Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese, also known as "Thomas Luckese" or "Three-Fingers Brown" (December 1, 1899 – July 13, 1967) (Some sources write it as 'Luchese', his tombstone says 'Luckese') was the boss of the Lucchese crime family from 1951 - 1967 and bares his name. The family is one of the five Mafia families ruling the New York underground. He was popular and well-liked among his men, and known to value their welfare highly. Lucchese also enjoyed close relations with mayors and other politicians, including Mayor William O'Dwyer and Mayor Vincent Impellitteri. He ultimately became one of the most well-respected Mafia bosses of the era. Tommy Lucchese was five-foot-two with a slight build, but any idea that this may make him less of a threat was quickly dispelled by his ruthless use of extreme violence.
Lucchese was born in Palermo, Sicily, and moved to the United States some time during the first decade of the 20th century. He lost a finger following an industrial accident in 1915, which earned him the nickname "Three-Finger Brown" (after a popular baseball player at the time, Mordecai Brown (1876 - 1948)). Lucchese started his own window cleaning company when he was 18, which eventually became an extortion racket. As a young man he racked up a long list of arrests including some for homicide, but he managed to avoid conviction in every case, but for a single grand larceny charge in the early 1920s.
The Reina GangEdit
The Reina gang started during World War I and was located in the Bronx. The group was lead by Gaetano Reina and it soon became a strong criminal organization with in New York City. Gaetano "Tom" Reina controlled a Monopoly over the ice distribution in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. Tommy Lucchese, Gaetano Gagliano, and Stefano "Steve" Rondelli were all top Lieutenants for Gaetano "Tom" Reina.Tommy Lucchese ran his own gang/crew in East Harlem called the 107st crew. (The 107st crew later in the 1960’s became heavily involved in the French Connection selling Heroin.)
The Young Turks, or Broadway Mob, was a group of young Italian and Jewish men involved in bootlegging, robbery, illegal gambling, and thefts in the 1920s. The members of the Young Turks were Charlie "Lucky" Luciano , Frank Costello, Tommy Lucchese, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Joseph Adonis, Carlo Gambino, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. The group was led by Luciano, who was partnered with Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein. The group was called the "Young Turks" by the old Italian Mafia bosses because they were ambitious, impatient and worked with anyone, Jewish or Italian. The old-style Mafia men were called the "Mustache Petes" and would not work with anyone who was not Italian. This group of young men would make the decision to end the Castellammarese war
The Castellammares WarEdit
In 1930, the Castellammarese War was being fought between two rival crime bosses, Giuseppe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Lucchese began the war as the right-hand man of Gaetano "Tom" Reina, the head of which was at that time a branch of Masseria's organisation but would ultimately become the Lucchese crime family. Reina was killed in February 1930 by Vito Genovese, the future head of the Genovese crime family, and was replaced in the Masseria organisation by Joseph Pinzolo. Lucchese resented Pinzolo from the outset as he had been brought in as an outsider by Masseria. Lucchese's ill will towards Pinzolo ultimately led to the former murdering the latter (though others have been suggested as suspects) - luckily for Lucchese, Masseria attributed the killing to Maranzano.
Though events had not yet been fully played out, Charles "Lucky" Luciano would ultimately come out on top at the end of the Castellammarese War having played both sides superbly and ultimately had both Masseria, his own boss, and Maranzano killed. Tommy Lucchese, along with Gaetano "Tommy" Gagliano, had been convinced by Luciano to switch from the Masseria camp to Maranzano's, but without telling their current employer. Maranzano thought he now had two spies in the opposing camp - in fact, Luciano was the man who could now claim the two Tommys' loyalty. Lucchese became one of Luciano's favoured hitmen, and is alleged to have been involved in at least 30 murders.
