Carlos "The Little Man" Marcello was the boss of the New Orleans Maffia for several decades. He was also one of the city's richest inhabitants.
Carlos Marcello was born in Tunis, Tunesia, to Sicilian parents as Calogero Minacore. The family emigrated to the United States when he was a little boy and settled in New Orleans. At age 19 he was arrested for bank robbery. These charges were later dropped but the following year he was
convicted of assault and robbery and was sentenced to 9 years.
In 1938 Marcello got arrested when trying to sell more than 23 pounds of narcotics. Despite o receiving a lengthy prison sentence he only did 10 months. On his release from prison he became associated with Frank Costello, one of the leaders in the New York Mafia. By the late 1940's, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's gambling network. He had also joined forces with Meyer Lansky in order to buy some of the most important gambling casinos in the New Orleans area. By this time Marcello was the undisputed leader of the Mafia in New Orleans. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.
On 24th March, 1959, Marcello appeared before the Senate Committee investigating organized crime.
Serving as chief counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator
John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee. In response to committee questioning,
Marcello again invoked the fifth amendment in refusing to answer any questions relating to
his background, activities, and associates.
After becoming president John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, as U.S.
Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide variety of issues including the
attempt to tackle organized crime. In March 1961, the Attorney General took steps to have Marcello
deported to Guatemala (the country Marcello had falsely listed as his birthplace). On 4th April,
Marcello was arrested by the authorities and taken forcibly removed to Guatemala.
It did not take Marcello long to get back into the United States. Undercover informants reported that
Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy. He told Edward Becker that a dog will
continue to bite you if you cut off its tail. Whereas if you cut off the dog's head, it would cease to
cause you trouble. Becker reported that Marcello "clearly stated that he was going to arrange to
have President Kennedy murdered in some way." Marcello told another informant that he would
need to take out "insurance" for the assassination by "setting up a nut to take the blame".
Just before Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, Jack Ruby made contact with
Marcello, and another Mafia leader, Santo Trafficante, about a problem he was having with the
American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). Ruby also visited New Orleans that summer. So also
did the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald (killer of John F. Kennedy).
After the assassination of Kennedy the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello.
They came to the conclusion that they "did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized
crime figure" and that Marcello earned his living "as a tomato salesman and real estate investor."
As a result of this investigation the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link
between Ruby and Marcello.
In 1966 Marcello was arrested in New York. He was eventually charged and after a long drawn
out legal battle he was eventually convicted for assault. Sentenced to two years. he served less
than 6 months, and was released on March 12, 1971.
G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on
Assassinations, published The Plot to Kill the President in 1981. In the book Blakey
argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. He believes that Lee Harvey
Oswald was involved but believes that there was at least one gunman firing from the Grassy
Knoll. Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello organized the assassination.
On 14th January, 1992, the New York Post claimed that Marcello, Jimmy Hoffa and
Santo Trafficante had all been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963 Hoffa had told him to take
a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting
took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa
wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the president." He reported that both men gave
the impression that they intended to carry out this order.
In his autobiography, Mob Lawyer (1994) (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab)
Frank Ragano added that in July, 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Jimmy
Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santos Trafficante concerning plans to kill President John
F. Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed Hoffa apparently said to Ragano: "I told you could
do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santos did for me." He added: "This means Bobby
is out as Attorney General". Marcello later told Ragano: "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa),
you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."
Carlos Marcello died on 3rd March, 1993.