December 1, 1899
Palermo, Sicily, Italy
|Died||July 13, 1967
Lido Beach, New York, United States
|Cause of death||Brain tumor|
|Resting place||Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York City, New York|
|Other names||Tommy Brown, Tommy Three-Finger Brown|
|Children||Frances Lucchese-Gambino, Baldassare "Bobby" Lucchese|
|Parent(s)||Baldassarre and Francesca|
|Allegiance||Lucchese crime family|
Thomas "Tommy" Lucchese (pronounced [luk'ke:se]; born Gaetano Lucchese, December 1, 1899 - July 13, 1967) was a Sicilian-born American gangster and founding member of the Mafia in the United States, an offshoot of the Cosa Nostra in Sicily. From 1951 until 1967, he was the boss of the Lucchese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominates organized crime in New York City.
Gaetano Lucchese was born on December 1, 1899 to Baldassarre and Francesca Lucchese in Palermo, Sicily. The surname "Lucchese" (pronounced [luk'ke:ze]) suggests a family origin from the Sicilian city of Lucca Sicula. In early 1911, the Lucchese family emigrated to the United States, settling in Manhattan's Italian neighborhood of East Harlem. Lucchese's father Giuseppe worked hauling cement. Lucchese worked in a machine shop until 1915, when an industrial accident amputated his right thumb and forefinger.
After his accident Lucchese spent more time with his friends. Lucchese along with Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, formed the 107th Street gang. Members of the gang stole wallets, burglarized stores, and engaged in other hustles. The 107th Street gang operated under the protection of Bronx-East Harlem family boss Gaetano "Tom" Reina. By the age of eighteen, Lucchese had started a window washing company in East Harlem; anyone refusing to buy window washing would have their windows broken.
In 1920, Lucchese was arrested in Riverhead, Long Island on auto theft charges. During his booking, a police officer compared Lucchese's deformed hand with that of Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, a popular Major League Baseball pitcher. The officer nicknamed Lucchese "Three Finger Brown", an alias that Lucchese always disliked. In January 1921, Lucchese was convicted of auto theft and sentenced on March 27, 1922 to three years and nine months in prison. Lucchese served thirteen months at Sing Sing Correctional Facility before he was paroled. It would be Lucchese's only conviction.
Lucchese was released from prison in 1923, three years into prohibition. His old friends Charlie Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky had become partners with Jewish gangster Arnold "the Brain" Rothstein selling bootleg alcohol. During the 1920s, Lucchese became a strong ally of Luciano's and became a top member of Gaetano Reina's crime family. In August 1927, Lucchese was arrested under the alias of "Thomas Arra" and charged with receiving stolen goods. On July 18, 1928 Lucchese was arrested along with his brother-in-law Joseph Rosato for the murder of Louis Cerasulo; the charges were later dropped.
In 1930, the Castellammarese War was being fought between two rival crime bosses in New York, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. At this time, Lucchese and Tommaso Gagliano were both leaders in the Reina family, which was aligned with Masseria. However, Reina decided to secretly change his allegiance to Maranzano because Masseria was demanding a large share of Reina's ice distribution business. Gagliano then told Masseria about Reina's betrayal in hopes of becoming the new boss of the Reina gang. On February 26, 1930, Masseria gunman Vito Genovese shot and killed Reina outside his mistress' apartment. Masseria then made his ally Joseph Pinzolo boss of the Reina gang, ignoring Gagliano.
Angry about being used, Gagliano and Lucchese formed a splinter group within the gang with Stefano Rondelli, Dominick Petrilli, and Joseph Valachi. Their group was aided by a general hatred of Pinzolo within the gang. On September 9, 1930, Pinzolo was lured to a Manhattan office leased by Lucchese. Pinzolo was then shot and killed by either Girolamo Santucci or Dominick Petrilli. Luckily for the conspirators, Masseria attributed the Pinzolo killing to Maranzano. Masseria then appointed Gagliano as the new gang boss.
