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Episode Teaser

Today, the debut episode of The Members Only Podcast, we introduce the show and talk about where we’re hoping to take things in the future.

Not only that, we do our first mobster biography, where we cover the life and times of Tommy Gagliano, one of the most low-key and mysterious mobsters in the history of Cosa Nostra and a founding Godfather of the American Mafia as we know it today.

Episode timeline
00:00Episode Teaser 01:23Episode Intro 04:43Early Life 12:55Criminal Beginnings 17:19The Boccia Murder 35:53The Rise to Cosa Nostra Leadership 61:53The Downfall of Genovese & The 3-Man Ruling Panel 75:22Crowning the New “Boss” 80:12Miranda’s Retirement & Closing Thoughts

Episode Intro & Mob Movie Trivia

Here’s something the average movie fan may not know. In the 1990 mob classic Goodfellas, the movie is primarily based around a crew in which of the Five Families?

I’ll give you a minute.

If you guessed the Gambino’s who get a 1-line mention after one of their members, Billy Batts, is whacked, you’d be dead wrong.

It’s actually the Lucchese family being represented, and specifically the focus is on the Paul Vario crew (Paul Cicero in the film), who was at the time a very powerful caporegime and which included of course Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) and Jimmy Burke (Jimmy Conway in the film, and portrayed by the great Robert DeNiro).

The movie covers this Lucchese crew during the time period between the late 1950’s and early 1980s.

But of course the family wasn’t always called The Lucchese family. It was originally headed by one Mr. Gaetano “Tommy” Gagliano and was only renamed later. And this is who we’ll be talking about today.

It’s kind of ironic that in my first episode, I decided to choose the mob boss of which there is probably the least amount of available information, but I thought “What the Hell? Why not start with a challenge?” So here it goes.

Tommy Gagliano: Overview

Gaetano “Tommy” Gagliano was the original boss of what the U.S. Federal authorities would later designate as the Lucchese crime family, one of the “Five Families” of New York City. He was probably the lowest-profile boss in the history of America Cosa Nostra and presided over the family for over two decades. His successor was his long-time lieutenant, Underboss, and the family’s current name-sake, one Tommy “Three Finger Brown” Lucchese.

As it has been said, if the primary ingredients for being a successful Cosa Nostra boss are keeping a low profile, avoiding arrests, shunning media publicity, and longevity – then you’d be hard pressed to find someone with a more impressive tenure than Tommy Gagliano.

Gagliano is one of the biggest enigmas ever in the American Mob. In fact, there is hardly any information about him at all – especially after he became his family’s first Godfather. In my research, instances where he is mentioned typically talk about his role in the Castellammarese War, and his selection as the family’s boss in 1931, but after that most information dries up until his death 20 years later.

After 1931, the only exceptions to this would be when he takes a pinch and does a small bit of jail time and when he attends future mob rat Joe Valachi’s wedding on September 18, 1932. After that, he is not heard from until his death and get this – even his actual death date has been disputed. Even for the time, being this low-key was damned-near impossible and actually quite impressive.

Gagliano’s Early Life

Let’s go back to Tommy’s early life. Gaetano “Tommy” Gagliano was born on May 29, 1883 in the long-time mob stronghold of Corleone, Sicily.

Fun fact: This is the same city that Vito Corleone, the great Don played by Marlon Brando in the Godfather, takes as his surname upon arriving in America.

Anyhow, back to Gagliano. Tommy was said to be born to Luciano Gagliano and Lucia Oliveri. However, there is some information that suggests that his father is actually Angelo Gagliano, who was a former capo in the Sicilian Mafia in Corleone. However, records show that Angelo did not marry until 1902, and Tommy was born in 1883. So unless he was born out of wedlock, it’s likely that Luciano was his real father.

There is not much known about his parents or his early life, but in 1905 my research showed that he emigrated to New York City where he settled in East Harlem and found work in a feed store.

Some reports say that he was naturalized as a citizen in 1915, and other records show that he applied for a passport in January 1920 in order to travel abroad. Interestingly, Mariano Marsalisi, a known associate and future Lucchese crime family soldier, is the identifying witness on his application.

Tommy’s desired uses for the passport included visiting his mother in Italy. On his passport, his occupation was listed as “hay, straw, grain” while his address is listed as 2097 1st Avenue, New York City. He is subsequently seen on the passenger manifest of the SS Presidente Wilson sailing from Palermo and arriving in New York on 20 April 1920.

