The crime family Carlos inherited was a successful mixture of gangsters, policeman on the pad and corrupt politicians. For while the Mafiosi enforced his edicts, their success depended as much on the people who wanted their illegal services and the bureaucrats who allowed them to operate openly to achieve their objectives. The mob only gave people what they wanted. The fact that their wants were illegal was no concern of Marcello and his men.
By the late 1940s, Carlos had established his headquarters in an old barn he had converted into a bar and restaurant that came to be known as Willswood Tavern. It sat on Highway 90, near the unincorporated community of Waggaman, about fifteen miles west of New Orleans on the West Bank in Jefferson Parish. He would hold court here, every Sunday, meeting up with the men who ran his empire, collecting his take for the week and dispensing justice to the unruly. He owned 6400 acres of swampland that spread away from the inn with lots of unique and handy bayous to hide bodies. After business, he would entertain his people on a lavish scale.
A man with a gargantuan appetite, he imported a chef from Chicago Heights, an ex-convict who had apparently been the personal cook of Al Capone. His name was Provino Mosca and his Italian cooking became legend in the area. Carlos built a small house near the tavern for the chef and his wife and three children, and when it was time to move his head office elsewhere, some sources claim in 1946, others 1951, Carlos left the tavern for Mosca to continue operating.
Today family members still run the business know as Mosca's, at 4137 Highway 90, Westwego, producing food equally as delicious as Provino did before he died in 1962. Their two crab salads, garlic shrimp and chicken a la grand is food to die for, according to many food critics, which no doubt may well have been the case eighty years ago for some of the visitors to this tavern on the green.
Guys like Gene Mano aka Constantino Masatto, and Tommy Siracusa, and an unidentified third murder victim whose bodies were found in the Willswood area in 1943.
The Evil Genius
In January 1951, a hearing was held in the federal courthouse in New Orleans. Before a packed audience of spectators, reporters, and photographers and under the scrutiny of cameramen filming for national news syndicates and television stations, Carlos Marcello and a group of men were questioned by members of a Senate investigation team. Known as the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, it was chaired by Senator Estes Carey Kefauver. In the 16 months of its existence, from May 1st, 1950 to September 1st, 1951, the committee heard more than 500 witnesses from minor hoodlums to major racketeers, and also officials on every government level. It investigated and took evidence in 14 cities and, for the first time, on a public basis, it disclosed the link between organized crime, business, and politics.
Kefauver was in the prime of his political life. A Democrat from Tennessee, a Roper poll later in the year called him one of the ten most admired men in America. He would become known also as the godfather of the American Presidential Primary system, as he was the first politician to see primaries as a "corridor to power." On this visit to New Orleans however, he was leading a group of men who had been formed into a committee to investigate organized crime. Their brief was to target gambling with the aim of promoting federal laws to control its activities interstate.
During a week-long session, the committee called many people to give evidence. There was Carlos and his brother Anthony. Also interviewed were James Brocato, Joe Poretto, Dandy Phil Kastel, Sheriff Frank Clancy and the mayor of New Orleans, deLesseps (Chep) Story Morrison. Carlos was grilled about a huge range of his activities and asked about his interests in bars, clubs, slot machine companies, racing wire services. He was also quizzed about his relationship with other known gangsters across America, men such as Santo Trafficante Jr., the Mafia boss of Tampa, Florida, and Joe Savela (Joe Civello), who ran organized crime in Dallas.
His relationship to this man was particularly important, although its relevance would not be obvious for a number of years. Carlo Piranio, born in Corleone, Sicily, founded the Dallas Mafia in the early 1920's. He died in 1930 from a tumor of the spinal cord and the under boss, his brother Joe, succeeded him. In 1956, age 78, Joe shoots himself in the head and is replaced by Civello. It is thought Carlos had used his influence to help Civello, born and raised in New Orleans, up into the seat of power, and the two men remained very close friends for the rest of their lives.
Carlos was grilled about his involvement in the Jefferson Music Company, the Beverley Country Club, and the Willswood Tavern. The list of questions was endless. The committee researchers had done their job well. To each and every one, Carlos invoked his right to plead the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that it might incriminate him. He did this 152 times in all. In fact, he only ever answered one question. When asked by a committee member: "What laws have you violated?" he said: "Not being an attorney I would not know."
