Origins of Profaci Colombo Mafia Family

In September 1921, Joseph Profaci left Sicily, Italy for New York city.  Profaci initially tried his hand in Chicago, but couldn’t get a foothold in the Windy City: he returned to Brooklyn in 1925 and started an olive oil business. Profaci’s olive oil business was, of course, a front for the  the  small criminal gang that operated mainly in Brooklyn- ruled at the time by Frankie Ioele aka Frankie Yale, one of “Boardwalk Empire’s” main characters.

On July 1, 1928, Al Capone had Yale murdered for  refusing to give Capone, whose family hailed from Naples not Sicily, control over the Unione Siciliana fraternal association. Yale’s murder allowed Profaci and his brother in-law Joseph Magliocco to take over Yale’s former territory in Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.

1928 was an important year for the nascent La Cosa Nostra. In October, Brooklyn boss Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila, was murdered. To prevent a gang war in Brooklyn, a Mafia meeting was called at Cleveland’s Statler hotel: neutral ground.  The order of business was to divide D’Aquila’s territory.; attendees included Profaci, Magliocco, Vincent Mangano, Joseph Bonanno , Chicago mobsters Joseph Guinta and Pasquale Lolordo, and Tampa mobster Ignazio Italiano. The result of this Mafia meeting about the Brooklyn territory was that Joe Profaci took over most of  D’Aqulia’s Brooklyn territory, with future boss Joe Magliocco as his underboss.

Profaci Colombo family founded

The Castellammarese War is the foundational event for Sicilian organized crime in America, you can read more about it above. When it was over, the Five Family structure of the American Mafia was in place and Joe Profaci was the boss of his own family, under Boss of Bosses Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Joe Profaci ruled his family for almost 30 years with minimal problems.
Colombo Boss Joe Profaci

Profaci Family Godfather Joe Profaci in 1959

By 1959, Joseph Profaci had become a wealthy Mafia boss and was known as “the olive-oil and tomato paste king of America”, but there was something rotten in Denmark. Profaci capo Frank “Frankie Shots” Abbatemarco decided he didn’t want to pay tribute on his lucrative policy game that earned $7,000 a day in Red Hook, Brooklyn. So Abbatemarco, with the support of Gallo brothers and the Garfield Boys, began refusing to pay tribute to Profaci. By late 1959, Abbatemarco’s debt had grown to $50,000. Profaci supposedly ordered Joe Gallo to kill the wayward capo Abbatemarco; other versions say that Gallo played no part in this murder. In return for Abbatemarco’s murder, told the Gallos they could have Abbatemarco’s policy business. The Gallos did the deed, but when Profaci ordered thm to hand over Abbatemaro’s son Anthony, the Gallos refused and  Profaci reneged on giving them the policy game. This was the start of the first family war, pitting the Gallo brothers and the Garfield boys (led by Carmine Persico)  against Profaci and the loyalists.

Crazy Joey Gallo and Profaci Family War

On February 27, 1961 the Gallos kidnapped four of Profaci’s top men: underboss Magliocco, Frank Profaci (Joe Profaci’s brother), capo Salvatore Musacchio and soldier John Scimone. Profaci himself fled to Florida. Profaci’s consigliere Charles “the Sidge” LoCicero negotiated with the Gallos and the hostages were released peacefully. But Joe Profaci had no intention of honoring this peace agreement;  In August of 1961 Profaci ordered the murder of Gallo faction members Joseph “Joe Jelly” Gioielli and Larry Gallo. The killers hit Gioilli after inviting him to go deep sea fishing. Gallo survived a strangulation attempt by Carmine Persico and Salvatore “Sally” D’Ambrosio after a police officer intervened.The Gallos then began calling Persico “The Snake” from his betrayal.  The war continued resulting in nine murders and three disappearances.

In late November 1961, Joe Gallo was sentenced to seven-to-fourteen years in prison for murder.In 1962, Joe Profaci died of cancer, leaving Joe Magliocco,  as the new boss, but the war went on. In 1963, Carmine Persico survived a car bombing and his enforcer Hugh McIntosh was shot in the groin while trying to kill Larry Gallo.  A Gallo hit team shot Carmine Persico multiple times, but “the Snake” lived.

In 1963, Magliocco and Bonanno family boss Joseph Bonanno hatched a plan to murder bosses Carlo Gambino, Tommy Lucchese, Stefano Magaddino and Frank DeSimone and take over the Mafia Commission. The murder contracts were given to Joseph Colombo. Colombo, sensing an opportunity, reported the plot to The Commission. The Commission, realizing that Bonanno was the real mastermind, ordered both Magliocco and Bonanno to appear in front of them. Joseph Bonanno went into hiding, but a fearful Magliocco appeared and confessed everything. He was fined $43,000 and forced into retirement.

Joe Colombo becomes the Boss and starts the Italian American Civil Rights League

The Commission rewarded Colombo for his loyalty by making him new boss of the Profaci family, which was rechristened the Colombo family. At just  41-years old, Colombo was the youngest boss in New York, and the first New York Mafia boss to have been born in the United States.

