In this episode we cover one of the most powerful gangsters in New York City during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Michele “Big Mike” Miranda, one who had direct ties to some of the most infamous events in mob history and who was the right-hand man of one “Don Vitone”, aka Vito Genovese.
Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of The Member’s Only Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, and I’m a long-time history buff and mob aficionado.
Before we get into another in-depth mobster biography, I’d like to quickly say thank you so much to everyone that has followed along and watched my videos, left comments, and subscribed for updates.
Speaking of comments, your comments – most of which have been incredibly positive – have helped me get the confirmation that I needed in order to continue to produce in-depth episodes. You’ve proven how astute you are from a knowledge standpoint and I’ve been seriously impressed with your depth of understanding thus far. While I may never quite reach the volume or speed in production of other channels, I’m committed to digging deep on each subject and doing my best to bring you little tidbits of information that you won’t find anywhere else. My focus will be on quality and not necessarily quantity and my goal is to continue to live up to the standards you expect.
Anyhow, I just wanted to say thank you again for taking the time to watch or listen! It truly means a lot.
As a quick reminder, I’d love it if you’d Like and Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get the latest updates as new episodes are released! Also, if you’re someone who’d rather listen to just the audio version, you can find my podcast on most podcasting platforms. If you enjoy the content, I’d ask that you please give me a good rating to help the show grow.
Alright, now onto the episode! As with previous episodes, I’ve done a ton of research on our subject today Michael “Big Mike” Miranda, and I think you’re going to enjoy this deep dive into one of the most respected leaders of the history of the Genovese family – which some have called “The Ivy League of the Mob.”
Mike Miranda rose to the position of consigliere in the 1960s, and while he isn’t often the main focus of most Mob-related conversations, he is often someone you’ll see mentioned as a prominent secondary figure or sort of the power behind the throne so to speak. This mob heavyweight may have never reached the heights like his friend and family namesake Vito Genovese, but he had the respect of his men and his word carried a lot of weight in the underworld and helped the steer family through periods of serious unrest and turmoil.
Miranda’s lasting legacy is as one of the men who was in the streets during the formation of the American Mafia and personally as someone who had direct ties to some of the most infamous events in mob history while riding side-saddle to his good friend Vito Genovese. After Genovese ultimately goes to prison in the late 50’s, Miranda becomes a part of a shrewd “Three-man ruling panel” of the family, and it is this group of individuals that are largely responsible for setting up the front-boss structure that lasts for the next 30-40 years and truly baffles law-enforcements efforts to ascertain the true boss of the Genovese family until the 1990s (though even then they couldn’t quite prove it). This shrewd way of operating is why the Genovese are called “The Ivy League” and why they have been the most powerful family for quite some time. And Miranda was right in the middle of laying the foundation for their success as a family, despite the fact that the namesake was a fairly poor boss all-in-all.
But before we get to that, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started by first digging into “Big Mike’s” early life.
Michele Miranda was born in San Giuseppe Vesuviano, a province of Naples, Italy. Similar to Vincent Mangano, there are some conflicting records about his birth. A New York Times article that came out when Miranda died indicated that his birth date was July 26, 1891. However, federal death records show the birth year as 1892 or 1893, while his actual grave marker says 1892. What makes this even better is that his naturalization records from 1929 and 1932 suggest his birth date as 1896, so someone is not being truthful. Let’s just agree to say he was born in the 1890’s and call it quits.
Now back to his birthplace, which is fairly interesting as a side note. For those unfamiliar with the Naples region and to put it into context, San Giuseppe Vesuviano is on the main peninsula of Italy in the Southwest region. It sits at the base of the famous Mount Vesuvius, which of course is famous for destroying the city of Pompeii in 79 A.D., and of course tourists to the region often visit the many ruins of Pompeii.
Michele’s father was Vincenzo Miranda and there is a New York City Marriage record from 1940 that indicates his mother was named Carmela Bifurco, though the record was a little difficult to come by.
He is the younger brother of Antonio Miranda – born around 1887 – and appears to be around the same age as his brother Donato Miranda who was born around 1893. There is also another brother Pasquale Miranda of Italy and a sister, Anna. While much of the family emigrated to America, it appears that Pasquale stayed in Italy.
It’s worth noting that both Antonio and Donato get involved in “the life” though neither rose to the level of their brother Michael.
During the 1920’s, Michael’s brother Antonio became very close with Frank Costello and Vito Genovese who were then a part of the Masseria gang, and through marriage also became associated with a man dubbed “King of the Bootleggers” of Springfield, Massachusetts named Carlo Siniscalchi.
At the time, Antonio began running Carlo’s rackets in Springfield, and this is likely how Springfield eventually came under Genovese control in later years. Unfortunately, Antonio Miranda died of blood poisoning from gangrene that was a result of what was supposed to be a minor procedure to remove a callus from his foot. Talk about bad luck.
Mike’s brother Donato also appears to have become a member of the mafia, specifically the Boston mafia family, according to documents presented at the Kefauver Hearings.
According to some sources, Michael appears to have immigrated to New York City around 1905 and while there are a few records suggesting travel around that time frame, there isn’t any solid documentation to support that date.
However, according to his 1929 United States Immigration Records as well as his Petition for Citizenship indicate that he officially arrived in the United States around March 29, 1912 on the vessel SS Canada though there are some passenger manifests that show him in the country as early as 1908 (though given his name it’s a fair assumption that the 1908 record may have been a woman of the same name).
Around the 1915 timeframe, Mike lived with his brother Antonio at 178 Mulberry Street in Manhattan. As of the late 1920’s, his residence has changed to 36 Kenmare Street in Staten Island, New York.
In later years, Miranda’s official residence was in Forest Hills, Queens where he owned an elaborate home rumored to have cost $75,000 which would be approximately $1M to 1.5M in today’s money.
At the time of his naturalization request in 1929, Mike is listed as being 32 years of age, a height of 5 feet 6 inches, weight of 175 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. He lists his occupation as ‘Salesman’ while in his marriage record he is listed as an ‘Importer.’ Like most mobsters of the time, he was a bootlegger (though he may have been selling something else for public appearances). He would eventually form the Miranda Importing Company.
Speaking of marriage, Michael wed Lucia “Lucy” Dilaurenzio in 1926. The couple went on to have one son, Anthony Michael Miranda, though as of his official Petition for Citizenship in 1932, the couple had not yet become parents.
Anna Genovese, who was Vito’s second wife, furnished significant information to the government about Vito’s activities after their divorce later on in life. She also provided the following tid-bit to the FBI about Miranda as well.
Mrs. Genovese said that she first became acquainted with him in the Greenwich Village area when they were both children. She said that shortly before she married Vito Genovese, she double dated occasionally with him and his wife, Edna.
What’s great about this is that the FBI report has Miranda’s wife under the incorrect name. After doing some investigation, I was able to confirm that Edna was the first name of another Genovese associate, Anthony “Tony Bender” Strollo. So perhaps Mrs. Genovese simply was mistaken in her recollection of the name or the FBI reported the wrong name in their file.
Mrs. Genovese would go on to say that she married Vito on March 30, 1932, at which time Mike and Lucia acted as witnesses. After the wedding ceremony she and Vito returned the favor and acted as witnesses for the Miranda’s who were supposedly married on the same day.
She claimed that after their marriage they visited each other socially on a few occasions. However, she claimed she had not seen the Miranda’s for the past 15 years (this information was furnished in the 1950’s). Mrs. Genovese claimed she never knew what business Miranda was allegedly in and as far as she knew he never associated with Genovese in a business or social way for the previous 15 years before her testimony.
And if the FBI believed that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d have liked to sell them.
After officially becoming a US citizen, in 1932 both Michael and Lucia’s names appear on a return passenger list from Italy, a trip they had taken with none-other than David “Little Davey” Petillo, who would later work for and be convicted with Charles “Lucky” Luciano (who was also a close friend of Miranda).
So if you’re following along, what’s clear is that Miranda’s family ties were deep into the criminal underworld, Miranda himself had made some high-level friends in mob-circles and especially within what was then known as the Luciano crime family.
