Distinguished Detroit mob boss Joe Zerilli, a member of the national Commission until he died of natural causes almost 40 years ago, avoided apprehension in the infamously-doomed 1957 Apalachin mafia summit in upstate New York due to the quick thinking of his nephew Anthony (Tony the Bull) Corrado and his protégé Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, who whisked him away from harm and arrest in the moments after local police barged in on the festivities, per federal informants.
The conference of mob leaders from around the country was held at the estate of Northeast Pennsylvania don Joseph (Joe the Barber) Barbara in tiny Apalachin, New York on the afternoon of November 14, 1957. Apalachin is located near the Pennsylvania border, approximately 200 miles west of New York City. Barbara’s son, Joe Jr., was a soldier in Zerilli’s Borgata, married to the daughter of a Zerilli capo named Peter (Bozzi) Vitale, and helped plan the elite affair, booking reservations for the visiting mob royalty at a series of hotels and motels in the area and ordering hundreds of pounds of choice-cut meats from a local butcher’s shop.
Of the estimated over 100 attendees at Barbara’s immaculately-manicured countryside home, spanning crime families coast-to-coast, 65 of them were detained in a raid staged by city and state law enforcement after the large amount of out-of-towners’ driving high-priced automobiles arose the suspicion of authorities. Mafia powers like Vito Genovese (New York), Joe Profaci (New York), Paul Castellano (New York), Joe Barbara (NE Pennsylvania-NY), Russell Buffalino (NE Pennsylvania), Frank DeSimone (Los Angeles), Santo Trafficante, Jr. (Florida), John Scalish (Cleveland), James (Black Jim) Coletti (Colorado) and Joe Ida (Philadelphia), among others, were hauled into a New York State Police barracks and booked.
Despite not being collared in the raid, Zerilli was present at the event, flanked by Corrado and Giacalone, according to “Joe Uno’s” FBI file. Corrado was Zerilli’s then-driver and bodyguard. Giacalone had once served in the same capacity before going on to attain capo status.
The only reason the revered and immensely respected Zerilli didn’t end up in handcuffs was Corrado’s brawn and fleet-footedness and Giacalone’s skill as a wheelman, informants told the government – Corrado, weighing over 300 pounds, but renowned for his agility and quick feet rushing quarterbacks as a star high school football player years prior, literally picked his half-his-size uncle up in his arms and raced away from pursuing police through the surrounding woods to a piece of a quiet highway embankment where they were met by Giacalone in a nearby rented Cadillac and sped away from the scene to safety.
FBI records cite plane reservations for Zerilli, Corrado and Giacalone going from Michigan to New York three the days prior to the Apalachin mafia summit and a car-rental slip signed by a Joe Zerilli on the day before the conference of mob dons at a Hertz Rent-A-Car franchise in Binghamton, New York. The federal files also document an interview between two FBI agents and Zerilli in the week directly following the Apalachin bust where Zerilli admitted being in New York and renting the vehicle at the Binghamton Hertz, however denied any tie to the gathering of Goodfellas nearby.
Zerilli told the agents that he was visiting family in New York at the time they were inquiring about and then “slammed the door” in the G-Men’s faces, per the agents’ own account in an internal memo related to the interaction. Zerilli’s son, Anthony, was married to New York Godfather Joe Profaci’s daughter, Rosalie. His nephew, Anthony Tocco, was married to Profaci’s other daughter, Carmella.
During the Apalachin raid, a piece of paper with the name and telephone number of Zerilli capo Michael (Big Mike) Polizzi, a then-young hood with an accounting degree from Syracuse University known for being a numbers whiz and for being married to the daughter of Zerilli’s longtime consigliere Giovanni (Papa John) Priziola. Polizzi would go on to be the syndicate’s consigliere himself from 1981 to 1996.
“Joe Uno” Zerilli died peacefully in October 1977 of heart failure after 41 prosperous years atop the Detroit mafia, an “LCN Family” he founded alongside his brother-in-law Vito (Black Bill) Tocco. He was so widely liked and respected in national mob circles, Zerilli, per FBI informants, acted in a “de-facto consigliere” for the whole Commission from the 1950s until his death.
Corrado became a captain in the 1970s. He died of natural causes in prison in 2002, incarcerated from a 1998 racketeering conviction. Almost immediately after helping his mentor avert the long arm of the law in the Apalachin incident, Giacalone was upped to street boss of the entire syndicate, a post he held until he died of cancer in 2001 under indictment in the same RICO case that Corrado was imprisoned for when he passed away.