|Founded||c. 1860 (BH)|
|Founder||BH: Raffaele Agnello|
LCN: Sylvestro Carolla
|Founding location||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Territory||At its peak, all Louisiana state with rings in Texas, Las Vegas and Cuba|
|Ethnicity||Full members were only of Italian descent; associates include also other ethnicities|
|Leader(s)||Sylvestro Carolla (1922–1947)|
Carlos Marcello (1947–1983)
|Activities||Racketeering, extortion, gambling, pimping, narcotics, money laundering, loan sharking, fencing and murder|
Los Angeles crime family
Genovese crime family
Gambino crime family
Cleveland crime family
Trafficante crime family
|Rivals||Minor gangs in New Orleans|
The New Orleans crime family is an Italian-American Mafia Crime family based in the city of New Orleans. The Crime Family has a history of criminal activity dating back to the late nineteenth century. The family reached its height of influence under Carlos Marcello, one of the world's richest and most powerful crime bosses during the mid-twentieth century, and at its height had over 300 made members and around 3,000 criminal associates. However, a series of setbacks during the 1980s reduced its clout, and law enforcement dismantled most of what remained shortly after Marcello's death in 1993. In spite of this, it is believed that some elements of the organization remain active in New Orleans today.
The Matranga crime family, established by Charles (1857 - October 28, 1943) and Antonio (Tony) Matranga (d. 1890 ?), was one of the earliest recorded American Mafia crime families, operating in New Orleans during the late 19th century until the beginning of Prohibition in 1920.
Born in Sicily, Carlo and Antonio Matranga settled in New Orleans during the 1870s where they eventually opened a saloon and brothel. Using their business as a base of operations, the Matranga brothers began establishing lucrative organized criminal activities including extortion and labor racketeering. Receiving tribute payments from Italian laborers and dockworkers, as well as from the rival Provenzano crime family (who held a near monopoly of commercial shipping from South American fruit shipments), they eventually began moving in on Provenzano fruit loading operations intimidating the Provenzanos with threats of violence.
Although the Provenzanos withdrew in favor of giving the Matrangas a cut of waterfront racketeering, by the late 1880s, the two families eventually went to war over the grocery and produce businesses held by the Provenzanos. As both sides began employing a large number of Sicilian mafiosi from their native Monreale, Sicily, the violent gang war began attracting police attention, particularly from New Orleans police chief David Hennessy who began investigating the warring organizations. Within months of his investigation, Hennessy was shot by several unidentified attackers while walking home on the night of October 15, 1890; he died of his wounds less than twelve hours later, having failed to identify his assailants beyond allegedly claiming "The Dagoes shot me". The shooter was never positively identified and the assassination remains unsolved.
The murder of Hennessey created a huge backlash from the city and, although Charles and several members of the Matrangas were arrested, they were eventually tried and acquitted in February 1891 with Charles Matranga and a 14-year-old member acquitted midway through the trial as well as four more who were eventually acquitted and three others released in hung juries. The decision caused strong protests from residents, angered by the controversy surrounding the case (particularly in the face of incriminating evidence and jury tampering), and the following month a lynch mob stormed the jail killing 11 of the 19 defendants—five of whom had not been tried—on March 14, 1891. Since then, it has been a hard and fast rule in the American Mafia that law enforcement and prosecutors are not to be harmed. While it was common for gangsters to kill officials who got in their way, the Hennessey murder convinced American gangsters that it was not worth the backlash.
Matranga was able to escape from the vigilante lynchings and, upon returning to New Orleans, resumed his position as head of the New Orleans crime family eventually forcing the declining Provenzanos out of New Orleans by the end of the decade. Matranga would rule over the New Orleans underworld until shortly after Prohibition when he turned over leadership over to Sylvestro "Sam" Carollo in the early 1920s.
Born in Sicily, Carolla immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1904. By 1918, Carolla had become a high-ranking member of Matranga's organization, eventually succeeding him following Matranga's retirement in 1922. Assuming control of Matranga's minor bootlegging operations, Carolla waged war against rival bootlegging gangs, gaining full control following the murder of William Bailey in December 1930.
Gaining considerable political influence within New Orleans, Carolla is said to have used his connections when, in 1929, Al Capone supposedly traveled to the city demanding Carolla supply the Chicago Outfit (rather than Chicago's Sicilian Mafia boss Joe Aiello) with imported alcohol. Meeting Capone as he arrived at a New Orleans train station, Carolla, accompanied by several police officers, reportedly disarmed Capone's bodyguards and broke their fingers, forcing Capone to return to Chicago.
In 1930, Carolla was arrested for the shooting of federal narcotics agent Cecil Moore, which took place during an undercover drug buy. Despite support by several New Orleans police officers who testified Carolla was in New York at the time of the murder, he was sentenced to two years.
Released in 1934, Carolla negotiated a deal with New York mobsters Frank Costello and Phillip "Dandy Phil" Kastel, as well as Louisiana Senator Huey Long, to bring slot machines into Louisiana, following New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's attacks on organized crime. Carolla, with lieutenant Carlos Marcello, would run illegal gambling operations undisturbed for several years.
