Joe Adonis

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Joe Adonis
Joe Adonis (mug shot - full body).jpg
Giuseppe Antonio Doto

(1902-11-22)November 22, 1902
DiedNovember 26, 1971(1971-11-26) (aged 69)
Ancona, Marche, Italy
Resting placeMadonna Cemetery, Fort Lee, New Jersey, U.S.
Other namesJoey A, Joe Adone, Joe Arosa, James Arosa, and Joe DiMeo
Spouse(s)Jean Montimorano
AllegianceGenovese crime family
Conviction(s)Illegal gambling
Criminal penalty2 years

Joseph A. Doto[1][2] (born Giuseppe Antonio Doto; November 22, 1902 – November 26, 1971), known as Joe Adonis, also known as "Joey A", "Joe Adone", "Joe Arosa", "James Arosa", and "Joe DiMeo", was an Italian-born New York mobster who was an important participant in the formation of the modern Cosa Nostra crime families.

Early life[edit]

Adonis was born Giuseppe Antonio Doto in the small town of Montemarano, Italy, near Naples, to Michele and Maria De Vito.[3][4]

In 1909, Adonis and his family immigrated to the United States, in New York City.[4] As a young man, Adonis supported himself by stealing and picking pockets. While working on the streets, Adonis became friends with future mob boss Charles "Lucky" Luciano and mobster Settimo Accardi, who were involved in illegal gambling. Adonis developed a loyalty to Luciano that lasted for decades.

At the beginning of Prohibition, Luciano, Adonis, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel started a bootlegging operation in Brooklyn. This operation soon began supplying large amounts of alcohol to the show business community along Broadway in Manhattan. Doto soon assumed the role of a gentleman bootlegger, socializing with the theater elite.

In the early 1920s, Doto started calling himself "Joe Adonis" (Adonis was the Greek god of beauty and desire). It is uncertain as to what inspired his nickname. One story states that Adonis received this nickname from a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl who was dating him.[5] Another story says that Adonis adopted the name after reading a magazine article on Greek mythology.

Extremely vain, Adonis spent a great deal of time in personal grooming. On one occasion, Lucky Luciano saw Adonis combing his thick, dark hair in front of a mirror and asked him, "Who do you think you are, (movie star) Rudolph Valentino?" Adonis replied, "For looks, that guy's a bum!".[6] Adonis was a cousin of Luciano crime family capo Alan Bono, who supervised Adonis's operations in Greenwich Village, Manhattan.

Castellammarese War[edit]

In the 1920s, Adonis became an enforcer for Frankie Yale, the boss of some rackets in Brooklyn. While working for Yale, Adonis briefly met future Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone, who was also working for Yale. Meanwhile, Luciano became an enforcer for Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, who ran an organization loosely based on clans from Naples and Southern Italy. After the 1928 assassination of Yale, Masseria took over Yale's criminal organization.

Masseria soon became embroiled in the vicious Castellammarese War with his archrival, Salvatore Maranzano. Maranzano represented the Sicilian clans, most of which came from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. As the war progressed, both bosses started recruiting more soldiers. By 1930, Adonis had joined the Masseria faction. As the war turned against Masseria, Luciano secretly contacted Maranzano about switching sides. When Masseria heard about Luciano's betrayal, he approached Adonis about killing Luciano. However, Adonis instead warned Luciano about the murder plot.[7]

On April 15, 1931, Adonis allegedly participated in Masseria's murder. Luciano had lured Masseria to a meeting at a Coney Island, Brooklyn, restaurant. During the meal, Luciano excused himself to go to the restroom. As soon as Luciano was gone, Adonis, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, and Bugsy Siegel rushed into the dining room and shot Masseria to death.[8] No one was ever indicted in the Masseria murder.

With the death of Masseria, the war ended, and Maranzano was the victor. To avoid any future wars, Maranzano reorganized all the Italian-American gangs into families and anointed himself as the "boss of all bosses." Luciano and his loyalists quickly became dissatisfied with Maranzano's power grab. When Luciano discovered that the suspicious Maranzano had ordered his murder, Luciano struck first. On September 10, 1931, several gunmen attacked and killed Maranzano in his Manhattan office.[9]

National Crime Syndicate[edit]

With Maranzano's death, Luciano became the pre-eminent organized crime boss in New York City. However, unlike Maranzano, Luciano did not want to become the "boss of all bosses." Instead, he established a National Crime Syndicate that united all the Italian-American gangs across the country and allowed for shared decision-making. For his part in murdering Masseria, Adonis received a seat on the Syndicate "board of directors." He then changed his name to Joe Adonis.