As the old saying goes, if you want to learn something about someone look at the friends they keep. Well, Miranda was keeping some big-time friends that were among the most feared and respected in the New York underworld and the entire nation.
These criminal connections would set the stage for “Big Mike”’s criminal rise, would serve to shape his world in the years to come, and would lead him to be present on the forefront of many critical mob events throughout the 1930’s through the 1960’s.
So let’s dig in a little more on just how Mike becomes involved in the streets and how this leads him to a prominent position within the mob later in his career.
So as with many other Italian Americans around the turn of the century, the Miranda’s immigrated to New York as the open-door immigration policies of the United States were particularly attractive for Italians, especially peasants who were looking to escape the economic and social hardships of the time. Unfortunately, a lot of immigrants would find that what they found in America was only marginally better than what they were leaving.
While most Italians simply went into the low-wage labor force, many of the experienced criminals picked up where they left off in Italy or Sicily. For some of the youths of the time, they saw the poverty of their family on one hand, and the “men of respect” in the neighborhood making big money, wearing fancy clothing, and who didn’t not seem to have a job and they decide to forego poverty, run the streets, and live the high life that had been systematically forbidden to them – even if it means becoming a criminal. So as a start many of them join street gangs or begin getting into petty crime.
Miranda was no different. It is rumored that he may have been a member of the Camorra in his earlier years, but it is certain that he became involved in crime as a teenager. Miranda’s first arrest was in 1915 for petty theft and assault. Also in 1915 he served 30 days in jail for picking pockets of unsuspecting people at Coney Island. He would soon progress to more serious crimes and was arrested in Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Springfield over the next decade.
At some point in the 1920’s or earlier, Miranda hooks up with future mob legend Vito Genovese, a relationship that would last over 40 years and carry “Big Mike” far in the underworld. Aside from their underworld involvement together, they shared a common ancestry in that they both hailed from small villages in the region of Italy that sits at the base of the famous Mount Vesuvius.
In 1925, both Miranda, Genovese, and another man were arraigned together on charges of burglary in records indicating that when Genovese was arrested he had a revolver “under his pants, at his waist.” What’s interesting here is that this charge wasn’t actually dismissed until July 27, 1957.
As I mentioned previously, Miranda had started his own importing company which was his likely cover for moving alcohol during prohibition among other things.
Also during Prohibition, Miranda also became an associate of Tommy “Three Finger Brown” Lucchese and as a result was loosely affiliated with the Reina crime family, the forerunner of the Gagliano and modern-day Lucchese family, of the Bronx.
Of course as we get to the end of the 1920’s and into the 1930’s you have the outbreak of the Castellammarese War, which we’ve covered in other shows. Miranda’s position as an associate of Vito Genovese puts him under the command of Charles “Lucky” Luciano who was initially on the side of Joe Masseria.
However, due to Miranda’s close association with Lucchese who was a Maranzano guy, but who was really playing both sides, it’s clear that Miranda, along with his pals Genovese and Luciano were playing both sides against the middle.
And of course, the war ends with both Masseria and Maranzano dead, and Luciano sitting on top and creating the modern Mafia family structure that we know today.
In 1931, following the end of the Castellammarese War, Miranda became even closer to Genovese, who was named the Underboss of the Luciano Crime Family and became a made man, or full member, of that crime family.
Miranda frequently acted as enforcer for Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Genovese and also did the occasional hit for the crime family. What I find interesting is that despite being a Genovese protege, he was able to maintain friendships with both men, even though the two (Luciano and Genovese) eventually grew to hate each other later in life.
As the 1930’s progressed, Miranda kept rising through the family ranks. However, in 1933 Miranda along with Genovese would become involved with a situation that would have massive long-lasting consequences for both of their mob careers.
The Boccia Murder:
According to FBI reports, in December 1933 a low-level hood named Ferdinand “The Shadow” Boccia steered a wealthy merchant to Genovese and Miranda as a favor and the pair relieved the unsuspecting man of roughly $150,000 to $160,000. The two-stage scam involved a crooked card game and a fake machine that supposedly made currency, but instead allowed Genovese and Miranda to pocket the cash.
Now you’d think the issue might have come from the rich man who’d lost the money, but the victim of the ruse already knew one of the 2 most important lessons in life, wisely choosing to eat his losses and keep his mouth shut. Instead, the trouble for Genovese and Miranda came when Boccia decided to demand his cut of $35,000 share of the scam’s proceeds. Considering who he was dealing with, this was really fucking stupid.
Boccia was already in the pair’s doghouse, and steered the “sucker” to Genovese and Miranda as atonement for holding up a liquor store that happened to be operated by a dear friend of Genovese, one Tony “Bender” Strollo. Robbing a guy like Strollo by itself is enough to get a person killed, but for some reason Genovese and Miranda had thus far let Boccia off the hook.
So when Boccia became “too insistent,” to the point of annoyance, Genovese and Miranda decided it would be much easier to just murder him and gave the contract to Miranda’s crew. The setup for this contract has striking similarities to the murder of Maury in the movie Goodfellas.
Miranda then ordered a local knockaround guy named Ernest “The Hawk” Rupolo to set up both Boccia as well as Boccia’s accomplice in the liquor store heist, William Gallo, to be murdered. Ernie “The Hawk” Rupolo was originally brought to Miranda’s attention by his close associate and fellow Brooklyn gangster Cosmo “Gus” Frasca.
According to Rupolo in later testimony, Miranda said to him, “Frasca tells me you are a good boy, that you could do a good job. Shadow [Boccia] and [William] Gallo are no good. I want you to put Gallo and the Shadow on the spot, so they can be killed.”
Rupolo, perhaps to show how tough he was, suggested to Miranda that he could do the deed himself to which Miranda seemed “disappointed,” but told Rupolo “to meet him in a restaurant on Mulberry Street, near Kenmare Street.”
At that meeting, Miranda introduced Rupolo to Genovese as “Don Vitone” or “The Great Man.” It was at this meeting that Vito demanded that if Rupolo didn’t want to put Gallo and Boccia “on the spot” that Rupolo would have to do this piece of work in the particular way that Genovese wanted. According to Rupolo, Genovese referred to Boccia as a “cokie bastard” and Gallo as a “pimp bastard,” so it was fairly clear Vito had it in for these two punks.
At the meeting’s conclusion, Miranda told Rupolo to go back to Brooklyn, lay low, and keep in touch with him, Frasca, and George Smurra. After some time, Miranda took Rupolo to see another of his associates, Peter De Feo. De Feo then told Rupolo to kill Gallo and that Smurra, Frasca, and another man would kill Boccia. It was at this time that Rupolo was paid $175.
Both Boccia and Gallo were so hated by the mob that Rupolo recalled Miranda telling him that the pair had to be murdered even if it mean the hitmen had to “cowboy” them, meaning shoot them wherever they were found, “even in the middle of Broadway.”
Court records would later suggest that on September 19, 1934, at either 533 or 553 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, a group of hitmen fulfilled the contract on Boccia by shooting him dead inside a Brooklyn coffee shop known as the Circolo Christofo Club and Cafe.
Rupolo later testified that on September 18, 1934, with the help of an old prison associate, Rosario “Solly” Palmieri, he took Gallo to Coney Island in order to fulfill the second half of the hit contract. They proceeded to wine and dine Gallo while they waited for word on whether or not Boccia had been killed.
Rupolo was to be paid $5,000 for the hit on Gallo in total, with $1,000 going to his accomplice Palmieri. After spending the evening in a hotel getting Gallo drunk, Palmieri excused himself to find out what had happened to Boccia. Once they received word that “The Shadow” had been executed, they got in their car to continue their evening and even made plans to go see a movie.
As the men were driving to the movie, somewhere around 14th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Rupolo pulled out his pistol, shoved it to Gallo’s head, and pulled the trigger three times. Pretty damned dramatic if you ask me. The only problem was the gun misfired which left the trio in what I can only imagine was the most awkward situation imaginable.
As Rupolo would later tell investigators, a shocked Gallo turned to Rupolo asking, “What the hell are you doing?!?” to which Rupolo replied “Nothing, I am only kidding with you; the gun ain’t loaded.”
