Russell Bufalino

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Russell Bufalino
Russell Bufalino.jpg
Bufalino in the 1950s
Rosario Alfredo Bufalino

(1903-09-29)September 29, 1903
DiedFebruary 25, 1994(1994-02-25) (aged 90)
Resting placeDenison Cemetery, Swoyersville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Other namesMcGee
The Old Man
OccupationCrime boss
Carolyn Sciandra
(m. 1928)
RelativesBill Bufalino (cousin)[1]
Edward Sciandra (cousin-in-law)
John Sciandra (cousin-in-law)
AllegianceBufalino crime family
Conviction(s)Extortion (1977)
Conspiracy (1981)
Criminal penaltyFour years' imprisonment
10 years' imprisonment

Russell Alfred Bufalino[2] (/ˌbʌfəˈln/; born Rosario Alfredo Bufalino,[3] Italian: [roˈzaːrjo alˈfreːdo bufaˈliːno]; September 29, 1903 – February 25, 1994) was an Italian-American mobster who became the crime boss of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Italian-American Mafia crime family known as the Bufalino crime family, which he ruled from 1959 to 1994. He was a cousin of attorney William Bufalino, the longtime counsel for Jimmy Hoffa.[4]

Early years[edit]

Bufalino was born on September 29, 1903, in Montedoro, Sicily, to Angelo Bufalino and Cristina Buccoleri.[3] On July 9, 1903, his father immigrated to the United States,[5] settling in Pittston, Pennsylvania, working as a coal miner.[6] With his mother and siblings, Bufalino entered the United States through the Port of New York in December 1903.[6] A few months later, Bufalino's father died in a mine accident, and his family returned to Sicily.[6] Bufalino emigrated to the United States again in January 1906.[7] After his mother died in 1910, he returned to Sicily again.[6] He returned to the United States in February 1914, settling in Pittston.[6][8] At the age of 14, Bufalino moved to Buffalo, New York, where he became a criminal during his teenage years.[6][9] On August 9, 1928, he married Carolyn "Carrie" Sciandra,[10][11] who came from a Sicilian Mafia family.[12] Bufalino worked alongside many Buffalo mobsters, some of whom would become top leaders in the Buffalo crime family and other future Cosa Nostra families along the East Coast of the United States. These relationships proved very helpful to Bufalino in his criminal career. Family and clan ties were important to Sicilian-American criminals; they created a strong, secretive support system that outsiders or law enforcement could not infiltrate. A significant friendship was with his first boss, and fellow immigrant from Montedoro, John C. Montana.

In the early 1920s, Bufalino started working with Joseph Barbara, another upstate New York bootlegger in Endicott, New York. Bufalino later moved to Kingston, Pennsylvania in 1940.[9] The Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family controlled organized crime activities in Pittston, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York areas.

In the early 1950s, the Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to have Bufalino deported several times, but had never been successful over 15 years as the Italian government would not readmit him to the country.[13][14]

Apalachin meeting[edit]

In 1957, after taking control of the Luciano crime family from boss Frank Costello, boss Vito Genovese wanted to legitimize his new power by holding a national Cosa Nostra meeting. Genovese elected Buffalo, New York boss and Commission member, Stefano "the Undertaker" Magaddino, who in turn chose northeastern Pennsylvania crime boss Joseph Barbara and Bufalino to oversee all the arrangements.[15][16]

On November 14, 1957, powerful Mafiosi from the United States and Italy convened at Barbara's estate in Apalachin, New York.[17][18] Cuba was one of the Apalachin topics of discussion, particularly the gambling and narcotics smuggling interests of La Cosa Nostra on the island. The international narcotics trade was also an important topic on the agenda.[19] The New York garment industry interests and rackets, such as loansharking to the business owners and control of garment centre trucking, were other important topics on the Apalachin agenda.[20]

