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Dark Side Last Updated: Apr 8, 2019 - 2:12:30 PM


Out of Africa: The Story of New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello
By Thom L. Jones, Gangsters Inc., April 7, 2019
Apr 7, 2019 - 10:03:15 AM

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Tunisia is a republic in North Africa. Bounded on the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea and on the south and west by Libya and Algeria; its capital is Tunis. 15 kilometers to the north is the famous ancient city of Carthage. A deformation of "Kart Hadasht" (the new town) it was how the Phoenicians came to describe it, when they conquered the region in the 9th century.

Built on the hill of Byrsa, it was founded in the 8th Century BC. The city and nearby Salammbo Port, abound in vestiges of Punic and Roman empires baths, dwellings, temples and shrines. For over one thousand years, the Phoenicians were masters of the sea; pirating and trading on the Mediterranean encouraged the prosperity of Carthage and nearby Tunis. Under French rule from 1881-1956, the population of this area increased dramatically as thousands of Europeans were drawn to the area by growing commercial and industrial facilities.

Marcello’s origins

In 1908, among the hundreds of workers who landed in Tunisia were a couple from Sicily. They moved to Carthage, living in La Goulette, now the main sea port of the city, replacing Salammbo to the north, and worked hard for the next eighteen months. Guiseppe and Luigia Minacore both came from Ravanusa, a small village about seventy miles north of Girgenti, which is now known as Agrigento. The two immigrants would have been familiar with ancient ruins, as Agrigento is world famous as the site of some twenty Doric temples. Ironically its decline as a trading city can be traced back to when raiding parties from Carthage sacked it. But the wild, open beauty of hilltop medieval villages, rocky slopes pitted with olive trees and the canopy of a vast, endless open blue sky, was always overshadowed by what Sicilian peasants called malafortuna, the grinding, unending poverty. And so as a result, many of them left their land to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Guiseppe was short and squat with the rugged build typical of Sicilian peasantry. Luigia was a strong, handsome girl, talented and multilingual. She would eventually master six languages through her long life. At the end of September, 1909, it had been decided that Guiseppe would leave North Africa and travel to America. Their family had friends and relatives living in New Orleans, and word had traveled back that there were many more opportunities in Louisiana than in Tunisia.

Five months later, on a cold, chilly day-February 6th, 1910, Luigia gave birth to her first child, a son she called Calogero. Later in the year, Luigia returned to Sicily and in October, she and the baby sailed away from Palermo to join Guiseppe and begin their new life in America. For Calogero, it was the start of an eighty-three-year odyssey. He would start it as a baby and end it in a state of childish innocence. But the years between would be filled with sound and fury, and he would become one of the most notorious gangsters in American history. Infamous in many ways, but especially for his connection to the public assassinations of three of America's greatest twentieth century icons.

Sometime, later in October 1910, the Italian steamship Liguria carrying 625 passengers, docked in New Orleans. All the immigrants were checked out by customs, immigration and police officers. By this time, there were over 200,000 Italians living in and around the city. The police were particularly interested in all Italians, especially those from Sicily, because of the problems they had with the dreaded Mafia brigands who had caused so much trouble in Louisiana over the last twenty years or so. Luigia and her son were cleared and were soon with Guiseppe who could now hold his son in his arms for the first time.

One of the first things Luigia found was that her name had changed. Her husband had been forced to adopt a different surname to avoid confusion with his immediate supervisor on the sugar plantation where he had started work. His overseer, also Minacore, chose as a new name for Guiseppe the appellation Marcello, which was more generally found in the north of Italy than Sicily. In due course, the family changed all their other names, and became Joseph and Louise and their son became Carlos.

Then again. Another story emerged as the reason for this. In the mid-1920s Joseph owned a bar in the black section of Algiers, the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, situated on the south bank of the Mississippi River. He worked 24/7 in his tavern and kept a crib in the back room as he would often finish late and sleep the night there. He woke up one morning to find a black man carrying out a case of whiskey. Joseph shot the man dead. Fearing the repercussions Joseph fled and changed his name to Marcello. Years later he was surprised to find out that there was no one pursuing any investigation into the death of the burglar.

With his savings and the addition of his wife's dowry, Joseph purchased a small, run down farm on the bayou in Algiers. Here he brought his wife and son and they settled down to run the property, a rambling structure of antebellum days, badly in need of paint and restoration. They grew fruit and vegetables, which they sold in the old French Market along Decatur Street on the fringe of the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter, in New Orleans. The couple worked hard and played hard. Over the next twenty years, Louise had eight more children, six boys and two girls. They were, in order of seniority:

Peter, Rose, Mary, Pascal, Vincent, Joseph, Anthony and Sammy. Along with their parents, the children became naturalized US citizens. For some, unknown reason, Carlos did not. It would cause him a lot of grief in later life.

Carlos grew into a squat, tough and muscular image of his father. He was always the leader of the pack among his siblings, who learned to accept the fact that he was the boss and gave him their untiring loyalty and support. He left school at the age of fourteen. By then, he was entrusted by his father to deliver the farm produce over the ferry to the market in New Orleans, and fight there for the best prices among the produce dealers and wholesalers. The vegetable and fruit markets had long been under the control of the Mafia and it was inevitable that young Carlos would become involved with people connected to the dreaded secret society that was already well established in this part of America.

Coming to America

Sicilian criminals had been around in the Louisiana area and in particular New Orleans since at least the 1860s. For some reason, during the period 1860-1890, more Sicilians immigrated to this area than anywhere else in America. It was claimed that the climate was closer to that of Sicily, than the colder less hospitable regions of the Northeast. It was largely an agricultural state, not unlike Sicily, and the port of New Orleans became a major destination for shipping from Palermo through the second half of the 19th Century. Also, the geographical isolation of the region from the rest of the United States made it appealing. It had its own strange culture and quaint customs, and its political structure fostered corruption. Both Sicily and Louisiana had at one time been under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte. He had sold the territory to the United States in 1803 in what was known as 'The Louisiana Purchase', allowing Thomas Jefferson to pull off one of the great real estate buys in history. Bonaparte's assumption of rule over Sicily in 1805 led directly to social turmoil, which encouraged and cultivated the growth of the Mafia brotherhood.

Like the Sicilians, Louisiana folk had always been wary and disrespectful of law and order, and the Mississippi delta with its endless acres of bayous, swamps, scrub forests and trackless wilderness was an ideal hiding place and hunting ground for criminal elements. Alligator and snake-invested places like the Bayou Rigollettes, the Bayou des Allemandes, the marshes around Barantaria Bay, and lands west of Lake Salvador and north of Lake Ponchartrain were ideal hunting grounds. Criminals gravitated naturally into these wastelands, as they offered sanctuary and a base to work from, unencumbered by the threat of any law enforcement presence. Many of these criminals were men who had arrived from Sicily, carrying with them a strong affiliation or actual membership of Mafia brotherhoods. It did not take these umini di rispeddu or "men of respect" long to band together into groups as a means of creating a stronger force and to protect themselves against the social conditions and prejudices that they had experienced in their homeland. In Louisiana, they found that they were despised as a minority and at odds with an establishment largely of French and English origin, determined to keep them suppressed, just as generations of Arabic, French, Spanish, Bourbon and Austrians had controlled their ancestors for centuries past.

The Mafia establishes roots in the US for the first time

Although it cannot be stated with absolute certainty, it is highly probable that the Mafia established itself here in America for the first time.  Perhaps the earliest recorded link to them, was the murder of Francisco Domingo in January 1855. A Sicilian farmer, his body, stabbed and mutilated was found on the banks of the Mississippi River. A few days before his death he had received a “Black Hand” threat demanding $500, although the link to this particular form of extortion and the Mafia was tenuous at best. In 1861 The True Delta newspaper reported the arrest of a gang of Sicilian criminals on counterfeiting charges. (This was a major source of income for Mafia gangs in New York in the early part of the 20th Century.)

In the years to come, men of a similar nature and criminal predilection would form into clans, or borgatas, in the major cities of America such as New York, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and even smaller urban areas such as Denver, Minneapolis, Rochester and San Jose. But in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the "honored society" was growing and consolidating its power base in Louisiana.

By 1890, many of these groups of Sicilian immigrant gangsters were well established in and around the city of New Orleans, also known as "The Crescent City" because of its location within a bend of the Mississippi River. Described by Pierce Lewis as the inevitable city on an impossible site, it is located at the mouth of America's greatest and most singular river system, the Mississippi and its vast network of tributaries. It became a city so strategically placed, that it could control the trade between the vast American interior and the rest of the world. The immigrant gangsters were aware of the opportunities this place could bring them, and the largely straight laced and blue-collar population did not welcome their presence. In fact the mayor of New Orleans, Joseph A. Shakespeare, went on record, publicly vilifying the immigrants from the south of Italy who "had singled out this part of the country for the idle and emigrants from the worst classes of Europe: Southern Italians and Sicilians.... the most idle, vicious and worthless among us.... They are without courage, honor, truth, pride, religion or any quality that goes to make good citizens...I intend to put an end to these infernal Dago disturbances, even if it proves necessary to wipe out every one of you from the face of the earth."

Although his diatribe was extreme and heavily biased against a minority that in theory should have been able to seek support and shelter in a country renowned for offering a welcome to poor and oppressed people, it was perhaps in some respects not without foundation. In a twenty-year period ending in 1890, the New Orleans police determined that over one hundred murders were connected to the Sicilian Mafia. By this time, there were a number of clans operating in the city, the two biggest controlled by Joseph Provenzano and Charles Matranga .

Murder of a police chief and a lynch mob

On the evening of October 15th 1890, as he walked home from work, New Orleans police chief David Hennessy was ambushed and shot several times, allegedly by 5 men. Before he died, he claimed he had been shot by “Dagoes,” but did not identify anyone by name. There was great pressure on the police to find the killers as Hennessy had been a well-liked and popular chief. Eventually, 19 suspects, all Italians, were rounded up and imprisoned. Following a trial, nine of the suspects were found innocent or victims of a mistrial, but all the men were returned to the Parish Prison.

Stunned by the verdict, a huge crowd gathered on Canal Street on March 14th 1891, and stormed the prison. Eleven of the prisoners were either shot dead or lynched by the mob. The city's business community and the daily newspapers supported the lynchings. A national survey showed that 42 of the nation's newspapers approved of the action, while 58 disapproved. A grand jury indicated that if there was guilt, it was shared by the entire mob, estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000 people.

The Provenzano gang, slipped into the shadows and moved their operation south of the Mississippi River, and Charles (Carlo) Matranga, who may well have been the guiding hand behind the police chief’s murder, quietly and discreetly built up his crew into the most powerful and controlling Mafia Family in Louisiana.  Charles and his brother Tony, had arrived in New Orleans around 1870 and quickly opened brothels and saloons to form the baseline of their criminal empire. They had been part of the Stoppaglieri a branch of the Mafia based in the commune of Monreale, to the west of Palermo City in Sicily, before moving to America. In Corleone the brotherhood called themselves Fratuzzi and in Villabate the Zubbio and the Fontana Nuova in Misilmeri. The Matrangas were uber successful in their red-light activities. Labor racketeering and extortion quickly followed, everything carefully hidden behind a legitimate facade of import and retailing of fruits and vegetables.

The underworld of New Orleans

David Critchley, the Mafia historian claims in his seminal work on the history of the New York Mafia, The Origin of Organized Crime in America, that there was another criminal boss in New Orleans. This was Francesco Motisi, born in the 1860s in Sicily. A Mafioso, head of Palermo’s Pagliareli cosca, a wealthy citrus merchant and municipal councilor in Palermo, he had fled the island after a murder charge was laid against him, and ended up in the American deep south in 1900. Here in New Orleans, he adopted the name of Francesco Genova, became another successful businessman and the head of the Mafia in The Big Easy.

In 1907, an eight-year old boy, Walter Lamana was kidnapped and later found murdered. The police round up all the usual suspects, including Genova, simply because he was Italian and allegedly linked into the local “Black Hand” syndicate. He was eventually released and subsequently left New Orleans. He was last heard of in London, England, in 1910, although Salvatore Lupo, the Italian Mafia expert, claims he returned to Palermo in 1921 and continued to exert influence on the affairs of the Sicilian Mafia. Just how he and Provenzano and Matranga co-existed in those first ten years of the 20th Century has never been explained.

The New Orleans underworld was a murky pond, clouded by shifting currents, year by year. Louis Vyhankel’s book, Unorganized Crime in New |Orleans, claims until Marcello took over, there was no major power in Louisiana, and the Mafia was simply a gang among gangs. There were the Holland Gang, and the Terminal Gang, and the Bailey/Acosta Gang, and the Zechenelly Gang, and at least three major narcotic rings operating in the French Quarter of the city. In terms of criminal associations, The Big Easy was an eldritch landscape by any definition.

 

Dropping out of school at the age of fourteen, Carlos Marcello began to spend more of his time with people with whom he dealt at the fruit markets along Decatur Street. He found it easy to adapt to their ways and began his school of learning in criminality by studying the seasoned hoods and street punks who worked the fringes of the Mafia. When he reached the age of eighteen, Carlos was ready to fly on his own.

He left the family nest in their rambling home in Algiers and moved into a $2 a week room in the French Quarter. In 1929, he and three of his street hooligan friends robbed a bank in Algiers not far from his father's West Bank farm. (The West Bank is the name given to the area south and west of New Orleans City which includes Jefferson Parrish the largest of the eight metro districts.) Joseph agreed to hide their stolen proceeds on the farm, but for some reason, younger brother Peter went to the local police and informed on Carlos. He and his father were arrested, however, their money returned in full, the bank did not press charges and they were never prosecuted.

In the months that followed, Carlos recruited two young thugs, one aged sixteen and one thirteen, and under his guidance, they robbed a grocery store owned by a Chinese trader. The money was to finance the purchase of firearms to use on another proposed raid on the same bank. Carlos perceived it to be an easy target and had been encouraged in the face of the bank's failure to prosecute him the last time. However, before the planned robbery could be carried out, a clerk from the grocery store spotted the two young accomplices on a street in Algiers. Arrested by the police, they gave up Carlos and he was arrested. On May 28, 1930, he was sentenced to serve nine to twelve years in the dreaded state prison in Angola. Here he gets the nickname “Fagin” after the character in Dickens's novel Oliver Twist.

His father worked tirelessly to get him released, and after serving only four years of his sentence, Carlos was out of prison. The fix had gone in, first through a member of the state legislature, and then a mysterious power broker called Peter Hand, a member of the Louisiana's State Legislature, who wielded a lot of influence with Governor O. K. Allen, who eventually issued the pardon. Hand operated at least two illegal bookmaking operations, so may well have touched base with Marcello this way.

