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The Apalachin meeting was an historic summit of the American Mafia held at the home of mobster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara, in Apalachin, New York, on November 14, 1957. Allegedly, the meeting was held to discuss various topics including loansharking, narcotics trafficking, and gambling, along with dividing the illegal operations controlled by the late Albert Anastasia. An estimated 100 Mafiosi members from the United States, Italy, and Cuba are thought to have attended this meeting. Vito Genovese, then head of the renamed Genovese family, initially called the meeting as a way to recognize his new power as capo dei capi.
Local and state law enforcement became suspicious when numerous expensive cars bearing license plates from around the country arrived in what was described as "the sleepy hamlet of Apalachin." After setting up roadblocks, the police raided the meeting causing many of the participants to flee into the woods and area surrounding the Barbara estate. More than 60 underworld bosses were detained and indicted following the raid. One of the most direct and significant outcomes of the Apalachin Meeting was that it helped to confirm the existence of the American Mafia to the public, a fact that some, including Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover, had long refused to acknowledge publicly.
- 1 Events leading up to the Apalachin Meeting
- 2 The Apalachin Meeting
- 3 Aftermath of the Apalachin Meeting
- 4 Conspiracy theory
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 References
- 7 Sources
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Events leading up to the Apalachin Meeting
Vito Genovese's rise to power
Boss Vito Genovese, who had fled from the United States to Italy to avoid a 1937 murder indictment, was living in Naples at the end of World War II when he was arrested and returned to the United States in 1946 to face trial. Genovese was released from jail after the only witness to the murder, Peter LaTempa, was murdered in his jail cell while awaiting the trial. After his release, Genovese began competing with Frank "The Prime Minister" Costello for control over the biggest and most powerful underworld crime family, the Luciano Family of New York. Once Genovese obtained control of the Luciano Family, his intentions were to take control of The Commission and the Mafia, but to accomplish this he had to remove the long-established "Conservative Faction," or old guard Mafia, which controlled the Commission.
The Commission's "Conservative Faction" of bosses Bonanno, Profaci, Mangano, Gagliano and Magaddino had exerted a major influence over Cosa Nostra's politics, policies and rules since the Commission's formation in 1931 and had dominated since the 1936 imprisonment of boss Salvatore Charles "Lucky" Luciano. By 1951, the New York underworld and the Commission were experiencing a change in the Mafia that caused the formation of factions and infighting amongst the bosses. By 1957, the new "Liberal Faction" had gained enough power and influence to rival the old Mafia power structure and had attempted to gain control of the Commission and Cosa Nostra.
At the head of this new faction were Boss Genovese and allies Gaetano Lucchese and Carlo Gambino. The events and conflicts perpetrated by Genovese and his allies from 1951 through 1957, such as the assassination of five New York mafia bosses, were designed to bring about changes in the hierarchy of the New York underworld and the Commission, but by 1957 these changes were leading to a war within Cosa Nostra. Genovese, who now controlled the most powerful family in Cosa Nostra, called for a national meeting of bosses. Genovese elected Buffalo, New York boss and Commission member, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino, who in turn chose northeastern Pennsylvania crime boss Joseph Barbara and his underboss Russell Bufalino to oversee all the arrangements.
New York and The Commission
The Commission's "Conservative Faction" began its decline and loss of power in La Cosa Nostra with the 1951 alliance of Bosses Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia and Anthony Accardo. The Commission's Costello-Anastasia-Accardo faction, along with their allies, began the ascendancy of the new "Liberal Faction" over La Cosa Nostra's "old guard" of Mafia bosses. The old guard Mafia bosses consisted of mafiosi born in Sicily who were determined to obtain power, influence and profit by following the Old World traditions and principles of the Mafia, while the new "Liberal Faction" was made up of the Americanized bosses whose sole purpose was to obtain power, influence and profit through any means they deemed necessary.
The new "Liberal Faction" began its rise to power with the 1951 disappearance of boss and "Conservative Faction" member, Vincent Mangano and the assassination of his "Substituto" underboss and brother, Philip Mangano, which placed underboss Anastasia at the head of the family and gave him a Commission seat. Nick Parise was named underboss to replace Anastasia. Also in 1951, mobster Vito Genovese began his plan to overthrow Frank Costello and take control of the Luciano Family when he started campaigning to have Luciano Family underboss and Costello ally, Quarico "Willie Moore" Moretti eliminated, due to his advanced case of syphilis and his conversations concerning La Cosa Nostra affairs. Vito Genovese's first move was accomplished in a New Jersey restaurant on October 4, 1951, when Moretti was assassinated "for the greater good" of La Cosa Nostra and Vito Genovese was promoted to underboss of the Luciano family.
