Birth: October 10, 1891 - Castellammare Del Golfo, Sicily
Death: July 19, 1974 - Niagara Falls
Stefano Magaddino was the boss of the Mafia in Buffalo from 1922 until his death in 1974. His family, which still bares his name, was a stronghold during prohibition and the drug trafficking business. Magaddino also had a hand in the early formation of the Brooklyn based Bonanno Family and was cousin to it's leader Joseph Bonanno. He headed his organization for almost 50 years and by that is one of the longest serving mafia bosses ever.
The Good Killers
Stefano Magaddino was Born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, in 1891.
His father, Giovanni Magaddino, was also a "man of honor" and a strong allie of the Bonanno and Bonventre families. This alliance however got into a feud with another stronghold in Castellammare, the Buccelato family and it's clans. In 1899 Salvatore Bonanno's brother was murdered in order of Felice Buccellato. Bonanno and Magaddino took their revenge by ordering the killing of a couple of members from the Buccelato side but eventually decided to make peace in 1905, making Felice Buccelato the godfather of Bonanno's child Giuseppe. During that time many of their Sicilian associates searched a better future and moved across the ocean towards America. Stefano and his brothers, Pietro and Antonino, in the meantime involved themselves in theft and extortion and learned to handle weapons. During the 1910's the expected happened and the Magaddino's and Buccelato's found themselves at war again. Fights occurred and men from both clans were killed during the rivalry, including Stefano's older brother Pietro. Stefano and Antonino were eventually advised to leave Sicily and traveled towards America where they would be taken under the wing of their cousin Vito Bonventre, in 1919 (although other sources say 1909). Bonventre, who allready lived in Brooklyn for over a decade had become one of the leading figures amongst the large amount of Sicilians of Williamsburg. Williamsburg was a new home for natives of Castellammare Del Golfo and by this many of the men living in the neighborhood were former friends from back in the old country.
NYtimes headline from August 19, 1921
Vito Bonventre, who was a baker by profession, also had a more darker secret to tell. He was the leader of a crew of assassins which operated in New York, but later it was revealed that they also committed murder in New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit and even Colorado. Both brothers were soon respectable members amongst the Castellammarese and it didn't last long until Stefano earned himself a top position inside the Bonventre group. Another man who rose the ranks was a good friend of his, Gaspar Milazzo. Other young immigrants were often forced to work for them or would else be captured and tortured. Some of them were also killed because they unfortunately were also witnesses of the Good Killer's actions. Although Magaddino was successful and largely feared he couldn't escape the fact that his old enemies also moved to New York. Magaddino hadn't had the satisfaction yet of revenging his brother, but after they were informed by associates back in Palermo that members of the Buccelato clan had travelled towards America, he was determined to react. The ultimate vendetta was the murder of a 26 year old man named Carmello Caizzo, who allegedly was one of the murderers who killed Magaddino's brother in 1916.
Caizzo was murdered by one of his own friends, Bartolo Fontana, who was forced to commit the crime.
Fontana later confessed the murder and his close encounter with a crew of murderers he referred to as 'the good killers'. The Italian Squad then came up with a plan to trap Stefano Magaddino, who was regarded as the groups leader, and arrest him. Magaddino was lured to a meeting place with Fontana who said he was in need of some cash to escape to Buffalo. When Magaddino arrived he was soon surrounded by undercover policemen who took him in custody. Afterwards the Italian squad also rounded up the other reputed leaders of the Good Killers, Vito Bonventre, Manano Galante, Franscesco Puma and Giuseppe Lombardi. While sitting at the police station Magaddino suddenly attacked Fontana, who for some reason was sitting in the same room, and yelled a Sicilian phrase which meant as much as “I’ll burn you up for this!”. When the police officers reacted a fight broke lose and Magaddino was eventually hit by a nightstick and fell to the floor.
Next to the Caizzo murder Fontana also revealed a couple of the murders committed by the Good Killers assassins between 1920 and 1921. Some of them being several Buccelato brothers, the Giannola brothers and also Detroit Mafia leader John Vitale.
Magaddino, Francesco Puma, Bonventre, Giuseppe Lombardi and Manano Galante were all later released. Magaddino and Gaspar Milazzo afterwards nearly survived a murder attempt in 1921 made by surviving members of the Buccelato side. The attempted ambush happened when Milazzo and Magaddino walked out of a store, but instead 2 innocent bystanders were shot during the shooting. After the failed hit both however moved away from Brooklyn and respectively went to Buffalo and Detroit where they joined fellow Castellammarese groups. Cola Schiro, one of the first leaders of the Castellammarese, became the official head of the organization but would later be removed of that position by Salvatore Maranzano.
Moving to Buffalo
The big boss in Buffalo, often referred to as 'the Chief', was a man named Giuseppe DiCarlo. DiCarlo was a Sicilian native who joined the Castellammarese forces in Buffalo during the mid 1910's. When Magaddino moved to Buffalo he was welcomed with both arms inside the organization. DiCarlo however died in 1922 due to ill health, leaving Magaddino in charge of the family. During the prohibition era Magaddino earned a fortune thanks to smuggling liquor from Canada into the United States. Soon others wanted to profit from the Canadian booze and asked permission to smuggle alcohol through Buffalo. Moe Dalitz and his 'Big Jewish Navy' and the Cleveland Syndicate were permitted to smuggle.
