The Colombo Family is one of the Five Families in New York and mainly operates in Long Island. It was originally called The Profaci Family but it's name was changed to mark the beginning of a new era during the early 1960's. It was also the only organsation which kept it's original boss, Joseph Profaci, after the outcome of the Castellammarese war in 1931.
Giuseppe 'Joseph' Profaci was born in 1897 in Villabate, Sicily. He set sail for America in 1921 together with Vincent Mangano. 24 year old Profaci soon started to make a name for himself between the Italian and Sicilian communities in New York and went to Long Island to create an organisation together with his brother-in-law Giuseppe Magliocco. From the mid 1920's on Profaci aligned himself with a number of other Sicilian gangs and mobsters and therefore became a very powerfull man. Together with Magliocco, who served as his underboss, he led one of the original 5 Mafia organisations in New York prior to the Castellammarese war of 1930.
When the Castellammarese War was brought to a close with the deaths of
Joe Masseria and
Salvatore Maranzano in 1931, the American Mafia was restructured by
Charles "Lucky" Luciano and others. Joe Profaci and his organisation were the only neutrals during the Castellammarese War, they reputidly didn't involve thimselfs in a war, although he was supportive to the Castellammarese in Brooklyn.
Joseph Profaci was also one of the men present at what is believed to be the first national commission meeting between gangsters in Cleveland, 1928, were strangely enough Masseria and Maranzano were not present. Amongst others were Joseph Porello (the host of the meeting) and Al Capone representative Pasqualino Lolordo. However, most of the men were arrested during the meetings and were jailed. Not much later Porello bailed them all out.
Under Profaci, the
Brooklyn-based family pursued the usual mob enterprises of labour rackets, extortion,
gambling, hijacking and loan sharking. Later, they joined most of the other families in the
drug trade, principally importing heroin. Profaci was also a good friend with one of the most powerfull bosses in the US, Joseph Bonanno. Instead of going public with themselves, or going to parties, brothels and expensive restaurants like Charles Luciano and many others did, Bonanno and Profaci frequently visited eachothers home with their wives to eat and talk.
In the late 1940's Profaci was spotted in Sicily to make peace between 2 fighting branches of the Greco Family (amongst those men were Michele Greco).
Considering his use of charges and tributes from his own Family members,
it is fairly surprising that Profaci faced no serious challenge to his leadership of the family
until the late 1950s. Many of the old-style "Moustache Petes" had been killed or marginalised
as Luciano reorganised the mob, but Profaci kept his head down and managed to retain his
power base, thanks in part to his close ties to the leader of another of the families, Joseph Bonanno.
The Gallo brothers
Eventually, however, the anger of a few Profaci subordinates boiled over, and the serious
conflicts that would dog the family for decades began in earnest. Ever the man with an eye for
an opening, Carlo Gambino began stirring up unrest in the family to try to undermine the
Profaci-Bonanno alliance, and Costantino Gallo, Joey and Alberto Gallo proved receptive to
his overtures. Profaci had been taking a large chunk of the profits from the brothers'
racketeering activities and they had had enough. The ill feeling was compounded when
Profaci ordered the execution of Gallo crew member Frank Abbatemarco, simply for being
disloyal and disrespectful in withholding tribute to his boss.
In February 1961, the Gallos kidnapped a number of prominent members of the family including
underboss Joseph Magliocco and capo Joe Colombo. In return for their release, the brothers
demanded changes in the way profits were divided between crews, and at first Profaci appeared
to agree, following negotiations between the captors and Profaci's consigliere, Charles "The Sidge"
But Profaci was simply biding his time before taking revenge on the Gallos.
Gallo crew member Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli was murdered by Profaci's men in September,
and an attempt on Larry Gallo's life was interrupted by policemen in a Brooklyn bar.
The brothers set about attacking Profaci's men wherever they saw them as all-out war
erupted between the two factions.
The Gallo Brothers sparked two wars within the Colombo Crime Family both of which ended
in their defeat.
Death of Profaci
For much of 1961/62, the heads of the other families (Bonanno excepted)
were pressing for Profaci to step down as boss for the good of the mob. His health was
failing, and eventually June 6, 1962, he lost his battle against cancer. He was replaced as
boss of the family by Magliocco, a man very much in the Profaci mould, much to the disgust
of the Gallo brothers who had no intention of ending the fight simply because Profaci was out
of the way.
Two of Magliocco's chief enforcers, Carmine "Junior" Persico and one of his right-hand men,
Hugh McIntosh, were targeted by the Gallo brothers but survived their respective attacks.
And the Gallos were likely planning further attempts on the lives of Magliocco's crew, but the
authorities had other ideas. A number of Gallo gang members were convicted on racketeering
charges, two others were murdered in Magliocco reprisals, and the nominal head of the group,
Joey Gallo, was himself already in prison and unable to sort out the reorganisation of his crew.
With the Gallos out of the way, Magliocco was able to consolidate his position
and concentrate on the business of running the family's affairs. However, Joe Bonanno hatched
a plot to murder the heads of the other three families which Magliocco decided to go along with.
