February 6, 1910
|Died||March 2, 1993
Metairie, Jefferson Parish
|Occupation||Boss of New Orleans crime family|
Carlos Marcello, also known as The Godfather and "The Little Man" Marcello (February 6, 1910 – March 2, 1993), was an Sicilian-American mafioso who became the boss of the New Orleans crime family during the 1940s and held this position for the next thirty years.
Born as Calogero Minacori (or Minacore) to Sicilian parents in Tunis, French Tunisia, Marcello was brought to the United States in 1911 and his family settled in a decaying plantation house near Metairie in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans. Young Marcello 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 in West Feliciana Parish 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 ten months. 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 City 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 National Crime Syndicate. He held this position for the next thirty years. In a 1975 extortion trial, two witness described Marcello as "The Godfather" of the New Orleans crime syndicate.
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 and refused to answer any questions relating to his background, activities, and associates.
Deportation to Guatemala
On April 4, 1961, Marcello was arrested while making what he thought was a routine visit to the immigration authorities in New Orleans, and forcibly transported to Guatemala, but within weeks he was back in New Orleans. Thereafter he successfully fought further efforts by the government to deport him. His immigration lawyer was David Carliner.
Convicted of conspiracy to violate Federal racketeering laws
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 Edwards), and two other men were indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans with conspiracy, racketeering, and mail and wire fraud in a scheme to bribe state officials to give the five men multimillion-dollar insurance contracts. The charges were the result of a 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.
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."
In 1989, the New American Library published Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy in which John H. Davis implicated the mafia and Marcello in the assassination of Kennedy. According to Davis, Oswald and Ruby had "strong ties" to Marcello, and that an Oswald impostor visited the Russian embassies in Cuba and Mexico.
Frank Ragano said in his 1994 autobiography that he relayed a message from Hoffa to Marcello and Santo Trafficante, the Mafia boss of Florida, asking the two Mafia bosses if they would kill Kennedy.
In his 2013 book The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination, Lamar Waldron states that Marcello masterminded the assassination of Kennedy. Waldron said Marcello admitted his involvement to two other inmates during a fit of rage in the prison yard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas. According to Waldron, Marcello arranged for two hit men to carry out the assassination after entering the United States from Canada and Europe.
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 2, 1993.
The New Orleans crime family frequently met at a well-known exclusive Italian restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale, 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.
- "Marcello is tagged as 'Godfather'," Minden Press-Herald, Minden, Louisiana, January 17, 1975, p. 1
- "Thomas J. Jones, "Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy in the Big Easy"". trutv.com. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- "Racketeer's deportation ruled valid", Associated Press in Meriden Record, May 20, 1961.
- Drew Pearson, "JFK, Macmillan got along famously, finally", St. Petersburg Times, April 10, 1961.
- "Marcello: Underworld's man without a country", Associated Press in Owosso Argus-Press, August 2, 1965.
- "Carlos Marcello, 83, Reputed Crime Boss In New Orleans Area", The New York Times, March 3, 1993.
- 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
- "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.
- Sachs, Sylvia (January 10, 1990). "'Mafia Kingfish' delves into Kennedy assassination". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. D8. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- Noble, Holcomb B. (May 18, 1998). "Frank Ragano, 75, Lawyer for Mob and Hoffa". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
- Kreiter, Marcella S. (November 17, 2013). "The Issue: The Kennedy assassination -- did the mob do it?". United Press International. UPI. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- McClam, Erin (November 21, 2013). "'So consequential an act': 50 years later, JFK conspiracy theories endure". NBC News. Retrieved December 9, 2015.