Criminal empire[edit]

Adonis and Luciano soon controlled bootlegging in Broadway and Midtown Manhattan. At its height, the operation grossed $12 million in one year and employed 100 workers.[10] Adonis also bought car dealerships in New Jersey. When customers bought cars from his dealerships, the salesmen would intimidate them into buying "protection insurance" for the vehicle. Adonis soon moved into cigarette distribution, buying up vending machines by the hundreds and stocking them with stolen cigarettes. Adonis ran his criminal empire from Joe's Italian Kitchen, a restaurant that he owned in Brooklyn. By 1932, Adonis was also a major criminal power in Brooklyn. Despite his wealth, Adonis still participated in jewelry robberies, a throwback to his early criminal career on the streets.

In 1932, Adonis allegedly participated in the kidnapping and brutal beating in Brooklyn of Isidore Juffe and Issac Wapinsky. In 1931, Adonis had lent the two men money for investment and kidnapped them in 1932 after deciding that he should be receiving a higher profit. Two days after the kidnappings, Adonis released Juffe and Wapinsky after receiving a $5,000 ransom payment. A month later, Wapinsky died of internal injuries from being assaulted.[11][12]

Adonis placed many politicians and high-ranking police officers on his payroll. Adonis used his political influence to assist members of the Luciano crime family, such as Luciano and Genovese, and mob associates such as Meyer Lansky and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the head of Murder, Inc.

As a syndicate board member, Adonis, along with Buchalter, may have been responsible for assigning some murder contracts to Murder Inc.

Government scrutiny[edit]

In 1936, prosecutors convicted Luciano on pandering charges and sent him to state prison for 30 years. Underboss Vito Genovese remained in charge of the family until he fled to Italy in 1937 to avoid a murder prosecution. Luciano now left Frank Costello, an Adonis ally, in charge of the Luciano family and Adonis in charge of the Syndicate.

On April 27, 1940, Adonis was indicted in Brooklyn on charges of kidnapping, extortion, and assault in the 1932 Juffe/Wapinsky case.[11] However, on February 24, 1941, the prosecutor requested a dismissal for lack of evidence.[12]

In the 1940s, Adonis moved his gambling rackets to New Jersey. New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's campaign against illegal gambling had made it too difficult to do business in New York. Adonis also moved his family to a luxurious house in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Adonis set up a casino in Lodi, New Jersey, and provided limousine service there from New York City.[13] During the same period, Adonis became partners with Meyer Lansky in an illegal casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida.[14]

On February 10, 1946, after being escorted from prison to a ship in Brooklyn harbor, Luciano was deported to Italy.[15] In December 1946, Adonis and Luciano met at the famous Havana Conference of US organized crime bosses in Cuba. It was Luciano's goal at the conference to regain his mob influence, using Cuba as a base. Being a loyal supporter, Adonis willingly agreed to turn over his power in the syndicate to Luciano. However, the US government soon discovered Luciano's presence in Havana and pressured the Cuban government to expel him. On February 24, 1947, Luciano was placed on a ship by Cuban authorities for deportation back to Italy.[16]

On December 12, 1950, Adonis was summoned before the US Senate Kefauver Commission on organized crime. Adonis repeatedly refused to testify, citing his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[17] Although Adonis escaped contempt charges, he suffered undesirable national exposure as a mobster.

In late May 1951, Adonis and several associates pleaded no contest to charges of operating three gambling rooms in Lodi, New Jersey, and Fort Lee, New Jersey. On May 28, 1951, Adonis was sentenced in Hackensack, New Jersey, to two to three years in state prison.[18]

Deportation and death[edit]

On August 6, 1953, at a hearing in Adonis's prison, the US Department of Justice ordered Adonis's deportation to Italy. The government claimed that Adonis was an illegal alien. Adonis fought deportation, claiming that he was a native-born American citizen.[19] On August 9, 1953, Adonis was released from prison in New Jersey.[4]

On January 3, 1956, Adonis voluntarily left New York City on an ocean liner for Naples, Italy. His wife and children stayed behind in New Jersey.[20]

Once in Italy, Adonis moved into a luxurious apartment in the center of Milan. Adonis may have met with Luciano in Naples, but there is no proof of it. Over time, the financially struggling Luciano grew angry at the wealthy Adonis for not helping him.[21] On January 26, 1962, Luciano died of a heart attack in Naples at age 64.[22] Adonis attended the funeral service in Naples, bringing a huge floral wreath with the words, "So Long, Pal".[23]

In June 1971, the Italian government forced Adonis to leave his Milan residence and move to Serra de' Conti, a small town near the Adriatic Sea. Adonis was one of 115 suspected mobsters relocated to Serra de' Conti after the assassination in May of the public prosecutor of Palermo, Sicily.[24] In late November 1971, Italian police forces transported Adonis to a small hillside shack near Ancona, Italy, for interrogation. During the lengthy questioning and some abusive treatment, Adonis suffered a heart attack.[3] Adonis was rushed to a regional hospital in Ancona, where he died several days later on November 26, 1971.


