopped payment after running the game at a sizable loss.8 

Sicilians vs Neapolitans

Charles Ubriaco, a rich gold-toothed Calabrian associate of the Morellos, traveled to Brooklyn and tried to reason with Morano, but the Coney Island leader refused any further payment. After the Morellos revoked Morano’s control of the game, the Camorra boss began to plot his revenge and called for the murder of the Morello leadership.9 

During a series of conferences held between the two Camorra gangs, they plotted to kill six key Morello members and take control of their gambling, artichoke, ice and coal rackets. Their chosen victims were Giuseppe Morello’s younger half-brothers Nicola, Vincenzo and Ciro Terranova; Charles Ubriaco and Stefano LaSalle, who had both previously run the policy game; and Giuseppe Verrazano, who controlled the late Joe Demarco’s gambling den on James Street.10 One Camorra member believed that killing the Morellos would be so profitable that “everyone would be wearing diamond rings.”11  

In September 1916, the Camorra attempted to lure the six Morello men to a meeting at the Navy Street cafe, but only Nicola Terranova and Charles Ubriaco made the journey from Harlem. Both were ambushed and killed, shot from close range at the junction of Johnson Street and Hudson Avenue.12 

Four weeks later, Navy Street gunmen entered the Italian Gardens restaurant on Manhattan’s Broome Street, formerly a part of the Occidental Hotel which Tammany leader Tim Sullivan made his headquarters. Late-night diners, including a group of local vaudeville actors, hid behind tables while the Camorra gunmen fired into the restaurant, killing Giuseppe “Big Man” Verrazano.13 The Morellos soon withdrew their downtown operations and, within a week, the Navy Street gang opened a gambling den in Hester Street.14 

Italian Gardens restaurant
Italian Gardens restaurant

The Camorra never saw the riches anticipated with the takeover of Morello rackets. They faced tough negotiations with the city’s gambling and policy bosses before an acceptable level of “tax” was agreed upon, and the tribute they received from artichoke dealers was half of their initial demand.15   

Fearing revenge from the Morellos, the Camorra leaders tried numerous schemes to murder the three remaining men on their hit list. They tried persuading Morello associate “Louis the Wop” to betray his bosses and poison their food, but his allegiance was too strong and he exposed the plan.16 They also attempted to persuade two Harlem locals to shoot Ciro and Vincenzo Terranova while they made ice deliveries in the area, but the locals declined to help and were consequently shot by the Camorra.17 

Things began to unravel for the Camorra in early 1917. Navy Street boss Alessandro Vollero was hospitalized in January after the Morellos shot him just a short distance from where Nicola Terranova had been slain.18 In February, the police raided policy dens all over the city, including the Navy Street cafe where a stash of policy slips was discovered.19 A month later, Navy Street gunman Ralph Daniello was placed on trial for robbing a young drug dealer working for the group. The trial exposed details of the gang’s cocaine distribution business.20 A week later, the Navy Street cafe was raided, and proprietor Leopoldo Lauritano was  convicted of possession of dangerous weapons.21 

On March 16th, 1917, Generoso Nazzaro was killed in Yonkers, NY. Nazzaro had previously been a bodyguard of Giosue Gallucci before aligning himself with the Navy Street gang, but they suspected he had been feeding information to the Morello group. Frank Fevrola, Alfonso Sgroia, Antonio and Aniello Paretti, all from the Navy Street gang, lured him out to Yonkers under the pretence of killing Fevrola for giving the information to the police. They shot Nazzaro and left his body on the trolley tracks. 22

Daniello was arrested again in November 1917 in connection with a drug-related murder. He quickly admitted his involvement with the Camorra and furnished the district attorney details of twenty-three gang murders stretching back over the last two and half years. Daniello’s confession helped clear up crimes that had puzzled the NYPD and quickly led to a series of arrests.23 The resulting investigations revealed bribes paid by the Camorra to NYPD detectives, including Michael Mealli, who had been part of the Italian Squad and worked with Joe Petrosino. Mealli was demoted and eventually retired on account of physical disability in 1918.24 

Daniello’s detailed confessions, along with testimony from other gunmen, resulted in convictions that decimated the Brooklyn Camorra gangs. Several members received the death penalty, and the gang’s leadership received heavy sentences. The Morellos managed to escape sentencing when Ciro Terranova, tried for his involvement in the killing of gambler Joe Demarco, was acquitted in June 1918.25

The Trials26

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 cafe 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.

