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Buffalo crime family

Buffalo crime family
Stefano Magaddino.jpg
Named after Stefano Magaddino
Founded byAngelo Palmeri
Founding locationBuffalo, New York, United States
Years activec. 1910–present
TerritoryBuffalo, throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, the Canadian province of Ontario, Northwest Pennsylvania and Las Vegas
EthnicityItalian, Italian-American, Sicilian people, Sicilian American made men and other ethnicities as "associates"
Membership (est.)30+
Criminal activitiesExtortion, bookmaking, drug trafficking, loan-sharking, gambling, racketeering, labor racketeering, conspiracy and murder
AlliesFive Families
Papalia crime family
Luppino crime family
Musitano crime family
Rivalsvarious gangs in the Buffalo area

The Buffalo crime family, also known as the Magaddino crime family, the New York State crime family, the Todaro crime family and The Arm,[1] is an Italian-American Mafia crime family based in Buffalo, New York, United States. The family has operated throughout Western New York, Erie, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, Ontario.[2][3] The Buffalo family have had strong connections with the Hamilton-based Luppino and Papalia families.[4]


The Buffalo crime family gained power during the Prohibition era through bootlegging. In 1931, the family boss, Stefano Magaddino, became an original member of The Commission, the governing body of the American Mafia. The family remained strong and relatively united until his leadership was challenged in the 1960s. It then split into factions as they tried to assassinate him.

Magaddino's empire began to crumble in 1968, when police found $500,000 stashed away in Magaddino's funeral home and his son's attic.

"At that time, Magaddino had been telling his underlings that money was tight, and he could not afford to pay them Christmas bonuses," Hartnett said. "People began to stop trusting him when we found all that money."[5]

The internal war continued after his death from natural causes on July 19, 1974[6] but ended in the early 1980s when Joseph Todaro Sr. became the boss.[7] Todaro united the family and retired in 2006, leaving many in law enforcement to believe Leonard Falzone had taken his place.[8] However, others thought he was only acting as the "front boss" for the Todaros and that Joseph Todaro Jr. was the acting boss while his father became the senior statesman for the family.[9]

The Buffalo crime family's main front operation was Laborers' International Union of North America Local 210. Over the course of the later part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st, the Buffalo crime family declined in influence. Factors included older members slowly turning away from the organization, younger Italian-Americans showing no interest in its operations, an 11-year federal operation that forced the family out of Local 210 between 1995 and 2006, introduction of the New York Lottery depriving the family of a major revenue source (illegal gambling revenue), and the rise of Joe Todaro Jr.'s legitimate pizzeria business.[10] In 1998 these factors led Lee Coppola, veteran organized crime reporter for The Buffalo News, to write an article titled "The Withered Arm." In it he stated: "Today’s Buffalo mob -- disorganized and all but penniless -- is a far cry from its heyday," and that the "last visible remnants of mob power in Buffalo disappeared."[11]

However, Coppola's pronouncement was premature. According to a 1998 Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) report the Buffalo mob was much stronger than US authorities and journalists reported. Canadian intelligence indicated a new "crime lord" linked to the "powerful Todaro crime family" had been installed over the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario. This mafia boss had been a close associate of Johnny Papalia and his lieutenant Carmen Barillaro who were murdered in 1997.[12] According to CISC intelligence the new, yet unidentified, Buffalo boss had a strong relationship with outlaw bikers, unlike his predecessor Johny Papalia who refused to work with them. As a result of this new, yet shaky, alliance organized crime expert Detective Sergeant Peter Polcetti of the CISC said "the Todaro family now controls Niagara, Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal."[13]