The manipulation of politicians and senior officers in the local government of Louisiana would be a trademark of Carlos Marcello in the years that lay ahead, as he built up and consolidated his power base in what was one of the most corrupt political arenas in America.

Finding work

Out of prison at the age of twenty-four, Carlos found his brothers and sisters were all growing up and shaping their own lives. His father Joseph had expanded his interests outside of the farm into shrimping, a business dominated by those men affiliated to the Mafia. Shrimping had always been a staple of the Sicilian agricultural economy and the mobsters of Louisiana were quick to seize the opportunities present in such an important industry that generated its activities in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

As soon has he had built up enough capital, Carlos used some of it to make a down payment of $500 on a rundown bar in Gretna, the Jefferson Parish county seat. It may have been located at 2010 O’Connor Street, although Parrish records indicate it could also have been located on Romain Street. Frequented almost entirely by black workers, Carlos renamed the bar "The Brown Bomber" in honor of the Negro heavyweight champion, Joe Louis. Carlos brought in his brother Peter, now a handsome, well-built young man of twenty-two, to manage it.

Gretna, was in those days, a seedy community on the west bank of the Mississippi, operating under a corrupt police force and an equally corrupt council, all of who were in the pocket of the Mafia. To visitors, it offered gambling halls and whorehouses, drug dens and bars that stayed open all hours and catered for anyone, of any age. At one time, there were seven illegal gambling casinos on Huey P. Long Avenue, literally flanking the Gretna Police Headquarters.

The Brown Bomber soon established a reputation as a good place to score drugs, drink and gamble around the clock. If customers got unruly and obstreperous, Carlos personally threw them out on their ear. Although he never grew any taller than five- feet- two inches, he was built like an oak stump, and developed the reputation as a fearsome brawler. He paid off the local Mafioso who controlled the block on which his bar was located and through him, kept the police at bay.

Joining the Mafia brotherhood

By the age of twenty-five, Carlos was a "made" member of the Mafia. He had linked up with Frank Todaro, a capo or crew chief, in the Matranga crime family and was sponsored by him into "the honored society." Carlos' sister Mary, now aged nineteen, became the best friend of Todaro's niece Jacqueline, who was a bridesmaid at her wedding to Sam Loria, an honest businessman. As a result, Carlos, the best man at the wedding, met Jacqueline and fell head over heels in love with her. After a brief courtship, they married on September 6th, 1936.

Their first home was a small apartment above the liquor store that Carlos owned on Teche Street in Algiers.  His new wife ran the business, while Carlos and brother Peter devoted all their time and energy to The Brown Bomber.

The Mafia in Louisiana was much more loosely structured than its counterpart families that had emerged in Chicago, New York and the other large industrial cities to the north. Those organizations were constructed along strict hierarchic lines of management control, with a pyramid of power that worked down from a family boss to the street soldiers. To avoid problems and mediate on territorial disputes, these Mafia clans answered to a ruling body called the Commission, a kind of arbitration court made up of the heads of the more powerful families. The Louisiana Mafia operated along different lines. It was more a spontaneous grouping of individual entrepreneurs, linked sometimes by family ties, but not always. In many ways it more resembled the Sicilian Mafia than its American counterparts. The only one operating in the area, it did not have to worry about territorial disputes, and so could concentrate energy and activities on its real purpose, to make money. Many members of the Louisiana Mafia operated their own businesses and ran with a degree of autonomy that was unheard of in the other similar crime groups that had developed across America.

Early in 1937, Carlos and brother Vincent, now approaching eighteen, set up a business, a pinball and jukebox-distributing outfit they called the Jefferson Music Company. Soon, they were strong-arming their way into bars and restaurants in Algiers. Running the bar, the liquor store and the gaming machine company was not enough to satisfy Carlos' need for cash. He saw the huge profits to be made in drug trafficking. Starting in a small way in 1935, by the end of 1937, he and four partners had built up what the Federal Narcotics Bureau described as: "one of the major marijuana rings in the New Orleans area."

In March 1938, an undercover drug agent posing as a dealer bought twenty-three pounds of marijuana from Carlos, and then arrested him on the spot. On Saturday October 29th, 1938, Carlos pleaded guilty before Judge Ruffs E. Foster and was sentenced to a year and one day in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary; he was also fined $76,830. He settled for this with a token payment of $400 on the plea that he was a pauper. Again, strings were pulled, and he was released after nine months; again, being pardoned by the ever generous governor, O.K. Allen.

Back in business, Carlos devoted most of his time to his jukebox business. Aided by Frank Todaro and his men of the family, the two brothers saw their business move into a boom mode. And then along came Frank.

Expansion

One thousand four hundred and six miles to the north east of New Orleans is New York. Here five Mafia families were masters of their universe. Charles "Lucky" Luciano ran the largest of these crime confederations. His right hand and trusted aide was Frank Costello, a man whose talents lay more in diplomacy than destruction, so much so, that he became known as "The Prime Minister of the Mob." Costello, the son of poor immigrants from Naples, had grown up on the Lower East Side and, at the age of sixteen, had hit the streets as a petty criminal. By 1935, he was forty-four years old and at the peak of his career, helping to manage and control one of the biggest criminal fraternities in the United States.

By 1933, among his many business interests, he controlled a major section of the slot machine business in the New York metropolitan area. It was a business that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars each month; it also generated a lot of competition-associated violence and created the need for massive police corruption to maintain its momentum.

On December 31st, 1933, a feisty, five-feet-two fat man with a squeaky voice was elected mayor of New York. Fiorello LaGuardia may have looked and sounded comical, but his actions were anything but. An Italian-American, fiercely proud of his ancestry and heritage, he despised the Mafia and what it stood for. One of his first actions on assuming office was to instigate a war on crime, and he went after professional gamblers with a vengeance, saying in a radio broadcast: "Let's drive the bums out of town."

The removal and destruction of pinball and slot machines became a priority for LaGuardia's administration and Costello's business came under their scrutiny. Although Supreme Court judge Selak B. Strong issued an injunction forbidding the police from seizing Frank's slot machines, LaGuardia simply ignored it and had the machines seized anyway.

By 1935, Frank's machines were either confiscated and destroyed or off the streets and stored away in warehouses in New Jersey to save them from the ax. For Costello, it must have been like owning a string of racehorses and not being allowed to run them. Salvation came in the form of an invitation to move his machines south of the Mason-Dixie line to Louisiana. It came from Huey Pierce Long, the corrupt ex-governor of the state. One of the most colorful and dangerous men to ever march across the American political scene, The Kingfish, as he was often called, had become friends with Costello on one of his many trips north. They first met apparently, to discuss the slot machine business in 1934, at The New Yorker Hotel, although they had been connected before then. Details of their relationship are not clear, although many theories have been suggested for the friendship that developed between them. Just how the invitation was set in place is also unknown, but by the spring of 1935, Costello had at least one thousand machines in place in and around New Orleans.

This was all done with the cooperation of many people. First there were the minions of Long and their contacts at city and state political levels. Then the police had to be looked after and, last but not least, the local Mafia family had to be involved. Frank Costello ensured the safety of his share in the deal by using one of his trusted aides, Philip Kastel. Also known as "Dandy Phil," he was a New York confidence man who had enjoyed a full and varied career by the time he came down to New Orleans to manage the operation for Costello. At 49, he was the perfect man for the job. A gifted organizer and master corrupter, much of the credit for the success of the operation belonged to him.

"Dandy Phil" worked closely with James Brocatto, an ex-bodyguard of Huey Long, who was also associated with the New Orleans mobsters. Using his influence and contacts, Frank's slots soon found good homes in and around the French Quarter. By 1940, Costello was ready to expand out into the West Bank, and he and Kastel sat down for a meeting with Carlos. It was agreed that the Jefferson Music Company would install and service 250 machines for a fee of two thirds of the gross; the rest disappearing into one of Costello's newly formed enterprises The Louisiana Mint Company.

Carlos was a tireless operator and soon had all the slots in place, pumping out money on a daily basis. They were located in bars, whorehouses, restaurants and gambling dens across Algiers and Gretna. It was during this period that Carlos became close friends with the Gretna chief of police, Beauregard Miller, one of the many important people he would come to nurture over the years to come. He would feed him huge dollops of cash from time to time, amounts as high as $50,000, ensuring his support and co-operation in the free running of his many criminal enterprises in Jefferson Parish. Carlos also began to look after himself and his family. By 1941, there were two young daughters added to the family and they all moved from the cramped apartment above the liquor store, into a two-story house in Gretna.

America was at war in 1941. Although brothers Peter and Vincent went off to fight for their country, Carlos, who had never become a U.S. citizen, stayed at home. There were many black- market opportunities to be exploited in and around the Port of New Orleans, and he and his other family, the Mafia, were making the most of them. His reputation as a tough guy and an enforcer grew; there were rumors of violence, extortion, even murder. The bayous of Louisiana were vast and deep, and many people vanished into them forever.

One of them was Constantine Masotto. On the run from a New York crime family, he fled to New Orleans. He had been a soldier in the D’Aquila Mafia Family (now known as The Gambinos) and for some reason had murdered his sister in July, 1942. The police were keeping a watch on his movements, when he suddenly disappeared. About a year later, his skeletal remains were found buried in a swamp behind a tavern owned by Marcello. An FBI report concluded, based on their evidence and an informant's tip-off, that Masotto had been beaten to death by Marcello and his body dumped into a tub of lye. This was one of many murders of which Marcello was suspected and never convicted.

Although he was only in his early thirties, Carlos had become a seasoned veteran and a highly respected earner for the mob. He was a man to be reckoned with, even though people called him "Little Man."

In 1944 Frank Costello, along with Meyer Lansky, the Jewish alleged arch manipulator of mob finances, Kastel and A.G. “Freddie”  Rickerfor, a state legislator and well-known political fixer, opened a night-club-gambling casino and called it the Beverley Club. It was situated in the old Suburban Gardens nightclub on River Road in Jefferson Parish. Carlos was brought in as a shareholder. Some sources claim he was given 12.5% for nothing, others that he purchased 20% for $45,000. Whatever the deal, the "Little Man" was now moving into big company. He was 35 years old and playing in the premier league.

The Beverley Club opened in December 1945 and was an immediate success. People flocked into its palatial dining rooms, bars and gaming rooms, and soon it established a nightclub where it hosted major entertainers of the day, people such as Jimmy Durante and Joe E. Lewis.

Carlos was appointed manager of the club and, along with his brothers Anthony and Peter, was also becoming more involved in managing the gambling operations of Frank Costello. Jefferson Parish police were recruited to act as doormen and bouncers. New Orleans police had long maintained an unenviable reputation as some of the most corrupt law enforcement officials in America and "detailing," as they referred to moonlighting jobs, had always been a major part of their income. One New Orleans chief of detectives, John J. Grosch, was found to have a safe deposit box containing $150,000. This was in 1940. His salary at the time was $186 a month.

To keep the wheels of his organization running smoothly, Carlos built up his chain of influential contacts. Along with Miller, he also had sheriff Frank "King" Clancy, head of the Jefferson parish police, in his pocket. Thirty years down the track, the FBI would tape Marcello boasting of his largess: "I used to give them all cash money...I'd go out in the morning with my pants full...I took care of everybody." It was believed that he had a special foot-length pocket sewn into the left legs of his trousers, which he would stuff full of "traveling money." Clancy claimed that he did not enforce gambling laws in his parish because more than 1000 people, many of them old and underprivileged, were employed by the casinos. Closing gambling down would have thrown these people out of work and cost the parish and the state a lot of welfare money. Naturally this kind of altruism did have its reward. Clancy retired a very rich man.

By 1947, Carlos was active in many business ventures. He and brother Vincent were building up the Jefferson Music Company to include services for racetrack gamblers. He joined forces with a senior family member, Joe Poretto, to take over the largest racing wire service in Louisiana, and he was also plowing his profits into West Bank real estate. He and Jacqueline now had four children and they had moved in 1946, into a new home at 800 Barataria Drive in Marrero, an upmarket suburb eleven miles south west of New Orleans. It cost him $42,500.00.

Carlos Marcello was reaching the peak of his career. He had many and varied businesses; he controlled police and politicians; he was respected to the extent that the governor of the state would seek his counsel; and he was becoming widely known among the important Mafiosi across the country who would come to regard him in due course as one of the strongest and most powerful of their tradition.

There was one thing he did not yet have, but achieving it was only months away.

Since the death of Police Chief Hennessey, the Louisiana Mafia had grown and blossomed under at least two, possibly three leaders. Carlo Matranga had undoubtedly led the family into the twentieth century. He ruled until the early 1920's when he stepped down and retired. He died at the age of 86 on October 28th, 1943. At this point, his place was taken either by Corrado Giacona (sketch on the right) or Sylvestro (Sam) Carolla. A study of Mafia history confirms a frustrating amount of misinformation in respect to people, places and dates. Police and federal agencies have consistently made mistakes in identifying mobsters and their pecking order within the ever-changing groups that made up the mob. At times, the real boss of a crime family would deliberately step back into the shadows and let someone else shoulder the publicity and notoriety. This could have been the case with the New Orleans mobsters. Giacona is an enigma. The organized crime intelligence and analysis unit of the FBI identified him as the head of the family and they may well have substantial files on him, but most, if not all, of this has not been disclosed.

There is another interesting fact about him. He may well have been the first victim of a drive-by shooting in America. It happened on a warm night in June 1908 as he and his father sat drinking wine on the front porch of their home at 1113 Chartress Street in the “Vieux Carre” section of New Orleans. A horse and cart rumbled by and a gunman fired at the two men, the shots going wild and digging into the front of the building. The gunman rushed off at about four miles an hour.

Giacona, born in 1877 in Sicily, came to America at the age of eight. If he was indeed leading the family by 1922 when Matranga is supposed to have retired, the street boss of the family may have been  Carolla. In 1944 when Giacona died his place was taken (perhaps) by his underboss, Frank Todaro, He only lasted six months, dying of throat cancer in November that year. 

Carolla (right), a swarthy, sleepy-eyed hood, had spent a two-year spell in jail for murdering a federal narcotics agent in1932. The sentence had been abruptly terminated with an early release from the ubiquitous Governor O.K. Allen, by appointment, pardoner to the mob. Sam made his fortune smuggling booze and drugs during the 1920s and 30s, and reached a position of such power, he was controlling the municipal government through bribery and corruption. He was low-key and his name did not appear in any newspaper until 1923. Because he had never taken out citizenship, however, he became vulnerable to deportation proceedings. They dragged on for years, but eventually, he was convicted and flown out of the country on May 30, 1947 to relocate in Sicily, his birthplace.

