Cassandro Bonasera John Cammilleri Joseph Fino Sam Frangiamore Thomas Hunt Antonino Magaddino Stefano Magaddino Angelo Palmeri Michael A. Tona

Filippo Mazzara (Oct. 16, 1889, to Dec. 22, 1927)

Filippo Mazzara was born Oct. 16, 1889, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, to Camillo and Caterina Palmeri Mazzara. He sailed to the U.S. aboard the S.S. Brasile at the age of 17, arriving in New York City on Feb. 7, 1907. He joined relatives residing in the tenements on Stanton Street in Manhattan's "Little Italy."

On both sides of the Atlantic, the Mazzara family maintained a close relationship with the DiBenedetto family, also from Castellammare.

In 1910, Filippo Mazzara and Giuseppe DiBenedetto married sisters Antonina and Rosaria Pampalona from Castellammare. The double-marriage was celebrated at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York. After the marriages, the couples returned to New York City and settled in the Castellammarese colony of Brooklyn.

In the U.S. as well as in Sicily, Castellammarese Mafiosi were embroiled in a bitter rivalry that originated in their common hometown. The long feud is believed to have been the cause of the double-murder of Filippo Mazzara's older brother Antonino and Giuseppe DiBenedetto's brother Antonino in 1917.

Gravesite of Antonino Mazzara
and Antonino DiBenedetto
Mazzara moved to Buffalo in 1920 to lead a Buffalo-based Castellammarese crew within the western New York crime family overseen by boss Giuseppe DiCarlo. Mazzara also managed a commission merchant business owned by DiCarlo. Within a year, Giuseppe DiBenedetto also relocated to Buffalo and became Mazzara's trusted aide.

During the 1921 investigation of the "Good Killers" case - a series of murders related to an ongoing feud among Castellammarese Mafiosi - police attempted to identify a man designated by one of the warring factions as "the chief." Based in Buffalo, "the chief" was believed responsible for issuing murder orders to Good Killers gang members and for coordinating with leaders in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. The title could have referred either to Giuseppe DiCarlo or Angelo Palmeri, but the investigation later focused on Filippo Mazzara.

Giuseppe DiCarlo died in 1922, and Mazzara was one of the Mafiosi considered as his successor. Another Castellammarese Mafia leader, Stefano Magaddino, was chosen. Magaddino eventually moved the headquarters of the western New York Mafia to Niagara Falls. Mazzara and Angelo Palmeri served as Magaddino's chief lieutenants in Buffalo.

In 1923, Mazzara established the Mazzara & Perna firm, a commission merchant business that controlled Prohibition Era sugar distribution in western New York. The business was highly profitable due in large part to the need for sugar in liquor moonshining. Control of sugar distribution also provided Mazzara with a measure of control over regional distilling operations. He became closely associated with the Lonardo brothers, leaders of the Cleveland Mafia and holders of a wholesale sugar monopoly in northeast Ohio. Mazzara also owned the Roma Cafe in Buffalo. The establishment was a regular meeting place for Buffalo Mafia members.

He remained close to the family of the late Giuseppe DiCarlo. In 1924, Mazzara and his wife served as witnesses to the marriage of DiCarlo's son Joseph to Elsie Pieri.

By 1925, Mazzara was viewed as a wealthy commission merchant and as a leader of the Italian colony in Buffalo. He was president of the local Castellammare del Golfo Society.

Violence erupted in Cleveland in 1927, as a Mafia faction led by Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro and the Porrello brothers tried to wrest control of the corn sugar monopoly from the Lonardos. Brothers Joseph and John Lonardo were shot to death in a double-murder in October of 1927. Sugar-war violence reached Buffalo two months later.

Filippo Mazzara was killed Dec. 22, 1927. He was driving a vehicle on Buffalo's west side when two other automobiles, one a large touring car and the other a medium-sized sedan, forced him to the curb. A half-dozen gunmen jumped from the two automobiles and opened fire. A double-barreled shotgun was fired within two feet of the driver's side window of Mazzara's vehicle. The blast shattered all the car windows, crushed the left side of Mazzara's head and tore off part of the thirty-eight-year-old underworld leader's scalp. The attack occurred so swiftly that Mazzara had no opportunity to defend himself. A pistol that he carried at his waist had not been drawn. He was killed instantly. The gunmen returned to their cars and sped away.

Buffalo Police immediately connected Mazzara's killing with the recent Lonardo murders in Cleveland. They concluded that the same gang was responsible and believed that out-of-town gangsters were brought into Buffalo to eliminate the Mafia leader. The Callea brothers of Buffalo were suspected of engineering the attack on Mazzara. Vincenzo "Big Jim" Callea and his brother Salvatore, backed by the Porrello family of Cleveland, had begun competing for a share of bootlegging profits. They had set up speakeasies and distilleries in Buffalo and Niagara Falls in defiance of the powerful western New York crime family. After the assassination of Mazzara, the Callea brothers were for a time the dominant bootlegging faction in Buffalo.

Prompted by the brutal murder of Filippo Mazzara, the Buffalo Police Department created a new Italian Squad to investigate gangland murders in the city's Italian neighborhoods.