Frustrated by the arrogance and obvious disdain that Carlos was showing them, the committee cited him for contempt and he was sentenced to six months in prison. Eventually, an appeals court overturned the verdict. The committee did make known for the first time the extent of Carlos Marcello's position and power in organized crime. Kefauver told the packed courtroom:
"The record is long, the connections are bad, the implications are sinister, and we wanted to find out among other things what was the trouble with our naturalization and immigration laws that a man who is the evil genius of organized crime in Louisiana is apparently having such a detrimental effect on law enforcement and to decency in the community, how can he continue to stay here."
The immigration authorities obviously responded to Kefauver's plea. They began an investigation into the background of Marcello, which led up to the first deportation order against him, initiating a case and a struggle that lasted until his death forty years later.
If nothing else, the Kefauver hearings at last, brought Carlos out in the open. The stocky, little man (his height seemed to vary between 5'2" and 5'4" depending on whether or not he was wearing stacked heeled shoes) with the squat figure and the moon face wide grin, the man who spoke English that was discombobulated by its Louisiana twang and semi-literate heritage, the man who came to be known as "The Midget of the Mafia," was exposed in the press and on television as: "the evil genius of crime," and "one of the principal criminals in the United States today," and "the number one hoodlum." Secret rendezvous were exposed, political contacts revealed and the involvement of his brothers in the crime family became public knowledge for the first time; the tip of the iceberg was finally being exposed.
The publicity also brought about logistical changes for Carlos. His bar and restaurant on State Highway 90 was now the subject of public scrutiny as well as that of law enforcement stakeouts. It was time to move on.
All in the Family
In 1953, Carlos purchased a group of buildings in Rossier City at 1225 Airline Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting New Orleans to Moisant Field International Airport. Consisting of a motel in one bloc, a restaurant and lounge in another and his office complex in the third, it was called Town and Country Motel. This would be his base for the rest of his criminal career. It would also be close to his next and final home, in Metarie, which would be only a five-minute drive away by car. Two of Carlos' most trusted lieutenants, Norfio Pecora and Joe Poretto, were put in charge of the running of the complex, along with one of his younger brothers, Anthony. Lawyer and confident, Mike Maroun, was Marcello’s choice to oversee the operation. The place became a meeting place for top-level gamblers, Marcello's men, crooked politicians and, equally crooked cops. Frances, the wife of Pecora, acted as Carlos' secretary, and in his office building, as visitors left, they were fare-welled by a message on the inside of the front door. It read: THREE CAN KEEP A SECRET IF TWO ARE DEAD.
From his spacious office behind a vast mahogany desk, Marcello ran his empires, both the legal and illegal ones. He had interests across Louisiana, into Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, and Texas. They also extended into the Caribbean, Mexico and across to California. His income was coming from gambling, casinos, (by 1964 he controlled fourteen of these in Gretna Parish alone,) narcotics, prostitution, slots, and extortion, and in order to maintain its momentum, he was bribing and corrupting sheriffs, justices of the peace, police officers, prosecutors, mayors, judges, councilmen, state legislators and at least one member of Congress. His illegal capital funded motels, restaurants, banks, beer and liquor stores, taxi and bus firms, shrimping fleets, gas stations, the list was endless. It seems however, that the bulk of his personal fortune came from land deals. He claimed that he was simply a salesman for the Pelican Tomato Company located at 2709 Ridgelake Drive, Metarie, and earned $1500 a month. On paper he was, and the fact that he also indirectly owned the company, whose biggest customer was the U.S. Navy, was incidental.
Within thirteen years, Carlos would be possibly the wealthiest Mafiosi in the United States and most certainly one of the most influential. His criminal organization would be generating between one and two billion dollars each year, making it the biggest industry by far in Louisiana. As the leader of the "first Mafia family" in America, he enjoyed unique privileges; for example, he could "open his books" and "make" men into his organization without the approval of the Commission. His control and dominance of the Louisiana Mafia was incontestable. The late Vincent Teresa, a Mafia thief, and enforcer, working out of the New England mob, said of Marcello's crime family:
"It was very tight. They're all in deathly fear of Carlos Marcello because he's got the law, all the politicians in the state, right in his hip pocket. You just can't go against him."
Marcello remained a man of contradictions. Uneducated beyond the age of fourteen, he spoke with a vocabulary peppered with "dats" and "nuttins." Although he controlled hundreds of millions of dollars, he found it almost impossible to add and subtract. He was, however, driven to succeed and coupled with immense tenacious energy, and passionate willpower, he was able to dominate and control men of much higher education and social breeding. His strange, squat appearance and coarse manner did not prevent him from being able to manipulate the highly educated professionals in the legal and bureaucratic corridors of the state legislature.