At this time Charlie Luciano, one of Masseria's top lieutenants, along with his allies, the "Young Turks", secretly planned to end the Castellammarese war. Luciano began with secretly negotiating with Maranzano. Luciano persuaded Gagliano and Lucchese to secretly switch sides to Maranzano and they planned to destroy Masseria. On November 5, 1930, the Masseria-allied "Manfredi family" (later called the Gambino crime family) boss Alfred "Al Mineo" Manfredi and underboss Steve Ferrigno were murdered in the Bronx by Gagliano and Maranzano gunmen. At this point, Maranzano believed that Lucchese and Gagliano were now his men, but in actuality their loyalty was only to Luciano. Lucchese became one of Luciano's favored hitmen and was alleged to have participated in at least 30 murders.
On April 15, 1931, with the connivance of Luciano, a hit squad of Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Joseph Adonis and Bugsy Siegel shot and killed Masseria at a Coney Island restaurant. With Masseria's death, the Castellammarese War was over and Maranzano was the victor.
After Masseria's murder, Maranzano restructured the Sicilian and Italian gangs in the United States into a group of crime families modeled after the Mafia families of Sicily. Gagliano was awarded most of the old Reina family, with Lucchese as his underboss.
Soon after Masseria's death, Maranzano grew suspicious of Charlie Luciano's growing power and arranged his murder. However, Luciano discovered the plot and moved to kill Maranzano first. On September 10, 1931, Lucchese met Maranzano at his office under the pretense of discussing a business matter. However Lucchese's true purpose for being present was to identify Maranzano to Jewish hitmen impersonating police and Internal Revenue Service agents, who then murdered him.
After Maranzano's death, Luciano created a national Mafia Commission to rule the new Cosa Nostra families and adjudicate disputes. As family boss, Gagliano received a commission seat. However, despite its democratic trappings, Luciano held the real power in the Commission.
Tommy Lucchese was underboss for Tommaso Gagliano, who was one of the members of the Mafia commission. The New York City underworld was organized and peaceful because of Charles "Lucky" Luciano, but he was soon arrested in 1936 on compulsory prostitution charges and then deported in 1946. Gagliano would keep his family during a tough time, being outnumbered in the Commission by the Bonanno family, Magaddino family, Profaci family and the Mangano family alliance. The Gagliano family during WWII was involved in black market sugar, gasoline rations, stamps, and meat. In 1946, Lucchese attended the mob Havana Conference in Cuba as Gagliano's representative.
In 1951, Gagliano died of natural causes. Lucchese, Gagliano's underboss for 22 years, took control of what was now the Lucchese crime family. Lucchese appointed mobsters Stafano LaSalle as underboss and Vincenzo Rao as consigliere. That same year, Lucchese formed an alliance with Luciano crime family underboss Vito Genovese and Anastasia crime family underboss Carlo Gambino with the long-term goal of gaining control of the Commission.
Lucchese became one of the most well-respected Cosa Nostra bosses of the Post-War era. He maintained close relationships with New York City politicians, including Mayors William O'Dwyer and Vincent Impellitteri. Lucchese concentrated on the core Cosa Nostra values of making money, keeping a low public profile, and avoiding criminal prosecution. The Lucchese family came to dominate Manhattan's garment district and the related trucking industry by gaining control of key unions and trade associations.
On November 17, 1952, U.S. Attorney General James P. McGranery initiated denaturalization proceedings against Lucchese. In its filing, the government claimed that Lucchese did not reveal his entire arrest record when applying for citizenship in the 1930s.
In 1957, Lucchese and his allies decided to attack the bosses of the Luciano and Anastasia crime families to gain Commission control. On May 3, 1957, gunman Vincent Gigante slightly wounded Costello. Shaken by the assassination attempt, Costello soon retired, leaving Genovese as boss. On October 25, 1957, Albert Anastasia was assassinated in a hotel barbershop; Carlo Gambino became the new family boss.
