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Tommy Lucchese is best known as one of New York City's mob bosses during the 1950's and 1960's.
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Mob boss. Born Gaetano Lucchese on December 1, 1899 in Palermo, Sicily. When he was a boy, Tommy Lucchese's family immigrated to East Harlem, where he quickly became affiliated with street gangs. When he was 18, he started a window washing company, which eventually fronted an extortion racket. In 1921, Lucchese was convicted of auto theft. It was his first and only conviction; he served three years in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York state for the crime.
Before long, Lucchese moved into leadership roles within Gaetano Reina's Mafia organization in the Bronx. During the 1920s, he became a key ally of Charles "Lucky" Luciano. At the start of the Castellammarese War between rival crime bosses Giuseppe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano in 1930, Lucchese and Tom Gagliano were key figures in Reina's crime family.
On February 26, 1930, Masseria had Reina killed, then named Joe Pinzolo as new head of the Reina Crime Family. Seven months later, Pinzolo was gunned down in an office he shared with Lucchese. With Pinzolo gone, Gagliano became boss and Lucchese was named underboss. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was gunned down by several of his own men. The Castellemmarese War was over, and Lucchese had become one of Luciano's preferred hitmen.
With the gang war over, Salvatore Maranzano set up a new network of crime families in New York City with himself as top boss. However, on September 10, 1931, Maranzano was murdered in his office. Some sources believe that Lucchese secretly informed Luciano and Vito Genovese that Maranzano planned to have them killed.
In 1953, after serving 22 years as a loyal underboss to Gaetano "Tommy" Gagliano, Lucchese became boss of the Lucchese Crime Family. Under his leadership, the Lucchese syndicate expanded their business holdings to include garment businesses, trucking companies, and trade associations. As part-owner of some downtown hotspots, including the Casino de Paris and Music Hall, Lucchese became friendly with stars such as Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He was popular and well respected among his men, but was also capable of ruthless violence. All told, Lucchese was alleged to have been involved in at least 30 murders.
In August 1965, Lucchese was admitted to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center with a brain tumor and heart ailment. He died on July 13, 1967. His funeral was attended by over 1,000 mourners including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, and hitmen.
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