  1. New York City and County Court of General Sessions, The People vs.Ciro Terranova (1918).
    The People of the State of New York against Pellegrino Marano: Case on Appeal New York[]
  2. NARA, RG 87, DRA. New York. Vol. 36 (Jul 18, Aug 20 1912)
    New York Tribune. Oct 28, 1919. p.22[]
  3. The People of the State of New York against Angelo Giordano. 633 Part 1.
    New York Herald. (July 21, 1916)
    New York Evening World. (April 14, 1913) []
  4. New York Tribune (July 23 1916)
    Manhattan Marriage Certificate #28674[]
  5. The People of the State of New York against Angelo Giordano, 231 New York 633 pt. 1.
    Critchley, David (2009) The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. New York: Routledge. 112[]
  6. Giordano transcript New York 633 pt. 1.
    Critchley, David (2009) The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. New York: Routledge. 112[]
  7. Giordano transcript. exhibit #1. 186-187 
     Warner, Santino, Van`t Riet. Early New York Mafia An Alternative Theory. The Informer. May 2014. Thomas Hunt. 60[]
  8. Giordano transcript. exhibit #1. 186-187 []
  9. Giordano transcript. exhibit #1. 186-187 
    The Sun. New York (Aug 26, 1912) 
    The People of the State of New York against Alessandrio Vollero, Case on Appeal, 226 New York 587 pt. 1. (hereafter Vollero transcript) List of conferences. []
  10. Vollero transcript. Opening address. 50[]
  11. Vollero transcript. Opening address. 121[]
  12. Brooklyn Times Union (Sep 8, 1916) 5[]
  13. The Evening World (Oct 6, 1916) 9
    Buffalo Evening News (Dec 20, 1922) 1 
    The New York Times (Oct 4, 1903) 2 []
  14. Smashing the Gangs of Little Italy. Master Detective. Oct 1995. 33[]
  15. Critchley. The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. 122
    Smashing the Gangs of Little Italy. Master Detective. Oct 1995. 33
    Vollero transcript. 73[]
  16. Vollero transcript. 200
    Smashing the Gangs of Little Italy. Master Detective. Oct 1995. 34[]
  17. People of the State of New York v Charles Rossi Chiafalo, Peter Bianco and Sam Sacco. (1918) # 2396. Criminal Trial Transcripts (1883–1927), Lloyd Sealy Library, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY[]
  18. Vollero transcript. 86, 428
    Brooklyn Times Union (Jan 26, 1917) 7[]
  19. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Feb 13, 1917) 18 []
  20. The Brooklyn Citizen (Apr 21, 1917) 12 []
  21. Brooklyn Times Union (Apr 28, 1917) 12 (May 7, 1917) 4[]
  22. The People of the State of New York against Frank Fevrola – Case on Appeal (1921)
    The People of the State of New York against Aniello Parretti – Case on Appeal (1921) []
  23. New York Tribune (Nov 28, 1917) 16 
    The Topeka State Journal (Nov 30, 1917) 
    Critchley. The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. 107[]
  24. Critchley. The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. 124. 
    The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Dec 18, 1918) 1[]
  25. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Jun 7, 1918) 12[]
  26. Contemporary US newspapers.

    Trial transcripts covering Giordano / Vollero / Marano / Tony Parretti / Aniello Paretti / Fevrola / Ciro Terranova.
    The New York County District Attorney Record of Cases, 1895 – 1966 &
    New York County Court of General Sessions, Minutes of the Sessions — Joseph Nazzaro.[]