What do you get when a deconstructionist joins the mafia ?

An offer you can't understand.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Before Nicolo Rizzuto

From: Legends of the Morgeti: Volume 3

Montreal: Luigi Greco, the Sicilian Who Wasn't

While we're discussing Sicilian power in Canada, I should also mention Luigi Greco, who is always referred to as the boss of the Montreal Sicilians, but without anyone ever backing that statement up with a place of birth. Following a 2008 CBC news story on the Rizzutos, in which Greco was mentioned, the following was posted online by a Louis Greco “The Luigi Greco referred to in this article was born on September 19, 1913 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to non-Sicilian parents. His father, Angelo was accidentally killed in a Canadian Pacific Railway incident in March,1923; his obituary is posted in the Montreal Gazette.” On a genealogy.com thread dated Oct 6 2008, Louis Greco also posted this ”I am Louis Greco (1950) son of Luigi Greco (1913-1972) and Mary Rose Bertha "Pola" Bernard (1920-1953) Paternal grandson of Angelo Greco (1880 - 1923 ) and Giuseppina Fasciano (1878 - 1959) both of Montorio nei Frentani, Italy. Maternal grandson to Alphonse Bernard and Marie Rose Berthe Perrier Bernard, both of ComtĂ© L'ascension, Quebec, Canada.”


Montorio nei Frentani sits near the west coast of Italy, most of the way across the 'boot' from Naples, north east of Campobasso: the village looks to be tucked away from all main roads. see Map on left side. It's the same town where Jose Greco, the famous Spanish-dancer came from (“Jose” wasn't Spanish, he just partnered female Spanish dancers, and, according to Louis on another thread, Jose (Giseuppe/Joe) was a cousin of Luigi's.) Thus, Luigi Greco wasn't a Sicilian. He was also Canadian-born, making him one of this country's first “indigenous” multi-ethnic mob bosses: his underboss was a Ukrainian named John Petrulia, and he was heavily involved with Jewish associates, like Harry Ship and Max Shapiro, who he had first met as a driver for Harry Davis, another Jewish gangster who Greco came to know in prison during WWII. Greco was serving a twelve year term for armed robbery, while Davis ended up serving 7 years on a narcotics conviction that came about through evidence provided by Charlie Feigenbaum, who had himself been jailed on a narcotics conviction. Charlie was involved with the Lansky-Luciano Outfit through Louis (Lepke) Buchalter, and had been told that his Montreal rackets would be waiting for him when he got out, only when he did, he had discovered that Davis was taking them over, so Feigenbaum ensured that Davis couldn't, by providing police with enough evidence to send Harry to jail. For his evidence, Charlie was released, only to be gunned down in Montreal in 1934 in front of his son.

Greco also had French Canadian and Irish-Canadian allies, not to mention the Calabrians in the Cotrone gang, who relied on his Third Level connections. In fact, according to an email conversation with his son, Louis Jr in 2009, Luigi not only spoke Italian, French, and English but two other languages as well. Apparently his passion was for competitive Scrabble. When Luigi's father Angelo was killed at work in 1923, Luigi had left school as a ten year old boy and had gone to work to help support the rest of his family. In 1936, when he was 23 years old, he had been jailed for armed robbery and didn't get out until the middle of the war. In fact, there is something about Greco's emergence from jail and into power that seems almost Neapolitan, akin to the way the Camorra began in the prisons of Naples and radiated out into the corridors of power. Modern Montreal is referred to as the Palermo of Canada. It may have been truer in Greco's time to think of it as the Naples of Canada.

The Catholicism of Montreal, while deeply conservative to the point of supporting the fascist Union Nationale until the 1960's, was not as severe as that practiced in Sicily, tempered as it was by the more urbane French character of Montreal. Montreal is the city where Roman Catholicism made peace with High Anglicanism and where commerce made friends where ever they could; Montreal has served as a continental hub for a mercantile fur empire from the 17th century until now. So its inhabitants not only understood the will to power, they had centuries of examples of men who found the means of achieving power, from the lowest level crook to the highest level politicians. The Hudson's Bay Company, which had been run out of Montreal since the early mid 1600's exploited the resources and peoples of the northern portions of the continent aided by force on the ground and by secret society codes in the highest councils of the land for nearly four centuries: it's attitudes to the claims of the various indigenous peoples across its vast 'holdings' was that of a mobster to lesser clans with the help of allies among the lesser clans. The marriage of power and opportunity in that city, thus seems more Neapolitian than Sicilian.
