Albert Anastasia was born on September 26, 1902, in Tropea, Italy. After becoming a hitman at a young age, he became one of the most powerful crime bosses of the 20th century. He helped run the deadly organization known as Murder Inc. and headed up what later became known as the Gambino crime family. In 1957, Anastasi was brutally shot to death in New York City by two masked men under the orders of his underboss, Carlo Gambino.
Born Umberto Anastasio on September 26, 1902, in Tropea, Italy, Albert Anastasia became a hitman at a young age, and later became one of the most powerful crime bosses of the 20th century. He helped run the deadly organization known as Murder Inc. and headed up what later became known as the Gambino crime family.
The oldest son of a railroad worker, Anastasia grew up in a small fishing village in the Calabria region. He had eight brothers and three sisters, according to an FBI report. In his early teens, Anastasia made his way to the United States in 1917 by working on a ship with his brothers, Anthony and Joseph. He and his brother Anthony, also later known as "Tough Tony," soon got involved in crime.
In 1921, Anastasia killed a man during a fight. He was convicted of the crime, but he later beat the charge at a retrial. The key witness in the case had fled the country. Anastasia later spent time in prison on a gun-possession charge. Around this time, he became a rising player in the criminal underworld that thrived on the Brooklyn waterfront. Anastasia had befriended the likes of Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello.
Anastasia earned the nickname "The Executioner" for his work as a hitman. According to some reports, he enjoyed watching his victims die. Anastasia established a reputation for being especially brutal and cruel. In addition to murder, he engaged in a number of different crimes, including loan-sharking and gambling. His brother Anthony became a local union boss, which helped Albert gain greater strength in the underworld of the Brooklyn waterfront.
Working with Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Anastasia oversaw many of the mob murders carried out by Murder Inc. This organization handled contract killings for the five crime families of New York, using its own team of hitmen. Anastasia served as the "finger" or "fingerman" by ordering the killings. According to some reports, Murder Inc. was responsible for the murder of at least 63 men with some estimates running much higher. The organization fell apart in the early 1940s after one of the hitmen turned against the group.
In 1942, Anastasia enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was released from duty two years later. Anastasia was part of the Mangano crime family (later known as the Gambino crime family), but he did not get along with the boss Vincenzo "Vincent" Mangano. In 1951, he had Mangano killed and seized control of the organization.
Anastasia's reign did not run smoothly, however. The United States government worked hard to bring down this crime boss. They tried to have him deported in 1954 after revoking his citizenship. He was also brought up on tax charges that same year. Yet it was someone within Anastasia's organization who proved to be his downfall.
Death and Legacy
On October 25, 1957, Anastasia went to the barber shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City for a haircut. But instead of getting a trim, he was killed in a hail of bullets. Two masked gunmen attacked him while he sat in the barber's chair, hitting him five times. Anastasia's underboss, Carlo Gambino, reportedly orchestrated the killing after he convinced the mob that Anastasia had become a liability.
Anastasia's brutal murder made headlines, and is still remembered as one of the mob's most gruesome killings. Unlike some mob bosses, Anastasia had a very simple funeral and burial. Only a few friends and family members were on hand when he was laid to rest at the Green-Wood Cemetery in South Brooklyn, New York, on October 28, 1957. His killers were never caught.
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