Stefano Magaddino

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Stefano Magaddino
Stefano Magaddino.jpg
Born(1891-10-10)October 10, 1891
DiedJuly 19, 1974(1974-07-19) (aged 82)
Resting placeSt. Joseph's Cemetery, Niagara Falls, New York
Other names"Don Stefano", "The Undertaker"
OccupationCrime boss
ChildrenPeter Magaddino
RelativesJoseph Bonanno (great nephew)
AllegianceBuffalo crime family

Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino (Italian pronunciation: [ˈsteːfano maɡadˈdiːno]; October 10, 1891 – July 19, 1974) was an Italian-born crime boss of the Buffalo crime family in western New York. His underworld influence stretched from Ohio to Southern Ontario and as far east as Montreal, Quebec. Known as Don Stefano to his friends and The Undertaker to others, he was also a charter member of the American Mafia's ruling council, The Commission.[1]

Early years[edit]

Magaddino was born on October 10, 1891, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily.[1] In Castellammare del Golfo, Magaddino led a clan allied with Giuseppe "Peppe" Bonanno and his older brother and advisor, Stefano.[2] During the 1900s, the clans feuded with Felice Buccellato, the boss of the Buccellato Mafia clan. After the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe, their younger brother, Salvatore, took revenge by killing members of the Buccellatos. In 1902, Magaddino arrived in New York and became a powerful member of the Castellammarese clan.[3] Magaddino was the brother of Joseph Bonanno's maternal grandmother.[2]

Magaddino married Carmella and the couple had four children. His son Peter A. Magaddino born on February 25, 1917, became a made member of Buffalo mafia family and married the niece of Buffalo mobster Charles Montana.[3][4] The eldest daughter Josephine married Charles Montana, the nephew of Buffalo mobster John C. Montana.[4] The next daughter Angelina married James V. DeLuca, who was a member of the Buffalo family.[4] The last daughter Arcangela married Vincent Scro, a mobster in the Buffalo family.[5]

Magaddino's brother Anthony "Nino" Magaddino and his brother's son Peter J. Magaddino both became members of the Buffalo family.[6]

The "Good Killers" case[edit]

Magaddino with four other "Good Killers" suspects in police custody, 1921.
Left to right, front row: Magaddino, Francisco Puma, Vito Bonventre, and Bartolo Fontana. Center, rear: Giuseppe Lombardi.

Magaddino orchestrated the murder of Detroit gangster Felice Buccellato in March 1917.[7]

In August 1921, a barber named Bartolo Fontana turned himself into the New York police, confessing to murdering Camillo Caiozzo a couple of weeks earlier in Avon, New Jersey. Fontana claimed he murdered Caiozzo at the behest of the "Good Killers", a group of mafiosi who hailed from Castellammare del Golfo, in retaliation for Caiozzo's involvement in the 1916 murder of Magaddino's brother, Pietro, back in Sicily. Fearing he might be murdered, Fontana agreed to help police set up a sting operation. Stefano Magaddino met Fontana at Grand Central Station to give Fontana $30 to help him flee the city. After the exchange, Magaddino was arrested by a group of undercover police. Vito Bonventre and four other gangsters were subsequently arrested for their involvement in the murder.[8][9]

Fontana revealed that the "Good Killers" were also responsible for a string of other murders.[8]

New Jersey decided not to pursue conspiracy charges in the Caiozzo murder and the charges against Magaddino were dropped despite the New York police officers' testimony about the sting linking him to the murder.[8]

Magaddino fled New York City after his release, ending up in the Buffalo, New York area.[10]

Buffalo crime family boss Joseph DiCarlo died in 1922, and Magaddino succeeded him as boss.[3]

Buffalo crime family[edit]

Joseph Bonanno slipped back into the United States in 1924, by stowing away on a Cuban fishing boat bound for Tampa, Florida with Magaddino's son, Peter Magaddino.[11] According to Bonanno, upon arriving at a train station in Jacksonville, Bonanno was detained by immigration officers and was later released under $1,000 bail. He was welcomed by Willie Moretti and an unidentified man, it was later revealed that Magaddino was responsible for bailing him out as a favour for Giovanni Bonventre, Bonanno's uncle.

In 1924, Magaddino became a naturalized U.S. citizen.[1]

FBI mugshot of Peter Magaddino the son of Buffalo crime family boss Stefano Magaddino

Although he operated a legitimate funeral home business in Niagara Falls, New York, the Magaddino Memorial Chapel,[12] with Prohibition in effect in the United States, Maggadino made his real money running a profitable bootlegging business by smuggling wine and spirits across the Niagara River into New York State, thereby supplying the needs of speakeasies located in Buffalo and the very "Honky-tonk" Niagara Falls.[13] After Prohibition ended, Magaddino and his crime family made their money by means of loan sharking, illegal gambling, extortion, carjacking and labor racketeering as well as other legitimate lucrative businesses such as linen service businesses that served the needs of most of the hotels located throughout the region[14] as well as taxicab companies and other service-oriented businesses.

