Carlos Marcello (b. February 6, 1910 – March 3, 1993) was a New Orleans mobster who became the boss of the New Orleans crime family, during the 1960s.
Born as Calogero Minacore to Sicilian parents in Tunis, Tunisia, Marcello was brought to the United States in 1911 and his family settled in a decaying plantation house near Metairie, Louisiana. Carlos, however, later turned to petty crime in the French Quarter. He was later imprisoned for leading a crew of teenage gangsters who carried out armed robberies in the small towns near New Orleans. The conviction was later overturned; but, the following year he was convicted of assault and robbery and was sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for nine years. He was released after five years.
In 1938, Marcello was arrested and charged with the sale of more than 23 pounds of marijuana. Despite receiving another lengthy prison sentence and a $76,830 fine, Marcello served less than 10 months in prison. On his release from prison, Marcello became associated with Frank Costello, the leader of the Genovese crime family, in New York City.
By the end of 1947, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's illegal gambling network. He had also joined forces with New York Mob associate Meyer Lansky in order to take over and split the profits from some of the most important casinos in the New Orleans area. According to former members of the Chicago Outfit, Marcello was also assigned a cut of the money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, in exchange for providing "muscle" in Florida real estate deals. By this time, Marcello had been crowned as the "Godfather" of the New Orleans Mafia, by the family's capos and the Commission. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.
Marcello continued the family's long-standing tradition of fierce independence from interference by mafiosi in other areas. He enacted a policy that forbade mafiosi from other citieseven other bossesfrom visiting New Orleans without permission.
On March 24 1959, Marcello appeared before a United States Senate committee investigating organized crime. Serving as Chief Counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee. In response to committee questioning, Marcello invoked the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, in refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities and associates.
After becoming President, John Kennedy appointed his brother Robert as U.S. Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide variety of issues including the attempt to tackle organized crime. In March 1961, the Attorney General took steps to deport Marcello to Guatemala (the country Marcello had falsely listed as his birthplace). On April 4, of that year, Marcello was arrested by the authorities and taken forcibly to Guatemala.
It did not take Marcello long to get back into the United States. Undercover informants reported that Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy, at one time uttering the traditional Sicilian death threat curse, "Take the stone from my shoe." Some of those who knew him, however, suggested that Marcello did not know enough Italian to utter such a threat. In September 1962, Marcello told private investigator Edward Becker that, "A dog will continue to bite you if you cut off its tail…," (meaning Attorney General Robert Kennedy.), "…whereas if you cut off the dog's head…," (meaning President Kennedy), "…it would cease to cause trouble." Becker reported that Marcello, "clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy killed in some way." Marcello told another informant that he would need to take out "insurance" for the assassination by, "….setting up some nut to take the fall for the job, just like they do in Sicily."
Just before Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963, Dallas, Texas nightclub owner Jack Ruby made contact with Marcello, and Tampa, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, about a labor problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). Ruby wa a longtime associate of the Chicago Outfit and was sent to Dallas to open up rackets for the Outfit, all while under the umbrella of the New Orlean's branch of LCN, whose sphere of power included Dallas.
After the assassination of Kennedy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello. They came to the conclusion that Marcello was not involved in the assassination. On the other hand, they also said that they, "….did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized crime figure," and that Marcello earned his living, "….as a tomato salesman and real estate investor." As a result of this investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link between Ruby and Marcello.
In 1966, Marcello was arrested in New York City after having met with the National Commission. The meeting was reportedly called because Marcello's leadership was being challenged by Trafficante Jr. and Anthony Carollo, the son of Marcello's predecessor as boss of the New Orleans Syndicate. The Commission had reportedly ruled in Marcello's favor just before the police burst in.
Marcello was then charged with consorting with known felons. After a long, drawn-out legal battle, Marcello was convicted of assaulting an FBI agent whom he had punched in the face on his return to Louisiana. Sentenced to two years in prison, he served less than six months, and was released on 12 March 1971.
G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, published, "The Plot to Kill the President" in 1981. In the book, Blakey argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Blakey believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved but believes that there was at least one gunman firing from the Grassy Knoll. Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., along with Chicago Outfit boss Salvatore "Sam," "Mooney" Giancana were complicit in planning the assassination.
On January 14, 1992, a New York Post story claimed Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa had all been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963, Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the President." He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.
In his autobiography, "Mob Lawyer", (1994), (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab), attorney Frank Ragano added that in July 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Jimmy Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santo Trafficante concerning plans to kill President Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed, Hoffa apparently told Ragano, "I told you that they could do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me." He added: "This means Bobby is out as Attorney General". Marcello later told Ragano, "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."
Marcello was convicted on charges relating to an "undercover sting" in 1981, but stayed out of prison while his conviction was being appealed, until 1983, when his appeal was denied and he was ordered to report to prison. On one conversation intercepted by the FBI, Marcello complained to his Dallas Underboss about those who accused him of murdering the Kennedy brothers. He was heard to say this about them, "Sure I have arguments with people, but then I make up with them."
Early in the new year of 1989, he had suffered a series of strokes that had left him severely disabled, and by the end of March, he was obviously showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. At times he had become so disoriented that he thought he was living in a hotel and could not recognize family members who visited him. In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Carlos’ BRILAB conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled. In October, after having served six years and six month of his sentence, he was released and the old don was finally returned back into his family’s care. "I’m retired," he told reporters. "I’m happy. Everybody’s been nice to me." He returned to his white marble, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course in Metairie.
Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses and watched over by his wife and family. Apparently, he lost the power of speech and regressed to his infancy. He was never seen in public again and died on March 3, 1993.
The New Orleans Combine frequently met at a well-known exclusive Italian restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale, Louisiana known as Mosca's. It has been said that Mosca's was the epicenter for Carlos Marcello and his many associates. It is still in operation today, after renovations following Hurricane Katrina by the Mosca family.
The Marcello family and descendants still own or control a significant amount of real estate in southeast Louisiana.