1957 was somewhat of a chaotic year for the American mafia, certainly during it's last months. Top figures such as Frank Scalise and Albert Anastasia were murdered, Johnny Torrio died of old age and Frank Costello nearly survived a murder attempt. But 1957 was also the year were possibly 2 of the most important meetings in Mafia history were held. These were the Hotel Delle Palme meeting in October and the Apalachin meeting in November.
The hosts Joseph Barbara, a 53 year old Castellammare Del Golfo native and boss of the Volpe Family, agreed upon hosting the meeting at his ranch in Apalachin, New York. This was suggested to him by his cousin and Buffalo boss Stefano Magaddino although the second host of the meeting, Vito Genovese, suggested that it should be held in Chicago. Genovese agreed upon Magaddino's proposal and also, Joseph Barbara suffered from a heartattack recently so if they would ran into trouble they could also say they were just visiting a sick friend.
Ever since Vito Genovese had to flee America in 1937 to avoid murder charges he felt bad for losing the position of boss of the Luciano Family to Frank Costello. When Genovese returned to America in the mid 1940's he was appointed a caporegime instead of being boss or underboss, which were his previous positions. Luckily for Genovese he could still count on the respect for him on the streets. Nonetheless he was eager to grab the position of boss back, a difficult thing to do considering that Costello was a very respected and well connected man. Not only did Costello stand in his way but also a number of strong Costello allies were hard nuts to crack. For example Joe Adonis, Anthony Carfano, underboss Willie Moretti and Albert Anastasia, who also happened to be the Mangano family boss and leader of Murder, Inc. In 1951 Luciano underboss Willie Moretti was murdered for babbling around after the Kefauver hearings. This little highlight for Genovese gave him back the position of underboss.
When Joe Adonis voluntarily deported back to Italy 5 years later, Costello lost another important allie. Finally, after many years of patience Genovese made his move on May 2, 1957. He sent his loyal gunman Vincent Gigante to a Manhattan apartment where Costello was present. Gigante shot a bullet at Costello's head but missed his target, only wounding Costello. This was enough though to scare Costello. But still there was Albert Anastasia, who was able to revenge the botched hit on Costello. To get rid of Anastasia Genovese went to see Anastasia's underboss, Carlo Gambino, who was ambitious himself to become boss. In June 1957 Frank Scalise, who was a high ranked member of the Mangano Family, was murdered. Later on October 25, 1957, Genovese and Gambino finally got to the "Mat Hatter", Albert Anastasia, while he was sitting in a barber chair. 2 hitmen moved inside the building and shot Anastasia death. Costello, who was recovering from his wounds, decided to make peace with Genovese to stop the killings. Not only did Genovese became the new head of a large Mafia family, but also did Carlo Gambino. Both wanted to be officially recognized as heads of respectively the Luciano family and the Mangano family, which both would rename after themselves. This was one of the reasons why the Apalachin meeting was held.
Next to Genovese and Gambino being recognized as new leaders, there was another, more important reason for the meeting to occur which would involve many other families from all over America. A month prior to November 14, a meeting was held at the Hotel Delle Palme in Palermo, Sicily. The Sicilian bosses wanted to discuss 2 important items during that meeting, one being to built a commission in Sicily and second to bring the American and Sicilian Mafia closer together by involving themselves in a massive drug ring. The American delegation, which consisted mainly out of members of the Bonanno, Magaddino and Detroit family, traveled towards their native country for a summit of 4 days. They would eventually control the very lucrative drug business together with Sicilian bosses such as Gaetano Badalamenti and Cesare Manzella. They would earn millions of dollars but it would also bring more heat on them by the FBI. Although many old bosses always said they hated narcotics to the fullest, they secretly led some of their crews to run drug operations because they could easily double their profits. During the Apalachin meeting the bosses discussed import/export dealings all across the country and even outside US borders.
Ever since prohibition was law in America, Canada played a big role for several smuggle operations. The Bonanno Family had a large branch in Montreal, Canada, under the leadership of Vincent Cotroni. Many of the drugs entering the United States were at first smuggled from Sicily to Canada. It is also believed that the Sicilian boss from Agrigento, Giuseppe Settecase, was present during the Apalachin meeting. Settecase also controlled territory in Canada and represented the newly formed Sicilian Commission.
Into the woods
The presence of such a great amount of mafiosi didn't went unseen on that cold November day. A police officer noticed something strange when suddenly allot of big cars and wealthy Italian businessmen seemed to go to one and the same address, that of a known Mafia leader. When the police wanted to search the territory they entered it's garden. This is where they could see these mysterious men, all dressed in fine clothes and expensive jewelry, talking and discussing in the garden. When suddenly one of the gangsters noticed the police they started to ran into the woods. Most of them had large criminal records so they did had reasons to flee. The ones who stayed inside, such as Carmine Galante and Stefano Magaddino were lucky because the police didn't had a search warrant to enter the house. However, most of the mob bosses were arrested and taken to the police station. Some of them were questioned for about 8 hours straight. All of them claimed the same thing, they were visiting a sick friend.
There were others however who denied they even knew Barbara and only said to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment. One such man was John Montana, the reputed Magaddino underboss. His involvement in the Mafia was not known to man as he was seen as a respected businessman who had even won the 'man of the year' award in his town. He claimed that he and his friend, Antonio Magaddino, were driving home when suddenly their expensive Cadillac broke down and as coincidence it was
near Barbara's house. Also Joseph Bonanno denied he was at the ranch to talk with mafiosi, he claimed he was in town just to talk with his cousin Stefano Magaddino about business and had nothing to do with the others present. The presence of Magaddino however is not certain because the police did nor arrest or saw him. Afterwards they did found clothes belonging to Magaddino stuffed in a car. Another man suspected of attending the meeting was Phillip Buccola, the old retired New England boss who frequently traveled from Sicily to America to work as an adviser. Buccola was spotted a couple of weeks prior to the meeting in Boston and was therefore also suspected of attending the summit, although he was not apprehended or seen in Apalachin. Also Detroit Partnership leader Joseph Zerilli was reputidly invited to the meeting but was saved because he and driver Anthony Giacalone were running late. Due to this little fallback Giacalone heared about the raid on the radio and immediatly turned the car.
The press all over America headlined newspapers about the summit and people and FBI were now aware the existence of a national cooperation between Mafia organizations. The FBI couldn't turn their heads no longer.
Many bosses did not forgave this disaster for which they blamed Stefano Magaddino, Genovese and Barbara. Barbara died 2 years later and Stefano Magaddino had to deal with a couple of murder attempts later on. Magaddino's familie also began to crumble within the next few years and would split in 2 factions, that of his own and one in Rochester. Genovese did get what he wanted, to be recognized as the new boss, but wouldn't enjoy it for long as a free man because he got arrested in 1959 for leading a drug trafficking ring. He would spend the next 10 years behind bars where he would eventually die at the age of 72. Although this meeting was important, a number of major mobster did not attend. For instance, Charles Luciano, Frank Costello, Tony Accardo, Carlos Marcello and Meyer Lansky (in fact no Jewish mobster was invited). Plotting theories claim that Luciano and Costello would have set things up and arranged the whole thing so the police would invade the Barbara mansion. If this is true is unknown, but they did eventually got their revenge by reputedly setting up Genovese's arrest in 1959.