Magaddino's crime family held power in the underworld territories of Upstate and Western New York, namely, Buffalo, New York, bordering Canada and situated on Lake Erie, Rochester and Utica, along the Mohawk River as far east as Amsterdam, New York; from Eastern Pennsylvania as far west as Youngstown, Ohio, and in Canada from Fort Erie (opposite Buffalo) to Toronto, Ontario and as far east as Montreal, Quebec.[15][16] By the 1960s, it was reported that Magaddino's crime syndicate supplied drugs to the Canadian cities of Hamilton and Guelph, which in turn supplied drugs to Toronto.[17]

Magaddino led his Buffalo family through its glory years and its most powerful and profitable era. He was an old-style boss who preferred to stay in the background and not draw any attention to himself or his criminal activities if possible. Due to his territory's remoteness yet the vast amount of it he controlled and being geographically insulated from the inter-family squabbles of the New York City-based families, he was held in high regard and was at times called upon to be an arbiter involving territorial disputes between crime families based there.[citation needed]

National crime figure[edit]

Buffalo crime family - Chart of 1963

For fifty years, Magaddino was a dominant presence in the Buffalo underworld. He was the longest tenured boss in the history of the American Mafia. Magaddino was also involved in national La Cosa Nostra affairs. Magaddino was a charter member of Charles "Lucky" Luciano's Mafia Commission and attended important underworld summits such as the 1946 Havana Conference and the 1957 Apalachin Conference.[18][19]

It is believed Magaddino, along with Antonio and Johnny Papalia, played a role in notorious Hamilton bootlegger Rocco Perri's disappearance in 1944 in order to gain more Canadian market control.[20] After Perri's disappearance, three of his former lieutenants, in addition to Papalia and Giacomo Luppino, began answering to Magaddino in Buffalo: Tony Sylvestro, Calogero Bordonaro and Santo Scibetta, known as the "three dons".[21][22]

Magaddino had survived several assassination attempts. In 1936, rival gangsters attempted to kill Magaddino with a bomb, killing his sister instead. In 1958, an assassin tossed a hand grenade through his kitchen window, which failed to explode.[23]

In 1963, Joseph Bonanno made plans to assassinate several rivals on the Mafia Commission—bosses Tommy Lucchese, Carlo Gambino, Magaddino, as well as Frank DeSimone.[24] Bonanno sought Profaci crime family boss Joseph Magliocco's support, and Magliocco readily agreed due to his bitterness from being denied a seat on the Commission previously. Bonanno's audacious goal was to take over the Commission and make Magliocco his right hand man.[25] Magliocco was assigned the task of killing Lucchese and Gambino, and gave the contract to one of his top hit men, Joseph Colombo. However, the opportunistic Colombo revealed the plot to its targets. The other bosses quickly realized that Magliocco could not have planned this himself. Remembering how close Bonanno was with Magliocco (and before him, Joe Profaci), as well as their close ties through marriages, the other bosses concluded Bonanno was the real mastermind.[25] The Commission summoned Bonanno and Magliocco to explain themselves. Fearing for his life, Bonanno fled to Canada, leaving Magliocco to deal with the Commission, but was deported back to the United States.

In October 1964, Bonanno returned to Manhattan, but on October 20, 1964, the day before Bonanno was scheduled to testify to a grand jury inquiry, his lawyers said that after having dinner with them, Bonanno was kidnapped, allegedly by Magaddino's men, as he entered the apartment house where one of his lawyers lived on Park Avenue and East 36th Street.[26]

Magaddino's empire began to crumble in 1968, when police found $500,000 stashed away in Magaddino's funeral home and his son's attic. Retired FBI agent Donald Hartnett said, "At that time, Magaddino had been telling his underlings that money was tight, and he could not afford to pay them Christmas bonuses... People began to stop trusting him when we found all that money."[27]


Magaddino died of a heart attack on July 19, 1974, at age 82, at Mount Saint Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, New York.[1] His funeral was held at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. He was buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery on Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls.


Mob Boss, written by Mike Hudson, is a book about Magaddino's life as a mob boss. Magaddino is also mentioned in Niagara Falls Confidential, also written by Mike Hudson. He also gets a passing mention in The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas. Magaddino, as head of the Buffalo/Niagara Falls crime family, is a subject throughout the two-volume history, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime (Vol. I through 1937, Vol. II 1938 through 2012) by Thos. Hunt & Michael A. Tona (2013).

