Sam Giancana

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Sam Giancana
Sam Giancana.jpg
BornSalvatore Giangana
June 15, 1908
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJune 19, 1975(1975-06-19) (aged 67)
Oak Park, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of deathMultiple gunshot wounds
Resting placeMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois
OccupationGangster, Crime boss
Years active1957-66
Known forBoss of the Chicago Outfit and Mafia
Spouse(s)Angelina DeTolve (1933–1954, her death)
Children3 daughters

Salvatore "Sam" Giancana (né Giangana; June 15, 1908 – June 19, 1975),[1] was a Sicilian American mobster, notable as being boss of the criminal Chicago Outfit from 1957–1966. His nicknames were "Mooney", "Momo", "Sam the Cigar", and "Sammy".

Early life[edit]

Giancana was born Salvatore Giangana, in The Patch on Chicago's West Side, to Italian Sicilian immigrants from Partanna, in the province of Trapani. His father, Antonino (later simplified to Antonio) Giangana, owned a pushcart and later briefly owned an Italian ice shop, which was later firebombed by criminal rivals of his son.[citation needed]

Criminal career[edit]

Sam Giancana joined the 42 Gang, a juvenile street crew working for political boss Joseph Esposito. (The name of the 42 Gang came from associating themselves with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. They thought they were one better, hence 42). Giancana soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, a high earner, and a vicious killer. After Esposito's murder, in which Giancana was allegedly involved, the 42 Gang was transformed into a de facto extension of the Chicago Outfit. The Outfit was initially wary of the 42ers, thinking they were too wild. However, Giancana's reputation gained him the notice of Outfit leaders such as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, and Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo. He was arrested for the first time during 1925, for auto theft. He soon graduated to "triggerman", and by the age of 20 had been the prime subject of three murder investigations, but was never tried for any of them.[2] During the late 1930s, Giancana became the first 42er to join the Chicago Outfit. From the early 1940s through the 1950s, he controlled most of the illegal gambling, illegal liquor distribution, and numerous other political rackets in Louisiana through longtime friend H.A. (Hol) Killian. Killian controlled the majority of the liquor license issuance by his associations with longtime business associate Carlos Marcello from New Orleans.[citation needed]


Giancana married Angelina DeTolve, the daughter of immigrants from the Italian region of Basilicata, on September 23, 1933. They had three daughters, Antoinette, Bonnie, and Francine. His wife died during 1954, leaving him to raise his daughters. Giancana never remarried and was known as a good family man, despite frequent infidelities. All of the Giancana daughters have married at least once. As of 1984, at least one daughter, Antoinette, had taken the "Giancana" name again following her divorce.[3]

Rise to power[edit]

During 1945, after serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana (during which time he told his children he was away "at college"), Giancana made a name for himself by convincing Accardo, then the Outfit's underboss, to stage a take-over of Chicago's African-American "policy" (lottery) pay-out system for The Outfit. Giancana's crew is believed to have been responsible for convincing Eddie Jones to quit his racket and leave the country. Giancana's crew was also responsible for the murder on August 4, 1952 of African-American gambling boss Theodore Roe. Both Jones and Roe were major South Side gambling bosses. However, Roe had refused to surrender control of his operation as the Outfit had demanded, and on June 19, 1951, Roe fatally shot Lennard "Fat Lennie" Caifano, a made man of Giancana's crew.[4]

However, the South Side "policy"-game takeover by the Outfit was not complete until another Outfit member, Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone, scared "Big Jim" Martin to Mexico with two bullets to the head that did not kill him. When the lottery money started rolling in for the Outfit after this gambling war, the amount that this game had produced for the Outfit was in the millions of dollars a year and brought Giancana further notice. It is believed to have been a major factor in his being "anointed" as the Outfit's new boss when Accardo resigned from being the front boss to becoming consigliere, during 1957.[5] However, it was generally understood that Accardo and Ricca still had the real power. Giancana was required to consult Accardo and Ricca on all important Outfit affairs. No major business transactions, and certainly no "hits," were performed without Accardo and Ricca's approval.