As boss, Colombo brought peace  the unstable crime family. Behind the scenes, however, other family bosses saw Colombo as Carlo Gambino’s puppet boss; Colombo’s leadership was never challenged due to  Carlo Gambino’s backing. In 1968, Gallo crew leader Larry Gallo died of cancer.

Italian American Civil Rights League Joe Colombo

In 1969, Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, dedicated to fighting discrimination against Italian-Americans. This was a truly bizarre move by Colombo, despite Applachia and Valachi, the structure and form of the Mafia was still somewhat of a mystery to the public and law enforcement do to keeping a low profit. The other Bosses were lived at Colombo (who extorted the makers of (“The Godfather” when it shot scenes in Little Ital)  Colombo ignored the others bosses and carried a high profile national campaign PR campaign for the league and for his assertion that there was no such thing as “Mafia”.

Joe Colombo’s murder

How Boss Joe Colombo died is one of the strangest stories in American criminal history.

In early 1971, “Crazy” Joe Gallo, Colombo’s chief rival, was released from prison. On June 28, 1971, Colombo held a massive rally for the Italian League at Columbus Circle in Manhattan. As Colombo took the podium to address the crowd of thousands, including dozens of police, an African-American man, Jerome Johnson, walked up to Colombo and shot him in the head three times; unknown shooters in the crowd immediately killed Johnson and escaped.  Colombo lingered in a coma for  seven years finally dying on May 22, 1978.

The Black gunman was almost a stooge, witting or unwitting for  Joe Gallo who still wanted to take over the family. While the New York Police officially ruled that Jerome Johnson acted alone (sound familiar?), Colombo’s death triggered the 2nd Colombo Family War.

Second Colombo War

Colombo’s consigliere Joseph Yacovelli became the family acting boss, and he acted fast to take revenge on Crazy Joey Gallo and his crew. In early April of ’72, four gunmen walked into Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy and shot Joe Gallo while he ate dinner with his family. Looking for revenge, brother Albert Gallo sent a hitmanfrom Las Vegas to a restaurant in Manhattan, where Yacovelli, Alphonse Persico, and Langella were eating. The incompetent gunman didn’t recognize the mobsters and shot four innocent diners instead, killing two of them. After this Yacovelli fled New York, and Carmine “the Snake” Persico was left as the new boss.

The Second Colombo war continued on and off until 1975. The war was finally resolved the conflict, the New York families negotiated an agreement in which when Albert Gallo and his remaining crew left the Colombo family and  joined the Genovese family.

Carmine “the Snake” Persico becomes Colombo Boss

 Carmine “the Snake” Persico Colombo Family Boss

After Joe Colombo’s ill fated dance with politics and the Gallo wars, the Colombo family entered an era marked by calm and low profile. With Colombo in a coma, family leadership went to Thomas DiBella,  DiBella was unable to prevent the Gambino family poaching many of the Colombo’s most lucrative rackets, and the Colombos declined in power. DiBella retired due to poor health in 1978 and the Colombos faced a power vacuum.

Colombo Boss Gennaro “Jerry Lang” Langella

During the 1970s, Carmine Persico had  was considered to be the clear successor as boss. Only problem- Persico had spent much of this time in prison, and it was questionable if he could effectively run the family from Federal prison. Nevertheless, Persico took control, naming Gennaro “Jerry Lang” Langella as his street boss until his release in 1979. In 1986, Persico and Langella were convicted on massive Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges in the Mafia Commission Trial and sentenced to 100 years. In a separate RICO trial related only to the Colombos, Persico was given an additional 39 years in prison.

Mafia historian and New York Times organized-crime reporter Selwyn Raab opined that the Colombos suffered more long-term damage than any other family as a result of the Commission Trial.  Raab believed that Persico would have had a long reign ahead of him had the trial not intervened. From prison, Persico named his older brother, Alphonse “Ally Boy” Persico, as acting boss to maintain a semblance of control. However, Allie Boy skipped bail on loansharking charges a year later. Persico wanted to name his son, Alphonse “Little Allie Boy” Persico, as acting boss, but Little Allie Boy was temporarily in prison himself, so Persico named the capo of Little Allie Boy’s former crew, Victor “Little Vic” Orena, as acting boss. Bu it was an open secret that he was merely keeping the chair warm until Little Allie Boy’s parole.

Third Colombo Family War

At first, Orena was content with serving as acting boss. By 1990, however, Orena believed Persico was causing the family to miss out on lucrative business opportunities. He was also alarmed at Persico’s plans for a made for TV biography, fearing prosecutors would use it as evidence just like they’d used Joe Bonanno’s biography as evidence in the Commission Trial. Orena decided to take over the family himself. Using his strong ties to Gambino boss John Gotti, Orena petitioned the Mafia Commission to recognize him as Colombo family boss; the Commission refused. Orena’s plans were further derailed when his consigliere Carmine Sessa  informed Persico that Orena was making a play for boss. From prison, the Snake ordered Orena killed. On June 21, 1991, when Orena walked into his Long Island home consigliere Sessa’s gunmen were waiting for him. Still quick on his feet, Orena managed to escape before the gunmen get off a shot, but the third Colombo war had begun.

