Birthday: September 26, 1902
Died At Age: 55
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Umberto Anastasio, The One-Man Army, Mad Hatter, Lord High Executioner
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Parghelia, Calabria, Italy
Notorious As: Criminal
Spouse/Ex-: Elsa Barnesi
father: Raffaelo Anastasio
mother: Louisa Nomina de Filippi
siblings: Anthony Anastasio, Frank Anastasio, Gerardo Anastasia, Joseph Anastasio, Salvatore Anastasia
children: Anthony Anastasia, Anthony Anastasia Jr., Jack O'Halloran, Jr.
Died on: October 25, 1957
place of death: Park Central Hotel New York, New York, United States
Who was Albert Anastasia?
Albert Anastasia was an Italian–American gangster, hitman, and crime lord, who once controlled the organized crime industry in the US. Regarded as one of the deadliest criminals of all time in the US, he co-founded the modern American mafia. Anastasia was the leader of the modern Gambino crime family. According to former ‘New York City Police Department’ (NYPD) detective Ralph Salerno, Anastasia had murdered tens of thousands of people while he was ruling the mafia circuit. Anastasia entered the US illegally in 1919, which marked his beginning in the world of crime. He acquired powerful connections and eventually became the boss of one of the five crime families of New York City. The jealousy of a rival gangster and the betrayal of his associates resulted in his much-hyped assassination in the barbershop of the 'Park Sheraton Hotel.'
Childhood & Early Life
Anastasia was born Umberto Anastasio, on September 26, 1902, in Parghelia, Calabria, Italy. He was one of nine sons born to Raffaele Anastasio, a railway worker, and Luisa Nomina de Filippi. He had three sisters. He changed his family name, "Anastasio," to "Anastasia" in 1921.
Anastasia lost his father after World War I. In 1919, he entered the US illegally along with three of his brothers.
In March 1921, Anastasia was sentenced to death for murdering longshoreman George Turino during a brawl. He was moved to the ‘Sing Sing State Prison,' where he waited for his execution. However, some legal complications got Anastasia a retrial in which he walked free, as the four main prosecution witnesses did not show up.
Again, in June 1923, Anastasia served a 2-year imprisonment for illegal possession of a firearm.
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Rise as a Gangster
By the end of the 1920s, with six local chapters of a labor union in Brooklyn under his control, Anastasia was leading the 'International Longshoremen's Association' (ILA). He made beneficial associations with Joe “The Boss” Masseria, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, and Charles “Lucky” Luciano (the chairman of the gang). The connections helped him make the witnesses of his 1928 murder case trial in Brooklyn disappear.
The Castellammarese War
Anastasia assisted Luciano's rise in the crime racket of New York. He was allegedly involved in the murder of a mafia group head named Masseria on April 15, 1931. With the murder of Salvatore Maranzano, another mafia leader, in 1931, Luciano became a distinguished gangster of the US.
With that, the Castellammarese War, an Italian–American mafia power struggle war (February 1930 to April 15, 1931) to get control of the crime racket in the US, ended.
Five Families & the National Crime Syndicate
To avoid any more power struggle war, Luciano formed the 'National Crime Syndicate,' in alliance with the five chiefs of the New York City-based organized crime families of the Italian–American mafia, known as the “five families.’’ Luciano made Anastasia the underboss of the Vincent Mangano crime family.
Impressed with his loyalty, Luciano appointed Anastasia and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the leading labor racketeer, to control 'Murder, Inc.,' an enforcement arm of the syndicate. As the leader of the arm, Anastasia was nicknamed the "Mad Hatter" and the "Lord High Executioner."
Anantasia’s business card mentioned him as a sales executive.
In 1941, Abe Reles, a Brooklyn-based leader and a leading hitmen supplier for 'Murder, Inc.,' was arrested, resulting in the collapse of the arm.
Reles, who was now testifying for the government, decided to reveal Anastasia’s involvement in the Diamond and Panto murders. Anastasia hence ordered Reles’s murder. Reles was found dead on the roof of the 'Half Moon Hotel' in Coney Island on November 12, 1941.
Anthony Romeo, Anastasia’s other associate who also went against him, had the same fate as that of Reles.
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World War II
Anastasia played a crucial role in World War II, with a motive to save Luciano’s execution. He made a deal to reduce Luciano’s punishment by assisting in the invasion of Italy.
In 1942, Anastasia joined the US army as a technical sergeant, to move away from the ongoing crime investigations that could have implicated him.
In 1943, Anastasia received US citizenship. He underwent an honorable discharge in 1944. He then settled down in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
In 1948, Anastasia purchased a factory in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and gave his brother Anthony the control of his waterfront activities.
The Anastasia Crime Family
Anastasia refused to answer any of the questions about organized crime during the 'Kefauver Hearings' at the ‘US Senate’ in 1951.
By that time, Anastasia had earned the animosity of his boss, Mangano, because of his associations with Luciano and Costello. Though there is no evidence of Anastasia’s involvement, he is still considered the mastermind of the disappearance of Vincent Mangano and the murder of Philip Mangano (1951).
With that, Costello, on behalf of the commission, named Anastasia the leader of the Mangano family, which then came to be known as the “Anastasia Crime Family.”
In March 1952, Anastasia allegedly ordered the murder of Arnold Schuster, the witness who identified and secured the arrest of bank robber Willie Sutton. Sutton was shot dead on March 8, 1952, which triggered a public accusation against Anastasia in 1963.
On December 9, 1952, Anastasia was sued and deported for forging his citizenship application. In 1955, he served a year of imprisonment for tax fraud.
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Vito Genovese, who wanted to take over the Luciano crime family, conspired the murders of Costello and Anastasia. He turned Anastasia’s supporters against him and eventually won the support of his caporegime, Carlo Gambino. Genovese also got the support of Meyer Lansky, a leading gangster of the time and Luciano’s manager.
Lansky, who was now working for Genovese, refused to give Anastasia a larger profit share from his casinos across Cuba. Anastasia hence started his casino racket to compete with Lansky.
In 1957, Genovese took over Costello's crime family after he tried to shoot him dead. It was, however, a failed attempt, and Costello sustained a superficial wound. Anastasia was allegedly involved in his then-underboss Frank Scalice’s assassination later that year.
On October 25, 1957, Anastasia went to a barbershop in Manhattan. He left his bodyguards outside the shop. He was fired at point-blank range.
The assassination triggered a huge public interest and a high-profile police investigation. However, no one was ever convicted of the murder.
Allegedly, Genovese had ordered Joe Gallo of the Profaci crime family to kill Anastasia.
Carlo Gambino, the boss of the Gambino crime family, proclaimed to succeed Anastasia at the ‘Apalachin Meeting’ held on November 14, 1957.
The 'Roman Catholic Diocese' of Brooklyn refused to sanction a church burial for Anastasia. Hence, he was entombed in the 'Green-Wood Cemetery' in Greenwood Heights.
Family & Personal Life
Anastasia was married to Elsa Barnesi and had two sons and two daughters.
Former boxer and actor Jack O'Halloran claims to be Anastasia's illegitimate son.
The barbershop chair on which Anastasia died was auctioned. In February 2012, it went to the 'Mob Museum' in Las Vegas for display.
The fictional character ‘Johnny Friendly’ from the 1954 American film 'On the Waterfront,' played by Lee J. Cobb, is loosely based on Anastasia. Gianni Russo portrayed him in the 1975 film 'Lepke.' Garry Pastore has been cast as Anastasia in the 2019 movie 'The Irishman.'
Based on his assassination, Mayra Montero penned the novel 'Son de Almendra.'