A local state trooper named Edgar D. Croswell had been aware that Carmine Galante had been stopped by state troopers following a visit to Barbara's estate the previous year.[21] A check of Galante by the troopers found that he was driving without a license and that he had an extensive criminal record in New York City. In the time preceding the November 1957 meeting, trooper Croswell had Barbara's house under occasional surveillance.[21] He had become aware that Barbara's son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home.[21][22] That made Croswell suspicious, and he, therefore, decided to keep an eye on Barbara's house.[23] When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara's home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock.[22]

Having barely started their meeting, Bartolo Guccia, a Castellammare del Golfo native and Barbara employee, spotted a police roadblock while leaving Barbara's estate. Guccia later said he was returning to the Barbara home to check on a fish order. Some attendees attempted to drive away but were stopped by the roadblock. Others trudged through the fields and woods ruining their expensive suits before they were caught.[24] Many Mafiosi escaped through the woods surrounding the Barbara estate.[25]

The police stopped a car driven by Bufalino, whose passengers included Genovese and three other men, at a roadblock as they left the estate; Bufalino said that he had come to visit his sick friend, Barbara.[26][27] All those apprehended were fined, up to $10,000 each, and given prison sentences ranging from three to five years, however, all the convictions were overturned on appeal in 1960.[21][28][26]

Later years and prison[edit]

Following Barbara's death in June 1959, The Commission recognized Bufalino as the official family boss.[13]

In 1972, after singer Al Martino had the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather stripped from him and given to Vic Damone, he went to Bufalino, his godfather, who then orchestrated the publication of various news articles that claimed director Francis Ford Coppola was unaware of producer Albert S. Ruddy's having given Martino the part.[29] Damone eventually dropped the role because he did not want to provoke the mob, in addition to being paid too little.[30][29] Ultimately, the part of Johnny Fontane was given to Martino.[29][30]

On April 20, 1973, Bufalino was arrested in a Scranton nightclub in an FBI raid, charged with interference with interstate commerce, obstruction of justice, gambling and transporting stolen property, but later released on $50,000 bail.[14]

In 1977, Bufalino was indicted on extortion charges after Jack Napoli, who was in the Witness Protection Program, testified that Bufalino had threatened to kill him for failing to pay a $25,000 debt to a jeweller in New York.[13] As soon as Bufalino was indicted, he took steps to reduce the possibility of further criminal charges. He named caporegime Edward Sciandra as the acting boss and removed himself from the day-to-day operations of the family.[13][31] On August 8, 1978, Bufalino was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment for his part in the extortion attempt.[13] He served almost three years.[32]

Bufalino was released in May 1981 but was indicted again, this time for conspiring to kill the witness, Napoli. The main prosecution witness, Jimmy Fratianno, said that he and Michael Rizzitello had been asked by Bufalino to kill Napoli in 1976.[32] In November 1981, Bufalino was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, held at United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.[13]

Decline and death[edit]

With Bufalino again in prison and the family under federal investigation, the organization's strength began to wane. In 1989, Bufalino was released from prison, and the operations of the remainder of the Northeastern family were given to Billy D'Elia.

On February 25, 1994, Bufalino died of natural causes at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, Pennsylvania, aged 90. He is buried in Denison Cemetery in Swoyersville, Pennsylvania.[33]

In popular culture[edit]

A somewhat modified version of Bufalino is portrayed by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese's 2019 film The Irishman. Pesci was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.[34]

The Quiet Don: The True Story of Mafia Kingpin Russell Bufalino by Matt Birkbeck was published in October 2014 by Berkley Books.