In the early 1920’s he married Giuseppina “Josephine” Pomilla, who was also from Corleone. A margin note on his baptismal record verified that this marriage occurred in New York at the Church of Saint Lucia on 23 October 1921.

Joe Valachi provides the only physical glimpse we have of Gagliano. According to Valachi, Tommy was “…a big tall guy, a little bald. He looked like a businessman…”

Valachi first met Gagliano when, using his talents as a bouncer, he “worked over” some people who were creating problems in the building unions. Valachi claims he refused to take money from Gagliano for his work because he wanted to be perceived as a “friend” instead of a goon for hire. This decision would serve Valachi well.

Gagliano’s Underworld Beginnings

While not much is known about his early life in crime, at some point in the late teens and early 1920’s, Gagliano officially joins the criminal underworld and becomes an associate of a crime family, now know as the Genovese family, which was at the time headed by Giuseppe “Joe” Morello, also known as “The Clutch Hand,” based in East Harlem. 

But at some point, Gagliano decides to move his interests to the Bronx and partners with his brother-in-law, Nunzio Pomilla, in the lathing and hoisting business. He appears to use this business as a front, and began working for another New York family, headed by Bronx-based gangster Gaetano “Tommy” Reina (who had been a former Morello captain). 

He would eventually work his way to the role of Underboss and would serve as one of Reina’s top lieutenants. Gagliano along with Tommy “Three Finger Brown” Lucchese and Stefano “Steve” Rondelli were viewed as the most powerful members of the Reina family at the time.

Tommy Reina, like Gagliano, hailed from Corleone, and was about the same age. He had a monopoly over ice box distribution rackets and controlled most of the criminal enterprises in the Bronx. His borgata also had operations in East Harlem, and by the late 1920s the Reina and Morello families were most definitely enemies. 

Gagliano and Antonio Monforte organized the Plasters’ Information Bureau in the Bronx during April 1928. Local contractors who refused to join the association and pay dues were soon visited by a strong-arm goon squad.

By 1929, the two partners established the United Lathing Company and hired Michael McCloskey, the “czar” of the Lathers’ Union, to help them gain a foothold in that trade. 

A 1932 Treasury Department probe revealed that almost half a million dollars had been extorted from the industry that year. Gagliano was convicted on tax evasion – a fairly successful way to nail big mobsters at the time – and handed a sentence of fifteen months. Given that Al Capone got 11 years (which was a stiff sentence) for similar charges, it goes to show just how low-key Gagliano was to only do 15 months.

Though Sicilian, Gagliano did not take part in the Cleveland Statler Hotel meeting in December 1928, which was alleged to be a meeting of the Unione Siciliano. His future fellow family leaders, Vincent Mangano and Joseph Profaci were two of twenty-three men arrested after the handy-work of a Cleveland patrolman on foot patrol exposed the gathering. Gagliano did not attend the Atlantic City Conference held in May 1929 either.

Little is known about the reason for the Hotel Statler meeting. David Critchley, in his book The Origin of Organized Crime in America, believes the goal was to discuss the killing of Brooklyn Mafia boss Salvatore D’Aquila and additional assassinations in Chicago. Chicago Police believed it was a “meeting of ‘captains of the industry’ to elect a successor to [Unione Siciliana president] Tony Lombardo,” who had been killed three months earlier.

Of course the 1929 Atlantic City Conference, one of the largest gatherings ever of the mob underworld, was a meeting among top mafiosi of the time to discuss how to react to ‘The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre’ as well as to determine the future direction of the criminal underworld in light of the violent bootleg wars going on in New York City and Chicago, the need to diversify income streams with the coming end of Prohibition, and reorganization and consolidation of the underworld into a National Crime Syndicate.

At the time, there was a much larger conflict brewing which would come to be known as the Castellammarese War.

The Castellammarese War

During the late 1920s, a bitter gang rivalry arose in New York between Joseph “the Boss” Masseria, the most powerful mobster in New York, and Salvatore Maranzano, head of the Castellammarese Sicilian clan – who had arrived in 1925 on orders from Vito Cascio Ferro in a bid to take over the Mafia in the United States.

The entire New York mob was either at war or on the verge of it. Masseria and Maranzano were each attempting to take control of the underworld, each with the support of various street gangs and Mafia contingents. For the time being, Masseria was the stronger of the two, and as a result the closer to achieving that goal of total Underworld supremacy.

At some point, we’ll do a separate show on the Castellammarese War, but before we jump into the tactical points of the conflict, it’s important to note that the early structure for thewhat would eventually become The Five Families was already somewhat in place.