Magaddino is an unseen character in the third season of the hit HBO series, Boardwalk Empire.


  1. ^ a b c d Perlmutter, Emanuel (July 21, 1974). "Stefano Magaddino Dead at 82". New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 February 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno By Joseph Bonanno p.24-28
  3. ^ a b c Jerry Capeci The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia pg.49–52
  4. ^ a b c Reavill, Gil (22 January 2013). Mafia Summit J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting That Unmasked the Mob. St. Martin's Press. p. 241. ISBN 9780312657758. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  5. ^ United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Government Operations. Permament Subcommittee on Investigations (1964). Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Hearings ... Eighty-eighth Congress, First Session Pursuant to Senate Resolution 17, 88th Congress · Volume 5, Parts 4-6. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 1036. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  6. ^ "United States Government Memorandum" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  7. ^ Waugh, Daniel (2019). Vinnitta: The Birth of the Detroit Mafia. Lulu. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-1-4834-9627-6.
  8. ^ a b c Hunt, Thomas; Tona, Michael A. (Spring 2007). "The Good Killers 1921's Glimpse of the Mafia". On the Spot Journal of Crime and Law Enforcement History. Archived from the original on 11 August 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2022 – via The American Mafia.
  9. ^ "SIXTEEN MURDERS BY DEATH BAND HERE REVEALED; Member of Gang, Himself Slated to Die, Discloses Operations - 7 Under Arrest". Brooklyn Daily Times. 17 August 1921. pp. 1–2.
  10. ^ Jerry Capeci The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia pg.68
  11. ^ Raab, Selwyn. Five Families. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005. Print.
  12. ^ "NOW OWNED BY FALLS, FUNERAL HOME ONCE TIED TO MOB CONDUCTS BUSINESS AS USUAL". May 18, 1992. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  13. ^ Rizzo, Michael (2012). Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. Kindle Location 727. ISBN 978-1-61423-549-1.
  14. ^ Gryta, Matt; Karalus, George (2012). The Real Teflon Don: How An Elite Team of New York State Troopers Helped Take Down America's Most Powerful Mafia Family. Buffalo, NY: Cazenovia Books. pp. Kindle Location 2568. ISBN 978-0-9749253-6-3.
  15. ^ Gryta, Mart; Karalus, George (2012). The Real Teflon Don How An Elite Team of New York State Troopers Helped Take Down America's Most Powerful Mafia Family. Buffalo, NY: Cazenovia Books. pp. Kindle Location 2222. ISBN 978-0-9749253-6-3.
  16. ^ Hunt, Thomas; Tona, Michael (2013). DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Vol. II, From 1938. Hunt & Tona Publications. pp. Kindle Locations 3089–3096. ISBN 978-1-304-26582-1.
  17. ^ Phillips, Alan (September 21, 1963). "ORGANIZED CRIME'S GRIP ON ONTARIO". Maclean's. Canada. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019.
  18. ^ Glynn, Don (November 11, 2007). "Glynn:Area delegates attended mob convention". Niagara Gazette. Archived from the original on 9 February 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  19. ^ McHugh, Ray (August 26, 1963). "Federal Attack, Internal Fights Trouble Crime Clan". Lodi News-Sentinel. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  20. ^ Humphreys, Adrian (1999). The Enforcer:Johnny Pops Papalia, A Life and Death in the Mafia. Toronto: Harper Collins. p. 26. ISBN 0-00-200016-4.
  21. ^ Schneider, Stephen (2018). Canadian Organized Crime. Canadian Scholars' Press Inc. p. 176. ISBN 9781773380247.
  22. ^ Schneider, 2009 p.285-286 Archived 2021-01-04 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "CRIME HUNTER: Buffalo blues — last rites for the mob in Queen City". May 5, 2018. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  24. ^ Staff (September 1, 1967) "The Mob: How Joe Bonanno Schemed to kill – and lost" Life p.15-21
  25. ^ a b Bruno, Anthony. "Colombo Crime Family: Trouble and More Trouble". TruTV Crime Library. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  26. ^ Raab, Selwyn (May 12, 2002). "Joe Bonanno Dies; Mafia Leader, 97, Who Built Empire". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
  27. ^ "Buffalo's Crimes of the Century
    Mayhem, Murder and the Mafia -- Darker Moments in the City's History"
    . The Buffalo News. December 27, 1999. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Checkmark Books, 2005. ISBN 0816056951

External links[edit]