Floral tributes to the fallen Mafia leader filled eight trucks.

Hundreds of mourners swarmed the Mazzara home to pay their respects. Numerous floral tributes filled three rooms of the house. The most conspicuous display was an eight-foot-tall heart of roses surrounding a life-size photograph of Mazzara. Two large doves adorned the top of the heart. Over the gang leader's casket was draped a floral blanket created from hundreds of white Killarney roses.

Mazzara's underworld career disqualified him from the traditional Roman Catholic Mass of Christian Burial. A funeral procession to St. Mary's on the Hill Episcopal Church was led by a thirty-piece band and included more than 150 cars of mourners. It took eight trucks to transport the flowers to his gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Mazzara gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Paul Palmeri (Oct. 1, 1892, to May 7, 1955)

Paul Palmeri

Paolo (Paul) Palmeri was born Oct. 1, 1892, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, the youngest son of Francesco and Anna Caleca Palmeri. He and his two brothers, Giovanni and Benedetto (Angelo), were raised in an upper middle class family, supported by their father's work as a merchant.

At the age of 16, Paul Palmeri sailed for the United States. He arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. Prinzess Irene on Feb. 27, 1909. He moved into the Italian colony of lower Manhattan and became employed as a barber.

Elena (Helen) Curti, born in Italy on Oct. 24, 1896, became Palmeri's bride in New York City on July 27, 1914. Palmeri's best man was Silvio Tagliagambe, a subordinate of the U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila. (Tagliagambe was shot to death in 1922. Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, a D'Aquila rival, was charged with the murder.)

Paul Palmeri, his wife and their two children, Anna and Ernesto, moved from New York City to Niagara Falls in 1920. There he assisted his brother Angelo with the organization of bootlegging rackets. Two additional children, Marie and Frank, were born to Paul and Helen Palmeri while they resided in Niagara Falls.

The Palmeri brothers, in association with the Sirianni brothers, "Don Simone" Borruso, Joseph H. Sottile and Canadian crime boss Rocco Perri, controlled the flow of illegal liquor into the U.S. from Canada. At the same time, Paul and Angelo Palmeri went into business together as produce importers and commission merchants.

In 1922, Angelo left Niagara Falls for Buffalo, where he temporarily assumed control of the local Mafia organization following the death of boss Giuseppe DiCarlo.

Paul Palmeri was naturalized a U.S. citizen on June 4, 1923. A character witness on his August 1922 citizenship application was the notorious bootlegger Joseph H. Sottile.

In 1928, Palmeri went into a new line of work, partnering with Alfred Panepinto in the Panepinto & Palmeri Funeral Home in Niagara Falls. By that time, Palmeri was a trusted member of a western New York Mafia organization commanded by Stefano Magaddino.

When a factional split in the U.S. Mafia resulted in the Castellammarese War, Palmeri naturally sided with the Castellammarese and supported their New York City standard-bearer Salvatore Maranzano in his war against Giuseppe Masseria. Police investigating Maranzano's murder in September 1931 found Palmeri's address and telephone number in Maranzano's memo book.

Palmeri was arrested Nov. 9, 1931, along with four suspected accomplices in Chicago. The group was charged with kidnapping wealthy fur dealer Alexander Berg. Members of the Berg family were instructed to meet with his captors. Police went to the meeting location and found Palmeri, "Dago Lawrence" Mangano, Frank Chiaravalloti, Sylvester Agoglia and Angelo Caruso waiting in a parked car. The five men were released the following day as no evidence had been found to connect them to the abduction of Berg.

While the arrest did not result in convictions, it served to document some important underworld connections just two months after the death of Maranzano. Palmeri was a trusted member of Magaddino's western New York organization. Mangano was a prominent member of Alphonse Capone's Chicago Outfit. Chiaravalloti and Agoglia were Chicago residents - Agoglia shared a common Brooklyn gangland background with Capone. Caruso was a resident of New York City and was second-in-command of a Brooklyn-based Castellammarese crime family formerly led by Maranzano.

Palmeri was arrested in New York City the following year, as police investigated the murder of Pittsburgh Mafia boss John Bazzano. Bazzano had ordered the murder of John, James and Arthur Volpe, Neapolitan racketeers from the Pittsburgh area, and was summoned to New York to answer for his actions. Mafia leaders were unsatisfied with his explanation. Bazzano's dead body was found tied with clothesline and wrapped in a burlap sack. He had been stabbed multiple times with ice picks.

Informants led police to hotels in Manhattan and Brooklyn where visiting Mafiosi were staying. Fourteen men were arrested, including Palmeri and Sam DiCarlo from the Buffalo area, and Albert Anastasia, John "Johnny Bath Beach" Oddo, Cassandro "Tony the Chief" Bonasera, Ciro Gallo and Giuseppe Traina of Brooklyn.

In the spring of 1934, Palmeri was charged with assaulting a police officer at the scene of a traffic accident. His conviction led to his first prison sentence, thirty days in county jail.