In 1930, all out war broke loose in New York as it's biggest criminal groups got into a war. This became known as the Castellamarese War which was between the Manhattan based Morello gang and the Castellammarese from Williamsburg, with who'm Magaddino still had close contacts. He supported the Castellammarese by sending them cash funds every week. The Castellammarese were very well organized all over the US and had backings from Detroit, Philladelphia and Buffalo to name a few. When Joe Aiello, the leader of the Castellammarese faction in Chicago, was being targeted, Stefano reputidly took him under his protection in Buffalo. However, against the advice of Magaddino and Maranzano, Aiello returned to Chicago where he was murdered shortly after by forces of Al Capone, who was supportive to the enemy. The war eventually came to an end in 1931 when Giuseppe Masseria was betrayed and murdered by his own lieutenant, Charles Luciano. The Castellammarese were victorious and Maranzano set up a meeting where he appointed the new official heads of the 5 families in New York, with himself as top ruler. Six months later however Maranzano was also murdered by the hands of Luciano. The Castellammarese organization in Brooklyn was now headed by Magaddino's cousin, Joseph Bonanno, who became the youngest boss of the 5 New York families. Not much later the National Commission was created. The original heads contained the 5 New York bosses, Al Capone of Chicago and Stefano Magaddino of Buffalo. In years to come other bosses would also be allowed.
The Apalachin meeting
After Prohibition, Magaddino and his organization made their money through loan sharking, gambling, extortion, hijacking, drugtrafficking and labor racketeering.
The Family expanded with Magaddino branches in Rochester and Ohio to name a few. Magaddino also had many enemies over the years and survived a couple of murder attempts. In 1936 for example a bomb intended for him was planted by mistake in the wrong house killing his sister. In 1958 another murder attempt was made when a grenade hurled through a window into his kitchen, but failed to explode. Some believe the murder attempt was made by angry mobsters who wanted revenge for the disastrous Apalachin meeting in 1957. Due to that meeting the Mafia got public and they couldn't deny it's existing anymore. It is rumored that Magaddino talked New York mobster Vito Genovese into keeping the meeting in Joseph Barbara's ranch and not in Chicago. When the cops noticed something was wrong in their little town they wanted to investigate, not knowing they were actually going to disturb a large summit of the Mafia. When the mobleaders saw the police they started running, except a couple of men who stayed inside, amongst them Stefano Magaddino and Carmine Galante. Both men were lucky because the police couldn't enter the house without a search warrant. Although none of the arrested men were jailed the people were now aware of the existing of the Mafia. Many bosses never forgave Magaddino and Genovese for this disaster.
During the 1960's two Sicilian brothers by the name of Albert and Vito Agueci were engaged in narcotics trafficking in Buffalo. They were permitted to work on Magaddino's territory and had to donate a percentage to Magaddino. Both brothers worked closely together with John Papalia, a Magaddino caporegime who was the boss in Hamilton, Canada. When both Vito & Albert were arrested in 1961 Magaddino didn't offer any support to the brothers. Both were enraged and Alberts wife was forced to bail them out. Soon the brothers swore revenge and wanted to get even. On November 23, 1961, Albert was found mutilated and burned on a farm near Rochester. Vito Agueci was convicted on the narcotics charge and was sent to Atlanta prison.
Also in the 1960's Magaddino's cousin Joseph Bonanno reputidly wanted to take power by murdering fellow New York bosses Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese. Bonanno conspired with Profaci Family boss Joseph Magliocco, who hired Profaci enforcer Joseph Colombo to carry out the hits. Rather than killing the bosses of New York, Colombo ratted them out. Bonanno and Magliocco had to appear before the Commission and had to admit their role in the plan. Bonanno didn't show up, claiming he was not involved, but Magliocco did and was ordered to pay $50.000 and to step down as boss. Colombo was then appointed as the new head of the Profaci family and changed it's name into his own. In 1964 Bonanno was reputedly kidnapped by Magaddino's brother, Antonio, and his son on Parc Avenue. Magaddino kept an air of mystery around the kidnapping. Bonanno also wrote in his autobiography that he and Stefano, although being cousins, were not that fond of eachother. They eventually released Bonanno again after about 6 weeks and he and Magaddino reputidly never talked again. During the time of Bonanno's absence his trustworthy capo and childhood friend Gaspar DiGregorio, was appointed as the new head of the Bonanno family by the commission. Fueled by hatred Bonanno didn't want to leave his position which led to the so called 'bananas war' from 1964 until 1968
. The turmoil ended when Bonanno and his son, who was the family consiglieri, left Brooklyn and retired to Arizona.
Magaddino had never spent any significant time in prison, but in 1968 he and his son Peter Magaddino were arrested and charged with interstate bookmaking. A raid on his sons home led to the discovery of approximately $473,134 in a suitcase. This created much animosity among the Buffalo crime family members and its top leaders in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area and led to a breakdown of their cooperation concerning criminal activities.
Magaddino memorial chapel
By the late 1960s, the aging Magaddino had more and more trouble with keeping his men in line. Capo Sam Pieri felt he deserved the spot of underboss after Fred Randaccio retired but instead Magaddino appointed his son, Peter Magaddino. Many felt Peter was undeserving of that status and started to oppose Magaddino. Pieri gathered an alliance within the organization and slowly the Magaddino family was splitting in half. Frank Valenti also demanded the independancy from Magaddino and by that lost his territory in Rochester (Magaddino however kept on recieving money from Valenti). In july 1969 the opposing Magaddino capo's met up in Rochester to appoint a new leader. Sal Pieri wanted to be recognized as the new boss although the commission still supported Magaddino. In 1974 Magaddino died of natural causes at the age of 82. Given a funeral at a local Roman Catholic church, he was buried in St. Joseph cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York. No other Mafia boss was said to have been present.
(Source: NYtimes 1921 "125 murders now charged to band", NYtimes 1921 "Three more admit death band", "Gangster City" by Patrick Downey, "The origin of organized crime" by David Critchley, "Bonanno, A godfathers story" by Joseph Bonanno,
themobtours.com, World Telegram)