In 1961, Aaron Kohn, head of the New Orleans Crime Commission, reported on the historical makeup of the Marcello family and their relationship within their other, Mafia family:
Eldest brother, Peter, 40 in 1953, managed strip clubs in the French Quarter; Pascal, 36, operated an illegal gambling house in Gretna; Vincent, now aged 31, ran the Jefferson Music Company; 28-year-old Joe Jr. was Carlos' right hand, family under boss and worked with Joe Poretto in running the wire service and bookie network; Tony, aged 26, helped run the Town and Country Motel; and Sammy, the youngest brother at 24, aided in the management of the Jefferson Music Company and also acted as Carlos' spin doctor. All the brothers and the two sisters of the family were married. They and their children would meet every Sunday for lunch at the home of the family patriarch. The Louisiana Mafia was truly a family affair.
By this time, Marcello and his wife had moved again, this time north across the river to an eight-bedroom palatial home with sloping red-tiled roofs and Corinthian arches, in Metarie. He purchased the house in his mother’s name, for $110,00. 00. One of his neighbors was the head of the wealthy Provenzano family, the same one that fought the Matrangas fifty-six years before. The Marcello home was one of the bigger and more ostentatious ones on the West Bank and boldly stated its owner's power and position. He also purchased a “summer” home on Military Road, in Covington, across Lake Pontchartrain, which lies due north of Metarie, and would often meet with associates at Tony Pedrone’s Red Onion Restaurant in the small town in Tammany Parish.
Six years, almost to the date after the Kefauver committee grilled Carlos (left), the U.S. Senate set up another committee under the chairmanship of Senator John McClellan of Arkansas. Its brief was to investigate organized crime and labor racketeering. The chief counsel was Robert F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was made a member of the committee.
Carlos was once more back in the spotlight. This time he was in a high-ceiling Senate hearing room, in Washington and, just as the last time, he would not answer any of the questions that were posed by the members of the investigating panel.
Carlos was called before the meeting on March 24th, 1959, as a direct result of a subpoena that was served on him because of another meeting that had taken place sixteen months previously. It was one of a series of gatherings of Mafia heads and associates that had taken place from time to time over the years. Many of them were never discovered, or if they were, it was after the event. A few were recorded for posterity: the meeting in Cleveland in December 1928; the gathering at Atlantic City in 1929; a massive convention in the Bronx in 1931; the conference that was held in Havana in Cuba in 1946; and then on November 24th, 1957, the one that really set the mob on its ear.
On that day, New York state police observed a gathering of many people at the home of a known mobster called Joseph Barbara, a capo in the family of Russell Bufalino, based in north-east Pennsylvania, on an estate near Apalachin, in upstate New York. Sixty men were stopped and questioned; two of them were Joe Marcello, the brother of Carlo, and Joe Civello, who ran the Dallas mob, a satellite of the Marcello family operation. The disclosure of the Apalachin meeting was a watershed in law enforcement's struggle to identify just what the Mafia was and who were its rulers. Why the meeting was called has always remained a mystery, no matter what the theorists claim. There is no real evidence that it was to settle the problems caused by the murder of Albert Anastasia or the attempted murder of Frank Costello, and the subsequent raising of Vito Genovese as "Boss of Bosses," or to resolve the mob's policy regarding drug trafficking and the resulting heat from the FBI. It may well have been about all of this and more. We will never know. No one who went to the meeting ever publicly disclosed his reasons for attending. For certain, it revealed without a doubt, the existence of a crime confederation on a scale never before imagined.
It also highlighted key members of the mob and, as a direct result, people like Carlos Marcello found themselves called before the McClellan Committee to give evidence about their association with organized crime.
Before any witnesses were called, the committee heard evidence about the Louisiana Mafia from an expert. His name was Aaron Kohn. An ex-FBI crime buster, he had been involved in the arrest of such notorious gangsters like John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and, the Ma Barker gang. Invited to head up the New Orleans Crime Commission in 1953, he would spend the next twenty-five years investigating organized crime in Louisiana and becoming the foremost expert on Carlos Marcello.
He laid out the structure of the Louisiana Mafia and the fact that all the Marcello brothers were members of the secret society that had dominated the criminal underworld for almost seventy years. He detailed the growth of the Marcello empire, particularly the slot business (over 5000 machines in place), which acted as its main artery, pumping in huge amounts of money to fund and finance many of the other illegal enterprises.