  1. ^ Brandt, Charles (2004). "I Heard You Paint Houses": Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters and the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa. Hanover, New Hampshire: Steerforth Press. ISBN 978-1-58642-077-2. OCLC 54897800. Archived from the original on October 12, 2011.
  2. ^ United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (1988). Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 762. Retrieved July 1, 2020 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b "Immagine 110". Antenati (in Italian). Retrieved July 1, 2020. L'anno millenovecentotre, addì due di Ottobre a ore nove e minuti quaranta, nella Casa Comunale [...] mi ha dichiarato che alle ore [...] del dì ventinove dello scorso mese [...] da Buccoleri Cristina fu Calogero [...], moglie di Bufalino Angelo fu Calogero, [...] è nato un bambino di sesso maschile che essa mi presenta, e a cui dà il nome di Rosario Alfredo.
  4. ^ Fowler, Glenn (May 15, 1990). "William Bufalino Sr., 72, Lawyer For Hoffa and Teamsters' Union". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  5. ^ Passenger Manifest for the S.S. Citta di Napoli, July 9, 1903, available at Ellis Island: The Statue of Liberty.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Mack, Dave (October 21, 1977). "Bufalino: A good neighbor with a secret life". Press & Sun-Bulletin. p. 3. Retrieved July 1, 2020 – via In the summer before his birth, Bufalino's father, Angelo, had came to the United States. Angelo arrived at Ellis Island on July 9, 1903 and, after being processed by immigration authorities, went directly to Pittston, Pa., another Scranton suburb, where he found work in the coal mines. Before Christmas, Angelo Bufalino sent for his wife and children. They went to the sam immigration mill four days before Christmas and followed Angelo to Pittston. The family's newfound home was happy for only a few months, however. Shortly after his wife and family arrived, Angelo Bufalino died in a mine accident. Soon, Bufalino, his mother, Christina and his brothers, Giuseppe and Cataldo, returned to Sicily. The family tried again to make it in America, though, when they returned on Jan. 13, 1906. [...] records indicate his mother died in 1910, when he was seven, and young Rosario returned again in Sicily. Finally he returned to the United States. Arriving on February 15, 1914, young Bufalino, now 11, went to Pittston. Still in abdolescence, Bufalino left Pennsylvania in 1917 or 1918 and went to the Buffalo area. open access
  7. ^ Passenger Manifest for the S.S. Brasile, January 14, 1906, available at Ellis Island: The Statue of Liberty.
  8. ^ Passenger Manifest for the S.S. Venezia, February 15, 1914, available at Ellis Island: The Statue of Liberty.
  9. ^ a b Schaffstall, Katherine (November 30, 2019). "'The Irishman': 12 of the Film's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "Russell Bufalino, Appellant, v. John W. Holland, District Director of Immigration and Naturalization, 277 F.2d 270 (3d Cir. 1960)". Law Justia. Retrieved July 1, 2020. His applications for a marriage license dated August 9, 1928
  11. ^ "Carolyn Bufalino". December 31, 2006. Retrieved July 1, 2020. Carolyn (Carrie) Bufalino of Kingston [...] was preceded in death by her husband, Russell, in 1994;
  12. ^ "Bufalino Crime Family Now & Then: Does it Exist Today?". November 27, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Investigations, United States Congress Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on (November 30, 1983). "Profile of Organized Crime, Mid-Atlantic Region: Hearings Before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-eighth Congress, First Session, February 15, 23, and 24, 1983". U.S. Government Printing Office – via Google Books.
  14. ^ a b Montgomery, Paul L. (April 22, 1973). "18 Charged After F.B.I. Raids on Crime Figures Upstate and in Pennsylvania". The New York Times. p. 30. Retrieved July 1, 2020. Mr. Bufalino recently lost a 15‐year battle against deportation. However, last week the Italian Government announced that it would not readmit him to the country, which means that he is free to stay in the United States. [...] Russell Bufalino, 69 years old, of Kingston, Pa., who was arrested in a Scranton night club, [...] was booked and released in $50,000 bail.
