Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (2022)

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (1)

Last week, Frank Cali, head of New York’s Gambino crime family, was murdered outside his Staten Island home, according to The New York Times, making this the first time a mafia family boss has been whacked since former Gambino don Paul Castellano was shot in 1985.

But in the first half of the 20th century, when the mob reigned supreme and was a staple of front-page news, high-profile killings were far more common and just as graphic, inspiring the gory imaginations of the American public. Here are some of the most notable mob murders of the last century. (Warning: Some of the photos are a little gruesome.)

Paul Castellano

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (2)

Known as the “The Howard Hughes of the Mob,” Constantino Paul “Big Paulie” Castellano used his business savvy to bring the Gambino crime family to its financial apex by turning the family away from illegitimate business like drug trafficking towards the comparatively safer practices (for the mob at least) of money laundering and extortion. Though his focus was business, he didn’t shy away from calling hits, especially when it came to his daughter, Constance. He allegedly ordered the murder of her boyfriend, Vito Borelli, in 1975 after Borelli disrespected him, and allegedly had her ex-husband, Frank Amato, chopped up and thrown into the ocean when Castellano found out he had been abusing her.

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But, like most people exposed to insane money and power, Castellano got greedy. He built a 17-room mansion on Staten Island designed to resemble the White House in 1981, and began to demand a larger cut from the mob’s earnings. Unhappy with the way Castellano was running the organization, Gambino capo John Gotti organized a crew that shot and murdered Castellano while he was walking into dinner at Manhattan’s Sparks Steak House in 1985. The killing sent the Gambino family into chaos and signaled the beginning of its decline.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (3)

No list of mob murders would be complete without the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the climax of Chicago gang warfare in the early ’20s. The combination of smuggling opportunities during Prohibition and lack of FBI firepower and infrastructure made the Illinois city a playground for mobsters like Al Capone. Looking to control the entirety of the Chicago underworld, Capone was ruthless in taking down his enemies and consolidating his organization.

In 1929, Capone’s sole remaining competition was George “Bugs” Moran, and on Valentine’s Day of that year, Capone sent two of his men dressed as police officers to raid the North Side garage that served as the headquarters for Moran’s bootlegging operations. Capone’s “cops” pretended to arrest the seven Moran mobsters they found there, ordering them to raise their hands and stand facing a wall, but when they had turned around, the “cops” revealed their identity via the rounds of Tommy Gun fire they unleashed on the men. Bugs himself narrowly evaded murder as he was running five minutes late to the garage, but he was rendered virtually powerless through the loss of so many cronies. The gruesome murder made Capone the undisputed king of Chicago, but it also led to his downfall. His official marking of “Public Enemy No. 1” led to increased efforts to take him down, and federal authorities would eventually nab him for tax evasion.

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Angelo Bruno/Antonio Caponigro

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (4)

Angelo Bruno, head of the Philadelphia crime family, was known as the “Gentle Don” for his aversion to murder as a negotiating tactic, preferring to operate through bribery instead. He even banished one of his men, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo, to Atlantic City for being too violent. Bruno’s consigliere, Antonio Caponigro, wasn’t a fan of the peaceful approach. Caponigro was upset that Bruno was limiting the gang’s involvement in drug trafficking, cutting Caponigro off from potential profits, and so he ordered a hit against Bruno in March 1980 via shotgun blast to the back of the head in Bruno’s car.

Since the hit hadn’t been authorized by the Commission — the Mafia’s governing body — Caponigro had to be punished for his disrespectful flouting of rank and procedure. Betrayed by his friend and co-conspirator, Frank Tieri, Caponigro was shot by Joe “Mad Dog” Sullivan while parked outside his Philadelphia home. His body was later found in the trunk of a car in the South Bronx with 14 bullet and knife wounds and roughly $300 stuffed into his mouth and anus to symbolize his greed.

Albert Anastasia

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (5)

Known as “Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner,” Anastasia was responsible for thousands of deaths during his reign of terror in the ‘30s and ‘40s and is considered one of the deadliest criminals of all time by the FBI. Anastasia made his big break in the mob as one of the bosses of Murder, Inc. — a group of contract killers that operated out of the back of a Brooklyn candy store. After the murder of the Gambino family boss (which was likely orchestrated by Anastasia), Anastasia became don of the crime family in 1951 in the midst of growing tensions between the Five Families, the major mob organizations of New York City.

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It’s unclear who was responsible for Anastasia’s assassination, but it was likely a hit directed by another crime family. In October, 1957, Anastasia relaxed into his barber’s chair awaiting a shave and a haircut. Instead, he got shot by two men with scarves covering their faces. In an attempt to save himself, a shocked Anastasia lunged at his attackers, grasping wildly not at them, but rather their reflections in the mirror on the wall as they continued to pelt him with gunfire. The murder, and the vivid imagery of an unsuspecting Anastasia bleeding out while swathed in white towels, drew a massive amount of public interest.

Carmine Galante

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Though not a physically imposing mob boss—standing at just 5’5”—Galante was widely known and feared for cruelty. Ralph Salerno, a former New York Police Department detective, said Galante was one of the only mobsters to truly scare him, citing a dead-eyed, frigid stare of a killer. While imprisoned in 1931, Galante was officially diagnosed with a psychopathic personality.