As Carolla was counting down his last days in America, Marcello was working the family members, promoting himself as the natural successor. He had emerged among the capis, or crew chiefs, who ran the organization, as the most probable candidate. His wealth was growing at a remarkable velocity. Money was pouring in from narcotics, gambling, the slot machines and his racing wire service. He opened a casino, calling it the New Southport Club on the East Bank at 1300 Monticello Road, off the Mississippi River Road near the New Orleans Jefferson Parish line. It soon became enormously popular and hugely profitable.

No one in the crime family could match his personal magnetism, energy or ambition. Most of all, in an organization that fed on fear and greed, no one in the ranks could inspire as much terror as he could. Politicians and gangsters alike treated Carlos with the respect paid to a man who should not be crossed. Washington lobbyist, Irving Davidson, a friend and business associate of Marcello said: "Look, when you deal with him, remember that loyalty and trustworthiness are everything to him. If you violate that, you can expect the worst to happen to you." As he said this, he slowly drew a finger across his throat.

Late in the evening of May 5th, 1947, a group of men gathered together in a room at the back of The Black Diamond, on North Galvez Street, a nightclub in a seedy part of New Orleans that catered almost exclusively for black people. The mob used this for a rendezvous in the belief that it would reduce the chance of surveillance. On this particular night, they were wrong and agents of the FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) were checking out the expensively dressed white men who disembarked from limousines at the rear of the club and disappeared inside.

Among those noted here that night, were Tom Rizzuto, Nick Grifazzi, Frank Lombardino, Joe Capro and Anthony Carolla, son of Sam; also along were Joe Poretto, Nofio Pecora, and Carlos with brothers Vincent, Joseph, Peter and Anthony. Jake and Nick Marcello, Carlos' nephews were also at the party. Although supporters of Anthony Carolla put forward his name, they were outvoted by Carlos' men, and by the time the meeting was over, he was the newly appointed head of the Louisiana Mafia.

Although the Bureau of Narcotics was on his trail, at this point in time, the FBI was not. Sixteen years later, on July 11th, 1963, an FBI report suggests that Marcello was not the boss of New Orleans. Someone else was.

His name was Leoluca Trombadore. Born in Corleone, Sicily, in March 1888, he emigrated to America, arriving in New York in 1907 when he was 19.  He moved to Louisiana when he was in his mid-twenties, married, had a daughter, was known by everyone as “Mr. Luke,” and lived in New Orleans until he died there, in 1957. He was a second cousin to Giuseppe Morello, the New York-based head of what we know today as the Genovese Crime Family. If Trombadore was the boss, he kept a low profile, and there is little, if any, empirical evidence to support the claim.    

Brothers Joe and Vincent were made into the family. Joe (left) became the underboss and Vincent (right) was a feared street soldier. The other four brothers may have been Mafiosi or maybe stayed as associates. There is no evidence to confirm this, although a number of sources claim Salvatore “Sammy” Marcello was a soldier in the family and often acted as the bodyguard and driver to his big brother. Fifteen months after Marcelo’s elevation to the head of the Louisiana Mafia, the FBI began to track his activities and his name appears for the first time in an FBI file on October 15th, 1948.

Anthony never forgot his displacement from what he obviously believed was his rightful ascension, and nineteen years later would bring his grievance up before a national Mafia Commission meeting at a restaurant in New York.

The crime family Carlos inherited was a successful mixture of gangsters, policeman on the pad and corrupt politicians. For while the Mafiosi enforced his edicts, their success depended as much on the people who wanted their illegal services and the bureaucrats who allowed them to operate openly to achieve their objectives. The mob only gave people what they wanted. The fact that their wants were illegal was no concern of Marcello and his men.

By the late 1940s, Carlos had established his headquarters in an old barn he had converted into a bar and restaurant that came to be known as Willswood Tavern. It sat on Highway 90, near the unincorporated community of Waggaman, about fifteen miles west of New Orleans on the West Bank in Jefferson Parish. He would hold court here, every Sunday, meeting up with the men who ran his empire, collecting his take for the week and dispensing justice to the unruly. He owned 6400 acres of swampland that spread away from the inn with lots of unique and handy bayous to hide bodies. After business, he would entertain his people on a lavish scale.

A man with a gargantuan appetite, he imported a chef from Chicago Heights, an ex-convict who had apparently been the personal cook of Al Capone. His name was Provino Mosca and his Italian cooking became legend in the area. Carlos built a small house near the tavern for the chef and his wife and three children, and when it was time to move his head office elsewhere, some sources claim in 1946, others 1951, Carlos left the tavern for Mosca to continue operating.

Today family members still run the business know as Mosca's, at 4137 Highway 90, Westwego, producing food equally as delicious as Provino did before he died in 1962. Their two crab salads, garlic shrimp and chicken a la grand is food to die for, according to many food critics, which no doubt may well have been the case eighty years ago for some of the visitors to this tavern on the green.

Guys like Gene Mano aka Constantino Masatto, and Tommy Siracusa, and an unidentified third murder victim whose bodies were found in the Willswood area in 1943.

The Evil Genius

In January 1951, a hearing was held in the federal courthouse in New Orleans. Before a packed audience of spectators, reporters, and photographers and under the scrutiny of cameramen filming for national news syndicates and television stations, Carlos Marcello and a group of men were questioned by members of a Senate investigation team. Known as the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, it was chaired by Senator Estes Carey Kefauver. In the 16 months of its existence, from May 1st, 1950 to September 1st, 1951, the committee heard more than 500 witnesses from minor hoodlums to major racketeers, and also officials on every government level. It investigated and took evidence in 14 cities and, for the first time, on a public basis, it disclosed the link between organized crime, business, and politics.

Kefauver was in the prime of his political life. A Democrat from Tennessee, a Roper poll later in the year called him one of the ten most admired men in America. He would become known also as the godfather of the American Presidential Primary system, as he was the first politician to see primaries as a "corridor to power." On this visit to New Orleans however, he was leading a group of men who had been formed into a committee to investigate organized crime. Their brief was to target gambling with the aim of promoting federal laws to control its activities interstate.

During a week-long session, the committee called many people to give evidence. There was Carlos and his brother Anthony. Also interviewed were James Brocato, Joe Poretto, Dandy Phil Kastel, Sheriff Frank Clancy and the mayor of New Orleans, deLesseps (Chep) Story Morrison. Carlos was grilled about a huge range of his activities and asked about his interests in bars, clubs, slot machine companies, racing wire services. He was also quizzed about his relationship with other known gangsters across America, men such as Santo Trafficante Jr., the Mafia boss of Tampa, Florida, and Joe Savela (Joe Civello), who ran organized crime in Dallas.

His relationship to this man was particularly important, although its relevance would not be obvious for a number of years. Carlo Piranio, born in Corleone, Sicily, founded the Dallas Mafia in the early 1920's. He died in 1930 from a tumor of the spinal cord and the under boss, his brother Joe, succeeded him. In 1956, age 78, Joe shoots himself in the head and is replaced by Civello. It is thought Carlos had used his influence to help Civello, born and raised in New Orleans, up into the seat of power, and the two men remained very close friends for the rest of their lives.

Omerta

Carlos was grilled about his involvement in the Jefferson Music Company, the Beverley Country Club, and the Willswood Tavern. The list of questions was endless. The committee researchers had done their job well. To each and every one, Carlos invoked his right to plead the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate him. He did this 152 times in all. In fact, he only ever answered one question. When asked by a committee member: "What laws have you violated?" he said: "Not being an attorney I would not know."

READ: The Irishman: Jimmy Hoffa’s friend and the man who put two bullets in the back of his skull

Frustrated by the arrogance and obvious disdain that Carlos was showing them, the committee cited him for contempt and he was sentenced to six months in prison. Eventually, an appeals court overturned the verdict. The committee did make known for the first time the extent of Carlos Marcello's position and power in organized crime. Kefauver told the packed courtroom:

"The record is long, the connections are bad, the implications are sinister, and we wanted to find out among other things what was the trouble with our naturalization and immigration laws that a man who is the evil genius of organized crime in Louisiana is apparently having such a detrimental effect on law enforcement and to decency in the community, how can he continue to stay here."

The immigration authorities obviously responded to Kefauver's plea. They began an investigation into the background of Marcello, which led up to the first deportation order against him, initiating a case and a struggle that lasted until his death forty years later.

If nothing else, the Kefauver hearings at last, brought Carlos out in the open. The stocky, little man (his height seemed to vary between 5'2" and 5'4" depending on whether or not he was wearing stacked heeled shoes) with the squat figure and the moon face wide grin, the man who spoke English that was discombobulated by its Louisiana twang and semi-literate heritage, the man who came to be known as "The Midget of the Mafia," was exposed in the press and on television as: "the evil genius of crime," and "one of the principal criminals in the United States today," and "the number one hoodlum." Secret rendezvous were exposed, political contacts revealed and the involvement of his brothers in the crime family became public knowledge for the first time; the tip of the iceberg was finally being exposed.

The publicity also brought about logistical changes for Carlos. His bar and restaurant on State Highway 90 was now the subject of public scrutiny as well as that of law enforcement stakeouts. It was time to move on.

All in the Family

In 1953, Carlos purchased a group of buildings in Rossier City at 1225 Airline Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting New Orleans to Moisant Field International Airport. Consisting of a motel in one bloc, a restaurant and lounge in another and his office complex in the third, it was called Town and Country Motel. This would be his base for the rest of his criminal career. It would also be close to his next and final home, in Metarie, which would be only a five-minute drive away by car. Two of Carlos' most trusted lieutenants, Norfio Pecora and Joe Poretto, were put in charge of the running of the complex, along with one of his younger brothers, Anthony. Lawyer and confident, Mike Maroun, was Marcello’s choice to oversee the operation. The place became a meeting place for top-level gamblers, Marcello's men, crooked politicians and, equally crooked cops. Frances, the wife of Pecora, acted as Carlos' secretary, and in his office building, as visitors left, they were fare-welled by a message on the inside of the front door. It read: THREE CAN KEEP A SECRET IF TWO ARE DEAD.

From his spacious office behind a vast mahogany desk, Marcello ran his empires, both the legal and illegal ones. He had interests across Louisiana, into Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, and Texas. They also extended into the Caribbean, Mexico and across to California. His income was coming from gambling, casinos, (by 1964 he controlled fourteen of these in Gretna Parish alone,) narcotics, prostitution, slots, and extortion, and in order to maintain its momentum, he was bribing and corrupting sheriffs, justices of the peace, police officers, prosecutors, mayors, judges, councilmen, state legislators and at least one member of Congress. His illegal capital funded motels, restaurants, banks, beer and liquor stores, taxi and bus firms, shrimping fleets, gas stations, the list was endless. It seems however, that the bulk of his personal fortune came from land deals. He claimed that he was simply a salesman for the Pelican Tomato Company located at 2709 Ridgelake Drive, Metarie,  and earned $1500 a month. On paper he was, and the fact that he also indirectly owned the company, whose biggest customer was the U.S. Navy, was incidental.

Within thirteen years, Carlos would be possibly the wealthiest Mafiosi in the United States and most certainly one of the most influential. His criminal organization would be generating between one and two billion dollars each year, making it the biggest industry by far in Louisiana. As the leader of the "first Mafia family" in America, he enjoyed unique privileges; for example, he could "open his books" and "make" men into his organization without the approval of the Commission. His control and dominance of the Louisiana Mafia was incontestable. The late Vincent Teresa, a Mafia thief, and enforcer, working out of the New England mob, said of Marcello's crime family:

"It was very tight. They're all in deathly fear of Carlos Marcello because he's got the law, all the politicians in the state, right in his hip pocket. You just can't go against him."

Marcello remained a man of contradictions. Uneducated beyond the age of fourteen, he spoke with a vocabulary peppered with "dats" and "nuttins." Although he controlled hundreds of millions of dollars, he found it almost impossible to add and subtract. He was, however, driven to succeed and coupled with immense tenacious energy, and passionate willpower, he was able to dominate and control men of much higher education and social breeding. His strange, squat appearance and coarse manner did not prevent him from being able to manipulate the highly educated professionals in the legal and bureaucratic corridors of the state legislature.

In 1961, Aaron Kohn, head of the New Orleans Crime Commission, reported on the historical makeup of the Marcello family and their relationship within their other, Mafia family:

Eldest brother, Peter, 40 in 1953, managed strip clubs in the French Quarter; Pascal, 36, operated an illegal gambling house in Gretna; Vincent, now aged 31, ran the Jefferson Music Company; 28-year-old Joe Jr. was Carlos' right hand, family under boss and worked with Joe Poretto in running the wire service and bookie network; Tony, aged 26, helped run the Town and Country Motel; and Sammy, the youngest brother at 24, aided in the management of the Jefferson Music Company and also acted as Carlos' spin doctor. All the brothers and the two sisters of the family were married. They and their children would meet every Sunday for lunch at the home of the family patriarch. The Louisiana Mafia was truly a family affair.

By this time, Marcello and his wife had moved again, this time north across the river to an eight-bedroom palatial home with sloping red-tiled roofs and Corinthian arches, in Metarie. He purchased the house in his mother’s name, for $110,00. 00. One of his neighbors was the head of the wealthy Provenzano family, the same one that fought the Matrangas fifty-six years before. The Marcello home was one of the bigger and more ostentatious ones on the West Bank and boldly stated its owner's power and position. He also purchased a “summer” home on Military Road, in Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain, which lies due north of Metarie, and would often meet with associates at Tony Pedrone’s Red Onion Restaurant in the small town in Tammany Parish.

Six years, almost to the date after the Kefauver committee grilled Carlos (left), the U.S. Senate set up another committee under the chairmanship of Senator John McClellan of Arkansas. Its brief was to investigate organized crime and labor racketeering. The chief counsel was Robert F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was made a member of the committee.

Carlos was once more back in the spotlight. This time he was in a high-ceiling Senate hearing room, in Washington and, just as the last time, he would not answer any of the questions that were posed by the members of the investigating panel.

Carlos was called before the meeting on March 24th, 1959, as a direct result of a subpoena that was served on him because of another meeting that had taken place sixteen months previously. It was one of a series of gatherings of Mafia heads and associates that had taken place from time to time over the years. Many of them were never discovered, or if they were, it was after the event. A few were recorded for posterity: the meeting in Cleveland in December 1928; the gathering at Atlantic City in 1929; a massive convention in the Bronx in 1931; the conference that was held in Havana in Cuba in 1946; and then on November 24th, 1957, the one that really set the mob on its ear.

