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Joseph Bonanno, known as Joe Bananas, led one of the top New York crime families in the New York from the 1930s to the 1960s.
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Throughout his life, he would work a variety of endeavors—from the criminal to the commercial. Bonanno was arrested for running guns around this time, according to The New York Times, but the charges were dropped.
Bonanno eventually went to work for Salvatore Maranzano as an enforcer. Maranzano’s operations included bootlegging and bookmaking rackets among other criminal pursuits. Taking the young Bonanno under his wing,
Maranzano served an underworld mentor to the up-and-coming mobster. Bonanno also provided Maranzano with invaluable advice and support during his clash with fellow Sicilian crime figure Joseph Masseria—in what has been called the Castellammarese War. The war ended with Masseria’s death in April 1931. Maranzano’s victory was short-lived, however. He was killed the following September by men hired by Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese.
After Maranzano’s murder, Bonanno became the head of the Maranzano crime family (later referred to as the Bonanno crime family) at the young age of twenty-six. It was one of the five ruling crime families of the New York area. In his new role, Bonanno served on the Commission, a council of crime bosses, which was intended to keep the peace among its constituents’ gangs.
That same year, Bonanno married Fay Labruzzo. The couple eventually had three children together—Salvatore (often called “Bill”) in 1932, Catherine in 1934, and Joseph Jr. in 1945. Also in 1945, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Over the years, Bonanno faced health challenges, suffering his first heart attack in 1951 while staying in Tucson, Arizona.
Bonanno also almost lost his U.S. citizenship around this time. In 1953, federal prosecutors sought to void his citizenship. They said that he lied on his application for naturalization by not mentioning the $450 fine he had received for violating federal labor laws at his garment business in the early 1940s. The case was later dismissed.
this legal obstacle, Bonanno and his organization continued to thrive.
Two of the New York underworld’s five families were united in marriage
in 1956 when Bonanno’s son Bill wed mob boss Joseph Profaci’s niece
Rosalie Profaci. The wedding was an elaborative affair held at New
York’s posh Astor Hotel and featured entertainment by Tony Bennett among
others. More than 3,000 people attended the reception, including such
top organized crime figures as Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and
Despite his prominent role in organized crime, he largely managed to keep a relatively low profile until 1957. That October, Bonanno was questioned in relation to the murder of fellow mob boss Albert Anastasia and then released. He and tens of other organized crime figures, including Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci, and Vito Genovese, were arrested in a raid on a home in Apalachin, New York, in what authorities considered to be some type of special underworld meeting.
Bonanno along with several other attendees were indicted on conspiracy to obstruct justice charges in 1959, but he never stood trial.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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