Joe Colombo was tasked with organising the hits but, sensing how things were likely to pan out,
he duly ratted on his boss, informing Gambino and Tommy Lucchese of the plans.
Bonanno and Magliocco were called to face the justice of the Commission. The former boss went
into hiding, but Magliocco faced up to his crimes. Understanding that he had been following
Bonanno's lead he was let off with a $50,000 fine, and forced to retire as the head of the family
(he died not long after, of natural causes).
The Colombo era
For the loyalty he had shown, and because Gambino thought he could control him
from behind the scenes, Colombo was named as the head of the family in Magliocco's place.
To remove the association with its despised former head, the family was rechristened the
Colombo family, as though to move into a new era following Profaci's greed and mistreatment
of his men, as they saw it. At the age of 41, Colombo became the youngest leader of any mob
family - many questioned his experience as a result.
The doubt at his appointment became bemusement when, following the arrest of his son on
charges of debasing currency, Colombo set up the Italian-American Civil Rights League to defend
Italian Americans from what he saw as prejudice at the hands of the law enforcement authorities.
In an organisation that prided itself on keeping a low profile, the publicity Colombo brought on the
mafia was decidedly unwelcome - through his involvement with the League, he was frequently to
be found, willingly, on television and in the press, where a Mafia boss usually only finds himself
when having to defend himself in court.
February 1971 saw the release of Joey Gallo from prison. Four months later, Joe Colombo had
been shot and left in a vegetative state, and the suspicion fell squarely on Gallo. At a League
rally in Manhattan's Columbus Circle on June 28, Colombo was shot as he pushed through the
crowd to get to the stage. The shooter, a young black man called Jerome Johnson, was then
himself shot and killed by a member of Colombo's entourage. Gallo was suspected of organising
the hit, largely because, against the wishes of many of his colleagues in the Mafia, he had openly
courted the black criminal fraternity of Harlem, believing them to be potential partners in lucrative
new avenues for the mob.
Gallo himself was shot and killed at Umberto's Clam House on Mulberry Street on April 7, 1972, when he was
at a party with his family.
The family under Persico
Following the high-profiled exploits of Colombo (and, in his own way, Joe Gallo),
the Colombo family needed a period of comparative calm. Colombo was in no position to
run the family and the leadership fell to Thomas DiBella, a man adept at evading the authorities
since his sole bootlegging conviction in 1932. Colombo died in 1978, and DiBella stepped down
due to ill health in 1977, leaving a vacuum at the head of the family.
Carmine Persico had grown in stature in the family and was clearly in line to take over, but he
had been in and out of prison so much over the previous decade it was unclear whether he
would be in a position to do so. He nonetheless ran the family from prison with Gennaro
"Jerry Lang" Langella as his street boss, until both men were sentenced to 100 years in jail
during a RICO trial in 1987.
Continuing to run the family from behind bars, Persico appointed Victor "Little Vic" Orena to
run the organisation on the outside. Orena, however, desired the leadership on a permanent
basis, and a battle for control broke out between supporters of Orena (including Gambino family
leader John Gotti) and Persico loyalists. A failed hit on Orena led to the acting boss calling
for the intervention of the Commission - Persico's consigliere, Carmine Sessa, who had led the
attempt on Orena's life, appealed on behalf of his own boss.
With no sign of consensus or a decision from the Commission, Persico's capo, Greg Scarpa Sr.,
was ambushed by Orena supporters on November 18, 1991, while driving with his family,
but the Scarpas all got away without injury. Orena's supporters hit back with the killing of Henry
"Hank the Bank" Smurra. Ultimately, with men being killed on both sides, the police
intervened and Orena, his capo Pasquale "Patty" Amato and large numbers of loyalists
from both sides were sent to jail. With the Orena camp effectively beheaded, Persico
claimed victory and continued to run the family from prison.
Carmine Persico, 73, allegedly remains in charge of the much-weakened
Colombo family. He currently resides in a federal prison in North Carolina but
according to reports all major decisions in the family are still made by "The Snake".
His son, Alphonse "Allie" Persico, was earmarked to take over but has been repeatedly
targeted by the authorities and is currently on trial accused of ordering the killing of family
rival William Cutolo in 1999. Persico Jr, faces life in prison if convicted.
Bitter enemy John "Sonny" Franzese, 89 years old, is alleged to be Persico's underboss.
Franzese has spent large parts of his life in jail and is under tight parole restrictions but that
has not stopped him from again assuming a top spot in the family. Thomas "Tommy Shots"
Gioeli is running affairs on the street. Not much is known about Gioeli but he has spent little
time in jail during his career and was an ally of the Persico faction during the Colombo war.
Long time and much respected Vincent "Vinnie" Aloi was said to be the Colombo family Consigliere, but as of 2008 this is for Ralph Lombardo, who is acting consigliere for the jailed Joel Cacace, who was formerly a Acting Boss.
The strength of the family today is unclear but the family has avoided members flipping and
major indictments the last few years and some people believe that the Colombo crime family is
quietly rebuilding and regaining lost power.