On that day, New York state police observed a gathering of many people at the home of a known mobster called Joseph Barbara, a capo in the family of Russell Bufalino, based in north-east Pennsylvania, on an estate near Apalachin, in upstate New York. Sixty men were stopped and questioned; two of them were Joe Marcello, the brother of Carlo, and Joe Civello, who ran the Dallas mob, a satellite of the Marcello family operation. The disclosure of the Apalachin meeting was a watershed in law enforcement's struggle to identify just what the Mafia was and who were its rulers. Why the meeting was called has always remained a mystery, no matter what the theorists claim. There is no real evidence that it was to settle the problems caused by the murder of Albert Anastasia or the attempted murder of Frank Costello, and the subsequent raising of Vito Genovese as "Boss of Bosses," or to resolve the mob's policy regarding drug trafficking and the resulting heat from the FBI. It may well have been about all of this and more. We will never know. No one who went to the meeting ever publicly disclosed his reasons for attending. For certain, it revealed without a doubt, the existence of a crime confederation on a scale never before imagined.

READ: Mob Meeting at Apalachin

It also highlighted key members of the mob and, as a direct result, people like Carlos Marcello found themselves called before the McClellan Committee to give evidence about their association with organized crime.

Before any witnesses were called, the committee heard evidence about the Louisiana Mafia from an expert. His name was Aaron Kohn. An ex-FBI crime buster, he had been involved in the arrest of such notorious gangsters like John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and, the Ma Barker gang. Invited to head up the New Orleans Crime Commission in 1953, he would spend the next twenty-five years investigating organized crime in Louisiana and becoming the foremost expert on Carlos Marcello.

He laid out the structure of the Louisiana Mafia and the fact that all the Marcello brothers were members of the secret society that had dominated the criminal underworld for almost seventy years. He detailed the growth of the Marcello empire, particularly the slot business (over 5000 machines in place), which acted as its main artery, pumping in huge amounts of money to fund and finance many of the other illegal enterprises.

The crime commission had estimated that the Marcello controlled syndicate generated at least $500 million annually from illegal gambling: $100 million from diverse “legitimate interests” in the fields of transportation, financing, housing and service industries: $100 million from illegal activities in over 1,500 syndicate-connected bars and taverns; $8 million from professional burglaries and holdups and $6 million from prostitution; and another $100 million in the form of underpayment of taxes. A Saturday Evening Post article in 1964 claimed Marcello’s criminal empire produced more than a billion dollars in revenue a year, through the 1950s and 1960s.

He detailed the depth of corruption that existed at state, city and parish level among the police departments. Sheriff Cocci took over the Jefferson Parish police in June 1956 and within weeks, he, his two deputies, his chief criminal deputy, and chief civil deputy were calling on bars and restaurants, ordering them to move out their present jukeboxes and pinball machines and advising them that new ones would be supplied by Marcelo-controlled companies. They were given the option of doing that or being harassed by police raids.

As usual, Carlos refused to answer any questions, citing the Fifth Amendment. Over and over again, the 33-year-old Robert Kennedy tried to get answers, but the boss of the mob smirked and scowled his way through the hearing, revealing absolutely nothing. But although Marcello's performance was in keeping with his attitude towards the law, he laid himself open to a judicial ambush that would arise as a direct result of his conduct at the hearing. The young chief counsel, inflamed from the embarrassing way Marcello had treated him, never forgot. Two years later, Robert Kennedy was in a position to retaliate.

Come Fly With Me

Carlos Marcello was not a stupid man. He may have given the impression by his appearance and speech pattern that he was nothing more than a Third World peasant, but you do not get to lead an organization like the Louisiana Mafia by being soft in the head. He was sharp, cunning, devious and very, very adroit in his dealings with people. A tireless worker, it was reputed that he was awake each morning at 4 am in order to check the newspaper real estate listings, in order to get onto a bargain before anyone else. But he had an Achilles heel. It was his citizenship, or lack of it. For whatever reason, Carlos had neglected to become an American citizen, unlike the rest of his family.

After his fractious encounter with the Kefauver Committee hearings, Carlos realized that the government might try and remove him from the scene through deportation proceedings and send him back to Sicily, or even worse, Tunisia. Consequently, in order to confuse the authorities, he arranged a fictitious Guatemalan birth certificate in 1956.

Carlos would have chosen Guatemala for a reason. Most of the fruit used by his company the Pelican Tomato Company came from this country, so he had well-established trading connections there. He was  actively involved at one time in the smuggling of weapons to the leftist government, which was isolated by embargoes imposed by the US. government. He had also imported marijuana from Guatemala for many years. He undoubtedly had contacts there at the highest levels. It was less than four hours by air from New Orleans.

He hired Carl Irving Noll, a criminal friend of one of his brothers, with contacts in that country, through his heroin importing, to arrange for his phony birth certificate. In April, Noll flew to Guatemala and bribed a lawyer called Antonio Valladores (or Valledrez) and some of his associates to help find a February 10th 1910 birth registry with a gap in the entries. This was found in a village called San Jose Pinula and into this record book they wrote Marcello's birth name, Calogero Minacore, using specially antiquated ink. On the basis of this fraudulent registry, the Guatemalan government issued Marcello a passport.

In January 1961, Robert Kennedy took control of the Justice Department. His brother John was now President of the United States. Together they would change the world. One of the first things on the agenda of the new attorney general was a little fat man in New Orleans.

In his book The Enemy Within, Robert Kennedy wrote, "If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us." Kennedy had never forgotten the way Marcello had treated him at the McClellan hearings. He decided to use unorthodox methods to strike back at the Mafia boss. Aware of Marcello's forged Guatemalan birth certificate in the name of Calogero Minacore, he decided to use this as a lever to deport Carlos.

On April 4, 1961, Carlos paid a visit to the office of the Immigration Service in New Orleans. He was required to do this three times a month as a registered alien. Before he knew what was happening, he was in handcuffs, being conveyed by motorcade to Moisant Field International Airport. There, he was bundled onto an aircraft that took off and flew to Guatemala City, 1200 miles away. On May 5th, Jack Wasserman, a lawyer who worked for Carlos, filed suit for his immediate return.

To say the least, the actions of Kennedy had been arguable. He had deported Carlos on the basis of a known forged birth certificate. He had rid the country of a man he considered not only dangerous but also disrespectful, but he had done it by dubious means. Marcello was deeply offended by his treatment. Years later he told a congressional committee, "They just snatched me...actually kidnapped me." He never forgave Kennedy and to his close friends swore vengeance against the man for the way he had been treated.

The next eight weeks would be some of the worst in Marcello's life. After his arrival in Guatemala, he was able to contact his wife and soon she, her daughter Florence, and son Joseph Jr. joined Carlos. They all moved into the Biltmore Hotel along with Carlos' lawyer Mike Maroun and two of Carlos' brothers, Sammy and Vincent who had also flown in to support the boss. About a month after his arrival, the government informed Carlos that it had arranged for him to be returned to America. When the party arrived at the airport to embark for their trip back to the United States, Carlos was suddenly told that his visa had been denied. Instead, he and his lawyer were taken by secret service agents into the adjoining state of El Salvador and left at an army camp. Eventually, they were taken into the capital, San Salvador, and handed over to the commander of a large military barracks. In due course, the commander informed the two men that they were to be taken to Honduras to a small, provincial airport where they would fly out from the country.

After about six hours travel on a small, decrepit bus, the two were simply dropped off in the middle of the jungle and left stranded there. After a journey that lasted almost three days, walking up and down mountains, and in an out of jungles, the two, middle-aged, overweight men, dressed in clothes more suitable for urban maneuvers than wilderness adventures, eventually staggered into a small airport and hired an aircraft that flew them to the Honduras capital, Tegucigalpa. Battered, bruised, dirty and utterly exhausted, they checked into a hotel and slept for forty-eight hours.

Mike Maroun then flew back to New Orleans to reassure Marcello's family that Carlos was okay, and eventually Carlos landed back in America on May 28th. Just how he returned is a mystery. Marcello claimed he obtained a visa and bought a ticket on a commercial flight to Miami, where he had no trouble passing through immigration and customs. However, a government investigation indicated that he had in fact been flown into the country aboard a Dominican Republic aircraft. Their president, General Rafael Trujillo, had long-time connections to Mafia bosses in America, in particular, Santo Trafficante Jr., Marcello's old-time pal from the West Florida area. It was possible that somehow, someone in the pocket of Marcello, at the highest level, had pulled the necessary strings to help him back into America.

On June 3rd, Marcello voluntarily surrendered to Immigration officials in New Orleans and was ordered held at a detention center in Texas. By July 11th, he had been released and was back at his office in The Town and Country Motel, but under threat of another deportation order filed against him by the INS. Carlos counterattacked and through his lawyer, Jack Wasserman issued a lawsuit against the attorney general. In the case of Carlos Marcello v Robert F. Kennedy, Carlos accused his dreaded nemesis of fraudulent deportation based on illegal documentation.

Kennedy had Marcello called to testify before the reconstituted McClellan committee, but he avoided this on the basis of illness caused by his ordeal in Honduras. His brother Joe and Joe Poretto, one of Carlos' top men, were however summonsed to the hearing. Poretto in a show of arrogance and contempt, took the oath using a clenched right fist in the form of il corno, a Sicilian sign of defiance, making a horn by extending his right finger and little finger, while clenching his thumb and middle two fingers. Sneering at the committee, he continuously ignored all questions put to him, citing the Fifth. The hearings ended without establishing any direct evidence linking Carlos and his crime family into the specter of illegal gambling and organized crime that the committee had been trying to establish.

Robert Kennedy came back on October 30th, and publicly announced the indictment of Marcello on charges of falsifying his Guatemalan birth certificate and perjury. On December 30th, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the deportation order. The clouds were gathering, the storm was not long in breaking.

Criminal Conversations

Through the summer and into the autumn of 1962, Carlos was faced with increasing pressure from the feds. There were two indictments looming over him. One involved IRS tax liens of $835,000 against him and his wife; the other involved his forged Guatemalan birth certificate, which could lead to deportation a second time.

On September 11th, 1963, it is alleged by author Ed Reid, Marcello visited his huge, swampland property, Churchill Farms. Located on the West Bank of the Mississippi, it covered some 6,500 acres. He had purchased this vast area in 1959 for $1 million.*** Among other things, it was used for duck shooting but was rumored to also be his private burial ground for those foolish enough to cross him, or worse cheat him on business deals. In one of the ramshackle farm buildings, he had built a conference room butting on to a kitchen and a dining room. Here, he brought three other men for a session of drinking and business discussions. He had driven them there in his black Cadillac, from the Town and Country Motel.

There was Salvatore “Jack”  Liberto, a man with ties to the French Quarter, heavily involved in the Mafia-dominated produce market, and a soldier in the crime family. He was the personal driver and at times barber, for Marcello. The second was Carlo Ruppolo, (sometimes spelled Roppolo) who was one of Carlos' aids and life long friends; they had grown up together in Algiers, and his wife Lillian worked for Marcello in one of his businesses. Some sources claim he was, in fact, the nephew of Marcello, and that Lillian was his mother, not his wife. The FBI stated in a report dated April 11th, 1963, that the two families were close at one time as both originated in Sicily, arrived in New Orleans at about the same time, and were neighbors for a period. There are times when the Mafia is a hard thing to compass. Then there was the third man, Edward Becker, a private investigator. He was connected to Ruppolo by a business deal, which they had been discussing earlier that day in Carlos' office at The Town and Country complex.

Photo: Churchill Farms Hunting camp

The men spent the afternoon eating, drinking and talking business, and then at one stage, Becker commented on the treatment Carlos had received from Robert Kennedy. According to Becker, Carlos started stomping around the room, ranting and screaming about what he was going to do to the younger Kennedy brother.

"Livarsi `na pietra di la scarpa!" he shouted. Translated from Sicilian it meant: "Take the stone out of my shoe!" He looked at Becker and said, "Don't worry about that sonofabitch Bobby, he's gonna be taken care of!" This information has come to us from the book The Grim Reaper by Ed Reid, and is interesting, because apparently, Marcello could not speak the Sicilian dialect.

"But you can't go after Bobby," Becker said. "Look at the trouble that will bring down."

"No, not that," yelled Carlos. "In Sicily, they say if you want to kill a dog you don't cut off the tail. You go for the head." The meaning, to Becker, was very clear, but then Carlos elaborated by stating that he planned to have President Kennedy murdered, using someone in no way connected to him or his organization.

Becker met with Marcello on a number of other occasions, but no mention was made of the Kennedys or the threats that had been made. A couple of weeks later, Santo Trafficante, the mob boss from Tampa and personal friend of Marcello was in Miami Beach at the Scott Byron Motel also discussing business with a Cuban businessman, Jose Aleman Jr. He was trying to raise a loan of $1.5 million to build a condominium building. The money was to come from the funds of the Teamsters Union and Trafficante was acting as a conduit to Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt Teamsters' president.

At some stage in their conversation, Trafficante belittled Robert Kennedy for his war against Hoffa and made mention of the fact that he and his brother, the President were due some serious trouble. Aleman supported President Kennedy's actions and thought he would probably be re-elected. Trafficante, his face serious, leaned close to Aleman and said, "You don't understand me, Jose. Kennedy's not going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit."

Unknown to Trafficante, Jose Aleman was an informant for the FBI. He claims he reported this conversation to two agents George Davis and Paul Scranton but they or the agency took no action.

These are the two most famous anecdotes that tie Marcello into the events that would shake the world fourteen months later. Are they falsehoods or misunderstandings or did they actually occur as they were recounted?

Hubie Badeaux, a former New Orleans police intelligence chief discounts the Marcello story. He claimed that Marcello did not talk like that. "He's not even Sicilian he was born in North Africa. You have to know Marcello and the way that he talked to know how stupid that story is." Frank Ragano, a lawyer for Trafficante, stated that he once asked of Marcello, in Sicilian, how many children did he have. Carlos replied: "Man, I don't speak that shit, only English."

However, Ragano also recounted that on March 13th, 1987, he visited the ailing Trafficante, and they went for a drive in Ragano's car on Bayshore Boulevard, in Tampa. As they were driving along, Trafficante suddenly blurted out, in Sicilian, "We shouldn't have killed Giovanni (John). We should have killed Bobby."

On November 20th, 1962, the FBI in Los Angeles interviewed Becker in connection with another matter. He detailed his meeting with Marcello, but the agents conducting the interview were not interested. It seemed as if the FBI were just not going to take any steps to investigate Marcello. There was even a strong possibility that the FBI office in New Orleans was deliberately going out of its way to avoid trying to penetrate Marcello's criminal organization.