In the mid-1930s, boss Stefano Magaddino made demands for tribute payments from regional gambling bookmakers and encountered considerable resistance. Frank and Russell LoTempio of Batavia were believed to be leaders of a group opposing Magaddino. The conflict became bloody in May 1936, when a bomb exploded in a Niagara Falls home, killing Magaddino's sister Arcangela Longo. Paul Palmeri delivered the eulogy for Longo, noting his relationship with the Magaddino family since his childhood in Sicily. Magaddino's vengeance was swift. Frank LoTempio was murdered the following month. Russell LoTempio was severely injured when a bomb exploded in his automobile a few months later.

The Panepinto & Palmeri partnership dissolved. Alfred Panepinto was a brother-in-law of the LoTempios. By 1937, he left Niagara Falls and resettled in Batavia. He was murdered there in August 1937.

Palmeri was active in the local chapter of the Castellammare del Golfo Society. The group's 25th anniversary in 1939 was marked with a ball and banquet at the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo. Stefano Magaddino held the position of banquet general chairman. John C. Montana, president of the local Montedoro Society (and Magaddino's underboss), was an honored guest speaker at the event. Paul Palmeri served as toastmaster and praised the accomplishments of prominent Italian Americans in the region.

Speakers at the 25th anniversay banquet of the Castellammare del Golfo Society (left to right):
Northwestern University professor Dr. Cono Ciufia, hospital medical technician Mary
Cicina Gallo, toastmaster Paul Palmeri, banquet chairman Stefano Magaddino.

(Buffalo Courier Express, Jan. 12, 1939.)

Paul Palmeri chats with John Montana at the
banquet of the Castellammare del Golfo Society.
(Buffalo Times, Jan. 12, 1939.)
By 1940, Magaddino's brother Antonino joined Palmeri in his funeral home business. The Palmeri Funeral Home later became the Magaddino Funeral Home, with Stefano Magaddino's son Peter taking over as its president.

Paul Palmeri moved out of Niagara Falls in 1941, reportedly after a rift with Stefano Magaddino. He relocated to Passaic, New Jersey, and reestablished a working relationship with Willie Moretti. At the time, Moretti was a key figure in the Frank Costello (later Genovese) crime family. Decades earlier, Moretti had run gambling rackets for the Palmeris in Niagara Falls.

In 1942, Palmeri was indicted as one of the leaders of an alcohol bootlegging ring that evaded $3.5 million in federal taxes between 1933 and 1941. Palmeri was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and a $9,000 fine.

The Palmeri-Moretti relationship was strengthened through the marriage of Palmeri's son Frank to Moretti's daughter Marie in 1947. When Moretti was murdered in 1951, police noted Palmeri's closeness to the victim and questioned him as a material witness.

Paul Palmeri died May 7, 1955, at Passaic General Hospital after a short illness. He was 62. His wife Helen passed away Sept. 15, 1998, at the age of 101.

Angelo Palmeri (Jan. 12, 1878, to Dec. 21, 1932)

Angelo Palmeri
Benedetto Angelo Palmeri was born Jan. 12, 1878, to Francesco and Anna Caleca Palmeri in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. Francesco was a successful merchant, and "Angelo" Palmeri was raised in an upper middle class family.

Palmeri traveled to the United States as an adult. He reached New York City aboard the S.S. Lombardia on Sept. 7, 1906. He initially found work in that city as a laborer on the docks.

In 1912, he relocated to Buffalo and opened a tavern on Dante Place. He supplemented his income by hosting gambling operations. Palmeri was one of eleven saloonkeepers arrested during an Aug. 28, 1912, gambling raid by Buffalo Police in the Canal District. He was convicted and fined $50.

Palmeri married Rosaria Mistretta on Oct. 5, 1913. Mistretta was a cousin of Buffalo Mafia boss Giuseppe DiCarlo's wife, Vincenza. By the end of the year, the newlywed Palmeris moved into the upper apartment of the DiCarlo family home on Buffalo's Seventh Street. There followed a period of unquestionable closeness between Angelo Palmeri and Giuseppe DiCarlo.

The two men entered into a partnership in the Dante Place saloon, and Palmeri served as underboss in DiCarlo's underworld organization.

"Their methods of operation were different," noted the police. "DiCarlo being a smooth peaceful worker and Palmeri more inclined to violence, they provided mutual protection for each other." [Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, Dec. 22, 1932.]

Palmeri's violent tendencies resulted in a 1915 arrest for assaulting a police officer. He was convicted and fined $250. His reputation was enhanced by the nickname "Buffalo Bill," reportedly awarded him because he wore cowboy hats and carried a holstered pistol.

Just a few months later, Rosaria Palmeri gave birth to a daughter. When the child was baptized in November 1915, two of Giuseppe DiCarlo's children, Joseph and Sarah, served as godparents.

Rosaria Palmeri subsequently developed serious health problems. She contracted influenza and pneumonia and died on Jan. 5, 1916, at the age of 29. Unable to tend to the needs of his infant daughter on his own, Angelo Palmeri left her in the care of his Mistretta in-laws in New York City.

Lockport Union Sun, Aug. 31, 1921
His family life in tatters, Palmeri moved away from Buffalo and opened a cigar store in Niagara Falls. The store served as a front for gambling rackets run in association with the DiCarlo Mafia. (Future New Jersey crime figure Willie Moretti reportedly got his start in the underworld by operating craps games for Palmeri in Niagara Falls.)