Even without this Canadian intelligence, the Buffalo crime family was not completely disorganized. The FBI continued to release the crime family's organizational charts until at least 2006.[14] The Niagara Falls Reporter indicated Leonard Falzone was promoted to the top spot after Joe Todaro Sr. reportedly stepped down in 2006.[8] After the deaths of Todaro Sr. in 2012[7] and Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti in 2013,[15] rumors swirled about who would lead the family.[8] In 2012, Matt Gryta, crime reporter for The Buffalo News, said that many believe the family had "expanded into the new millennium through telemarketing, pump and dump stock scams and internet pornography with the 'family' expanding its operations nationwide."[2] That same year, Dan Herbeck wrote an article about Ronald Fino called "Life after Local 210 for the FBI’s inside guy." The article indicated Fino was "skeptical of the Justice Department’s claims that mob influences were totally removed from Local 210 and the Laborers international." Ronald believed the federal trusteeship the government established to clean the union "didn’t go far enough."[16] Additionally, The Toronto Star's organized crime reporter Peter Edwards indicated that in 2013 the Buffalo Crime Family was seeking to revive itself from recent losses through loansharking at the Casino Niagara in Canada on the American border.[17]

In the late 2000's news broke about a homeowner association (HOA) scam alleged to have ties to the Buffalo mob. A witness told the FBI that the Silver Lining Construction company was controlled by the New York Mob and that its owner, Leon Benzer, thought of himself as a "Soprano" because of his association with attorney John V. Spilotro the nephew of Vegas mobster Tony Spilotro. "Investigators also disclosed a key player in one of the HOA takeovers," was Paul Citelli, who "was known to have ties to the Buffalo mob."[18] According to George Knapp I-Team reporter for CBS news affiliate KLAS NewsNow channel 8 in Vegas the FBI said Citelli "is affiliated with the Buffalo mob."[19] Joseph Bravo, another defendant in this HOA scam, was indicted with Paul Citelli for being a part of a Las Vegas to Niagara Falls cocaine trafficking ring run by the Buffalo mob from the late 80's to mid 90's when it was considered "the dominant La Cosa Nostra family on the streets of Las Vegas."[20][21][22]

Current position of the family

In March 2017, nearly 20 years after Coppola's article "The Withered Arm", Dan Herbeck wrote a similar piece titled "The Mafia is all but dead in Western New York." In it the FBI field office in Buffalo stated only "scattered remnants that are no longer believed to be active or organized remain." The piece, also, highlighted many of the same factors that the 1998 article cited for the decline of the Buffalo crime family.[10]

However, arrests by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Project OTremens indicate the pronouncements about the Buffalo Crime Family's demise are overstated. In November 2017 the FBI and Canadian newspapers indicated the family is still active.[23]

In November 2017, Giuseppe (Joe) and Domenico Violi,[3] who have longstanding ties to the Buffalo Mob, were arrested on narcotics trafficking charges.[17][24] These charges show a continuation of the long-established mafia drug trafficking triangle from Toronto/Hamilton, Ontario to Buffalo and Montreal to New York City established by Stefano Magaddino and his cousin, Joseph Bonanno.[25][26] Michael McGarrity of the FBI said the Otremens operation "unearthed and dug up the roots of a partnership extending from New York City to Buffalo and Toronto to Montreal, proving once again that Italian organized crime groups have evolved far beyond the neighbourhood cliques of days gone by."[27]

Additionally, Peter Edwards in the Toronto Star wrote, "The arrests also hit members of the Buffalo crime family headed by the late Joe Todaro."[28] The US Department of Justice said that Canadian law enforcement authorities had arrested various members and associates of the Bonanno, Gambino, and Todaro crime families on charges that include narcotics trafficking.[29] In response to these arrests, Canadian journalist Adrian Humphries wrote:

Among those arrested in Canada are members of the Todaro organized crime family, based in Buffalo, according to U.S. authorities. The Todaro crime group was built by the now-deceased Joseph Todaro Sr., who took over the Buffalo Mafia once led by the influential boss Stefano (The Undertaker) Magaddino.[30]

Further, in September 2018 Peter Edward reported that "the Buffalo Mob isn't dead, despite some media reports."[31] According to his article the Buffalo/Todaro Crime family is strong enough to call the shots in the recent mob war between the Musitano and other crime families in the Hamilton underworld. This article reports:

  • "New York State mob still has considerable influence in the southern Ontario underworld, sources say."
  • ""I don’t think anyone knows for certain how this plays out,"Paul Manning, a former Hamilton undercover police officer who worked on organized crime investigations. "One thing’s for sure, Buffalo will always have a say north of the border.""
  • "Buffalo would have to give approval for high-level killings, sources said, adding that mob leaders there are believed to have turned their backs on one side in the dispute and given tacit approval to the other.
  • "They’re all supposed to be under Buffalo," one source said of the two feuding Ontario crime factions."
  • "Buffalo factions of Traditional Organized Crime are not ‘in’ Canada per se, but historically have controlled aspects of Canadian ‘family business’ and do get kickbacks from profits from illicit activity," Manning said.[32]

Reporters allege that Al Iavarone of Ancaster was killed in September 2018 in retaliation for the May 2017 murder of Angelo Musitano. Rumors circulated that the murder was related to "an unpaid debt and rivalries between Niagara mobsters and influence from the Buffalo mob."[33] Revenge was another reason for Angelo's death. James Dubro indicates this hit wasn't just approved by the Buffalo crime family, but ordered by Domenico Violi, later to be revealed as the Buffalo mafia's underboss.[34] Angelo's murder occurred "20 years to the month" after Musitano hitman Kenneth Murdock killed Johnny "Pops" Papalia (the long time Buffalo mob captain and head of the Papalia crime family) and his right-hand man Carman Barillaro (a Buffalo and Papalia crime family soldier).[35][36][37][12]

Additionally, the Toronto Sun claims that the current mob war in Southern Ontario has its roots in the mob conflict that had Paolo Violi and his brothers Francesco & Rocco (Domenico "Dom" and Giuseppe "Joe" Violi's dad and uncles) murdered in Montreal during the late 1970s by the Rizzuto crime family.[38] This was suggested as early as 2010 when Globe and Mail article stated, "A general picture is emerging of the power struggle overwhelming the Rizzutos. It's likely that Calabrese families, largely based in Toronto and backed by big players in New York State, are seizing control after the Rizzutos pushed them aside."[39] In 2019 Brad Hunter explained, "It may have taken years but the Violi family were not going to let sleeping dogs lie." Nicolo Rizzuto Jr. was gunned down on December 28, 2009, followed by the disappearance of his brother-in-law Paola Renda on May 10, 2010. Renda was the Rizutto crime family consigliere at the time of his murder. Finally, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. was killed by a sniper on November 10, 2010.[34][40]

Dr. Anna Sergi (lecturer in criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Essex, United Kingdom, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology) confirms the Otremens operation which resulted in the Violi brothers' arrests, indicates New York crime families are using drug trafficking routes they established long ago and that these families are being "reinvigorated" by their long established working relationships with the Calabrian mafia in Canada. However, her article calls into question the current affiliation of the Todaro Crime Family in Buffalo. She indicates it is a "Crime Syndicate" formerly aligned with the LCN (La Cosa Nostra) families of New York. See chart in linked article: New York Crime Families Survive and Collaborate.[26]

On December 3, 2018 Domenico Violi was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the mob drug trafficking ring unearthed by Project OTremens.[41] During the investigation, police listened in as the agent and Violi discussed a variety of criminal activity and profit-making opportunities. Violi trafficked approximately 260,000 pills (including PCP, MDMA and meth) to the undercover RCMP agent for more than US$416,000 during which the agent was officially inducted as a "made" member of the Bonanno crime family in Canada.[42] He also received another US$24,000 as his cut of the profit.[43] Wiretaps indicated Violi was made the underboss of the Buffalo crime family by boss Joseph Todaro Jr. in October 2017 in a meeting in Florida; the first Canadian to hold the second-highest position in the American Mafia.[44][45][46] After being promoted to underboss, Violi is heard on wiretaps boasting that "he had beaten out 30 other people for the position," indicating the Buffalo family had at least 30 made men, which included Canadian members such as the Violi brothers' uncles, Natale and Rocco Luppino. In his new role, Violi was to "assume control over the operations of the Luppino-Violi crime family and solidify his power base with further and greater collaboration with the New York-based Mafia families."[43] The wiretaps also revealed the activity of The Commission (the governing body of the American Mafia), as Violi's promotion was so unusual that Buffalo crime family boss, Joe Todaro Jr., consulted with The Commission for permission to promote him as Buffalo's new underboss.[44]