Giancana was present at the Mafia's 1957 Apalachin meeting at the Upstate New York estate of Joseph Barbara.[6] Later, Buffalo crime boss Stefano Magaddino and Giancana were overheard by wiretap saying the meeting should have occurred in the Chicago area. Giancana claimed that the Chicago area was "the safest place in the world" for a major underworld meeting because he had several police chiefs on his payroll. If the syndicate ever wanted to hold a meeting in or around Chicago, Giancana said, they had nothing to fear because they had the area "locked up tight".[7]

Some journalists claimed that Giancana and his Chicago crime syndicate "played a role" in John F. Kennedy's victory in the 1960 presidential election.[8][9]

Alleged CIA connections[edit]

It is widely reputed and partially corroborated by the Church Committee hearings, that during the Kennedy administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Giancana and other mobsters to assassinate Fidel Castro. Giancana reportedly said that the CIA and the Cosa Nostra were "different sides of the same coin".[10] Documents released in 2017 showed the Sam Giancana connection to the CIA and to Robert Maheu.[citation needed]

Judith Exner claimed to be the mistress of both Giancana and JFK, and that she delivered communications between the two regarding Fidel Castro.[11] However, Giancana's daughter, Antoinette Giancana, has stated her belief that her father was performing a scam to pocket millions of dollars of CIA funding.[12]

Documents released during 1997 revealed that some Mafiosi worked with CIA on assassination attempts against Castro.[13] CIA documents released during 2007 confirmed that during the summer of 1960, CIA recruited ex-FBI agent Maheu to meet with the West Coast representative of the Chicago mob, Johnny Roselli. When Maheu contacted Roselli, Maheu hid the fact that he was sent by CIA, instead portraying himself an advocate for international corporations. He offered to pay $150,000 to have Castro killed, but Roselli refused any pay. Roselli introduced Maheu to two men he referred to as "Sam Gold" and "Joe". "Sam Gold" was Sam Giancana; "Joe" was Santo Trafficante, Jr., the Tampa/Florida /Miami syndicate boss and one of the most powerful mobsters in prerevolution Cuba.[14] Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post explained: "After Fidel Castro led a revolution that toppled the government of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, CIA was desperate to eliminate Castro. So, the agency sought out a partner equally worried about Castro—the Mafia, which had lucrative investments in Cuban casinos."[15]

According to the declassified CIA "Family Jewels" documents, Giancana and Trafficante were contacted during September 1960, about the possibility of an assassination attempt by a go-between from CIA, Maheu, after Maheu had contacted Roselli, a Mafia member in Las Vegas and Giancana's number-two man. Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international businesses in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro. He offered $150,000 for the "removal" of Castro through this operation (the documents suggest that neither Roselli, Giancana, nor Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job). According to the files, Giancana was who suggested using poison pills that could be used to dose Castro's food and drink. These pills were given by CIA to Giancana's nominee, Juan Orta, whom Giancana presented as being a corrupt official in the new Cuban government and who had access to Castro. After six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro's food, Orta abruptly demanded to be relieved from the mission, giving the job to another, unnamed participant. Later, a second attempt was done by Giancana and Trafficante using Anthony Verona, the commander of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become "disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta". Verona requested $10,000 in expenses and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, how much work was performed for the second attempt is unknown, as the entire program was cancelled soon thereafter due to the Bay of Pigs invasion during April 1961.[16][17][18]

At the same time, Giancana, according to the "Family Jewels", asked Maheu to wire the room of his then-mistress Phyllis McGuire, whom he suspected of having an affair with comedian Dan Rowan. Although documents suggest Maheu acquiesced, the device was not planted due to the arrest of the agent who had been given the task of planting the device. According to the documents, Robert Kennedy prohibited the prosecution of the agent and of Maheu, who was soon linked to the wire attempt, at CIA's request.[18] Giancana and McGuire, who had a long-lasting affair, were originally introduced by Frank Sinatra.[19] During part of the affair, according to Sam's daughter Antoinette, McGuire had a concurrent affair with President Kennedy.[20]


Giancana's behavior was too high-profile for Outfit preferences and attracted too much federal scrutiny. He also refused to share his lavish profits from offshore casinos in Iran and Central America with his subordinates. Both of these factors resulted in much resentment among the Outfit's rank-and-file. Giancana was the subject of many hours of wiretaps. On one, he was heard to say, "We're whacking a lot of the wrong guys lately."

When Giancana was called before a grand jury during 1966, he was ordered[by whom?] to stay silent, which put him in prison for more than a year. Meanwhile, Giancana was deposed as operational boss by Ricca and Accardo, and replaced by Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa.[21]

International gambling success and dispute with the Outfit[edit]

After arriving in Mexico, Giancana managed to make money from various gambling operations, among them in Iran.[citation needed]

When Tony Accardo demanded that he give a share of the profits to The Outfit, Giancana refused, claiming that he did it all by himself and outside the Outfit's jurisdiction. In response, Accardo asked someone to "explain him the facts of life. And I mean life." Giancana, however remained adamant and refused to pay.[22][not in citation given]

After his release from prison, Giancana relocated to Cuernavaca, Mexico in order to avoid further grand jury questioning.[23][24] He was arrested by Mexican authorities on July 19, 1974 and deported to the United States.[23][24] He arrived back in Chicago on July 21, 1974.[25]

Giancana had another meeting with the Outfit with no resolution. The Outfit requested he give them a share of his money, and he refused.[22]


After Giancana's return to the U.S., the police detailed officers to guard his house in Oak Park, Illinois. However, on the night of June 19, 1975, shortly before he was scheduled to appear before the Church Committee,[26] which was investigating CIA and Cosa Nostra collusion,[27] someone recalled the police detail guarding his property.[28] A gunman later entered Giancana's basement kitchen and shot him in the back of the head as he was frying sausage and peppers.[29] After Giancana fell to the floor, the gunman turned him over and shot him six more times in the face and neck. Investigators suspected the murderer was someone known to Giancana because, due to his heart condition, he would not eat rich foods and was therefore cooking for another.