  15. ^ Glynn, Don (November 11, 2007). "Glynn:Area delegates attended mob convention". Niagara Gazette. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  16. ^ McHugh, Ray (August 26, 1963). "Federal Attack, Internal Fights Trouble Crime Clan". Lodi News-Sentinel. p. 16. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  17. ^ Fitchette, Woodie; Hambalek, Steve (November 15, 1957). "Top U.S. Hoods Are Run Out of Area After 'Sick Call' on Barbara" (PDF). Binghamton Press. Binghamton, New York. p. 34. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  18. ^ Fitchette, Woodie; Hambalek, Steve (November 15, 1957). "Hoods Run Out of Area--" (PDF). Binghamton Press. Binghamton, New York. p. 8. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  19. ^ "Narcotic Traffic Called Topic In Apalachin Talks". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio: Associated Press. February 28, 1960. p. 1. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  20. ^ "Narcotics Agent Calls Racketeers Black-Handers". Toledo Blade. July 1, 1958. p. 2. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d Blumenthal, Ralph (July 31, 2002). "For Sale, a House With Acreage. Connections Extra.; Site of 1957 Gangland Raid Is Part of Auction on Saturday". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  22. ^ a b Narvaez, Alfonso A. (November 21, 1990). "Edgar D. Croswell, 77, Sergeant Who Upset '57 Mob Meeting, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  23. ^ "Host To Hoodlum Meet Dies Of Heart Attack". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. June 18, 1959. p. 7. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
  24. ^ "20 Apalachin Delegates Are Convicted; Officials Hail Intelligent Verdict". The Telegraph. December 19, 1959. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  25. ^ "Apalachin raid on Mafia reverberates 50 years later". Mafia News. November 11, 2007. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010 – via Wayback Machine. a police raid sent Mafia bosses, their underbosses and capos running through the woods of Apalachin
  26. ^ a b "United States of America, Appellee, v. Russell A. Bufalino, Ignatius Cannone, Paul C. Castellano,joseph F. Civello, Frank A. Desimone, Natale Evola, Louis A.larasso, Carmine Lombardozzi, Joseph Magliocco, Frank T.majuri, Michele Miranda, John C. Montana, John Ormento,james Osticco, Joseph Profaci, Anthony P. Riela, John T.scalish, Angelo J. Sciandra, Simone Scozzari and Pasqualeturrigiano, Defendants-appellants, 285 F.2d 408 (2d Cir. 1960)". Justia Law. June 9, 1960. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  27. ^ Tully, Andrew (September 2, 1958). "Mafia Raid Confirms 20-year Undercover Findings by T-Men". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  28. ^ "20 Apalachin Convictions Ruled Invalid On Appeal". Toledo Blade. November 29, 1960. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
  29. ^ a b c Seal, Mark (February 4, 2009). "The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2014 – via Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ a b Jones, Jenny M. (2007). The annotated Godfather. p. 50.
  31. ^ "Pennsylvania Crime Commission" (PDF). Retrieved July 1, 2020. Edward Sciandra, who was identified in 1980 as a capo (lieutenant) in the Bufalino family, allegedly has been elevated to Acting Boss during the past year.
  32. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H. (October 24, 1981). "Man Convicted of a Conspiracy to Kill Witness". The New York Times. p. 26. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  33. ^ Kalinowski, Bob (July 29, 2019). "Bufalino film to premiere at New York Film Festival". The Citizens' Voice. Retrieved July 1, 2020. Bufalino, who died at age 91 in 1994 at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, lived in a relatively modest house on Dorrance Avenue in Kingston, but he was one of the most powerful Mafia figures in the country. He is buried in Denison Cemetery in Forty Fort.
  34. ^ Olsen, Mark (January 13, 2020). "Joe Pesci earns his third Oscar nomination with quiet menace for 'The Irishman'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 1, 2020. The role in "The Irishman" has earned Pesci his third Oscar nod for supporting actor; he was also nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. for the Golden Globe Awards, SAG-AFTRA for the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for the BAFTA Awards.

Further reading[edit]

American Mafia
Preceded by Bufalino crime family

Succeeded by