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Charles “Lucky” Luciano - The Truth!

Author: Mark Clifford

Charles “Lucky” Luciano - The Truth!

Book Series: American Gangsters Uncovered


Charles "Lucky" Luciano is one of the most well-known members of the American Mafia. In his lifetime, he rose through the ranks of organized crime to become one of the most powerful underworld figures in New York.

When it comes to Lucky Luciano's life, it's hard to separate the man from the myth. His notoriety makes it impossible to tell which stories are true and which are embellished to add to his legend. And, there are facts we'll never know because crime families don't share their secrets.

Most of what we know about Lucky Luciano comes from sources that had their own agenda. The newspapers wanted to sell papers, and crime sells. The government wanted convictions. His associates and enemies wanted to make themselves look good and maintain a level of secrecy.

So, when it comes to the truth, we need to rely on the words that came from the man himself. Luciano is one of the few original American Mafia members who lived long enough to tell his story.

Luciano came up through the ranks with some of the most well-known gangsters in history including Meyer Lansky, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Frank Costello and even Al Capone. New York's Lower East Side in the early 1900s was a hotbed of criminal activity where gangs ruled.

Immigrants banded together in criminal organizations. Men came to America, from Sicily, in the early 1900s, bringing ties to the Italian Mafia. It is these ties and the traditions that went along with them that led to the creation of the American Mafia.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano and his associates were instrumental in forming the alliances we now know as the New York Mafia. They established the rules and traditions that are still part of this criminal society.


Salvatore Luciana was born to Antonio and Rosalia Luciana on November 24, 1897. They lived in Lercara Friddi, Sicily where Antonio worked in a sulfur mine. The family had four other children Bartolomeo, Ciuseppe, Filippia and Concetta.

In 1907, when Luciano was ten, the family immigrated to the United States. They arrived in New York from Palermo, on a steamship. The year before they arrived, over 273,000 Italians came to America. They all came to America seeking a better life.

The family settled in the Lower East Side of New York City. The Lower East Side was filled with Irish, Italians and Jewish immigrants. The people were poor, most worked as laborers and struggled to make ends meet. Luciano's father found work as laborer, in order to support his family.

The money in the neighborhood was in the hands of the gangs. In the Lower East Side, the Five Points Gang controlled the area with the help of corrupt politicians. The Black Hand, an early version of the Italian Mafia kidnapped and murdered for money and power.

The children of the Lower East Side saw who had the most power and money. They formed their own gangs. Most of them committed petty crimes, like theft. Luciano set up a protection racket. The Jewish kids were often attacked by the Irish and Italian kids. For a fee, he offered his protection. It was during this time that he met, Meyer Lansky, who would become his lifelong associate.

In 1911, Luciano his parents placed him in a secure school, the Brooklyn Truant School. It is there that he continued the criminal education he learned on the street. After four months at the school, he dropped out.

At age 14, Luciano got his first real job. He worked as a shipping clerk and delivery person. This job offered him a legitimate income, which covered up the money he was making as a gang leader.

It was during this time that his relationship with his father soured. At age 14, Luciano bought a gun. When his father found the weapon, he called Luciano's behavior a disgrace to his family. Luciano avoided his father after that time and only maintained contact with his mother.

At first he slept in empty buildings or with friends. Eventually, he moved in with other members of his growing gang. He continued to work his job and run his gang.

At age 18, Luciano was sentenced to eight months in prison. He had been caught delivering heroin to a prostitute who turned out to be a police informant. It was during his time in jail that Salvatore Luciana changed his name to Charles Luciana.

After serving six months in jail, Luciano was paroled. He returned to his shipping job. However, after winning $244, the equivalent of a year's salary, in a floating crap game, he quit.

Luciano had been a member of the Five Points Gang. Through his membership in the gang, he met some of the other young criminals who would go on to become mobsters including Johnny Torrio and Al Capone.


On December 18, 1917, the U.S. Senate proposed the Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting the sale, production, transportation and importation of alcoholic beverages. On January 16, 1919, the amendment became part of the Constitution. On January 17, 1920, Prohibition began; the country went dry.

The ban on alcohol did not lessen the demand. Criminals saw prohibition as the perfect opportunity to make money. In New York, the gangs controlled the supply of alcohol. Speakeasies popped up throughout the city.

By this time, the Five Points Gang broke up. Luciano, Turrio and Capone each started their own gangs. It was at this time Luciano renewed his association with Meyer Lansky.

Meyer Lansky was born Maier Suchowljonsky in 1902. He was a Polish Jew and was the head of his own gang. His partner was Bennie "Bugsy" Siegel. They ran a muscle for hire protection racket. They would protect bootleggers from highjackers or highjack the bootleggers who didn't pay.

Luciano and Lansky's gang clashed, at some point, with soldiers of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Masseria recruited Luciano, but because he hated Jews, he would not work with Lansky.

Masseria was the head of one of the local gangs. He was a Sicilian who came to America to escape murder charges in Italy. Masseria had assumed power over his gang after the death of Nick Morello. Morello's people did not like this.

On August 9, 1922, Masseria was arriving home when he was ambushed by two gunmen. Despite being at close range, Masseria was able to evade the gunmen as they shot at him. When they ran out of bullets; they fled.

The gunmen were Morello's people. Masseria set up a meeting with Umberto Valenti, one of the gunmen. Instead of meeting to talk piece, Masseria set them up. The gunfight that ensued claimed the life of an eight-year-old girl and a street cleaner. Valenti was killed by a gunman rumored to be Luciano.

Luciano continued to work for Masseria but wanted to learn more about the business. Luciano eventually left Masseria and began working for Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein.

Rothstein's father was a business owner who legally worked his way out of the Lower East Side. Rothstein did not want to join the family textile business; he was a gambler. His gambling led him to criminal enterprises, including setting up organized gambling dens.

Rothstein saw prohibition as an opportunity to gain money and power. Rothstein did not want to be in the limelight and was very good at cultivating the talents of those around him. Rothstein was best known as the man who tried to fix the 1919 World Series.

