Petto, Tomasso (1879-1905)

Born Province of Palermo, Sicily, c1879.
Killed Browntown, Pittston, PA, Oct. 21, 1905.

Tomasso Petto, also known as Luciano Perrino (also written about as Luciano Parrino and Tom Carrillo), was a brutal enforcer for the early Morello Mafia in New York City. He participated in counterfeiting operations and "Black Hand" extortion schemes. After establishing himself as a Black Hand leader in northeastern Pennsylvania in 1905, he was murdered in an apparent gangland "hit."

Petto acquired the nickname "Il Bove," meaning "The Ox," because of his physique. He stood about five-feet-eight-inches tall and weighed approximately 220 pounds, nearly all of it muscle. His shoulders, arms, legs and neck were massive. Once, when he was being placed under arrest, he put his arms around the body of a detective - said to be the most powerfully built man on the New York police force - and nearly squeezed the life out of the man.

Petto became the prime suspect in the Barrel Murder case of April 1903, when police found him in possession of a pawn ticket for a watch owned by the victim, Benedetto Madonia. The murder was closely linked with the counterfeiting operations of Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello - a disciplinary action against Madonia's imprisoned brother-in-law Giuseppe DiPrimo, who was believed (wrongly) to have cooperated with the authorities. Though Petto was indicted for the murder, he never stood trial. State witnesses hesitated to testify against him, evidence linking him to the murder was lacking and there was official confusion over his identity - some mixed him up with Morello mobster Giovanni Pecoraro. After months locked in the Tombs prison awaiting trial, Petto was discharged on Jan. 29, 1904.

He returned to his old haunts on Mulberry Street and Mott Street and celebrated his release with friends. U.S. Secret Service operatives kept an eye on him, as he remained a counterfeiting suspect. During the evening of Jan. 29, he reportedly received a telephone call at a Mott Street restaurant. After the call, he apologized to his friends and quickly left the city. Secret Service agents tracked him to Port Chester, New York. He did not remain in Port Chester for long.

In the spring of 1905, Petto reportedly ran into some trouble with the Secret Service, as he had been involved in the sale of unlicensed cigars in West Virginia. He and his young family had just settled into a new residence in Old Forge, Pennsylvania (between Scranton and Pittston), when he was arrested for the offense and made to pay a heavy fine.

Petto, his wife and two young children relocated to Browntown, just south of Pittston, in the summer of 1905. There, under the name of Luciano Perrino, he quickly established himself as leader of a band of Black Hand terrorists. As fronts for his underworld activities, he opened a grocery and a butcher shop along South Main Street in the downtown area, a short distance from the Susquehanna River.

At about the time of his arrival, a Browntown resident named Frank Culloro was murdered. Culloro's body was found along Cork Lane near an old mine shaft. His head was found later at the bottom of the shaft. Some in the area believed the newcomer was responsible.

On the evening of Saturday, Oct. 21, 1905, Petto remained at his butcher business until quite late and then began the long walk across town to his home on Lincoln Street. At about 10:30, just a few paces from his front door, he was alerted to some danger and pulled out the .38-caliber revolver he carried with him. He would not have the opportunity to use the weapon. At that moment, he was struck in the right side by a blast of small-caliber shot fired at close range. The pellets embedded into his right arm, right side and right hip. At almost the same moment, additional shots were fired, and larger caliber slugs pierced Petto's body.

A large chunk of lead tore into the right side of his chest and proceeded downward, severing the spinal column and leaving the body below the spleen, leaving a gaping exit wound. Another projectile, more than a half inch in diameter and with jagged edges, struck Petto between his eighth and ninth ribs and lodged in his liver. A third slug smashed Petto's handgun and ripped apart his hand. A fourth cracked into his right elbow and smashed the bones almost to dust.

Neighbors initially thought little of the autumn evening explosions, as hunting was common in the area. But the blasts brought Petto's wife out of the house. She found her husband dead on the ground. She saw little if anything of the gunmen who took his life. At a coroner's inquest the next week, she testified that she recalled seeing one man dressed in white in the area.

Following the inquest, the coroner's jury decided that Petto was killed by person or persons unknown. No clues were ever found to the identities of Petto's killers, but many were sure they knew who was responsible. Newspapers and law enforcement officers speculated that Giuseppe DiPrimo, recently released from Sing Sing Prison, had avenged himself on the murderer of his brother-in-law Madonia. It was a good story, but Petto reportedly had many enemies other than DiPrimo. William Flynn of the U.S. Secret Service stated that DiPrimo could have had nothing to do with the Petto killing, as he was not yet out of prison at the time it occurred. (The timing of DiPrimo's release is uncertain as of this writing. He was sentenced to four years and could have been paroled in plenty of time to track down and kill Petto. If not paroled, his sentence with good time allowance would have expired too late.)

