Joseph Todaro, Sr.
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According to local and national law enforcement agencies, including the United States Department of Justice, Joseph Todaro Sr. was known on the streets of Buffalo and throughout the underworld as "Lead Pipe Joe", a high level member of the North American Cosa Nostra or Mafia. Todaro Sr. had been a top figure in the Buffalo crime family or "The Arm" as it is referred to in western New York since the 1960s and was suspected to have headed the family since the retirement of former boss, Samuel Frangiamore in late 1984, although his son Joseph Todaro, Jr. reportedly oversees the day-to-day operations since Todaro Sr. began frequently vacationing at his southern Florida condo during the 1990s. The testimony of government operative Ron Fino as well as Todaro Sr.'s long-documented history in labor racketeering activities had also supported such claims of his position in the organization. Despite known organized crime activity, no member of Mr. Todaro's family has ever been convicted of a major crime.
By the early 1960s, longtime Buffalo crime family boss, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino had begun to plan his retirement and left running of the day-to-day activities of his crime family in the hands of acting boss, Frederico "Freddie Lupo/the Wolf" Randaccio, mistaken in the past as Frederico Fassi, his mother's maiden named used to enter the United States. Joseph Todaro Sr., known as " Lead Pipe Joe" to his crime family associates was a top crime family captain or caporegime who reportedly controlled bookmaking operations for "The Arm" with his son, Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr., brother and crime family soldier, Richard Todaro. Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. was a big earner for the Buffalo crime family with interests in bookmaking, card and dice games, loansharking, Las Vegas junkets and labor rackets. and reported directly to Freddie Randaccio. In the 1960s and 1970s the Buffalo crime family used the Blue Banner Social Club located on Prospect Ave. and run by crime family soldier Benny Spano as a principal base of operations, meeting place and gambling club, Randaccio usually met there with his capos every day in the late afternoons. On May 8, 1967, the F.B.I. received a tip from an informant and raided a stag party being held at Panaro's Snowball Lounge in Buffalo that night. The lounge was owned by Todaro family relatives, the Panaro's, a well known Buffalo family that includes Joe Todaro Sr. cousin and Buffalo crime family soldier, Robert "Bobby" Panaro, who along with former Buffalo crime family associate and present Los Angeles crime family soldier, Stephen "The Whale" Cino were sentenced in September 1999 to a prison sentence of 7½ years and 15 years for planning the murder of Chicago Outfit associate and loanshark, "Fat" Herbie Blitzstein in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1997. *sidenote – before his indictment and conviction in 1999 for helping to plan the murder of Blitzstein, allegedly so he could take over Fat Herbie's Las Vegas loansharking rackets, Panaro had no previous criminal arrests or record, unlike Steve Cino who had a lengthy criminal record, including a prison sentence of 20 years in 1967 with Buffalo family members, Freddie Randaccio and Pat Natarelli for robbery. The Panaro-Cino operations in Las Vegas in the 1900s were apparently a joint Buffalo-Los Angeles crime family operation involving gambling and loansharking. The F.B.I and the Buffalo media called the raid the "Little Apalachin Raid" being that a 'who's who" of top Buffalo crime family members were arrested, including acting boss, Freddie "Lupo" Randaccio, capos, Joseph Fino, a future boss, Salvatore "Samuel Johns" Pieri, a future boss, Daniel "Boots" Sansanese, a future underboss, Joseph "the wolf" DiCarlo, a former Youngstown, Ohio rackets boss, Samuel Frangiamore, a future boss, Pasquale "Pat Titters" Natarelli, a top enforcer, John Cammilleri, overseer of labor and union rackets, James "Jimmy" LaDuca, Magaddino son in law and apalachin attendee, Rosario "Roy" Carlisi, Apaplachin attendee and brother of former Chicago Outfit boss, Sam "Wings" Carlisi and soldier, Victor Randaccio, brother of Freddie and boss of Buffalo local 210 of the LIUNA. Joseph Todaro Sr. was also arrested at the stag party along with basically all of the top Buffalo crime family members, Todaro Sr. was outraged over the fact that Panaro's Snowball Lounge lost its liquor license and went out of business, motivating him to launch a lawsuit against the Buffalo F.B.I. alleging that they were "discriminating against persons of Italian descent" which was very common in that era, as Todaro Sr.'s actions were later supported by the Italian American Civil Rights League (IACRL) led by New York Mafia boss, Joseph Colombo, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
The arm splits