Now I don’t know about you, but 99.9% of people’s first instinct would be to get the hell out of there. And while I don’t believe that most anyone deserves to be murdered, this story had me personally muttering, ‘What on Earth were you thinking?’ In the end, it’s highly likely that William Gallo may have been simply too drunk to fully comprehend what was going on around him.
So instead of fleeing immediately, Gallo stayed and Rupolo excused himself to go “drop off the gun at the home of a girlfriend” after the joke had “concluded.” What Ernie “The Hawk” Rupolo actually did when he got to the girlfriend’s place was to slather the mechanically-defective and most-definitely loaded gun as well as its firing mechanism with oil before going back outside again.
Once outside, Rupolo, Palmieri, and Gallo continued their drive. Then suddenly, in front of 6603 Thirteenth Avenue in Bensonhurst, both Palmieri and Rupolo turned on the unsuspecting Gallo and threw nine shots in his direction, four of which hit the mark. Both shooters thought Gallo was dead.
After the shooting, Rupolo and Palmieri dumped the wounded man on the street and fled. Miraculously, William Gallo had somehow managed to survive – likely because of Rupolo’s poor eyesight (to which I wondered, maybe he should have chosen another profession?).
Now aside from not killing Gallo, Rupolo screwed up this hit in another way. Out of pure ruthlessness, Mike Miranda had allegedly ordered that Gallo was to be doused in gasoline after he was shot and set on fire, a part of the plan that Rupolo also failed to carry out.
The reason for this extra-cruel step appears to be that Gallo along with the previously murdered Boccia had created such emnity within the underworld, that the Mafia wanted to exact this additional punishment as a warning for others.
The next morning, when Rupolo finally went to see Miranda who was seething mad in Little Italy, Miranda informed Rupolo that he’d royally fucked this hit up and gave him what was probably an epic and severe tongue-lashing for good measure. According to The Deadly Don: Vito Genovese by Anthony DeStefano, one of Miranda’s lieutenants, George “Georgie Blair” Smurra yelled, “Why didn’t you shoot him in the head like we did to that other bastard?”
At this meeting, the decision was then made by Miranda and the others to send Rupolo and Rosario Palmeri up to Springfield to “lam it” for the time being until the heat that was sure to come had cooled down. So on September 21, 1934, the two button-men were driven to Springfield, Massachusetts, by another future ‘made’ member, Salvatore “Little Sally” Celanbrino, in order to lay low. They were placed under the protection of Nicholas Camerota, a ‘made’ soldier in the Springfield faction of the Genovese family.
However, as Rupolo later recalled to police, Palmieri became suspicious that they were both being set up to be killed and fled Springfield immediately. Rupolo himself stayed for around two weeks before deciding to come back to New York.
Unfortunately for Rupolo and Palmieri, the case had not yet cooled down and both men would be hauled in for questioning and eventually found guilty of assault in December 1934 after a reluctant Gallo fingered them as his shooters. They were each sentenced to prison terms of 12 to 20 years for first-degree-assault. Rupolo would end up serving 11 years worth of prison time for the Gallo shooting.
Apparently, there was some initial suspicion that both Genovese and Miranda were also involved in the Boccia hit and two months after the killing, Miranda was charged in connection with the murder and Genovese was hauled in for questioning. However, charges against both would eventually be dismissed (for the time being) and two uninvolved individuals would wrongly be arrested and sentenced to prison.
Seemingly insulated from the Boccia murder, both Genovese and Miranda both returning to their normal lives with Miranda specifically dabbling in car sales in addition to other mob-related activities.
However, their comfortability was short-lived as at the time, New York special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey was launching a full-court press against the mafia. With law enforcement scrutiny heating up and the threat of several potential rats to implicate them in the Boccia murder, both Genovese and Miranda decided to flee to Italy where they would remain for approximately 10 years and until after the conclusion of World War II. At this time Miranda told close associates that he’d be taking “a vacation in Italy for a while,” and shortly thereafter Miranda – a fugitive – was spotted by FBN agents in Italy.
So in essence, both Rupolo and Palmieri were left holding the bag for Genovese and Miranda. For now.
Though he stuck to the code of Omertà and did his time without giving up Genovese or Miranda, Ernie “The Hawk” Rupolo would eventually have a change of heart after getting jammed up in several other cases that threatened to put him in jail for an even longer stretch than he’d already served.
In 1944, Rupolo’s change of heart led him to become a government informant at which point he began singing about many crimes including the Boccia murder, which of course would come back to bite Genovese and Miranda in the ass a decade after the fact.
As a result of Rupolo’s testimony, on August 7th, 1944, a grand jury indicted Mike Miranda, along with his mentor Vito Genovese, as well as Peter De Feo, George Smurra, Cosmo “Gus” Frasca, and another man listed as John Doe (but with an alias of “Solly”) for the murder of Ferdinand “The Shadow” Boccia 10 years earlier. The “Solly” in this case appears to have been a reference to Rupolo’s accomplice in the Gallo shooting, Rosario “Solly” Palmieri.
The aforementioned indictment charged the five men as follows: “Defendants on or about September 13, 1934, in the County of Kings, willfully, feloniously and of malice aforethought, shot and killed Ferdinand Boccia, with firearms.”
Court records indicate that on August 2, 1944, Vito Genovese was placed under arrest in Italy. After some time in custody, he was returned to the United States where he was arraigned in Kings County on June 3, 1945, at which time he entered a plea of not guilty. The records indicate that the indictment had been filed on August 7, 1944, and that Genovese was in Italy at the time the indictment had been filed, and that he had resided continually in Italy since 1937.
The court records also contained an affidavit of the Detective in the case, Harold E. Fox, dated September 28, 1944. Detective Fox stated that his investigation indicated that on September 19, 1934, at or near 533 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, one Ferdinand Boccia was shot and killed; and the defendants after the commission of the crime met at a house at Mulberry Street, and from that point were driven to Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 21, 1934, by one Salvatore “Little Sally” Celanbrino.
On August 14, 1944, due to the fact that the NYPD could not locate Miranda or any of the other suspects in the indictment, a bulletin was put out to all commands announcing that warrants had gone out for their immediate arrests.
After Genovese was held for several months, the trial finally began on June 6, 1946, with Genovese as the only person present (and of course the marquee defendant). Mike Miranda and the rest of the co-conspirators were conspicuously absent but no doubt monitoring the proceedings from afar. Some sources suggest that Miranda had simply stayed in Italy during the trial.
Ultimately the case against Genovese would fall apart completely as Rupolo’s testimony – while compelling – failed to directly link the key conspirators to the crime. Additionally, the prosecution also ran into a thorny issue relating to a New York State accomplice law that required that a defendant couldn’t be convicted solely based on the testimony of an accomplice to the crime. Due to this particular law, the prosecution would have to leverage additional witnesses who could corroborate the testimony. And this is where the far-reaching tentacles of the Mafia left the case against Genovese, Miranda, and their cohorts in shambles when several material witnesses in the case turned up dead.
One government witness, Genovese associate Peter LaTempa, had agreed to cooperate with authorities early on after Genovese fled to Italy because he believed that Genovese would never be prosecuted from the crime. However, when it was announced that Genovese was being repatriated home to face charges, LaTempa pretty much went “oh shit” and immediately contacted the Brooklyn D.A., demanding to be put in protective custody.
Unfortunately for LaTempa, he underestimated the mob’s connections as less than a week after Genovese’s return, he was famously found dead in his cell after taking medication for his gallstones. An autopsy allegedly revealed that he had ingested enough poison “..to kill eight horses.” There is much speculation as to whether or not Genovese had arranged this mysterious death, but the fact remains that LaTempa was no longer around to testify.
Another man who was reportedly going to appear as a material witness, a man named Jerry Esposito, was shot to death beside a road in Norwood, New Jersey. From a trail of blood that extended 150 feet south of where the body was found, police deduced that the victim had been shot in an automobile and thrown out while it was moving fast.
So if you’re keeping count, that’s one ineffective witness, and two dead potential witnesses for a score of Mafia = 3, law enforcement = 0.