In Joseph Bonanno’s A Man of Honor, he introduces us to the early families and explains that the five family operations were clearly in place prior to Maranzano’s post-Castellammarese War setup:

“In New York City, there were five Families, which had formed spontaneously as Sicilian immigrants settled there. The number five was not preordained; it just worked out that way.

“The dominant Family was that of Joe Masseria. At one time or another, this Family included Peter Morello, Charlie Luciano, Joe Adonis, Frank Costello and Augie Pisano, to mention just a few.

“The second major Family was headed by Al Mineo (his real name in Italian was Manfredi), an avowed ally of Masseria’s, This clan included Tata Chiricho, Joe Traina, Vincent Mangano, Frank Scalise and Albert Anastasia.

“These Families had interests both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Bronx, however, was the domain of the third Family, that headed by Tom Reina. In this family were such men as Gaetano Gagliano, Tommy Lucchese and Steve Rondelli.

“The fourth Family…was headed by Joe Profaci and his right-hand man, Joe Magliocco.

“The fifth Family was the Castellammarese clan of Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

For clarification’s sake, the Masseria borgata would eventually become the modern-day Genovese family, the Mineo’s would become the Gambinos, the Reina’s become the Lucchese’s, the Profaci’s become the Colombo’s, and the Castellammarese clan becomes the Bonnano family.

Back to the war.

In early-1930, the Castellammarese War began in New York City and took its name from the Sicilian coastal town of Castellammare del Golfo. From this small town in Sicily, a clannish group of mobsters came to the United States and spread to satellite cities like Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit, but were closely tied to a rising New York gang chieftain, Salvatore Maranzano. As previously mentioned, Maranzano comes to New York in 1925 on orders from Vito Cascio Ferro in a bid to take over the Mafia in the United States.

On the opposite side, you have the much more powerful Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria. He was at the time the closest thing to a Boss of all Bosses, and this was the driving force behind the war —- the need for dominance and control over all families. The root of this was money, but in part it was also due to vanity, arrogance, and pride. In the end, the war lasted some fourteen months and took dozens of lives.

The spark that “offically” started the Castellammarese War was the murder of Gaetano “Tommy” Reina – Gagliano’s boss. The eventual mob turncoat Joe Valachi claims Tommy Reina was murdered after he resisted the efforts of Masseria to muscle in on his ice distribution business. This was in the years before electric refrigeration which made it a very lucrative racket.

In public, Reina formed an alliance with Masseria, who had absorbed into his now powerful organization the remnants of the much weakened Morello family.

In private, Tom Reina of the Bronx expressed admiration for Maranzano, the only one who had the guts to stand up to Joe the Boss. An informant within Reina’s family relayed these sentiments to Reina’s paesano from Corleone, Peter Morello. And Morello reported it to Masseria.

Masseria learned of Reina’s betrayal and ordered Charles “Lucky” Luciano to arrange Reina’s murder. According to Bonanno, Reina was a “fence straddler” in the pending bitterness going on between Masseria and Maranzano, but in private admired the latter. When word of this got back to Masseria lieutenant Peter “the Clutch Hand” Morrello, “Joe the Boss” took action.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

To call the Castellammarese War a two-side affair is a massive oversimplification. While it’s true that the battle was primarily between Joe Masseria’s faction and Salvatore Maranzano’s Sicilian faction, there was a third group at play beneath it all – the “Young Turks” led by Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and aided by Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, and others who were beginning to feel disenfranchised by the old-world “Mustache Pete’s” (a derogatory slang name for gangsters who were set in the old ways of not trusting any non-Sicilian, and prioritizing prejudice against other ethnicities over making money).

In the background, the Young Turks were secretly conspiring to defeat both sides and often played both sides against the middle to weaken both Masseria and Maranzano.

Reina was an important Masseria partner, albeit not an enthusiastic one. He was casting friendly eyes toward Maranzano – especially after Masseria began pressuring him for a cut of his rackets.

Through allies serving under Reina, especially Tom Gagliano and Tommy Lucchese, Luciano, himself also allied with Masseria, learning of the Masseria plans to assassinate Maranzano supporters Joe Profaci and young Joe Bonanno.

Since Luciano was counting on Profaci and Bonnano in his future national crime syndicate, he wanted to prevent their deaths, and equally he did not want Reina to defect to Maranzano since that might tilt the contest too much in the latter’s favor. Therefore the Luciano forces decided Reina had to be killed.