And then there were Jewish black marketeers and toughs. The first Jewish member of a British legislature anywhere in the British Empire had been elected in Trois Riviere, Quebec in the 1830's. However, the province itself, in the pulpits of their church, promoted a stridently anti-Semitic right wing, priests proclaimed Jews as Christ-killers. Nonetheless, a curious Jewish mob occurs, because it had been the British who gave Jews the right to run for office and vote. So there is the overworld corruption and the underworld.
Jews had been relatively well accepted in Britain since they first arrived with William the Conqueror back in 1066. In Quebec however, it wasn't until well after the Second World War that the Catholic Church stopped trying to maintain the fiction that the Jews were to blame for the death of Jesus if the plan was God's. Thus the Jews of Quebec and long been the bridge between the Anglo overworld, and the Franco-Irish-Italian Catholic over and underworlds. (The Quebec Irish are mostly Catholic, compared to Protestant Orange province of Ontario.) Montreal is thus a confluence of outsiders in a world run by an English ruling class, and its prisons, like Naples, represented that order. That estrangement from power by Jewish/Catholic gangsters, when combined among criminals already estranged from their own communities, allowed the gangs of Montreal to develop a distinct mob culture. Ontario's organized crime history is different, root and branch.
Luigi Greco turned 12 in the Montreal of the Sardinian racketeer Tony Frank (who had been married to a New York Cipolla.) Tony Frank and his gang (including a Gambino from New York) were executed in 1925 after a bank robbery in which a guard had been killed. Tony Frank hadn't even been at the bank, but he had been found guilty of having organized the robbery, and thus, was executed for the killing. The trial took place amidst allegations of police corruption...
After the passing of the Sardinian boss, Harry Davis, a Montreal-born Jewish mobster, took over some of the city's rackets, and through his connections to Louis "Lepke" Buchalter in New York, ran Montreal's drug scene. Davis was publicly known, however, as the boss of the city's gambling circles. Davis met Greco in prison, again Camorra like. Davis got out first. Finally, after more than a decade in jail, Luigi Greco found himself free, and found a job as Davis' driver. Within two years, Greco was second-in command.
Davis was murdered in 1946 by Louis Bercowitz, a former Canadian solider, and a gambler in his own right, who had told the court that he had shot Harry because Davis had claimed to have put a hit out on Bercowitz and another gambler, and he was acting before he himself had been killed. The other version is that Davis wouldn't allow Bercowitz to open a gambling joint and so Louis B. got mad and killed Harry. Louis Bercowitz was the cousin of Leo Bercovitch, who, along with Max Shapiro, ran a restaurant and shared their gambling interests. In 1970, Leo Bercovitch would host the so-called Acapulco Conference in his palatial residence in Mexico. (The Summit was chaired by Meyer Lansky, and was focused on discussions of how the mob would respond to the pending legalization of gambling in Quebec.) More on that later. http://www.archive.org/stream/v5hansard1974ontauoft/v5hansard1974ontauoft_djvu.txt)
With Davis gone, the multilingual Greco inherited much of his Franco-Italian-Jewish mob as well as the Montreal heroin trade, although the gambling interests were scooped up by a man named Harry Ship, who had links to Lanksy and to Frank Costello. After the war, but before Davis' death, Domenique Albertini, Francois Spirito and Joseph Orsini, members of the Corse Union (the Corsican mob), the premier heroin producers in the world, had fled Marseille ahead of accusations by the French Underground of Nazi collaboration, and so they took refuge in Duplessis' Quebec, a haven for former and current fascists. It was from Montreal that Albertini and co., hiding under Greco's terzo livello/Third Level political umbrella, planted the origins of what would become known as the French Connection, the heroin ring that would transform international drug trafficking. The Corsicans didn't stay long in Montreal (they were back in Marseille by 1956 working for the CIA) but while in Montreal under Greco's protection, the die of the future was cast.
