Quest for the Mafia

"We strolled the lane together,
Laughed in the rain together..."

-- Together

Scarface needed the alliance of the local Mafia in order to survive. Every time he wanted to hit big game, he required approval of the presidency of the Chicago chapter of the Unione Siciliane – as a token of respect and, more so, to solicit his advice. The Mafia OK'd Weiss' death as it had given the go-ahead on eliminating O'Banion. Because Big Al was Neapolitan, not Sicilian, he could not officially become a ranking member, which made it necessary for him to have as the local don someone to whom he was favorable. Without that support, Capone's potency would shrivel.

Since coming to Chicago, he had finagled to have placed in the governing throne a personal and intimate cumpari...Mike Merlo, Angelo Genna, Salvatore Ammatuna, then Tony Lombardo.

When the head of the national Unione Siciliane (or Italo-American National Union) in New York took it upon himself to replace Lombardo with his own man in Chicago -- one who would not be supportive of Capone – the landscape once again turned sanguinary. This thrust for power would inadvertently enwrap Bugs Moran and lead directly to the most horrible gangland killing in history, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Since 1925, Brooklyn chief and capo of the Unione Siciliane Frankie Yale (real name Uale) expended a hatred for his one-time friend Al Capone. The two men had known each other from the old Five Points district where they had grown up and had served together as privates in the Brooklyn mob wars. After Capone migrated to Chicago in 1920, the friends remained in touch, often loaning their own triggermen to perform out-of-town killings. It strongly appears that it was Yale who personally designed and took part in the hit on Dion O'Banion in 1924.

Joey Aiello (POLICE)

After Johnny Torrio departed the Windy City and left Al in charge, Yale remotely watched the successor's head growing too large for his hat. He blamed the over assurance on Chicago's leading union representative, Tony Lombardo, for providing Capone with too much liberty and financial backing – monies that should have been paid in tribute to the national union, in other words Yale. He perpetuated a plan to kill Lombardo and insert in his stead a yes-man from Milwaukee, Giuseppe "Joey" Aiello.

After conferring with Yale, Aiello came to Chicago to ingratiate himself with Lombardo, compliments of his pal, Frankie. But, once there, Aiello took Yale's plot a step further by conspiring to kill Capone, too. He and his three brothers, Dominico, Antonio and Andrew summoned their brain cells for a spark of ingenuity to creatively do in Capone. They went so far as to offer the chef at Capone's favorite restaurant, Little Italy, $10,000 to poison Al's food with prussic acid. The chef tattled and Capone was heard to frown, "Geez, if I knew what I was coming into in Chicago, I never woulda left Brooklyn."

When imagination failed, the brothers Aiello openly and stupidly announced a price on Al Capone's head: $50,000 to anyone able to put him six feet under. States author of Mr. Capone, Robert J. Schoenberg, "Starting in May of 1927 at least four hoods came to try for the bounty...but Capone's intelligence network blanketed the city; nearly every waiter, bookie, street hustler, cabbie, newsboy, grifter – and most policemen – were his spies. The hoods barely hit town before...they hit the pavement, dead."

Aiello came under suspicion for another, unrelated murder plot in November, 1927, and was arrested. By this time, Capone had heard of Aiello's campaign to have him eliminated and sent "Little Louis" Campagna to Detective Headquarters where  he was being held for questioning. Campagna's message to Joey probably went something like this: "If we see your face one more hour on the streets of Chicago we're going to introduce it to your ass." The moment the police released Aiello he grabbed the fist train to New York.

Back in Brooklyn, Aiello re-teamed with Yale in whose company he was hiding. When Capone's east coast whiskey shipments from Canada began being hijacked in Brooklyn, Capone found out from a spy, Felisi DeAmato, that Yale was managing the hijacks to make up for the money he felt he was losing by Lombardo's placement. On July 1, 1928, Yale was riddled in New York after leaving his restaurant, The Sunrise Café. Suspected killers were Scalise & Anselmi and Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo. It was the first time a Thompson gun was used in a gangland slaying in New York City.