Rothstein took Luciano under his wing. He taught him how to avoid the limelight. He taught Luciano how to dress and socialize with the wealthy.

In the 1920's, Luciano worked for Masseria running his gambling rackets. He also did protection and ran narcotics. Jack Diamond, a bootlegger and Rothstein's bodyguard, recruited Luciano for his hijacking and protection business. Diamond also recruited Dutch Schultz for the business.

Eventually, Diamond's hijacking racket, caused problems for other mobsters. Rothstein gave approval for one of the mobsters to "handle" Diamond. Diamond survived several attacks on his life. Although others warned him off, Luciano maintained a close relationship with Diamond.

In 1923, Luciano was arrested for selling narcotics to an undercover officer. In order to get released, he snitched, on himself. He sent the police to one of his stash houses, and they found over $150,000 worth of drugs and money. He was released.

Even though he only ratted on himself, others saw him as a possible informer, which was tarnishing his reputation. To get back in good favor with the gangsters and politicians, Luciano purchased 200 seats to the Luis Firpo - Jack Dempsey fight. He spent the night getting back in their good favor.

It was around this time that Luciano renewed his association with Mayer Lansky. Luciano respected Lansky's business skills. Lansky also began an association with Rothstein at this time.

The main problem that arose was the older Sicilians, like Masseria, did not like the Jews. They were constantly fighting each other. This led Lansky and Seigel to highjack a shipment of English Whiskey that belonged to Masseria. Although Masseria knew Lansky was responsible, he did nothing so that he did not jeopardize his association is Luciano.

By now, Luciano and his partners were running a million dollar bootlegging operation. They were importing English whiskey from Europe, Canada, and the Caribbean. Luciano also ran a narcotics business with Rothstein who used his connections in Europe to import drugs. With Rothstein moving away from the bootlegging business, Masseria saw this as a chance for the Mafia to step in. Luciano returned to Masseria's crew.

On November 2, 1928, Rothstein was killed. It is rumored that he was shot over a gambling debt. After his death, Luciano was one of the first people to enter Rothstein's apartment. Rothstein kept records of all the transactions he conducted, including bribed, payoffs and deals. Luciano took all the papers he needed to protect himself and information on his rivals.


After Rothstein's death, Luciano rejoined Masseria. He quickly became a top aide. Luciano and many of the other mobsters saw Masseria as an uneducated hoodlum with bad manners and lacking business skills.

Masseria had a rival. Salvatore Maranzano was a Sicilian who arrived in American in 1925. He was an educated man who spoke Latin and he dressed and behaved like a businessman. He was the polar opposite of Masseria when it came to social skills and sophistication.

Although trained as a priest, Maranzano had become a member of the Mafia while living in Sicily. As Benito Mussolini and the Fascists seized power in Italy, then began making life difficult for the Mafia. Many Mafiosi fled the country to avoid being jailed or harassed.

Maranzano was also interested in making money in America. He had close ties to the Sicilian Mafia and knew a few Mafiosi in America. Maranzano came from a town called Castellammare Del Golfo; this was also the birthplace of Joe Aiello and Joseph Bonanno. The people from that town formed their own communities and joined together to form their own Mafia family.

The problem between Maranzano and Masseria was aggravated by the fact that Maranzano did not want to pay a commission to Masseria for the bootlegging business he was running. Masseria and Maranzano were both Mustache Petes. The old style mobster, trained in the Sicilian tradition. They were both criminals when they arrived in America. They did not want to work with non-Italians and often refused to work with anyone who wasn't from their particular village in Sicily.

Luciano and his contemporaries were called the Young Turks. They honed their criminal skills on the streets of America. The Young Turks did not follow the rules and traditions of the Sicilian Mafia, which led to conflicts. Young Turks often worked with Irish and Jewish gangsters.

It wasn't long after setting up his business, that Maranzano approached Luciano. While Luciano respected the man's business sense, he did not want to be part of the old-style Mafia family. Also, Luciano knew Maranzano hated Jewish gangsters. And, at that time Lansky and the other Jews were an important part of Luciano's crew.

Lansky advised Luciano to not tie himself too closely with either of the bosses. Lansky and Luciano instead focused on what Rothstein had taught them, to make money and build power.

In 1928, Maranzano and Masseria went to war. The Castellammarese War lasted until 1931. By the end of the war, both bosses were dead. During the war, Luciano and the other Young Turks saw how the bosses' were greedy and stuck in a tradition that kept them from earning as much money as the Jewish and Irish gangsters.

In October 1929, Luciano was kidnapped, beaten, stabbed and left for dead on a beach in Staten Island. They never found the culprits. Luciano carried a scar and droopy eye as a constant reminder of the attack.

It was rumored that Maranzano ordered this attack. Others believe the police attacked Luciano in an effort to learn the whereabouts of his former associate Jack Diamond. Diamond was on the run and Luciano often let his friends use his property to hide.

Luciano managed to stay out of the Castellammarese War. On February 2, 1931, Luciano was arrested for assault. After his release, Maranzano approached him to ask for his help in eliminating Masseria. In March 1931, Luciano and Vito Genovese met with Maranzano and Joseph Bonanno.

On April 15, 1931, Masseria was having lunch with Luciano and two associates. After the meal, Luciano went to the restroom. Masseria was dead. The hitmen were rumored to have been Luciano's men - Bugsy Siegel, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis and Vito Genovese.

After Masseria's death Maranzano held a meeting of all of his Mafiosi. At this meeting he declared himself the Capo Di Tutti Capi or the Boss of Bosses. The New York gangs were divided into five families headed by Luciano, Bonanno, Joseph Profaci, Vincent Mangano and Tom Gagliano. Vito Genovese became Luciano's underboss.

Maranzano was the head of the New York Mafia, but he was already making an enemy of Luciano. The way Maranzano treated Lansky was a sore spot for Luciano. Lansky was an old friend of Luciano and a valued business associate. Word had also got to Luciano that Maranzano had a list of undesirable mobsters. Luciano, Capone, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis and Dutch Schultz were all on the list.

