Carmine Galante, also known as "Lilo" and "Cigar" (February 21, 1910 – July 12, 1979) was the acting boss of the Bonanno crime family, a New York City Cosa Nostra crime organization, from 1974 to 1979. Galante was rarely seen without a cigar clenched in his teeth, leading to the nickname "Cigar".
The son of a fisherman, Galante was born in an East Harlem tenement to Vincenzo "James" Galante an immigrant from the town of San Germano dei Berici in Veneto and Vincenza Russo, who had immigrated from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily in 1906. His career in crime started when he was only eleven, forming a juvenile street gang on New York's Lower East Side. He is the father of Bonanno crime family reputed capo James Galante. As a teenager, Galante became an associate mafioso during the Prohibition era, becoming leading enforcer by the end of the decade. In 1930 Galante and other gang members were caught by New York police officer Joseph Meenahan attempting to hijack a truck in Williamsburg. In the resulting gun battle, Galante wounded Meenahan and a six-year-old girl who happened to be nearby. Both victims survived and Galante was sentenced to 12½ years in prison.
In 1939, Galante was released on parole from prison. By 1940, he was carrying out "hits" (murders) for Vito Genovese, one of the most powerful mobsters in New York. Galante is widely believed to have murdered the left-wing, anti-Mafia Italian journalist Carlo Tresca in 1943 on orders from Genovese. Galante went from being chauffeur to the boss of the Bonanno Family, Joseph Bonanno, to caporegime, and then underboss. He was said to have been loyal to his old boss and often spoke of him with great admiration. They also shared a common enemy, namely Carlo Gambino.
Prison and Gang rivalryEdit
Galante's rise to power was halted temporarily in 1962 when he was sentenced to twenty years for drug offences in a drug bust engineered by Frank Costello and other enemies. While in prison, psychiatrists diagnosed Galante as having a psychopathic personality disorder. Although Costello had died in 1973 of natural causes, Galante nevertheless ordered the bombing of his hated enemy's tomb, blowing the doors off the mausoleum.
When Bonanno was forced into retirement, Phillip "Rusty" Rastelli took over the Bonanno family. In 1974, however, Galante was released on parole at roughly the same time that Rastelli was sent to prison, and Galante was able to seize control of the family. During the 1970s, Galante supposedly organized the murders of at least eight members of the Gambino Family, with whom he had an intense rivalry, in order to take over a massive drug-trafficking operation. Galante was briefly jailed in 1978 for violating his parole by associating with known criminals, but he was released after being defended by famed attorney Roy Cohn.
On July 12, 1979, Carmine Galante was murdered just as he finished eating lunch at Joe and Mary's Italian-American Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn along with his bodyguard, Leonard Coppola, and restaurant owner/cousin Giuseppe Turano. Cigar in mouth, the 69-year-old mobster was blasted in the face and chest at point-blank range with a shotgun. He was murdered by Anthony Indelicato, Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, Cesare Bonventre and Louis "Louie Gaeta" Giongetti. These men were all hired by Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato.
In Philip Carlo's book "Iceman", which tells the story of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, Kuklinski claims that he was on the hit team that eliminated Galante. Kuklinski further states that he personally shot Galante with a 357. Magnum. According to the autopsy Galante was cut down with a shotgun, information that was inconsistent with this claim.
In the HBO show The Sopranos, Carmine Galante's assassination is referenced in the episode "A Hit Is a Hit". While Tony is playing golf with his neighbour Dr. Bruce Cusamano and friends, Cusamano and a friend discuss Galante's hit, with Cusamano describing it as a "fuckin' beautiful hit" after being asked if he had seen the picture of the dead mobster with a cigar hanging from his mouth.