However statesman-like Greco was within the Montreal mob, it is unlikely that the non-Sicilian Greco could have led a Sicilian gang, so another question that arises is, who were the men in the Sicilian faction that Luigi was supposed to have led ? There were a number of Montreal-born, pre-war children of Italian immigrants who could have been Luigi's Sicilian gang, men like the Soccio brothers (Vincenzo, Giuseppe, Luigi and Michele), Giuseppe Cocoliccio, Nicolo Di Iorio, Diodato Mastracchio etc., except none of them were Sicilians. According to Quebec birth records, Nicolo Di Iorio, may have been the son of a Giovanni Di Iorio and Modesta DeLuca. The Montreal DeLuca's thus may have been related to the murdered Timmins, Ontario gambler and gold smuggler, Frank DeLuca (see Vol. 2.) (Frank DeLuca was murdered in 1948, but he had also been involved with one of the Michael Silvestros in Welland, and had been arrested alongside Matteo Cipolla in 1932, after which he went to Timmins in 1937 and became a runner in one of Annie Newman's gold rackets, for which activities he went to jail from 1939 to 1942; he was also a known associate of Louis Wernick, the Toronto money-launderer and gambler/drug dealer who had been murdered in 1946. Wernick had strong links to Montreal, and had been arrested in a heroin case there in 1938.
In any event, the Montreal Di Iorio's and DeLucas appear to have been from Gallucio, in Campania, just north of Naples, the Niagara-region/Timmins DeLucas, likewise appear to have been from Gallucio. Other members of Greco's Montreal gang, like the Cocolicchios, are likewise not Sicilians, being from Rapolla in the Basilicata region, Potenza province of Italy, about 200 Km due east of Naples. As for the Soccio's, the nearest I can come to figuring out where they were from involves Michele Soccio, because there is a 1944 border crossing record of him traveling from Montreal to his Uncle Mike D'Addario's (his mother Angelina's brother) who lived in Detroit, Michigan A 1907 Ellis Island's record, shows a Michaelangelo D'Addario traveling to Michigan from Limosano, Italy, which is due north of the city of Campobasso in the province of the same name, again east of Naples. The Soccio's seem to had been from Campobasso province east of Naples as well.)
Diodato Mastracchio and Vincenso “Jimmy” Soccio ran the Corso Pizzeria together. Mastracchio was likewise the son of parents from the Campobasso province, a small town called Larino on the road from Naples to the Ionian Sea, east of the Cammorra stronghold. According to a 1945 border crossing record, the Montreal-born Mastracchio was 28 years old in October of that year when he went to New York with his wife (Vittoria Minotti) for a month, which would make his birth circa 1917. On March 1 of 1950, Vittoria sued for a divorce (presumably linked to Mastracchio's narcotics arrest) a suit which was granted by parliament, as was required in those days.(http://www.archive.org/stream/hcc92195000uoft/hcc92195000uoft_djvu.txt)
In this search for the Sicilians who had allegedly been led by the supposed Sicilian Luigi Greco, I have, in fact, yet to find a single Montreal-born or raised Sicilian mobster, prior to the arrival of Pasquale and Liborio Cuntrera in 1951. Although there is no doubt New York Sicilians continued to visit Montreal after a Gambino had been executed along with Tony Frank back in the 20's. It would take the two Cuntrera brothers, with Greco's help, to establish a beachhead for the rest of their clan (Caruana-Cuntrera-Vella) and their allies the Rizzutos) but they launched themselves against the world from Montreal. Nearly sixty years later, the Canadian-based Sicilian clan leaders are more like members of the board of directors in the rarefied worlds of international gangster corporatism, but in 1951, the Caruana's were just beginning to emerge from their recent past as the muscle for the local Siculiana Baron, a noble who had lost his land to agricultural reforms in Italy in 1950 (much of which land then went to his enforcers and their associates.) Thus, when Pasquale and Liborio showed up in Montreal at the start of the 1950's, they found themselves in a much different world than the one they had left behind: at least insofar as Sicilian power and rural poverty was concerned, but they also knew the ropes of mob power and respect, and since Greco was the leader of the largest mob in the city with the best links to the ruling classes, they gravitated his way.
So contrary to statements in almost every Canadian mob book or international mob watcher website, not only was Greco not a Sicilian, but the Italian underworld of Greco's time seems more like a glimspes of the Montreal mob as rooted in a Kingdom of Naples rural Camorra.
