Whether it’s watching mobsters shoot up the big screen or make newspaper headlines, American culture has had a long running affair with gangsters. More often than not, prison or death seems to be the mafia’s retirement plan. Here are 7 mobsters you may have missed.
Photo credit: jasonr611, Flickr
7 Stefano “Steve the Truck Driver” Vitabile
Stefano started out as a soldier and later rose to consigliere of the New Jersey based DeCavalcante crime family. In 1990 he was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy, but his violent streak is what landed him a life sentence in 2006. Following an argument in 1991, he ordered the killing of underboss, Louis LaRasso. He also whacked acting boss Johnny D’Amato after hearing about homosexual rumors. Neither body was ever recovered. It’s probably fair to assume the guy wasn’t an Elton John fan.
6 Ruslan Labazanov
Born in Kazahkstan, Ruslan was a martial arts expert and known for being charismatic, yet extremely violent. It’s no wonder he rose to become boss of the Russian based Chechen Mafia. The guy took on followers of the Chechen President in a two day blood bath in 1992 and declared he would have the President’s head. He had many enemies and it’s unclear if he was gunned down in 1996 by one of his own men or relatives of a slain police officer. No wonder fellow Kazahk Borat has so much street cred.
5 Liborio “Barney” Salvatore Bellomo
Born in Sicily, Bellomo became a capo in the Genovese outfit before the age of 30. He soon took over the racketeering, heroin trafficking, and prostitution rings for East Harlem’s 116th Street Crew. Rising to become acting boss he was indicted on extortion and murder charges in ’96. He plead guilty to lesser charges and served a 10 year sentence. As of 2008 he’s a free man. Word on the street is the 116th Street Crew is taking applications via Craigslist.
4 Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno
This NY mobster rose to become the front boss of the Genovese crime family. Known for his stylish fedora and constant cigar chomping, he earned the nickname “Fat Tony” for his size – the guy couldn’t pass up a canoli. Extortion, money laundering, illegal gambling — the guy knew about the dollar. In 1986 he even earned Fortune Magazine’s top spot of gangster in wealth and power. He became diabetic and died of a stroke at a prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Mob boss: 0, Cholesterol: 1.
3 William “Wild Bill” Cutolo
This Brooklyn born wise-guy started as a hit man and through hard work later became underboss of the Colombo mafia family. He earned his nickname after beating a Union official with a baseball bat in 1989 while horrified Teamsters looked on. Oddly enough, he was bestowed the title, “Man of the Year” in 1988 by the National Leukemia Association for his charity work. It wasn’t uncommon for him to visit children’s hospitals dressed as Santa. And who says the mafia doesn’t give back?
2 Giuseppe “Joe The Boss” Masseria
Immigrating to the US from Sicily in 1903 to avoid a murder charge it didn’t take long for Masseria to start working as an enforcer for the Morello Gang. He earned a reputation for being lucky after surviving a point blank hit attempt. Gangsters soon began calling him “the man who dodges bullets.” He was assassinated in 1931, while eating at one of his favorite restaurants in Coney Island, when he got up to go to the bathroom two men pumped him full of 20 bullets. People on the street quickly changed the nickname to, “That Bastard Who USED to Dodge Bullets.”
1 Nikolai “The Russian” Radev
The Russian Mafia has operations in Australia — who knew? And Nikolai Radev was one of their top enforcers in Melbourne during the 1990s. The guy had a rap sheet that included drug charges, extortion, blackmail, armed robbery and murder. Nikolai met a nasty death in 2003 after being shot seven times in the head and chest. His bodyguard and two other associates were present at the time but claimed they couldn’t provide police with any clues to the gunman’s identity. Hear no murder, speak no murder, see no murder – right, Nikolai?