Without anyone to corroborate the testimony, the government’s case collapsed. So on June 10, 1946 after a verdict of ‘not guilty’ was announced, Judge Samual Leibowitz had no choice but to throw the case out. Before rapping his gavel and dismissing the case, he delivered the famous rebuke as Genovese stood in the courtroom with what was described by those in attendance as a disinterested smirk:
“You are always just one step ahead of Sing Sing and th electric chair. You and your criminal henchman have thwarted justice time and again by devious means, among which were the terrorizing of witnesses, kidnapping them, yes even murdering those who could give evidence against you… I cannot speak for the jury but I believe that even if there was a shred of corroborating evidence you would have been condemned to the chair.”
Let’s bring this all back to our subject, “Big Mike” Miranda. Still in Italy, Miranda watched events with great interest and three months after the case fell apart against Genovese, he decided to take his chances by returning to the United States from exile and surrendering himself at a Brooklyn police station. After Miranda turned himself in, prosecutors found that there was no additional corroborating evidence against him and in January of 1947 the charges against him were dismissed. He walked briskly out of the courtroom after spending just five months in jail.
Soon after, the rest of the fugitives, George Smurra, Cosmo “Gus” Frasca, and Peter De Feo turned themselves in and were also able to wiggle their way out of the case as well.
So it appears, their personal long-standing crisis was averted which allowed both Genovese and Miranda to get back into the fold within the Luciano Crime Family. Of course as time goes on, the freedom attained from beating this case set the stage for Genovese and Miranda to go on to influence events that would result in far-reaching impact to the American Cosa Nostra.
As for Rupolo, shortly thereafter, he left prison early in what equated to repayment from the mob for his futile testimony against Genovese and Miranda. While the judge who released him expressed significant concerns for his life (and even his friends had expected him to die), nothing actually happened to him in the immediate aftermath of the case.
Rupolo’s brother Willie would claim that Mike Miranda personally told Ernie: “Take care of yourself, kid. Don’t worry about nothin. If you need anything, come to me.” When a reporter asked Rupolo why he was still alive, he answered, “Don’t you know I did Vito a big favor? A man can’t be tried twice for the same murder.”
But the mafia has a long memory and eventually in 1964, Rupolo would be brutally murdered, with authorities finding his body in Jamaica Bay, Queens. Legend says that Rupolo was personal murdered by John “Sonny” Franzese, legendary Underboss of the Colombo family.
The Rise to Cosa Nostra Leadership:
And so at some point in the late 1940’s after the issue with the Boccia murder had been resolved, Miranda was promoted to Caporegime within the Luciano Crime Family.
His crew would go on to become a stalwart within the family who would be leaned upon heavily in the years to come and many of whom would rise into leadership ranks. Some of the members directly in Miranda’s regime or who he had close ties with were as follows:
- Alfonso “Don Alphonse” Marzano: A member of the Miranda regime who was said to have operated a Soft Drink company on the Lower East side and who also had close association with Joe Profaci, boss of the Profaci Crime Family.
- Alfonso “Frank or Funzi” Tieri: A soldier who would eventually rise to “Front Boss” for the Genovese family who was an incredibly shrewd, calculating, and a big earner.
- Alfred “Good Looking Al” Criscuolo: A soldier in the family under Miranda who was a key figure in the family’s 107th street group, large narcotics trafficker.
- Anthony “Tony Bender” Strollo: He was of course not in the crew but a strong ally and counterpart of Miranda’s who was involved in the planning of the Boccia murder and who later on would help run the Neopolitan factions of the family. He eventually became Underboss when Vito Genovese took power in 1957, but the relationship soured after Vito went to jail in 1959 and Strollo was eventually murdered.
- Antonio Appierto: A soldier and partner in the Miranda Importing Company.
- Antonio “Tony the Sheik” Carillo: Became a soldier and eventually a Capo, but came through the ranks as a bodyguard and driver for Miranda, as well as a partner in a food company with “Big Mike.” “Tony the Sheik” Carillo was said to be Miranda’s closest friend within the family. Testimony from congressional hearings stated that “Tony the Sheik” was a buffer for Miranda, and that when you observed ‘the Sheik’ more often than not you’d also see Miranda.
- Barney Miranda: Soldier in the family, referenced in the 1958 Senate Select Committee Hearings on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field. He had a record for carrying a concealed weapon and was said to be involved in Labor Racketeering
- Cosmo “Gus or Duke” Frasca: He was a trusted member of the Miranda regime who has the distinction of being arrested with “Bike Mike” during the roundups related to the Boccia murder, as well as being listed on the Valachi charts. He eventually rose to Capo in the 1960’s.
- David “Little Davey” Petillo: He wasn’t in Miranda’s regime, but as mentioned previously the two were close enough to go on overseas vacations together before Petillo goes away for a long prison stint. Petillo of course was a close associate and eventually went away in the same case that scooped of Lucky Luciano.
- Francesco “Frank” Celano: A soldier under Miranda’s regime who would eventually rise to Capo, as well as assist Miranda during the Boccia cover-up. His family owned the famous Little Italy restaurant, “Celano’s.”
- George “Georgie Blair” Smurra: Another member of the Miranda regime who has the distinction of being arrested with “Bike Mike” during the roundups related to the Boccia murder as a co-conspirator. He also ran a popular supper club in Brooklyn until his death in the 1980’s.
- Gerardo “Jerry” Catena: Was not in Miranda’s crew, but would be a close associate of Miranda and would eventually rise through the ranks to become Underboss of the Genovese family and at one time part of a 3-Man ruling panel.
- Generoso “Dodo Del” Del Duca: An early associate of Miranda and David Petillo who started as a soldier and rose to Capo in the 1950’s. He served as the Vice President of the Miranda Importing Company. He was rumored to have been important enough to supposedly have his name in Lucky Luciano’s phone book, and also according to legend Frank Sinatra happened to be present when he had a heart attack and died in 1960 in Florida.
- John “Buster” Ardito: A ‘made’ man in the crew of Miranda who eventually became a major captain in the family until his death from cancer in 2006.
- Joseph “Socks” Lanza: A contemporary of Miranda’s within the family who had a stranglehold on the Fulton Fish Market within Lower Manhattan and who famously made the introduction of the FBI to Luciano and Lansky during World War II when the government seeked Mafia assistance to protect the waterfront.
- Joseph “Joe Tobin” Scarpinito: A fairly mysterious soldier listed in 1980’s government charts who was close with Miranda but eventually in the regime of Generoso Del Duca after his promotion to Capo. Joe Tobin was an ex-boxer and also had close ties to John “Sonny” Franzese of the Colombo family.
- Lorenzo “Larry or Chappie” Brescia: A soldier who would grow wealthy in the Kosher meat industry
- Nicholas Camerota: As previously mentioned, Camerota was a soldier who assisted with the Boccia cover-up by hiding the shooters Ernie “The Hawk” Rupolo and Rosario Palmieri. He later became a ‘made’ man within the Springfield faction of the family.
- Paolo “Charlie the Wop” Fraccacreta: Reputed to have been a solider in Vito Genovese’s Neopolitan faction of the family and who was close with Miranda as well as Tony “Bender” Strollo. Has the distinction of being listed in a 1983 government document as a member who was still alive 9 years after he had actually died.
- Peter De Feo: Became associated with Genovese and Miranda in the 1920’s and rose to prominence for his role in the Boccia murder as the supplier of the murder weapon. He eventually got ‘made’ and became a Capo in the 1950’s. He ran his crew well into the 1980’s and died in 1993.
- Salvatore “Little Sally” Celambrino: A soldier with the Neopolitan Genovese faction and under Miranda’s regime who would eventually rise to Capo. He was another who helped Miranda during the Boccia cover-up, and also was an influential figure in the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) later in his career.
- Salvatore “Salvie” Gencarelli: Brought into the family as a soldier under Mike Miranda, but spent much of his time working the Fulton Fish Market with the Lanza brothers. He was still listed on the FBI family charts as late as the 1980’s though little is known about his later life.
