Ernest "the Hawk" Rupolo (1908 – August 24, 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. According to Burton B. Turkus, “the Hawk” was a hitman in one of the Murder Inc., crews. Strangely, after Rupolo secured an early release for cooperating, he operated on the streets of New York with what seemed to be immunity from retaliation. Turkus suggests Rupolo received a pass from the bosses for his cooperation. The exact reasons remain elusive. Three decades later he was brutally murdered.
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, and Genovese was acquitted, 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.
On August 24, 1964, Ernest Rupolo's body was recovered from Jamaica Bay, Queens. His killers had attached two concrete blocks to his legs and tied his hands. It was widely assumed that Genovese had ordered Rupolo's murder for testifying against him in the 1934 Boccia murder trial.
- "Body of Informer, Tied to Concrete, Pulled from Bay" (PDF). New York Times. August 25, 1964. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- 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