This was when Aiello contacted Bugs Moran back in Chicago: With him and his gunsels' professional help in killing Lombardo, they would not only be ridding themselves of a strong Capone ally, but be greatly reducing the deadweight of power that Scarface held against them. The offer was too tempting to refuse.

Tony Lombardo was shot to death on a crowded intersection of the Loop on Friday, September 7, 1928. The suspected gunmen were Bugs himself and Frank Gusenberg. As Schoenberg tells it, "Lombardo finished some routine work at the Unione headquarters, 8 South Dearborn, and left the office about 4:30...flanked by bodyguards Joseph Ferraro and Joseph Lolordo. Lombardo strolled up to the corner of Madison, turned left and crossed the street. (They) did not notice the two men loitering in the doorway of a busy chain restaurant, the Raklios...Dumdum bullets shattered Ferraro's spine and he dropped, mortally wounded. Two more dumdums demolished the back of Tony Lombardo's skull." Lolordo went unhit, chased the gunmen, but they got away.

Capone fumed. He could think of no one else but Aiello who had a reason to murder his pal Tony, but Aiello was not in town. Unless Moran sided with Aiello...that made sense! Big Al considered striking the North Side with everything he had, but waited to see who emerged in the fight to fill Tony's vacant chair. Aiello moved too slowly, allowing Pasquelino "Patsy" Lolordo, brother of Lombardo's bodyguard, the advantage. Patsy was, by virtue of a mild, contemplative manner, a productive mentor. A Torrio-like figure of patience and cool head, he prevailed upon Capone to avoid haste until he had more proof. "A war would not be good for any of us right now," he told his pupil.

But, Aiello remained the tempter. Reminiscent of Richard III who pursued the king's throne through the process of elimination (of the rightful royal heirs, that is), Aiello again persuaded Moran to lend a hand. He staunchly believed that, with Lolordo gone, he could force the vote of the Union Siciliane for sure.

How Moran's boys were able to call upon Lolordo at his apartment is still a mystery. Certainly he would not have allowed them inside after Capone's warning. Most likely, one of Aiello's compatriots whom Lolordo trusted set up the meeting, bringing with him two of Moran's assassins under false names. But, came they did, on January 8, 1929, to Lolordo's luxurious third-floor flat at 1921 West North Avenue. According to Lolordo's wife Aliena, her husband and his three visitors talked for nearly an hour – she could hear them chatting and laughing and toasting in the parlor while she ironed – sharing a bottle of bourbon and a dish of pastries. As the trio prepared to leave, she heard a series of shots, then silence. Dashing into the parlor, she saw the strangers leave, one of them stopping to place a sofa-pillow under the head of Pasquelino who was sprawled stiff on the floor.

Lolordo, dead in his home (POLICE)

"Her husband lay dead, killed by eleven .38 caliber bullets," says Curt Johnson in Wicked City. "There was a .38 six feet from his body – one hand still holding his wine glass – and the police found another .38 on the stairs."

Two of the killers by description were most likely Pete Gusenberg and James Clark, Moran's bodyguard. Aliena Lolordo could not positively identify them. However, Johnson ruminates, "she may have recognized the men but, of course, knew that silence was expected of her" in the tradition of omerta.

Capone did not fume this time. He wept...Patsy Lolordo, a man of peace, dying so coldly, sharing cordialities with strangers. That Moran could not be positively blamed for this did not matter...Capone knew he had been behind it. And it was Moran's last straw.

Scarface sent his scouts out looking for Joey Aiello – who, by the way, did not succeed Lolordo – and his favorite executioner, Jack McGurn, straight to the North Side gunning for Bugs Moran. "It's ten grand in your pocket, kid," Capone told McGurn, "if Moran shows up in the obits column."

1. Chicago's Own

2. Pals

3. Beer Barrel Bonanza

4. Battlefield Chicago

5. Bugs, Himself

6. Quest for the Mafia

7. St. Valentine's Day

8. Goodbye, Chicago

9. Bibliography

10. The Author
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