It should also be remembered that during the second world war after Mussolini was killed, the black market in Italy came under the control of Vito Genovese, a man himself born in the outskirts of Naples, before his parents moved to New York came to control the post-war black market in Italy in collusion with allies in the American military. Genovese had spent the war in Naples as the drug dealer for Count Ciano, the dictator's son-in-law, and after the Allied occupation and under the seal of the new Military Governor Charles Poletti, a friend of Lucky Luciano's, (Luciano was sent back to Italy after the, banned from the states,but released from prison in thanks from the American Navy for his help with the invasion of Sicily)
In any event, Genovese's base in Naples during the occupation period, was as the boss of the Mafia-Canmorra, so it cannot be merely coincidental that on the routes to and from the nearest Ionian Seaports lay the villages and towns from which Montreal's non-Calabrian mobsters all hated, the most important of whom was Luigi Greco. (It is also not hard to imagine that after several centuries of organized crime in Naples, that the roads from that city to the east coast of Italy. would have been well within the Camorra's field of operations with local allies.)

Mob watchers also speculate about why Greco graciously took a back seat to the Cotrones when the New York mobster Carmine Galante came to Montreal in 1954, but it would now seem, that for one thing, Greco had no Sicilian pride to bury. The creation of the Mafia Calabrese by Frank Genovese and Alberta Anastasia in the 50's also suggests another reason why Vic Cotrone's Calabrians dealt with New York, with Lansky and Luciano, rather than with Genovese before and after he returned to the states and had Anastasia in in '57. Greco may not have been a Genovese ally, though he probably dealt with former solider's who had worked with Vito, so Greco didn't so much step aside as step back from the fray.

There is one other matter that needs to enter the equation of his thoughts when he did become more circumspect than usual, and that was a circumstance that suggests to me that the last thing the already cautious Greco wanted in 1954, was to get caught up in a bloody narcotics war that might engulf the rest of his family. (Luigi had brothers and sisters - Louis Jr.s' aunts and uncles.) Even more important than Luigi's desire to protect his brothers and sisters families, was a series of events that could be said to begin the winter before Louis Jr.'s birth in the spring of 1950. That was the winter that Luigi Greco went to see Lucky Luciano in Italy, with his closest associate, the Ukrainian Frank Petrula, then to New York to talk to Frank Costello. Greco had wanted a cut of some of the profits of Harry Ship's gambling empire, (Ship was an associate of the Outfit in his own right, so Greco had had to make the Outfit an offer in return.)
What they had offered Luciano and Costello was a cut of the profits that could soon be made by using the Port of Montreal to move Corsican heroin and other contraband into the interior of North America, via the soon-to-be-built St. Lawrence Seaway, a project that had been taken off its centuries' old drawing board, and moved into a fast track by CD. Howe, Prime Minister King's Minister of Industry.
And here is where the roots of Luigi Greco's stepping back really lie, I believe. Shortly after the trips to Luciano and Lansky, things began to go wrong in Luigi's personal life, beginning with the narcotics bust of Soccio and Mastracchio while he was away. His name did not expect the papers however. Thus, after a few months of domestic stress and tensions that followed police and public scrutiny, Luigi's wife, Berthe gave birth to their son, Louis Jr. The break was already made perhaps, but, according to Archives Canada records, Berthe started divorce proceedings against Luigi on February 19 1951, which were finalized on May 7. ) On March 1 1952, around the time that Harry Ship's gambling empire was being investigated by a Montreal crime probe, Berthe married again, this time to Raymond Cardis: he was a tool maker, a recent immigrant from France. According to Louis Jr. on a genealogy site “My mother died tragically February 12,1953 in Westmount, Quebec. I became a ward of my biological father Luigi Greco and estranged to my maternal relatives.” Presumably, Berthe Bernard's family had not been too fond of their daughter's involvement with a mobster like Greco, especially once the investigations began, but after her death, they must have blamed Greco for Berthe's tragedy, and thus the boy suffered his lifelong estrangement from them. In email conversations with Louis Greco, he told me that his mother, Marie Rose Berthe Bernard, was the daughter of a Cree father and a French Canadian mother, from just north of Mont Tremblant, which is just north of the Montreal,and that after her death he never saw any of her family again.
