|Joseph Jr. and Joseph Todaro Sr.
|Frank Sinatra, Tommy ‘Fatso’ Marson, Don Carlo Gambino ‘The Godfather’,
and Jimmy ‘The Weasel’ Fratianno. Tarrytown, New York, 4/11/76.
As recently as 2006, the federal government decided to revise the chart purporting to show the alleged hierarchy of the Buffalo mob, known variously as the Magaddino family, the Todaro family or, more simply, the Arm.
The reasoning behind the revision was that street scuttlebutt, shown time and again to often be wildly off the mark, was reporting a major change in the top ranks of the Buffalo crew.
Joe Todaro, Jr., reputed head of the family had reportedly stepped down in order to better concentrate on La Nova Pizza, the actual Todaro family business.
In trattorias and ristorantes from Batavia to St. Catherines, the old-timers and the wannabes and the never-were’s speculated that Leonard Falzone, who the FBI claimed had been serving as consigliere to the Arm, was now acting boss and that Sonny Nicoletti, formerly one of four family capos and in charge of Niagara Falls, had been promoted to underboss.
If the resulting 2006 FBI chart was correct, the Buffalo crew appeared to be a little top heavy. A boss and underboss, a consigliere, and four capos are shown to be presiding over a crew of just 16 “soldiers,” made guys who presumably do most of the heavy lifting.
Simple arithmetic will tell you that it amounts to one “management” type for every 2.28 “workers,” a difficult if not unworkable business model. Today some – like Sonny – have passed on, and others – like Frank “Butchie Bifocals” BiFulco – have been in prison for a long time.
BiFulco was convicted in 2003 on a raft of charges related to a screwy car arson that took place in the parking lot behind the Galleria Mall.
Other names on the chart harken back to the olden, golden days of the Magaddino mob. There’s Falzone, Pieri, Panepinto, Sansanese, and Brindisi; even the feared, alleged enforcer Vincent “Jimmy” Sicurella gets a spot, despite the fact he’s been eligible for Social Security since 2003 and is reportedly not in the best of health.
“There’s a few of the old-timers still around in Buffalo, but that’s about it,” one current federal inmate told the Niagara Falls Reporter. “There’s really nothing left to organize.”
Are there older gentlemen in Niagara Falls and Buffalo with whom you can place a wager on a college football game some balmy Saturday afternoon in September?
Are they part of some shadowy, worldwide organization that takes your loser sawbuck and deploys it in the service of evil white slavery, dope-dealing, international arms smuggling or worse?
With a few notable exceptions, almost all highly localized operations in places generally confined to cities in the boot of Italy and the football of Sicily, the Mafia, Cosa Nostra, organized crime, whatever you want to call it is now a myth, based on ancient history.
There used to be a Mafia all right, and the Masons killed Captain Morgan at the mouth of the Niagara River, under the shadow of the old French fort. The Senecas ate human flesh, according to the writings of the 17th Century French Jesuit missionaries, and the Irish, well, we all know about the Irish.
But this isn’t a history lesson.
Will the death of Sonny Nicoletti create a power vacuum of the sort that would have resulted in bodies on the street had it happened a half century ago?
No. It won’t.
And will the so-called “Buffalo mob” ever rise up again to control the streets as it did during the glory days of Stefano Magaddino, Benjamin Nicoletti Sr., John Montana, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone? Not likely.
But a lot of people won’t let go of the hope.
There are people who live here and remember a time when their mother could walk to Midnight Mass at St. Joe’s on Pine Ave. without getting her purse stolen. The organized crime of yore was certainly much preferable in many people’s minds to the disorganized crime we know today.
And there’s the law enforcement types who fondly recall a time when the good guys and the bad guys lived next door to each other on Whitney Ave. or 11th Street and knew who was who, as opposed to this confused modern day world where the bad guys hide out in places like Afghanistan or Yemen and are foreign and alien and evil in a way unimaginable even 30 years ago.
Where good people are killed for the sake of killing and there is no “motive” or discernable “reason.”
The American fascination with organized crime, the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra or whatever you want to call it, is the same fascination Americans had a generation or two ago with cowboys, outlaws like Jesse James or Billy the Kid and less sanguine figures like Wild Bill Hickock.
We can like John Dillinger. Will we ever be able to like Osama bin Laden?
The Buffalo mob is dead.
Long live the Buffalo mob.