In 1919, Palmeri married Loretta Mistretta, the older sister of his late wife. The couple and Palmeri's daughter by his first marriage moved into a Niagara Falls apartment.

The Prohibition Era opened the following year, and Palmeri's brother Paul joined him in Niagara Falls to organize Mafia bootlegging rackets. The Palmeris worked with the Sirianni brothers, "Don Simone" Borruso, Joseph Sottile and Canadian crime boss Rocco Perri to control the smuggling of liquor between Canada and western New York.

In 1921, Angelo Palmeri was charged with the murder of Emilio Gnazzo. Gnazzo was shot by a gunman who jumped from behind a parked car and fired a bullet into his head. The victim's wife witnessed the killing and identified Palmeri as the gunman. A police investigation determined that Gnazzo, an inveterate gambler, was slow to repay a loan obtained from Palmeri.

When the murder case came to trial, prosecutors could not locate Gnazzo's wife. No other witnesses came forward to identify Palmeri as the gunman, and Palmeri was discharged due to insufficient evidence.

Following the death of Giuseppe DiCarlo in July 1922, Angelo Palmeri returned to the City of Buffalo. He moved himself and his family into the DiCarlo residence and temporarily took command of the Mafia organization in western New York. In October of that year, Stefano Magaddino was chosen as the next regional Mafia boss. Palmeri, Filippo Mazzara and Giuseppe DiBenedetto, all Castellammarese Mafiosi who held leadership positions under DiCarlo, oversaw Buffalo underworld rackets for Magaddino.

When Joseph DiCarlo was charged with intimidating a government witness in 1924, Palmeri was held as a material witness. DiCarlo and another gunman emerged from an automobile and shot at Joseph Patitucci, an informant scheduled to testify against DiCarlo in a narcotics case. Police believed Palmeri had been a passenger in the automobile.

After a review of Palmeri's pistol permit, authorities charged the underworld leader with perjury. He had sworn incorrectly on the permit application that he was a U.S. citizen. A grand jury refused to indict him, and the charge was dropped. Palmeri was naturalized a citizen on Jan. 7, 1925.

Buffalo Daily Courier, Aug. 21, 1925
Later that year, Palmeri used his influence in the Sicilian community to provide aid to the poor and emotionally devastated family of Joseph Gervase. The twelve-year-old Gervase had been molested and strangled to death by a drifter. Palmeri, Mazzara and DiBenedetto gathered donations from the shopkeepers in Buffalo's Italian colony to pay the boy's funeral expenses.

Federal Prohibition agents raided a Palmeri speakeasy in August 1928, arresting Palmeri and confiscating "a quantity of spirits."

The Prohibition Era brought vast profits to underworld organizations but it also brought violence, as rival bootlegging groups entered into bloody competition. Gangland conflict cost Palmeri a close ally in Cleveland and two western New York lieutenants. Cleveland Mafia boss Joseph Lonardo was murdered in October 1927 by Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro and the Porrello brothers. Later that year, Filippo Mazzara was murdered in Buffalo. In February 1929, Giuseppe DiBenedetto was slain.

A bootlegging gang led by the Callea brothers was suspected in the Buffalo attacks. The Calleas, closely aligned with the Porrellos of Cleveland, sought to control bootlegging rackets in the Buffalo region.

As the Castellammarese War erupted in the U.S. Mafia in 1930, Palmeri supported Salvatore Maranzano, leader of the Castellammarese-aligned faction in New York City. Palmeri met regularly with Maranzano and Mafioso Joseph Bonanno in Brooklyn, as they plotted strategy against reigning Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria. (In his autobiography, A Man of Honor, Bonanno discussed his close relationship with Palmeri. Bonanno told of his visit to Palmeri's home during his November 1931 honeymoon to Niagara Falls.)

Buffalo Evening News, Dec. 22, 1932.

Palmeri faced increasingly severe health problems following the end of the Castellammarese War. He died in the driver's seat of his automobile, parked in his driveway, after suffering a stroke on Dec. 21, 1932. He was 54 years old.

Buffalo Commercial Advertiser,
Dec. 22, 1932
Great numbers of residents from Buffalo's Italian colony attended Palmeri's funeral. It was said to be the "largest ever turnout for an Italian-American citizen of Buffalo." In the immigrant neighborhoods, Palmeri was remembered as a friend who provided for them in times of need, when pride kept them from appealing to organized charities.

"Many tears were shed by those whose homes were heated, whose tables were made bountiful and whose children had been clothed by the largess of Angelo Palmeri."

Ceremonies began at the Palmeri home, 295 Jersey Street, and continued with a Mass at Holy Angels Church on Porter Avenue. Palmeri was interred on Christmas Eve alongside his first wife, Rosaria, in a large family plot at Pine Hill Cemetery.

Palmeri's second wife, Loretta, also was buried in the plot following her death in 1953.

Cassandro Bonasera (June 18, 1897, to Sept. 9, 1972)

The Bonasera family has its roots in Vallelunga, Sicily. Vincenzo Bonasera, born there about 1865, and Lucia Spoto, about three years younger, were married in the community and raised their young family there. Cassandro "Tony the Chief" Bonasera was born in Vallelunga on June 18, 1897.