In 1979, before a Senate investigative committee, a former FBI agent stated that the two cities that the FBI failed to penetrate in terms of the Mafia were Dallas and New Orleans, both controlled by Marcello. It is even possible that the FBI agent assigned to Marcello, Regis Kennedy, was not only not diligently doing his job on the target assigned to him, but was in in the pocket of Carlos. Under oath at a Senate commission hearing, he had stated that he believed Marcello was a tomato salesman and was not a significant organized crime figure. Whatever is the truth, the certainty is that events were unfolding that would lead inexorably to a motorcar on a street in November 1963.

"It is as if we all stood in a bad dream, watching the hand of fate write out one of the blackest chapters in our history."

The only incontrovertible fact is that at 12.29 p.m. on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, on Elm Street in downtown Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Beyond that are myth and mystery. Lee Harvey Oswald is presented to history as the lone gunman. And yet?

His supposed weapon and all the bullets do not match. The rifle, allegedly the murder weapon, is a cheap, mail order, antiquated bolt-action Italian firearm of dubious quality. It is fired consequentially at impossible speeds, with unbelievable accuracy by a man known to be a mediocre marksman. Bullets perform impossible, almost magical rites of passage across an air space at times blocked and obscured by trees. The wounds of the president present a confusing pathological mystery.

The killing of the president signals the beginning of one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century, perhaps of all times. Everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing at that exact moment. It was the end of innocence for most of us. In the years to come, of course, we all would learn that we were mourning a myth. The "Court of Camelot" was more of tarnished brass than burnished gold.

There have been over 1000 books written about the assassination of the president. Thousands of documents, reports, newspaper and magazine articles have agonized over the death of this one man. There have been three major government investigations: The Warren Commission, the Church Committee and the CIA and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Government papers on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy comprise over sixty volumes of documents. Hundreds of millions of words, trying to make sense out of an event that seems at times, without sense.

READ: When the American government asked the Mafia for a favor:The assassination of Fidel Castro

The evidence appears overwhelming: Lee Harvey Oswald was not, and could not have been the lone killer. Whether the act of violence originated with the Mafia or the CIA, or right-wing extremists, the disturbing legacy of Elm Street is not just who pulled the trigger, or triggers. No matter how important this is, a greater mystery is the likelihood that for almost fifty-six years, there has been a curtain drawn to conceal the true nature of the murder of John F. Kennedy. There has been an immense dissimulation of evidence, and distortion and concealment of facts that hint at some deep and malicious conspiracy to deprive the people of America of the truth.

The last time a president of the United States was assassinated, it occurred in Buffalo City on September 6th, 1901. On that day, a deranged anarchist called Leon Czolosz shot President James A. Garfield twice in the body. The president lingered and finally died eight days later. Nevertheless, there was never any doubt who the killer was or why in fact he carried out his deadly mission. The case was closed and the killer duly executed for murder. There were no loose ends.

The murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy is nothing but loose ends. It’s an endless stream of Matryoshka Russian Nesting Dolls. Every one you open reveals another, more mysterious one beneath.

In 2017, an article in The New Yorker Magazine claimed the best books written about that day in Dallas were novels. It’s easy to agree with this opinion because as a historical study, following traditional empirical evidence paths, Kennedy’s assassination becomes at times, almost like taking a trip through Alice in Wonderland. A rabbit hole too deep to contemplate. Black and deep and full of madmen.

However, what was not obvious to Americans was apparent to Europeans. Paris Match, the famous French daily newspaper, was reporting in December 1963 "...most likely Kennedy was murdered by the Mafia." The magazine, I'Aurore reported: ".... they must have decided for many months to strike out at the very top — to kill the head of the Kennedy family."

It was not until the summer of 1979, almost sixteen years after the event that the American public was told by the House Assassination Committee that President Kennedy "was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy." It stated that although Oswald may have shot at the president, he was part of a bigger picture; one that could have included Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante Jr. They had, the committee found, "the motive, means and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy." The chief counsel of the committee, Professor Robert Blakey (the man who conceived the RICO section of the 1970 Organized Crime Control Act.) believed that there might have been three gunmen.

The full story about the murder of President Kennedy may never be disclosed. But the links between Oswald, whose uncle and surrogate father, Charles Dutz Murret, a steamship clerk, worked as a bookie for the Marcello organization, under Sam Saia, a crew chief in the family, ("the most powerful operator of illegal handbooks" in New Orleans, according to the Metropolitan Crime Commission,) and whose mother, Marguerite, dated members of the Marcello organization indicate an alleyway leading somewhere.

Jack Ruby, his killer, had a definite relationship to the Dallas mob and Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante Jr.

From his beginnings as Jacob Rubinstein in Chicago, in 1911, to his Dallas mob ties from 1947 on, to his shooting of Oswald, on November 24th as he was escorted by police through the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters, and then his own death in January 1967 one month after being diagnosed with cancer.

The night before the Kennedy assassination, Ruby had dinner with Joseph Campisi, the number two man in the Dallas Mafia under Civello. Jack Ruby was the missing link that bridged the blurred and disturbing relationship between the murder of John F. Kennedy and the myriad suspects that have filled the pages of history since that seminal afternoon in Dallas.

These vinculum are plain for anyone looking to search beyond the mists of obfuscation that lie like swamp gas across the plains of history. Peter Noyes, and Ed Reid the authors did. Reid was the first to connect Marcello to JFK’s assassination in his book The Grim Reapers in 1969, followed by Noyes’ Legacy of Doubt published in 1973.

Just as the president was shot down in the prime of his life, 500 miles to the south-east, in another city, Carlos was sitting yet again in a courthouse, wondering what the jury was going to decide. Was he going, or was he staying?

The Unholy Trinity

By 9 am that morning, the federal courthouse in New Orleans was full. The case of The United States v Carlos Marcello had attracted spectators and members from both of the families that made up the universe of Marcello. Judge Herbert W. Christenberry presided over a case that charged Carlos and his brother Joe with "conspiracy to defraud the United States government by obtaining a false Guatemalan birth certificate" and "conspiracy to obstruct the United States government in the exercise of its right to deport Carlos Marcello." The case had opened twenty-one days earlier and by November 22nd, defense attorney Jack Wasserman and U.S. Attorney Louis La Cour were delivering closing arguments.

At 1.30pm, just as the judge was handing the case over to the jury, he was passed a note by the court bailiff. With a shocked expression on his face, he announced that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas and was dead. As the courtroom erupted, Carlos walked slowly out of the room, his face an impassive mask. At 3.15pm, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" on both charges, against both defendants. Carlos and Joe hugged each other, shook hands with their lawyer and walked out of the courtroom. Just thirty-eight minutes before, Air Force One had taken off from Dallas Love Airport to carry the dead and terribly mutilated body of President Kennedy back to Washington, D.C.

READ: The Kennedys: Whiskey Barons in the White House

The courts, however, were not yet finished with Carlos. On October 16th, 1964, he was indicted in connection with jury tampering at his trial for the forged birth certificate. He eventually came to trial on this charge on August 17th, 1965, but once again the jury found in his favor. It was his third consecutive victory against the Justice Department. There now would seem little chance that he would ever be deported.

Free of the impending charges that had hung over him like some Damocles sword, Carlos devoted all his energies into consolidating and maintaining his Mafia family, and the innumerable business interests that its power had allowed him to develop over the past eighteen years. Dun and Bradstreet, for example, estimated that 50% of New Orleans hotels were financially backed by the Marcello organization.

His political connections linked him into the powerful Long family. Carlos owed a lot to these people. It was, after all, Huey Long who had introduced him to Frank Costello and the booming slot machine business that had helped spearhead his rise to power. Carlos maintained close ties with Earl, Huey's brother, and also son Russell, who became one of Carlos' principal contacts in the U.S. Senate. Louisiana politician, Congressman Hale Boggs, House Majority Leader, who became a member of the Warren Commission investigating the killing of Kennedy, was also financed into Capital Hill via Marcello. Jim Garrison, the flamboyant New Orleans District Attorney, famous for his involvement in the Kennedy investigation, was on exceptionally good terms with Marcello. Although he had a reputation as a tough prosecutor, he would go out of his way not to bring charges against any of the Marcello organization. During the mid to late 1960s, he dismissed eighty-four cases brought against Carlos' men, including one for attempted murder, three for kidnapping and one for manslaughter.

Carlos Marcello was a man with many friends in high places: state and federal judges, governors, senators, labor leaders, the list went on. 98% of the Louisiana legislature would accept bribes, according to Peter Hand, a close friend of Governor Earl Long. Carlos also controlled the head of the Louisiana State Police, Roland Coppola. He had a lock on the State Department of Revenue, the agency that collected all state taxes. They once assessed his $159,000 home in Marrero at only $8,000 for revenue purposes. He also had friends in other places.

Although he always denied any association with the Mafia, he was close to many top bosses. His compadre or closest friend was Santo Trafficante Jr., who ruled Tampa and West Florida with an iron fist. Carlos was also on close terms with Joseph "Joey Doves” Aiuppa, boss of Chicago, and Kansas City mob leader, Joe Civella. He did business with Dominick Brooklier, who headed up the Mafia in Los Angeles. Carlos was tight with Angelo Bruno, powerful head of the Philadelphia family, and of course, for many years he was a good friend and business partner of Frank Costello, who had run what is now known as the Genovese Mafia family in New York until 1957.

READ: “His demeanor was very vulgar, coarse and he used many profanities” - The Kansas City Mob and the skimming of Las Vegas casinos

Carlos also had strong ties to the Dixie-Mafia, an inchoate bunch of loosely connected criminals, some of who traced their history back into the days of Prohibition. A network which did not have an organized hierarchy like the American Mafia, specialized in armed robbery, scams, burglaries, safe-cracking, murder-for-hire and drug trafficking. He used them to collect debts and maybe, arrange hits on people the wrong side of history. Unstable and deadly in the first degree, these hoodlums would kill anyone who got in their way. As someone described them: "...what makes them dangerous is they don't think, they just act." Carlos was long connected to one of this group, Le Roy Hobbs, Sheriff of Harrison County in Mississippi, a man so crooked and corrupt, it was said of him, "he is easily influenced by anyone with money and a good-looking woman."

When it came to women, Carlos was somewhat of an enigma. Although he seemed a faithful husband and father, and in fact remained married to Jacqueline until the day he died, like many of his peers, he would stray from time to time. A report from the New Orleans Crime Commission indicated that Lillian Ruppolo, the wife of one of his closest friends who was also a capo in his family, might well have been Marcello's mistress. If so, it was peculiarly complex, as her husband was the nephew of Marcello, who  was also undoubtedly well known to Virginia Hill, the leggy, voluptuous glamour girl of the mob. Longy Zwillman, the Jewish hood who ran much of New Jersey criminal action, once described Virginia, "She didn't look as if she would be hard to know."

In her address book, among a host of well-known mobsters, investigators found the name of Carlos Marcello and a contact telephone number. Apart from her obvious assets, it is thought that she also worked as a courier for the mob, helping to move money around the country. So it is conceivable that her relationship with Carlos was purely a business one.

In addition to these women, Marcello was linked to Lucia Miceli who the FBI claimed was his “long-term girlfriend,”Arlene Soring and Gloria De Santos. In 1967, Patrick Collins the New Orleans agent for the F.B.I. had reported to J. Edgar Hoover, confirming he was attempting to develop Lucia Miceli as a source on Marcello.

The Marcello control of people at all levels was significant to his domination of the Louisiana Mafia. He ruled this as a despot, with independence and insularity that was unique across the twenty-four or so other criminal groups that made up the national syndicate of American-Italian mob families. Joseph Valachi, a former soldier in the Genovese family of New York, was the first "made" 'member of any Mafia family to turn informant and publicly testify as to the inner working of the Mafia in America. When he was asked at the McClellan Hearing what he knew about Marcello, he replied, "Louisiana? I don't know a thing except they don't want visitors. Once I was going to see the Mardi Gras and I checked it out with Vito (Genovese), which I was supposed to do if I took a trip. He said, 'Don't go.' No explanation, just 'Don't go.' They didn't want anybody there. And I was told if I ever had to go to Louisiana, Vito would have to call ahead and get permission. Genovese himself had to get permission. It was an absolute rule."

Although he was in federal prison, serving time on drug trafficking charges, Vito Genovese was at this time, allegedly, the most powerful mob boss in America. Yet even he would tip his forelock in deference to "The Little Man' in New Orleans."

He was in fact, bigger than Ben Hur.

By 1966, Carlos Marcello had been the chief executive of his criminal dynasty for almost twenty years. Through bribery, corruption, intimidation and an inherent ability to control situations, he was probably the wealthiest and most influential Mafia leader in the United States. He had succeeded in getting his way, and getting away with everything, all his life. His political acumen was only matched by his judicious public relations.

He once gave a check for $10,000 to a prominent society woman who was raising money for the Girl Scouts of America. He told her: "Don't mention my name. I don't want any publicity about this." The gift was news all over New Orleans in two days.

He had manipulated the unholy trinity of politics, crime and business like no gangster ever had.

In the fall, he went to New York for lunch, and then on his way home, he socked the wrong man in the face.

Punching Federale

On Thursday afternoon, September 22nd, 1966, a group of men met for lunch at an Italian restaurant called La Stella, which was located at 102-111 Queens Boulevard in Forrest Hills, in the borough of Queens, New York. They were gathered around a table in a private dining area in the basement, and while awaiting their first course, New York police raided the building and arrested everyone. There were thirteen of them and all were members of the Mafia.

Who had summoned the meeting, and how it was organized and its purpose, has never been disclosed. The group was all taken to a nearby police station, questioned, searched and then released on personal bail of $100,000 each. Among the thirteen, were five of the top bosses, three from New York, and Carlos, along with his good friend Santo from Tampa.

Although there has been speculation about why the meeting was called, it seems reasonable to assume that in part at least, it was to resolve matters relating to New Orleans. Carlos sat at the table with his brother Joe, his under boss, along with Anthony Carolla and Frank Gagliano, two of his senior family members. Carolla had apparently been seeking a greater share of the New Orleans mob's action, citing seniority within the family and his family birthright. His father had been Sam Carolla, who had run the family until deportation in 1947. Anthony was also apparently seeking approval for consideration to take over the New Orleans Mafia when Marcello eventually retired. These, and no doubt other matters had been resolved at another venue, and the group had then moved to La Stella for a late lunch.