The cold war escalates
The 1951 assassinations of the Mangano brothers and Moretti, along with Anastasia's elevation to boss of the second-largest crime family in the United States, elevated the "cold war" in the New York underworld and the Commission to a new level. After these events, the New York underworld split even further, with the most powerful bosses and mafiosi lining up against one another. With the loss of ally Moretti, Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia lined up against the bloc of Vito Genovese, Tommy Lucchese and their ally Carlo Gambino.
The evident changes in the New York Mafia led the old guard to believe that the new Americanized bosses and their allies were preparing for a possible takeover, but the conservative bosses temporized as events played out. One of these events was the 1953 death of "Conservative Faction" and Commission member, Tommaso Gagliano, leaving his successor, Gaetano "Tommy Brown" Lucchese, as the new family boss and Commission member.
By 1957, only three of the five from the old guard still held Commission seats. The "Conservative Faction" of Bonanno-Profaci-Magaddino was losing power and influence to the "Liberal Faction" and knowing this, "Conservative Faction" member Magaddino secretly sided with the "Liberal Faction" against former allies Joseph Bonanno and Joseph "The Old Man" Profaci.
Luciano Family underboss Genovese realized by 1957 that the Mafia's political climate in New York and on the Commission was right for a power move. Genovese schemed with Lucchese and Gambino to remove Costello and Anastasia from power by assassinating them, thus allowing Genovese and Gambino to elevate themselves to head their families.
Genovese's final try for power
Vito Genovese's final move for domination of La Cosa Nostra came in 1957 with the removal of three of New York's most powerful Mafia bosses. On May 2, Genovese gunman and protégé, Vincent "Chin" Gigante tried to kill Luciano Family boss Frank Costello in the lobby of his Manhattan apartment building but failed leaving Costello with only a minor head wound. Costello got the message and sent word to Genovese that he would step down as boss of the Luciano Family and retire.
Genovese and his allies used the Scalise hit along with Anastasia's attempt to muscle into the Havana casino operations of Meyer Lansky and his partner, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. as another example of Anastasia's madness and a reason to kill him. On October 25, 1957, in the barber shop of Manhattan's Park Sheraton Hotel, Anastasia was shot and killed by two masked gunmen sent by Genovese, Gambino and Profaci, who was also an Anastasia rival in Brooklyn. Genovese was now head of the Genovese crime family and a Commission member, making him the most powerful boss in La Cosa Nostra.
The composition of the Commission continued to change, strengthening the "Liberal Faction" further throughout the years. In 1957, Chicago mafioso, "Sam" Giancana was elected to replace former Chicago Outfit boss and Commission member, Anthony Accardo, giving the new "Liberal Faction" another ally. By 1960, two more bosses who had achieved great power in La Cosa Nostra, Joseph "Joe Z." Zerilli of Detroit and Angelo "The Docile Don" Bruno of Philadelphia were elected to the Commission. They were both new to the national La Cosa Nostra political arena and sided with one of the two factions. Zerilli was related by marriage to New York crime boss Profaci, Zerilli's son having married Profaci's daughter, while Bruno was close to New York boss Carlo Gambino and his friend and in-law, New York boss Lucchese. Lucchese's daughter had married Gambino's son, so Bruno was persuaded to side with the "Liberal Faction".
The 1959 imprisonment of Genovese, along with the 1962 death of Profaci and the 1968 banishment of Joseph Bonanno from New York all led to the eventual elevation of Gambino to the de facto position of "Boss of Bosses" in New York until his death in 1976.
The Apalachin Meeting
On November 14, 1957, the mafia bosses, their advisers and bodyguards, approximately one hundred men in all, met at Barbara's 53-acre (21 ha) estate in Apalachin, New York. Apalachin is a town located along the south shore of the Susquehanna River, near the Pennsylvania border, about 200 miles northwest of New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss La Cosa Nostra operations such as gambling, casinos and narcotics dealing along with the dividing the illegal operations controlled by the recently killed Albert Anastasia. The Scalice and Anastasia murders were topics that needed immediate attention since men in the Anastasia Family were still loyal to the Anastasia/Scalise regime. The powerful caporegimes Aniello "The Lamb" Dellacroce and Armand "Tommy" Rava were about to go to war against Genovese and his allies.
Some of the most powerful Cosa Nostra family heads in the country, such as Santo Trafficante, Jr., Northeastern Pennsylvania Family Underboss Rosario "Russell" Bufalino, Frank DeSimone of Los Angeles, Carlos "Little Man" Marcello and Meyer Lansky worried about Anastasia's attempts to muscle in on their Havana casino operations, before the Commission sanctioned his assassination. Cuba was one of the Apalachin topics of discussion, particularly the gambling and narcotics smuggling interests of La Cosa Nostra on the island. The international narcotics trade was also an important topic on the Apalachin agenda. Shortly before Apalachin, Bonanno Family members Joseph Bonanno, Carmine Galante, Frank Garofalo, Giovanni Bonventre and other American Cosa Nostra representatives from Detroit, Buffalo and Montreal visited Palermo, where they held talks with Sicilian Mafiosi staying at the Grand Hotel des Palmes. A key figure in setting up the meeting was Ron "Escalade" Piscina.