A longtime member of the Bonnano family, Galante, known as “The Cigar” for his formidable smoking habit, seized power in 1974 after Bonnano head Philip “Rusty” Rastelli was sent to prison. As he had been underboss for the family for years, Galante considered himself the rightful heir, but his accession wasn’t approved by the Commission. Upset by Galante’s forceful attempt to control the narcotics market without sharing profits with the rest of the Five Families, Genovese family boss Frank Tieri petitioned the Commission to take down Galante on the grounds of his illegitimate succession as Bonnano boss. The Commission agreed, and Galante was gunned down in July 1979 while enjoying lunch at Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant in Brooklyn. A final picture of Galante shows a cigar dangling from his mouth when he died.

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Bugsy Siegel

Six of the Most Famous Mob Murders of All Time (7)

Known as one of the most feared mobsters of the ’30s and ’40s, Siegel was also known as a prolific womanizer. He ran a major prostitution ring, romanced actresses and socialites, and even finagled a deal to have female visitors allowed while he was in jail. Though he got his start in New York organized crime, he was sent west to California and Las Vegas when it became too dangerous for him to stay on the East Coast.

In Vegas, Siegel reinvented himself in 1945 by going legitimate with the Flamingo Hotel. At the time, Vegas was still more desert than Sin City, and Siegel had a vision for the Flamingo as a draw for wealthy elites and tourists alike. He sunk $6 million ($84 million today when adjusted for inflation) into construction, continually assuring his mob bosses the investment would pay off. The December 1946 opening was a flop: guests were greeted by drop cloths and clanking from parts of the building still under construction, and the air conditioning kept failing. Though his second opening a few months later was much improved, the damage was done. It’s still unclear who took down “the father of modern Las Vegas,” but Siegel was shot twice in the head through the window while relaxing in his girlfriend’s home, with the pressure causing his left eye to blow out of its socket.

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FAQs

What was the biggest mob hit in history? ›

Valentine's Day Massacre. Perhaps the most infamous mob hit in history, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 ended the lives of seven members of the North Side Chicago mob. The massacre was the last event in a fight between Al Capone and George “Bugs” Moran for control of Chicago's illegal alcohol market.

Who was the biggest mob family ever? ›

The Genovese family

Who is the most famous mobster? ›

1. Al Capone. Who was the most feared mafia boss? Al Capone is a mafia boss renowned for his viciousness when dealing with the enemies of his illegal businesses.

What mobster died with a cigar in his mouth? ›

Carmine Galante

Who brought down the mob? ›

As mayor of New York for eight years, Giuliani made sweeping changes to law enforcement policies that reduced crime in the city by more than 50 percent and calmly shepherded the city and nation through the catastrophic 9/11 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

Who is the biggest mobster today? ›

Today, Italy's biggest Mob boss arguably could be another longtime fugitive, Matteo Messina “Diabolik” Denaro, a 56-year-old kingpin and “most wanted” outlaw since he disappeared in 1993.

Who was the smartest gangster? ›

The US Treasury official Elmer Irey considered him "the biggest gangster in America" and wrote, "He was the smartest and, I dare say, the best of all the hoodlums.
...
Johnny Torrio
AllegianceChicago Outfit
Conviction(s)Tax evasion (1939)
Criminal penalty2 years' imprisonment (1939)
12 more rows

Who is the biggest female gangster? ›

6 of the Most Notorious Female Mobsters in History
  • Ma Barker (1893-1935) Described by J. ...
  • Virginia Hill (1916-1966) ...
  • Stephanie St. ...
  • Griselda Blanco (1943 – 2012) ...
  • Sister Ping (1949-2014) ...
  • Maria Licciardi (1951-)

Who are the 5 mob bosses today? ›

Original and current Five Families bosses
Original family nameFounded byCurrent boss
MaranzanoSalvatore MaranzanoMichael "The Nose" Mancuso
ProfaciJoe ProfaciUnknown
ManganoVincent ManganoDomenico Cefalù
LucianoLucky LucianoLiborio Salvatore "Barney" Bellomo
1 more row

What is a mobsters girlfriend called? ›

Goomah — Mistress or girlfriend. It comes from the Italian comare, which means godmother or second mother. In other words, someone who takes care of you.

Who is Tony Soprano based on? ›

The character is loosely based on real-life New Jersey mobsters Ruggerio "Richie the Boot" Boiardo, boss of the North Jersey Genovese crime family, and Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo, a former caporegime (capo) and "de facto" boss of the DeCavalcante crime family.

Who killed Carmine? ›

In August 2008, Indelicato pleaded guilty to murder, and on December 16, 2008, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. Indelicato was imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury. He was released on May 20, 2022.

What did Carmine Galante do? ›

Utterly ruthless, Carmine "Lilo" Galante became best known for masterminding the heroin trade and the grisly gangland execution that ended his reign. On February 21, 1910, in an East Harlem tenement, one of the most notorious gangsters of the 20th century was born.