By the mid-1960s many of the Buffalo crime family's top members began to believe that boss Stefano Magaddino had become a paranoid and notoriously greedy leader with old age who was losing the respect of his underlings. This was reinforced in 1968 when Magaddino informed his top crime family members that their share of profits from the crime family's operations would be reduced and they would not receive their yearly bonus due to a decrease in the crime family's illegal earnings. The November 26, 1968 arrest of Stefano Magaddino and his son and crime family capo, Peter Magaddino on charges of interstate bookmaking allowed the arresting F.B.I agents, including former agent and author, Joseph Griffin to conduct a search of the Magaddino homes where approximately $473,134 was found hidden in Peter's luxurious home. After learning of the cash the Magaddino's possessed it was reported that the top Buffalo crime family members wished to kill boss Stefano Magaddino, but were in fear of the Mafia Commission in New York and their punishment for an unauthorized killing of a crime family boss, the crime family's top members opted to revolt in late 1968 and vote Stefano Magaddino out as boss.
Joseph Todaro Sr. was one of the Buffalo crime family members who traveled from Buffalo to the Rochester farmhouse of Capo, Frank Valenti in December 1968 to discuss the present situation in Buffalo which was brought to bear on the decision to vote Magaddino out as boss. At this meeting it was decided that the top crime family members would revolt against Magaddino and his supporters, at this time the crime family was split into 4 factions. Stefano Magaddino led a faction of Buffalo crime family members still loyal to him, while capos, Sam Pieri and Joe Fino led the two most powerful factions of dissident crime family members, leaving capo, Frank Valenti announcing that the Rochester faction will split completely from Buffalo and become an autonomous crime family. The Buffalo crime family was now made up of two dissident factions, the Pieri-Frangiamore Faction was led by Capos, Sam Pieri and his right-hand man, Sam Frangiamore, while capo Joseph Todaro Sr. supports the Fino-Sansanese Faction led by Joe Fino and his right-hand man, Capo Danny Sansanese. Soon after the split, F.B.I. surveillance places several top Buffalo crime family members in New York meeting with Genovese crime family leaders in April 1969, allegedly to advise the New York leaders that the dissident Buffalo factions no longer recognize Stefano Magaddino as boss. The Genovese crime family represents Buffalo on the Commission and their leadership recognizes the new Buffalo regime, but Magaddino officially retains the title of boss as the Commission does not sanction the new regime in Buffalo. According to "Organized Crime:25 Years After Valachi, Senate hearings and the Chronological History of La Cosa Nostra in the U.S. 1920–87" the top Buffalo crime family members, including Joseph Todaro Sr. meet on July 9, 1969 to elect a new leadership, crime family capos, Sam Pieri, Joe Fino and Joe DiCarlo are elected acting boss, underboss and acting consigliere by the dissident crime family factions.
Succession of bosses
For roughly 6 years the Buffalo crime family that Joseph Todaro Sr. continued to be a top member of throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s was led by a succession of Acting bosses, including Sam Pieri from 1969–70, Joe Fino from 1970–72 and Sam Frangiamore from 1972–74, until legendary La Cosa Nostra boss and charter Commission member, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino dies on July 19, 1974 of a heart attack at age 82 after leading the Buffalo crime family for 52 years. After Magaddino's death the Commission sanctions Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore as the official acting boss of the Buffalo crime family until a new boss is officially elected by the crime family and sanctioned by the Commission. Frangiamore allegedly chooses Capo, Sam Pieri Sr. as his underboss or it would seem as they allegedly led the crime family together after the death of Magaddino in 1974. Frangiamore stays on as acting boss for a year then according to some crime writers and the F.B.I. in Buffalo, Sam Pieri is elected boss in 1975, but this may not be the case as it has shown over the years to possibly be false and that Sam Frangiamore was the leader throughout Sam Pieri's perceived reign. The Buffalo crime family stays under the leadership of the Pieri-Frangiamore regime from 1974–84, while capo, Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. with the help of his son, Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. continues to run his criminal operations, his successful pizzeria and other business investments while he amasses more power, influence and popularity in the crime family throughout the 1970s. Sam Frangiamore and Sam Pieri stay in power throughout the 1970s, Sam Pieri imprisoned once again in 1978 and eventually dying in 1981, Frangiamore leads the crime family until the mid-1980s and retires.