With the end of the gang war, Maranzano set up a new structure of crime families that would incorporate all the existing Sicilian and Italian gangs in the United States with him as the top boss. The old Reina gang would become one of the five crime families of New York City: Luciano Family, Gagliano Family, Mangano Family, Bonanno Family, Profaci Family). Gagliano became the boss of this new family with Lucchese as his underboss.
Maranzano soon grew jealous of Charlie Luciano's power and arranged their murders. However, Luciano found out about the plot and killed Maranzano first. On September 10, 1931 Tommy Lucchese went to see Maranzano at his office saying he had to discuss a matter on behalf of his boss Gaetano Gagliano. Lucchese was there to point out Maranzano to the Jewish hitmen (Sammy "Red" Levine, Abraham "Bo" Weinberg, and others) who were dressed as Police and IRS agents. The hitmen killed Maranzano in his office. Luciano, rather than becoming the new boss of all bosses, created and setup a Mafia Commission. The Commission was composed of family representatives (each boss from the Luciano Family, Mangano Family, Gagliano Family, Bonanno Family, Profaci Family, Buffalo Family and Chicago Outfit) and would regulate organized crime and prevent future wars. However, behind the scenes, Luciano was the strongest and most respected boss because he was the head of the Commission.
Tommy Lucchese was underboss for Gaetano Gagliano, who was one of the members of the mafia commission. The New York City underworld was organized and peaceful because of Charlie Luciano but he was soon arrested in 1936 and then deported in 1946. Gagliano would keep his family during a tough time, being out numbered in the Commission by the Bonanno family, Magaddino family, Profaci family and the Mangano family alliance. The Gagliano family during WWII was involved in black market sugar, gasoline rations, stamps and meat and the family's underboss, Lucchese, attended the Havana Conference in Cuba on behalf of his boss Gaetano Gagliano in 1946.
Boss of The Lucchese FamilyEdit
Gagliano remained family boss until his death by natural causes in 1953. Having served for 22 years as a loyal underboss to Gagliano, Lucchese finally took control of the organization himself. Tommy Lucchese brought in his friend Vincenzo Rao, aka (Vincent "Nunzio" Rao) as his Consigliere and Stefano LaSalle as his underboss. Tommy Lucchese was popular and well-liked among his men, and known to value their welfare highly. He was five-foot-two with a slight build, but readily capable of ruthless violence. Lucchese also enjoyed close relations with mayors and other politicians, including New York City Mayors William O'Dwyer and Vincent Impellitteri and became one of the most well-respected bosses of the era. Concentrating on the core Cosa Nostra values of making money and not getting caught, Lucchese took the family into new rackets in Manhattan's Garment District and in the related trucking industry, taking control of key union officials and trade associations.
Lucchese had his 107st crew become involved in large scale heroin smuggling with the crew's capo Giovanni Ormento. The scheme was worth millions of dollars in heroin and lead to a major NYPD corruption scandal. This scandal involved corrupt NYPD officers allowing access to NYPD evidence rooms containing hundreds of kilograms of heroin, which were then stolen. The heroin was worth more than $70 million. The heroin was then replaced with baking flour; this was all happening around the time of Serpico, before he opened the scandal to the public.
Allied with Gambino and GenoveseEdit
In 1951 Tommy Lucchese was Acting Boss of the Gagliano family and by 1953 he became the official boss of the family. He soon made an alliance with Carlo Gambino who was the new underboss for Albert Anastasia (the boss of the Mangano Family). Lucchese teamed up with Gambino and Vito Genovese (who was just a capo again) to take the Anastasia and Frank Costello and Charlie Luciano alliance. Vito Genovese wanted to be boss of the "Luciano family" and Boss of Bosses but needed to get rid of Costello, however first he needed to get rid of Anastasia.
Vito Genovese couldn’t take out Albert Anastasia without more support, and Meyer Lansky soon put his support behind Vito’s plan. On October 25 1957, Anastasia was murdered (by members of the Gallo crew from the Profaci Family) and Carlo Gambino became the new boss of the family. Vito Genovese then ordered Vincent Gigante to kill Frank Costello, so that Vito could finally take control of the Luciano Family and become the Boss. Costello was shot but lived and retired leaving Vito Genovese the new Boss. By 1957 the new alliance of Charlie Luciano, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese decided it was time to get rid of Vito Genovese.