Action was taken to indict all the men and the District Attorney of Queens, Nat Hentel made much about what became known as "Little Apalachin," however, the whole thing fizzled out eventually. The greatest disservice that the incident caused Carlos was drawing attention to his links to known mobsters. He had always insisted to law enforcement agencies that he had never associated with organized crime figures and was not himself in any way connected to the Mafia. For years, Louisiana police, politicians and even the FBI office in New Orleans had accepted his story. Now it was all in the open. His lame-duck excuse "What's da matter with some old friends getting together for lunch? This was strictly a social gathering; that's all there was to it..." did not fool anybody. The meeting at La Stella made headline news in the New York papers and was soon circulating across the country via the news services.

READ: The Star of Forest Hills

On September 30th, Carlos and his brother Joe flew from New York to New Orleans International Airport. There was a large crowd of reporters, photographers and spectators waiting to meet them. As they moved through the throng in the terminal building, there was suddenly a scuffle and Carlos threw a punch at someone. He later claimed that he did not know who it was, just someone blocking his way, and he impatiently let fly with a straight left. However, the recipient of the punch was someone he knew well. It was FBI agent Patrick Collins, who kept tabs on Carlos for the New Orleans office.

According to Collins, six-one and 185 pounds, as he approached Carlos, the little man shouted at him, "I'm the boss around here," and then let fly. A press photographer captured the scene and the next day Carlos was arrested and charged with assaulting an FBI agent. Eventually, the case came to court and on May 20th, 1968, Carlos went on trial in Laredo, Texas. This venue, over 600 miles west of New Orleans, was chosen to isolate him from any potential prejudice that might have been present in New Orleans. Yet again, he was acquitted, this time by a hung jury.

Convinced that the jury had been tampered with, the authorities re-indicted Carlos and he was tried a second time, in Houston. On August 9th, he was found guilty, and a month later, sentenced to two years in federal prison. In true tradition, he only served six months in a medical facility in Springfield, Missouri. It was his first prison sentence in thirty years.

In fact, had the whole truth emerged at his trial, it is conceivable that he would have been acquitted. It appeared that FBI agent Collins had been having an affair with "Bootsie," the wife of brother Joe, and using her to get information on the family's activities. An impetuous and brash man, the FBI agent had apparently taunted Carlos with this information, causing the response he must have known would occur. A man of honor, Carlos would not have allowed this dishonor to become public knowledge, and so had taken his punishment.

On June 15th, 1968, the day Carlos was in court in Laredo to hear that his indictment was overthrown because of a hung jury, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles. In a space of fewer than five years, both Kennedy brothers were dead, assassinated in public; in a strange example of deja vu, each time, Carlos Marcello was in a criminal court being acquitted of a criminal offense. Two months earlier, on April 4th, another famous American figure, Martin Luther King, was shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee.

Was there a connection between these two latest murders, and if so, what was the common link?

Degrees of Separation

Carlos Marcello was a fervent racist. He despised blacks and vehemently opposed the civil rights movement during the 1960s. He openly expressed his hatred of Dr. Martin Luther King and his white knight, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Known to be a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, Carlos was a generous financial supporter of anti-civil rights movements.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover also shared his views. At one time he had been passed a news release that showed Time magazine had nominated Dr. King "Man of the Year" in 1962. Hoover scribbled in the margin, "They had to dig deep in the garbage to come up with this one." On one occasion, Hoover was heard to say at a press conference: "King is one of the lowest characters in the country."

There is an apocryphal story to the effect that J. Edgar Hoover's distaste for "the Left" was so great, that he once ordered his chauffeur to drive from Dallas to Austin without taking any left turns.

Sometime late in the afternoon of that April day, Dr. King was visited by his good friend Dr. Ralph Abernathy. Just before they left to go out for dinner, King stepped out on the balcony of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, and as he lent over the veranda rail to talk to his driver, he was shot through the right cheek by a 30.06 rifle bullet, which severed his spine and exited through his chest in a hole big enough for a man to put both fists through

Four days after King was killed, John McFerren, a black man, reported to the FBI in Memphis, that he had overheard a telephone conversation prior to the day of the murder, in which the speaker had said: "....kill the SOB on the balcony. You will get your $5000... don't come here, go to New Orleans and get your money." The man on the telephone was identified as one of the owners of Liberto, Liberto and Latch Produce Store. He was Frank Liberto, brother of Salvatore "Jack" Liberto, the man who attended the Churchill Farms conference on September 11th, 1962 with Carlos, Becker, and Ruppolo.

According to a New Orleans-based journalist William Sartor, James Earl Ray, the alleged killer of Dr. King, had attended a meeting at either The Town and Country Motel or the Provincial Motel, another New Orleans mob hangout, on December 17th, 1967. At this meeting were Charley Stein, Salvatore "Sam" DiPiazza, Lucas Dileo and Salvatore La Charda. These men were either associates in the Louisiana Mafia or in some way connected to Carlos Marcello. Later, Ray claimed he left New Orleans on December 19th with $2500 in cash and the promise of a further $12,000 to "do a big job, early in the new year."

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations confirmed the mob ties of the men and their links to Marcello. In 1961, an FBI intelligence report disclosed that William Hugh Mavis, a prominent Klan member, and imperial wizard, had told a Klan gathering in October that racial problems in the South would only be eliminated by the murder of Dr. King, and that he had "underworld associates who would kill anyone for a price."

Salvatore Liberto was heavily involved in the New Orleans Mafia-dominated produce markets and Sam Di Piazza was a king hitter in the gambling outlets of Marcello's empire. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that Marcello funded Ray as he stalked Dr. King through the South in the months leading up to April 4th.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that there was a 95% probability King was killed by a conspiracy. In 1993, a man called Lloyd Jowers went on the Prime Time Live television show and stated that he hired the killer of Dr. King as a favor to New Orleans mob boss Carlo Marcello, who in turn was doing it as a favor for J. Edgar Hoover. He was adamant that the killer was not James Earl Ray.

Hoover, who was no doubt delighted at the murder of King, was happy to let the case rest with Ray, who like Oswald five years earlier, may well have been a killer on the day, but not the only one involved in the killing of an American icon.

Hoover's direction of the investigation of the assassination of Dr. King was so inept that the House Select Committee on Assassinations delivered in its final report the harshest critique ever leveled at him and his agency. In part, it said: "in regards to the conduct of the FBI towards the civil rights leader prior to his murder, it was morally reprehensible, illegal, felonious and unconstitutional."

The FBI file on Dr. King consists of some 93 volumes that contain over 6000 articles and exhibits. It's hard to believe they could get it so wrong. In 1999, lawyer William Pepper won a civil court verdict for the King family which found a conspiracy, including Carlos Marcello, lay behind the murder of Dr. King.

In May 1968, as Robert Kennedy was getting into first gear in his run as Democratic candidate for the presidency, Jimmy Hoffa ex-teamster boss was in prison in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg. He was overheard discussing a plot to kill Robert Kennedy with Carmine Galante, the feared under boss of the Bonanno crime family of New York. There were rumors of a $750,000 Mafia contract out on Kennedy should he receive the Democratic nomination.

There was no doubt that if Robert Kennedy became president, he a) would re-open the investigation on his brother's death, and b) rejuvenate his efforts to destroy organized crime.

Carlos Marcello had remained good friends with Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen since they both had appeared before the McClellan hearings. By 1968, Cohen was in prison, having waged a full-scale war with the Dragna family for control of the rackets in Los Angeles, including the major racetracks that were all hooked into the Marcello' s wire service and bookie network.

Sirhan Sirhan, the alleged killer of Robert Kennedy, worked as a groom at the Santa Anita race track controlled by Cohen, who had also been a close friend of Jack Ruby, the gangster who shot Oswald dead. Ruby was part of the Civello set-up in Dallas that was controlled by Marcello. That Robert Kennedy's brother was himself shot dead in a city that was controlled by a close friend of Carlos Marcello, who was more than likely the immediate boss of the man who shot the man who shot the president, has to be surely more than just a coincidence.

Robert Kennedy was fatally wounded as he was walking through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles. Opened in 1921, it was referred to by The Los Angeles Times as “the most stupendous hotel project in the United States.” His alleged killer fired all eight rounds from his .22 caliber revolver, wounding at least five other people. The fatal wound to Kennedy occurred behind his right ear from a bullet that was fired from a gun less than three inches inches from the victim's head. Sirhan Sirhan was at least three feet in front of Kennedy when he began to shoot. In all, at least ten, possibly fourteen shots were fired that night; the alleged killer's gun contained only eight bullets and he never got the chance to reload the weapon.

Added to all of this mystification there were the dubious records of Sirhan's defense counsel, the deliberate obfuscation of the Los Angles police department who destroyed key evidence taken from the Ambassador Hotel pantry where Kennedy was shot, as well as misplacing over 2000 key documents relating to the shooting, and the predictable response of J. Edgar Hoover. Days after the shooting, Hoover confirmed that the FBI's investigation indicated that Sirhan Sirhan was the only person involved.

The elimination of Robert Kennedy from the 1968 presidential race paved the way for victory for Richard Nixon, the man Marcello had always supported. In fact, in the 1960 race between Kennedy and Nixon, Carlos had donated $500,000 towards Nixon's campaign. With Robert Kennedy dead and Nixon's accession to the presidency on Jan 20th, 1969, Carlos Marcello had now a channel even to the White House.

Norfio Pecora and Joe Poretto, two of Carlos' top men, were each married to a sister of D'Alton Smith, an intimate associate of Marcello and major political fixer. He was a good friend and confidant of Murray Chotiner, who was one of Nixon's nearest advisers and confidants. Chotiner was also connected to the Los Angeles mobster, Mickey Cohen. He became Nixon's special counsel in 1971 and used his influence to help secure a presidential pardon for imprisoned labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, who was a very good friend of Carlos Marcello.

And so, the boss of the Louisiana Mafia was able to extend his reach even into the White House.

It was no miracle that the two-year sentence imposed on Carlos for assaulting an FBI agent was reduced to six months, to be served in a comfortable medical center.

There were indeed many threads linking Carlos Marcello to some of the most tumultuous events of the 1960s.

In 1960, Carlos Marcello had handed over $500,000 in cash to Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt head of the Teamsters Union. He was to arrange the transfer of this into the campaign funds of Richard Nixon who was fighting an election against John F. Kennedy. Hoffa and the Mob desperately wanted Nixon to win the election.

In 1973, Nixon was president and barnstorming through the White House trying to plug all the leaks that were spouting over the Watergate burglary and recording it on tapes for posterity. He urgently needed $120,000 to pacify E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA official, who had organized the Watergate burglary. It is possible that this money came from Carlos. Hunt was identified by CIA operative, Morita Lorenz, as being at a Dallas motel on the evening of November 21st, 1963.

Pact between the Mafia and the U.S. government

There were many people who believed that Nixon and the Mafia were bedfellows. Martha Mitchell, wife of the former Attorney General told UPI reporters, "Nixon is involved with the Mafia." Nixon's chief of staff, General Haig, even ordered an investigation into the president's Mob ties through the Army's Criminal Investigation Unit.

In 1972, Richard Nixon arranged an unprecedented presidential pardon for New Jersey mobster, Angelo De Carlo, a feared killer and capo in the Genovese crime family. It seemed that Nixon was paying back favors for more financial contributions to his re-election campaign. If Nixon was linked to the Mob, there can be little doubt that one of his connections to it was Marcello.

READ: When the American government asked the Mafia for a favor:The assassination of Fidel Castro

By 1972, Carlos was sixty-two years old, richer and more powerful, possibly the most powerful Mafia boss in the nation. His only contender to this title may have been Carlo Gambino, the aging don who ran what was perhaps the biggest Mafia family in the country, based in Brooklyn. Although Gambino was a mob figure of stature, his significance outside of New York and New Jersey, was debatable. The House Select Committee on Crime declared in 1972, "We believe Carlos Marcello has become a formidable menace to the institution of government and the people of the United States." No government spokesperson ever said that about Gambino.

Called before the committee in June, Carlos Marcello was his old self. Formed to investigate the Mob's infiltration of professional sports, members grilled Carlos on his criminal ties. As usual, they got zilch. Repeating a well-worn story, he told his congressional inquisitors: ".... I'm not in no Mafia.... not in no racket, and not in organized crime."

In June 1971, the FBI had reorganized its New Orleans office and appointed a young, tenacious agent called Harold Hughes as head of a strike force to target Marcello. By 1972, with the death of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was finally able to exert real pressure on the Louisiana Mafia. By the mid 1970's, pressure was also building up on him from another direction.

In 1973, the first book was published on the assassination of President Kennedy, pointing a finger at Marcello; although in 1969, famous crime writer Ed Reid in his book The Grim Reapers had hinted at a possible connection. In 1976, an Italian documentary film called The Two Kennedys specifically nailed the Mafia as the force behind the murders of the brothers, again naming Marcello as the principal suspect.

And so, in September 1976, after much political and media activity, the 94th Congress established the House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the murders of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. With a support staff of 170 lawyers, investigators and researchers, and a huge (for the time) budget of $6.5 million, this one had all the indications of a major inquiry. However, because of political in-fighting and procedural disputes, the Committee did not get off the ground until April 1977, with a reduced budget of $2.5 million, and a chairman called Professor G. Robert Blakey, a law professor at Cornell University and an acknowledged expert on organized crime. He was also the author of the famous RICO statute that five years down the track would come to haunt Marcello.

One of the Committee's first objectives was laid down by Staff Counsel, Robert Tannenbaum to investigate possible connections between Carlos Marcello and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was the first time in the fourteen years since the event that Marcello's name was publicly raised as a potential suspect.

On January 11th, 1978, Carlos appeared as a witness before the House Committee. He had not been called as a suspect and his sworn testimony was given under a grant of immunity. He was, however, not the first boss to be interviewed. Santo Trafficante Jr. had been interrogated on March 16th, the previous year. Speaking without immunity, Santo took the 5th on every question.

When he took the stand, the first question Carlos was asked was if he had any involvement in organized crime. Speaking in his quaint, ungrammatical Italian-New Orleans drawl he said, "No I don't know nuttin' about dat." He denied the existence of the meeting at Churchill Farms, and lied and bluffed his way through the session. He only lost his cool once, when the questioning turned to his illegal deportation.

"Everybody in de United States knowed I was kidnapped...I told the whole world it was unfair," he yelled, his corpulent face growing red with rage.

The New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune headlined his appearance: "THE MARCELLO-JFK CONNECTION," and elaborated on the thesis that Carlos had been behind the Kennedy assassination. Now it was public domain and he and his family would have to live with the disclosure for the rest of their lives.