By 1980, Joseph Todaro Sr. is one of the most powerful Buffalo crime family members with a faction of loyal allies who support Todaro Sr. as the future successor to the crime family's leadership position. Throughout the 1970s, the Buffalo crime family continued to be a dominant force in Western New York's underworld with the help of capo, Joe Todaro Sr. and his crew, but since the split in 1969 and the death of their once powerful and influential patriarch, Steve Magaddino, the crime family had been divided and weakened by years of internal conflict and strife, leaving a crime family who once experienced a high level of power, influence and respect within La Cosa Nostra a shell of its former self. Joe Todaro's Sr.'s popularity among Buffalo crime family members and with La Cosa Nostra members across the United States was well known and his supporters included bosses from other crime families including Bufalino crime family boss, Russell Bufalino, Rochester crime family boss, Samuel "Red" Russotti and the New York bosses of the Genovese and Gambino crime families. Joseph Todaro Sr. received a lot of support from many of the longtime Buffalo crime family members he was allied to, but many of the younger members also looked to Joe Todaro Sr. as a crime family leader and a highly respected man in La Cosa Nostra who could motivate, re-organize and re-unite the Buffalo crime family after a decade of being divided and weakened. By the start of the 1980s, Joe Todaro Sr. was seen as a leading contender to replace acting boss Sam Frangiamore when he retires or dies, but there was also Frangiamore's underboss at the time, Joe Pieri Sr. who along with his brothers, Sam Pieri and John "Johny Ray" Pieri had led the Buffalo crime family throughout the 1970s.
Lead Pipe Joe becomes boss
From the time Buffalo crime family split in 1969, until it once again came together under a sanctioned boss in 1974, the 2 major dissident factions that made up the crime family were led by Sam Pieri and Joe Fino, but after acting underboss, Danny Sansanese was imprisoned in April 1972 and capo, John Cammilleri was assassinated on May 8, 1974, the Fino-Sansanese Faction lost its power and influence within the crime family to the Pieri-Frangiamore Faction. According to former LIUNA executive, Buffalo crime family F.B.I. operative, Ron Fino, his father, Joe Fino is allegedly scheduled to be assassinated with Cammilleri, he is given a pass by acting boss and Sam Pieri who has been recently paroled from prison, but is forced to retire from active crime family affairs in late 1974. This left Capo, Joseph Todaro Sr. as the last of the Fino-Sansanese Faction who opposed the Pieri-Frangiamore Faction leadership and was able to build support within the crime family throughout the 1970s so that he could become the new boss in the 1980s. By the early 1980s capo, Joseph Todaro Sr. was making his bid for the Buffalo crime family leadership known as he campaigns and recruits support within the crime family and from other bosses in making his final bid for leadership. Former Buffalo crime family boss, Sam Pieri was convicted and jailed in 1978, paroled in early 1981 on humanitarian grounds and dies several months later on July 24, 1981, leaving his brother, Joe Pieri Sr. in control of all of the Pieri interests and second in command to Sam Frangiamore. Sam Frangiamore has led the Buffalo crime family for a decade boss and underboss, Joe Pieri Sr. becomes a candidate for succession of the leadership by 1983. It is possible that sometime before Sam Frangiamore retires in 1984 he promotes Joe Pieri to the acting boss position in order to show support for his succession, this is not a proven fact, but only a theory I have made based on an important meeting in New York in late 1984 between Genovese, Buffalo and Cleveland crime family representatives. In October 1984, Buffalo crime family underboss and possible acting boss, Joseph Pieri Sr. and former Buffalo area resident and Cleveland crime family acting boss, John "Peanuts" Tronolone meet with Genovese crime family acting/front boss, Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno at his Palma Boys Social Club in East Harlem, New York to discuss current conflicts in the Buffalo crime family and to solicit support from the Commission in Peri Sr.'s bid to officially become the new Buffalo crime family boss. Joe Pieri Sr. is a leading contender for the crime family leadership along with Joe Todaro Sr. who has amassed a great amount of support in his bid to become boss. As Tony Salerno listens to Joe Pieri Sr. and John Tronolone lay out their complaints against Joe