Vincenzo, a tailor, sailed to the U.S. in 1901, settling on Elizabeth Street in New York City. Cassandro Bonasera crossed the Atlantic with his mother and four siblings several years later, arriving in New York harbor aboard the S.S. Madonna on January 1, 1906. They joined Vincenzo on Elizabeth Street.

Lucia Spoto Bonasera died of complications of childbirth on Oct. 24, 1906, less than 11 months after her arrival in the U.S. (The baby also was lost.)

In 1908, Cassandro Bonasera lived with his father and three siblings in a tenement, 442 East 13th Street in Manhattan. He attended Public School 19, registering there under the name Anthony Bonasera. In this period, Vincenzo was self-employed as a tailor, and his older daughters did embroidery work.

Cassandro Bonasera left school upon completion of the sixth grade in 1911. By 1915, the family had relocated to Brooklyn, and was living at 7511 Thirteenth Avenue. The address falls within the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, near Bensonhurst.

Bonasera's criminal record (above) began a year later with an arrest for robbery. (Interestingly, when registering for the World War I draft on June 5, 1918, Bonasera indicated that he was uncertain of his date or place of birth.) His second arrest, in 1920, resulted in a conviction for petit larceny and a suspended sentence.

During the 1920s, Bonasera teamed with John "Johnny Bath Beach" Oddo in managing Brooklyn gambling rackets for Mafia leader Frankie Yale (Ioele). More than a dozen arrests were added to Bonasera's growing criminal record in the decade. He was charged with such offenses as homicide, burglary, assault, extortion, and impersonating a police officer. He managed to avoid conviction in most of the cases. An assault conviction in 1920 sent him to the workhouse for 60 days. When convicted of possession of a revolver in 1925, he was sentenced to 18 months in county jail.

NY Herald Tribune, Dec. 23, 1930
The origin of Bonasera's "Chief" nickname is unknown, but the nickname was in place by 1930. Bonasera and his close friend John Oddo became underlings of Mafia boss Joseph Profaci following Frankie Yale's murder in 1928. Bonasera ran floating dice games for the Profaci Family. He was repeatedly questioned by police in connection with Brooklyn homicides, including that of Yale.

On Dec. 22, 1930, Bonasera was seriously wounded in a shooting outside of his Brooklyn home, 7513 Thirteenth Avenue. He was hit in the head, neck and arm by six gangland bullets. True to the underworld code, he refused to identify his assailants to police.

The Bonasera and DiCarlo families had been closely acquainted in Vallelunga, Sicily. Giuseppe DiCarlo, father of Joseph DiCarlo, had been a friend of Vincenzo Bonasera. In 1933, Joseph DiCarlo's sister Sarah traveled with Bonasera's sister from Buffalo to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, Sarah met Cassandro Bonasera. The two were married in Buffalo on June 28 of that year, with John Oddo serving as Bonasera's best man. Joseph DiCarlo gave away the bride during an elaborate wedding ceremony that was followed by a lavish reception at the Hotel Statler.

Buffalo Courier Express, June 29, 1933
In 1939, a grand jury investigating money-lending rackets in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, Brooklyn, indicted Bonasera and Oddo for loan sharking and extortion. Extortion charges were dropped in 1941, as Bonasera pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate banking laws. He was sentenced to four months in prison.

Bonasera claimed in 1952 to be a self-employed dress manufacturer, partner in the Sara Lee Dress Company of 8403 Fifteenth Avenue in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, which employed 30 sewing machine operators. At that time, he resided at 1117 83rd Street in Brooklyn.

The following year, deportation proceedings were started against Bonasera. He was arrested as an undesirable alien on the grounds that he had been convicted of more than two crimes since entering the U.S. A special inquiry of the U.S. Immigration Department revealed that Bonasera had been arrested 25 times between 1916 and 1944. He was ordered deported in 1954. The order was withdrawn on appeal, when it was noted that Bonasera's record included just four convictions and only one could be construed as involving moral turpitude. By law, two such convictions were required for deportation.

Fifty-six-year old Bonasera found himself in an unusual position on Feb. 3, 1954. Two armed thugs approached him outside the Sara Lee Dress Company. One pointed a .45 caliber pistol at "the Chief's" face and demanded he turn over a cardboard box containing the weekly dress factory payroll. "Do you know what you're doing?" Bonasera asked the gunmen. "Do you know who I am?" The robbers were uninterested, and the unarmed Bonasera meekly turned over a cardboard box containing $835.

NY Times, Feb. 4, 1954
In the early 1960s, the Bonasera home in Brooklyn became a temporary residence for the financially troubled Joseph DiCarlo. In 1963, Joseph Valachi identified Bonasera as a member of the crime family commanded by Giuseppe Magliocco since the death of Giuseppe Profaci.

Late in life, Bonasera attempted to acquire U.S. citizenship. His petition for naturalization was denied in 1968. An investigation of his character revealed his long criminal career and close association with underworld figures John Oddo, Giuseppe Profaci, Joe "Adonis " Doto, Joseph Colombo and Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.

