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

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

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.