Very little is known about Sciandra's early life. The Sciandra family immigrated to the United States from Montedoro, Sicily in the 1880s. Originally a coal miner in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sciandra became an enforcer and bootlegger for Buffalino family boss Santo Volpe. Like so many crime families, they are built upon blood ties, long standing friendships and various powerful arms. The Bufalino crime family would have four very powerful members who pulled all the strings. These included Santo "King of The Knights" Volpe, Angelo Polizzi, Giuseppe "Joe The Barber" Barbara and John "Johnny" Sciandra. In 1933, Following the death of Volpe, Sciandra was nominated boss over Scranton and surrounding areas. Polizzi became consigliere, maintaining this role until his death in 1957.
It is a common misunderstanding that Sciandra was murdered in 1940, when in fact, he died of natural causes in 1949. See "Men from Montedoro."