Bonasera died of natural causes on Sept. 9, 1972. He was 75 years old. His wife, Sarah DiCarlo Bonasera, passed away three years later, on Oct. 19, 1975.

John Tronolone (Dec. 12, 1910, to May 29, 1991)

John "Peanuts" Tronolone was born Dec. 12, 1910, in Buffalo. He was the oldest of nine children born to grocer Vincenzo (born in San Fele, Italy, in 1887) and Maria Gnozzo Tronolone (born in New York about 1889). Tronolone was raised in the tenements of Buffalo's Dante Place and reportedly earned his "Peanuts" nickname by giving peanuts to neighborhood children visiting his father's store.

Tronolone was first arrested on Oct. 11, 1925, at the age of 14. He was charged with juvenile delinquency. He was subsequently arrested for gambling in 1926 and 1927 and for disorderly conduct in 1930. The disorderly conduct case resulted in a $15 fine.

On April 14, 1931, he and two other men were arrested for first-degree robbery. The charges were dismissed when the victim failed to identify the trio.

A police search of Tronolone's vehicle on July 11, 1932, resulted in his arrest for possession of burglar tools. "Peanuts" was traveling with Joseph "Goose" Gatti and Joseph Pieri at the time of his arrest. He was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison.

By 1933, Tronolone was closely associated with the DiCarlo Gang, led by Joseph DiCarlo. Tronolone served as DiCarlo's chief lieutenant during the gang's efforts to control gambling and bookmaking rackets within the City of Buffalo.

Tronolone, Sam Pieri, Joseph Pieri, Anthony "Lucky" Perna and several other DiCarlo gang members were among the first to be arrested under New York's "Brownell Law" in May 1935. The law was intended to rid cities of "public enemy" racketeers by making the consorting of known criminals illegal. Tronolone, the Pieris and Perna were convicted and sentenced to six-month prison terms. The prison sentences were later suspended due to the newness of the Brownell Law, which had been passed just one week before the arrests.

On Jan. 14, 1936, Tronolone, DiCarlo, Perna, Sam Pieri and Joseph Pieri were arrested as suspicious persons as they emerged from a hotel in downtown Cleveland. During their trial, police officers testified that they had trailed the group for several days after their arrival in Cleveland and had observed them visiting local men with long criminal records. DiCarlo, Sam Pieri and Perna were freed. Tronolone and Joseph Pieri were convicted and sentenced to a jail term of 30 days and a fine of $50.

Tronolone and DiCarlo were arrested on an assault charge in August 1936. Roman "Whitey' Kroll complained to police that the two gang leaders had beaten and kicked him after he refused to pay them protection money for his bookmaking operation. At trial in 1937, Kroll testified that he threw his arms up over his head during the assault and could not positively identify his attackers. Tronolone and DiCarlo were acquitted.

A short time later, Tronolone was arrested in a raid of his Pearl Street bookmaking establishment. He pleaded guilty to accepting bets on horse races and was sentenced to one month in the county jail.

Tronolone and DiCarlo following their acquittal on assault charges in 1937.

During the 1940s, law enforcement cracked down on DiCarlo Gang gambling operations, conducting numerous raids of a Niagara Street betting parlor. An investigation revealed that the gambling rackets actually were operating with a measure of local police protection. Anti-gambling crusader Edward Pospichal aided the investigation and provided grand jury testimony that led to indictments against DiCarlo, Tronolone and police precinct Captain Thomas O'Neill. Pospichal was subsequently murdered.

Buffalo News, Jan. 10, 1945.
In 1945, Tronolone and DiCarlo were convicted of conspiring to violate gambling laws and conspiring in Captain O'Neill's neglect of duty. They received county jail terms of 18 months and fines of $500 each.

Upon their release, DiCarlo decided to end the police harassment of his gambling operations by leaving Buffalo. In 1946, he, Tronolone and several other members of the DiCarlo Gang relocated to Youngstown, Ohio. Under the supervision of James Licavoli, then a capodecina of the Cleveland Mafia, they took control of local bookmaking and gambling operations.

Tronolone relocated to the Miami, Florida, area in 1948. He was joined there by DiCarlo's brother Sam and began bookmaking and gambling rackets in south Florida. In the region, Tronolone associated with retired Cleveland Mafia boss John "King" Angersola and Detroit Mafioso Joseph Massei.

Tronolone was arrested for operating a gambling house in 1949 and 1952. An undercover operation by an anti-gambling task force of several law enforcement agencies in south Florida resulted in the 1954 arrests of Tronolone and Sam DiCarlo on charges of operating a gambling house, gambling and bookmaking.

Buffalo Courier Express, Jan. 17, 1946.
In the 1960s, Tronolone operated the Tahiti Bar and the Peter Pan Travel Agency in Miami Beach. Both served as fronts for gambling and loan sharking rackets. He was arrested for operating gambling establishments in 1962 and 1967, but those charges were dismissed in court.

Tronolone's 1971 conviction on charges of operating a multimillion-dollar bookmaking racket in Florida's Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties resulted in a sentence of two years' probation and a $1,000 fine.

