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Vito Genovese

Vito Genovese Mugshot

The arrest of Vito Genovese:

He was an Italian born mobster who rose through the ranks to head a New York crime family that was eventually named after him. In fact, for a few years in the late 1950's, he was considered the boss of all bosses in the Italian Mafia.

Vito Genovese was born near Naples and received the equivalent of a fifth grade education before his family moved to the United States when he was 15.

Living in the "Little Italy" section of Manhattan, he soon fell in with mobsters, running errands for them, stealing goods off of pushcarts, even collecting money from the local bookmakers running illegal numbers games.

Vito Genovese Early photo

He also made a key friend an ally: Lucky Luciano, who after emerging the victor in a series of mob wars which led to the demise of mob bosses Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, became the head of the Italian mob.

Genovese was suspected in a series of murders…

Vito Genovese wanted poster

…including those of rival gang leaders and the husband of his cousin, whom he later took as his own wife.

Vito Genovese wearing fedora

When Luciano was convicted on prostitution charges, Genovese became the head of the Luciano gang, and had the nickname "Don Vito." He was behind the 1957 Mafia meeting in Apalachin, New York that led to one of the biggest mob busts of the 1950's.

Vito Genovese after Apalachin

In July, 1958, Genovese was indicted on charges of conspiring to import and sell narcotics. A 1962 murder threat led his underling, Joseph Valachi, to become the first major mafia informant, telling authorities about the history and inner workings of the Mob.

A movie about Valachi was made, starring Charles Bronson.

All of that testimony happened while Genovese was behind bars, sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in April, 1959 on a heroin conviction. He never regained his freedom, dying on Valentine's Day, 1969 of a heart attack in the U.S. Medical Center for Federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

Like his old pal Lucky Luciano…

Vito Genovese grave

…Genovese's buried in St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens.

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