Luciano knew Maranzano was going to order a hit on him, and the others. Luciano had Lansky and Seigel recruit Jewish gangsters for the job. They went to Maranzano's office pretending to be Internal Revenue Agents. Maranzano had told his bodyguards to remain unarmed because he was expecting the IRS to visit for an audit. Maranzano was taken to another room where he was stabbed and shot to death.


With the death of Maranzano, Luciano became on the top crime bosses. His crime family controlled the Manhattan Waterfront and the Garment Center businesses. He was influential in the union and labor activities, including garbage hauling and trucking. His family had its hand in loan-sharking, illegal gambling, extortion, bookmaking and drug trafficking.

With the Mustache Pete leaders gone, the Young Turks were in control. Many of the old rules were discarded in favor of making money and building connections to other gangsters. There were still Mustache Petes in the Mafia, including Bonanno; however, they did not try to exert control over the families.

The one tradition that was maintained was the ceremony that made a soldier into a "made-man." The ceremony welcomed the soldier into the crime family. Luciano thought it should be done away with, feeling it was old-fashioned.

Lansky persuaded Luciano to keep the ceremony in place. Lansky believed the young soldiers in the crime family, needed something to aspire to. The ceremony and rituals surrounding it would instill obedience to the crime family and the oath of silence they lived by.

In order to keep the peace among the families, the Boss of Bosses title was done away with. Instead, Luciano helped to set up the commission of the top Mafiosi.

When he came to power Luciano kept the Five Families that Maranzano put in place. The Commission included the heads of the Five Families - Luciano, Profaci, Bonanno, Gagliano, and Mangano. The other two members were Capone, the boss of Chicago and Ciccio Milano, the Boss of Cleveland.

The Commission was set up as a way to handle disputes among the families. The Commission decided who controlled the different territories. This reduced the number of disputes between leaders. Luciano helped the Commission to provide a way to handle disputes without gang wars.

Over time, the Commission would include the Bosses of several crime families across the country, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Kansas City and Detroit. There would also be representation for the Irish and Jewish gangsters in New York.

The Commission was set up to provide each member with an equal amount of power and one vote on each matter put on the table. However, there were some families that had more power than others.

The first test of the Commission's power and will to get things done was in 1935. Dutch Schultz was a crime boss. He wanted to murder Thomas Dewey, a Special Prosecutor who was hounding many of the Mafiosi.

Dewey was the U.S. Attorney for New York. He had been working in the U.S. Attorney's office since 1931 and had latched onto the activities of Dutch Schultz. He set his investigators on Schultz and Waxey Gordon to find evidence of tax evasion. Gordon was eventually convicted and sent to prison in 1933. Schultz knew he was going to be next.

Luciano and others knew assassinating Dewey would cause law enforcement to crackdown on organized crime. Even the politicians and officials they had in their pocket would not be able to protect them if they ordered this hit. Luciano had sent his men out to see if an assassination was possible. It was determined that it was too dangerous.

Even though he Commission was against the assassination, Shultz decided to go on with his plans. He wanted to kill Dewey or at least get his assistant David Asch. Within three days of announcing the hit, the Commission arranged for Schultz to be murdered. Schultz was killed on October 24, 1935.

Luciano and the other Young Turks wanted to run their crime families like businesses. They tried to settle their disputes through negotiations. They held meetings with their associated to try to settle matters. If that didn't work, then they would revert back to the old way of doing things, with guns and violence.

Luciano maintained connections with many New York politicians. The gangsters generally supported Democratic candidates. Luciano, Lansky, and Costello even attended the Democratic convention in Chicago.

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression. The country was suffering. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. Three weeks after he assumed office, Roosevelt amended the Volstead Act so that certain kinds of alcoholic beverages could be manufactured.

The end of 1933 saw the end of Prohibition and the end of the lucrative mob bootlegging operations. Luciano and many of the other mobsters knew this would happen eventually and had prepared for it.

In May 1933, a national convention of mobsters took place in New York. Citing the jailing of Al Capone the year before, Torrio argued that organized crime needed to be more secretive. He called on the others to stop their shock and awe tactics and stay out of the limelight.

Luciano urged the others to work together in a national syndicate. Each territory would belong to a leading gang. He stressed that nationality did not matter, any gang Irish, Jewish or Italian could make their way to the top. Disputes would be handled by a national syndicate so the dispute did not erupt into war.

The gangs would give permissions to other gangs to conduct business in their territory. Assets, such as political favors or muscle could be provided. The gangs would owe debts, which would be repaid. Some territories would remain open such as Nevada and Cuba because many families owned gambling establishments in these cities.

Luciano was able to get many of the gangsters to agree. With Lansky working with him, the Jewish gangsters felt comfortable that Luciano was not going to push them out in favor of the Italians. Lansky was one of Luciano's leading advisors and an expert in handling money. He invested wisely and helped the Mafia's money grow.

While Luciano maintained his business interested and tried to maintain peace, he knew muscle was needed to keep him and his interests safe. His muscle was provided by Murder, Inc. This group of gangsters was headed by Albert Anastasia and Joe Adonis. Both men worked with Luciano in his original gang.

Murder Inc. was made up of ruthless gunmen who executed contracts for their bosses. Since they had not relationship or interest in the people they killed, they could not be linked to the crime. Unfortunately, bystanders, witnesses, and fringe criminals were often killed when they assassinated a mob member.


In the 1930,'s the political climate in New York had changed. Some of the new politicians did not have ties to the Mafia. These politicians went after the criminals with all of their resources. Fiorello La Guardia, the new Mayor of New York City went so far as to call Luciano, Public Enemy Number One.

In June 1935, Governor Herbert Lehman appointed Thomas Dewey as special prosecutor to combat organized crime in New York City. It was during his investigations that Dewey and his assistant David Asch found a way to attack Luciano.