The crime commission had estimated that the Marcello controlled syndicate generated at least $500 million annually from illegal gambling: $100 million from diverse “legitimate interests” in the fields of transportation, financing, housing and service industries: $100 million from illegal activities in over 1,500 syndicate-connected bars and taverns; $8 million from professional burglaries and holdups and $6 million from prostitution; and another $100 million in the form of underpayment of taxes. A Saturday Evening Post article in 1964 claimed Marcello’s criminal empire produced more than a billion dollars in revenue a year, through the 1950s and 1960s.
He detailed the depth of corruption that existed at state, city and parish level among the police departments. Sheriff Cocci took over the Jefferson Parish police in June 1956 and within weeks, he, his two deputies, his chief criminal deputy, and chief civil deputy were calling on bars and restaurants, ordering them to move out their present jukeboxes and pinball machines and advising them that new ones would be supplied by Marcelo-controlled companies. They were given the option of doing that or being harassed by police raids.
As usual, Carlos refused to answer any questions, citing the Fifth Amendment. Over and over again, the 33-year-old Robert Kennedy tried to get answers, but the boss of the mob smirked and scowled his way through the hearing, revealing absolutely nothing. But although Marcello's performance was in keeping with his attitude towards the law, he laid himself open to a judicial ambush that would arise as a direct result of his conduct at the hearing. The young chief counsel, inflamed from the embarrassing way Marcello had treated him, never forgot. Two years later, Robert Kennedy was in a position to retaliate.
Come Fly With Me
Carlos Marcello was not a stupid man. He may have given the impression by his appearance and speech pattern that he was nothing more than a Third World peasant, but you do not get to lead an organization like the Louisiana Mafia by being soft in the head. He was sharp, cunning, devious and very, very adroit in his dealings with people. A tireless worker, it was reputed that he was awake each morning at 4 am in order to check the newspaper real estate listings, in order to get onto a bargain before anyone else. But he had an Achilles heel. It was his citizenship, or lack of it. For whatever reason, Carlos had neglected to become an American citizen, unlike the rest of his family.
After his fractious encounter with the Kefauver Committee hearings, Carlos realized that the government might try and remove him from the scene through deportation proceedings and send him back to Sicily, or even worse, Tunisia. Consequently, in order to confuse the authorities, he arranged a fictitious Guatemalan birth certificate in 1956.
Carlos would have chosen Guatemala for a reason. Most of the fruit used by his company the Pelican Tomato Company came from this country, so he had well-established trading connections there. He was actively involved at one time in the smuggling of weapons to the leftist government, which was isolated by embargoes imposed by the US. government. He had also imported marijuana from Guatemala for many years. He undoubtedly had contacts there at the highest levels. It was less than four hours by air from New Orleans.
He hired Carl Irving Noll, a criminal friend of one of his brothers, with contacts in that country, through his heroin importing, to arrange for his phony birth certificate. In April, Noll flew to Guatemala and bribed a lawyer called Antonio Valladores (or Valledrez) and some of his associates to help find a February 10th 1910 birth registry with a gap in the entries. This was found in a village called San Jose Pinula and into this record book they wrote Marcello's birth name, Calogero Minacore, using specially antiquated ink. On the basis of this fraudulent registry, the Guatemalan government issued Marcello a passport.
In January 1961, Robert Kennedy took control of the Justice Department. His brother John was now President of the United States. Together they would change the world. One of the first things on the agenda of the new attorney general was a little fat man in New Orleans.
In his book The Enemy Within, Robert Kennedy wrote, "If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us." Kennedy had never forgotten the way Marcello had treated him at the McClellan hearings. He decided to use unorthodox methods to strike back at the Mafia boss. Aware of Marcello's forged Guatemalan birth certificate in the name of Calogero Minacore, he decided to use this as a lever to deport Carlos.
On April 4, 1961, Carlos paid a visit to the office of the Immigration Service in New Orleans. He was required to do this three times a month as a registered alien. Before he knew what was happening, he was in handcuffs, being conveyed by motorcade to Moisant Field International Airport. There, he was bundled onto an aircraft that took off and flew to Guatemala City, 1200 miles away. On May 5th, Jack Wasserman, a lawyer who worked for Carlos, filed suit for his immediate return.
To say the least, the actions of Kennedy had been arguable. He had deported Carlos on the basis of a known forged birth certificate. He had rid the country of a man he considered not only dangerous but also disrespectful, but he had done it by dubious means. Marcello was deeply offended by his treatment. Years later he told a congressional committee, "They just snatched me...actually kidnapped me." He never forgave Kennedy and to his close friends swore vengeance against the man for the way he had been treated.