Giancana was interred next to his wife, Angelina, in a family mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois.[30]

Within days of Giancana's murder, Michael J. Corbitt, the police chief of Willow Springs and a mobster associate, was told by Chicago Outfit's capo Salvatore Bastone that "[...] Sam sure loved that little guy in Oak Park [...] Tony Spilotro. Yeah, he was fuckin' crazy about him. Sam put Tony on the fuckin' map, thought he was gonna be a big fuckin' man someday. Did you know that after Marshall Caifano got out of Vegas, it was Sam who wanted Tony Spilotro out there? Even lately, with all the problems with the skim and all, Sam always stood behind the guy. Tony was over to Sam's house all the time. He lived right by there. Did you know Tony even figured out a way where he could get in through the back of Sam's place without anybody seeing him? He'd go through other people's yards, go over fences, all sorts of shit."[31] When Corbitt asked for the reason for the murder, Bastone quipped, "There's never just one reason for shit like what happened to Sam. There's a million of 'em. Let's just say that Sam should've remembered what happened to Bugsy Siegel."[32]

Other theories[edit]

Although long time associate Dominic "Butch" Blasi was with Giancana the night he was murdered and was questioned by police as a suspect, neither the FBI nor Giancana's daughter Antoinette consider him Giancana's killer.[33] Hitman Nicholas Calabrese told the FBI during the 2000s that he knew that Tony Accardo was part of the killing, and Angelo LaPietra got rid of the gun which used a suppressor made by Frank Calabrese, Sr. and Ronnie Jarret.[34]

Another theory was that Santo Trafficante, Jr., the boss of the Trafficante crime family, ordered Giancana's murder due to fears he was going to testify about the Mafia's involvement in the CIA plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Although Trafficante would have needed permission from Outfit bosses Tony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa, Giancana's murder coincided with the discovery of the decomposing remains of Johnny Roselli in an oil drum floating off Miami, Florida, whose body had been shot and chopped up before being dumped in the sea. The killing was suspected of being committed on the orders of Trafficante.[35]

Despite rumours that the CIA may have killed Giancana because of his links to the agency, former CIA Director William Colby has been quoted as saying, "We had nothing to do with it".[36]

In popular culture[edit]


  • Giancana played a major role for the J. X. Williams movie Peep Show (1965) and has a personal performance credit for this on the IMDb movie database.
  • The HBO made-for-TV movie Sugartime (1995) depicts Giancana's relationship with singer Phyllis McGuire of the McGuire Sisters, with Giancana being played by John Turturro.
  • Peter Friedman played Giancana for the movie Power and Beauty (2002).
  • Robert Miranda played Giancana in the television movie, The Rat Pack (1998).
  • Carmine Caridi played Giancana for the movie Ruby (1992).
  • News footage of Giancana is featured in the movie JFK (1991).
  • Giancana is portrayed with the name "Joseph Palmi" in the movie, The Good Shepherd (2006), featuring Matt Damon. Palmi may be a mix of the several other mobsters (Santo Trafficante, Jr., Carlos Marcello, etc.) involved with the operation. Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, is depicted in proposing Palmi (Joe Pesci) to assist in the assassination of Fidel Castro. Pesci also played Nicky Santoro in Casino, who was based on Tony Spilotro.


  • Giancana is a major character of Max Allan Collins' novels Chicago Confidential and Road to Paradise.
  • Giancana plays a major role in James Ellroy's fiction, most notably American Tabloid and its sequels The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover.
  • Giancana is the subject of the biography Mafia Princess, written by his daughter Antoinette.[37] This book was later adapted into the TV film Mafia Princess (1986), starring Tony Curtis as Giancana.
  • Giancana is a character of Robert Randisi's Rat Pack novels.[citation needed]
  • Giancana is a notable character of Norman Mailer's historical fiction "Harlot's Ghost".
  • The fictional character "Sam" in Steve Peters and Kay Stephens' novel The Outlaw Sandra Love (2013)[38] is based on Giancana.[citation needed]
  • The fictional character Louie Russo from Mark Winegardner's novel The Godfather Returns, could be based on Sam Giancana.
  • The book "Double Cross: The Explosive, Inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America" tells the story of Sam Giancana's life. Written by his brother Chuck Giancana, and his godson and namesake Sam Giancana, the book includes stunning first-time revelations concerning the deaths of JFK, Marilyn Monroe, and RFK.[39]
  • In the 2013 novel The Outlaw Sandra Love, the protagonist Sandra Love is said to have had a four-year relationship with a man named Sam the head of the Chicago Outfit during the early 1960s.


