Ernest "the Hawk" Rupolo (1908 – August 27, 1964) was a low-level New York mobster and hitman for the Luciano crime family, now the Genovese crime family. Rupolo would later turn informant and testify against then-capo and future boss Vito Genovese.
The Boccia murder
During the 1930s, Genovese frequently used Rupolo for murder contracts. In 1934, Genovese ordered Rupolo to kill gambler Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia. Boccia had collaborated with Genovese in setting up a rigged card game to cheat a prominent businessman. After the scam was completed, Boccia demanded a third of the profits. Genovese refused Boccia's demand and hired Willie Gallo and Rupolo to murder him. On September 19, 1934, Gallo and Rupolo shot Boccia to death in Brooklyn. The body would be recovered from the Hudson River in 1937.
Several years after the Boccia murder, Rupolo was arrested for the attempted murder of another mobster. Assured by his crime family that the victim would withdraw the charges, Rupolo turned himself in to the police. When the victim did not drop the charges, Rupolo felt betrayed by the family. Wanting to avoid 48 years in prison, Rupolo confessed to the Boccia murder and implicated Genovese in it. However, when the case came to trial, the court ruled that Rupolo's testimony was unreliable. In 1937, Genovese was forced to flee to Italy to avoid trial on this case. Rupolo was given nine years in prison for the Boccia murder. In 1944, Rupolo named mobster Peter LaTempa as a corroborating witness to Bocia's murder. Prosecutors now had a good witness to use against Genovese when they caught him.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Italy deported Genovese back to the U.S. and he was immediately jailed in New York. However, within a week of Genovese's arrival, key witness LaTempa was poisoned in his cell while in police protective custody. Without LaTempa's testimony, Rupolo's testimony was useless; the prosecution case for the Boccia murder collapsed, Genovese was acquitted, and then released. Soon after the Genovese trial, Rupolo petitioned the court for early release from prison. Despite warnings by authorities advising he remain in custody, Rupolo knew the Mafia's power extended behind the prison walls and wanted to leave.
After his release, Rupolo tried in vain to keep a low profile and fade out of sight. A newspaper article weighed his chances: "All concerned in the release, including the 'Hawk' himself, agreed that he is now marked for murder and cannot be expected to survive long. Rupolo will make a desperate effort to disappear completely."
Genovese did not take revenge on Rupolo right away, preferring to make Rupolo live his life in terror. For all intents and purposes, though, Rupolo's fate was sealed when Genovese became boss of the family in 1957. In 1959, Genovese was jailed on an unrelated charge. At that point, he finally ordered a hit on Rupolo. This decision might have been prompted by the recent testimony of government informant Joe Valachi on national TV. In early August 1964, Rupolo disappeared.
On August 27, Rupulo's mutilated body was found on a Breezy Point beach in the Jamaica Bay section of Queens by Nicky Caputo, Butch Spyliopolous, Kevin McCormack and the Hyland brothers. His killers had tied two concrete blocks to his legs and tied his hands behind him. The coroner determined the cause of death to be bullet wounds to the head, brain, neck and spine and stab wounds to the chest, lungs, heart and abdomen.
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0
- Google Book Search: Confidential Informant: Law Enforcement's Most Valuable Tool By John Madinger
- American Mafia.com Closing In On Vito’s Record