As you can see, most of the people Miranda associated with at minimum rose to the position of Capo with some even going so far as Front Boss. If you subscribe to the theory that you’re only as good as the people around you, then it’s fair to say his respect was warranted and the crew he ran for several decades was consistently one of the most powerful in the Luciano family.
Miranda was a highly respected and feared gangster who was said to be diplomatic in most cases, but not afraid to be ruthless when he had to be. “Big Mike” was a ‘man of respect,’ one who sought peace among warring factions who often settled disputes that might have led to bloodletting. As a result, top leaders more often than not accepted his advice.
When comparing Miranda to some of his family’s contemporaries, it’s fair to say he was somewhat of a cross between Costello and his mentor Genovese. While he didn’t have the political connections of Costello, he more often than not tried to settle disputes by reasoning with people rather than murdering them. Of course on the other end of the spectrum was Genovese, and it’s pretty safe to say that you couldn’t have been a right-hand man to Genovese without being someone who could handle yourself and do the dirty work for the family.
Perhaps Miranda wasn’t a complete psychopath or ego-maniac like his mentor, but you don’t get the respect he was getting without being a “man’s man” as they say in that life. Even still, I’d say that Miranda probably was more Costello than Genovese, which would ultimately serve him well later on in life when it came to avoiding major legal issues.
In addition to his rackets in the garment district, Miranda had criminal interests in illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, labor racketeering, narcotics smuggling and of course violence of many types. Additionally, there is some commentary in FBI reports that points to Miranda’s alleged involvement in an insurance business which specialized in union pension plans and trusts, as well as some reports that indicate he was involved in auto dealerships (though nothing that I could find to tie him to any illegal activities with that specifically). Throughout this period, Miranda maintained very close ties to his mentor Genovese.
In fact, “Big Mike” Miranda had become important enough that he was part of the New York contingent of mafiosi to attend the famous Havana Conference in 1946. This particular mafia summit, though Mike would be involved in another more infamous one later in his career, was a historic meeting of Cosa Nostra leaders from across the United States arranged by Charles “Lucky” Luciano at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba. The conference was held to discuss a number of important mob issues, to plan new rackets, set future Cosa Nostra policies, as well as review business interests. Some of the specific topics included setting up the global narcotics trade (routes that are still active today), the reinstitution of the “Boss of Bosses” title as a way for Luciano to fend off Genovese’s ambition and advances, as well as what to do about Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in Las Vegas, who was believed to be stealing money from the mob.
The attendee roster for The Havana Conference was a who’s who of the early mob and Miranda’s presence signal the growing respect that he had within Cosa Nostra at the time.
One of the big things I wonder about this conference is where Miranda was at during the alleged situation that occurred between Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano, and Frank Costello. At the time, Costello was leading the family as “Acting Boss” (which had been Vito’s role after Luciano went to prison and before he himself had to flee to Italy to avoid prosecution), but Luciano was still influencing events as the “official” boss from afar. When Vito coming now back into the fold, he did so with a whole lot of resentment towards Luciano and Costello especially. Tension between Luciano and Genovese specifically had been brewing for some time.
At the end of the conference, the strain between Luciano and Genovese allegedly reached a boiling point. According to the book ‘The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano,’ in a meeting with Luciano in his room at the Hotel Nacional, Genovese informed him that the U.S. government knew that Charlie was in Cuba and was pressuring the Cuban Government to expel him. To take it a step further, Genovese explained that since Luciano was going to have to return to Italy, he should turn over leadership of the Luciano Family to Genovese and retire. As you can imagine, this was the wrong thing to say, and it royally pissed off Luciano.
Positive that Genovese had tipped off the US government to his presence in Cuba, Luciano finally snapped and proceeded to beat the living shit out of Genovese. The beating broke three of Vito’s ribs, and it was three days before he could travel again. It was said that when Genovese felt better, Luciano and Anastasia put him on a plane to the United States with a threat to kill Vito if he ever mentioned this incident to anyone. In terms of Mafia rules, Lucky had broken a big one by violating the rule not to raise hands to another member. Then again, sometimes the mob’s rules are more like guidelines to be used when it suits certain ends. Either way, I don’t think Genovese would have wanted this to get out either as it may have hurt his reputation.
Unfortunately for Luciano, the New York City papers eventually got wind of the fact that Luciano was in Cuba and this news led the United States government to essentially force Cuba into deporting Luciano to Italy by threatening to withhold important medical supplies and humanitarian aid.
In the midst of all of this tension is Miranda. He’s highly respected, but definitely in Vito’s camp as his right-hand man. It’s likely that he was aware of the tension between Genovese, Luciano, and Costello, and maybe even felt some ill will himself. More than that, it’s also likely he knew either right away or not long after Vito got his beat-down. So how he managed to stay neutral in all of that without getting clipped as a Genovese supporter is beyond me.
In fact, though I have no proof, it’s likely that Miranda was heavily involved in some of the backroom dealing and treachery later on when Vito made his play for power. In reality, the focus of most historians looking back tends to be on the moves that Genovese was making at the time, and it’s rare to consider what the men who were with Vito were also going through and how they played a role behind-the-scenes in the mafia politics of the 1940s and 1950s. Anyhow, it’s just some good food for thought which leads us into the larger situation going on in New York in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.
As the 1940s wore on, the New York underworld again became a tangled mess of shifting allegiances, plots and subplots, all of which eventually would cause the simmer to become a boil. One of the best descriptions of the political conditions in the underworld at the time comes from Joe Bonnano’s book Man of Honor. Say what you will about Bonnano, but I think it’s fair to say that he really does a great job of illustrating the complexity of the situation in New York and the declining climate and rising tensions at the time:
“I never saw Luciano after he was convicted and sent to prison. His position as Father of one of the New York City Families was taken over by Frank Costello. Vito Genovese, a member of the same Family and the only other man who could have challenged Costello for the top spot, was not around to complicate Costello’s life. Vito had fled to Italy after being charged with murder in the U.S.
Costello was a sauve and diplomatic man. His skill at cultivating friendships among politicians and public officials was such that it earned him the nickname “the Prime Minister.” He preferred to settle arguments at the conference table rather than in the streets.
Despite his moderate ways, Costello knew that to survive in our world a man had to be versatile, and thus Costello was not without his “muscle.” In the 1940s, Costello’s strong-arm was Willie Moretti—the man who had bailed me out of a detention center when I came to this country in 1924. In the 1920s, Willie was under the influence of my cousin Stefano Magaddino. Later, he moved to New Jersey and joined Luciano’s Family. Willie was an exuberant man, colorful, quick to act and not afraid to speak his mind.
One of the reasons Costello relied on Moretti was to foil any lingering ambition Vito Genovese might have to become Father. Vito resurfaced in the mid-1940s when murder charges against him were dropped, clearning the way for him to leave Italy and return to the Volcano.
For a while, Genovese acted dutifully toward Costello, but trouble was brewing. If Costello was often seen in the company of Moretti, Genovese was now seen in the company of Tommy Lucchese, who belonged to a different Family. Meanwhile, Albert Anastasia, from yet a different Family, was known to like Costello; but Carlo Gambino, in the same Family as Anastasia, was very close to Lucchese. These inter-Family alliances were common in New York as no place else, and complicated all our lives.
By the late 1940s, New York City was like a firecracker that could go off anytime.
And the fire would be lit on October 4, 1951 when Genovese first engineered the assassination of Costello’s Underboss, Willie Moretti, who’d been suffering from advanced syphillis. Supposedly, Genovese convinced The Commission to authorize the hit on the basis that it was a “mercy killing,” due to the effects of the disease and the fact that Moretti had been on record with the Kefavuer Commission as being someone open and even playful in his testimony. The fear was that he’d continue to spill the beans, or so they say. In reality, this was a well-timed, politically deft maneuver by Genovese to slowly erode Costello’s power. And so, one by one, Costello’s key allies would be removed, either by dead, jail, or deportation until he was the only thing standing in the way of Genovese’ ambitions to become the Boss of the Luciano family.
Finally, On May 2, 1957, Genovese ordered the assassination of Luciano crime family boss, Costello and it was undertaken by future boss, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante. While the hit attempt ultimately failed, the result was the same. Frank Costello soon retired from the family, leaving Genovese in control. Soon thereafter, Genovese named Gerardo “Jerry” Catena as Underboss, and Mike Miranda as consigliere, making him the number three man in the newly renamed Genovese family.
