Lupo The Wolf – A Story of the Black Hand

May 15, 2017

Petrosino and His Italian Squad

Ignazio “the Wolf” SaiettaIgnazio Lupo, AKA Lupo the Wolf, was a Sicilian-American Black Hand leader in New York City during the early 1900s. His business was centered in Little Italy, Manhattan, where he ran large extortion operations and committed other crimes including robberies, loan-sharking, and murder. By the start of the 20th century, Lupo merged his crew with others in the South Bronx and East Harlem to form the Morello crime family, which became the leading Mafia family in New York City.

Suspected of at least 60 Black Hand murders he was not caught by authorities until 1910, when the Secret Service arrested him for running a large scale counterfeiting ring in the Catskills. After serving 10 years of a 30-year sentence he was forced into retirement by the emerging National Crime Syndicate. Ignazio Lupo was born in Palermo, Sicily, to parents Rocco Lupo and Onofria Saietta.The word lupo means wolf in Italian; thus the moniker “Lupo the Wolf” literally translates to “Wolf the Wolf.” Ignazio Lupo has sometimes been referred to by his mother’s maiden name as Ignazio Saietta, but his actual surname was Lupo. From age 10 he worked in a dry goods store in Palermo. In October 1898, he shot and killed a business rival named Salvatore Morello, according to Lupo in self-defense after Morello attacked him with a dagger during an argument in Lupo’s store. Lupo went into hiding after the killing and on the advice of his parents eventually fled Italy to escape prosecution. After stops in Liverpool, Montreal and Buffalo he arrived in New York in 1898. On March 14, 1899, Lupo was convicted in absentia of ‘willful and deliberate murder’, reportedly due to the testimony of the clerks who worked in his store.


Lupo would never serve out the Sicilian sentence, though he would one day return to Sicily.


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