Luciano had continued his criminal business ventures as he had done before. In the early 1930s he began a small-scale prostitution ring. Soon, he had control of a large percentage of the prostitution racket. His power and influence helped him pull many of the madams and bookers under his organization. The prostitution network was Dewey's means of attack.

Luciano had a network of police and politicians who were able to keep many of his prostitutes out of jail. However, over time the people in the prostitution ring would use his name to get themselves out of trouble. This linked him to the brothels and would eventually be used against him in court.

On February 2, 1936, Dewey had the police raid brothels in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Over 200 locations were raided, and arrests were made. Usually, the people arrested in this type of raid were released. However, Dewey made them go to court and had the judge set the bail at $10,000 each. This was more than any of them could afford.

Within a month, several of those arrested implicated Luciano as the leader of the prostitution ring. They stated that he was the person who made collections. While Luciano was in command of the operation, David Petillo was the person who handled the day to day operations, including collecting the money to deliver to Luciano.

Many of the women and men in the prostitution ring were forced into it. Threats and intimidation kept them from leaving. The women were shuttled from one hotel to another, sold back and forth between bookers, who then sold them to men. These women were mistreated and abused, and had no way of protecting themselves.

By the time, Dewey was ready to make an arrest he had hundreds of witnesses, many of them still in jail. Dewey had over sixty-five boxes of evidence that was used to indict Luciano and twelve others. The newly enacted "Dewey Law" would allow prosecutors to combine similar offenses into a single indictment which would carry a heavier penalty than if the person were charged with each individual crime.

With an arrest pending, in April of 1936, Luciano fled New York. He ended up in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Unfortunately, he was spotted and Dewey was notified of his location. Luciano was quickly arrested but was able to find a "friendly judge" who set his bail at $5,000. He was released a few hours later.

Dewey was able to convince a judge to re-arrest Luciano and begin extradition proceedings. Luciano was arrested and charged with 60 counts of compulsory prostitution. Luciano's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to block his extradition to New York.

The justice system in Hot Springs was controlled by organized crime. When the Arkansas Attorney General Carl E. Baily arrived to take custody of Luciano, the sheriff refused to hand him over. The governor had to send Arkansas state rangers, armed with machine guns to invade the prison. Luciano was moved to the state capital, and his bail was set at $200,000.

His associates attempted to bribe Bailey with $50,000. Bailey refused the money and reported the attempted bribe. After exhausting all of their legal and not so legal options, Luciano was sent back to New York to stand trial. Luciano arrived in New York on April 18, where he was held without bail, until his bail hearing.

On paper, Luciano lived a simple life. He earned about $22,000 per year according to the IRS. Records showed that he lived with his parents in their modest apartment. However, this information did not match the extravagant lifestyle Luciano lived.

Dewey showed the judge a list of the criminal enterprises Luciano controlled or were connected to and asked that bail be set at $350,000. Dewey’s public revelation that Luciano had control of more money than his claim of only having $22,000 income and that he ran a national criminal enterprise prompted the judge to agree with Dewey's bail recommendation.

Luciano's trial began on May 11, 1936 at the state Supreme Court building. Armed policeman surrounded the building carrying machine guns and tear gas. Snipers were positioned in the area, on alert for a mob attack. Two days later, the jury was in place, and the trial began.

Dewey let the jury know that their case was weak due to the types of people they had for witnesses. He openly admitted that many of the people stood to be indicted if they did not testify. He explained that many of the people were criminals. He also told the jury that these were the only people that could be used to prove his case against Luciano.

Three of the defendants, bookers, plead guilty and turned, giving evidence against the others. As witnesses, they were not reliable because their testimony was gaining them leniency and transfer to a prison where the Mob would not be able to have them murdered.

The best witnesses in the trial were the madams and prostitutes. They showed how they had been exploited and abused. The prostitutes placed Luciano in the center of the operation, as their boss.

Luciano's defense was that he did not know any of the other defendants except for Petillo. However, hotel and restaurant staff testified that he had been seen in the company of the others. One of the defendants claimed that Dewey had tried to get him to lie on the stand in order to get a conviction for Luciano.

Luciano explained that he ran a legal gaming business in Saratoga, a fact that was backed up by witnesses. On cross-examination, Dewey went through Luciano's criminal record. Dewey got Luciano to admit he worked as a bootlegger and owned a restaurant at one time. Dewey was able to rattle Luciano when he brought up his narcotics conviction, and the fact that he led the police to a stash house.

Luciano's biggest problem was when it came to his income. He claimed that he did not keep records of his income but was sure that he earned $22,000 and paid taxes based on his conscience. His testimony about his income and his relationship with other mobsters showed him to be a liar.

The defense attorneys tried to make the jurors question Dewey's methods and the reliability of the witnesses. Because Dewey had handled this issue in the beginning of the trial, their closing arguments were not effective. Dewey, on the other hand, closed powerfully explaining that these people had to be forced to testify knowing what had happened to those who "squeal."

On June 7, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty on all counts. On June 18, Judge Phillip J. McCook handed down his sentence, thirty to fifty years. While Luciano had been prepared to be found guilty, the lengthy sentence was shocking.

Dewey continued to collect evidence in preparation for a possible appeal. In addition to the threat of new evidence, Dewey also had the option of going after Luciano for tax evasion if he ever decided to try to get out of jail.

Luciano was sent to Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and then moved to Clinton Correctional Facility. At Clinton, Dave Petillo was able to prepare special meals for Luciano. Luciano was also able to build a church in the prison.

During his time in prison, Luciano was still able to control some elements of his criminal organization. Lansky was still managing the money and made sure Luciano got his cut. Vito Genovese took over the crime family. However, Dewey went after Genovese for a murder that occurred in 1934. Genovese fled New York and went back to Italy, where he set up a drug-smuggling operation.

Costello took over the business. Dewey was not pursuing a case against Louis Lepke for drug smuggling. Luciano and Costello agreed to have Lepke turn himself over to the FBI. Lepke was sentenced to 14 years and was eventually executed for a murder.

