John William Tuohy
Peter Panto was that he was a self-appointed labor leader on the Brooklyn waterfront, perhaps a communist, and was effective enough to raise the anger of the Mafia boss Albert Anastasia. Burton B. Turkus, who had been Assistant District Attorney for Kings County (Brooklyn), wrote “In mid-summer 1939,” Turkus and Feder wrote, “Peter Panto was waging a determined war against gangster rule on the water front. For months, he had been whipping up the longshoremen to shake off the mobster grip. Panto was only twenty-eight… ‘We are strong,’ he urged the union men. ‘All we have to do is stand up and fight.
Panto’s fate was sealed after he called a meeting of ILA local 929 on July 8, 1939, attended by 1,250 members, where Pantos insisted on an honest election for the local. The Longshoremen stood to their feet and cheered him as the Mafia‘s enforcers looked on, stupefied.
On Friday July 14, Panto was visiting his fiancée, who bore the unfortunate surname Maffia. At 10 p.m., there was a knock on the door. Panto answered it and then stepped outside to talk to two men. According to Organized Crime contract killer Abe Reles, the men insisted that Pantos come with them to meet union officials who wanted to offer him cash to leave the docks.
When Pantos refused, he was beaten, tossed into a car and driven to an isolated spot. Although Panto’s was slight in build, weighing less than 163 pounds, he fought the gangsters and according to Reles, nearly biting off the finger of killer Mendy Weiss before he could be overpowered and strangled to death. He was covered in quicklime and buried in a New Jersey lot. His body has never been recovered.
Mendy Weiss (Right)
Pantos death eventually, with the help of the press, sparked a massive criminal investigation of the mobs control of the New York- New Jersey waterfront.