Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Mysterious Mr. Mineo

Manfredi Mineo : - Born Palermo, Sicily 1880.
                                    USA  1911.
                                   Alias :-  Al Mineo.
When Joe Valachi, and later others, first related the events of the underworld conflict known as the”Castellammarese War”, the name Al Mineo was completely unknown.  He was just one of the inconsequential, faceless victims.  Gradually his role in the early history of Cosa Nostra became clearer.  Indeed his importance may, even now, have been underestimated.  His story may help explain the origins of one of NYC’s five Families.
Unfortunatley, we have little information on Mineo’s life before he left Sicily. We know he was married to a Maria Colagrande, born around 1887, and she came with him to NYC.  But, as we will see, he soon stepped into a leadership role in America.  This leads me to suspect he was already an important Mafioso in Palermo by the time of his emigration in 1911.  Within a year of his arrival, a Secret Service informant stated he led a faction in Brooklyn.  This informant was Salvatore Clemente, a convicted counterfeiter and associate of prominent Mafiosi.  He was the Services main source for Italo-American criminal activities in New York.
 According to Clemente, Mineo’s faction was allied with the Morello/Terranova gang in Harlem.  These two were united in opposition to the main Sicilian faction, headed by Salvatore D’Aquila, in Manhattan.  D’Aquila had succeeded Giuseppe Morello as NYC Head in 1910, after Morello was sentenced to 25 years in prison for counterfeiting.  That criminal activity was a particular favourite of Mafiosi, and had first brought Mineo to police attention .  Shortly after his arrival in 1911, he was seen visiting a suspected counterfeiter called Carmelo Cordaro.  Cordaro was later deported.
Conflict between the two factions broke-out in 1913, with tit-for-tat killings in Manhattan.  The Lomonti brothers, who led the old Morello gang , were killed.  While D’Aquila followers like the Giuseppe’s Fanaro and Fontana also perished.  It is not known if Mineo was involved in the actual violence, although as an ally of the Morello’s it is possible.  The conflict seems to have stopped by 1915, with the Morello’s under attack from the Brooklyn based Camorra.
Things had calmed down enough for Mineo to visit Palermo, via France, in 1915.  He called himself a Merchant, and travelled with his wife.  He listed his brother Corrado, a Doctor, as his nearest relative.  We know that he was an importer of fruit, primarily lemons, and lived somewhere in Brooklyn. 
The lack of information on this period is frustrating.  For instance, why was the Palermo native Mineo, an enemy to D’Aquila’s faction whose origins were mainly Palermitani ?  Who were his followers, and where in Brooklyn were they based ?  What was his relationship with fellow Brooklyn based Mafiosi, like Giuseppe Traina, Vincent Mangano or the Castellammarese Family ?
Very little is known about Mineo, or his faction, during the next 10-12 years.  Apart from further visits to Italy in 1922, 1927 and 1929, and his Naturalization in 1929, he disappears from view.  Then, after D’Aquila’s murder in 1928, he suddenly bursts into view as the new head of D’Aquila’s old Family.
None of our sources, Gentile, Valachi or Bonanno, explains how this happens.  Why should an enemy become a fellow Family member, or was he from another Family, and forced onto the old D’Aquila followers ?  But what other Family based in Brooklyn could this be ?  It certainly was not the Castellammarese Family, a very clannish group.  So that only leaves the future Profaci Family.
 There has always been confusion over the origins of this group.  Originally it was thought to have started with Joseph Profaci, and his Villabate faction.  But recent research in NARA records, and a mention in Bill Bonanno’s book, suggest that it was already established by the mid-1920’s and was then headed by Salvatore DiBella.  Another possible early leader of this group was Giuseppe Peraino, a power in South Brooklyn.
Is it possible that Manfredi Mineo was the first head of this Family ?  He led a faction in Brooklyn as early as 1912, no source gives a location, just Brooklyn.  Like Mineo, Salvatore DiBella and Giuseppe Peraino were from Palermo.  Profaci did not settle in Brooklyn until 1927, and his early followers seem to have been New Jersey based.  Mineo had been an ally of the Morello gang, and would be the main ally to the Morello’s successor Joseph Masseria.  Possibly Masseria forced Mineo onto the old D’Aquila supporters, as their leader.  This was a tactic he used with the future Lucchese Family.
But in doing this he may have opened the way for Joseph Profaci to take-over Mineo’s old faction.  Possible alternative leaders like Peraino, killed in 1930, and DiBella, retired and died in 1934, were soon gone. 
When Mineo took-over the D’Aquila Family in 1928-29, his closest associate was Stefano Ferrigno.   Like Mineo, we know very little about him.  Born in 1900 in Palermo, he arrived in America in 1922.  Married in 1924, he gained Naturalization in 1929 despite an arrest for Grand Larceny in 1927, and lived on 39th Street in Brooklyn.  He died with Mineo in 1930 at the height of the  “Castellammarese War”.  His brother Bartolo was later listed as a Profaci member, possibly pointing to Stefano being a member of that Family.
 In early 1930 Giuseppe Peraino was killed, possibly during a conflict with Albert Anastasia’s Calabrian gang.  Some months later, his son Carmine Peraino  was also murdered, reportedly by future Profaci members Salvatore Mussachia and Cassandro Bonasera.  Police learned from a condemned prisoner, that this was ordered by Manfredi Mineo.  Now why would two Di Bella/Profaci members murder the son of a fellow Family member, on the orders of a different Family leader ?
One last possible link, although I can find no familial connection, is with the future 1960’S FamilY Consiglieri Salvatore Mineo.  Manfredi was an importer of lemons, Salvatore’s alias was Charlie Lemons.  Vague I know.
After his murder in November, 1930, Manfredi’s body was returned to Palermo for burial.


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