Most Notorious Mobsters
Born in Calabria, in southern Italy on September 26, 1902, Albert's birth name was Umberto Anastasio. His parents were Raffaelo Anastasio and Louisa Nomina de Filippi.
Raffaelo was a railway worker who died after World War I, leaving behind nine sons and three daughters. Albert's brothers included Salvatore, Frank, Joseph, Gerardo, and Tony Anastasio who he was closest to. When Albert was 15 years old he took to the sea with his brother Tony working for a shipping company. When they made it to the Brooklyn port, the two boys left the ship and headed into Brooklyn set on starting a new life. Soon, both found jobs working as longshoremen on the Brooklyn waterfront. The year was 1917.
From the time he landed in the United States, Anastasio wanted to be a gangster. To avoid bringing shame upon his family he changed his name to Anastasia, so when he was identified in the newspapers as part of a criminal organisation his family named wouldn't be dragged through the mud. Despite his name change, his brother Tony kept the Anastasio name and would later become one of the leading racketeers who controlled the docks in Brooklyn.
On March 17, 1921 Anastasia was arrested for the murder of Joe Torino after a dispute over the right to unload ships with precious cargo. Witnesses described the killing where Anastasia, a man with incredible strength, stabbed and strangled Joe with no regard for onlookers. Anastasia was convicted and sentenced to death. He was sent to the notorious Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York to await execution. Due process in the 1920's was scheduled and meant to expedite. Anastasia continuously filed petitions for a retrial during his incarceration. Shortly before he was to be executed, he won a new trial when some of the witnesses reversed their statements. Four other witnesses, who provided the most damning testimony during his first trial had disappeared. Anastasia was released from custody in 1922 at the age of 20 to await a new trial. The new trial was never held.
By the late 1920s, Anastasia had become a top leader of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), controlling six union local chapters in Brooklyn along side his brother. He allied himself with Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, a powerful gang leader in Brooklyn and became close associates with future Cosa Nostra bosses Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello.
By 1930 the Castellammarese War was in full swing with mafia boss Salvatore Maranzano fighting for control over New York rackets against the powerful Joe Masseria. Both sides suffered serious casualties but momentum shifted when Lucky Luciano, who looked to take over the rackets himself, secretly aligned himself with Maranzano and conspired to kill Masseria. Luciano outlined his plot to Anastasia, who joined him and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel in the plot. Anastasia who had been waiting for eight years for Luciano to be in charge declared he would "kill everybody" he was asked so Luciano could be on top.
On April 15, 1931, it is alleged Anastasia participated in Masseria's murder after Luciano lured Masseria to a meeting at a Coney Island, Brooklyn restaurant. During their meal, Luciano excused himself to the restroom. As soon as he was gone, Anastasia, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, and Bugsy Siegel rushed into the dining room and shot Masseria to death. With his death, Maranzano took control of the New York rackets. He proceeded to make changes and is responsible for reorganizing the New York gangs into "families".
Shortly after his restructuring in September 1931, Maranzano was himself murdered on Luciano's orders leaving Luciano the most powerful boss in the United States.To avoid the power struggles and turf disputes that led to the Castellammarese War, Luciano established the National Crime Syndicate, consisting of the major family bosses from around the country and the so-called "five families" of New York. The Syndicate was meant to serve as a governing body to solve disputes, distribute territories, and regulate lucrative illegal activities such as racketeering, and gambling.
Meanwhile in 1932, Anastasia was indicted on charges of murdering another man with an ice pick, but the case was dropped due to lack of witnesses. The following year he was charged with another murder, but again no witnesses were willing to testify and the case against him was dropped. Free of any court appearances and indictments, Luciano looked to repay his friend for his loyalty during his assault on Masseria and Maranzano and offered him the position of chief of Murder Inc., the commissions enforcement arm. Murder Inc., was a service for hire where connected men requested Anastasia's assistance in completing open murder contracts.
Anastasia worked along other notorious murderers like Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and Abe (Kid Twist) Reles who was ruthless and somewhat irresponsible. It was Kid Twist who eventually brought Murder Inc., to the front doorstep of the FBI when he was busted and decided to talk instead of facing the death penalty. Reles implicated Anastasia and Buchwalter as the heads of Murder Inc. and claimed they had killed more than 63 people. One day Reles, who was in protective custody awaiting trial where he would testify in open court against Anastasia and Buchalter, mysteriously went out a window and fell to his death. That left the prosecution with little evidence against Anastasia. Buchalter was eventually tried and convicted. He was the only gangster to ever get the chair.
Spring 1942 Anastasia, who was under constant scrutiny from the FBI and local law enforcement secretly ordered the murder of associate Anthony Romeo. Like Reles, Romeo had been arrested and was talking to authorities to implicate Anastasia in several murders. By the end of June, Romeo's body was found beaten and shot multiple times near Guyencourt Delaware.
