Reputed New York mafia captain Salvatore (Jersey Sal) Profaci, the son of original Five Family don, Joe (The Olive Oil King) Profaci, died recently of natural causes. Profaci, who allegedly ran a Colombo syndicate crew out of New Jersey and spent a good deal of time in Florida, was 81. His death was kept hush-hush by family members and he was buried in a private ceremony in Pennsylvania back in February. He was famous in mob circles around the country for a comment intercepted on an FBI wire over two decades ago.

For years, Profaci’s base of operations was Roma Food Enterprises in Piscataway, New Jersey. His father founded Mama Mia Importing Co., the biggest importers of olive oil in the United States. In 1978, his brother, John, founded Colavita Olive Oil, the marquee brand of the product in America today.

Author Mario Puzo crafted his Don Vito Corleone character in The Godfather after the elder Profaci. In the book and the subsequent films, the Corleone family owned fictional Genco Olive Oil. Joe Profaci died of cancer in June 1962 while his crime family was engulfed in an internal street war. Today, the Profaci crime family is known as the Colombo crime family.

Jersey Sal Profaci served a federal prison term for mail fraud in the 1980s. A few years after getting out from behind bars, he was tasked by Colombo higher-ups to mediate a business dispute raging between Genovese crime family wiseguy Carmine (Papa Smurf) Franco and attorney Salvatore Avena, an associate in the Philadelphia mob. Franco and Avena, the son of slain Prohibition era Philadelphia mob boss John Avena, were feuding in the early 1990s over money Avena accused Franco of skimming without his knowledge from a trash-hauling company they co-owned out of Philly. Avena had filed a civil lawsuit against Franco that angered east coast mafia brass.

Salvatore Profaci

Since Profaci’s son was married to Avena’s daughter, the Colombo clan offered to have Jersey Sal interject on behalf of the Genovese administration and try to find a way to solve the problem before it reached trial…..or worse, a hit. Unknown to either Profaci or Avena, the law practice Avena owned in New Jersey was bugged due to the fact that Avena allowed the then-sitting Philadelphia mob hierarchy to hold court in his office and conference room. At the time, Philadelphia’s Bruno-Scarfo crime family was embroiled in a violent internal power struggle.

“I’m supposed to let this guy (Franco) steal money from me and its okay just because he’s a Goodfella?” Avena is heard asking Profaci in 1992. “This thief can get away with it and that’s it?”

The response by Profaci has often been repeated, discussed and laughed about in American wiseguy culture ever since.

“Sal, it’s bad for business. The Genovese family is too big, we’re all gonna get hurt from this…..Goodfellas don’t sue Goodfellas. Goodfellas kill Goodfellas.”

Avena and Franco settled the lawsuit out of court. Franco got slapped with a short prison term in 2014 for overseeing mob-controlled sanitation work in New York and New Jersey.

Per sources, later in his life, Profaci, who reportedly retired from the rackets in the last decade or so, tried to act as a mediator for a mob beef in Detroit, where his two brother-in-laws Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli and Anthony (Tony T) Tocco, were prominent underworld figures. Tocco and Zerilli died of health ailments in 2012 and 2015, respectively, having never mended their differences tied to a falling out between Zerilli and Tocco’s older brother, Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco, the longtime Godfather of the Motor City. The elder Tocco died of natural causes in the summer of 2014. Tony Tocco was his consigliere. Tony Zerilli, Black Jack’s first cousin, was his underboss until the early 2000s.

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