In 1957, Genovese called a national mob meeting to legitimize his control of the Luciano family. The meeting was held at rural home of mobster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara in Apalachin, New York. On November 14, 1957, the New York State Police raided the meeting and arrested 61 fleeing gangsters. Lucchese had not yet arrived in Apalachin and therefore avoided arrest. However, his consigliere Vincenzo Rao, Gambino, Genovese and other mob leaders were detained. Genovese's humiliation motivated the new alliance of Luciano, Costello, Lansky, Gambino and Lucchese to set up Genovese's later elimination. Two years later, with the help of the alliance, Genovese was arrested on narcotics trafficking charges. Genovese was convicted and sent to prison, where he died in 1969. With the alliance backing him, Gambino now controlled the Commission.
On April 8, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1952 denaturalization ruling against Lucchese on a legal technicality. However, the next day, U.S. Attorney General William P. Rogers brought a new case against Lucchese.
In 1962, Carlo Gambino's oldest son, Thomas Gambino, married Lucchese's daughter Frances. Over 1,000 guests attended the wedding, at which Carlo Gambino presented Lucchese with a $30,000 gift. In return, Lucchese gave Gambino a part of his rackets at Idlewild Airport (now called John F. Kennedy Airport). Lucchese exercised control over airport management security and all the airport unions. As a team, Lucchese and Gambino now controlled the airport, the Commission, and most organized crime in New York City.
In 1962 Lucchese and Gambino began to back the Gallo crew from the Profaci Family in the war against their boss Joe Profaci. Both Gambino and Lucchese saw the war as a way to take over rackets that were under control of the Profaci family, because the Profacis were too involved in their war. On June 6, 1962 boss Joe Profaci died of cancer and his underboss Joseph Magliocco became the new boss and kept fighting the war against the Gallo crew. Magliocco had support of most of the Profaci family and support from other family boss Joe Bonanno of the Bonanno Family.
The war finally came to an end in 1963 when Gallo crew capo Joe Gallo was arrested. Joe Magliocco and Joe Bonanno decided they needed revenge on Lucchese, Gambino, Magaddino for the Gallo war and the Bonanno war. They decided they needed to have them killed so Magliocco ordered capo Joe Colombo to kill all three bosses (Tommy Lucchese, Carlo Gambino, and Stefano Magaddino). Joe Colombo went to the Mafia Commission instead and talked about the plot to murder them. Magliocco showed up to the Commission and was stripped of his boss title and forced into retirement. Joe Colombo became the new boss of the Profaci Family, now the Colombo Family. Joe Bonanno decided to go into hiding and his last ally, Joe Magliocco, died of high blood pressure. Even Bonanno's ally from Tampa, Florida, boss Santo Trafficante, turned against him.
The Commission then stripped Joe Bonanno of his boss title and put in capo Gaspar DiGregorio as the new boss. Upset by the Commission's decision, Joe Bonanno started a war; it was later called the Banana War (1964-1968). The war continued for years and in October 1964 Joe Bonanno was kidnapped by Buffalo crime family members Peter and Antonino Magaddino. Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino (who was also a cousin to Bonanno) asked him to retire and end the war, but Joe Bonanno refused and continued the war. Just as he began to see victory, Bonanno suffered a heart attack and was finally forced to retire. The Commission had won and put in another capo, Paul Sciacca, as the new boss of the Bonanno Family.
On July 13, 1967, Tommy Lucchese died of a brain tumor at his home in the Lido Beach area of Long Island. The funeral service was held at the Catholic Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Ridgewood, Queens. Lucchese was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. Over 1,000 mourners, including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, and hitmen, attended the ceremony. Undercover policemen photographed the attendees. At the time of his death, he had not spent a day in jail in 44 years.
Lucchese's first choice as a successor had been Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo, but Corallo was in prison when Lucchese died. Lucchese's second choice, Ettore Coco, was also in legal trouble and served a short time as boss. Another possible candidate was consigliere Vincenzo Rao, but he too was dealing with criminal charges. The Commission finally selected capo Carmine Tramunti as temporary acting boss until Corallo was released from prison.
A quiet funeral mass was celebrated here this morning for Thomas Luchese, the reputed underworld leader, as police detectives in sports clothes photographed the mourners and jotted down limousine license numbers.