Don’t forget to buy me a cup of coffee on your venmo app at ganglandwire. This is the first of a two-part series on the now-famous Apalachin meeting, and I got my good friend retired K-9 Sergeant Cate Kozalto sit in on the show. If you want to learn more about Cate, check out my YouTube channel and see our motorcycle tour of Bonnie and Clyde sites from Iowa to Louisana.
There are lots of questions out there about the famous Apalachin meeting. I have heard every rumor and speculation possible. Kate and I will try to go through this dispel some of the rumors, and get to the truth. We are doing this because I understand there is a movie about the meeting to be released in 2019. First, we need to pronounce it correctly. I noticed that our frequent guest Bill Ouseley always said Appa -lake-in. I looked it up and as usual, he is correct. So I will quit saying Appalachian and say Appa-lake-in
The famous Apalachin meeting has taken on mythical proportions in popular culture. In Kansas City, we brag how New York cops arrested our long-time boss, Nick Civella at a train station very close to this meeting, and he was with prohibition-era Kansas City crime boss, Joe Filardo. This event gave the Kansas City crime family credibility on a national scale.
The earliest mention in popular culture was in the Peter Mass book, The Valachi Papers. The movie of the same title also depicted the meeting. Charles Bronson played Joe Valachi.
The Apalachin Meeting was loosely depicted in the 1959 film Inside the Mafia. This film starred Cameron Mitchell. Inside the Mafia is a 1959 film noir crime film based on a true incident. It was based on the Albert Anastasia murder and the subsequent Apalachin Meeting.
The meeting was comically depicted in the 1999 film Analyze This with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal.
Narration near the beginning of the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta said, “It was a glorious time, before Apalachin, before Crazy Joe Gallo took on a mob boss and started a war…” In the film, the name Apalachin was mispronounced – Henry Hill’s character pronounces the “ch” in Apalachin like in the word “chin,” but it is correctly pronounced like a “k.” The full name is pronounced “Apple-lake-in.”
Why was this Apalachin meeting necessary? By this time, the mobsters knew that local police, the FBI, and most importantly, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics were using electronic surveillance methods or bugging telephones and rooms. In 1957, the phone was good but not the best, and there was no such thing as conference calls, let alone Skype or FaceTime conference calls. I believe they wanted to look at each other face to face when they made decisions about the future of the National Crime Commission. Transportation was constantly improving, and interstate crime was becoming more accessible. Las Vegas was on the horizon, and other western cities were growing to create more opportunities for gambling and labor racketeering. Narcotics were a question. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics had gathered a lot of information about the various criminal organization, and narcotics was becoming known as dirty money. Was the profit worth the risk?
However, one of the main reasons for this meeting was a struggle for control between the more Americanized liberal factions and the old-school conservative factions of the mafia. The progressive wing wanted to move more into business crime and avoid killings and interfamily wars, while the conservatives wanted to keep everything open.
First, let’s go back and see who some players were and how they got there.
In 1957, a National Crime Syndicate existed. In 1931 after the last old Mustache Pete, Sal Marazano, was killed by Lucky Luciano and his crew, the bosses of the New York 5 families along with Buffalo New York boss Stephano Magaddino and Chicago’s Al Capone formalized the geographic boundaries and created a set of rules, like for example, for a man to be approved as a made man, all families had to agree. They also allowed Jewish members of the National Crime Syndicate, not the La Cosa Nostra mind you. They elected Charles Lucky Luciano as the Boss of all Bosses.
In 1936 after Lucky Luciano was sent to prison, several conservative New York bosses took over and wanted to return to old-world Sicilian traditions, which would exclude anyone not of Sicilian blood. These crime families held a meeting in Havana, Cuba, and in the end, some of the more progressive opinions were adopted, like keeping their Jewish friends in the Commission, but they approved of Lucky Luciano remaining as the Boss of Bosses and that the American Mafia would deal in narcotics. Supposedly, they agreed to have Bugsy Siegal killed for skimming money from the Flamingo in Las Vegas. The Chicago Outfit always represented the Kansas City Crime Family during this time.
In the early 1950s, Frank Costello rose to the top of the heap and wanted to adopt more progressive and business-like methods, while the old-school mafiosos did not want to change.
Why was this meeting held in 1957?
By this time, several cities had grown large enough crime families to feel they deserved a seat on the commission. Philadelphia and Detroit families wanted a seat at the table. The power struggle in New York between some old-school conservative bosses and the younger liberal Americanized bosses was creating havoc. After several mob hits in which 2 bosses were killed, the New York crime families split even further. The more liberal and progressive faction was Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia. They were opposed by Vito Genovese, Tommy Lucchese, and Carlo Gambino.
In 1957, Vito Genovese thought that the Mafia’s political climate in New York and on the Commission was right for a power move. Genovese, Lucchese, and Gambino conspired to murder Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia. On May 2, Genovese gunman and protégé Vincent “Chin” Gigante tried to kill Frank Costello in the lobby of his Manhattan apartment building but failed, leaving Costello with only a minor head wound. Costello got the message and told Genovese that he would step down as boss of the Luciano Family and retire.
The following month, Anastasia’s Family underboss, Frank “Don Cheech” Scalise, was assassinated on June 17 by Anastasia’s nephew and gunman, James “Jimmy/Jerome” Squillante. This seemed to be another crazy act by the boss of Murder Incorporated, and Genovese used the Scalise hit, along with Anastasia’s attempt to muscle into the Havana casino operations of Meyer Lansky and his partner, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. as examples of Anastasia’s madness and reasons to kill him. On October 25, 1957, in the barbershop of Manhattan’s Park Sheraton Hotel, Anastasia was shot and killed by two masked gunmen sent by Genovese and Gambino. Genovese was now head of the Genovese crime family and a Commission member, making him the most powerful boss in La Cosa Nostra.
In 1957, Chicago mafioso, Sam Giancana was elected to replace former Chicago Outfit boss and Commission member, Anthony Accardo, giving the new “Liberal Faction” another ally.
After the recent killing of Anastasia, the New York bosses needed a sit down to discuss how they might divide up Anastasia’s rackets such as gambling, casinos, and narcotics dealing. Some Anastasia capos like Aniello “The Lamb” Dellacroce and Armand “Tommy” Rava were about to go to war against Genovese and his allies.
Another topic was gambling and narcotics activity in Cuba. Santo Trafficante, Jr. of Florida and Northeastern Pennsylvania Family Underboss Rosario “Russell” Bufalino, Frank DeSimone of Los Angeles, Carlos “Little Man” Marcello of New Orleans, and Meyer Lansky were very concerned with attempts by others to muscle in on their Havana casino operations.
The most important topic at the Apalachin meeting was the international narcotics trade. Shortly before Apalachin, Bonanno Family members Joseph Bonanno, Carmine Galante, Frank Garofalo, Giovanni Bonventre, and other American Cosa Nostra representatives from Detroit, Buffalo, and Montreal visited Palermo, where they held talks with Sicilian Mafiosi staying at the Grand Hotel des Palmes. This connection will remain intact despite a ban on mafia trafficking in narcotics. The Sicilian Mafiosi had already established smuggling routes and connections from Turkey and the Middle East through France to Canada and the United States. Carmine Galante will become known as the heroin kingpin before he is murdered dramatically in a New York restaurant.
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