Giosue “The King Of (Harlem’s) Little Italy” Gallucci, 1865 – 1915

Giosue_GallucciGiosue Gallucci (December 10, 1865 in Naples – May 21, 1915 in New York City), also known as Luccariello,  was an old-style crime boss of Italian Harlem in New York City affiliated with the Camorra.

He dominated the area from 1910-1915 and was also known as the undisputed King of Little Italy or The Mayor of Little Italy, partly due to his political connections. He held strict control over the policy game (numbers racket), employing Neapolitan and Sicilian street gangs as his enforcers.

Gallucci was among the most powerful Italians politically in the city. With his ability to mobilize the vote in Harlem and register immigrants, he delivered a significant amount of ballots. He gained virtual immunity from law enforcement through mastery of New York City politics at the Democratic political machine in Tammany Hall that ruled Manhattan virtually unopposed. The fight over the lucrative numbers rackets left behind by Gallucci after his killing in 1915 is known as the Mafia-Camorra War.

Giosue Gallucci was born in Naples (Italy) in 1865 to Luca Gallucci and Antonia Cavallo. He left Italy in July 1886 at the age of 20. In 1891 he moved to New York City, arriving on March 11, 1892, on the SS Werkendam from Rotterdam (The Netherlands). According to an Italian police report he had left Italy on July 24, 1896. A 1862 report from the police in Naples identified a Giuseppe and Giosuè Gallucci as cammoristi, but it is unknown if these were relatives. Rumour had it that Gallucci had killed a man just before coming to New York, but he always denied this.

In April 1898, he was arrested in New York in connection with the murder of Josephine Inselma, who was portrayed as Gallucci’s lover by the police. He was arrested while operating a fruit wagon in the neighbourhood and described as “a young grocer and expressman, with a store at 172 Mott street”. Gallucci said he had no reason to kill the woman and provided an alibi.  The Grand Jury dismissed the charges. New York City Police Department detective Joe Petrosino, who was in charge of the investigation, urged his superiors to inquire for more information in Italy. The police prefect of Naples responded that Giosue Gallucci was “a dangerous criminal, belonging to the category of blackmailers, and for his very bad character was put under special police surveillance and confined to prison. He was charged several times with theft and association with delinquents, and was condemned nine times for theft, outrages, blackmail, lesion, and transgressions of the special police surveillance.”

The criminal background of his brothers Gennaro, Vincenzo and Francesco in Italy was even more impressive. Vincenzo Gallucci was described as a blackmailer who spent two terms in prison and was condemned sixteen times for assault, attempted murder and other crimes. Francesco Gallucci was condemned six times for attempted murder and theft and for assaulting policemen. His brother Vincenzo was murdered in New York on November 20, 1898, supposedly on orders from an Italian “secret society similar to the Mafia” (probably the Neapolitan Camorra). According to Petrosino they were only a sample of more than 1,000 Italian “rascals” from Naples and Sicily who had made New York City their home. They did not attract much attention because, “as a class, they rob their own people, and the Italian scheme of ‘fix it myself’ interferes to throw the police off the scent.”[ Since they had been in the country for more than a year, the Galluccis could not be deported.

Gallucci eventually built various businesses in East Harlem; first in Mulberry Street and later in a three story brick house with a bakery and an attached stable at 318 East 109th Street. He would become the undisputed boss of Little Italy following the imprisonment of the Sicilian-American Black Hand leader Ignazio Saietta on counterfeit charges in 1909. He owned many tenements in the area and controlled the coal and ice business, cobbler shops, the olive oil business and the lottery in the Italian neighbourhoods. He was one of the biggest moneylenders and held strict control over the policy game (numbers racket), employing Neapolitan and Sicilian street gangs as his enforcers; nobody ran numbers without paying tribute to Gallucci.

Gallucci ran what was supposed to be the New York office of the Royal Italian Lottery, which in fact was a front for his own policy game selling thousands of tickets every month throughout Harlem.[6] He ran the lottery from the basement of his home and he had agents in many cities with Italian communities. Every month there was a “grand drawing.” There was only one prize, USD 1,000, but the one who won the prize was almost certainly robbed of the money when it was paid.


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Newspapers at the time wrote about him as a legitimate businessman; the personification of a successful immigrant. He was an imposing man, “a big fellow with a pleasant face and a hearty laugh.” While he paraded through Harlem swinging a loaded cane, he was always immaculately dressed in tailored suits with a magnificently waxed moustache, an expensive USD 2,000 diamond ring and USD 3,000 diamond shirt studs. Gallucci denied the allegations. “My enemies say that I am the head of the ‘Black Hand’ business, that I run the blackmail bomb business and that I own all the lotteries,” Gallucci complained a week before he was killed. “They are wrong. I own bakeries, ice and wood shops, shoe shining and repair shops and similar places, but I am not king of the ‘Black Hand’.”

