||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2010)|
February 6, 1910
|Died||March 3, 1993
Metairie, Louisiana, U.S.
Carlos "The Little Man" Marcello (February 6, 1910 – March 3, 1993) was an Italian-American mafioso who became the boss of the New Orleans crime family during the 1940s and held this position for the next 30 years.
Born as Calogero Minacori (or Minacore) to Sicilian parents in Tunis, Tunisia, Marcello was brought to the United States in 1911 and his family settled in a decaying plantation house near Metairie, Louisiana. Carlos turned to petty crime in the French Quarter. He was later imprisoned for masterminding a crew of teenage gangsters who carried out armed robberies in the small towns surrounding New Orleans. At the time, local newspapers compared him to the character of Fagin from Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. This conviction was later overturned. However, the following year he was convicted of assault and robbery and was sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for nine years. He was released after five years.
In 1938, Marcello was arrested and charged with the sale of more than 23 pounds of marijuana. Despite receiving another lengthy prison sentence and a $76,830 fine, Marcello served less than 10 months in prison. On his release from prison, Marcello became associated with Frank Costello, the leader of the Genovese crime family, in New York City. At the time, Costello was involved in transporting illegal slot machines from New York to New Orleans. Marcello provided the muscle and arranged for the machines to be placed in local businesses.
Louisiana crime boss
By the end of 1947, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's illegal gambling network. He had also joined forces with New York Mob associate Meyer Lansky in order to skim money from some of the most important casinos in the New Orleans area. According to former members of the Chicago Outfit, Marcello was also assigned a cut of the money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, in exchange for providing "muscle" in Florida real estate deals. By this time, Marcello had been selected as the "Godfather" of the New Orleans Mafia, by the family's capos and the Commission. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.
Marcello continued the family's long-standing tradition of fierce independence from interference by mafiosi in other areas. He enacted a policy that forbade mafiosi from other families from visiting Louisiana without permission.
On March 24, 1959, Marcello appeared before a United States Senate committee investigating organized crime. Serving as Chief Counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee. In response to committee questioning, Marcello invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities and associates.
Deported to Guatemala
After becoming President, John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide variety of issues including the attempt to tackle organized crime. In March 1961 Attorney General Robert Kennedy, acting on requests which had first been made to the Eisenhower administration by former Louisiana state police superintendent Francis Grevemberg, ordered the CIA to abduct Marcello, who then forced him to jump from a C-130 at night somewhere over Central America. Their plan backfired when Marcello miraculously reappeared in New Orleans just two weeks later. On April 4 of that year, Marcello was arrested by the authorities and forcibly transported to Guatemala. Once again, he reappeared in Baton Rouge just two weeks later.
Plotting against the president
Undercover informants reported that Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy, at one time uttering the traditional Sicilian death threat curse, "Take the stone from my shoe". Some of those who knew him, however, suggested that Marcello did not know enough Italian to utter such a threat. In September 1962, Marcello told private investigator Edwin Nicholas Becker that, "A dog will continue to bite you if you cut off its tail...," (meaning Attorney General Robert Kennedy.), "...whereas if you cut off the dog's head...," (meaning President Kennedy), "... it would cease to cause trouble". Becker reported that Marcello, "clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy killed in some way". Marcello told another informant that he would need to take out "insurance" for the assassination by, ".... setting up some nut to take the fall for the job, just like they do in Sicily".
Just before Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby made contact with Marcello, and Tampa, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., about a labor problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).
After Kennedy's assassination, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello. They came to the conclusion that Marcello was not involved in the assassination. On the other hand, they also said that they, "... did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized crime figure," and that Marcello earned his living, "... as a tomato salesman and real estate investor." As a result of this investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link between Ruby and Marcello.
In 1966, Marcello was arrested in New York City after having met with the National Commission. The meeting was reportedly called because Marcello's leadership was being challenged by Trafficante Jr. and Anthony Carolla, the son of Marcello's predecessor as boss of the New Orleans Combine, Sylvestro Carolla. The Commission had reportedly ruled in Marcello's favor just before the police burst in.
Marcello was then charged with consorting with known felons. After a long, drawn-out legal battle, Marcello was convicted of assaulting an FBI agent whom he had punched in the face on his return to Louisiana. Sentenced to two years in prison, he served less than six months, and was released on March 12, 1971.
G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, published, The Plot to Kill the President in 1981. In the book, Blakey argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Blakey believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved, but also believes that there was at least one gunman firing from the grassy knoll. Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., along with Chicago Outfit boss Salvatore "Sam Mooney" Giancana were complicit in planning the assassination.
In its investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the House Select Committee on Assassinations said that it recognized Jack Ruby's murder of Lee Harvey Oswald as a primary reason to suspect organized crime as possibly having involvement in the assassination. In its investigation, the HSCA noted the presence of "credible associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization." Their report stated: "The committee found that Marcello had the motive, means and opportunity to have President John F. Kennedy assassinated, though it was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello's complicity."
On January 14, 1992, a New York Post story claimed Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa had all been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963, Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the President." He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.
In his autobiography, Mob Lawyer (1994), (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab), Ragano added that in July 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santo Trafficante concerning plans to kill President Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed, Hoffa apparently told Ragano, "I told you that they could do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me." He added: "This means Bobby is out as Attorney General." Marcello later told Ragano, "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."
In 1981, Marcello, Aubrey W. Young (a former aide to Governor John J. McKeithen), Charles E. Roemer, II (former commissioner of administration to Governor Edwin Washington Edwards), and two other men were indicted in U.S. District Court in New Orleans with conspiracy, racketeering, and mail and wire fraud in a scheme to bribe state officials to give the five men multi-million dollar insurance contracts. The charges were the result of an Federal Bureau of Investigation probe known as BriLab. U.S. District Judge Morey Sear allowed the admission of secretly-recorded conversations that he said demonstrated corruption at the highest levels of state government. Marcello and Roemer were convicted, but Young and the two others were acquitted.
Marcello stayed out of prison in BriLab while his conviction was being appealed. He reported to prison in 1983, when his appeal was denied. On one conversation intercepted by the FBI, Marcello complained to his Dallas Underboss about those who accused him of murdering the Kennedy brothers. He was heard to say this about them, "Sure I have arguments with people, but then I make up with them."
Early in 1989, Marcello suffered a series of strokes. In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his BriLab conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled. In October, after having served six years and six months of his sentence, Marcello was released, and the old don was finally returned into his family’s care. "I’m retired," he told reporters. "I’m happy. Everybody’s been nice to me." He returned to his white marble, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course in Metairie.
Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses and watched over by his wife and family. Carlos Marcello died on March 3, 1993.
The New Orleans crime family frequently met at a well-known exclusive Italian restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale, Louisiana, known as Mosca's. It has been said that Mosca's was the epicenter for Carlos Marcello and his many associates. It is still in operation today, after renovations following Hurricane Katrina by the Mosca family.
The Marcello family and descendants still own or control a significant amount of real estate in southeast Louisiana.
- "Thomas J. Jones, "Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy in the Big Easy"". trutv.com. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- "I.C. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy". Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1979. pp. 149, 171.
- The New York Times, March 31, 1981, p. 16
- The New York Times, April 22, 1981, p. 17
- The New York Times, May 18, 1981, Section IV, p. 13
- The New York Times, July 8, 1981, p. 18
- Court TV Crime Library: Out of Africa by Thomas L. Jones
- Carlos Marcello's entry of Spartacus Educational
- "Carlos Marcello". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 11, 2013.