Frank “The Prime Minister” Costello was an Italian-American Mafia gangster and crime boss. He rose to the top of American organized crime, controlled a vast gambling empire, and enjoyed political influence. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and scary facts about Frank Costello.
1. Nicknamed “The Prime Minister of the Underworld,” he became one of the most powerful and influential mafia bosses in American history, eventually leading the Luciano crime family, one of the Five Families that operate in New York City.
2. Costello was born Francesco Castiglia on January 26, 1891, at Cassano allo Ionio in Cosenza, Calabria region of Italy.
3. His father, Luigi Castiglia, later migrated to America and settled in the East Harlem part of New York, and ran an Italian grocery store.
4. Young Costello, along with his mother, Maria, and elder brother, Edward, joined him in 1895.
5. He got involved into petty criminal activities quite early, along with his elder brother.
6. As he grew up, he became a part of the neighborhood Italian gang called “104th Street Gang” and soon became its leader.
7. He dealt in liquor to earn some quick money.
8. He and his gang members were involved in theft, assault and robberies.
9. When Costello first joined the local gang, he started using the name “Frankie”.
10. Costello committed petty crimes and went to jail for assault and robbery in 1908, 1912, and 1917.
11. In 1918, Costello married Lauretta Giegerman, a Jewish woman who was the sister of a close friend.
12. That same year, Costello served ten months in jail for carrying a concealed weapon. After his release, Costello decided to avoid street rackets and used his brain to make money as a criminal.
13. Forgoing the use of violence as a road to success and wealth, Costello claimed that he never again carried a gun. He would not return to jail for 37 years.
14. After his marriage in 1918, he began working for the Morello crime family’s boss, Ciro Terranova.
15. Around this time, he met a befriended a Sicilian Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. The other members of the Luciano family didn’t approve of Lucky’s association with a non-Sicilian like Costello.
16. Luciano and Costello formed a group with other Italian-Americans and some Jewish partners, namely Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, and Gaetano Lucchese. Together, they started running crime operations, such as extortion, gambling, theft and narcotics.
17. During the Prohibition Period of 1920, they earned money by illegally selling liquor. These operations were financed by Arnold Rothstein.
18. In 1922, Costello, along with Luciano and others, joined the Mafia family of the Sicilian underworld boss, Joe Masseria.
19. In 1924, he got involved with the rum-running operations, “The Combine,” with Irish mafia don, Dwyer.
20. During the 1920s, Costello became a powerful figure in the crime world. He ran many gambling operations, including punch cards, bookmaking, casinos and sloth machines.
21. He befriended many politicians and formed an important connection between the underworld and the Democratic Party’s organization, “Tammany Hall.” This proved beneficial for the crime world, as they could bribe or make a deal with the government officials, police, politicians and judges.
22. Between 1927 and 1929, Costello and Luciano and associates brought together other crime leaders from across the country and initiated the formation of a National Crime Syndicate.
23. Costello earned a lot of money for the Luciano Family as he controlled a gambling empire across the country.
24. In 1934, Florello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City, confiscated and destroyed thousands of Costello’s sloth machines. Costello then started his gambling business in Louisiana and New Orleans.
25. In 1936, Luciano was arrested for running a prostitution ring and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. He appointed Vito Genovese as the new boss of the group from the jail itself. The following year, Genovese ran away to Naples, Italy, as he was accused in an old murder case. As a result of this, Luciano appointed Costello as the head of the Luciano Family.
26. Costello proved quite profitable for the family. He was well liked by the capos and the soldiers working for the gang.
27. Costello was averse to drug trafficking. He was a sophisticated don, who preferred intellect to brawn.
28. In 1946, Genovese was acquitted of the murder charges, and upon his return to the United States, he wanted to be reinstated as the boss of the Luciano Family, but Costello didn’t step down and this resulted in a long drawn underworld battle for power between the two.
29. In 1950, the U.S. Senate carried out an investigation into organized crime. These investigations were conducted by a committee headed by Senator Estes Kefauver. Costello was then considered as American’s top mafia boss, but craved for legitimate respectability.
30. Costello was convicted for contempt of the Senate as he walked out of the hearings. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. After his release in 1954, he was sentenced to another 5 year term for tax evasion. However, he was released on an appeal in 1957. After his release, Genovese made an attempt on his life.