The U.S. Government allowed Adonis's family to bring his body back to the United States for burial. Adonis' funeral Mass was held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Epiphany in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, attended only by his immediate family.[25] He was buried in Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee.

Personal life[edit]

Adonis married Jean Montimorano, and they had four children; Joseph M. Doto (1936 – 1993)[26], Maria Dolores Olmo (1936 – 2017)[27], Anna Arrieta, and Elizabeth Doto.[25][28]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Joe Adonis' Bureau of Narcotics card
  2. ^ Joe Adonis at Find-A-Grave
  3. ^ a b "Joe Adonis, Underworld Gambling King, Dies" (PDF). The New York Times. November 27, 1971. Retrieved January 28, 2012.(subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c Wright, George Cable (June 3, 1953). "Adonis Birth Data Produced by U.S." (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  5. ^ Sam The Genius Lewin who knew Doto from gambling connections recounted the tale of the name change of Doto to Adonis briefly in his book How to Win at the Races ISBN 0-87980-244-8 on page 50 of the 1969 First Edition
  6. ^ Chiocca, Olindo Romeo (2000). Mobsters and thugs: quotes from the underworld. Toronto: Guernica. p. 59. ISBN 1-55071-104-0.
  7. ^ Reppetto, Thomas (2004). American Mafia: a history of its rise to power (1st ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 137. ISBN 0-8050-7210-1.
  8. ^ Davis, John H. (1994). Mafia dynasty: the rise and fall of the Gambino crime family (1st Harper paperbacks ed.). New York: HarperPaperbacks. p. 40. ISBN 0-06-109184-7.
  9. ^ Newark, Tim (2010). Lucky Luciano: the real and the fake gangster (1st ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 62. ISBN 0-312-60182-4.
  10. ^ Sifkakis, Carl (2005). The Mafia encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: Facts on File. p. 50. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3.
  11. ^ a b "Adonis is Indicted on Kidnap Charge; Aide Under Arrest" (PDF). The New York Times. May 6, 1940. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  12. ^ a b "Amen Gets Dismissal of Adonis Indictment" (PDF). The New York Times. February 25, 1941. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  13. ^ Blackwell, Jon (2007). Notorious New Jersey: 100 true tales of murders and mobsters, scandals and scoundrels. Piscataway, N.J.: Rivergate. p. 138. ISBN 0-8135-4177-8.
  14. ^ Kelley, Kitty (2010). His way: the unauthorized biography of Frank Sinatra (Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks ed.). New York: Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks. p. 136. ISBN 0-553-38618-2.
  15. ^ "Pardoned Luciano on His Way to Italy" (PDF). The New York Times. February 11, 1946. Retrieved June 16, 2012.(subscription required)
  16. ^ "Cuba Will Deport Luciano to Italy" (PDF). The New York Times. February 25, 1947. Retrieved June 16, 2012.(subscription required)
  17. ^ Hinton, Harold B. (December 13, 1950). "Joe Adonis Defies Senate Crime Unit". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  18. ^ "Adonis, 3 Aides Get Terms of 2 to 3 Years" (PDF). The New York Times. May 29, 1951. Retrieved January 28, 2012.(subscription required)
  19. ^ "U.S. Orders Adonis Deported to Italy" (PDF). The New York Times. August 6, 1953. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  20. ^ "Joe Adonis Quits U.S. Voluntarily" (PDF). The New York Times. January 4, 1956. Retrieved January 28, 2012.(subscription required)
  21. ^ Newark, Tim (2010). Lucky Luciano: the real and the fake gangster (1st ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books. p. 246. ISBN 0-312-60182-4.(subscription required)
  22. ^ "Luciano Dies at 65; Was Facing Arrest" (PDF). The New York Times. January 27, 1962. Retrieved January 30, 2012.(subscription required)
  23. ^ Sifkakis, Carl (2005). The Mafia encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: Facts on File. p. 4. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3.
  24. ^ "Joe Adonis is Near Death after Pulmonary Collapse" (PDF). The New York Times. November 24, 1971. Retrieved January 28, 2012.(subscription required)
  25. ^ a b Markham, James M (December 7, 1971). "Other Members of Mafia Miss Funeral Services for Adonis" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012.(subscription required)
  26. ^ Joseph M. Doto on MyHeritage
  27. ^ Maria D. Olmo on
  28. ^ "La Cosa Nostra". Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. Retrieved August 21, 2017.

External links[edit]