Galante Carmine AKA Lilo, the Cigar. Boss of the Bonanno Crime Family. Born 1910 Died July 12, 1979. An ignorant and crass man, who stood just under five feet with a barrel frame, Galante was the son of a fisherman who immigrated from Castellammare Del Golfo in Sicily to an East Harlem tenement where Galante was born and raised and died.
Galante’s criminal career began about 1921, when, at the age of eleven, Galante started a teenage gang that practiced extortion on local shop keepers.
Several years later, while still in teens, he became an enforcer for various bootleg gangs during prohibition. In 1930, Galante, with several others, were caught by New York police officer Joseph Meenahan while attempting to hijack a truck in the Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.
A gun battle broke out and Galante shot the beat cop through the leg. He also fired off a fatal bullet that struck an innocent six-year-old girl who was standing along the sidewalk watching the mayhem. Although both survived Galante was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and was released on parole in 1939.
A year later, in 1940, he was working as a contract killer and all around thug for Boss Vito Genovese, then a powerful hood making his way up the Mafia ladder. Galante is widely suspected of carrying out the 1943 murder of Italian journalist Carlo Tresca as he walked along a New York street.
The order came from Genovese who wanted the reporter dead as a favor to Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini. During his getaway, a witness to the murder, wrote down Galante’s license plate number as he sped away from the murder scene. Police determined that it was the same car Galante had driven earlier in the day, oddly enough, to visit his parole officer. He was arrested later that evening for a parole violation but released and was never held accountable for the brazen murder. It was at this point that Galante switched families and joined Joe Bonanno.
Shortly afterwards, Galante was promoted to driver for Joe Bonanno. He was made a Capo in the organization and then, in the very late 1960s, promoted to Underboss. However his rising career came to a temporary halt in 1962 when he was convicted on a series of narcotic charges and sentenced to twenty years in federal prison. Word in the Underworld was that Boss Frank Costello had engineered the arrest. While in prison, Galante was diagnosed with a “serious psychopathic personality disorder” although a Doctor in Sing Sing prison was more direct simply calling Galante “a psychopath”
He was released from prison in 1974. He was suspected of being directly involved in eight murders between 1975 and 1978, most of his victims being members of the rival Gambino crime family who were jousting with the Bonanno’s and with Galante in particular, for control of the US heroin trade. Galante was arrested and jailed again in 1978 for a parole violation (Associating with known felons) he was released on appeal, his defense lawyer being the renowned Mob lawyer Roy Cohn.
One of Galante’s more profitable but lesser known crimes was his preference to shake down, extort, money from other gangsters. It was a simple process. Galante would demand a cut of their operation or cash buy out to be left alone. If they refused to pay or took their complaint to their Capo, he would kill them. They all paid.
At about this time, in the early 1970s, Galante was instrumental in further developing the already prosperous the infamous French Connection, a drug trade network, which encompassed numerous countries and hundreds, if not thousands of criminals. The drug network imported Turkish Opium into France, then shipping it into French Canada and then bringing it into the United States.
When the money started to pour into his coffers and his own organization was springing up around him, Galante ordered the brass crypt doors of former gangster Frank Costello, blown off their hinges. (Although Costello had died in 1973 of natural causes)
The message was that Galante was back and ready for war if they wanted it. No one challenged him.
From the very beginning of his release Galante had made it clear that he intended to take over the Bonanno family. At the time, the new boss was Philip "Rusty" Rastelli, although he was ruthless, was no match for Galante viciousness.
Rastelli was trying to rule the family from prison, but Galante, by sheer force, took over the Bonanno’s. With Rastelli out of the way, Galante immersed himself in the drug trade. He was well on his way to controlling large parts of the international drug market which would make him extremely wealthy and powerful. With enough money and the guns money could buy, he could take over the entire American Mafia.
What bothered the bosses, aside from Galante greed, his willingness to murder without reason and his corner on the drug trade, was that he openly despised the Commission members who had forced Joe Bonanno to step down. More than once, he had threatened to murder Carlo Gambino. All of this made the bosses nervous. So they decided to kill Galante. Even Joe Bonanno agreed that Galante had to die.
July 12, 1979 was a warm, muggy summer day in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Gigante opted to have his lunch in the open air courtyard of Joe and Mary’s Italian American Restaurant, at 205 Knickerbocker Avenue. The restaurant owner was Galante’s cousin,
Giuseppe Turano, also a Bonanno solider. Galante ate there often. It was a modest place with a full bar and small dining room with decent enough food. A large glass door opened to the patio where Galante could smoke his cigars in peace and discuss family business without interference.
Galante arrived with his Capo Leonard “Nardo” Coppola and two body guards, Cesare Bonventre and Baldo Amato.
They were met by Angelo “Little Moe” Provenzano, a Bonanno solider. As they ate, Provenzano began to complain of stomach pains and Galante encourages him to go home and lay down until the pain passed.
As Provenzano left, one of the bodyguards excused himself to use the bathroom and the other guard left to make a phone call. About 2:55 Galante finished his lunch and pulled out a fresh cigar and stuck it in his mouth. In his later years it was rare to see Gigante without an expensive cigar crushed between his teeth. But before he could get it lit, a group of masked men rushed into the courtyard from inside the restaurant, one of them carrying a shotgun. Outside the restaurant, Dominick “Big Trin” Trinchera was standing look out.
With him was the operations driver, Santo Giodano. Joe Massino, Sonny Red Indelicato, J.B. Indelicato and Phil Lucky Giacone were also outside in a back-up car.
Inside, the gunmen rushed through the main dining hall. There is little doubt that Galante and Coppola saw them coming but didn’t move, either out of fright or confusion.
The son of the restaurant owner was gunned done while reaching for a gun stashed in the back room. His father rushed to his aid and he was cut down. The shooters squared off and blasted Galante who was knocked out his chair, his cigar still protruding from his mouth. Two of the gunmen then turned on Lenny Copolla and fired on him, hitting him directly in the face, killing him.
The killers were Anthony Indelicato, Russell Mauro, Bruno Indelicato and Louie Giongetti. Each of the men was promoted after the killing. Anthony Indelicato, then 23 years old, was convicted of the murder, but not until 1986. He served 12 years in prison.Galante’s body guards, Cesare Bonventre and Baldo Amato, also took part in the killing. Sources in the Underworld said that Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce set Galante up for the kill.