In his so-called Last Testament Luciano claims, “I really hated to knock off Tom Reina, and none of my guys really wanted to either. Reina was a man of his word, he had culture, and he was a very honorable Italian.” This need not be taken as pure gospel. Luciano gained the allegiance of Gagliano and Lucchese by promising them the Reina empire. So what you will about the authenticity of that book, but it certainly adds some potential color and intrigue to the situation.

On the Wednesday night of his murder (February 26th, 1930), Reina, as he did once every week, had dinner at his aunt’s home on Sheridan Avenue in the Bronx (some have speculated that he was actually leaving his mistresses house).

When Reina left the house, future mob powerhouse Vito Genovese, at the time a Luciano underling, was waiting. Reina was surprised to see him but started to wave his hand at Genovese. As he did, Vito blew his head off with a sawed-off shotgun.

Vito (and some say a second hitman) left a weapon under a parked car and escaped. On his body, police found a handgun and $804 in case. If you’ve done any research on Vito Genovese, this is early vintage Vito for sure – he was absolutely a feared “hitter” so to speak.

The murder of Reina was to be the spark that lit the fuse and led to all-out war between Masseria and Maranzano forces.

Side fact: Valachi would later marry Reina’s daughter (and as we mentioned, Gagliano attends this wedding, which goes to show how fleeting that mob life is given that he more than likely set up the bride’s father to be murdered).

It’s at this point that all Hell breaks loose and both sides really begin going after each other. Bodies begin dropping and even Luciano nearly gets killed. Gagliano is right in the thick of it all.

So after Tom Reina is assassinated, Joe the Boss decides to make a move that will end up coming back to haunt him later on. As he had done in a separate issue with Detroit, Masseria quickly backed one of his own supporters to take charge of the Family. In this case, Masseria endorsed Joe Pinzolo to become the new Godfather of the Reina family.

Here’s a little background color on Joe Pinzolo. Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who was seldom shy about commenting on people he disliked, provides this opinion on the man:

“As big a shit as Masseria was, he didn’t hold a candle to Pinzolo. That guy was fatter, uglier and dirtier than Masseria was on the worst day when the old bastard didn’t take a bath, which was most of the time.”

Word has it that Gagliano wasn’t a fan of Pinzolo or his personal hygiene habits either. And it’s this move that triggers Gagliano to form a splinter group within the Reina Family in open opposition to Masseria and Pinzolo. Gagliano’s group attracted Tommy Lucchese, Steve Rondelli, John DiCaro, as well as Dominick “the Gap” Petrilli – a friend of Valachi’s who informed him that Pinzolo was not long for this world.

At this point, things are beginning to go very wrong for Joe the Boss as he loses his top man, Guiseppe Morello.

According to Joe Bonnano, Maranzano used to say that if we hoped to win the war we should get to Joe Morello, before the old fox stopped following his daily routines, as Maranzano had already stopped doing. Once Morella went undercover, the old man could exist forever on a diet of hard bread, cheese and onions. We would never find him.

Morello never got a chance to go on such a severe diet. He went to his Harlem office as usual one morning, along with two of his men. All three were shot to death. Masseria had lost his best man, the brains of his outfit. “The Clutch Hand” was gone.

And then on September 9, 1930, Joe Pinzolo was murdered in an office leased by Tommy Lucchese in the Brokaw Building on Broadway. Pinzolo was lured to the office and then shot 5 times.

There are two versions of who murdered Pinzolo. Valachi claims Girolamo “Bobby Doyle” Santucci killed him, while Luciano says it was Dominick Petrilli. Neither man was arrested. Instead, Lucchese was indicted, but the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.

To replace Pinzolo, Masseria appointed Gagliano as head of the Reina gang. It is believed that by this point Gagliano and Lucchese formed a secret alliance with Maranzano while still professing loyalty to Masseria.

After the death of Peter Morello, Masseria went into hiding. Nothing had gone right for him by this point in the war – he was on a “losing streak” so to speak. He had lost Morello, which was followed by the loss of Joe Pinzolo, the man Masseria had supported to head the Reina family after the slaying of Tom Reina. Unbeknownst to Masseria, people within the Reina Family are the ones who eliminated Pinzolo. The Reina family could no longer be counted on to aid Masseria – but he just didn’t know it yet.

Gagliano was to become a secret financier of the Castellammarese War, through his United Lathing Company. According to Joe Valachi, Gagliano supplied most of the funds for Maranzano’s struggle against Masseria. The estimate of Gagliano’s support is $140-150K (more than $2M in today’s money). It’s safe to say that without this type of financial backing, the war likely ends quickly and in favor of Masseria.