Todaro Sr. the F.B.I listens in on their conversation through a bug planted in Salerno's social club. After Tony Salerno listens to Joe Pieri Sr. discuss the affairs of Buffalo Local 210 union and his opposition to the Todaro Sr. and his perceived insult in Todaro Sr.'s bid for leadership, Salerno states, "The Commission wants it taken care of, let the Commission decide", "Tell him it's the Commission from New York, tell him he's dealing with the big boys now!" Joseph Todaro Sr. was chosen by the Commission as the new boss of the Buffalo crime family in late 1984 or early 1985 and Todaro Sr.s first official action was to name his son, Joseph Todaro Jr. as the underboss of the crime family. Joe Todaro Sr. quickly showed his intelligence and political wit by naming Joe Pieri Sr. as the consigliere, the #3 spot in the crime family, eliminating any chance of internal conflict and subversion on the part of Joe Pieri Sr. and his supporters, hopefully keeping the crime family unified for the time being.
The Todaro era
By the end of 1985, Joseph "Lead Pipe" Todaro Sr. was in firm control of Buffalo crime family, leading roughly 50–75 soldiers and a number of associates. Joe Todaro Sr. quickly attempted to unite the weakened Buffalo crime family by making new members, promoting his loyal supporters, re-opening longtime associations with crews in Ontario, Rochester, Youngstown, Ohio and Eastern, Pennsylvania, along with expanding the crime family's rackets and territory. Joe Todaro Sr. strengthened the Buffalo crime family's Canadian ties to longtime crime family crew, the Papalia crime family in Hamilton, Ontario, as well as associations with the Rizzuto crime family of Montreal, Quebec. The Buffalo crime family maintained its control over the traditional rackets in Western New York such as gambling, loansharking, union and labor racketeering, making Buffalo a hub for bookmaking operations for the crime family due to its influence upstate, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, North Eastern Ohio and Southern Ontario. The Buffalo crime family expanded its rackets and territory into Las Vegas, Nevada and Southern, Florida, as Joe Todaro Sr. sent capo Sonny Nicoletti Sr. and soldier Bobby Panaro to Las Vegas to oversee gambling and loansharking operations there while he established a base of operations in Fort Lauderdale after becoming boss. Joe Todaro Sr. came under F.B.I. surveillance as he met with Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania crime family bosses Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and Edward "Eddie the Conductor" Sciandra in Florida in the late 1980s, as his respect and influence grew, becoming a universal advisor of sorts in La Cosa Nostra after the 1987 "Commission Case" imprisoned all of the Commission members.
The Buffalo crime family led the way in telemarketing during the 1990s. In 1987, capo Leonard Falzone was promoted to consigliere, as longtime Buffalo crime family member Joseph Pieri Sr. retired from active participation in crime family affairs, Falzone went on to help advise the Todaros in the day-to-day running of the crime family as Falzone oversaw the loansharking operations, later being convicted of running a large loansharking operation with the help of top Buffalo Key Bank executives in 1996. Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. was a former LIUNA local 210 business manager and helped maintain the crime family's labor and union operations in the Buffalo area through the influence he carried in local 210. Traditionally the Buffalo crime family held influence in many of the Western New York labor unions, such as local 91 in Niagara Falls, local 435 in Rochester and local 214 in Oswego. The dominant grip the Buffalo crime family held over Western New York's union and labor affairs began to end in 1995 when the Justice Department launched a 200-page RICO complaint and suit against LIUNA executives with alleged crime family ties; eight Buffalo crime family members were removed from the executive board of local 210 in 1996, including crime family underboss Joseph Todaro Jr. and consigliere Leonard Falzone. The Buffalo crime family traditionally had long-standing ties to the Bonanno crime family and its Montreal faction (Cotroni/Rizzuto crime families) during the Magaddino era and allegedly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but the crime family no longer dictates time to local and international narcotics trafficking as Black and Hispanic crime groups have moved into the predominantly Black East side and Hispanic West side and taken over narcotics distribution in those areas.