Then in October of 1957, Albert Anastasia is murdered in the Park Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan in a coup by both Genovese and Carlo Gambano which would serve to eliminate all potential rivals to his power and paved the way for Genovese to became “Boss of Bosses.”
Unfortunately for Genovese, on November 14, 1957, he made the tremendous mistake of calling for what would become the most infamous meeting in mob history, the Apalachin Meeting. This meeting was a historic summit of the national syndicate of the American mafia held at the home of mobster Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara in Apalachin, New York.
The Apalachin meeting was called by Vito Genovese primarily to discuss the recent upheaval in New York, and to allow both himself and his co-conspirator Carlo Gambino to present a defense for their actions as well as make the case to name Carlo Gambino the new boss of the Anastasia crime family.
The meeting was attended by over 60 other Cosa Nostra bosses from around the country and from the Genovese family Vito himself, as well as the subject of this episode Mike Miranda, Jerry Catena, and Salvatore “Charles” Chiri.
FBI reports state that Genovese flew to the meeting with fellow mobsters including Philadelphia Boss Joe Ida, Mike Miranda, Gerardo “Jerry Catena, and an unnamed associate of Ida’s. They departed for the meeting from Newark airport and arrived in Binghampton, New York where a car was waiting to drive them all to Joe Barbara’s residence.
To Genovese’s great embarrassment, the historic meeting was raided by local law enforcement resulting in Miranda, Genovese, Catena, and about 60 other Mafia bosses being apprehended by federal agents while fleeing the property. Miranda specifically was one of 3 men found and captured in a corn field while attempting to flee on foot. As the story goes, police identified the man coming out of the cornfield and fired several warning shots at which point Miranda and his confederates came out with hands up.
One part of the FBI report that I found hilarious and believe to be mostly untrue was this bit of testimony from Genovese on what transpired after he arrived at Barbara’s estate:
“Genovese said that he went directly to the barbecue pit and had a steak sandwich and a bottle of sodawater. IDA and [redacted] left him at the barbecue pit for approximately 20 minutes and then returned stating that the host, Joseph Barbara, had a heart attack and was seriously ill.
Genovese testified that he saw approximately 50 individuals on the Barbara grounds, however, did not know and did not speak with any of them other than those set out above. He said that since the host was ill, Ida and [redacted] suggested that all return to NY. At this point he was introduced to Russell Bufalino, who offered to drive all of them to the Newark Airport. Genovese said that they left the Barbara residence approximately 1:00 p.m. and arrived at the Newark Airport approximately 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., where Ida picked up his car which he had previously left, and drove Genovese to his home in Atlantic Highlands, NJ.
The names of individuals who attended Apalachin meeting were read to Genovese and he denied knowing any of them in a business or social manner, other than those set out above.”
As a result of the meeting, “Big Mike” Miranda faced intense questioning but had an air-tight alibi simply saying he was there to visit a sick friend, which was the standard line most of the attendees fed to authorities. Not satisfied with this response, the authorities asked him about the murder of Anastasia as well as the reasoning for the Apalachin conference, but Miranda refused to speak of the any details of the meeting to law enforcement. His relative silence on the matter earned him two years in jail for obstruction of justice.
Some additional commentary on the meeting was later provided by an FBI informer (classified as T-4 in their report). On January 17, 1958, the source advised the FBI that Joseph Profaci, Vito Genovese and Mike Miranda were in his opinion, the three highest ranking top hoodlums present at the meeting. The informant went on to say that by virtue of their power and position in the underworld, he considers these three to be responsible for making many of the top level decisions in regard to the criminal operations on the East Coast.
To go along with these reports, there are additional statements from other informants dating back to as early as 1954 that state Miranda, along with Genovese and Albert Anastasia were among “the three highest rulers of the underworld’s affairs.” Since Miranda himself was not a boss, this just goes to show the level of respect and the perception of those in the life of the power Miranda held at that time within the underworld.
Another report dated around that time, this one out of the Star Journal from November of 1957, targeting readers following the goings-on in gangland were told that the Queens District Attorney was looking into the activities of Miranda and another man who had attended the mobsters’ convention in Apalachin, Joseph Rosato of Jackson Heights.
“‘We have evidence,’ the district attorney said, “that the mobs are trying to move in and we intend to stop them quick.’ Michele ‘Mike’ Miranda of Forest Hills, who was a delegate to the recent hoods’ convention in Apalachin, NY, was summoned to O’Connor’s office yesterday. Miranda ‘took the 5th’ when O’Connor’s questions probed sensitive spots and the district attorney finally gave up-for the time being. O’Connor did not go into details, saying that ‘he did not want to tip his hand.’ He indicated that Miranda is a likely subject for the Special Rackets Grand Jury and said that he will be called back for more questioning.”
“Miranda was picked up at 1.30 p.m. at the automobile agency in Manhattan where he works. A veteran of numerous police quiz sessions including the Frank Costello shooting and the Albert Anastasia killing, Miranda took this one in his stride. He expressed a little annoyance at the number of press photographers present. ‘What is this-a big show?’ he snapped.”
“Assistant D.A.s Francis X. Smith of Sunnyside and Howard Steve of Kew Gardens Hills did the questioning. After he left, Smith reported that Miranda answered questions about his name, address and occupation. However, a question about other sources of income” caused Miranda to invoke the 5th Amendment.”
“It was learned that Miranda came to this country in 1917 and is a naturalized citizen. He has a 25-year-old son who is an insurance salesman. Never convicted of a crime despite numerous arrests going back to his pickpocket days at Coney Island, Miranda presents a mild appearance with his bald head, medium stature and neat, conservative clothes. On the way to the D.A.’s office Miranda chuckled when a detective, alluding to his 1950 automobile, said ‘Mike, you’d never have made it to Apalachin in this car’.”
In July of 1958, both Genovese and Miranda were called before the U.S. Senate to testify before a select committee probing illegal and improper activities in labor relations and certain industries, notably the garment industry. These hearings were famously chaired by John L. McClellan, Senator John F. Kennedy as well as Robert F. Kennedy as counsel.
But both men held strictly to the code of Omertà giving nothing away in their testimony and leaving a frustrated McClellan to chastise both men, saying they were despicable and that their refusal to cooperate had dishonored those who had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of American society.
Even so, Genovese’s luck was about to run out.
The Downfall of Genovese & The Three-Man Ruling Panel:
The decade of the 1950’s was arguably one of the – if not the – most significant periods of upheaval ever in the American Cosa Nostra since the Castellammarese War had ended in 1931. But the turmoil wasn’t over just yet.
As it turns out, Vito Genovese’s time on the street as Boss of the family he so desperately wanted to lead was very short, and ended with a double-cross and a relative whimper. In 1958, Genovese was indicted on narcotics charges and sentenced to 15 years at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. I won’t get deep into what happened here, but I’ll say that most mob scholars will agree that the case itself was a setup engineered by the United States government in collaboration with Vito’s enemies as payback for his past misdeeds.
After exhausting all his appeals and a bizarre incident where the lead witness in his case periodically recanted his testimony, Genovese began serving his sentence in 1960.
Despite the circumstances and while most will assume that Vito knew he was going away for life after that pinch, if you read Vito’s FBI papers after his arrest it was clear that he believed he was going to be released at some point to come back out and run the family.
In fact, there are some FBI reports stemming from information provided by an informant dubbed 2319-C indicating that Genovese and his lawyers were particularly happy with a 1963 Appellate Court decision regarding his case that sent it on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit. Informant 2319-C also picked up a conversation about this ruling between Tommy “Ryan” Eboli and a man only named “Mike” which the FBI believed was either Mike Miranda or Vito’s brother, Michael Genovese. Either way, it was clear that Vito as well as key leaders in the family believed there would be a point in the not-too-distant future where Vito could be back out on the street running the family.
So while serving his sentence, Genovese placed the family under the leadership of a “Three Man Ruling Panel” to hold down the fort while he was away. Genovese would relay orders from his prison cell typically through either his brother Michael to the panel members as they ran the day-to-day family activities.
