Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dying of the Light: The Joseph Valachi Story

Third Time Lucky

Thomas Lucchese (CORBIS)
Thomas Lucchese
His first place of refuge was with Nicky Podaro, one of the men who had been initiated with him into the Cosa Nostra. He then contacted the son of the late Gaetano Reina, who agreed to hide him in the attic of the family home. Valachi soon afterwards contacted Tommy Lucchese, who had become the right hand of Gagliano, and a few days later Joe met the two men. They talked the matter over and suggested that Joe reconsider his move away from their family.

Feeling safer, Joe left Reinas attic and moved in with his mother and sisters. (His father had died of alcohol poisoning years before.) Matters grew more complicated, however, when Buster turned up and suggested that they should band together with the other gang members under suspicion because of their closeness to the late Maranzano. Then they could fight back. Joe suggested that Buster take a low profile until they could sort things out. However, a week later, Buster was murdered somewhere on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It turned out that his murder was nothing to do with the war but involved a personal dispute over a gambling debt.

Valachi then linked up with Santucci and his old friend, The Gap. They both pressured him to join up with Vito Genovese and the family being run by Charlie Luciano. Poor Joe was in a quandary, to say the least. He had been an inducted member of the mob for less than two years, had gone through the most cataclysmic gang war in history, and was now facing the prospect of changing partners for the third time. After much agonizing, Joe decided to take The Gap's advice and join up with Vito Genovese's family, which was controlled by Luciano. His power within the mob was so great that if he approved of Joe, it was highly unlikely anyone would ever question Joes loyalty to the cause, despite the fact that he had been close to Maranzano.

At a meeting held in a downtown hotel on West 23rd Street, Joe and three of his associates met up with Genovese, who took them down to Greenwich Village and introduced them to Anthony Strollo, also known as Tony Bender. A close friend of Vitos (they had been reciprocal best man at each others weddings), he became the caporegime to whom Joe would answer. Genovese assured the men that he and Luciano would settle things and they should fear no repercussions from any other family.

Salvatore Charlie Luciano would become the most powerful chief that Cosa Nostra would know, holding court over his kingdom from a suite in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he resided as Mr. Charles Ross. No significant racket in the citygambling, numbers, union extortion, loan sharking or narcoticsoperated without his involvement.

Although in theory he abolished the position of Capo di Tuti Capi and headed up only his own family, his influence was far-reaching among the criminal underworld, Italian-American, Jewish and Irish.

Luciano created an addition to the crime family structurea position known as counselor or consigliere. Initially, this position was created to shield individual soldiers from personal vendettas arising out of the war. It subsequently evolved into a move to pre-empt the problems that would arise as the various Cosa Nostra groups struggled to develop their interests in an environment that Joe Bonanno came to call: The Volcano.

As the underworld settled down and began a period of relative peace, Joe began operating his first business, developed through his family membership. Along with Girolamo Santucci, he started up a slot machine business that was soon grossing $2500 a week. Joe also started to date the daughter of the late Tom Reina. When he was hiding out in the attic in the family home, they had become more than just friends. After a complicated and troublesome courtship that required Vito Genovese's intervention to sort out her familys misgivings, Joe married the twenty-two-year-old Mildred Reina on September 18th, 1932.

Having started his first business venture, and his first and only marriage, it was not long before Joe's new crime family called upon him to handle his first contract to kill.



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