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Mugshot of Antonio Caponigro from 1970s
|Born||Antonio Rocco Caponigro
January 22, 1912
|Died||April 18, 1980
New York City
|Cause of death||Gunshot|
|Other names||Tony Bananas|
Antonio Rocco Caponigro (January 22, 1912 – April 18, 1980), also known as Tony Bananas, was the consigliere of Angelo Bruno in the Philadelphia crime family. He is known for ending the peaceful Bruno regime by ordering his murder over a dispute concerning the methamphetamine trade.
Caponigro was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 22, 1912. He operated in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. As a made member of the Philadelphia crime family in the 1950s and 1960s, he became a recognized crime figure after being identified by mob turncoat Joseph Valachi in 1963. During that time he served under capo Riccardo Biondi. He was the son of a wealthy banana merchant who owned and managed a stand at the Italian Market, otherwise known as the South 9th Street Curb Market.
He lived in Short Hills, New Jersey. He had a wife, Kathleen, who died in 1991. He also had a half sister, Susan, who had a daughter out of wedlock by the name of Teresa. Susan Caponigro married Alfred Salerno. In 1955, Susan, at age 38 (approximately), was found dead. It was believed that she was murdered but the murder was covered up and classified as death by myocardial infarction. Connected wiseguys in the neighborhood believed that Freddy Salerno, with the okay of Susan's brother, Caponigro, murdered his wife, Susan.
Rise to power
He rose in rank to become the consigliere during the 1970s. Caponigro foresaw the end of the peaceful Angelo Bruno regime and decided to put the task upon himself to hasten it. Indictments for racketeering were being brought against the ailing Angelo, and there was no leadership in the methamphetamine industry. Caponigro knew that he could count on the support of several key members of Bruno's administration after the don died.
Accordingly, Caponigro traveled to New York City to consult his friend Frank Tieri, from the Genovese crime family. Caponigro controlled a lucrative numbers operation in Newark, a holdover from the 1960s when the New York families had ceded parts of North Jersey to the Philadelphia crime family. Tieri also had activities in the area, and he had challenged Caponigro's incursion. Caponigro appealed the territorial dispute to The Commission, which, acting on Bruno's recommendation, ruled in favor of Caponigro. Caponigro approached Tieri with a plan to murder Bruno and take over the Philadelphia crime family. Tieri assured Caponigro that he would support him before the Commission. He returned to Philadelphia believing that his planned coup was now officially sanctioned. He recruited the support of his brother-in-law Alfred Salerno (no relation to mob turncoat Joseph Salerno or mob front boss Anthony Salerno) and Bruno regime capos John Simone and Frank Sindone, and ordered the assassination.
Bruno was shot once, behind the right ear, and his driver, John Stanfa, was wounded while parked outside his Philadelphia home on March 21, 1980. When the Commission learned of Bruno's murder, Caponigro was summoned at once. He was told that the murder had not been sanctioned by the Commission, nor even considered by them. He turned helplessly to Frank Tieri, who sat in on the meeting. When he identified Tieri as the man who had authorized the murder, Tieri categorically denied it. The Commission ruled that Caponigro had murdered a Commission member without authorization, and they killed him.
Caponigro was murdered by Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan, a well-known mob enforcer in the Bronx, New York City. Sullivan admitted that he shot and killed Caponigro in an on-camera interview in 2010. On April 18, 1980, Tony's body was located in the trunk of a car in the South Bronx with 14 bullet wounds and knife wounds. His mouth and anus were stuffed with money as a sign that he had been killed because he was too greedy. Tieri was later given Caponigro's lucrative numbers operations in Newark.
The death of Angelo Bruno, his consigliere, and two capos threw the Philadelphia crime family wide open. With New York's blessing, Angelo Bruno's surviving underboss, Phil Testa, was appointed the new boss. After Caponigro murdered Bruno, Scarfo could return from his appointed exile in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Testa appointed narcotics trafficker Peter Casella as underboss and Nicky Scarfo as consigliere.
- The Plumber: The True Story of How One Good Man Destroyed the Entire Philadelphia Mafia by Joseph Salerno and Stephen J. Rivele
- Gangland International: The Mafia and other Mobs by James Morton
- East End Gangland and Gangland International Omnibus by James Morton