Now, if you research the subject of who took over for Genovese while he was in prison, you’re going to find some conflicting information as to who exactly made up this panel. While some sources suggest that it was made up of acting boss Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli, Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, and Mike Miranda, other sources suggest that it included Eboli, Catena, and future boss Philip “Benny Squints” Lombardo.
While power-sharing is not typical in the mafia nor does it often last, this initial subterfuge created out of the strife of their Boss’ imprisonment actually set the stage for the “Front Boss” system which would serve to protect the true identity of the Genovese boss for the next 20-30 years, and be used by other families to stifle law enforcement efforts even to today.
In reality, I don’t think anyone except those directly involved or very close to the situation really truly knows who was a part of the panel, but suffice it to say Miranda had either a seat directly at the table or a significant voice in Genovese family matters at the time.
Let’s set the stage for what is going on between the Five Families in the immediate time period right after Vito goes away. During the 1960’s, with the ruling-panel in place (however it was constituted), there was a period of relative calm within the Genovese Family, while the rest of the underworld was experiencing a period of significant turmoil that would last into the early 1970’s.
Carlo Gambino was busy strengthening the position of The Gambino Family through his alliances first with Tommy Lucchese and then with his successor, Carmine Tramunti.
The Profaci family was undergoing internal strife caused by the Gallo faction, and after family boss Joe Profaci passed away, his successor Joe Bonnano and Joe Magliocco launched a plot that would essentially have seen them take over The Commission by assassinating Gambino and Lucchese.
Unfortunately for Bonnano and Magliocco, the plot failed. Following that failed action, Gambino and Lucchese shelved both Bonanno and Magliocco under threat of death and threw their support behind Joe Colombo as the leader of the newly renamed Colombo family.
The power vacuum in the Bonnano family of course led to internal strife which culminated in the Bonnano family civil war of the 1960’s, dubbed “The Bananas War.”
This essentially meant that 2 of the other 4 major families in New York City were to some degree influenced by Gambino which would give him the majority vote on The Commission. These events served to shift the balance of power in the underworld to the Gambinos and that would last for a period of time even after Carlo Gambino died in 1976.
While it’s fair to say that the Genovese and the Gambinos weren’t directly at odds during the 1960’s, as time went by they became natural rivals constantly jockeying for control of The Commission, a Machiavellian back-and-forth that would continue well into the 1990’s.
Getting back to our subject. The turmoil caused by the events of the 1950’s and 1960’s meant that throughout the decade after Vito Genovese went to jail, law enforcement continued to pursue “Big Mike” Miranda and other Mafia bosses.
During 1963 and 1964, Senator John McClellan’s subcommittee on organized crime launched another series of hearings which featured the testimony of famous mob rat Joseph Valachi and are more commonly known as the Valachi hearings.
These hearings have been described by witnesses as the first major breakthrough in the barrier of silence that has traditionally surrounded and protected the hierarchy of the underworld, particularly in the Mafia, and represented one of the first instances of the shadowy veil surrounding Cosa Nostra being somewhat lifted.
In March 1965 the McClellan Committee would release a report on Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics. In this report, the government lays out the detailed history of Cosa Nostra and connects the dots between the Mafia and drug trafficking that had been going on at this time for decades.
While Miranda certainly was not the main focal point of the hearings, the report does feature some testimony in which others talk specifically about “Big Mike.”
In his testimony, Joseph Valachi dropped Miranda’s name several times. In one line of discussion around whether or not Mafia leaders regularly mix with their underlings, Valachi and the Committee conferred on the following:
Inspector John J. Shanley (from the NYPD who provided Expert Analysis to the Committee): “We have one here, Anthony Carillo, Tony the Sheik. He is a buffer in a sense for Mike Miranda. You observe Tony the Sheik. You are going to see Mike Miranda. He usually is in his company.”
Jerome S. Adlerman (who served as General Counsel for the Committee): “Do you find, for example, Vito Genovese or Jerry Catena or Mike Miranda… do they deal directly with the soldiers?”
Mr. Shanley: “No; they do not. Very few of these people are in operations. They are insulated against themselves.”
Mr. Valachi: “There are really many soldiers that never know the boss. Soldiers are in there 10 years, probably, and never saw a boss.”
So I think it’s fair to say that by this point in Miranda’s career, it wasn’t that he wasn’t known to law enforcement (his FBI Number was 91524), it’s just that they couldn’t get to him due to the structure of the mafia and the buffers put in place. The family had a lot of buffers. But that wouldn’t stop the FBI from trying.
Of course they ended up with nothing from Miranda himself, as the mob leader continued to stick to the oath of Omerta and kept his mouth shut while using his rights under the protection of the 5th Amendment.
However, there was one particularly funny exchange that gave me a bit of a chuckle in my research.
Senator: “Mr. Miranda, do you recognize yourself in this photograph?”
Miranda: “I got no glass. I don’t see.”
Senator: “Where are your reading glasses?”
Miranda: “I got none. They are at home.”
I’m sure this feigning of ignorance on Miranda’s part pissed the Committee off to no end, but at the time this type of response had become standard operating protocol for the American mob since they had so many politicians in their pockets. Though it would eventually change, as long as they all stuck together and held to the oath, they were nearly untouchable.
As the FBI put it in the many memorandums concerning the mafia, Mike Miranda was considered one of the most powerful gangsters of the 1950’s and 1960s both within the Genovese family as well as the entire country.
And as you’ll see, this certainly makes him a viable candidate to take over control of the Genovese Crime Family when his boss Vito Genovese went to prison.
To continue the theme of significant law enforcement pressure, in October 1965, the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested Miranda and Eboli for parole violations of consorting with known criminals, but all the men were released within a week.
Then, on September 22, 1966, Miranda and 12 other high level Mafia members, including bosses from New York, New Orleans, and Florida were arrested at the La Stella Restaurant in Queens, New York. Others arrested were Eboli, Carlo Gambino, Carlos Marcello (the Boss of New Orleans), Santo Trafficante (the Boss of Florida), Joe Colombo, Aniello “Mr. Neil” Dellacroce. The men were strip searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and then held as material witnesses. Miranda was once again charged with consorting with known criminals. Each man had to put up $100,000 bail, a total of $1.3 million for all 13 men.
According to FBI reports, press accounts of this raid reflect that “a high police source” stated that the “poor man’s Apalachin party” was convened at the direct command of the unnamed subject and Michele Miranda, a top hoodlum of the New York office, “primarily to discuss the disturbing intrusion of outside elements of what used to be a well organized racket setup.” According to Selwyn Raab’s book, Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires, the arrests resulted from a routine tail of Miranda who had followed him to the restaurant. While staked out, the cops were astonished to see “the pride of the American Mafia” arriving separately and entering the restaurant.
After the arrest, the “high police source” also claimed to have said that certain members of the “little Apalachin” group had been seen visiting Miranda since his confinement in City Jail, New York City, for failure to answer questions about the Apalachin meeting.
The Central Intelligence Section, New York City Police Department, who led the raid on the Concord Luncheonette, has advised that the Police Department had determined that the luncheonette was a hangout for certain members of the original element. The CIS stated the purpose of the raid was to determine the identity of the individuals who were there and their criminal activities and that actually no meeting of any kind appeared to be going on at the time of the raid.
He said the only connection he knew of between those arrested and Genovese or Miranda was the fact that Antonio “Tony the Sheik” Carillo, who visits Miranda at the New York City Civil Jail, frequents the Concord Luncheonette and associates with various individuals who were there at the time of the raid. He said that many of those arrested are associates of known hoodlums throughout the New York area. The source stated that to his knowledge none of those arrested have visited Miranda since the latter has been in jail.
All in all, the LaStella restaurant bust and most of the other actions of law enforcement during this period in actuality ended up having very little effect on the mob’s operations despite the level of publicity they received at the time. Miranda and the other bosses didn’t end up doing really any significant prison time save from small bits in jail after which they were released when charges couldn’t be brought against them.