Luciano exhausted his appeals. His legal team had no other options left. Luciano resigned himself to a life in prison, working in the prison laundry.


The Italian crime families had ties to Italy. Many of the leaders were born there. Many, like Joe Bonanno, lived there, until the Fascist regime of Mussolini forced them to leave. Therefore, it was no surprise that when the Fascists started causing trouble on the streets of New York, the Mafia intervened.

As international political tensions increased, New York became a hotbed of political action. The Nazis had been growing as an organization over the years. Within a few years of starting, they had hundreds of thousands of members.

The Nazis held rallies and demonstrations. They even put up a candidate to run for president. The Jewish establishment viewed this open support of the Nazis as an issue requiring a response, a violent response.

Judge Nathan Perlman contacted Mayer Lansky for his assistance. In 1935, Lansky was offered legal and financial assistance if he were willing to take on the Nazi Bund. Lansky gladly accepted.

Lansky and the Jewish mobsters attacked the Nazis wherever they went. Lansky found himself in the spotlight, something he had avoided. In addition, over time the publicity for these attacks was turning negative. Luckily in 1939, Fritz Kuhn leader of the Bund was arrested and jailed for stealing party funds. The organization disbanded two years later.

Lansky saw his efforts as a victory in more ways than one. He was successful in his fight against the Nazis. But, more importantly he discovered that in an effort to stop Anti-American forces, there were people in the government who were willing to work with mobsters. He saw that as an opportunity that might help get his long-time friend, Luciano, out of jail.

It was the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, that changed things for Luciano. By then he had been in prison for over five years. In the first six months after America entered the war, the Germans put pressure on transatlantic shipping. U-Boats were sinking ships that were close to American shores. On February 9, 1942, the Normandic, a troopship, sank while it was moored in the Hudson River.

A fire broke out on the ship. Even though the fire was eventually brought under control, it was too late. The ship was already listing dangerously. Soon it went under. Witnesses claimed the fire started because of sparks from a torch. However, naval intelligence feared that the enemy had infiltrated the docks.

Four months later, eight German saboteurs were arrested by the FBI in New York and Chicago. They were brought to America and dropped on American shores by German submarines. In September, the New York Times claimed a Japanese naval officer had been masquerading as an engineering inspector. U.S. Naval Intelligence was concerned about the possibility of sabotage on the piers and docks.

Naval intelligence contacted the New York District Attorney's office and put them in contact with the lawyer for Frank Lanza whose gang controlled the Fulton Fish Market. Frank agreed to help and was able to assist the agents in getting union cards so that they could work on the docks.

Lanza was reporting to Lansky. Lanza had been indicted, and many of the people believed he was doing this for himself. Lanza asked Lansky to take him to see Luciano knowing that with Luciano's blessing, he would have less trouble from the people on the waterfront.

It is generally believed that this entire situation, including the sinking of the Normandic was set up by Luciano, Lansky and Costello in order to get Luciano out of prison.

By this time, Naval Intelligence wanted to set up a network of informants. They needed someone to get the Italian fisherman to report suspicious activity. They approached Lansky, who arranged for a meeting with Luciano. However, because of the weather, they would not be able to travel to the prison. Instead, Luciano was transferred to Great Meadow Correctional Facility on May 12, 1942.

Lansky visited Luciano and explained the deal the government had made up. There could not be a guaranteed offer, however, they would try to cut time off of his sentence. Lansky and Costello both agreed Luciano should help with the war efforts. Luciano only had one request that his actions be kept secret, in case he ever had to return to Italy.

Luciano feared that if his work for the government were known, and he was deported while the Fascists were in power, he may be executed. Even if the Fascists were overthrown; he could still be lynched for breaking the Mafia code of silence.

Luciano, Costello, and Lansky put their efforts into keeping the New York harbors free from German U-Boats. While Naval Intelligence dealing with the mobsters at first may have had their doubts, many became realists. They understood the function of Naval Intelligence was to prevent events from occurring, and they needed to use all the tools available, even those that were part of the underworld.

Members of Naval Intelligence knew that in addition to helping with the war efforts, Luciano was also regaining his power as a mob leader. Lansky was not only passing along government information when he visited Luciano, he was also bringing news about their criminal empire.

In February 1943, Luciano requested a reduction in his sentence. Judge McCook the same man who sentenced him originally, denied his request. He did offer some hope by stating that if Luciano continued to work with the government in the war effort and remain a model prisoner then he may be eligible for clemency in the future.

When the Allies began planning their invasion of Italy, Naval Intelligence in New York asked for help from the mobsters again. They were able to get information about the coastline and major landing points from the men who worked as smugglers when they lived in Sicily. Luciano recommended the people who were the best choices to provide information.

The final plan for the invasion of Sicily involved integrating Sicilian-Americans onto the island to lead revolts against the Fascists. The Mafia was the best starting point for these activities. It was Mussolini's heavy-handed tactics that led many Mafiosi to flee Italy and move to America.

The invasion took place on July 9, 1943 and was successful. The Mafia assisted the Allies in locating and attacking enemy strongholds. The Allies were victorious. Even though Luciano had no direct impact on the Sicilian campaign, he was rewarded for his assistance.

Thomas Dewey was now the Governor of New York. On January 3, 1946, he commuted Luciano's sentence. The only condition was that Luciano did not resist deportation back to Italy. While Luciano maintained that he was an American Citizen, he accepted the deal.

On February 2, 1946, Luciano was taken to Ellis Island for deportation proceedings. That evening he met with Lansky, Costello, Anastasia, Sigel, Morretti, Adonis, Tommy Lucchese and Stefano Magaddino. They had a meal with Champagne and showgirls from the Copacabana Club - although this was denied by the FBI.

His ship the freighter Laura Keene, left Brooklyn on February 10, 1946. Seventeen days later, he was in Naples. According to the terms of his deportation if he ever stepped foot in America again he would be deemed an escaped convict and would be forced to serve the balance of his sentence.


After arriving in Naples on February 28, 1946, Luciano visited the local police station to report that he would be leaving Naples and going to Sicily to stay with relatives.