On 30 January 2019, Cece Luppino, the son of Rocco Luppino, and grandson of Giacomo Luppino, was killed at his parents' Hamilton home.[47][48][49] According to wiretaps from the Violi brothers' case, Giuseppe Violi told the undercover agent back in February 2015 that Cece Luppino had been approached about becoming a made member, but Cece had told his father that if he could make money he would be involved, but if not, he doesn't want to be involved; "that there are too many headaches".[50] Hamilton Police have extended their search for Luppino's killer across the Canadian border into the United States, asking Buffalo area police and news agencies to disseminate pictures of the suspect taken from surveillance cameras.[51][52]

An attempt on Pasquale "Pat" Musitano's life was made outside the office of his lawyer, Joseph Irving, in Mississauga on the morning of April 25, 2019. According to reports Pat was shot four times, once in the head.[53] The Buffalo News indicated that Musitano "had organized crime enemies in Montreal and Buffalo" and that crime reporter "Peter Edwards said, he was more convinced than ever that the Buffalo mob was a player in the shooting" after "a source kept repeating 'Buffalo' over and over while talking about the incident."[45] Additionally, the CBC News in Canada reported Buffalo underboss Domenico Violi was recorded by a police informant in September 2017 as saying the murder of Angelo Musitano was meant to be a message to his brother Pat and that before Christmas Pat "would be gone" and that would be "one headache out of the way."[46]

Historical leadership

Boss (official and acting)

The early history of what became the Buffalo family was controlled by two different men: Angelo Palmeri and Joseph DiCarlo. The two groups merged, becoming a crime family.[54]

  • 1908–1912 – Angelo "Buffalo Bill" Palmeri – stepped down, becoming underboss.
  • 1912–1922 – Giuseppe "Don Pietro" DiCarlo Sr.[55]
  • 1922–1974 – Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino – died of natural causes on July 19, 1974, at the age of 82.[55]
    • Acting 1969–1970 – Salvatore "Sam" Pieri – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction, imprisoned.
    • Acting 1970–1972 – Joseph Fino – leader of the Fino-Sansanese faction, imprisoned.
    • Acting 1972–1974 – Samuel Frangiamore – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction.
  • 1974–1985 – Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore – appointed by The Commission, retired in 1985 and died in 1999.[55]
  • 1985–2006 – Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. – became semi-retired in 1989, officially retired in 2006. Died in 2012.[55][56][8]
    • Acting 1989-2006 – Joseph Todaro Jr. – acting boss for his father, until 2006 when Todaro Sr. retired.[56]
  • 2006–2016 – Leonard F. "Lennie Calzone" Falzone – took over when Joe Todaro Sr. retired in 2006.[8] However, author Ron Fino suggests that Falzone was only "fronting" for the Todaro's[57] Died November 12, 2016.[58]
  • 2016–present – Joseph Todaro Jr. – took over as boss after Falzone died[44]

Underboss (official and acting)

  • 1985–2016 – Joseph Todaro Jr.[59]
  • October 2017–present – Domenico Violi – Canadian mobster and leader of the Luppino-Violi crime family.[44] On December 3, 2018 was sentenced to eight years in prison.[41]

Consigliere (official and acting)

  • Unknown-2006 – Leonard F. "Lennie Calzone" Falzone – promoted to boss [60]


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Further reading

External links