Category Archives: organized crime

Another Mafia Book, Another Angle

The title of Mike Dash’s book, The First Family: Terror, Extortion, Revenge, Murder, and the Birth of the American Mafia, says it all.  Anyone GiuseppeMorellowith an interest in learning more about the history of organized crime in the U.S., in particular  the history of the Mafia and its nexus to  Italian Americans, may want to read this book. According to Dash, the story of Giuseppe Morello, a Sicilian immigrant who became the American Mafia’s “boss of bosses,” proves that the American Mafia was not created by Prohibition-era bootlegging, nor by Sicilian Mafia bosses who dispatched members to New York but by individuals like Morello.  At the same time, Joe Petrosino, the Sicilian-born NYPD detective, gave his life trying to prevent men like Morello from “ruining the reputation of Italians in general,” according to the Washington Post. Read the book and share your views.


Miller Lite Beer Offensive Italian American Ad Withdrawn

Thanks to Joe Grano for bringing to our attention the latest attempt by a national company to promote its products by stereotyping Italian Americans as mafiosi. The MillerCoors  beer company had a new ad campaign promoting Miller Lite beer featuring a gangster character from the “The Sopranos.”

Fortunately, because of the efforts of two fast-acting Chicagoans, the company has already pulled the offensive ads. Click here to read the Chicago Sun-Times article which describes the ads and the campaign to have them pulled. You can then vote in the Sun-Times poll and let the MillerCoors company know that they did the right thing.

Apparently, in one commercial, Vincent and his sidekick enter a convenience store and ask the clerk if he needs “protection.” The clerk, pointing to a Miller Lite container, says he’s got all the protection he needs, which prompts an exaggerated “oh!” from Vincent and his sidekick. In a commercial set in a bar, Vincent asks — in a threatening tone — if the bartender needs protection. When the bartender says “no,” Vincent asks if he’s a wiseguy.

Congratulations to Lou Rago and Anthony Baratta from Chicago for their quick and effective action in having the offensive ads withdrawn. Thanks also go to Andre DiMino and Manny Alfano of UNICO New Jersey for informing the Italian-American community of the misbegotten ad campaign.

Assassination of Petrosino Commemorated in Washington – NIAF Executive Director Criticizes Media Treatment of Italian Americans

petrosino_rosesAt a ceremony held on March 12, 2009, at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, to commemorate the assassination of Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino, James Di Santis, Executive Director of the National Italian American Foundation, said that it was important to recall the story of Lt. Petrosino because “too many journalists still feel comfortable in drawing associations between Italian Americans and organized crime. ”  De Santis said that the media “overlooks our strenghts as an ethnic group that still cherishes a strong family structure, deep religious convictions and a passion for doing what is right.”

The commemoration was sponsored by the Friends of Charles Bonaparte, a group of current and former U.S. Department of Justice officials who support an annual ceremony commemorating Bonaparte, the 46th Attorney General and the Founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Attending the event were senior officials of the U.S. Department of Justice, Lou Scalfari, the President of the Lido Civic Club, the oldest Italian American civic organization inthe Nation’s Capital, and Pino Cicala, the Italian American voice in Washington DC and producer of Antenna Italia.

Francesco Isgro, a co-founder of the of the Friends of Charles Bonaparte, said in his welcoming remarks that the anniversary of the assasination of Petrosini was “an event that should not go unnoticed by all Americans and especially Italian Americans.”  Father Lydio Tomasi, Pastor of the National Italian parish, Holy Rosary Church gave an invocation.  Joe Grano, the Chair of the Constantino Brumidi Society and also an organizer of the event, recounted the life of Petrosino from his roots in Padula near Salerno,  to his funeral in New York City where more than 200,000 people lined up the streets during his funeral procession.

Hon. Francis M. Allegra, federal judge for the U.S. Court of Claims, and a former DOJ official, spoke about the “rule of law” and how all enforcement officers whose names are engraved on the Memorial, including Jospeh Petrosino, sacrificed their lives to uphold the rule of law.

NIAF’s National Executive Director, said that it was important that we recognize “modern-day Lt. Petrosino’s who dedicate their lives to sustaining a society that is characterized by its respect for the law. We can all take great pride in those Italian Americans in law enforcement, the legal profession and the bench who carry out their responsibilities with dignity, fairness and passion.”

Folllowing the remarks, the attendees placed red roses on the wall were Petrosino’s name is engraved for eternity.

Italian Ambassador Criticizes Washington Post’s Front Page Story on Mafia Lending

The Italian Ambassador to Washington, DC, Giovanni Castellaneta, sent on March 3, 2009, the following letter to the Washington Post in response to a front page article published on March 1, 2009, and entitled “As Italy’s Banks Tighten Lending, Desperate Firms Call on the Mafia.”  Read the Post’s article.

Dear Editor: 

            I read Mary Jordan’s article several times [As Italy’s Banks Tighten Lending, Desperate Firms Call on the Mafia, front page, March 1]. Several times because I was expecting, somewhere, to find mention of the fact that Italy’s banking system is among the most solid in the world, or perhaps a simple word about Italy’s not falling victim in recent times to any subprime crisis, artificial real estate boom, bankruptcies, Ponzi schemes, or even to any Madoff types (we put the one we had in jail several years ago and introduced new laws that have protected our financial system in these months). Or mention of the successes Italian authorities are scoring against mafia and organized crime (the recent arrest of mobster Giuseppe Setola) or that our Homeland Security activated a toll-free anti-racketeering and anti-loansharking number that operates 24/7, a measure that has proven quite useful.  

            But nowhere did I find mention of any of this. I have no comments about the article’s one-sided content, the description of a despicable and tragic phenomenon. I wonder, however, if your readers would not have also benefited from just a word about Italy’s commitment or success in fighting it? What idea would my countrymen have of America if they read an article on the Bush Administration that interviewed only Noam Chomsky or a piece on climate change that cited only Rush Limbaugh? 

              I doubt that Walter Cronkite would have concluded Mary Jordan’s article with “that’s the way it is.” 

  Giovanni Castellaneta