In Sicily, he visited his hometown of Lercara Friddi. People crowded the street. There was a feast cooked by the local women. Here people treated him as they would one of the Mustache Petes, bowing and kissing his hand. This was the very thing he had not wanted when he was in New York.

Luciano distributed money and donated the funds to build a cinema so that the people in his village could watch movies. IT did not take long for Luciano to grow restless in his new home. He missed his life in the U.S. and his friends.

Luciano knew that with him deported it would not take long for the other mobsters, including Genovese to move in on his territory. He also missed all the pleasure of the life that he had missed while in jail.

In July 1946, the FBI received word that Luciano was staying in Tijuana, Mexico. At that time, a person could enter the U.S. from Tijuana without a tourist card or permit. The tip came from a newspaper store that was based on an AP story saying that Luciano had attained passage on a freighter heading for Mexico.

The FBI could not locate Luciano in Mexico or in Italy. In February 1947, Luciano was spotted in Havana Cube. He was traveling under the name of Salvatore Lucania with a visa he received from a Cuban congressman.

Meyer Lansky had been pursuing business interests in the area since the 1930s, which made it the perfect place for Luciano. Lansky set up a gambling operation in Cuba. The money collected from other mobsters went to the leader of Cuba Fulgencio Batista who promised to protect their casino and racetrack. The Hotel National and Oriental Park Racetrack were the only two places in Cuba that offered legal gambling.

It is believed that Luciano moved to Cuba so that he could be closer to America and could resume control over his criminal operations.

A reporter wrote a story about Frank Sinatra at the casino. The same paper claimed Luciano was at the casino with Frank Sinatra and Al Capone's brother Ralph. According to gossip columnist Robert Ruark, Sinatra spent four days in Havana in the company of Luciano and other high-rolling gamblers.

Sinatra gave a concert that was, in fact, a welcome home party for Luciano. Many Mafiosi from America traveled to Cuba; he received envelopes of cash, paying allegiance to him. Lansky, Costello, Anastasia, Adonis, Profaci, Bonanno, and Genovese were all present.

It was at this meeting that Luciano and Lansky discussed a problem they were having with Bugsy Siegel. Siegel has been given money to build a luxury hotel and casino in Las Vegas. However, the project was not complete and Siegel had gone over the budget by millions.

Siegel had been a long-time friend of Lansky and had been an associate of Luciano from the beginning. However, they could not excuse their disregard for Siegel allowing his girlfriend Virginia Hill to skim money, especially mob money. Lansky and Luciano knew that there was no way to save Siegel.

Luciano and the other mobsters also discussed the heroin trade and the Cuban gambling businesses. During this meeting of mobsters, Luciano had a private meeting with Vito Genovese. Genovese had been Luciano's underboss in the early days of the Commission when the Five Families were formed. However, there was always a rivalry.

Tensions grew between them when Genovese ran to Italy during the war. He began working with the Fascists. Genovese ordered a hit on an anti-Fascist newspaper journalist, which had been thwarted. Luciano did not trust Genovese. Genovese had been cleared of the charges that had led to him leaving America and was not once again running the business.

Because of this publicity the Cuban secret police picked up Luciano for questioning. The secret police allowed the FBI to interrogate Luciano. He admitted that he had worked with Naval Intelligence during the war. The FBI had not like being in the dark about the association between the navy and the mobsters.

At this time, there were reports of illegal gambling tactics at the casino. People were complaining that the games were fixed. There were rumors of politicians being involved in the illegal gambling. There were also reports of politicians having a connection with Luciano and the Mob.

The Cuban government feared that Luciano would begin smuggling narcotics into the country. The FBI also believed Luciano might set up an illegal narcotics business in Cuba. On February 22, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics issued a warning to Cuban officials that if Luciano stayed in the country, they would stop all shipments of legal narcotics to the county.

Luciano agreed to leave Cuba and returned to Italy. There was no proof that Luciano was trying to traffic narcotics. Although many supported the decision to deport Luciano, they did not like the tactics used by America to get the Cuban government to take action.

Twelve years later, the government of Cuba was overthrown by the Communist Revolution led by Fidel Castro. The Mafia lost all of its holdings in Cuba, as Castro secured all holdings belonging to foreigners. This cut significantly into Luciano's investment income.

On May 20, 1947, Luciano left Cuba on the SS Bakir. The FBI sent messages to the embassies of each South American country warning them not to allow Luciano into their country.

When Luciano arrived in Italy, he spent nine days in a Genoa jail before being sent back to Palermo under escort. In Palermo, he spent another nine days in Jail. When he was released, he moved to Rome.


Luciano spent the rest of his life in Italy with the Italian police monitoring his location.

Luciano was arrested in Rome in July 1949. He was suspected of being involved in shipping narcotics to New York. In June, an Italian-American named Vincent Trupia was caught trying to smuggle cocaine onto a plane bound for New York.

Officials in Rome searched his apartment without success. He spent a week in jail before he was released. He did not get charged, but he was banned from visiting Rome for the next three years. So, he moved to Naples.

Luciano was monitored constantly, and nothing was found linking him to criminal activity. In July of 1951, police in Naples questioned him about bringing thousands in cash and a new car into Italy illegally. He was questioned for over 20 hours before being released without being charged.

In 1952, Luciano's Italian passport was revoked. The Italian government did this based on complaints from Canadian and U.S. officials. This basically made it impossible for him to travel abroad.

Giovanni Florita was the head of the local police in Naples. He wanted to ban Luciano from Naples as they had done in Rome. His request was denied by his superiors. So, Florita took away his driving privileges and instituted limits on Luciano's freedom.

In November of 1954, limits were placed on Luciano by the Italian judicial commission in Naples. He had to report to the police station every Sunday and be in his home each night. He was also restricted to Naples and could only leave if he had police permission. The reasons for these restrictions were his involvement with the narcotics trade.

While Luciano may have been involved in illegal activities, it was not at the level that the FBI, The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) or Italian police were implying. Luciano did not have the same level of power and respect in Italy that he had in America.

