Who pays gangsters
Deported to Italy 75 years agoMafia boss Lucky Luciano - gangster and reformer
The airport of Naples on January 26, 1962: One of the most notorious gangsters in the world is waiting for the arrival of his biographer - and suffers a heart attack. An ordinary death that did not match the spectacular life of this Sicilian. For years he ruled the New York underworld with economic success but unscrupulously: Charles Luciano alias "Lucky", a legend during his lifetime and a "reformer" of the Mafia, of whom he himself said: "You only leave them in the coffin."
The business of the mafia: betting, drugs, prostitution
Born on November 11th, 1896 in Lercara Friddi, a sulfur mining area in Sicily, Salvatore, known as "Charlie" Luciano, came to the USA at the age of nine. As a young man, he worked in the dispatch department of a hat factory, hiding heroin in hat boxes and building a distribution network - the beginning of a criminal career that many immigrant Sicilians embarked on at the time. After winning $ 244 at the dice game, he names himself "Lucky". Another version says he calls himself that because he survived an assassination attempt.
(Getty Images / Corbis / Stefano Montesi) Tourism in Sicily - On an anti-mafia tour in Palermo
Around 60 percent of business people in Palermo, Sicily, pay money to the mafia. Nevertheless, there are more and more people who do not want to pay protection money - and who mark their shop with a sticker. A special tourist tour through the city draws attention to the silent protest.
"Behind every great fortune there is a crime," becomes his core belief. He makes a lot of money horse racing, gambling, drug trafficking, and gaining reputation in the New York underworld. In 1925, he is said to have made $ 12 million from alcohol smuggling alone. In order to get to the top of the "Cosa Nostra", as the Italian-American Mafia is later called, he has some rivals eliminated.
"We only kill each other"
When alcohol smuggling became uninteresting with the abolition of prohibition, he opened up new business areas for the mafia in the clothing industry, prostitution and fishing. In order to keep the seven warring clan families in check, he appoints mediators and installs a commission in which the bosses make decisions on a democratic basis. He also opens the organization to non-Sicilians, works with Irish and Jews of Belarusian origin.
A completely new type of mafioso emerges under Luciano's leadership. Rough thugs turn into conservatively dressed business men with exemplary manners who advance to the upper middle class, but show off their wealth. Like Luciano himself, who wears bespoke suits and hand-sewn shoes, is friends with the young Frank Sinatra and is invited to Republican and Democratic events.
Thomas Dewey's mission: put the mafia boss behind bars
He was arrested several times, but released immediately. Because he makes sure never to leave anything incriminating in writing. His heyday in America did not end until lawyer Thomas Dewey, appointed New York City Special Prosecutor, had only one mission: to smash organized crime. He brings Luciano to the dock and explains at the start of the trial on May 11, 1936:
"Frankly, my witnesses are prostitutes, puffmothers, marauders, pimps and ex-convicts. We have to use the testimony of bad men to judge other bad men."
Good relationships also help in prison
Lucky Luciano was sentenced to 50 years in prison for forced prostitution in 62 cases and was taken to a maximum security prison in Dannemora in 1936. But when the Americans enter World War II, it is needed by the military. Acts of sabotage on the ships on the east coast are feared, and Luciano's influence on the dock workers, while still in the cell, helps. As a reward, he was transferred to a better detention center and was finally pardoned in 1945 on the condition that he would never return to the United States after his deportation.
On February 10, 1946, Lucky Luciano left American soil for Italy on board the SS Laura Keene. Back in Naples he set up a spaghetti factory, still deals in drugs, but no longer has any power in the area. Until the end of his life he was angry with the man who put him behind bars:
"I still hate Thomas Dewey for making me a gangster in the eyes of the world."
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