21 May 2017

Angelo Bruno - Mafia boss

Sicilian head of Philadelphia mob known as 'the Gentle Don'

Angelo Bruno was the head of the  Philadelphia crime family for 20 years
Angelo Bruno was the head of the
Philadelphia crime family for 20 years
Angelo Bruno, a mobster who ran the Philadelphia Mafia for two decades, was born Angelo Annaloro in Villalba, in the province of Caltanissetta, in Sicily, on this day in 1910.

Bruno was known as “the Gentle Don” because he preferred to solve problems and consolidate his power through non-violent means, such as bribery, and commissioned murders only as a last resort.

The son of a grocer, he emigrated to the United States in his teens and settled in Philadelphia. He became a close associate of New York crime family boss Carlo Gambino. Bruno dropped the name Annaloro and replaced it with his paternal grandmother's maiden name, Bruno.

Bruno’s dislike of violence was not driven by any compassion for his fellow man.  During his early days in Philadelphia, he worked for a series of bosses and did not shirk the tasks he had to perform in order to be rise through the ranks, which included carrying out killings himself.

But in 1959, when he succeeded Joseph Ida as boss of the Philadelphia crime family, he decided it was in his interests and those of his criminal organisation to operate in a way that avoided attracting unwanted attention.

Bruno's strategic policy of avoiding violence  earned him the nickname 'the Gentle Don'
Bruno's strategic policy of avoiding violence
earned him the nickname 'the Gentle Don'
In other cities, the tendency of Mafia families to embark on campaigns of violence to strengthen their powerbase inevitably resulted in the authorities cracking down on mob activity.

Bruno, whose longest time in prison was two years after he refused to testify before a grand jury, reasoned that keeping his operations relatively low key was the best way to achieve success.

Therefore, he preferred to remove obstacles to his progress by bribery rather than murder, and was able to operate for two decades with only minimal interference from law enforcement officers.

However, it was his old-school methods that ultimately proved his downfall.

Under Bruno’s rule, involvement of the Philadelphia family in narcotics trafficking was off-limits. He insisted that the family maintained its focus on more traditional Cosa Nostra operations, such as bookmaking, prostitution and loansharking.

However, by allowing other gangs, notably members of the Gambino family, to distribute heroin in Philadelphia in return for a share of the proceeds, he attracted opposition from inside the family from individuals who felt they were missing out on an opportunity to make big profits.

Meanwhile, as Atlantic City, traditionally part of the Philadelphia empire, grew as a gambling centre, Bruno allowed Gambino gangs to take a slice of that lucrative market, too.

How the Philadelphia Daily News announced Bruno's murder in 1980
How the Philadelphia Daily News
announced Bruno's murder in 1980
Several factions within the Philadelphia crime family began to conspire against Bruno, who was murdered on March 12, 1980, as he returned to his home in South Philadelphia after going out to dinner. He was killed in his car by an assailant who shot him in the back of the head.

There were several suspects, three of whom were themselves found dead within weeks of Bruno’s murder.  Antonio Caponigro, Bruno’s consigliere – advisor – and who was believed to have ordered the execution of his boss, was murdered before police were able to track him down, as were Frank Sindone and John Simone, the Mafiosi suspected of carrying out the killing.

Bruno's driver, John Stanfa, who escaped with only minor injuries, was also a suspect in the murder. He was not killed but would eventually be sentenced to eight years in jail for refusing to testify during the trials.

The turnout for Bruno’s funeral in Philadelphia was substantial. The procession involved more than 100 cars and about 1,000 people turned up at the Holy Cross Cemetery for the service.

Travel tip:

Villalba, a town of around 1,800 inhabitants, is known as the città bianca – white city - because of the large number of white houses. It is situated in a hilly inland area of western Sicily some 98km (61 miles) south-east of Palermo and 51km (32 miles) north of Caltanissetta.  The town grew in size in the 18th century, which saw the building of its two main churches, the Chiesa Madre and the Chiesa della Conciliazione and the palace of Nicolò Palmieri Morillo, also built during the 18th century, who owned much of the land.

The church of San Sebastiano in the city of Caltanissetta
The church of San Sebastiano in the
city of Caltanissetta
Travel tip:

The city of Caltanissetta has a population of more than 80,000 and despite being in an area of volcanic activity – notably the mud volcanoes of the so-called Hill of the Volcanoes  a short distance outside the city – has many notable and well preserved buildings.  The Cathedral of Santa Maria La Nova, built over the late 16th and early 17th centuries, has a Renaissance style that is unusual in the area and contains frescoes by the Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans.  In front of the cathedral on Piazza Garibaldi is the church of San Sebastiano, built in the 16th century as a gesture of thanks to San Sebastian for deliverance from the plague.  Formerly a major centre for sulphur mining, the town now is famous for the production of the liqueur Amaro Averna.

More reading:

Did Carlo Gambino inspire Mario Puzo to write The Godfather?

1 comment:

  1. I was at this place last week. This is such a joy as a place for food! I had a beautiful time here. It reminded me of another center in Chicago. A beautiful, wonderful Chicago event space that had excellent atmosphere.