If Luciano had the power that they implied then, he would have been able to use it to keep the low-level police officials at bay. There were even rumors that a low-level Mafiosi slapped Luciano in the middle of the street. Although the man was killed soon after, the insult was apparent. Some Italian Mafiosi had no respect for the former New York Mob boss.

However, the New York crime families did not forget Luciano. In June and July of 1949, Meyer Lansky, and his new wife visited Italy on vacation. Lansky claimed his visit with Luciano was not planned and was accidental. He had lunch with Luciano, and they talked, but not about business according to Lansky.

In 1950, Luciano began receiving regular phone calls several times per week from high-ranking Mafiosi, like Frank Costello and Joe Adonis. They spoke about business, and these calls lasted around 20-30 minutes.

Luciano was also receiving his share of the profits. Joe Biondi had been taking money to Luciano in Italy. It is rumored that Luciano was receiving over $25,000 per month. This was the money that Luciano was using to live on. Because of the cash sent by Costello, Luciano did not need to sell narcotics to survive.

Despite the police's constant intrusions into his criminal life, Luciano was still able to expand the U.S. narcotics trade. In October 1957, there was a meeting of 30 Sicilian and American Mafia leaders. They created a plan that detailed how they would smuggle and distribute heroin in the United States.

The conference was held at the Grand Hotel et Des Palmes. Joe Bonanno, Frank Garogalo, Carmine Galente and Don Giuseppe Denco Russo were in attendance. Many doubt Luciano would have attended the meeting, because of the surveillance on him. However, it is believed that Bonanno may have met with Luciano in order to formulate a plan.

His plan was to have the Sicilians hand the distribution while the Americans collected a fee. He also planned on expanding the market for heroin and cocaine by reducing prices to make it more affordable for the working class communities.

Bonanno and the American mobsters wanted to shift drug trafficking over to the Sicilians in order to protect themselves. The narcotics arrests were making decimating their numbers. People were getting hefty sentences for dealing drugs.

While Luciano may have lost most of his power, he still had powerful friends. His friends held him in high regard. However, his high profile and the government's insistence on portraying him as an all-powerful criminal mastermind made it impossible for them to work with him.


In May 1950, congressional hearings were held on organized crime. During the yearlong hearing, over six hundred witnesses were called, including Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello.

When the hearings were over the committee determined that an international crime organization existed in America led by Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Joe Adonis. They also found that Charles "Lucky" Luciano was the international head of this organization.

Most of these assertions came from evidence provided by the FBN. The evidence was questionable and never led to any changes against Luciano in Italy. Since Luciano was not allowed in the country, he was not able to refute these charges personally.

One point that became an issue for the other Mafiosi called up to speak during the hearing was their link to Luciano. Although they rarely saw him and did not have much contact with him, the congressman insisted Luciano was the criminal mastermind of the Mafia.

The hearing showed the links between the corrupt politicians and the Mafia. This publicity made it impossible for Frank Costello to have the cozy relationship he once had with high-ranking political figures. This reduced the power he had significantly.

Truthfully the power that Luciano and the Young Turks held had been declining over the years. Their businesses were built on their friendships, but those close ties were put in danger when it came to money.

Bugsy Siegel's money losses in Las Vegas cost him his life. Frank Costello had to cover himself when he took partial blame for some of the losses. He was forced to retire as head of the Commission until he could pay the Five Families back for their lost investment.

The new powerbroker in the Mafia was Vito Genovese. Genovese had been one of the Young Turks and was one of the men who helped to kill Joe the Boss. When Costello stepped down in order to repay his debt to the other families, Vito Genovese became the head of the Commission.

Luciano did not trust Genovese. He knew Lansky and Costello would support him and make sure things operated correctly. But Genovese was causing tension within the families because of his maneuvering.

Genovese made his moves against Costello. He brought in Carlo Gambino. The first casualty was Willie Moretti, a friend to Costello and Luciano. He had advanced syphilis and rambled incessantly.

Although he did not give any information away about the Mafia in the hearings, he kept talking to the press. On October 4, 1951, Moretti was killed. Since Costello was Moretti's protector, this was an announcement to all that Costello's had lost his power.

The hearings had already cost Costello a significant amount of power because he was no longer an invisible force. He was charged on two occasions with contempt of Congress. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail. Then he was sentenced to five years for tax evasion.

Genovese used his absence to seize more control over the Mafia. Costello needed a new enforcer after the death of Moretti and called in Albert Anastasia, another old-time friend of Costello and Luciano.

Anastasia brought heat down on the mob when he ordered a "hit" on a salesman Arnold Schuster because the man boasted about being a witness to a robbery. Genovese used Anastasia's behavior to lure mobsters away from Costello.

Lansky visited Luciano and convinced him that Genovese was planning something big. Before Lansky could act against Genovese, Costello was released from prison. On May 2, 1957, Costello was shot in the head. But Costello survived.

Genovese prepared for a war, but it did not come. Costello could not act against Genovese because he was too powerful. Costello faced the shooter Vincent "The Chin Gigante" in court but said he did not recognize him. Gigante was acquitted.

On October 25, 1957, Albert Anastasia was killed. Luciano was in Naples unable to do anything while Genovese wiped out the members of his old crime family, his friends. Luciano decided that he was going to get revenge for those who were killed with the help of his remaining friends and Meyer Lansky.

On November 14, 1957, Genovese organized a celebration and conference at a mansion at Apalachin in Tioga County. Over sixty mobsters were in attendance, including Bonanno, Lucchese, Gambino, Galante and Profaci. Frank Costello refused the invitation, and Meyer Lansky was ill and in Florida for health reasons. Luciano was still in Naples.

The event was being held in a small town. With the number of hotel reservations and food coming through the town, local police started paying attention. The Mafiosi arrived in big cars, which caught the eyes of the state troopers who cordoned off the area. The mansion was raided before they meeting began.