Although the Committee had a huge catalog of conspiratorial allegations to investigate, including the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro and or the Cuban government, the anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service, it was in the area of organized crime that they developed the deepest suspicion. The Committee concluded that probably three men were involved in a plot to murder President Kennedy: Jimmy Hoffa, Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello.

READ: The Irishman: Jimmy Hoffa’s friend and the man who put two bullets in the back of his skull

Jimmy Hoffa had disclosed his plans to murder both Kennedy brothers to Edward Grady Partin, a Louisiana teamster official, early in 1962. Jose Aleman, the wealthy Cuban exile, documented Trafficante's involvement in front of the Committee, recounting the conversation he had with the Tampa mob boss in 1962, in which Santo had said that President Kennedy would "get hit." But it was Marcello, above all, who was targeted by the investigation.

In the final report, the committee stated, "In its investigation of Marcello, the Committee identified the presence of critical evidentiary elements that was lacking with the other organized crime figures: creditable associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization."

Kent “Frenchy” Brouillette, a colourful and infamous mob character, was linked with Marcello through  prostitution and gambling rackets into the New Orleans crime family and their associates. He was also a cousin to four-term Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards, who served a ten year prison sentence for extortion and may well have been on the take to Marcello. His personal aide, Charles E. Roemer was found guilty of soliciting funds from Marcello. Brouillette once described Ruby as “another Marcello family goombah,” and also claimed he had witnessed meetings between Lee Harvey Oswald and Marcello in the mob boss’s office at The Town and Country Motel. In one of the many degrees of separation in this tangled story is the fact that the first school Oswald attended was in Covington, where Marcello had his “summer” home.

The reaction of Marcello to the Committee findings was to authorize his principal attorney, Jack Wasserman, the man who had so successfully defended Carlos in his many deportation hearings, to search through the 220,000 pages of FBI documents that covered the assassination. His job was to find anything that might ultimately be used against Carlos to construct an indictment for conspiracy to murder the President of the USA. Wasserman however, died suddenly of a heart attack before he could complete his job.

The way things developed, the Mafia boss did not have to worry about this particular problem. There was however, something else, waiting for him in the wings, which when examined in retrospect, would prove even more damaging.

BRILAB

Lobbyist Isaac Irving Davidson was a mover and shaker in Washington D.C. He was a close friend of Marcello, who he referred to as "Uncle Snookems." Through one of his many business deals, he made contact with a Los Angeles-based insurance operator, who also happened to be a convicted swindler called Joseph Hauser. Davidson introduced this man to Carlos in June 1976. Hauser was anxious to expand his business interests into Louisiana. For a fee of $250,000, Carlos made a few phone calls, which resulted in Hauser getting access to all the insurance business from the Building Trade Union and also lucrative contracts with the Teamsters and Longshoreman Unions. Hauser leveraged this business through an insurance company he purchased in New Orleans, again using Carlos as the go between.

However, by the end of 1978, Hauser was in deep trouble. The SEC had placed his company under receivership because of irregularities they had discovered in the way the business was set up, and in addition he and Davidson were indicted on federal racketeering charges. In February 1979, Hauser pleaded guilty and looked set to pay a hefty fine and go off to prison for some time. He was then approached by an FBI agent, who offered him a way out of his troubles, provided he was prepared to participate in an undercover operation to be mounted against Marcello. It was part of a nationwide Justice Department sting operation, to be known as "Operation BRILAB," an anagram for Bribery and Labor. The exercise to dethrone Carlos Marcello began on April 2nd, 1979.

This was to be a momentous year in the life of Marcello. His peerless, hard working lawyer Jack Wasserman died suddenly of a heart attack. It was estimated that over the years, Carlos had paid him over $2 million in legal fees to fight his deportation case, which had originally been entered against him back in 1956, and was now the longest and costliest in United States history. In 1979, Carlos admitted for the first time ever, on record that is, that he belonged to the Mafia. The FBI launched two operations against him, both of which succeeded, and resulted in lengthy prison sentences, effectively destroying him and his criminal empire.

Hauser, aided by two undercover FBI agents, set themselves up as representatives of a fictitious West Coast insurance company and set out to induce Marcello to use his influence to get key officials in the labor movement and the state and municipal governments to award major insurance contracts to the company, in return for a share of the huge commissions payable on these agreements. Hauser and the FBI agents would wear wires and Marcello's office at the Town and Country Motel complex would be bugged.

This operation had been under way about six months, when Hauser, in one of his many conversations with Carlos, picked him up on the wire he was wearing, saying, "I'm doin' this for friends of mine in California. They Mafia like me, you know, personal friends."

The men he was referring to were the leaders of the Los Angeles Mafia: the boss, Dominick Brooklier, his under boss Sam Sciortino, a capo called Mike Rizzitello, and three top soldiers in the West Coast arm of the mob. They had been indicted on federal racketeering charges in February 1979, largely on the evidence of former capo "Jimmy the Weasel" Frattiano, who had become an informant because he feared Brooklier had put out a contract on him.

The FBI through Hauser, convinced Marcello that they could set up the judge in the forthcoming trial of the six men, provided Carlos could provide a suitable inducement. On November 1st, the FBI bug planted in Carlos' office recorded him confirming with Hauser that he would guarantee the $125,000 that had been agreed upon to bribe district court Judge Harry Pregerson.

On June 17th, 1980, Carlos Marcello, along with three other men, was indicted by a federal grand jury of twelve counts of racketeering in the BRILAB case. It was scheduled for summer 1981. On August 5th, 1981, he was indicted again by a Los Angeles federal grand jury for conspiring to bribe a United States district judge. Carlos was not concerned about his New Orleans trial. He had beaten them always on his home ground. As he said to a newspaper reporter, "They's not going to get me man, no way man. Dese are my people here." But Los Angeles was a different story. That was the one to fear. As it turned out, they would both shaft him.

The Long and Winding Road

For a man whose motto was, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead," it was a mortifying blow. In its year long, extraordinarily successful BRILAB undercover operation against him, the FBI had amassed fourteen hundred reels of recorded tape thirty-five thousand feet in all. It was a formidable weapon that would be used by the prosecution with devastating effect. The counts against Carlos and his co-conspirators were: racketeering, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and interstate travel to engage in racketeering. The main witnesses for the government were convicted swindler turned government witness Larry Hauser and the two FBI agents, Larry Montague and Michael Wacks.

It took three weeks to select a jury that was acceptable to both the defense and the prosecution. The case eventually went to trial late in March and lasted eighteen weeks.

Over and over again, the jury listened to recorded conversations of Carlos, either talking to wired witnesses or held in the confines of his office at the Town and Country Motel. They heard the speech of a man presented by the authorities as a controller of labor unions, the manipulator of the political machinery of an entire state of the union, a man with links to the government of the country, and a man possibly connected to what had become known as the crime of the century.

What they listened to was fractured, uneducated, disjointed ramblings, often laced with racist comments and derogatory venom, aimed at mayors, state heads, politicians and union leaders, "It's taken time to get where I'm at. To know all these people governors, business, the attorney general, they know me."

"Governor John McKeithen...that sonofabitch got $168,000 my money....an then he too scared to talk to me."

"That Mayor Morial...want money as bad as you need it...bad as everybody wants it. Ya unnerstand. He'll take it from the right people."

This was the speech of a man who for eight months had orchestrated a skillful, well-contrived and elaborate scheme to siphon off Louisiana state insurance contracts through the use of kickbacks and bribery. A scheme, that had it succeeded, would have netted him at least $1 million every month. There is little doubt that had Carlos himself set this scheme up, rather than it being an FBI sting, he would have probably achieved all of his objectives. One of his greatest strengths had always been his ability to deceive his enemies into believing that he wasn't smart enough to plan and orchestrate elaborate criminal conspiracies.

By August 4th, 1981, it was all over. Shortly after 4pm that afternoon, the jury returned its verdict. Carlos Marcello was found guilty on the charge of violating the RICO Statute, which carried a penalty of up to twelve years imprisonment. The next day, he was indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury for conspiring to bribe a federal judge. Bad was turning to worse very quickly.

The trial and conviction of Carlos sent shock waves through the American Mafia. Other people had been mentioned in the trial tapes Aiuppa, boss of Chicago; Santo Trafficante Jr., head of the Tampa mob; and Joe Civello, the man who ran Dallas for the Marcello family. Only a little over 10% of the recorded conversations had been presented in evidence. What was on the rest of the tapes? Would Carlos cut a deal with the government to ameliorate his sentence? The FBI heard of rumors going through the New Orleans underworld that a mob contract was out on him, and advised Carlos accordingly.

On November 30th, 1981, he went on trial in Los Angeles, and eleven days later, the jury found him guilty on all three counts as charged. On January 25th, 1982, back in a federal courthouse in New Orleans, Carlos was sentenced in the BRILAB case. Judge Morey Secon handed down a sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Out on bail, Carlos had to wait until April, 1982, to find out what his fate would be in Los Angeles. For a 72-year-old man who had spent his life controlling events, it must have been an interminable delay.

In Los Angeles, Carlos was sentenced to ten years in prison. At the hearing, Judge Edward Devitt said to Carlos, "You've led a life of crime...by any evaluation it's fair to say you're a very bad man."

On April 15th, 1983, after all his appeals had failed, Carlos was remanded to the United States Medical Centre at Springfield, Missouri to begin his BRILAB sentence. Two months later, he learned his appeals against the Los Angeles conviction had also been denied. He now faced the prospect of seventeen years in prison.

He was incarcerated at Springfield for almost a year, and then in April 1984, he was transferred to another federal institution at Texarkana, near the Texas-Arkansas state line. This would be his home for the next two years. On February 19th, 1986, he was moved once again, this time to a near-minimum security facility at Seagoville in Texas. This was a prison for basically white-collar criminals lawyers, doctors, accountants-men who had committed crimes of embezzlement and tax fraud, rather than hard core acts of criminal violence. Carlos was here for only a short time and was then shifted again on June 2nd, 1986, to a level-one category federal correction facility at Fort Worth. The Justice Department have never disclosed why Carlos was moved around so much in three years. It may be that the last two moves into softer, more accommodating institutions were the result of some old favors being paid back from people at high levels in either municipal, state or even federal government. The prison at Fort Worth was more like a rest home than a correction facility. Carlos could meet his visitors around a picnic table, away from prying eyes and hidden microphones. Two of the people who came to see Carlos regularly were brothers Joe and Sammy; through them he was able to carry on managing his business activities, both legitimate and illegal.

Back on February 14th, 1975, Carlos, a man worth many millions of dollars, had done something unusual: he applied for social security benefits. For eleven years, his lawyers had fought for his constitutional rights to these. They had argued that his deportation to Guatemala had been an illegal act. Although Social Security had received notification of Carlos' deportation, they claimed they had never had filed with them a Lawful Re-entry after Deportation notice. A hearing in 1984 determined that Carlos was not entitled to benefits, and on March 26th, 1986, the District Court of Louisiana agreed.

This dancer's jig had a purpose. If the government had granted Carlos retirement benefits, it would be tantamount to it recognizing him as an American citizen. Still an illegal citizen, he was always under threat of deportation, and feared that when his sentence was served, the government would kick him out of the country once again.

After a year living comfortably at the "country club" in Fort Worth, on May 21th, 1987, he was suddenly, without notice, shifted back to the near maximum conditions of the Texarkana Penitentiary. He would be there until March 1989, when he was transferred for the final time to a federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

Early in the new year, he had suffered a series of stokes that had left him severely disabled, and by the end of March, he was obviously showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. At times he had become so disoriented that he thought he was living in a hotel and could not recognize family members who visited him. In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Carlos' BRILAB conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled.

In October, after having served six years and six month of his sentence, he was released and the old don was finally returned back into his family's care. "I'm retired," he told reporters. "I'm happy. Everybody's been nice to me." He returned to his white, sprawling, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course.

Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses and watched over by his wife and family in his home at 577 Woodvine Avenue, just across the street from the Metarie Country Club. Apparently, he lost the power of speech and regressed to his infancy. He was never seen in public again and died on March 3rd, 1993. His wife, Jacqueline, lived on, and died peacefully, in her sleep, in January 2014. She was 96. The year after Carlos Marcello died, another Jacqueline, this one the widow of John F. Kennedy died. She was 64 when she was taken by cancer.

In 1960, Carlos Marcello had handed over $500,000 in cash to Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt head of the Teamsters Union. He was to arrange the transfer of this into the campaign funds of Richard Nixon who was fighting an election against John F. Kennedy. Hoffa and the Mob desperately wanted Nixon to win the election.

In 1973, Nixon was president and barnstorming through the White House trying to plug all the leaks that were spouting over the Watergate burglary and recording it on tapes for posterity. He urgently needed $120,000 to pacify E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA official, who had organized the Watergate burglary. It is possible that this money came from Carlos. Hunt was identified by CIA operative, Morita Lorenz, as being at a Dallas motel on the evening of November 21st, 1963.

Pact between the Mafia and the U.S. government

There were many people who believed that Nixon and the Mafia were bedfellows. Martha Mitchell, wife of the former Attorney General told UPI reporters, "Nixon is involved with the Mafia." Nixon's chief of staff, General Haig, even ordered an investigation into the president's Mob ties through the Army's Criminal Investigation Unit.

In 1972, Richard Nixon arranged an unprecedented presidential pardon for New Jersey mobster, Angelo De Carlo, a feared killer and capo in the Genovese crime family. It seemed that Nixon was paying back favors for more financial contributions to his re-election campaign. If Nixon was linked to the Mob, there can be little doubt that one of his connections to it was Marcello.

READ: When the American government asked the Mafia for a favor:The assassination of Fidel Castro

By 1972, Carlos was sixty-two years old, richer and more powerful, possibly the most powerful Mafia boss in the nation. His only contender to this title may have been Carlo Gambino, the aging don who ran what was perhaps the biggest Mafia family in the country, based in Brooklyn. Although Gambino was a mob figure of stature, his significance outside of New York and New Jersey, was debatable. The House Select Committee on Crime declared in 1972, "We believe Carlos Marcello has become a formidable menace to the institution of government and the people of the United States." No government spokesperson ever said that about Gambino.

Called before the committee in June, Carlos Marcello was his old self. Formed to investigate the Mob's infiltration of professional sports, members grilled Carlos on his criminal ties. As usual, they got zilch. Repeating a well-worn story, he told his congressional inquisitors: ".... I'm not in no Mafia.... not in no racket, and not in organized crime."