When then the war finally ended in 2012, twelve bodies had dropped-three of them innocent bystanders,100 years in prison;  over 80 made members and associates of the Colombo family were convicted, jailed or indicted. Carmine Persico’s brother Theodore “Teddy” Persico and his son Alphonse Persico,  and Orena’s two sons were all sent to prison.  The only winners  were federal prosecutors.  The FBI managed to turn at least 12 members to informers, many of them sought Federal protection from the out of control war. The 3rd in command, Persico’s  consigliere Carmine Sessa even flipped. Persico’s faction suffered the most—42 members of the Snake’s faction and 16 from Orena’s faction ended up in prison. Turns out killing each other isn’t a profitable way to run a Mafia family.

With the Colombo family in shambles, the Mafia commission refused to allow any Colombo to sit on the Commission and considered dissolving the family. In 2000 plans were made to disperse the remaining soldiers among the other four families, but in 2002, with the help of Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino, the other families finally allowed the Colombos back on the Commission.

 

 Third Colombo War Aftermath

Carmine’s son”Little Allie Boy” was convicted of ordering the murder of Orena’s underboss William “Wild Bill” Cutolo, Cutolo’s son took revenge by wearing a wire and posing as a prospective Colombo associate. Based on evidence from this wire, Little Allie Boy was indicted on RICO and murder charges along with Persico underboss John “Jackie” DeRoss; Persico and DeRoss were sent away for life.  Consigliere Joel “Joe Waverly” Cacace took over  the family until 2003 when heis turn came to be imprisoned on murder and racketeering charges.

 Next up for the troubled family founded by Joe Profaci so many decades ago was Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli, who  Carmine (still officially the head of the Colombo family) named street boss. Tommy Shots didn’t last long: In June ’08, Gioeli, 90 year old underboss John “Sonny” Franzese, former consigliere Joel Cacace, captain Dino Calabro, soldier Dino Saracino and along with a grab bag of other members and associates were hit with charges that included loan sharking, extortion, and three murders from the various Colombo Wars of the past. Gioeli maintains a blog about his life in prison and regularly tweets! (by proxy of course).

Boston gangster Ralph F. DeLeo, was tapped to become the family’s next street boss; in December of ’09, the FBI charged DeLeo and Colombo family members with drug trafficking, extortion and loansharking in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Florida and Arkansas.

DeLeo was replaced by “Andy Mush” Russo. On January 20, 2011, Colombo street boss Andrew Russo,  his underboss Benjamin Castellazzo, consigliere Richard Fusco, and others were charged with murder, drug distribution, and labor racketeering.

Colombo Family History of Bosses | Family Structure

  • 1928–1962 — Joseph Profaci – died of natural causes
  • 1962–1963 — Joseph Magliocco–  Mafia Commission forced him to retire
  • 1963–1973 — Joseph Colombo– murdered
    • Acting Boss 1971–1972 — Joseph Yacovelli – went into hiding after the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo
    • Acting Boss 1972–1973 – Vincenzo “Vincent” Aloi – sent to prison
    • Acting Boss 1973 — Joseph “Joey” Brancato – sent to prison
  • 1973–present — Carmine “Junior” Persico prison: 1973–1979, 1981–1984,1985–present
    • Acting Boss 1973–1979 — Thomas DiBella – stepped down, became consigliere
    • Acting Boss 1981–1983 — Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico – Carmine Persico’s brother- sent to prison in 1987
    • Acting Boss 1983–1984 — Gennaro “Jerry Lang” Langella prison
    • Acting Boss 1985–1987 — Anthony “Scappy” Scarpati – prison
    • Acting Boss 1987–1991 — Vittorio “Vic” Orena – life in prison
    • Acting Boss 1991–1993 — Vacant
    • Acting Boss 1994–1996 — Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo- sent to prison in 1997
    • Acting Boss 1996–present — Alphonse “Little Allie Boy” Persico Carmine Persico’s son; Life in prison
    • Acting Boss F. DeLeo 2009 sent to prison in 2010 — Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo– jailed January 2011

Current Colombo family Members and Structure

  • Boss Carmine “Junior” Persico – has been boss since 1973. In 1986, Persico was convicted in the Mafia Commission Trial and sentenced to 100 years in federal prison.
  • Acting boss Alphonse “Little Allie Boy” Persico – Carmine “the Snake” Persico’s son, In 2009, Alphonse was sentenced to life in prison and is currently in the supermax United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado.
  • Street boss Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo-  Currently  held at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center.
  • Underboss John “Sonny” Franzese  In 2011 sentenced to eight years in prison.
  • Acting underboss Benjamin “The Claw” Castellazzo currently incarcerated
  • Consigliere Thomas “Tom Mix” Farese – In December 2012, Farese was acquitted of all charges in a federal indictment against him. 

Colombo_Cosa_Nostra_Family

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