Thoughts on Salvatore Spitale Jan 21, 2015 17:20:56 GMT -5
Post by Michael on Jan 21, 2015 17:20:56 GMT -5
Placed in the Archives by Admin For feathers
[Originally Created on Jan 19, 2015]
Thoughts on Salvatore Spitale
First of all, Spitale was in fact Sicilian - more specifically from Palermo. This is significant because many of the mafia families formed around emigrants from specific parts of Sicily.
He emigrated to the US at age 6 in 1903 and went to live with his uncle Vincent D'Antonio who operated a saloon at 123 1/2 Chrystie Street. He had two brothers, Guy and Joe, both of whom followed him into at least bootlegging, if not other crimes.
This neighbourhood was in the Lower East Side in territory of gangs such as those led by Monk Eastman, Dopey Benny Fein, Kid Dropper and Little Augie Orgen (See Asbury, Gangs of New York). At the same time, the mafia family of mostly Palermittani, led by Ignazio the Wolf (later Toto D'Aquila, Vincent Mangano, Albert Anastasia and ultimately Carlo Gambino) was also present in nearby Little Italy (see Mike Dash, the First Family).
The FBI report claimed that Spitale "graduated to the gang that operated around Grand Street". This would be the Fein-Dropper-Orgen gang.
In 1914, Spitale received his only conviction - a burglary charge that was reduced to "unlawful entry". He was given a suspended sentence.
Even as late at 1918, when Spitale joined the navy and 1919 when he was honourably discharged, he was still living in the neighbourhood. He was naturalized as a result of his military service.
We know from Halpern that Bitz was running drugs for Spitale when he was arrested in 1926 and that the gang headquarters was on Forsythe Street, not far from Chrystie Street and still within the territory of the Lower East Side gangs.
In 1927, Little Augie Orgen was killed in a shooting that also wounded Legs Diamond who was with him at the time. Bitz was known to be associated with Orgen.
It has also been claimed that Bitz was associated with Lepke Buchalter (who took over Orgen's gang).
In 1928, Spitale was arrested with a number of gang members from Jack "Legs" Diamond's gang. Also arrested was Salvatore Arcidiaco, a long time Spitale friend and dope peddler. Arcidiaco would later be associated with the Lucchese family. Bitz was also associated with Diamond. Dutch Schultz was once part of Diamond's gang as well. Lucky Luciano also had ties to Diamond.
In 1931, Spitale and Bitz had been involved in a gun battle with police on the Brooklyn waterfront and were arrested with a large number of Vannie Higgins' gang members. It was this charge that was dismissed shortly after Spitale and Bitz were announced as Lindbergh's intermediaries.
Also in 1931, Legs Diamond was killed. Spitale and Bitz are generally credited with this hit, as well as an earlier attempt on Diamond, supposedly in retaliation for refusing to return a large sum of money given to Diamond for a botched drug buying operation in Europe.
Newspapers claimed that Spitale was a member of the Ciro Terranova family (in East Harlem) and the Rock mob (Joe and John Rock, bootleggers in the Bronx who were squeezed out by Dutch Schultz in 1928)
Bitz was said to be associated with Dutch Schultz and Mad Dog Coll. If so, Bitz may have followed Coll's defection from the Schultz gang. In February 1932, Mad Dog Coll was killed.
It is worthy of note that the FBI report states that Thayer eavesdropped on a call between Rosner and Madden in which Madden was angry that Spitale and Bitz had been brought in.
In April 1932, Spitale was arrested on one of Vannie Higgins' boats in New Jersey. In June 1932, Vannie Higgins was killed after attending a children's recital - Spitale and Bitz had also been at the recital and left earlier. Spitale freely admitted being involved in bootlegging with Higgins.
Writing in 1932, Dennis Tilden Lynch, NY journalist, claimed that Spitale was a rival of Masseria for leadership of the "Unione Siciliana".
In summer 1933, Spitale was reported to be associating with Waxey Gordon's gang.
The FBI report claimed that Spitale "occupies a place just below that of the more important racketeers".
What does all of this amount to? There is ample evidence that Spitale was closely associated with Little Augie Orgen, Legs Diamond and Vannie Higgins.
With respect to mafia involvement, despite contemporary beliefs, it does not appear that Spitale was an actual member of the mafia (he was a "friend of mine" rather than a "friend of ours"). Just because he was Sicilian, we should not make the assumption he was in the mafia. Despite Lynch's claim, it does not appear he had any role in the Castellamare war that enveloped the five families 1930-1931.
He was probably closest to the Mangano family, which was mostly composed of emigrants from Palermo and which dominated his home neighbourhood. It is unlikely he had any association with Ciro Terranova who was associated with Dutch Schultz. The latter was an enemy of Vannie Higgins and the Rock brothers.
Geographically it appears that Spitale had strong ties to the Lower East Side, with operations in Brooklyn (through Higgins), the Bronx (through the Rock brothers), and in the Catskills.
Those are just my inferences however so feel free to challenge them!