Joseph Barbara (mobster)

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For the actor, Joseph (or Joe) Barbara, see Joseph Barbara (actor).
Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara

Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara (August 9, 1905 – June 17, 1959) was a New York state mobster who became the boss of the Bufalino crime family. Barbara is most notable for hosting the abortive Apalachin Conference in 1957. He was the father of mobster Joseph Barbara, Jr.

Early life[edit]

Born Giuseppe Maria Barbara (bar-BEAR-uh) in 1905 in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Barbara immigrated to the United States in 1921 at age 16. He was soon working as a hitman for the Buffalo crime family in their Northern Pennsylvania territory. During the 1930s, Barbara was arrested for several murders, including the 1933 murder of rival bootlegger Sam Wichner. Wichner had gone to Barbara's house for a business meeting, where Barbara allegedly strangled Wichner to death. However, as with the other murders, law enforcement never obtained enough evidence to prosecute Barbara.[1] It is also speculated that in 1940 Barbara murdered Pittston, Pennsylvania mob boss John Sciandra in order to take over his criminal organization.[2]

Barbara married Josephine Vivona on May 24, 1936 in Endicott, New York, and fathered three sons, Joseph Maria Jr., Peter, and Angelo; and a daughter, Angela S.

Country estate[edit]

In 1944, the newly wealthy Barbara bought a 58-acre (23 ha) tract of land in the rural town of Apalachin, New York and built an estate on it for a total of $250,000. Barbara soon involved himself in local business circles and philanthropy. When Barbara applied for a New York handgun permit, the police chief of Endicott, New York served as a reference.[3] In 1946, Barbara was convicted of illegally purchasing 300,000 pounds of sugar (intended for the manufacture of bootleg alcohol). This would be Barbara's first and last criminal conviction. Soon after this, Barbara entered the soft drink distribution business, buying a Canada Dry bottling plant. Barbara eventually gained control of the beer and soft drink market in the Binghamton, New York region.[4]

In October 1956 a state trooper stopped a speeding car in Windsor, New York and arrested the driver, Carmine Galante, underboss of the Bonanno crime family. The troopers soon discovered that Galante had been a recent guest of Barbara's. Soon after Galante's arrest, a contingent of police officers from West New York, New Jersey arrived in town and attempted to bribe the troopers to release Galante. The troopers refused the bribe, the visiting police were indicted, and Galante spent 30 days in jail. After the Galante incident, local troopers realized that Barbara had ties to New York crime figures and should be watched closely.[5]

The Apalachin Conference[edit]

Main article: Apalachin Meeting

In 1957, after taking control of the Luciano crime family from boss Frank Costello, boss Vito Genovese wanted to legitimize his new power by holding a national Cosa Nostra meeting. His first choice for the meeting site was Chicago, but Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino instead suggested Barbara's estate, which had been used in the past for smaller meetings. Genovese agreed.

On November 14, 1957, powerful mafiosi from all over the United States, Canada, and Italy convened at the Barbara estate. The meeting agenda included the resolution of open questions on illegal gambling and narcotics dealing, particularly in the New York City area. By coincidence, a New York state trooper overheard Joseph Barbara Jr. trying to find rooms at a local motel for attendees of a beverage meeting. With their suspicions raised, troopers and federal agents quickly established a cordon around the Barbara estate. When the mobsters discovered the police presence, they started fleeing the gathering by car and by foot. Many Mafiosi escaped through the woods surrounding the Barbara estate.[6]

Police apprehended numerous mobsters, including Genovese, Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino, and Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Bonanno. Many arrested mobsters told authorities that they were at Barbara's home to visit him after his recent heart attack.[7] The common reason given by mobsters for being at the estate was that they were visiting their sick friend Barbara, who had suffered a debilitating heart attack in 1956.

Aftermath of Apalachin[edit]

After the police raid, Barbara gained substantial national attention. He put the Apalachin estate and his beverage business up for sale and moved to Endicott, New York.[3][8] The State of New York established a State Investigation Commission to investigate the Apalachin Meeting and it sent Barbara a summons. In response, Barbara claimed to be too sick to testify. The Commission sent a heart specialist to examine Barbara and in May 1959 a state supreme court ordered Barbara to testify. However, in June 1959, before he could appear before the Commission, Joseph Barbara died of another heart attack.[1]

The Apalachin Conference put the media spotlight directly on the secretive Cosa Nostra, triggering both state and federal hearings. As a result, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director J. Edgar Hoover could no longer deny the existence the Cosa Nostra in the United States and was forced to start investigating it.[6]

Barbara is buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Johnson City, New York.[9]

References[edit]