By the mid-1990s Buffalo's local law enforcement reported that Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. was made acting boss and overseer of the Buffalo crime family's day-to-day operations with the help of consigliere Leonard Falzone, while Joseph Todaro Sr. relaxes in Florida and returns frequently to Buffalo to check on the crime family operations and his million dollar pizzeria and chicken wing business that is run by grandchildren, Joseph Todaro III and Carla Todaro. In recent years, federal and local law enforcement have gone back and forth on the strength and size of the Buffalo crime family, from one of the strongest crime families in the nation to generally extinct, which most believe is highly exaggerated. Many of the longtime members who were with the crime family during the Magaddino era have since died or retired and several of the Todaro era members, including top soldiers, John "Johnny Catz" Cantanzaro and Donald "Turtle" Pinepinto have died. In the late 1990s, several other well established crime groups such as Hamilton and Toronto-based Calabrian Ndrangheta cells, Montreal based Sicilian clans and MC biker clubs such as the Hells Angels made direct and calculated moves to takeover Buffalo crime family operations in Ontario, leaving the Buffalo crime family's leaders in Ontario and the Todaro regime back in Buffalo at a crossroads of sorts concerning the crime family's future in Ontario. In 1997, long time Buffalo crime family members, Johnny "Pops" Papalia, the crime family's Ontario based caporegime and his Niagara Falls-based lieutenant and "made" Buffalo soldier, Carmen Barillaro were assassinated by the rival, Calabrian Musitano crime cell of Hamilton, most likely on orders from the highest level of the Calabrian or Sicilian mafia within Canada. The Musitano crime family have held a mid-to-high level criminal presence within the Ontario underworld since the 1950s, running gambling, loansharking, extortion, fraud and drug trafficking operations, but were still regarded as a "lower tier" crime cell by their Calabrian and Sicilian counterparts due mainly because of the cell's size and that they were known to attract law enforcement attention through their undisciplined operations. Even so, the Musitanos held high level connections with Calabrian Ndrangheta bosses in Italy and across Canada, along with a loose alliance with the once powerful Sicilian Rizzuto crime family of Montreal. Their ties to the Rizzutos was believed to have played a direct part in their move to have the two most influential Buffalo crime family members in Ontario hit in order to take over The Arm's operations in the Hamilton and Niagara regions. This did not take place as Musitano clan leaders, brothers Pasquale "Pat" and Angelo Musitano Jr. were soon convicted and imprisoned on a ten-year sentence related to the murders of top Ontario mafia leaders Papalia and Barillaro. Who, along with former Toronto-based Calabrian Siderno clan leader, Dominic Racco, son of former head of the Canadian branch of the Siderno Group and it's Commission, "La Camera di Controllo", was one of three top Ontario and Canadian mafia leaders the Musitano clan have assassinated over the years while operating within The Canadian underworld. Even so, the Musitano's longtime efforts to takeover what the Buffalo crime family once lorded over in Ontario have failed, leaving them no better off than the Buffalo crime family at present in Ontario, who allegedly still carries a small, but effective presence in and around the Hamilton and Niagara regions to this day. The present Buffalo crime family is in decline as are many other traditional La Cosa Nostra crime families outside of New York and Chicago, the crime family is now alleged to have a membership of 40 made members and a number of associates who assist with the day to day criminal activities of the crime family, but law enforcement states that the Buffalo and Western New York area still has a traditional organized crime presence and that the Todaro family still lead the way with their most trusted allies and associates at their side.
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