The tragedy surrounding his mother's death, can be found in the Montreal Star of February 12 and 20 1953. At the inquest, which had been covered by the Montreal papers, the family maid told the Coroner that Berthe's second husband, Raymond Cardis was jealous over Berthe's contact with 'her first husband' (un-named by the paper.) The maid said that the day she had died, Cardis had demanded that Berthe phone 'him' (again, the un-named Greco) and tell 'him' that she and Cardis would not be separated. When Berthe refused to phone 'him”, Cardis went into another room, came back with a rifle and shot his wife, who was sitting at her dressing table holding the hand of her son (also un-named). Cardis then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide in front of the maid and the 2/1/2 year old boy.
According to Louis Greco in 2009, because his mother was divorced, the Church at first refused to allow her burial in consecrated ground, but his father interceded with friends among the authorities, and thus she was buried in a Church service in holy ground. Luigi was given custody of his son, under court supervision. Assuming (as the coroner did) that the maid's story was true, then it would appear that Greco and Berthe were still in love, certainly his efforts to secure her a decent burial prove as much. By late December 1953, when Carmine Galante showed up in Montreal, the deal between Luciano and Greco - probably sealed during Harry Ship's troubles in 1952 – left Luigi Greco free to slip further out of the limelight, where he became a financier of drug buys rather than a broker of deals. Certainly Galante appears to have drawn all the attention onto himself when he crashed and burned and bullied his way around Montreal, gathering all the city's rackets into one common network until he was finally turfed out of the country by police. Greco eventually remarried and had two daughters. Louis says that while he was”a ward of my biological father” he was also “fostered non-traditionally by my paternal aunts.” Louis Greco's estrangement from the family of the mother who held his hand while she was murdered by his step-father, continues to this day.
The first mob book that had established Greco's identity as a Sicilian, albeit, in passing, was Peter Edwards Blood Brothers (1990), his account of the Cotrone family. I can only assume that because every other major mafioso named Greco was a Sicilian, Edwards thought that Greco was one too. It was also Edwards who established the narrative of the take-over of Montreal by Joe Bonnano through Carmine Galante. According to Jean-Paul Charbonneau in his earlier 1976 magnum opus on the Montreal drug scene The Canadian Connection, no mention is made of Greco being the boss of the Sicilians, Charbonneau also makes clear the series of events that led to the coming of the Americans, clarity which does not seem to appear anywhere else after him.
The transition to the Calabrians begins with three events in 1950, the first was the trip to Naples taken by Greco and Petrula to talk to Lucky Luciano, followed by a trip to New York to talk to Frank Costello. The second event was a February 1950 narcotics-bust of Mastracchio and Soccio at the Corso Pizzeria. (It was around that time that the Corsican, Antoine d'Agostino, disappeared from Montreal.) According to Charbonneau, during the announcement of the arrest of Soccio and Mastracchio, the RCMP had told the public that Greco was known to have just traveled to Naples to talk to Luciano to discuss narcotics. The third event was the creation of American Senate hearings led by Senator Estes Kefauver into racketeering in the States.
The first event shows that Greco was the originator of cooperation between the Canadian and American mobs via the Seaway to the Upper Great Lakes, the deal with New York, was thus between Greco and Luciano/Costello. The role of Joe Bonnano and his underboss Carmine Galante were essentially that of sub-contractors, territorial neighbours, to be handled by the newly minting Mafia Calabrese through Vic Cotrone and later via Paul Violi and the Sidernese. In my opinion it was only after Luciano's death in 1962, that the deal devolved into one between Bonnano and Cotrone.
As for Senator Kefauver's American rackets hearings, he had released his findings and a series of proposals early in 1951. One of his recommendations had been promptly adopted, namely the creation of a federal gambling tax. In his book The Enforcer, Adrian Humphreys says “The tax was seen as a particularly devious trick by bookies in states where gambling was illegal...If they (New York bookies) paid the tax they would be arrested by state police... if they ignored the tax, they risked arrest by the feds. The answer for 100 or so American bookies was to move North.” A May 14 1951 article in the Toronto Star carried the headline that reads “Doubts US Bookies Can Beat Law With Canadian offices” a story about one of committee's former chief counsels explaining how they didn't expect the mob to succeed in their efforts to beat the new nation-wide ban on horse and dog race news transmissions, by establishing receiving points in Canada to which results could be transmitted before being phoned backed into the States. That official doubt aside, the result of the various US laws had been the creation of a pan-continental booking system run by the Outfit and its Canadian, Caribbean and Mexican associates, one of whom was Harry Ship.
