The Genovese family, considered by many experts to have consistently been the most sophisticated of New York’s Mafia groups, began using an elaborate scheme involving a so-called “front boss” to deflect law enforcement investigations. After the death of boss Vito Genovese in 1969, Frank Tieri was set up as the first “front boss” to protect the true Godfather- Philip “Benny Squint” Lombardo.
When Gigante took over the family upon Lombardo’s retirement in 1981 Salerno was made “front boss”.
Alphonse “Little Al” D’Arco, who later became acting boss of the Lucchese crime family before turning informer, told the Feds that when he got his Lucchese button in 1982, that he was told that Gigante was boss of the Genovese family.
An FBI bug captured a conversation in which Salerno and capo Matthew “Matty the Horse” Ianniello were reviewing a list of prospective candidates to be made in another family. Frustrated that the nicknames of the wannabes hadn’t been included, Salerno shrugged and said, “I’ll leave this up to the boss”--a clear sign that he was not the real leader of the family.
An FBI microphone hidden in the ceiling of the Palma Boys Social Club picked up a conversation about the Bonanno Family being represented on the Mafia Commission. Fat Tony wanted the Bonannos out because of their heavy reliance on heroin dealing.
Voice: “There’s a meeting Friday, over the union. Paul, Tony and another guy, uh, Gerry Lang. Just the four of us.”
Salerno: “For what?”
“About Rusty. Meet me at Strang Clinic.”
Salerno: “I wont go there with Rusty if it was a million-dollar deal. I wont go there for nothing. First of all, its a Friday. Im never around here on a Friday. Second of all, what is this meeting that Paul is talking about? Tell them to take care of it themselves. Because I told Paul (Castellano) what to do. He kept telling me, What are we going to do about Rusty? Hes so interested in the title, must be an angle someplace.”So I tell him, I said to Paul: Thats the boss if the family wants him. But, as far as the Commission he can not be on it. Well now, what is he trying to prove? This Commission, them guys dont want to deny that they arent switching. First they want to go before the Commission. The Commission tells them whos gonna be the boss. Dont you see? I dont want to answer. Theyre all junk(heroin) men, all junk men.”