Vito Genovese organized the Apalachin Meeting in upstate New York on November 14, 1957 at the home of mobster Joseph "Joe the Barber" Barbara. It was an America mafia summit and hundreds of 'made' men were to discuss business. Tommy Lucchese was on his way to the Apalachin Meeting with his underboss Stefano LaSalle and driver Aniello "Neil" Migliore which meant they were not present and therefore not arrested, but his consigliere Vincenzo Rao was arrested in the raid. Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese were also arrested, along with many more. This caused Vito Genovese to lose power and respect in the underworld. The alliance against Vito Genovese finally won in 1959, when Vito was in Atlanta Georgia overseeing a shipment of heroin and the police, FBI and ATF were staking out the place and busted him. Vito was sentenced to 15 years and this left Carlo Gambino the head of the Commission.
Lucchese and GenoveseEdit
In 1962, Carlo Gambino's oldest son Thomas Gambino married Tommy Lucchese's daughter Frances. The wedding had over 1,000 guests and Carlo Gambino gave Lucchese a $30,000 'welcome to the family' gift and Lucchese cut Gambino into his airport rackets. Lucchese controlled JFK airport and had full control over all unions, management and security. Together Lucchese and Gambino ran the Commission and New York City.
War with Bonanno and ProfaciEdit
In 1962 Lucchese and Gambino began to back the Gallo crew from the Profaci Family in the war against their boss Joe Profaci. Both Gambino and Lucchese saw the war as a way to take over rackets that were under control of the Profaci family, because the Profaci's were too involved in their war. On June 6, 1962 Boss Joe Profaci died of cancer and his underboss Joseph "Joe Malyak" Magliocco became the new boss and kept fighting the war against the Gallo crew. Magliocco had support of most of the Profaci family and support from other family boss Joe Bonanno of the Bonanno Family.
The war finally came to an end in 1963 when Gallo crew capo Joseph Gallo was arrested. Joe Magliocco and Joe Bonanno decided they needed revenge on Lucchese, Gambino, Magaddino for the Gallo war and the Bonanno war. They decided they needed to have them killed so Magliocco ordered capo Joe Colombo to kill all three Bosses (Tommy Lucchese, Carlo Gambino, and Stefano Magaddino). Joe Colombo went to the Mafia Commission instead and talked about the plot to murder them. Magliocco showed up to the Commission and was stripped of his Boss title and forced into retirement. Joe Colombo became the new boss of the Profaci Family and it was decided to rename it as the Colombo Family. Joe Bonanno decided to go into hiding and his last ally, Joe Magliocco, died of high blood pressure. Even Bonanno’s ally from Tampa Florida, Boss Santo Trafficante, was against him.
The Commission then stripped Joe Bonanno of his Boss title and put in capo, Gaspar DiGregorio, as the new boss. Upset by the Commissions decision Joe Bonanno started a war; it was later called the Banana war (1962-1967). The war continued for years and in October 1964 Joe Bonanno was kidnapped by Buffalo crime family members Peter and Antonino Magaddino. Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino (who was also a cousin to Bonanno) asked him to retire and end the war. Joe Bonanno refused and continued the war and began to see victory when he suffered a heart attack and would finally retire. The Commission had won and put in another capo, Paul Sciacca, as the new boss of the Bonanno Family.