With the start of World War II, Anastasia reportedly became the mastermind behind a plan to win Luciano freedom from prison in exchange for supplying the United States government with inside information from his contacts in Sicily. He also suggested he could protect the eastern waterfront from German attack. As a part of the effort, Anastasia joined the United States Army although many speculate he did this to escape criminal investigations, he maintained he was doing his part to secure the borders by training longshoremen on the coast in Pennsylvania. As a reward for his efforts Anastasia was granted citizenship in the United States. He was no longer illegal, and after his honourable discharge from the Army in 1944 moved his family to a mansion in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Despite working closely with Luciano and Costello, Anastasia was the underboss of the Mangano family. Boss of the family Vincent Mangano resented the relationship Anastasia had with the two men and was particularly upset Luciano and Costello didn't ask for his permission before requesting Anastasia's services. This and several other small disputes led to Mangano and Anastasia almost coming to blows several times. In early 1951 Vincent Mangano went missing. He was never heard from again. On April 19, 1951 the body of Phillip Mangano, Vincent's brother was found shot three times floating in a wetland outside of Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. It is widely assumed Anastasia had enough and disposed of the Mangano brothers but no charges were ever filed.
As underboss, and with Mangano out of the picture, Anastasia became the new boss of the Mangano family renaming it the Anastasia family (the future Gambino family). He was a ruthless boss having once killed an informer who had nothing to do with his family just because he "didn't like stool pigeons". In a similar situation in March 1952 Anastasia was watching television where a young man from New York Arnold Schuster identified a fugitive bank robber Willie Sutton, resulting in Sutton's arrest. When Anastasia saw this, he allegedly said: "I can't stand squealers! Hit that guy!" Days later, gunmen shot Schuster to death on a street in Borough Park, Brooklyn. No one was ever arrested for the slaying.
Around the same time Vito Genovese, a powerful mobster in his own right was vying for the top spot of the Costello family after Luciano was deported. His power was limited as Costello and Anastasia had control of the commission, but after hearing of the slaying of Schuster, Genovese felt he had an opening. To kill Costello, he would need to eliminate Anastasia so he began to paint a picture of Anastasia being unstable, and unpredictable. He spoke about Anastasia bringing about unnecessary attraction to the mafia during a time where the FBI was looking for anything to bring about indictments. He soon had the ear of Anastasia capo Carlo Gambino, and Luciano friend Meyer Lansky who was growing more upset with Anastasia for muscling in on his Cuba casino operations.
Soon after gaining support from other top mobsters, Genovese went to the commission and accused Anastasia of selling memberships to his family. This was a huge accusation that the commission took seriously. In an effort to drive a wedge between Costello and Anastasia, Genovese also claimed Anastasia was plotting against Costello. With their relationship in question, Genovese felt comfortable moving against Costello. On May 2, 1957 gunmen, later identified as Vincent 'The Chin" Gigante shot and wounded Costello outside his apartment building. The near death experience convinced Costello life was more important. He stepped in front of the commission and retired giving Genovese control of the family.
Genovese wasn't finished with his rise to the top of the commission. To make Anastasia appear more unstable, Genovese spread the word that Anastasia hired The Chin to shoot and miss Costello. Of course it was Genovese who hired Gigante, Costello believed the ruse and gave his approval for Genovese to move against Anastasia.
In the end, Anastasia's own routine gave Genovese gunmen the opportunity to end his reign. On the morning of October 25, 1957 Anastasia entered the Park Sheraton Hotel barber. Joe Bocchino, who had been shaving and cutting Anastasia's hair for years, draped a candy striped barber's cloth over Anastasia and began cutting his hair. A manicurists sat next to the chair and worked on the bosses fingernails. A shoeshine boy began polishing Anastasia's brown shoes. It was the same time and same service Anastasia had every other day for years.
Shortly after 10:15 a.m. with Anastasia dozing in the chair, his eyes closed, two men quietly walked into the barber shop. They drew their .38 caliber pistols and waved the men and boy away from Anastasia's chair. As they scattered Anastasia opened his eyes and lifted his hand in a defence as both men open fired. According to reports Anastasia let out a roar and leaped from the chair reaching for the two gunmen. He spun around after being hit in the hand, wrist, and hip. A bullet then ripped into his back causing him to fall to the floor at the base of the barbers chair. One of the gunmen is said to have calmly walked up to Anastasia, and fired the fatal round to the back of his head. Both gunmen disappeared as quickly as they appeared and although they were never apprehended, the gangland consensus is it was brothers Larry and Joe Gallo who committed the murder after being contracted by Don Vito Genovese. With Anastasia dead, capo, Carlo Gambino was awarded the Anastasia family from the commission with Genovese sitting firmly in control.