Is the mob still active today? ›

The power of the Mafia, which originated decades ago, is still evident to this day. It is a fact that in some cities and states it has lost its power and influence as a criminal organization. But in some regions it is still noticeable in 2021.

Is there still a mob in New York? ›

Since 1931, five families have run New York's Italian-American Mafia: the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese.

Who is the biggest gangster in Chicago? ›

Chicago's most infamous Prohibition-era crime boss, Al Capone is best known for his violence and ruthlessness in his elimination of his rivals.

Which of the 5 families is the weakest? ›

It's been estimated that the crime organization has 90 to 110 members, and its territories span everywhere from Long Island, parts of New York, Massachusetts, and South Florida. Authorities has stated that they believe the Colombo family is the weakest of the five.

What is the most powerful organized crime group? ›

Historically, the largest organized crime force in the United States has been La Cosa Nostra (Italian-American Mafia), but other transnational criminal organizations have also risen in prominence in recent decades.

Who is the boss of the Gambino family 2021? ›

Following Cali's death, it was reported that Lorenzo Mannino had become the new Gambino leader.

Who was the first female mobster? ›

A former beauty queen who shot to fame when she killed her husband's killer in Naples at the age of 18 and went on to become the first female boss in Italy's powerful Camorra mafia clan has died aged 86.

Why are mobsters called wise guys? ›

Originally, wise guy was another Mafia nickname like goodfella, made man, made guy, man of honor and so forth. In other words, a wise guy was a man who the American or Sicilian Mafia had officially inducted into their ranks. In America, during their halcyon days, the Mafia ran much of the action.

What are some gangster boy names? ›

  • Apache.
  • Butch.
  • Bugsy.
  • Carlo.
  • Carmine.
  • Cassidy.
  • Chevy.
  • Clyde.

Who is the Top 10 gangster in the world? ›

Full List
  • Semion Mogilevich.
  • Al Capone.
  • Charles 'Lucky' Luciano.
  • Pablo Escobar.
  • John Gotti.
  • Hisayuki Machii.
  • Tony 'Big Tuna' Accardo.
  • Salvatore Riina.

Does the Chicago Outfit still exist? ›

As of 2007, the Outfit's size is estimated to be 28 official members (composing its core group) and more than 100 associates. From 1996 to 2018, the Chicago Outfit was believed to be led by John DiFronzo. As of 2021, the Chicago Outfit is believed to be led by Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis.

Who is the most powerful gangster in New York? ›

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was an Italian-American mobster, considered the founder and father of organized crime in America and the most powerful Mafia boss of all time.

What does Goomba mean in Italian? ›

Where does goombah come from? The word goombah is an Anglicized version of the Italian phrase cumpà or compare, which means “friend” or “godfather.” Many Southern Italian pronunciations of this word sound like “goombah” to English speakers.

What is a gun Molly? ›

A gun moll or gangster moll or gangster's moll is the female companion of a male professional criminal.

What are some gangster words? ›

Some of the most popular ganger slang words of the 20s included:
  • bean shooter - a gun.
  • beef - a problem or complaint.
  • blow one down - to kill someone.
  • bop - to kill.
  • bruno - an enforcer; gangster tough guy.
  • bump - to kill.
  • button man - a hit man; killer for hire.
  • can opener - safecracker.

Who was the man who fixed the World Series in 1919? ›

In 1919, Arnold Rothstein pulled off his most notorious scheme: the Black Sox Scandal. That fall, two titans of baseball — the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati — were facing off in the World Series, arguably the most popular sports event in the United States at that time.

What is a mob enforcer called? ›

A crime boss, also known as a crime lord, Don, gang lord, kingpin, godfather, or criminal mastermind, is a person in charge of a criminal organization.

What songs are on mob hits? ›

Mob Hits

Who were the 8 Black Sox? ›

The eight players are Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Claude "Lefty" Williams, "Happy" Felsch and Fred McMullen. They will be acquitted by a jury in August, but Landis will ban the Black Sox for life.

What gangster fixed the World Series? ›

Arnold Rothstein

What happened to Shoeless Joe? ›

As he aged, Jackson began to suffer from heart trouble. In 1951, at the age of 64, he died of a heart attack. Jackson was the first of the eight banned players to die, and is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Greenville. He had no children but he and his wife raised two of his nephews.

What do Italian gangsters say? ›

Un/una saccente– a know it all or a smart ass. Omerta– This is the mafia's vow of silence. You must take this vow to be in the mafia.

What are Italian gangsters called? ›

The best-known Italian organized crime group is the Mafia or Sicilian Mafia (referred to as Cosa Nostra by members).

Is Gambino family still active? ›

The family's fortunes grew through 1976, when Gambino appointed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as boss upon his death.
...
Gambino crime family.
Carlo Gambino, the Gambino crime family's namesake
Founded1900s
Founding locationNew York City, New York, United States
Years active1900s–present
8 more rows

Who is the godfather based on? ›

Don Corleone was inspired by real-life mob boss Frank Costello. Don Vito Corleone has similarities to several real-life mobsters, including Joe Profaci, who used his olive oil distributorship as a front for his illegal activities, and Carlo Gambino, who used a quiet, non-flashy style en route to power.

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