Trouble in New JerseyEdit
Tommy Lucchese became the boss of the Gagliano Family in 1951 leaving New Jersey behind. While he was underboss he supervised The Jersey crew which was made up of 3-4 separate crews. Tommy Lucchese left behind his friend Settimo Accardi as the Boss/Capo of the entire New Jersey faction of the Lucchese Family. By 1955 Accardi was deported and a new boss/capo was chosen it was Anthony "Ham" Delasco who was from the Newark faction. During the same time the Elizabeth family boss Stefano "Steve" Badami began a war within his own family. The war was between the Newark faction and Elizabeth faction. Badami was murdered by 1957 leaving Filippo "Phil" Amari his underboss as the leader of the Elizabeth family. The war continued and Filippo Amari soon formed his own family and used Fank Majuri as his underboss. Before this the Elizabeth group wasn't seen as a real family. Amari would retire because of the interal war and left Nicholas Delmore as the new boss of the Elizabeth, New Jersey family. Delmore would become the first official boss of the Family when he attended the Apalachin Meeting in 1957 along with his underboss Louis LaRasso. Nick Delmore would soon retire in 1964 leaving Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante as the boss of the family. During this time the Jersey crew also received a new boss/capo Joseph Abate after the death of Delasco and would bring stability to the crew.
The Valachi HearingsEdit
In 1963, Joseph Valachi became the first American Mafia government witness when he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations. The McClellan Hearings (or Valachi Hearings) was the first concrete evidence that the American mafia did exist. Joseph Valachi was a low ranking soldier in the Genovese Crime Family when he decided to testify. Before he became a member in the Genovese family Valachi he was an associate in the Reina family (later Lucchese Crime Family) and had worked with Tommy Lucchese and Tommy Gagliano in the Castellammarese War. He later decided to switch and join the Luciano Family and worked as a driver until 1962 when he testified that the mafia was real. Valachi gave information on how the mafia worked and who were the leaders in each crime family. The hearing was televised and America learned the truth about rituals and the violence of the mafia. Valachi described to the committee the mafia structure and hierarchy in New York City from Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, Caporegime, Soldiers, and associates. He also described the mafia Commission and its members Don Vito Genovese, Don Carlo Gambino, Don Tommy Lucchese, Don Joe Bonanno, and Don Joe Colombo. After the hearing Valachi, a marked man with a bounty on his head, tried to kill himself in prison but failed. He later died of a heart attack in 1971.
Lucchese led a quiet, stable life until he developed a fatal brain tumor and died at his home in the Lido Beach area of Long Island on July 13, 1967. At the time of his death, Lucchese had not spent a night in jail in over 40 years. His funeral was at the Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York and was attended by over 1,000 mourners, including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, and hitmen. When Tommy Lucchese died, his first choice Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo was in prison and his second choice Ettore Coco was also in trouble with the law and only served time as boss for a while. Vincenzo Rao the family consigliere was also a choice but he was facing legal problems and could not become boss. The Commission then decided to put in capo Carmine Tramunti until Anthony Corallo was released from prison. Tramunti would later be arrested in the famous French Connection heroin smuggling trade. Anthony Corallo was out of prison by then and took over as the family’s new boss.
- Joseph "Joe Brown" Lucchese - was the younger brother of Tom Lucchese. Little is know of him besides that he worked in the horses track and was a capo in the Lucchese family. Joseph worked closely with Aniello "Neil" Migliore running Queens based gambling operations, and died sometime in the early 1970s.
- Robert Lucchese - the son of Tommy Lucchese. He worked in the Garment District with Thomas Gambino.
- Thomas F. Gambino - the son of Carlo Gambino. He married Frances Lucchese the daughter of Tommy Lucchese. Capo in the Gambino family along with his two brothers Joseph and Carl, and brother-in-law Robert Lucchese they controlled many trucking firms in the Garment District.
- Joseph "Joe Palisades" Rosato - was the brother-in-law to Tommy Lucchese both worked in the Garment District. Rosato was involved with Lucchese from the early 1930s and in the Valachi hearings identified as a Capo in the Lucchese crime family.
In Popular CultureEdit
Lucchese was portrayed by Jon Polito in the 1981 television miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, released later that year as the film Gangster Wars.