The Mafiosi fled through windows into the surrounding woods. There were no arrests. However, it brought the names of the Mafiosi in front of government agents. Twenty-seven subpoenas were served for the gangsters to appear at public hearings. The gangsters were no longer invisible, and the FBI was under pressure to do something about it.

Luciano read about the failed conference and found it humorous. He or Frank Costello would have only held a conference in a town where they controlled the police. This was an amateurish error on Genovese's part. It is believed that Luciano or Lansky was instrumental in tipping off the local sheriff.

When one of Lansky's associates was arrested on narcotics charges, he was able to use this arrest to strike back at Genovese. He gave the man Nelson Cantellops, a story to feed the FBN. He told them how Genovese was going to import narcotics from Europe; he named names and the locations of the smugglers. This information was obtained through spies Lansky had in the Genovese organization.

The FBN arrested Genovese and his associates. In 1959, Genovese was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Genovese would die ten years later. For his work in taking down Genovese, Cantellops was said to have received $100,000 and a job for life. It is said that $25,000 each was put up by Luciano, Lansky and Costello. The final $25,000 came from Carlo Gambino, who went to visit Luciano in Italy. The contribution was an act of solidarity with the aging Mafiosi.


Charles Luciano met Igea Lissoni in 1948. She was a dancer, trained in ballet, but not good enough to be a prima ballerina. She danced in nightclubs, which is where she met Luciano. She stayed with him, despite the problems he often had with the Italian police.

Lissoni and Luciano exchanged rings, but they never married. She wanted children, but he did not want to have a child because of his reputation, and the knowledge that his child would be burdened by his legacy.

Luciano still flirted with other women when Lissoni was not around. She had a temper and did not hesitate to become violent when she thought he was flirting with other women. She supposedly pulled a gun on him for chatting with a girl at a bar.

Luciano tried to stay out of the spotlight most of his criminal career. However, now he was a celebrity, the most famous gangster in the world, a criminal mastermind. Tourists would stop him for autographs; he was hounded by journalists and of course; the police followed him everywhere.

Showbiz stars were drawn to him. Jimmy Durante supposedly sent him money. Frank Sinatra visited him in Naples. And some writers and filmmakers were interested in telling his story.

Rumors circulated that Luciano was coming to the United States in a boat. After further investigation, the FBI concluded the reports were false and that Luciano never left Italy.

In 1958, Luciano had his case reviewed by an appellate court in Naples. The court found that the police had no reason to continue surveillance on Luciano. They cited that the police had obtained no evidence showing Luciano had been involved in any illegal activities during the time he had been under surveillance.

Luciano lost the love of his life in October 1958 when thirty-six-year-old Lissoni died of breast cancer. He brought her body back to her native Milan. At her funeral, he openly wept, the first time his friends had ever seen him cry.

While the Italian officials had given up on trying to prove he was a criminal, the FBN did not give up so easily. FBN agent Sal Vizzini visited Luciano in Naples and told him that they would continue their surveillance of him. The FBN still believed he was one of the top international criminals.

It was the money that Luciano spent so freely that had many convinced that he was a narcotics smuggler. What most did not know was that Luciano was still receiving profits from the American Mafia. His friends still provided him with a healthy income.

Joe Adonis was deported to Italy in 1956. He moved to Milan and lived well on the money he had accumulated. He and Luciano met occasionally. However, Luciano did not like the fact that Adonis flaunted his wealth and did not ask if there was anything he could do to help Luciano, his one-time boss and friend.

At the end of the 1950's Luciano was receiving significantly less money. When Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, the Mafia lost control of their casino and racetrack. Without the gambling money from Cuba, Luciano lost almost 25 percent of his income. He depended on this money.

Luciano decided the best way to make money was to sell his story. Some of his contemporaries had movies about them such as Al Capone, Legs Diamond and Murder Inc., the group led by Albert Anastasia and Louis Lepke. There were also a number of movies based on the lives of the gangsters but which did not use their names.

After the Congressional hearings, the public wanted to hear the real story. However, Luciano was not a contemporary mobster, but he wanted to tell his side of the story.

Luciano tried to write a screenplay, but film producer Barnett Glassman was not impressed with his efforts. He suggested that Luciano work with a professional screenwriter. Still, Luciano tried to revise his script, but his efforts failed.

Luciano went to the doctor later that year because he was having pain in his arms and heart. The doctor said he had a heart condition that could be dangerous. Vizzini visited Luciano at this time. Luciano was put on bed rest. No smoking, drinking or sex.

Luciano was supposedly offered $100,000 for the movie of his life, and he would get ten percent of the profits. His main concern was that he wanted the real story about his life.

In 1961, Martin Gosch showed Luciano his version of the script. By then the Mafia in New York had decided that they did not want Luciano's story told. They sent a Mafiosi to tell Luciano to kill the project. Lansky was supposedly the person behind the request.

Since the movie deal was dead, Luciano offered Gosch the opportunity to write down his story and turn it into a book that could be published ten years after Luciano's death.

On January 26, Luciano drove to Capodichino Airport to meet Gosch. Luciano had a heart attack at the airport and died.

Luciano's brother Bartolo Lucania and his sister's children Salvatore and Gino flew to Naples. His funeral on January 29 was marred by violence as reporters fought to take pictures.

His brother sold off his property and arranged for his body to be returned to America. His body arrived in New York on February 7. His brother Bartolo and Joseph were there to collect his body, along with FBN agents and police.

His body was placed in the family vault without a ceremony. He was laid to rest with his mother and father.


Charles "Lucky" Luciano has become a man shrouded in myth. Everyone who told his story had a motive in telling the story. Even Luciano, told his story in a way that made him appear larger than life.

Dewey said that the problem with getting the story about a criminal is usually that the people who tell the stories are also criminals. They have something to hide. That's why it's so difficult to reach the truth when it comes to Luciano's story.

Luciano has been featured in many books, movies and TV shows. There is no way of knowing if this is the story he wanted told. His death ended his participation in the telling of his tale. However, it's important to remember even his telling of the story is skewed.