By the end of the 1960’s, the golden era of the mob was still in full swing, and the Genovese family was poised for a change at the top level for the first time since Vito Genovese usurped power back in 1957.
The New “Boss”
In 1969, the Genovese family’s namesake Vito Genovese died in prison, which of course led to changes atop the family’s leadership hierarchy. It was at this time where the “Front Boss” system “officially” began. Many sources have speculated that it was Eboli who became the “official” boss and head of the family, but really in the background it’s more likely that Genovese’s successor at boss was really Philip “Benny Squints” Lombardo.
And if you look at all the candidates at the time, you’ll begin to see why this makes sense. However, I’m going to admit candidly that during my research for this video, this is the most murky and downright confusing time period for the Genovese Family in terms of trying to decipher the true leadership, which of course was by design.
So let’s break down all the top candidates at the time.
First, there’s Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli. As a “front boss” Eboli was not popular with other families or his own men. He was always a hot-head and did little to strengthen the family or his underlings, which didn’t breed confidence from the rank and file. As a result, he was essentially installed as a “puppet boss” to be the lightning rod for both the FBI and other families.
There’s also former Underboss, Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, who might have had a legitimate case to become boss, but unfortunately was serving a prison sentence at the time. Some sources even suggest that he actually did become the Boss, but he was reputed to have relinquished the title when he went away to do his bit. Honestly, it’s hard as an outsider to say if that’s really true or not, though Catena was clearly a highly respected family leader.
Then of course you also had the subject of today’s biography, “Big Mike” Miranda, who was one of the most – if not the most – respected men in the Genovese family throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. Had he been a little younger, he might have been the clear choice to replace his mentor Genovese, but at the time he was already in his 70’s and while he was surely disappointed at not being made “official” boss, it’s understandable that the family wanted to go in the direction of choosing someone with some potential longevity.
And lastly, you had Philip Lombardo who was slightly younger, respected, a good earner, and shrewd strategist. Lombardo as boss makes sense looking back at the candidates, but most sources will cite him as a mere Capo with Catena and/or Eboli as the boss.
All in all, the real powers in the family at the time were reputed to have been “Benny Squint” Lombardo and Mike Miranda.
I’d also add that Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, who was one of the biggest earners in the history of organized crime, would have made a worthy successor as well but he was just a little bit younger than Lombardo and Miranda at the time, so it just wasn’t quite his turn yet it appears.
“Tommy Ryan” Eboli didn’t end up lasting very long as the ‘Front Boss.’ In 1972, he got himself in a major hot water when he borrowed $4 million dollars from Carlo Gambino in a massive drug scheme which had designs on enabling Eboli – who didn’t like being a front man – to eventually garner enough power to take over the Genovese family and ditch the ‘Front Boss’ title. However, when Eboli failed to pay back his debt, Gambino orchestrated his murder. This just goes to show the power Gambino was wielding at the time as he didn’t hesitate to have a major leader within a rival family whacked out.
After Eboli’s death, the Genovese family created a second “Ruling Panel” panel with Catena and Miranda along with actual family Boss Philip Lombardo calling the shots. To continue the strategy of insulating the boss, they installed the next in the series of ‘Front Bosses,’ one Frank “Funzi” Tieri who was a major powerhouse in his own right within the Genovese family.
As previously mentioned, the strategy of creating a subterfuge by not truly letting anyone know who the real boss was enabled the Genovese family to thrive well into the late 1980’s and beyond with even other mafia families not fully knowing who was 100% pulling the strings behind the scenes.
I’d also add that by sharing the power and decision-making, the Genovese family ended up having the greatest level of alignment for the battles that eventually came when law enforcement got its act together in the 1980’s.
It’s quite amazing that all of the family’s leadership, even the ‘Front Bosses,’ were able to put egos aside and put the Cosa Nostra (sometimes at their own expense) first, when other families were often beefing over power, position, money, and more.
It’s this series of moves that is the basis for why the Genovese family is known today as the Ivy League of the mafia. And our subject, Mike Miranda played a significant role in the success that the far-reaching plan assured for the family in the following decades, even though he wouldn’t be around to see the end result years down the line.
Retirement & Closing Thoughts:
In 1972, Miranda decided to hang it up and retired from active involvement in family affairs. He retired in great standing amongst his mafia peers and as an “elder statesman of the Genovese Mafia family” according to the New York Times. To replace Miranda, Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno stepped in at this time as the family’s new Consigliere.
“Big Mike” would leave his mafia family in good hands as Philip Lomardo served as boss until the early 1980’s. As previously stated, in 1972 Frank “Funzi” Tieri replaced Eboli as ‘Front Boss,’ and in the mid 1970’s Salerno replaced Tieri as ‘Front Boss’ until he was sent away for life in The Commission Case in 1986. In the early 1980’s, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante officially stepped in as the official Boss and ran the family with an iron fist into the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
“Big Mike” would spend roughly a year in retirement and died of natural causes on Sunday, September 16, 1973 in Boca Raton, Florida.
In the New York Times article announcing his death it stated he was to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, but in actuality he was buried at Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens. Could it have been a little gamesmanship on his part from the great beyond? Given that he kept the authorities guessing for nearly his entire Mafia career, I’d like to think he got one last misdirection in before going to his final resting place.
In closing, Michele “Big Mike” Miranda achieved what many – hell, most – mobsters including his mentor, Vito Genovese failed to achieve. While he never made it to the top in terms of being boss, he managed to be universally respected, was involved in some of the most significant mob events in the 20th century, and for the most part stayed under the radar, held strictly to the code of Omertà, avoided serious jail time, and died peacefully in his own home. Miranda was the quintessential mobster and – in that life – a role model for how to do things the right way.
While he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, he preferred to use diplomacy and focused on making money, not headlines. He was very capable, wasn’t overly flashy, and he didn’t appear to have a huge ego, which are three ingredients for long-term success in the Mafia.
If Miranda or any of the family’s top guys had decided to get out of line and make a run at the top spot after Vito went to prison, the family would have likely devolved into civil war similar to what plagued both the Profaci and Bonnano Crime Families throughout the 1960’s. But they didn’t do that, and it worked out extremely well for their family in the long run.
These facts make Michael Miranda a large part of what made the Genovese Crime Family successful, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s where they really honed their reputation as the true ‘Ivy League’ family of the American Cosa Nostra.
Okay, so that’s it for this episode. Another mob biography in the books. I appreciate everyone’s patience as I know it takes me a long time to do research, record, and produce the episodes, but I hope you found the wait worth it. I spend probably 50-60 hours doing painstaking work on each episode I put out, so just know that while I’d like to move faster, life sometimes gets in the way and I want to ensure that I’m doing my homework to give you the detail you can’t find (easily) anywhere else.
As always, I really appreciate the support and (if you’re on YouTube) please let me know what you thought about this episode in the comments below. Also please, mash that Subscription button on YouTube and hit the notification bell so you know when I’ve posted a new episode.
If you’re listening to the audio version of the episode, I’d appreciate it if you’d rate the show in order to help it grow. Although I’m not super active on other platforms, feel free to check out our website at www.membersonlypodcast.com, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
Until next time, gratzie!
Books & Other Sources:
- DeStefano, Anthony M. The Deadly Don: Vito Genovese, Mafia Boss. Citadel Press. Kensington Publishing Corp, 2021.
- Bonnano, Joseph. “A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno.” St. Martin’s Publishing Group. 1984.
- New York State Archives; Albany, New York; Sing Sing Prison, 1852-1938; Box: 24; Volume: 59
- Gosch, Martin A., and Hammer, Richard. The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano: The Mafia Story in His Own Words. Enigma Books, 1975.
- Newton, Michael. Boss of Murder, Inc.: The Criminal Life of Albert Anastasia. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers, 2020. Pgs. 117, 119, 132, 144, 208.
- Sussman, Jeffrey. Big Apple Gangsters: The Rise and Decline of the Mob in New York. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2020. Pgs. 89, 138.
- Nash, Arthur. New York City Gangland. Arcadia Publishing Incorporated, 2010.
- Nash, Jay Robert. The Great Pictorial History of World Crime. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. ISBN 1-928831-20-6
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0