East Coast Mafia Families
Gangsters were a dime a dozen on the East Coast in the Mafia's heyday. The region from New England through New Jersey and out to Pennsylvania was home to thousands of made guys, associates, bookies, loan sharks, dope peddlers, grifters, and hit men. The immigrant neighborhoods, readily corruptible electorate, and the economic activity of the area — dominated in the early part of the twentieth century by manufacturing, unions, and the docks — gave the wise guys just what they needed to expand their rackets.
Buffalo, New York
The Buffalo, New York, mob was founded by Stefano Magaddino. He was a member of the Commission from its inception and one of the elder statesmen of the Mafia. Buffalo's location near the Canadian border made it ideal for the bootleg business. The Buffalo mob was integral in the pipeline of transporting whiskey from Canada into the United States. Magaddino also had another business that catered to those who ran afoul of him — a mob-run funeral home. The Buffalo mob extended its influence west into Ohio and up into Canada.
Buffalo Mafioso Stefano Magaddino was the older cousin of New York City gangster Joseph Bonanno. They were not cousins on the best of terms however. The Buffalo resident was intensely jealous of his more successful younger cousin, and neither would have been displeased to see the other whacked.
When old man Magaddino died of natural causes at the ripe old age of eighty-two, his succession was thrown into upheaval as various gangsters made a grab for power. By the 1980s the Buffalo family was in control of Joseph Todaro Sr., who spent most of his time in Florida. The remnants of the Buffalo family are still involved in gambling, loansharking, and construction unions.
The New England family had an identity crisis. The power base shifted back and forth between Boston, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island, depending on who was in charge. The first dons, Gaspare Messina and Phil Buccola, sipped espressos in Boston's North End. Buccola's successor, Raymond L.S. Patriarca Sr., moved the headquarters of the family to Providence, where he had his vending company — one of many mob bosses who worked in the vending-machine industry. Patriarca remained the don until he died in 1985. His son, Raymond Patriarca Jr., took over, causing turmoil in the family. He was replaced by Francis “Frank Cadillac” Salemme. The Salemme reign was marked by a war between the established Mafiosi and a younger group of renegades. After a series of murders and successful prosecutions, the New England Mafia was damaged. The crime family still lives on, with the power center shifting back once again to Providence.
This Mafia family operates out of the old coal mining cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Pittston, Pennsylvania, extending its reach north into New York State and westward to Erie. This area attracted a large number of Italian immigrants to its coal mines and industrial operations in the beginning of the twentieth century. The local Mafia was founded by Santo Volpe, who was succeeded by John Sciandra as head of the family. Joseph Barbara had Sciandra whacked in 1940 and was the don until 1959. Russell Bufalino took over the crime family in 1959 and became the namesake of the group until his death in 1994. The current boss of the nearly dormant family is William D'Elia, who maintains close contacts with the mob in Philly.
Newark, New Jersey
When most people think of the New Jersey Mafia, The Sopranos comes to mind. There was a New Jersey crime family long before Tony Soprano and his cronies hit the small screen. The first don was Stefano “Steve” Badami. He was succeeded by “Big Phil” Amari, who reigned for over twenty years. He was replaced by Nicholas “Nick” Delmore. Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante, known as “Sam the Plumber,” took over after that, and the crime family became known by his name.
The New Jersey crime family is believed to be the basis for the hit HBO series The Sopranos. During the investigation that led to the 1999 indictment of the DeCavalcantes, agents listened into mobsters comparing characters on the show to real mobsters they knew.
Considered a “farm” team by the larger crime families, the DeCaval-cantes stayed under the radar for decades. They were involved in the ever-popular union infiltration as well as those old mob standbys of gambling and loansharking before the conviction of boss Giovanni “John the Eagle” Riggi in the early '90s. Following his conviction the remaining hierarchy was swept up in a massive indictment in 1999. They are still active, though their numbers are diminished. The current boss is said to run his operations from the Peterstown section of Elizabeth, the last vestige of a thriving ethnic neighborhood.