He gained virtual immunity from law enforcement through mastery of New York City politics at the Democratic political machine in Tammany Hall that ruled Manhattan virtually unopposed, controlling the city’s police and bureaucracy that handed out the construction contracts and licenses. With his ability to mobilize the vote in Harlem and register immigrants, he delivered a significant amount of ballots. According the New York Herald he was “certainly the most powerful Italian politically in the city, and during campaigns was exceptionally active.” His political connections allowed for “a certain measure of immunity from police interference.”

According to Salvatore Cotillo, the first Italian-born Justice of the New York Supreme Court who grew up in Italian Harlem, “to Gallucci all people were either hirelings or payers of tribute. It was a matter of concern in the neighbourhood if you were looked down upon by Gallucci.” When Gallucci was arrested for carrying concealed weapons, Cotillo was asked to testify as a character witness on his behalf, but refused. In doing so the Neapolitan born Cotillo distanced himself from the local underworld that tried to offer him their “services”.

“I have been accused of being interested in horse thieves, blackmailing, extortion from shop keepers, bomb explosions, kidnapping of children and other crimes, including murder,” he allegedly told a reporter of theNew York Herald who claimed to know him. “My enemies are lying. They are jealous of my prosperity. I am blamed for every criminal deed which takes place here, but it is not the truth,” he told the Herald reporter. “Many of the murders down here are the results of quarrels among the blackmailers themselves. They gamble, which leads to fighting, and they dispute the division of spoils. If a leader thinks another is trying to become boss, that man is marked for death.”

His elder brother Gennaro Gallucci (born 1857) was shot dead on November 14, 1909, in the back room of the family bakery. The assissin entered the bakery and yelled for Genaro. When he appeared, he was shot and killed inmediately. His activities as a collector of protection payments had caught the attention of authorities earlier, and he had to leave New York City for a while. Gennaro had arrived in New York in December 1908 from Italy escaping prison after serving 23 years of his life sentence for murdering two men. He lived in East 109th Street with his brother Giosue and sister-in-law Assunta. Soon after his arrival the police received complaints about extortion practices, but when the plaintives were told that they had to confront him in court, they dropped their charges.

When he returned in the late summer of 1909, New York Police captured him on September 20, 1909, while carrying concealed weapons. Immigration officials began efforts to deport him to Italy. However, the courts were unaware of his full criminal background and released him with a suspended sentence. The police believed the killing two months later may have been connected to Gennaro’s black mailing activities. The bakery of the Galluccis had been attacked only a few months before when bullets smashed through the window. Some informants claimed that Giosue Gallucci had been responsible for the killing of his brother in letters that were sent to the police.

In contrast, Gallucci blamed Aniello Prisco – nicknamed “Zopo the Gimp”, a notorious lame and feared gangster from Harlem – for the death of his brother. For the next two years there would be frequent clashes and occasional killings between the rivals. Prisco was the head of a Black Hand gang who accused Gallucci of trespassing on his territory.

A police report from 1917, based on the testimony of the gangster and informer Ralph Daniello, described Gallucci’s position around 1912: “At that time Gallucci controlled different gambling games and he would get a percentage on the sale of stolen horses and peddled artichokes. If anybody would not pay this percentage he would either be assaulted, receive blackmail letters or be killed.” The report continued to explain that a Sicilian faction, including three Morello brothers and the brothers Fortunato and Tomasso Lomonte, cousins of Giuseppe Morello, were “working in conjunction with this Galucci, who at all times had been recognized as king.”

Despite his power and political clout, Gallucci was not immune of Black Hand extortion. He frequently received Black Hand threats and was often shot at and had been wounded many times. In 1911, the gang of Neapolitan “black handers” run by Prisco gunned down several members of Gallucci’s entourage because he refused to make “protection” payments. On December 15, 1912, he retaliated when Prisco was lured in a trap in Gallucci’s bakery shop and shot by Gallucci’s nephew and body guard John Russomano. Russomano was acquitted of the murder because he fired in self-defence.

Gallucci was not only challenged by rival gangsters, but the authorities also closed in responding to the spate of killings, bombings and black-mailings. In July 1913, he was among the over 40 arrests made around Mulberry Bend and upper Harlem to suppress illegal gambling known as the policy game; a charge led by Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy and Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty.  At the time, the police described him as “the leader of the Italian criminals in Harlem” and that “his consent was necessary before anything out of the way could be done in Harlem’s Little Italy.” Speculation about the reason behind the arrests was that it could have been an attempt to smash Gallucci’s vice ring. He was well known for being involved with prostitution rackets and was also known as the King of the White Slavers in the press. He was charged for carrying a concealed weapon, a transgression of the Sullivan Act, but was released on a USD 10,000 bail. The case failed to reach court, a fact that many attributed to his political connections.

