Tommy Lucchese was one of the most powerful and influential figures in the American Mafia. He was the boss of the Lucchese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominate organized crime in New York City. This article will trace his life and career, and how he built and maintained his criminal empire.
Tommy Lucchese’s Early Life and Career
Tommy Lucchese was born on December 1, 1899, in Palermo, Sicily, as Gaetano Lucchese. He was the son of a French businessman and a Mexican homemaker. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1911, and settled in East Harlem, New York. He became involved in crime at a young age, and joined the 107th Street gang, led by future mobster Charles “Lucky” Luciano. He also worked as a window washer, and lost part of his right hand in an industrial accident, earning him the nickname “Three-Finger Brown”.
He became a bootlegger during Prohibition, and aligned himself with Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, the most powerful Mafia boss in New York. He also befriended other rising gangsters, such as Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky. He was arrested several times for various crimes, including auto theft, receiving stolen goods, and murder, but avoided conviction.
Tommy Lucchese’s Role in the Castellammarese War and the Commission
In 1930, a bloody war broke out between Masseria and his rival, Salvatore Maranzano, over the control of the New York Mafia. Lucchese, Luciano, and their allies secretly plotted to end the war by eliminating both bosses, and creating a new structure for the Mafia. They killed Masseria on April 15, 1931, and Maranzano on September 10, 1931, and established the Five Families and the Commission, a national governing body for the Mafia.
Lucchese became the underboss of the Luciano crime family, under Luciano’s leadership. He also became a member of the Commission, representing his family’s interests. He was involved in various rackets, such as gambling, labor unions, extortion, and loan sharking. He was known for his intelligence, diplomacy, and loyalty, and earned the respect of his peers and subordinates.
Tommy Lucchese’s Ascension to Boss and His Reign
In 1946, Luciano was deported to Italy, and Genovese became the new boss of the Luciano family. However, Genovese was arrested in 1959 for drug trafficking, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Lucchese seized the opportunity to take over the family, and renamed it after himself. He also formed a close alliance with Carlo Gambino, the boss of the Gambino crime family, and together they controlled the Commission and the New York Mafia.
Lucchese ran his family with efficiency and discipline, and avoided public attention and law enforcement scrutiny. He expanded his family’s operations into new areas, such as construction, garment industry, airports, and waste management. He also maintained good relations with other crime families, and mediated disputes and conflicts. He was considered one of the most successful and respected Mafia bosses of his time.
Tommy Lucchese’s Illness and Death
In 1965, Lucchese was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and underwent surgery and radiation therapy. However, his condition worsened, and he became increasingly frail and weak. He died on July 13, 1967, at his home in Lido Beach, Long Island. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. He was succeeded by his underboss, Carmine Tramunti, who was later arrested and imprisoned for his involvement in the French Connection drug case.
Tommy Lucchese’s Legacy and Influence
Tommy Lucchese was a remarkable figure in the history of the American Mafia. He was a mastermind of the Castellammarese War and the Commission, and a leader of one of the most powerful and prosperous crime families in the country. He was admired and feared by his friends and enemies, and left a lasting mark on the underworld and the society. He was Tommy Lucchese, the Mafia boss who died of brain cancer.