The next eight weeks would be some of the worst in Marcello's life. After his arrival in Guatemala, he was able to contact his wife and soon she, her daughter Florence, and son Joseph Jr. joined Carlos. They all moved into the Biltmore Hotel along with Carlos' lawyer Mike Maroun and two of Carlos' brothers, Sammy and Vincent who had also flown in to support the boss. About a month after his arrival, the government informed Carlos that it had arranged for him to be returned to America. When the party arrived at the airport to embark for their trip back to the United States, Carlos was suddenly told that his visa had been denied. Instead, he and his lawyer were taken by secret service agents into the adjoining state of El Salvador and left at an army camp. Eventually, they were taken into the capital, San Salvador, and handed over to the commander of a large military barracks. In due course, the commander informed the two men that they were to be taken to Honduras to a small, provincial airport where they would fly out from the country.
After about six hours travel on a small, decrepit bus, the two were simply dropped off in the middle of the jungle and left stranded there. After a journey that lasted almost three days, walking up and down mountains, and in an out of jungles, the two, middle-aged, overweight men, dressed in clothes more suitable for urban maneuvers than wilderness adventures, eventually staggered into a small airport and hired an aircraft that flew them to the Honduras capital, Tegucigalpa. Battered, bruised, dirty and utterly exhausted, they checked into a hotel and slept for forty-eight hours.
Mike Maroun then flew back to New Orleans to reassure Marcello's family that Carlos was okay, and eventually Carlos landed back in America on May 28th. Just how he returned is a mystery. Marcello claimed he obtained a visa and bought a ticket on a commercial flight to Miami, where he had no trouble passing through immigration and customs. However, a government investigation indicated that he had in fact been flown into the country aboard a Dominican Republic aircraft. Their president, General Rafael Trujillo, had long-time connections to Mafia bosses in America, in particular, Santo Trafficante Jr., Marcello's old-time pal from the West Florida area. It was possible that somehow, someone in the pocket of Marcello, at the highest level, had pulled the necessary strings to help him back into America.
On June 3rd, Marcello voluntarily surrendered to Immigration officials in New Orleans and was ordered held at a detention center in Texas. By July 11th, he had been released and was back at his office in The Town and Country Motel, but under threat of another deportation order filed against him by the INS. Carlos counterattacked and through his lawyer, Jack Wasserman issued a lawsuit against the attorney general. In the case of Carlos Marcello v Robert F. Kennedy, Carlos accused his dreaded nemesis of fraudulent deportation based on illegal documentation.
Kennedy had Marcello called to testify before the reconstituted McClellan committee, but he avoided this on the basis of illness caused by his ordeal in Honduras. His brother Joe and Joe Poretto, one of Carlos' top men, were however summonsed to the hearing. Poretto in a show of arrogance and contempt, took the oath using a clenched right fist in the form of il corno, a Sicilian sign of defiance, making a horn by extending his right finger and little finger, while clenching his thumb and middle two fingers. Sneering at the committee, he continuously ignored all questions put to him, citing the Fifth. The hearings ended without establishing any direct evidence linking Carlos and his crime family into the specter of illegal gambling and organized crime that the committee had been trying to establish.
Robert Kennedy came back on October 30th, and publicly announced the indictment of Marcello on charges of falsifying his Guatemalan birth certificate and perjury. On December 30th, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the deportation order. The clouds were gathering, the storm was not long in breaking.
Through the summer and into the autumn of 1962, Carlos was faced with increasing pressure from the feds. There were two indictments looming over him. One involved IRS tax liens of $835,000 against him and his wife; the other involved his forged Guatemalan birth certificate, which could lead to deportation a second time.
On September 11th, 1963, it is alleged by author Ed Reid, Marcello visited his huge, swampland property, Churchill Farms. Located on the West Bank of the Mississippi, it covered some 6,500 acres. He had purchased this vast area in 1959 for $1 million.*** Among other things, it was used for duck shooting but was rumored to also be his private burial ground for those foolish enough to cross him, or worse cheat him on business deals. In one of the ramshackle farm buildings, he had built a conference room butting on to a kitchen and a dining room. Here, he brought three other men for a session of drinking and business discussions. He had driven them there in his black Cadillac, from the Town and Country Motel.