It’s at this point where things really start to become a blow-out in favor of Maranzano.

On November 5, 1930, two more Masseria loyalists, Steven Ferrigno and Alfred Mineo, were assassinated. The gangsters were mowed down in front of an apartment house on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. This is the “work” that results in Joe Valachi getting his button and becoming a made member of the Mafia.

Valachi claims he was one of three gang members initiated in a home ninety miles north of New York City. The ceremony took place in a room in front of approximately forty men. Valachi claims that during the initiation rite Joe Bonanno was named his “godfather” and was to be responsible for him.

Not surprisingly, Bonanno insists he never met nor spoke to Joe Valachi. However, he claims that after the Ferrigno and Mineo slayings that the Maranzano forces and Gagliano’s men held a weeklong celebration in late December 1930 near Hyde Park, New York.

According to A Man of Honor, “We celebrated our latest victory, and the end of another year with a week-long party around Christmastime at a farm in upstate New York, near Hyde Park. In addition to Maranzano and his personal staff, the party was attended by Stefano Magaddino and some of his men from Buffalo; by Joe Zerilli and some of his men from Detroit; by Gaetano Gagliano, together with Lucchese and some of his men from the Bronx; by other leaders from Brooklyn; and even by some early defectors from the Mineo Family, such as Frank Scalise and Joe Traina.”

As the war continued, Masseria began suffering more defeats and key defections. The problem is, he’s in hiding, with a heavy entourage of bodyguards, and in a position where nobody can get to him. The only way to get to him was to lure him out somehow or get a defection from within – which is just what happens.

On April 15, 1931 the Castellammarese War officially came to an end when Masseria was murdered in a Coney Island restaurant after being set up by his underling, the great Charles “Lucky” Luciano. The shooters are said to have been Albert Anastacia, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, who along with Luciano had made a deal with Maranzano guaranteeing their power if they switched sides and killed their boss.

A month after the killing, Maranzano called a grand meeting, said to be attended by four to five hundred members of the Italian and Sicilian underworld.

At this meeting the five family leaders were designated by Maranzano – Lucky Luciano would lead what would become the Genovese family, Gagliano would lead what would eventually become the Lucchese family, Joe Profaci for the Colombos, Maranzano would lead the Bonannos, and Frank Scalise would be named the boss of what would become the Gambinos.

All would answer to and pay tribute to Maranzano, who decided to designate himself as the capo-di-tutti-capi – Boss of all Bosses.

This setup lasted just a few months as there were suspicions both on the part of Luciano and Maranzano of the other party. Luciano was furious that Maranzano – who he finally realized may have been more backwards the Masseria in his thinking – would declare himself Boss of Bosses.

On the other side, Maranzano didn’t fully trust anyone who wasn’t from his village in Sicily and had many prejudices against working with non-Italians. He trusted Luciano least of all and planned to murder him (and even went so far as to hired famed hitman, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll to do the job).

But Luciano struck first. On September 10, 1931, Luciano sent a group of Jewish mobsters to Maranzano’s offices posing as government agents along with one Tommy Lucchese. Luciano recounts that on the afternoon of the murder Lucchese went to Maranzano’s office “saying he had a vital matter to discuss at Tom Gagliano’s request.”

Luciano was actually striking first before hired killer Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll could execute a Maranzano-prepared hit list that had Luciano’s name at the top. In all probability Lucchese was there to finger Maranzano for the hitmen, which he did.

With his bodyguards disarmed, the hitmen stabbed and shot Maranzano to death right in his office. During this period of massive instability within the underworld, Gagliano remained in control of the old Reina gang.

After the murder, Valachi, who had been working as Maranzano’s driver, went into hiding, in the Reina family’s attic. He eventually met with Gagliano and Lucchese, who, after determining where Valachi’s loyalties were, asked him to join their family. However, after conferring with Petrilli, Valachi decided to go with Vito Genovese in the Luciano Family.

The Formation of the Modern Five Families

In the wake of the Maranzano murder, Luciano kept the same five-family structure as practical but made a few key modifications. First, he got rid of the title of Boss of Bosses, though he was clearly considered first among equals. Second, he created The Commission in which each of the bosses of the five families, as well as a handful of other families around the country, would handle disputes between various families before things devolved into bloody gang wars. They establish at this time the National Syndicate, install the governing rules, with all major authority flowing back to the main Commision in New York. 

