Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria was an early Mafia boss in New York City. He was the boss of what is now called the Genovese crime family, one of the New York City Mafia’s Five Families, from 1922 to 1931. Take a look below for 28 more interesting and bizarre facts about Joe Masseria.
1. He waged a bloody war to take over the criminal activities in New York City, gaining considerable power for himself.
2. He was killed in 1931 in a hit ordered by his own lieutenant, Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
3. Masseria was born on January 17, 1886, in Menfi, Sicily, Italy as the only child of a tailor.
4. He spent most of his childhood in the town of Marsala in westernmost part of Sicily, where his family relocated when he was a child.
5. In 1902, Masseria went to the United States to evade a murder indictment in Italy, since there was no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy at the time.
6. Once a small time hoodlum in Italy, Masseria had no difficulty in getting work as an enforcer in the Morello crime family, which conducted its activities from Harlem and parts of Little Italy.
7. He received a suspended sentence in 1909 after being convicted of burglary.
8. As the 1910’s ended, Masseria and Salvatore D’Aquila became rivals for power in New York.
9. By the early 1920’s, they were at war with each other. D’Aquila had a vicious gunman under him, Umberto Valenti, who was given the assignment to kill Masseria as a way to conclude the power struggle.
10. On August 9, 1922, Masseria walked out of his apartment at 80 2nd Avenue, and was rushed by two armed men who opened fire on him. Masseria ducked into a store at 82 2nd Avenue with the gunmen in pursuit.
11. They shot out the front window and shot up the inside of the store. The gunmen fled across 2nd Avenue to a getaway car idling just around the corner on E. 5th Street. The car was a Hudson Cruiser, which like many cars of the era, had running boards along the sides.
12. The gunmen jumped on the running boards and the car sped west on E. 5th Street towards the Bowery, guns blazing.
13. Masseria survived the point-blank hit attempt unscathed and was found by police in his upstairs bedroom shell-shocked.
14. he was sitting up in his bed dazed, his ears were ringing from the proximity of the weapon fire, and there were two bullet holes through his straw hat, which he was still wearing on his head.
15. The incident gained Masseria new respect among superstitious Italian gangsters as “the man who can dodge bullets” and his reputation began to rise as D’Aquila’s began to wane.
16. The following month, Masseria arranged for a peace meeting with Valenti and newly released from prison Giuseppe Morello, hinting that he was prepared to give up his aspirations to being the Boss.
17. The death of Frankie Yale in July, 1928, appears to have been the catalyst for Joe Masseria’s ambition to become the overall leader of all the Mafia gangs of New York.
18. In October, 1928, Tot Aquila, the “Boss of Bosses,” was killed by Morello and others.
19. Masseria eventually moved in on what had been Yale’s organization and Anthony Carfano, “Little Augie Pisano” became head of the Yale family.
20. Masseria put pressure on a Mafia family known as the Castellamarese from Sicily.
21. Nicolo “Cola” Schiro, the group’s official leader, turned out to be a weak man. He paid Masseria $10,000 and then “went into hiding”, although in fact he was never heard from again.
22. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was murdered at a restaurant called Nuova Villa Tammaro on Coney Island.
23. Gangland legend has it that Masseria dined with Charles “Lucky” Luciano before his death. While they played cards, Luciano excused himself to the bathroom, when Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia and Joe Adonis rushed in and shot Masseria to death, his four bodyguards having mysteriously disappeared.
24. The New York Daily News reported that the boss died, “with the ace of spades, the death card, clutched in a bejeweled paw.”
25. At the time, police suspected a gangster named John “Silk Stockings” Giustra as being one of the gunmen in Masseria’s murder. This was based on the report of a confidential informant and that one of the coats found at the murder scene was identified as belonging to Giustra.
26. The case was dropped after Giustra was murdered on July 9, 1931.
27. The 2010 book “New York City Gangland” offers an eyewitness account of events surrounding Masseria’s murder which also involves owner Scarpato, who was allegedly extorting money from a small businessman who unexpectedly arrived by car at the Villa Tammaro on April 15, 1931.
28. During the Castellamarese War, upset that the conflict between Masseria and Maranzano was cutting into their business, other mafia gangs not involved in the conflict called a meeting of representatives in December 1930 in Boston. They stripped Masseria of his Boss of Bosses titled and temporarily gave it to Boston mafia chief, Gaspare Messina. They also tried to broker a peace between Masseria and Maranzano but Maranzano refused any overtures, while Masseria was still alive and made overtures to Masseria gang members to defect and kill their boss.