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Lucky Luciano was an Italian-born American mobster best known for engineering the structure of modern organized crime in the United States.
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With his rival vanquished, Luciano focused on improving how criminal gangs did business. He sought to create a national organized crime network to quell any conflicts, manage disputes and establish guidelines between the different operations. In addition to the heads of the five families, he brought in other crime figures from across the country, including Chicago's Al Capone. This new entity, sometimes known as the Commission,
took organized crime to a new level.
In the early 1930s, Luciano was enjoying the high life. He lived at New York's luxurious Waldolf Towers, part of Waldorf Astoria Hotel under the name Charles Ross. Flush with cash, Luciano looked the part of a wealthy businessman, wearing custom-made suits and riding around in chauffeur-driven cars. But the good times were about to come to end, as Thomas E. Dewey was appointed to serve as a special prosecutor to look into organized crime in 1935.
Luciano's luck ran out in 1936. He and eight members of his vice racket were brought to trial that May. Convicted on extortion and prostitution charges in June, he was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in jail. Luciano was sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Nicknamed "Siberia" by some, the remote prison was near the Canadian border. Luciano tried to appeal his case, but the court upheld his conviction.
While in prison, Luciano offered to help in the war effort during World War II by using his criminal connections in Italy to advance the Allies' cause. After the war, Luciano received parole and a deportation order. He went back to Italy briefly and then traveled to Cuba. There he met up with some of his old cohorts in crime, including Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.
In 1947, the Cuba government sent Luciano back to Italy where he remained under close surveillance. He was not allowed to leave Naples, where he spent the remainder of his days. According to some reports, he still had in his hands in narcotics trafficking. Luciano considered sharing the inside details of his life story over the years. In an odd twist of fate, he suffered a fatal heart attack at a Naples Airport in January 1962. Luciano had been there to meet with a film and television producer.
After hundreds gathered in Naples for the funeral, Luciano's body was returned to the United States. He was buried in the family's vault at St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York. While he spent much of his life as the notorious Charles "Lucky" Luciano, he was laid to rest by his parents under his birth name—Salvatore Lucania.
The criminal empire that Luciano created still continues on to this day. His former underboss, Vito Genovese, eventually took control of Luciano's organization and is now referred to as the Genovese crime family.
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