  • Influential rapper Kool G Rap once stated that the "G" in his name stands for Giancana. Kool G Rap released an album during 2002 called The Giancana Story (2002).
  • Giancana may be mentioned in the Shyne song "Edge" on his second album Godfather Buried Alive. "Fuck comma rap's, Sam Giancana", although this is sometimes rendered as "... same G and canna".
  • Giancana is mentioned in the song "Dope money" by The Lox. "Bring Drama 'cause Giancana got Kennedy Killed". "Dope money" is the sixth track on The LOX second album, Ryde or Die Vol. 1.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sam Giancana (Original name: Salvatore Giancana)". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  2. ^ "Sam Giancana on". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  3. ^ Giancana 1984.
  4. ^ Ron Chepesiuk, Black Gangsters of Chicago, Barricade Books, 2007. Page 95.
  5. ^ Roemer 1995, pp.125-129.
  6. ^ Giancana 1984, pp. 190, 195-197.
  7. ^ Sifakis, Carl (1987). The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York City: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-1856-1.
  8. ^ Greenberg, David (October 16, 2000). "Was Nixon Robbed?". Slate.
  9. ^ "Sinatra was 'go-between for Mafia and JFK'". The Guardian. October 7, 2000.
  10. ^ Giancana 1992, p.215.
  11. ^ Michael O'Brien (1999-12-01). "The Exner File. (Judith Campbell Exner, John F. Kennedy's mistress)". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  12. ^ Television documentary Mafia Women, Discovery Channel.
  13. ^ CIA offered money to Mafia. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
  14. ^ Memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Roselli, Johnny, November 19, 1970.
  15. ^ Kessler, Glenn (June 27, 2007). "Trying to Kill Fidel Castro". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  16. ^ Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan (2007-06-27). "CIA tried to get Mafia to kill Castro". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  17. ^ Thomas Blanton (2007-06-26). ""Family Jewels" Archive". National Security Archive. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  18. ^ a b Alex Johnson (2007-06-27). "CIA opens the book on a shady past Declassified 'family jewels' detail assassination plots, break-ins, wiretaps". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  19. ^ Giancana 1984 pp.259-284, 287-293, 347-348.
  20. ^ Giancana 1984 p.179.
  21. ^ Carl Sifakis (2005). The Mafia Encyclopedia. Infobase Publishing. pp. 6. ISBN 978-0-8160-6989-7.
  22. ^ a b Roemer, Accardo: The Genuine Godfather
  23. ^ a b "Crime boss' death linked to his discomfiture to mob". The Spokesman-Review. 93 (38). Spokane, Washington. June 21, 1975. p. 16. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Glionna, John M. (November 21, 2014). "Sam Giancana's daughter aims to cash in on gangster's memorabilia". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  25. ^ Michael Branigan (2011). A History of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The History Press. pp. 134. ISBN 978-1-60949-434-6.
  26. ^ "Giancana Killed". CBS News. June 20, 1975.
  27. ^ "Murder Most Foul". The Times-News. December 31, 1975.
  28. ^ "Chicago". Underworld Histories. History Channel.
  29. ^ Congress 1983, p. 182
  30. ^ Giancana family mausoleum location: 41°51′51″N 87°54′51″W / 41.8642299°N 87.914274°W / 41.8642299; -87.914274
  31. ^ Michael J. Corbitt, Double Deal: The Inside Story of Murder, Unbridled Corruption, and the Cop who was a Mobster, 2003. Page 196.
  32. ^ Corbitt (2003), page 196.
  33. ^ Giancana 1984, p.367.
  34. ^ Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob
  35. ^ C., G. (August 23, 1976). "Deep Six for Johnny" (PDF). Time. pp. 23–25. Alameda Fratianno was Roselli's protégé because Roselli introduced Fratiano to NY mob he was responsible for Fratiano's actions who was an informant therefore death is of consequence.
  36. ^ Godwin 1978, p.145.
  37. ^ Giancana 1984
  38. ^ Peters, Steve (2013). The Outlaw Sandra Love. Star Hill Publishing. ISBN 9780615760315.
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Mafia's Greatest Hits (series 1)".


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

American Mafia
Preceded by
Anthony Accardo
Chicago Outfit Boss
Succeeded by
Sam Battaglia