According to newspaper reports no one could operate a lottery, a poolroom or a saloon without Gallucci’s permission, although Gallucci denied this. Nevertheless, firm control or not, he was involved in violent disputes with rival gangs. The Neapolitan Del Gaudio brothers, who had connections with the Brooklyn based Navy Street gang, were involved in illegal gambling in East Harlem, but Gallucci allegedly denied them to operate a lottery. Nicolo Del Gaudio, brother to Gaetano, owned of a barber shop on East 104th Street, which had been proposed as a meeting place between Prisco and Gallucci. Nicolo Del Gaudio had tried to kill Gallucci, but failed. He fled from Italian Harlem, but returned in October 1914 and was subsequently killed. The killing was attributed to Gallucci, but no charges were ever made.

Gallucci’s prestige began to wither as the gang war with the remains of Prisco’s old outfit lingered on and he was scrambling to maintain control. Only a week before he was killed, Gallucci had decided to not employ bodyguards anymore when the latest in a row was shot and killed. Being a bodyguard for Gallucci was an unsafe way to make a living as ten of them had found out. The year before Gallucci had been wounded and two of his bodyguards had been killed when he tried to make a collection in a shop in First Avenue. Meanwhile the Morellos had fallen out with Gallucci and had formed an alliance with the Camorra gangs from Brooklyn.

Gallucci foresaw his execution, saying “I know they will get me.”  Rival lotteries were springing up right under his nose. He and his 18-year old son Luca were shot on May 17, 1915, in a coffee shop Gallucci had recently purchased for his son on East 109th Street in Italian Harlem. He was shot through the stomach and neck. In an effort to defend him his son also was shot through the stomach. Fifteen men, mostly friends of Gallucci, were in the coffee shop and some returned fire. The five or six shooters got away and leaped into a waiting escape car around the corner on First Avenue.

His son died the next day in Bellevue Hospital.  The funeral was attended by 5,000 people and accompanied by 800 carriages, 22 carriages were for flowers alone. The funeral Gallucci’s son was the biggest Harlem ever experienced up until that time and possibly the biggest one ever for a member of the underworld. According to reports, the last carriages were leaving the church in Harlem, when the hearse already arrived at the cemetery in Queens.

Giosue Gallucci refused to talk to the police, saying he would settle the case himself, but died three days later in the Bellevue Hospital on May 21, of a bullet wound in the abdomen.[33] Like most underworld killings, Gallucci’s murder remained unsolved. The alleged killers were Gallucci’s former bodyguards Joe ‘Chuck’ Nazzarro and Tony Romano, with the help of Andrea Ricci, of the rival Navy Street gang from Brooklyn.  The money for the hit was probably provided by Coney Island Camorra boss Pellegrino Morano in an effort to take over Gallucci’s rackets.  Nazzaro had a grudge against Galluci, who had not paid his bail when Nazzaro, Galluci and his nephew John Russomano had been arrested for carrying concealed weapons.  He had to spend 10 months in prison. A few weeks before the fatal shooting of Gallucci, Nazzaro had been released. Galluci was asked to buy USD 300 worth of tickets for a racket for Nazarro’s benefit, but Gallucci flatly refused. A week later, he and his son were shot.

His burial was closely guarded by police who feared further gang fights. Several thousand people filed through Gallucci’s apartment to view the remains. Some 10,000 persons blocked East 109th street to witness the last journey of the boss. A rumour went around that the widow of Gallucci was targeted for assassination. The 150 carriages that were expected for the burial procession were reduced to 54 because of fear for hostile demonstrations. The procession was preceded by a 23 strong musical band.  The funeral service was held in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 113th Street and First Avenue. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery.

At the time of his death he held USD 350,000 in real estate and was considered to be a millionaire, according to the New York Herald. In reality Gallucci only left USD 3,402 and the property at 318 East 109 Street, which was subsequently rented out. The lucrative numbers rackets left behind by Gallucci were now free for the taking, and they soon passed over to the Sicilian Morello gang, while the Camorra gangstook over control in Brooklyn. The subsequent fight over those rackets with the Camorra gangs from Brooklyn is known as the Mafia-Camorra War, which eventually would elevate Vincenzo and Ciro Terranova to boss status in the Harlem underworld.

According to some, Don Fanucci, a fictional character appearing in the Mario Puzo novel The Godfather and the film The Godfather Part II, seems to be based on Giosue Gallucci, “the mobster who strolled in East Harlem in expensively tailored suits extorting protection money from everyone in New York’s Italian quarter.” (source).

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