The Lucchese Family

The Lucchese family is the smallest of the big five crime families. It does not have the name recognition factor that the Bonannos or Gambinos have. It has always had smaller membership and has kept a low profile compared to the other families. It does, however, have the distinction of being the family whose activities are the source for one of the best Mafia movies, Goodfellas.

Lucchese family member Peter Chiodo was shot twelve times in an attempt by the Lucchese family leadership to kill him, but he survived. They suspected he was an informant. In fact he wasn't an informant, but after being shot gave the government enough evidence to convict the Lucchese hierarchy.

The first don of the Lucchese family was Gaetano Reina. He controlled bootlegging in the Bronx under Joe Masseria. He switched sides and supported Masseria's rival Maranzano. When Masseria learned of his treachery, he was rewarded with a shotgun blast to the head administered by future crime family boss Vito Genovese. He was followed by a Mafioso with the same first name, Gaetano Gagliano. The next boss too had the first name, but he Americanized his to Tommy. He was Tommy “Three Fingers Brown” Lucchese.

Tommy Lucchese's area of expertise was corruption in the garment industry. For decades the Lucchese family was a controlling force in New York City's garment industry, and by default the rest of the country's garment business. They were involved in all aspects, from shaking down garment companies to controlling the truckers that shipped the merchandise. It was an easy way to keep their coffers full of cash and keep the gangsters in plenty of new suits.

The family was also heavily into gambling, loansharking, hijacking, and drugs. The drug trade was done on the sly. This was the era when the Mafia was becoming increasingly involved in narcotics trafficking despite its outspoken “just say no” stance. The underlings dealt drugs but coyly declined to tell their bosses where the money came from when they handed over the bosses' take of the profits. The old Mafiosi turned a blind eye to the drug dealing because it was making them a lot of money. The Luccheses even stooped so low as to sell crack cocaine in their own neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

The Lucchese family had a strong New Jersey presence, but with a large number of informants, snitches, and stoolies, their leadership in the Garden State has been decimated. Most recently in late 2007, the leadership was indicted for running a multimillion-dollar gambling operation and partnering with the Bloods in criminal endeavors.

Real Goodfellas

Paul Vario was a powerful capo in the Lucchese family. He controlled a crew in East Brooklyn that specialized in hijacking trucks and selling stolen property. In his circle was Jimmy “the Gent” Burke, a legendary Queens-based Irish gangster. Henry Hill was a punk kid who became enthralled by the neighborhood Mafiosi and fell under the influence of these two older wise guys who schooled him in the ways of gangsterism. Henry Hill's turncoat testimony, covered in a later chapter, eventually sent both Vario and Burke to prison, where they both died.

Decline and Fall

Tommy Lucchese died in 1967. He was followed by Carmine Tramunti, who served as don until he was jailed for life. His replacement was a man with the nickname “Tony Ducks.” Anthony Corallo was called that because of the many times he successfully beat the rap and ducked prison. He oversaw the Lucchese family's continued involvement in corrupt labor unions, the private garbage removal business, and construction projects.

Corallo's downfall was that his car was bugged, and Ducks liked to talk a lot. In 1986, after twelve years as don, his ducking skills failed him, and he was finally imprisoned. He was sentenced to 100 years and died in prison in 2000. His successor, Vittorio Amuso, was not amused when he himself was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992. Taking over after him was “Little Al” D'Arco. But by then the boss of the Lucchese family was not a good job to aspire to. D'Arco and his successors have all been taken out by the feds.

A Rat Problem

Henry Hill is the most famous rat in the Lucchese family, but this family has had more of a vermin infestation than any other. Hill squealed in 1980 and went into the Witness Protection Program. “Little Al” D'Arco sang for the feds during the Amuso years. So did two badfellas named Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso and “Fat Pete” Chiodo. Even with all these turncoats the family is still active, albeit severely weakened and only a shell of its former self.

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