Organized Crime - Mafia Apalachin Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

There is not a chance that Genovese would want other mobsters to be aware of his private business. He barely knew some of these men and knew others on a casual basis. If Genovese was looking for investors in a Havana venture he would have been doing so very quietly, and among men he could easily dominate. The last place he'd look would be to powerful mob bosses who saw Vito as a rival. (Hafer, n.d., p.6)

In early 1957, shortly before he was murdered, Francisco Aguirre told Albert Anastasia that Hilton International was asking for bids to operate the Habana Hilton Hotel Casino on a concession basis. Aguirre told Anastasia it would require a minimum of $2 million to close the deal, and asked if he could use his influence as the hotel owner to try to get the Hiltons to go along with the deal. Anastasia contacted Frank Costello and asked him to become his partner in the casino deal and to finance the $2 million required for the Habana Hilton Casino operation.

Costello informed Anastasia that he was already financially committed to the Riviera Hotel Casino in Havana, and under no circumstances could he get involved in another Cuban casino.

At the same time, Vito Genovese was negotiating with a second group of Cuban casino builders that had also approached Francisco Aguirre to seek his help with the Hiltons. The New York underworld knew that Albert Anastasia and Vito Genovese vowed to get each other at the first opportunity. Now with Anastasia and Genovese vying for the lucrative Habana Hilton Casino, a showdown of some sort would soon come. When word got back to Genovese that Frank Costello might put up $1 million for Anastasia, Genovese vowed to get Costello first. (Hafer, n.d.)

After Vito Genovese's orders to assassinate Anastasia were carried out, Francisco Aguirre informed Genovese that he had very little time to put up his million-dollar guarantee. To raise $3 million Genovese contacted Joe Profaci of Brooklyn of New York and Anthony Strollo of New Jersey to help him raise the cash. Joseph Barbara's secluded mansion in Apalachin was the designated meeting place for Genovese to entertain about fifty or more wealthy potential buyers and woo them to his Cuban Hilton casino plan. (Barbara was paid $100,000 to host this fund-raising event.)

Vito Genovese told Barbara, Profaci and Strollo not to tell the guests about the true purpose of the gathering. "Tell them it's a party for the host, Barbara. The reason for the party is that he's recuperating from a heart attack...Once we get them here, we'll feed them all the liquor and food they can eat. I'll then give them my casino pitch and I'll have a couple of casino guys from Havana at the meeting to give me a hand if necessary..."

Joseph Barbara suggested November 14, to which Genovese, Profaci and Strollo agreed. About eleven o'clock on the morning of the 14th of November, Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chrysler Imperials began arriving at Joseph Barbara's hilltop mansion. By 12:30 P.M., some 28 automobiles had arrived and were parked in the parking lot and dirt road alongside the house. As Barbara was introducing the guests to one another, Barbara' wife looked out the window and spotted a marked New York state trooper's vehicle in front of the garage and a trooper recording the license numbers. (Hafer, n.d.) the rest of that part of the story we already know.


Some law enforcement members and mob historians throughout the years since the historic Apalachin Summit debacle, believe that the three senior mob members that were absent for the meeting, namely Charles Luciano, Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky conspired with each other to tip off the Apalachin and state law enforcement officials who raided Joseph Barbara's estate and discovered the existence of a national crime syndicate. No matter what the state of the affairs of the national crime syndicate or Cosa Nostra at the time of the Apalachin Summit, good or bad, may it be peace, war or otherwise, most mob watchers would never believe that two men such as Charlie "Lucky" Luciano and Frank Costello would ever break their vows of "Omerta" or betray their fellow bosses and allies who were present at Apalachin on November 14, 1957. (, n.d.)

The facts were that Vito Genovese had stripped Frank Costello of leadership in the Luciano family and further placed the exiled Charlie Luciano near the last vestiges of power and prestige that he maintained throughout the national crime syndicate and Cosa Nostra. Never again would Luciano regain the total domination of the so-called national crime syndicate and Cosa Nostra without a powerful family and soldiers behind him. But no matter in what position of underworld power these two men found themselves, they would never purposely try to destroy what they built from the beginning together with their childhood friends -- the most powerful criminal organization in North America. (, n.d.)

Also, Luciano and Costello were in awkward positions. Charlie "Lucky" Luciano had been deported to Italy in 1946 and not allowed back into the U.S., and Frank Costello had recently been shot and stripped of power on Vito Genovese's orders. Neither one could attend the Apalachin Summit, but they had contacted an old friend and ally Frank "The Cheeseman" Cucchiara, the New England Patriarca family Consigliere who was representing his boss Raymond "El Padrone" Patriarca, Sr. He also agreed to represent Luciano's and Costello's interests at the summit. As far as Meyer Lansky not being present at Apalachin, it is known that he and Joseph "Doc" Stacher declined to go, but were invited to discuss the state of casino operations in Las Vegas and Cuba, since they were two of the operation's investors and overseers. So the idea of an internal mafia conspiracy, though intriguing, is probably not what happened. (, n.d.)

Apalachin raised fears of a powerful nationwide conspiracy in the homeland by a criminal culture transplanted from Sicily, thus making the island the incubator of American organized crime. In fact, many ethnic backgrounds are found in the underworld and no single ethnic group has had a monopoly on organized crime in the United States. Mob informant Joseph Valachi spoke plainly in his 1963 testimony (during which he famously coined the phrase La Cosa Nostra) when he remarked, "I'm not talking about Italians, I'm talking about criminals." (Sorte, 2008)

Strange Twist or Just Another Rumor?

At first glance, the Apalachin incident seems pretty cut and dried. Law enforcement officers rounded up a number of well-dressed fellows, took them down to the station for questioning, and released them. End of story.

But the question that has always lingered about Apalachin is, what was the real agenda of the meeting? Why would all of the very top bosses and their Consigliores get together at such an unusual, remote location to discuss relatively ordinary Mafia business. Consider the following:

J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI since 1924, had steadfastly denied that there was such a group as the Mafia operating within the United States. Indeed, until he woke up on the morning of November 15, 1957, and saw the headlines about Apalachin glaring up at him, he was able to do so. Besides, with the "Red scare" of the 1950's, Hoover was busy chasing commies.

But there was one person who had a claim to power equal to that of Hoover's who had no respect of any kind for the Mafia. And that man was Robert Kennedy. While Hoover was busy looking for Communists, Kennedy had opened the files on organized crime in a way that had never been done before. (Ward, 1997)

The Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities -- or McClellan Commission, as it became known -- had named as its chief counsel, Robert Kennedy. Is it perhaps this very appointment which led to the devastating tragedy that would befall the Kennedys in the years to come?

At Christmas time 1956, just when Joe Kennedy had decided that his son, Jack, should run for president, Bobby Kennedy announced to his father that he intended to go after racketeers. Needless to say, father and son fought bitterly over this issue. Joe Kennedy had close Mafia ties back to the years of Prohibition and he would need all the help that he could get to have his Catholic son elected President.

But Bobby was a much more idealistic man than his father. He believed in what he was doing, just as Joe had believed in making money and gaining power. The McClellan Commission adjourned the second phase of their meetings on November 13, 1957, the day before the Apalachin meeting. (Ward, 1997)

The Mafia knew that Joe Kennedy was planning to launch Jack into the political arena, and the chances were good that he would gain the Presidency. Perhaps Joe had already approached the Mafia for help in electing his son. Would it profit the Mafia…

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