Petto was buried in the Market Street Cemetery, also known as St. John the Evangelist Cemetery, in Pittston. After the household contents were sold off, his wife took the children to New York City and moved in with her parents there.

Sources:

  •  "Came from Buffalo,” Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, Apr. 21, 1903, p. 7.
  •  "Mafia murder gang are all in police net," New York Evening World, April 25, 1903, p. 1.
  •  "No pistols for Mafia," New York Evening World, April 29, 1903, p. 2.
  •  "Have complete chain of evidence," New York Tribune, April 30, 1903, p. 6.
  •  "Six held in Mafia case," New York Evening World, May 8, 1903, p. 1.
  •  "'The Ox' goes free in barrel murder," New York Evening World, Jan. 29, 1904, p. 2.
  •  "'The Ox' may yet be put on trial," New York Evening World, Feb. 3, 1904, p. 5.
  •  "Black Hand leader killed," Scranton PA Republican, Oct. 23, 1905, p. 4.
  •  "Mysterious murder in village of Browntown," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 23, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "No clue discovered," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 5.
  •  "Perino murder still unsolved," Scranton PA Truth, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "No clue whatever yet," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "Petto, the Ox, murder victim," New York Sun, Oct. 24, 1905, p. 5.
  •  "May have good clue," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 25, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "Revenge on Black Hand," Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "The murder mystery," Pittston PA Gazette, Oct. 27, 1905, p. 1.
  •  "Parrino inquest," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, Oct. 28, 1905, p. 5.
  •  "Reign of crime near Pittston," Wilkes-Barre PA Times Leader, Dec. 20, 1905, p. 26.
  •  Carey, Arthur A., with Howard McLellan, Memoirs of a Murder Man, Garden City NY: Doubelday, Doran and Company, 1930, p. 121.
  •  Flynn, William J., Daily Report, April 20, 29, 30 1903, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 9, National Archives.
  •  Flynn, William J., The Barrel Mystery, New York: James A. McCann Company, 1919, p. 13-14, 16-17, 22.
  •  Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markham, Joe Petrosino, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974, p. 9, 14.

Strollo, Antonio (1899-1962)

b. New York, NY, June 14, 1899.
disappeared from Fort Lee, NJ, April 8, 1962.

A longtime leader in the Genovese Crime Family, Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo oversaw rackets in Greenwich Village and on the East Side of Manhattan. Strollo was a longtime ally of Vito Genovese, but the two apparently had a serious falling out after Genovese was convicted on narcotics charges. The conflict proved fatal for Strollo.

Antonio Strollo was born in New York City on June 14, 1899, to Leone and Jennie Strollo, immigrants from Italy. He had two older siblings, brothers Samuel and Dominick. In the early 1900s, Leone Strollo was a laborer, and the family lived at 181 Thompson Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. The family address changed only slightly, to 177 Thompson Street, by 1920. At that time, Leone Strollo ran his own candy store and his sons Antonio and Dominick worked as teamsters / truck drivers.

Antonio Strollo appears to have been married just after 1920. He and a wife named Rose can be found in the 1930 U.S. Census in a Thompson Street apartment. Strollo still claimed to be working as a truck driver at the time, but he was already engaged in racketeering, likely as a part of the Giuseppe Masseria Mafia organization. The marriage with Rose did not survive long after 1930 (Rose's fate is uncertain as of this writing).

During the 1930-31 Castellammarese War, Strollo sided with Masseria, Charlie Luciano and Vito Genovese. Following the brief reign of Salvatore Maranzano, Strollo became a lieutenant in the Luciano organization and a key ally of Genovese. Joseph Valachi was one of the Mafiosi under the command of Strollo.

Strollo's business interests at the time included numerous night clubs and restaurants. He also oversaw rackets at Manhattan's West Side docks.

At the end of March 1932, Strollo married again. This time, his bride was Edna Goldenberg, a New York native. The couple traveled to Bermuda in the spring for a honeymoon, returning to New York on May 25. Their home for a time was 45 Christopher Street in the Village. The 1940 U.S. Census shows two daughters in the home.

Soon after, the Strollos relocated across the Hudson River in the area of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Strollo's racket territory increased, and he became a power on the Jersey City docks by the early 1950s. A political scandal was triggered when news got out of a March 14, 1952, meeting between Strollo and Jersey City Mayor John V. Kenny. Kenny tried for a time to deny the meeting, arranged by actor Phil Regan and held in Regan's suite at Manhattan's Warwick Hotel, but eventually acknowledged that it took place. Kenny said he met with Strollo in order to resolve some conflicts with labor along the docks.