Carolla's legal problems continued as he was scheduled to be deported in 1940, after serving two years in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, following his arrest on a narcotics charge in 1938. His deportation was delayed following the U.S. entry into World War II, and Carolla would continue to control the New Orleans crime family for several years before a campaign, begun by reporter Drew Pearson, exposed an attempt by Congressman Jimmy Morrison to pass a bill awarding Carolla with American citizenship (thereby making deportation illegal). Carolla would be deported in April 1947.
Soon after returning to Sicily, Carolla organized a partnership with fellow exile Charles Luciano, establishing criminal enterprises in Mexico. Briefly returning to the United States in 1949, he was deported the following year as control of the New Orleans crime family reverted to Carlos Marcello. Living in Palermo, Sicily until 1970, Carolla once again returned to the US. According to Life Magazine, he was asked to return by Marcello, who needed him to mediate disputes within the New Orleans Mafia. After a subsequent attempt to deport him failed, he died a free man in 1972.
By the end of 1947, Carlos Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's illegal gambling network. He had also joined forces with New York Mob associate Meyer Lansky in order to skim money from some of the most important casinos in the New Orleans area shortly after becoming associated with the Hotard family through marriage. According to former members of the Chicago Outfit, Marcello was also assigned a cut of the money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, in exchange for providing "muscle" in Florida real estate deals. By this time, Marcello had been selected as "The Godfather" of the New Orleans Mafia, by the family's capos and the National Crime Syndicate after the deportation of Sylvestro "Silver Dollar Sam" Carolla to Sicily. He held this position for the next thirty years. In a 1975 extortion trial, two witnesses described Marcello as "The Godfather" of the New Orleans crime syndicate. The New Orleans crime family frequently met at an Italian restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Avondale, known as Mosca's, a building which Marcello had owned.
Marcello appeared before the U.S. Senate's Kefauver Committee on organized crime on January 25, 1951. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment 152 times. The Committee called Marcello "one of the worst criminals in the country".
On April 4, 1961, the U.S. Justice Department, under the direction of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, apprehended Marcello as he made what he assumed was a routine visit to the immigration authorities in New Orleans, then deported him to Guatemala. Two months later, he was back in New Orleans. Thereafter, he successfully fought efforts by the government to deport him.
In November 1963, Marcello was tried for "conspiracy to defraud the United States government by obtaining a false Guatemalan birth certificate" and "conspiracy to obstruct the United States government in the exercise of its right to deport Carlos Marcello". He was acquitted later that month on both charges. However, in October 1964, Marcello was charged with "conspiring to obstruct justice by fixing a juror [Rudolph Heitler] and seeking the murder of a government witness [Carl Noll]". Marcello's attorney admitted Heitler had been bribed but said that there was no evidence to connect the bribe with Marcello. Noll refused to testify against Marcello in the case. Marcello was acquitted of both charges.
In September 1966, 13 members of the New York, Louisiana and Florida crime families were arrested for "consorting with known criminals" at the La Stella Restaurant in Queens, New York. However, the charges were later dropped. Returning to New Orleans a few days later, Marcello was arrested for assaulting an FBI agent. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but he was retried and convicted. He was sentenced to two years but served less than six months.
In 1981, Marcello, Aubrey W. Young (a former aide to Governor John J. McKeithen), Charles E. Roemer, II (former commissioner of administration to Governor Edwin Edwards), and two other men were indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans with conspiracy, racketeering, and mail and wire fraud in a scheme to bribe state officials to give the five men multimillion-dollar insurance contracts. The charges were the result of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe known as BriLab. U.S. District Judge Morey Sear allowed the admission of secretly-recorded conversations that he said demonstrated corruption at the highest levels of state government. Marcello and Roemer were convicted, but Young and the two others were acquitted.
In its 1978 investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the House Select Committee on Assassinations said that it recognized Jack Ruby's murder of Lee Harvey Oswald as a primary reason to suspect organized crime as possibly having involvement in the assassination. In its investigation, the HSCA noted the presence of "credible associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization". Their report stated: "The committee found that Marcello had the motive, means and opportunity to have President John F. Kennedy assassinated, though it was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello's complicity".
The 1999 HBO movie Vendetta, starring Christopher Walken and directed by Nicholas Meyer, is based on the true story of the March 14, 1891, lynchings of 11 Italians in New Orleans. Charles Matranga (also spelled "Mantranga" in some documents) was one of the intended victims, but managed to survive by hiding from the mob. In the Journal of American History, historian Clive Webb calls the movie a "compelling portrait of prejudice".
With the upper echelon of the New Orleans Mafia in jail with enormous restitution to repay, it would be an organization struggling to make it into the new millennium. While the FBI has said modern Italian organized crime still exists in some limited capacity in New Orleans, Anthony Carolla, Frank Gagliano, and Philip Rizzuto would all pass away in the early to mid 2000s with little fanfare. It seems like the New Orleans Mafia, the oldest Mafia organization in the United States, would die with these men.
If there are any remnants of the New Orleans Mafia left, and more than likely there is, this incident is probably not an indication of the organization’s resurgence.