In June 1971, the FBI had reorganized its New Orleans office and appointed a young, tenacious agent called Harold Hughes as head of a strike force to target Marcello. By 1972, with the death of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI was finally able to exert real pressure on the Louisiana Mafia. By the mid 1970's, pressure was also building up on him from another direction.

In 1973, the first book was published on the assassination of President Kennedy, pointing a finger at Marcello; although in 1969, famous crime writer Ed Reid in his book The Grim Reapers had hinted at a possible connection. In 1976, an Italian documentary film called The Two Kennedys specifically nailed the Mafia as the force behind the murders of the brothers, again naming Marcello as the principal suspect.

And so, in September 1976, after much political and media activity, the 94th Congress established the House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the murders of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. With a support staff of 170 lawyers, investigators and researchers, and a huge (for the time) budget of $6.5 million, this one had all the indications of a major inquiry. However, because of political in-fighting and procedural disputes, the Committee did not get off the ground until April 1977, with a reduced budget of $2.5 million, and a chairman called Professor G. Robert Blakey, a law professor at Cornell University and an acknowledged expert on organized crime. He was also the author of the famous RICO statute that five years down the track would come to haunt Marcello.

One of the Committee's first objectives was laid down by Staff Counsel, Robert Tannenbaum to investigate possible connections between Carlos Marcello and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was the first time in the fourteen years since the event that Marcello's name was publicly raised as a potential suspect.

On January 11th, 1978, Carlos appeared as a witness before the House Committee. He had not been called as a suspect and his sworn testimony was given under a grant of immunity. He was, however, not the first boss to be interviewed. Santo Trafficante Jr. had been interrogated on March 16th, the previous year. Speaking without immunity, Santo took the 5th on every question.

When he took the stand, the first question Carlos was asked was if he had any involvement in organized crime. Speaking in his quaint, ungrammatical Italian-New Orleans drawl he said, "No I don't know nuttin' about dat." He denied the existence of the meeting at Churchill Farms, and lied and bluffed his way through the session. He only lost his cool once, when the questioning turned to his illegal deportation.

"Everybody in de United States knowed I was kidnapped...I told the whole world it was unfair," he yelled, his corpulent face growing red with rage.

The New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune headlined his appearance: "THE MARCELLO-JFK CONNECTION," and elaborated on the thesis that Carlos had been behind the Kennedy assassination. Now it was public domain and he and his family would have to live with the disclosure for the rest of their lives.

Although the Committee had a huge catalog of conspiratorial allegations to investigate, including the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro and or the Cuban government, the anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service, it was in the area of organized crime that they developed the deepest suspicion. The Committee concluded that probably three men were involved in a plot to murder President Kennedy: Jimmy Hoffa, Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello.

Jimmy Hoffa had disclosed his plans to murder both Kennedy brothers to Edward Grady Partin, a Louisiana teamster official, early in 1962. Jose Aleman, the wealthy Cuban exile, documented Trafficante's involvement in front of the Committee, recounting the conversation he had with the Tampa mob boss in 1962, in which Santo had said that President Kennedy would "get hit." But it was Marcello, above all, who was targeted by the investigation.

In the final report, the committee stated, "In its investigation of Marcello, the Committee identified the presence of critical evidentiary elements that was lacking with the other organized crime figures: creditable associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization."

Kent “Frenchy” Brouillette, a colourful and infamous mob character, was linked with Marcello through  prostitution and gambling rackets into the New Orleans crime family and their associates. He was also a cousin to four-term Louisiana governor, Edwin Edwards, who served a ten year prison sentence for extortion and may well have been on the take to Marcello. His personal aide, Charles E. Roemer was found guilty of soliciting funds from Marcello. Brouillette once described Ruby as “another Marcello family goombah,” and also claimed he had witnessed meetings between Lee Harvey Oswald and Marcello in the mob boss’s office at The Town and Country Motel. In one of the many degrees of separation in this tangled story is the fact that the first school Oswald attended was in Covington, where Marcello had his “summer” home.

The reaction of Marcello to the Committee findings was to authorize his principal attorney, Jack Wasserman, the man who had so successfully defended Carlos in his many deportation hearings, to search through the 220,000 pages of FBI documents that covered the assassination. His job was to find anything that might ultimately be used against Carlos to construct an indictment for conspiracy to murder the President of the USA. Wasserman however, died suddenly of a heart attack before he could complete his job.

The way things developed, the Mafia boss did not have to worry about this particular problem. There was however, something else, waiting for him in the wings, which when examined in retrospect, would prove even more damaging.

BRILAB

Lobbyist Isaac Irving Davidson was a mover and shaker in Washington D.C. He was a close friend of Marcello, who he referred to as "Uncle Snookems." Through one of his many business deals, he made contact with a Los Angeles-based insurance operator, who also happened to be a convicted swindler called Joseph Hauser. Davidson introduced this man to Carlos in June 1976. Hauser was anxious to expand his business interests into Louisiana. For a fee of $250,000, Carlos made a few phone calls, which resulted in Hauser getting access to all the insurance business from the Building Trade Union and also lucrative contracts with the Teamsters and Longshoreman Unions. Hauser leveraged this business through an insurance company he purchased in New Orleans, again using Carlos as the go between.

However, by the end of 1978, Hauser was in deep trouble. The SEC had placed his company under receivership because of irregularities they had discovered in the way the business was set up, and in addition he and Davidson were indicted on federal racketeering charges. In February 1979, Hauser pleaded guilty and looked set to pay a hefty fine and go off to prison for some time. He was then approached by an FBI agent, who offered him a way out of his troubles, provided he was prepared to participate in an undercover operation to be mounted against Marcello. It was part of a nationwide Justice Department sting operation, to be known as "Operation BRILAB," an anagram for Bribery and Labor. The exercise to dethrone Carlos Marcello began on April 2nd, 1979.

This was to be a momentous year in the life of Marcello. His peerless, hard working lawyer Jack Wasserman died suddenly of a heart attack. It was estimated that over the years, Carlos had paid him over $2 million in legal fees to fight his deportation case, which had originally been entered against him back in 1956, and was now the longest and costliest in United States history. In 1979, Carlos admitted for the first time ever, on record that is, that he belonged to the Mafia. The FBI launched two operations against him, both of which succeeded, and resulted in lengthy prison sentences, effectively destroying him and his criminal empire.

Hauser, aided by two undercover FBI agents, set themselves up as representatives of a fictitious West Coast insurance company and set out to induce Marcello to use his influence to get key officials in the labor movement and the state and municipal governments to award major insurance contracts to the company, in return for a share of the huge commissions payable on these agreements. Hauser and the FBI agents would wear wires and Marcello's office at the Town and Country Motel complex would be bugged.

This operation had been under way about six months, when Hauser, in one of his many conversations with Carlos, picked him up on the wire he was wearing, saying, "I'm doin' this for friends of mine in California. They Mafia like me, you know, personal friends."

The men he was referring to were the leaders of the Los Angeles Mafia: the boss, Dominick Brooklier, his under boss Sam Sciortino, a capo called Mike Rizzitello, and three top soldiers in the West Coast arm of the mob. They had been indicted on federal racketeering charges in February 1979, largely on the evidence of former capo "Jimmy the Weasel" Frattiano, who had become an informant because he feared Brooklier had put out a contract on him.

The FBI through Hauser, convinced Marcello that they could set up the judge in the forthcoming trial of the six men, provided Carlos could provide a suitable inducement. On November 1st, the FBI bug planted in Carlos' office recorded him confirming with Hauser that he would guarantee the $125,000 that had been agreed upon to bribe district court Judge Harry Pregerson.

On June 17th, 1980, Carlos Marcello, along with three other men, was indicted by a federal grand jury of twelve counts of racketeering in the BRILAB case. It was scheduled for summer 1981. On August 5th, 1981, he was indicted again by a Los Angeles federal grand jury for conspiring to bribe a United States district judge. Carlos was not concerned about his New Orleans trial. He had beaten them always on his home ground. As he said to a newspaper reporter, "They's not going to get me man, no way man. Dese are my people here." But Los Angeles was a different story. That was the one to fear. As it turned out, they would both shaft him.

The Long and Winding Road

For a man whose motto was, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead," it was a mortifying blow. In its year long, extraordinarily successful BRILAB undercover operation against him, the FBI had amassed fourteen hundred reels of recorded tape thirty-five thousand feet in all. It was a formidable weapon that would be used by the prosecution with devastating effect. The counts against Carlos and his co-conspirators were: racketeering, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and interstate travel to engage in racketeering. The main witnesses for the government were convicted swindler turned government witness Larry Hauser and the two FBI agents, Larry Montague and Michael Wacks.

It took three weeks to select a jury that was acceptable to both the defense and the prosecution. The case eventually went to trial late in March and lasted eighteen weeks.

Over and over again, the jury listened to recorded conversations of Carlos, either talking to wired witnesses or held in the confines of his office at the Town and Country Motel. They heard the speech of a man presented by the authorities as a controller of labor unions, the manipulator of the political machinery of an entire state of the union, a man with links to the government of the country, and a man possibly connected to what had become known as the crime of the century.

What they listened to was fractured, uneducated, disjointed ramblings, often laced with racist comments and derogatory venom, aimed at mayors, state heads, politicians and union leaders, "It's taken time to get where I'm at. To know all these people governors, business, the attorney general, they know me."

"Governor John McKeithen...that sonofabitch got $168,000 my money....an then he too scared to talk to me."

"That Mayor Morial...want money as bad as you need it...bad as everybody wants it. Ya unnerstand. He'll take it from the right people."

This was the speech of a man who for eight months had orchestrated a skillful, well-contrived and elaborate scheme to siphon off Louisiana state insurance contracts through the use of kickbacks and bribery. A scheme, that had it succeeded, would have netted him at least $1 million every month. There is little doubt that had Carlos himself set this scheme up, rather than it being an FBI sting, he would have probably achieved all of his objectives. One of his greatest strengths had always been his ability to deceive his enemies into believing that he wasn't smart enough to plan and orchestrate elaborate criminal conspiracies.

By August 4th, 1981, it was all over. Shortly after 4pm that afternoon, the jury returned its verdict. Carlos Marcello was found guilty on the charge of violating the RICO Statute, which carried a penalty of up to twelve years imprisonment. The next day, he was indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury for conspiring to bribe a federal judge. Bad was turning to worse very quickly.

The trial and conviction of Carlos sent shock waves through the American Mafia. Other people had been mentioned in the trial tapes Aiuppa, boss of Chicago; Santo Trafficante Jr., head of the Tampa mob; and Joe Civello, the man who ran Dallas for the Marcello family. Only a little over 10% of the recorded conversations had been presented in evidence. What was on the rest of the tapes? Would Carlos cut a deal with the government to ameliorate his sentence? The FBI heard of rumors going through the New Orleans underworld that a mob contract was out on him, and advised Carlos accordingly.

On November 30th, 1981, he went on trial in Los Angeles, and eleven days later, the jury found him guilty on all three counts as charged. On January 25th, 1982, back in a federal courthouse in New Orleans, Carlos was sentenced in the BRILAB case. Judge Morey Secon handed down a sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of $25,000. Out on bail, Carlos had to wait until April, 1982, to find out what his fate would be in Los Angeles. For a 72-year-old man who had spent his life controlling events, it must have been an interminable delay.

In Los Angeles, Carlos was sentenced to ten years in prison. At the hearing, Judge Edward Devitt said to Carlos, "You've led a life of crime...by any evaluation it's fair to say you're a very bad man."

On April 15th, 1983, after all his appeals had failed, Carlos was remanded to the United States Medical Centre at Springfield, Missouri to begin his BRILAB sentence. Two months later, he learned his appeals against the Los Angeles conviction had also been denied. He now faced the prospect of seventeen years in prison.

He was incarcerated at Springfield for almost a year, and then in April 1984, he was transferred to another federal institution at Texarkana, near the Texas-Arkansas state line. This would be his home for the next two years. On February 19th, 1986, he was moved once again, this time to a near-minimum security facility at Seagoville in Texas. This was a prison for basically white-collar criminals lawyers, doctors, accountants-men who had committed crimes of embezzlement and tax fraud, rather than hard core acts of criminal violence. Carlos was here for only a short time and was then shifted again on June 2nd, 1986, to a level-one category federal correction facility at Fort Worth. The Justice Department have never disclosed why Carlos was moved around so much in three years. It may be that the last two moves into softer, more accommodating institutions were the result of some old favors being paid back from people at high levels in either municipal, state or even federal government. The prison at Fort Worth was more like a rest home than a correction facility. Carlos could meet his visitors around a picnic table, away from prying eyes and hidden microphones. Two of the people who came to see Carlos regularly were brothers Joe and Sammy; through them he was able to carry on managing his business activities, both legitimate and illegal.

Back on February 14th, 1975, Carlos, a man worth many millions of dollars, had done something unusual: he applied for social security benefits. For eleven years, his lawyers had fought for his constitutional rights to these. They had argued that his deportation to Guatemala had been an illegal act. Although Social Security had received notification of Carlos' deportation, they claimed they had never had filed with them a Lawful Re-entry after Deportation notice. A hearing in 1984 determined that Carlos was not entitled to benefits, and on March 26th, 1986, the District Court of Louisiana agreed.

This dancer's jig had a purpose. If the government had granted Carlos retirement benefits, it would be tantamount to it recognizing him as an American citizen. Still an illegal citizen, he was always under threat of deportation, and feared that when his sentence was served, the government would kick him out of the country once again.

After a year living comfortably at the "country club" in Fort Worth, on May 21th, 1987, he was suddenly, without notice, shifted back to the near maximum conditions of the Texarkana Penitentiary. He would be there until March 1989, when he was transferred for the final time to a federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

Early in the new year, he had suffered a series of stokes that had left him severely disabled, and by the end of March, he was obviously showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. At times he had become so disoriented that he thought he was living in a hotel and could not recognize family members who visited him. In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Carlos' BRILAB conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled.

In October, after having served six years and six month of his sentence, he was released and the old don was finally returned back into his family's care. "I'm retired," he told reporters. "I'm happy. Everybody's been nice to me." He returned to his white, sprawling, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course.

Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses and watched over by his wife and family in his home at 577 Woodvine Avenue, just across the street from the Metarie Country Club. Apparently, he lost the power of speech and regressed to his infancy. He was never seen in public again and died on March 3rd, 1993. His wife, Jacqueline, lived on, and died peacefully, in her sleep, in January 2014. She was 96. The year after Carlos Marcello died, another Jacqueline, this one the widow of John F. Kennedy died. She was 64 when she was taken by cancer.


Source:Ocnus.net 2019

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