During the 1980s, Tronolone assumed control of the Cleveland Mafia - the second of Joseph DiCarlo's former lieutenants to become a Mafia boss. Tronolone filled a leadership vacuum after boss James Licavoli was convicted of federal RICO charges and sentenced to seventeen years in prison, and underboss Angelo Lonardo was sentenced to life in prison on a drug trafficking conviction.

Lonardo agreed to cooperate with authorities and was placed in the federal Witness Protection Program. Information he provided helped secure indictments against Tronolone and several other Mafia bosses for racketeering. Tronolone was the only defendant acquitted at trial.

In February of 1989, Tronolone was charged with racketeering, bookmaking, loan sharking and dealing in stolen property. He was alleged to have accepted a payoff of stolen diamonds from an undercover Broward County sheriff's deputy in payment of bookmaking and loan sharking debts. He was convicted, and on Dec. 6, 1990, six days before his 80th birthday, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

"Peanuts" Tronolone died of complications from a heart condition on May 29, 1991, before the start of his prison sentence.

Salvatore Frangiamore (Aug. 7, 1905, to Nov. 28, 1999)

Salvatore "Sam" Frangiamore was born Aug. 7, 1905, to Salvatore and Francesca Garofalo Frangiamore of Mussomeli, Sicily. (Mussomeli is an inland town in the province of Caltanissetta.)

His father sailed for America in the spring of 1907, initially staying with the Mistretta family in New York City before moving westward. Sam's older brother Filippo crossed the Atlantic in 1911 and joined Salvatore Sr. briefly in Ralston, PA. The two subsequently settled at 174 Terrace in Buffalo's Italian colony. In that period, numerous immigrants from Mussomeli selected Buffalo as their adopted home.

The Frangiamore family was reunited Oct. 10, 1912, when Sam, his mother and sisters Salvatrice (Sarah) and Vincenza (Jenny) reached New York aboard the S.S. Prinzess Irene.

Sam Frangiamore grew up in the Sicilian-Italian neighborhoods along Dante Place (formerly Canal Street). He attended Buffalo Public School No. 2 through the seventh grade. After leaving school at the age of 15, he went to work as a construction laborer.

On June 2, 1920, the Frangiamore and Todaro families were joined through the marriage of Salvatrice Frangiamore with Antonio Todaro. The couple's first child, Josephine Todaro, was born Oct. 30, 1921. A son, Joseph Todaro, was born Sept. 18, 1923.

Sam Frangiamore became a U.S. citizen through the naturalization of his father on March 7, 1921.

Frangiamore was arrested Sept. 2, 1927, as one of three suspects in a western Pennsylvania payroll robbery. The payroll of $15,000 had been stolen from couriers of the Erie PA Electric Company. On Sept. 27, 1928, Frangiamore was convicted of first degree armed robbery. He was sentenced to serve 10-20 years in Western State Penitentiary in Pittsburgh. He served little more than seven years of that sentence, as he was paroled from prison on Christmas Eve of 1935.

Just a year later, Frangiamore notched his second felony conviction. He was sentenced to 10-20 years in New York's Attica State Prison after being found guilty of first degree assault. While serving time in Attica, he became close to Joseph Fino and Daniel Sansanese, Sr., also serving time on robbery convictions.

Frangiamore was paroled from Attica on Feb. 16, 1944, and relocated to New Jersey. He married Josephine Piazza in Passaic on April 22, 1951.

In 1956, he moved back to Buffalo. A laborer on various construction sites, Frangiamore was a member of the mob-linked Laborers Local 210. At this time, he also became involved in gambling rackets sponsored by the Magaddino Mafia of western New York.

Frangiamore was among the approximately 50 men arrested in New York State Police raids of gambling establishments in the Buffalo region on Oct. 23, 1959. Others arrested were Pasquale Natarelli and Steven Cannarozzo. Police seized more than $50,000 in cash during the raids. Frangiamore and Natarelli were later convicted of conspiring to contrive a lottery. They were sentenced to serve six months in the Erie County Penitentiary.

An Oct. 7, 1966, raid by Buffalo Police and FBI agents at the Blue Banner Social Club resulted in the arrest of Frangiamore and several high-ranking Mafia members on gambling charges. Frangiamore and 35 others were arrested in the May 8, 1967, raid at Panaro's Lounge. They were charged with consorting with known criminals. These charges were later dismissed in Buffalo City Court.

Stefano Magaddino's control over the Buffalo underworld was damaged by the December 1967 imprisonment of his top lieutenants in the city, Frederico Randaccio and Pasquale Natarelli. Magaddino's efforts to rein in the Buffalo mobsters contributed to dissension and eventually to open rebellion.

In July 1969, a rebel underworld faction in Buffalo selected Sam Pieri as its acting boss, Joseph Fino as its acting underboss and Joseph DiCarlo as its acting consigliere. At that time, Frangiamore was elevated to the position of capodecina in the Buffalo Crime Family.

Two years later, with Pieri in prison and Fino facing federal gambling indictments, faction leaders moved Frangiamore into the nominal position of acting boss. The FBI learned of Frangiamore's promotion but decided that he was merely serving as a stand-in for Pieri. The real power in the Buffalo Crime Family at that moment rested with underboss Roy Carlisi and capodecina Daniel Sansanese, Sr. Carlisi and Sansanese hoped that law enforcement would focus its attention on Frangiamore and leave them free to pursue their rackets.

