The New Orleans Crime Family is one of the oldest American criminal organization in activity. It is based in New Orleans and parts of southern Louisiana in the United States. It's status today is uknown, as it remained in the shadows since 1993. While some rumors claim that it is nearly defunct, others claim that it is one of the most powerful Families in the United States today.
Matranga crime family
The Matranga crime family, established by Charles (1857-28 October 1943) and Tony Matranga (d. 1890 ?), was one of the earliest recorded American Mafia crime families, operating in New Orleans during the late 19th century until the beginning of Prohibition in 1920.
Born Carlo and Antonio Matranga in Sicily, the brothers immigrated to the United States with their family and settled in New Orleans during the 1870s where they eventually opened a saloon and brothel. Using their business as a base of operations, the Matranga brothers began establishing lucrative organized criminal activities including extortion and labor racketeering. Receiving tribute payments from Italian laborers and dockworkers, as well as from the rival Provenzano crime family (who held a near monopoly of commercial shipping from South American fruit shipments), they eventually began moving in on Provenzano fruit loading operations intimidating the Provenzanos with threats of violence.
Although the Provenzanos withdrew in favor of giving the Matrangas a cut of waterfront racketeering, by the late 1880s, the two families eventually went to war over the grocery and produce businesses held by the Provenzanos. As both sides began employing a large number of Sicilian mafiosi from their native Monreale, Sicily, the violent gang war began attracting police attention, particularly from New Orleans police chief David Hennessy who began investigating into the warring organizations. Within months of his investigation, Hennessy was shot and killed by several unidentified attackers while walking home on the night of October 15, 1890.
The murder of Hennessey created a huge backlash from the city and, although Charles and several members of the Matrangas were arrested, they were eventually tried and acquitted in February 1891 with Charles Matranga and a 14-year-old member quitted midway through the trial as well as four more who were eventually acquitted and three others released in hung juries. The decision caused strong protests from residents, angered by the controversy surrounding the case (particularly in the face of incriminating evidence and jury tampering), and the following month a lynch mob storms the jail hanging 11 of the 17 Matranga members still waiting to be brought to trial including Antonio Bagnetto, Bastiano Incardona, Antonio Marchese, Pietro Monastero and Manuel Politzi on March 14, 1891.
Matranga was able to escape from the vigilante lynchings and, upon returning to New Orleans, resumed his position as head of the New Orleans crime family eventually forcing the declining Provenzanos out of New Orleans by the end of the decade. Matranga would rule over the New Orleans underworld until shortly after Prohibition when he turned over leadership over to Sylvestro "Sam" Carolla in the early 1920s.
From Silver Dollar Sam to Carlos Marcello
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Sylvestro "Sam" Carolla was the leader of the New Orleans crime family transforming predecessor Charles Matranga's Black Hand gang into a modern organized crime group.
Born in Sicily, Carolla immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1904. By 1918, Carolla had become a high ranking member of Charles Matranga's Black Hand organization eventually succeeding him following Matranga's retirement in 1922. Assuming control of Matranga's minor bootlegging operations, Carolla waged war against rival bootlegging gangs gaining full control following the murder of William Bailey in December 1930.
Gaining considerable political influence within New Orleans, he used his connections when, in 1929, Al Capone traveled to the city demanding Carolla supply the Chicago Outfit with imported alcohol instead of Chicago's Sicilian Mafia boss Joe Aiello. Meeting Capone as he arrived at a New Orleans train station, Carolla, accompanied by several police officers, reportedly disarmed Capone's bodyguards and breaking their fingers forcing Capone to return to Chicago.
In 1930, Carolla was arrested for the shooting death of federal narcotics agent Cecil Moore which took place during an undercover drug buy. Despite his support by several New Orleans police officers who testified Carolla was in New York at the time of the murder, he was sentenced to two years. Released in 1934, Carolla negotiated a deal with New York mobsters Frank Costello and Philip "Dandy Phil" Kastel, as well as Louisiana Senator Huey Long to bring slot machines into New Orleans following New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's attacks on organized crime. Carolla, with lieutenant Carlos Marcello, would run illegal gambling operations undisturbed for several years.