Strollo is believed to have pushed Anthony Provenzano into leadership positions of Local 560 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Provenzano started his career in organized labor (and likely also in labor racketeering) as the Local 560 shop steward for the H.P. Welch Company. He eventually won election to the local presidency. Provenzano would become a strong ally and later a determined enemy of Teamsters President James R. Hoffa.

By the late 1950s, the New York Police Department reported that Strollo oversaw loan sharking, bookmaking and gambling activities in the Greenwich Village area and managed his underworld enterprises from a growing collection of nightclubs, bars and coffee houses.

As one of the last people to see Anthony "Little Augie Pisano" Carfano alive, Strollo was a leading suspect in the Carfano murder in September 1959. Strollo, Carfano, Mrs. Alan Drake and several others spent time together at the Copacabana and at Marino's Restaurant, 716 Lexington Avenue, before Carfano and Drake hurriedly left together, following a telephone call to Carfano at Marino's. Carfano and Drake were found shot to death in a car parked in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Federal narcotics charges resulted in hefty prison sentences for Vito Genovese, Joe Valachi and others around 1959. Strollo escaped punishment but was a likely participant in the narcotics offenses. When Valachi attempted to jump bail and leave the country, Strollo convinced him to return to New York City. Valachi may have provided information to federal authorities before this time, but his experiences in prison - particularly his sense that then-crime family boss Vito Genovese had branded him a traitor - led him to cooperate fully and enthusiastically with the Justice Department.

At almost the same moment that Genovese turned on Valachi, Genovese ordered that Strollo be eliminated. At about 10 p.m. on April 8, 1962, Strollo told his wife he needed to go out. She later reported to police that he drove off with an unknown associate in a 1961 Cadillac. Strollo was never seen or heard from again.

Strollo's rackets in the Genovese Crime Family were handed over to Pasquale "Patsy Ryan" Eboli, brother of Thomas Eboli.

Later in the year, the FBI monitored a conversation between Mafiosi Anthony Russo and Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo. In that conversation, Russo told of an earlier talk he had with Ruggiero "Richie the Boot" Boiardo and Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana. Boiardo apparently was taking complete credit for the murder of Antonio Strollo and made no mention of an order from Vito Genovese.

Sources:

  •  New York City Birth Records, Certificate no. 22743, June 14, 1899
  •  United States Census of 1900, New York State, New York County, Enumeration District 1062.
  •  United States Census of 1920, New York State, New York County, Ward 8, Assembly District 2, Enumeration District 204.
  •  New York State Census of 1925, Kings County, Assembly District 7, Election District 22.
  •  United States Census of 1930, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 2, Enumeration District 31-68.
  •  New York City Marriage Index, Certificate no. 7134, March 30, 1932.
  •  Passenger manifest of S.S. Monarch of Bermuda, departed from Hamilton, Bermuda, on May 23, 1932, arrived New York on May 25, 1932.
  •  United States Census of 1940, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 10, Enumeration District 31-884.
  •  Grutzner, Charles, "Kenny admitted lie to jury on talk with pier gangster; police got $108,000 bribe bid," New York Times, Dec. 18, 1952.
  •  Perlmutter, Emanuel, "New lead on Pisano slaying provided by racketeer friend," New York Times, Oct. 1, 1959, p. 30.
  •  "Pisano hurried to his death after mysterious phone call," New York Times, Oct. 2, 1959, p. 16.
  •  Hindes, Eugene J., "Salvatore Granello...," FBI report 92-3960-30, NARA no. 124-90066-10093, June 27, 1962, p. 44.
  •  Flynn, James P., "Crime conditions in the New York division," FBI report CR 62-9-34-692, NARA no. 124-10348-10068, Dec. 3, 1962, p. 21-22.
  •  Andrews, Leon F. Jr., "La Causa Nostra Buffalo Division," FBI report 92-6054-296, NARA no. 124-10200-10453, June 14, 1963, p. 24-27.
  •  "Sketches of gangland figures named by Valachi in Senate testimony," New York Times, Sept. 28, 1963, p. 6.
  •  Donnelly, Frank H., "Anthony Provenzano aka Tony Pro," FBI report 92-7195-2, NARA no. 124-10221-10186, Dec. 20, 1963, p. 6-7.
  •  Valachi, Joseph, "The Real Thing: Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra," Joseph Valachi Personal Papers, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, 1964, p. 370.
  •  Durkin, Paul G., "Harold Konigsberg," FBI report CR 9205177-161, NARA no. 124-10348-10067, Aug. 16, 1965, p. 135.
  •  "F.B.I.-taped conversation sheds light on 1962 gangland slaying of Strollo," New York Times, Jan. 8, 1970, p. 33.