There is a Morgeti sidebar to this, and that is that Seaway lakers would come from cargo ports like Gioia Taura on the Tyrhennian Sea Coast.Gioia Tauro, was becoming the largest container centre in Italy, it was controlled by Momo Piromalli, the man in charge of the Mafia Calabrese region in which sat the village of San Giorgio Morgeto. Piromalli had been cattle herder with a gun before the war when Tony Silvestro was one of the most important Calabrian mobsters in Canada. Tony's power increased until his death 1963 after Rocco Perri disappeared in 1944, and Tony's brother Frank, killed himself in 1949.) Thus, in the 1950's, whatever Piromalli's power in Gioia Taura, Silvestro and his people controlled the Welland Canal.
In Appendix C, I discuss the coming to Montreal of Hal. C Banks in 1949, who had been sent by the mob and by right wing union interests from Californiato take over the Canadian Seaman's union, in order to drive the communists from the labour movement. Since Banks was a close ally of Albert Anastasia's brother Tony, who controlled the docks in New York, there can be little doubt that as plans for the building and opening of the Seaway grew and then came to fruition, the Cold War practice of empowering mobsters to combat anti-corporatist forces was in full swing
In July and August of 1950, 15 members of the Corsican Connection – Francois Spirito and Joseph Orsini among them - were busted in New York by America narcotics investigators. Gaetano Lucchese, an old friend of both Buchalter's and Greco's, was linked to the ring, as was Carlo Gambino, whose eldest son was married to Lucchese's daughter. The Corsicans, among others, were sent to prison, but when they showed up in France again in 1956, they were working for the CIA, fighting the presence of communism in French labour unions, while operating what would become known as the French Connection. The CIA had been created in 1947 by Harry Truman, after electoral gains by the French Communist Party and the rise in popularity of communist parties throughout Europe. The price for institutionalizing the mafia is still being paid today.
Back in Montreal in 1952, Harry Ship appeared before a provincial inquiry, and thus was publicly 'outed' as the King of Gamblers. In April of 1952, Soccio and Mastracchio were finally convicted on the 1950 arrest. (Jimmy Soccio had first got involved with the Cotrone clan while Greco was in jail in the 1930's, and he had been busted for gambling twice in the 1940's; after his last bust in 1946, he had decided to sell heroin from the Corso Pizzeria, which he owned with Diadato Mastracciho. The Canadian archives have an internment camp file on either Jimmy's father or his brother Giuseppe Soccio, as well as for Michele Soccio. But since most of the Quebec Italians interned were actual fascist supporters, and since Quebec didn't start to throw off the chains of fascism until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960's, Quebec remained a deeply right wing jurisdiction, which may be why Carmine Galante had been chosen by Luciano to go into Quebec late in 1953: back in the 1930's, Galante had murdered an anti-fascist American journalist on behalf of Vito Genovese (who was then in self-exile in Mussolini's Italy.) Carmine would have been well-received by Quebec's political classes.)
The Canadian-born Luigi Greco died on December 3 1972, when, like his father Angelo before him, he died of a workplace accident, when Gina's Pizzeria was destroyed in a freak fire. (The pizzeria was named after Gina Greco, Luigi's second daughter by his second wife (Doris Gibson.) According to The Canadian Connection, Louis Greco (Jr.) appears to have kept the Greco name alive in Montreal mob circles, at least until 1974, when a hash deal gone wrong left two dealers dead and 24 year old Louis' name in the mouths of police and the papers as the person who had paid for the hit. The bodies of the two men, Eddy Chiquette and Robert De'courzy, were badly burnt when they were discovered in the remains of a torched car, although both men had died of gunshot wounds. The image seems unsettling in the light of Luigi's painful death from the fires of the pizzeria two years earlier. Even still, it's hard not to remember the two and a half year old Louis Jr. holding his mother's hand when she was murdered.