There was Salvatore “Jack” Liberto, a man with ties to the French Quarter, heavily involved in the Mafia-dominated produce market, and a soldier in the crime family. He was the personal driver and at times barber, for Marcello. The second was Carlo Ruppolo, (sometimes spelled Roppolo) who was one of Carlos' aids and life long friends; they had grown up together in Algiers, and his wife Lillian worked for Marcello in one of his businesses. Some sources claim he was, in fact, the nephew of Marcello, and that Lillian was his mother, not his wife. The FBI stated in a report dated April 11th, 1963, that the two families were close at one time as both originated in Sicily, arrived in New Orleans at about the same time, and were neighbors for a period. There are times when the Mafia is a hard thing to compass. Then there was the third man, Edward Becker, a private investigator. He was connected to Ruppolo by a business deal, which they had been discussing earlier that day in Carlos' office at The Town and Country complex.
Photo: Churchill Farms Hunting camp
The men spent the afternoon eating, drinking and talking business, and then at one stage, Becker commented on the treatment Carlos had received from Robert Kennedy. According to Becker, Carlos started stomping around the room, ranting and screaming about what he was going to do to the younger Kennedy brother.
"Livarsi `na pietra di la scarpa!" he shouted. Translated from Sicilian it meant: "Take the stone out of my shoe!" He looked at Becker and said, "Don't worry about that sonofabitch Bobby, he's gonna be taken care of!" This information has come to us from the book The Grim Reaper by Ed Reid, and is interesting, because apparently, Marcello could not speak the Sicilian dialect.
"But you can't go after Bobby," Becker said. "Look at the trouble that will bring down."
"No, not that," yelled Carlos. "In Sicily, they say if you want to kill a dog you don't cut off the tail. You go for the head." The meaning, to Becker, was very clear, but then Carlos elaborated by stating that he planned to have President Kennedy murdered, using someone in no way connected to him or his organization.
Becker met with Marcello on a number of other occasions, but no mention was made of the Kennedys or the threats that had been made. A couple of weeks later, Santo Trafficante, the mob boss from Tampa and personal friend of Marcello was in Miami Beach at the Scott Byron Motel also discussing business with a Cuban businessman, Jose Aleman Jr. He was trying to raise a loan of $1.5 million to build a condominium building. The money was to come from the funds of the Teamsters Union and Trafficante was acting as a conduit to Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt Teamsters' president.
At some stage in their conversation, Trafficante belittled Robert Kennedy for his war against Hoffa and made mention of the fact that he and his brother, the President were due some serious trouble. Aleman supported President Kennedy's actions and thought he would probably be re-elected. Trafficante, his face serious, leaned close to Aleman and said, "You don't understand me, Jose. Kennedy's not going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit."
Unknown to Trafficante, Jose Aleman was an informant for the FBI. He claims he reported this conversation to two agents George Davis and Paul Scranton but they or the agency took no action.
These are the two most famous anecdotes that tie Marcello into the events that would shake the world fourteen months later. Are they falsehoods or misunderstandings or did they actually occur as they were recounted?
Hubie Badeaux, a former New Orleans police intelligence chief discounts the Marcello story. He claimed that Marcello did not talk like that. "He's not even Sicilian he was born in North Africa. You have to know Marcello and the way that he talked to know how stupid that story is." Frank Ragano, a lawyer for Trafficante, stated that he once asked of Marcello, in Sicilian, how many children did he have. Carlos replied: "Man, I don't speak that shit, only English."
However, Ragano also recounted that on March 13th, 1987, he visited the ailing Trafficante, and they went for a drive in Ragano's car on Bayshore Boulevard, in Tampa. As they were driving along, Trafficante suddenly blurted out, in Sicilian, "We shouldn't have killed Giovanni (John). We should have killed Bobby."
On November 20th, 1962, the FBI in Los Angeles interviewed Becker in connection with another matter. He detailed his meeting with Marcello, but the agents conducting the interview were not interested. It seemed as if the FBI were just not going to take any steps to investigate Marcello. There was even a strong possibility that the FBI office in New Orleans was deliberately going out of its way to avoid trying to penetrate Marcello's criminal organization.
In 1979, before a Senate investigative committee, a former FBI agent stated that the two cities that the FBI failed to penetrate in terms of the Mafia were Dallas and New Orleans, both controlled by Marcello. It is even possible that the FBI agent assigned to Marcello, Regis Kennedy, was not only not diligently doing his job on the target assigned to him, but was in in the pocket of Carlos. Under oath at a Senate commission hearing, he had stated that he believed Marcello was a tomato salesman and was not a significant organized crime figure. Whatever is the truth, the certainty is that events were unfolding that would lead inexorably to a motorcar on a street in November 1963.
Continue reading Out of Africa: The Story of New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello
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