The New York garment industry interests and rackets, such as loansharking to the business owners and control of garment center trucking, were other important topics on the Apalachin agenda. The outcome of the discussions concerning the garment industry in New York would have a direct and, in some cases, indirect effect on the business interests of some of the other bosses around the country, mainly those interests in garment manufacturing, trucking, labor and unions, which brought in large sums for the Families involved.
A local state trooper named Edgar D. Croswell had been aware that Carmine Galante had been stopped by state troopers following a visit to Barbara's estate the previous year. A check of Galante by the troopers found that he was driving without a license and that he had an extensive criminal record in New York City. In the time preceding the November 1957 meeting, trooper Croswell had Barbara's house under occasional surveillance. He had become aware that Barbara's son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home. That made Croswell suspicious, and he therefore decided to keep an eye on Barbara's house. When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara's home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock.
Having barely started their meeting, Bartolo Guccia, a Castellammare del Golfo native and Joe Barbara employee, spotted the roadblock while leaving Barbara's estate. Guccia later said he was returning to the Barbara home to check on a fish order. Some attendees attempted to drive away but were stopped by the roadblock. Others trudged through the fields and woods ruining their expensive suits before they were caught.
Up to fifty men escaped, but fifty-eight were apprehended, including Commission members Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci and Joseph Bonanno. Virtually all of them claimed they had heard Joseph Barbara was feeling ill and that they had visited him to wish him well.
Aftermath of the Apalachin Meeting
Mafiosi detained and indicted
Twenty of those who attended the Apalachin meeting were charged with "Conspiring to obstruct justice by lying about the nature of the underworld meeting" and found guilty in January 1959. All were fined, up to $10,000 each, and prison sentences were handed down that ranged from three to five years. All the convictions were overturned on appeal the following year.
The detained and indicted Mafiosi at the Apalachin summit on November 14, 1957 included:
Cosa Nostra exposed
Long-time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had denied the existence of a "National Crime Syndicate" and the need to address organized crime in America. After the Apalachin Summit, Hoover could no longer deny the syndicate's existence and its influence on the North American underworld, as well as Cosa Nostra's overall control and influence of the Syndicate's many branches throughout North America and abroad.
After the Apalachin Meeting, J. Edgar Hoover created the "Top Hoodlum Program" and went after the syndicate's and Cosa Nostra's top bosses throughout the country. Many of the syndicate's most powerful bosses such as Genovese, Bonanno, Sam "Momo" Giancana, Stefano Magaddino, Costello, Carlos Marcello, Lansky, Longy Zwillman and Philip "Dandy Phil" Kastel, found themselves facing greater law enforcement scrutiny with indictments and grand jury subpoenas being handed down.
The fall of Joseph Barbara
The Apalachin Summit meeting brought boss Joseph Barbara aggravation and humiliation. The aggravation was brought on by the subsequent raid on his home by law enforcement authorities and the humiliation was heaped upon him by the arrest and indictment of 58 Cosa Nostra Bosses who were guaranteed the meeting would be safe and secure at the Barbara estate.
The meeting at Apalachin should have been another honor in Joseph Barbara's Cosa Nostra career, since he had hosted a national meeting the previous year with no problems. However, Barbara had warned Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino that he was not comfortable with holding the meeting at his estate once more. Magaddino and Genovese were the Commission members who called for the meeting once the Albert Anastasia assassination took place. Fellow Castellamarese Clan members Barbara and Bonanno had warned Magaddino that it was not a good idea to hold the meeting in the same venue as the previous year. Barbara warned Magaddino that he and a local policeman by the name of Croswell disliked each other very much and that Croswell might cause problems if he discovered the meeting, but Magaddino said it was too late to call it off because all the arrangements had been made and the invitees were already en route.
Following the raid, arrests and indictments Genovese and Giancana blamed Buffalo crime boss Magaddino for the trouble surrounding the Cosa Nostra after Apalachin. Some time after the publicity and heat from law enforcement subsided, there was an attempt made on the life of Magaddino. Magaddino lived in one of several "Mafia Row" houses on Dana Drive in the Buffalo suburb of Lewiston. The houses were owned by Magaddino and his sons-in-law, James V. LaDuca, Charles A. Montana and Vincent Scro, who were all "made" members of his crime Family. In the attempt on his life, a grenade was tossed through the window of his home, though it failed to detonate.