Carolla's legal problems continued as he was scheduled to be deported in 1940 after serving two years in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, following his arrest on a narcotics charge in 1938. Although delayed following the US's entry into World War II, Carolla would continue to control the New Orleans crime family for several years before a campaign, begun by reporter Drew Pearson, exposed an attempt by Congressman Jimmy Morrison to pass a bill awarding Carolla with American citizenship (thereby making deportation illegal). Finally forced to leave New Orleans, Carolla would finally be deported in April 1947.
Soon arriving in Sicily, Carolla organized a partnership with fellow exile Charles Luciano establishing criminal enterprises in Mexico. Briefly returning to the United States in 1949, he was deported the following year as control of the New Orleans crime family reverted to Carlos Marcello. Living in Palermo, Sicily until 1970, Carolla once again returned to the US. According to Life Magazine, he was asked to return by Marcello, who needed him to mediate disputes within the New Orleans mafia. After a subsequent attempt to deport him failed, he died a free man in 1972.
Born as Calogero Minacore to Sicilian parents in Tunis, 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, which was then New Orleans' Little Italy. He was later imprisoned for leading a crew of teenaged gangsters who carried out armed robberies in the small towns near New Orleans. These charges were later dropped but the following year he was convicted of assault and robbery and was sentenced to the State penitentiary for 9 years. He only served 5.
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.
By the end of 1947, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's gambling network. He had also joined forces with Meyer Lansky in order to take over and split the profits from some of the most important gambling 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 Mafia in New Orleans by the family's capos and the Commission. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.
On March 24, 1959, Marcello appeared before the 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 again invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities, and associates.
After becoming president, John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, 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 have Marcello deported to Guatemala (the country Marcello had falsely listed as his birthplace). On 4th April, 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 he 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, Jack Ruby made contact with Marcello, and another Mafia leader, Santos Trafficante, about a labor problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).
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 Tampa Mafia boss Santo Trafficante Jr. and Anthony Carollo, the son of Marcello's predecessor as boss of the New Orleans Mafia. The Commission had reportedly ruled in Marcello's favor just before the police burst in.
Marcello was then charged with consorting with known felons and after a long drawn out legal battle he was eventually 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. He 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, along with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana and Tampa, Florida mafia leader Santo Trafficante, Jr., were complicit in planning the assassination.
On 14th January 1992, a New York Post story claimed Marcello, Jimmy Hoffa and Santo Trafficante had all been involved in the assassination of President John F. 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 John F. 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. 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 this about them, "Sure I have arguments with people, but then I make up with them."
Carlos Marcello died in one of his mansions in Metairie, Louisiana on 3 March 1993 as a free man, having been released in 1989 after his initial conviction on bribery charges was overturned. At the time of his release, Marcello had come down with Alzheimer’s. By the time of his death he had regressed to his infancy.
The New Orleans Combine frequently met at a well-known exclusive Italian restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale 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. Locals often cite legends alluding to the possibility of many bodies being dumped in the swamps owned or formerly owned by the Marcello family, and the subsequent consumption of these deceased individuals by local alligators. But these assertions and legends have yet to be decisively concluded true or false.
Bosses of the New Orleans Crime Family
c. 1865 - 1869 Raffaele Agnello (killed 1 April 1869)
1869 - 1872 Joseph Agnello (killed July 1872)
1872 - 1879 Joseph P. Macheca (1842–1891)
1879 - 1881 Giuseppe "Vincenzo Randazo" Esposito (jailed, then deported)
1881 - 1891 Joseph P. Macheca (killed in famous lynching 14 March 1891)
1891 - 1922 Charles Matranga (retired, died 28 October 1943)
1922 - 1944 Corrado Giacona (died 25 July 1944)
1922 - 1944 Sylvestro "Silver Dollar Sam" Corolla (acting/front boss)
1944 Frank Todaro (said to be Giacona underboss who took over in 1944, but was killed 6 months later on 8 November 1944 by Sam Carolla in a power move)
1944 - 1947 Sylvestro "Silver Dollar Sam" Carolla (deported)
1947 - 1993 Calogero "Carlos Little Man Marcello" Minacore (jailed, 1983-91)
Impact of the New Orleans Crime Family
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The New Orleans crime family has or had an impact throughout all Louisiana and several other southern states like Missouri, Texas and Mississippi. It has an estimated 10 "made" members left and a few more associates. Some people say it is almost dead; others claim that it is one of the most powerful Mafia crime families in the United States today.
Mafia Boss Carlos Marcello