Again, Joe Bonnano shares from A Man of Honor, “Once again, the leaders of my world realigned and repositioned themselves according to the new political reality. Charlie Lucky’s star was on the rise. Stefano’s star seemed undiminished, and perhaps even enhanced. Scalise’s star fell. Scalise had been too close a supporter of Maranzano. With Lucky’s rise to power, Scalise became a liability to his Family, which didn’t want to antagonize the powerful Luciano and his cohorts. Scalise was replaced as Father by Vincent Mangano. Therefore, the five New York Fathers were Luciano, Gagliano, Profaci, Mangano and me. I was a newborn star.”

It is at this point when Gagliano becomes the first modern boss of the Gagliano family, named in his honor, with Tommy Lucchese as his underboss. As a boss, Gagliano also became a founding member of The Commission.

It is here that information about Gagliano becomes very sparse. With the exception of attending the Valachi wedding in 1932, he isn’t mentioned again until his death in the early 1950s. However, there are still things that we can ascertain about his successful 20-year reign as boss.

Even after the Castellammarese War ended, there was still quite a bit of turmoil in the underworld. During the subsequent decades after the war, Tommy Gagliano steered his family through a period of high tension and shifting alliances between the Five Families.

In 1936, Luciano was sent to prison and then, in 1946, deported to Italy. With Luciano’s absence, power on the commission was held by an alliance of bosses Vincent Mangano, Joe Bonanno, Stefano Magaddino and Joe Profaci. 

Gagliano had to be very careful in the face of this alliance, and was keen to keep a low profile while furthering the business interests of his section of Cosa Nostra. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Tommy Gagliano and Tommy Lucchese led the family into areas of business that were profitable. 

They worked within the clothing and trucking industries, as well as industries such as gasoline rationing, meat and black market sugar. 

Gagliano realized that staying out of the picture was best for business. Almost never seen in public, Gagliano stayed at home most of the time. Gagliano passed his orders to his soldiers through Lucchese and other people in his close circle that he trusted. It can be said that Gagliano perfected the use of proxies and buffers in order to insulate himself from law enforcement scrutiny.

As previously mentioned, he did this so well that he only took a single pinch, in 1932, for income tax evasion and only did around 15 months in prison.

Tommy Lucchese, who would become the second family boss and who is the modern family’s namesake, was a much more prominent figure, and someone who was more known to be in the public’s eye. However, his boss, friend and mentor Gagliano was so rarely out in public that his whereabouts were entirely unknown from 1951-1953.

It is this early secrecy and privacy that was the key to the success of the Lucchese Crime family in the early years. By the 1980’s the Lucchese family had grown into a behemoth making billions of dollars per year. But none of that would have been possible without the likes of criminal masterminds such as Gagliano.

Gagliano’s Death

The ultimate sign of just how mysterious Gagliano was is this — nobody is actually sure when he died.

In 1951, Tommy Lucchese stated during the Senate hearings on organized crime that Gagliano died on February 16, 1951. However, some historians actually believe Gagliano died in 1953.

It has been speculated that Gagliano retired in 1951 and turned leadership over to Lucchese, but kept this information secret to prevent law enforcement or media scrutiny; however, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory. According to Joseph Valachi, Gagliano died of natural causes in 1953.

The cause of death was said to be either a heart condition or cancer.

You can see Gagliano portrayed in pop culture. He’s mentioned in The Valachi Papers (1972), starring Charles Bronson, when Salvatore Maranzano (Joseph Wiseman) announces the Bosses of the Five Families.

He also sees a small mention in Boardwalk Empire’s last episode entitled “In Eldorado” in 2014. Gagliano is played by Salvatore Inzerillo. He has a small speaking role and is seen sitting at the table as Lucky Luciano gathers the country’s most powerful crime bosses and forms The Commission.

Tommy Gagliano is interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

So that’s it, our first gangster biography!

If you liked this episode and would like to see me do more gangster biographies, let me know in the comments below and of course don’t forget to Like and Subscribe my channel on YouTube or feel free to listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Also, be on the lookout for my upcoming Patreon page.

Until next time, Grazie!

Primary sources:

Jacob Stoops

Jacob Stoops is the host of The Members Only Podcast, and he's a history buff and mob historian. His passion for history, his interest in the mob, and his need to be creative and produce content led him to create this podcast where he provides his listeners with deeply-researched content on the plots, sub-plots, and real facts behind the American Cosa Nostra.

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