Joseph Valachi was a New York City gangster turned informant. As a star witness at a government inquiry, he confirmed the existence of crime families in New York and New Jersey.
Mafia gangster turned informant. Born Joseph Michael Valachi on September 22, 1904 in New York City. One of seventeen children, only six of whom survived, Valachi grew up in a world of poverty and despair. While in prison for neighborhood thievery, Valachi met up with old-time mobster Alessandro Vollero, who taught him the intricate workings of the Mafia underworld.
After his release, Valachi launched his career in organized crime. A member of Lucky Luciano's mob family from the 1930s through the 1950s, Valachi was primarily involved in rackets and gambling.
In 1959, Valachi was convicted of narcotics violations and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In September 1963, he appeared as the star witness before "The McClellan Committee," a government inquiry into the mob. Valachi revealed graphic details of mob life and confirmed the existence of five crime families in New York and one in New Jersey.
After returning to prison, Valachi teamed with appointed writer Peter Maas to publish his memoirs, The Valachi Papers, in 1968. He died on April 3, 1971, at La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution in Texas.
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