Carmine Galante was born Camillo Galente on February 21, 1910, in East Harlem, New York City. Like many La Cosa Nostra mobsters his parents, Vincenzo “James” Galante and Vincenza Russo, had emigrated to New York City in 1906 from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. His father had worked as a fisherman.
The Galante family had the three brothers Camillo, Samuel, Peter Galante, and two sisters, Josephine and Angelina Galante. Camillo would get his name changed to Carmine Galente. He married Helen Marulli, and they had three children; James Galante, Camille Galante, and Angela Galante. He left his wife and lived with Ann Acquavella for most of his adult life. They had had two children together.
The authorities sent 10-year-old Carmine to reform school for petty thievery. He was a natural leader who formed a juvenile street gang on the Lower East Side. Galante had dropped out of seventh grade during Prohibition and became a young Mafia associate. He was a small-statured but violent young man who used his violent tendencies to become a leading enforcer by the time he was in his mid-20s. In 1931, a prison shrink diagnosed Galente as a psychopath.
Carmine Galent or “The Cigar” became a valuable member of the Bonanno crime family and was a valuable asset and associate to Joseph Bonanno. Joe Bananas will promote Galente to caporegime and then underboss. He was always loyal to Bonanno and sided with him in a mob war with Carlo Gambino.
Joe Bonanno was heavily involved in the heroin trafficking from the middle east, and he sent Galante to Montreal, Quebec to work Vincenzo Cotroni of the French Connection. Joe Bonanno will take Carmine Galante to a 1957 meeting in Palermo, Sicily and conspire with the Sicilian mob to import heroin into the United States. Lucky Luciano who was living in Sicily also attended that meeting. The Bonnano family recruited young unknown Sicilian men to help distribute the narcotics. These men became known as “Zips” and most came from the Galente family home of Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani. They worked as bodyguards, contract killers, and drug traffickers. Galante placed total trust and confidence in his new immigrants.
The Federal Bureau of narcotics will charge Carmine Galante with heroin distribution in 1960. An interesting fact is that William Bentvena (“Billy Batts” murdered by Tommy DeSimone) was also a codefendant. The defendants intimidated and coerced the jurors and witnesses throughout the trial culminating in a mistrial because the jury foreman had “fallen” down some stairs. In a second trial the jury sentenced Galent to 20 years in federal prison.
The government released Carmine Galente from prison in the 1970s, and he moves to consolidate and control all narcotics trafficking in the northeast. Galante refused to share any drug profits with the other families. Galante understood that many of his fellow mobsters wanted to kill him, he was so bold that he once said, “No one will ever kill me; they wouldn’t dare.” Genovese crime family boss Frank Tieri started a conspiracy with other New York family leaders to murder Galante. They even obtained approval from Galent’s old boss, Joseph Bonanno, even though he was retired to Arizona. In 1979, the Mafia Commission ordered Galante’s execution.
On July 12, 1979, Anthony “Bruno” Indelicato, Dominick Trinchera, and found Carmine eating lunch on an open patio at Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant at 205 Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Galante was dining with several other Bonanno family men and with his two Sicilian bodyguards, Baldassare Amato, and Cesare Bonventre. These three men walked to the outdoor patio wearing ski maks and opened fire with shotguns and handguns. They killed Galante and two others instantly. An enterprising New York Post photographer climbed to a fire escape behind the patio and took the famous picture of Carmine Galente crumpled on the floor with his ever-present cigar clenched between his teeth and one open eye staring into space.
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