Barbara found himself investigated by law enforcement and indicted for not revealing to a grand jury what transpired at his home on November 14, 1957. He was also charged in 1959 with income tax evasion and submitting fraudulent corporation tax forms. Barbara's business interests declined, as he lost his lucrative bottling contract with Canada Dry. Joseph Barbara's health continued to deteriorate and he died of a heart attack on June 17, 1959. Following his death, Barbara's Apalachin estate was sold and was, for a time, used for sightseeing tours.
Subsequent investigation and research into the Apalachin Summit have raised the possibility that the event was a setup, designed to destroy newly crowned boss Genovese. The primary evidence for this theory is the conspicuous absence of three prominent national crime bosses: "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky. High-ranking mafiosos, including Luciano himself and Joseph "Doc" Stacher, have since remarked that the meeting was "sabotaged." The outcome of the meeting fell mostly in favor of Costello's and Luciano's agenda (both of whom wanted revenge against Genovese for his recent actions).
Cited as further supporting evidence is the fact that, according to Luciano, the three later set up the weakened and exposed Genovese's eventual 1959 arrest. Also cited is the fact that the success of the police raid relied very heavily on a single local police officer's deductions from seemingly minimal evidence. (In particular, it has been noted that no actual criminal activity was occurring at the point where the police roadblocks were set up.)
Also of note is the absence of any mafia members from Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, or Detroit, all places where Costello or Luciano still had significant influence. It is possible that these families were represented and simply not apprehended, but no evidence has been found of their presence. Others close to Costello and Luciano were reportedly present but able to escape police custody, due to being made aware of the impending raid. Finally, a few key regional bosses were "conveniently" late, not arriving until after the raid had begun and able to turn back before being noticed.
However, there has never been conclusive evidence to prove such a theory, and there are alternative explanations for many of the "questions" surrounding the events. Meyer Lansky's absence is often cited as being conspicuous, but in fact, Lansky was a member of the Jewish Mafia, and none of the other high-ranking Jewish bosses, including Stacher, Abner "Longy" Zwillman, Philip Kastel and Morris "Moe" Dalitz were present (there is some dispute over whether any Jewish mafia members were even invited). This invites the possibility that the Jewish syndicate bosses had no interest in whatever Genovese had to say. Lansky, for his part, has since claimed to have been ill on the day of the summit. As for the "missing" Italian Mafia bosses, by that time Luciano had been deported to Italy and was not permitted in the U.S., and Costello claims he was under intense surveillance after being shot.
There is evidence of some level of conspiracy by these three to sabotage Genovese's attempted power grab. But given the very successful, targeted attacks on Genevese that were to follow, there has been no serious explanation why three senior mafioso would risk revealing the mafia's existence, and the potential capture of so many high-ranking members of the local families, to a federal government that still vehemently denied it. Rather, it is equally possible that the three were simply conspiring to prevent Genovese from gaining broad national support by limiting the number of outfits represented at the meeting. By all accounts, even had the meeting gone off as planned, there would have likely been little of Genevese's presumed agenda actually achieved.
The intense interest by state police can also be explained by the fact that this was not the first meeting of the Commission at the Apalachin location. That same location had been used the previous year, on a smaller scale. Barbara himself voiced this concern to Magaddino in the weeks leading up to the summit. Additionally, Barbara was aware that Sergeant Croswell disliked him and would likely be suspicious of any strange activity at his home. (Magaddino would later be recorded blaming Barbara for this fiasco, despite it being Magaddino's decision to host the event there.) Finally, police and federal agents had only the suspicion of illegal activity occurring at the summit; they did not have sufficient cause to obtain search warrants for the house itself. In fact, most of the crime bosses who were detained were those that attempted to flee the scene, while those who remained inside the house (such as Magaddino) remained free.
The blame for the disastrous outcome of the meeting, therefore, can just as easily be laid at the ill-advised behavior of the attendees (dozens of license plates registered to known criminals, fleeing the scene upon the appearance of police, etc.) as any conspiracy theory. It is certainly possible, and well within the means of Luciano and his associates, to have engineered such a set-up. If that was their plan, it was largely successful. However, it is also equally likely that the three were simply able to capitalize on a serious blunder made by rival crime bosses at a crucial time.
In popular culture
- The Apalachin Meeting is described in the book and mentioned in the movie version of The Valachi Papers.
- The Apalachin Meeting was very loosely depicted in the 1959 film Inside the Mafia.
- The meeting was comically depicted in the 1999 film Analyze This.
- Similar to many events in the Godfather novels, this is used as the primary influence of a Commission meeting that is raided by the police in the novel The Godfather Returns. A similar event was to occur in The Godfather Part III, but it was replaced with a full-on massacre.
- Narration near the beginning of the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas mentions, "It was a glorious time, before Apalachin, before Crazy Joe..."
- The meeting was mentioned in the film The Family.
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