The Lucchese Crime Family

The Lucchese crime family (pronounced Lou-kay-zee) is one of the “Five Families” that dominates organized crime activities in New York City, United States, within the nationwide criminal phenomenon known as the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra).

The family originated in the early 1920s with Gaetano Reina serving as boss up until his murder in 1930. It was taken over by Gaetano Gagliano during the Castellammarese War, and led by him until his death in 1951. The family under Gagliano was peaceful and low key, concentrating their criminal actives in the Bronx, Manhattan and New Jersey. The next boss was Gaetano Lucchese, who turned the family around to became one of the most powerful families to sit on the Commission. Lucchese teamed up with Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino to control organized crime in New York City. When Lucchese died of natural causes in 1967, Carmine Tramunti controlled the family for a brief time; he was arrested in 1973. Anthony Corallo then gained control of the family. Corallo was very secretive and soon became one of the most powerful members of the Commission. He was arrested and tried in the famous Commission case of 1986.

For most of its history, the Lucchese family was reckoned as one of the most peaceful crime families in the nation. However, that changed when Anthony Corallo decided to put Vittorio Amuso in charge of the family. Amuso later promoted one of his longtime partners, Anthony Casso to underboss. They instituted one of the bloodiest reigns in Mafia history, ordering virtually anyone who crossed them to be murdered. Amuso was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison. Several Lucchese wiseguys, fearing for their lives, turned informant. The highest-profile of these was acting boss Alphonse D’ Arco, who became the first boss of a New York crime family to testify against the mob. This led to the arrest of the entire Lucchese family hierarchy, with Casso also becoming a of natural causes in 1967, Carmine Tramunti controlled the family for a brief n informant. Testimony from these informants nearly destroyed the family, though Amuso continues to rule from prison. the family is now run by Steven Crea.

Boss Gaetano Lucchese, during a July 1958 government hearing in Washington, DC After Gagliano’s death in 1951, Lucchese became family boss and appointed Vincenzo Rao as his Consigliere and Stefano LaSalle as his Underboss. Lucchese continued with Gagliano’s policies, making the now Lucchese family one of the most profitable in New York. Lucchese established control over Teamsters union locals, workers’ co-operatives and trade associations, and rackets at the new Idlewild Airport. Lucchese also expanded family rackets in Manhattan’s Garment District and in related trucking industry around New York City. Lucchese built close relations with many powerful New York politicians, including Mayors William O’Dwyer and Vincent Impellitteri and members of the judiciary, who aided the family on numerous occasions. Throughout his regime, Lucchese kept a low profile for which he became lauded in Mafia circles. Remembering how the Mustache Petes treated their soldati like mere commodities, he saw to it that his men were well taken care of.

When Lucchese became boss, he helped Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino in their fights to take control of their families. By 1962, Lucchese and Gambino controlled the Commission. Together they backed the Gallo crew from the rival Profaci family in its war with their boss Joe Profaci. Carlo Gambino and Gaetano Lucchese saw the war as a way to take over rackets from the distracted Profaci’s. After uncovering a plot by Joe Bonanno to assassinate them, Lucchese and Gambino used the Commission to strip Bonanno of his role as boss. This power play started a war within the Bonanno crime family and served to strengthen both the Lucchese and Gambino families.

Lucchese led a quiet, stable life until his death from a brain tumor on July 13, 1967. At the time of his death, he had not spent a day in jail in 44 years. Lucchese left his family in a very powerful position in New York City. The Lucchese family had a stronghold in East Harlem, the Bronx and consisted of about 200 made members. Lucchese intended for longtime capo Anthony Corallo to succeed him. However, since he was imprisoned at the time, he named another longtime capo, Carmine Tramunti, as acting boss until Corallo’s release.

At the time of his appointment as temporary boss, Carmine Tramunti was almost 70 years old and in ill health. With boss-in-waiting Anthony Corallo in prison, Tramunti was expected to hold power until Corallo’s release. Tramunti faced a number of criminal charges during his time as acting boss and was eventually convicted of financing a large heroin smuggling operation, the infamous French Connection. This scheme was responsible for distributing millions of dollars in heroin along the East Coast during the early seventies.

Before the French Connection trail, the seized heroin was stored in the NYPD property/evidence storage room pending trial. In a brazen scheme, criminals stole hundreds of kilograms of heroin worth $70 million from the room and replaced them with bags of flour. Officers discovered the theft when they noticed insects eating the so-called heroin. The scope and depth of this scheme is still unknown, but officials suspect the thieves had assistance from corrupt NYPD officers. Certain plotters received jail sentences, including suchmajor heroin kingpins as Virgil Alessi, Anthony Loria and Vincent Papa (he was later assassinated in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia). Papa’s crew is considered to be the masterminds behind the whole scheme of stealing all the “French Connection” narcotics from the NYPD property room. Although never officially proven, this is considered fact as published in NY Newsday’s Pulitzer Prize winning “The Heroin Trail” and in Gregory Wallace’s book “Papa’s Game” In 1974, after Tramunti’s incarceration, Anthony Corallo finally took charge of the family.