Frangiamore accepted his figurehead position but was uncomfortable with it. With two felony convictions already on his criminal record, the 66-year-old feared that another conviction could result in a life sentence. Informants told the FBI in September 1975 that Frangiamore was acting boss in name only. The Buffalo Crime Family authority reportedly was held by Sam Pieri's brother, Joseph Angelo Pieri.

As the 1978 Nairy's Social Club gambling case closed, the FBI examined the hierarchy of the Buffalo Crime Family and determined that it was led by a triumvirate comprised of Joseph Pieri, Roy Carlisi and Sam Frangiamore. The Bureau concluded that Pieri was the most powerful of the three, with Carlisi serving as underboss and Frangiamore holding a figurehead role to screen the activities of the other two.

Following the death of Carlisi, the Buffalo Crime Family split into factions competing for control of Laborers Local 210. Frangiamore became a key figure in the struggle. He and his nephew Joseph Todaro, Sr., led a group opposed to the Pieri-DiCarlo faction.

The deaths of Joseph DiCarlo in 1980 and Sam Pieri in 1981 weakened the Pieri wing of the crime family and permitted the rise of the Frangiamore-Todaro group. The transition between the Pieri-DiCarlo underworld administration and the new Frangiamore-Todaro regime was completed in autumn of 1984. At that time, Frangiamore retired and allowed Joseph Todaro, Sr., to take over as boss.

Frangiamore died of natural causes on Nov. 28, 1999. He was 94 years old.

Antonino Magaddino (June 18, 1897, to April 13, 1971)

Antonino "Nino" Magaddino was born to Giovanni and Giuseppa Ciaravino Magaddino in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, on June 18, 1897. His family was prominent in the local Mafia, and at the time of his birth the Magaddino's were engaged in an underworld feud with the Buccellato clan, also of Castellammare.

Magaddino was arrested in 1916 for falsifying a passport.
Magaddino's first arrest was recorded in Sicily when he was just a teenager. His police record grew considerably in a short time. He was charged early in 1916 with falsifying a passport. On March 15, 1916, he was arrested for conducting "clandestine activities." He was released a month later. On Aug. 14 of that year he was arrested and charged with a double-murder in Castellammare, likely a flareup in the Magaddino-Buccellato feud. Magaddino's older brother Pietro and Giovanni Buccellato both had been murdered in July 1916. Magaddino was discharged in 1917, when authorities decided that the available evidence was insufficient for prosecution.

Nino Magaddino married Vincenza Vitale in Castellammare on Feb. 2, 1922. A short time later his brother Stefano, who had risen to command of a Mafia organization in western New York, called him to the U.S. to help manage regional bootlegging rackets. Nino Magaddino arrived in the U.S. aboard the S.S. Patria on Nov. 1, 1923. He immediately became Stefano's trusted aide.

Though Magaddino was on the other side of the Atlantic, he still managed to continue to get in trouble with Italian authorities. In June 1928, he was charged with violating immigration laws. In November of that year, he was charged with robbery, rape and extortion, in connection with events that took place years earlier. All those charges were dropped by 1931. In 1948, Magaddino was naturalized a citizen of the U.S. His wife and children traveled to the U.S. and joined him in Niagara Falls in 1950.

Following Prohibition, Magaddino moved into gambling ventures and also became involved in the family's funeral home business. Paul Palmeri, operator of the Panepinto & Palmeri Funeral Home since 1925, welcomed Nino Magaddino as a partner in 1939. When Palmeri moved to New Jersey in 1941, the funeral home business was taken over by the Magaddinos. Stefano's son Peter was installed as president, and Nino Magaddino became vice president.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Nino Magaddino supervised gambling rackets in the Niagara Falls region.

Magaddino and Domenick D'Agostino
appear before a grand jury in 1958.
Magaddino was among the scores of Mafiosi taken in for questioning when New York State Troopers and agents of the U.S. Treasury Department broke up a Nov. 14, 1957, gangland convention at the Apalachin, NY, home of Joseph Barbara. Other attendees from the western New York Mafia included John Montana, James LaDuca, Roy Carlisi, Sam Lagattuta and Domenick D'Agostino. Magaddino was apprehended as he attempted to flee from Barbara's home through a wooded area.

When questioned by police, Magaddino said he was in Apalachin by accident. He insisted he was driving Montana to New York City for a business meeting, when car trouble forced them to drop by the home of his acquaintance Joseph Barbara for help.

A 1958 grand jury investigating Apalachin called Magaddino as a witness but learned nothing new from him. He refused to answer its questions, invoking the Fifth Amendment 24 times. He was subsequently indicted for conspiring to obstruct justice. The following year, federal agents attempting to serve Magaddino with papers stemming from the indictment could not locate him. He became the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

The charges against Magaddino were dropped in 1960, after an appeals court threw out obstruction convictions against other Apalachin attendees.

Nino Magaddino was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1969. He died April 13, 1971, at the age of 73.

Magaddino gravesite, St. Joseph's Cemetery, Niagara Falls.