Angelo Bruno was a Sicilian-American mobster who was the boss of the infamous 'Philadelphia crime family' for nearly two decades. He was called the ‘Docile Don’ or ‘Gentle Don’ owing to his preference for conciliation over violence to resolve issues. This was a radical departure from what other mobsters had followed previously. He was also instrumental in changing the way the underworld operated, helping to bring about considerable order and stability in its operations. He was generally loved by most underworld citizens, but still ended up in tussles multiple times with various mafia giants such as Russell Bufalino. He has been associated with the murder of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa and his relationship with the infamous hit man Frank Sheeran gave rise to numerous speculations. Angelo Bruno and his organization mainly ran gambling and loan-sharking enterprises. Apart from these, he also owned stakes in various legitimate businesses. Owing to his docile behavior and his refusal to be directly involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, he was never an important target for the FBI. He was ultimately betrayed by a few members of his own crime family and murdered.
Childhood & Early Life
Angelo Bruno was born as Angelo Annaloro in Villalba in Sicily on May 21, 1910. At an early age, he migrated to USA with his family and settled in Philadelphia. He was the son of a foundry worker.
His father started a grocery shop in Feltonville, Philadelphia, and Angelo helped his father in this store until 1922 when he entered school at the age of 12. He pursued education for just a few years and then dropped out of the school to start his own grocery store in Passyunk Square, Philadelphia.
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Angelo’s stint as a mobster started when he became close with the boss of the Gambino crime family, Carlo Gambino of New York. Apart from this, the cousin of mobster John Simone also stayed with Angelo, adding another connection to the mafia world.
Soon, Angelo dropped his initial surname “Annaloro” and replaced it with “Bruno” which was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother. He soon gained a sponsor in the Philadelphia mafia world in the form of Michael Maggio who was the founder of M. Maggio Cheese Corp.
In 1959, Bruno replaced Joseph Ida as the leader of the Philadelphia crime family. The next twenty years were quite successful for Bruno as he avoided any sort of scrutiny by the media or law enforcement officials. There was also no violence against him or his family during those years. This was so much unlike other crime families which were plagued with violence.
During the period of 1959-79, Bruno managed to avoid long-term imprisonment though he was arrested multiple times during this period. In fact, his longest term was only two years long, and that too was for not testifying in front of a grand jury.
Bruno was also idealistic in a way that he forbade his family to be involved in any sort of narcotics trafficking or distribution. He rather preferred the traditional Cosa Nostra operations which were predominantly bookmaking and loan-sharking. But he did permit other gangs to distribute heroin in Philadelphia for a commission which angered many of his family members who felt they were left out in drawing profits out of this business.
Another quality of Bruno that stood out was his preference to deal with tricky situations through bribery rather than violence. One such example was when he banished the soldier Nicodemo Scarfo to a backwater in New Jersey after he was charged with manslaughter in 1963.
There were certain exceptions to his policies though. As per Pentito Tommaso Buscetta who was a Sicilian mafia man, Bruno allegedly ordered the killing of Enrico Mattei, the president of the state oil company Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, as Bruno was unhappy with some of Mattei’s policies. Mattei was killed on 27th October 1962.
Family & Personal Life
Angelo Bruno got married to his childhood sweetheart Sue Maranca in 1931 and was married to her for life. He had two children, Michael and Jean.
Death & Legacy
Angelo Bruno’s downfall started when several factions within the Philadelphia family began to conspire against him. On March 21, 1980, the 69-year-old Bruno was shot and killed while he was in his car. His driver, John Stanfa, was wounded during this killing.
The killing was apparently ordered by Bruno’s consigliere Antonio Caponigro. After a few weeks of the murder, Antonio was killed and his lifeless body was found nude in the trunk of car in the Bronx. It is believed that the Commission—the governing body of the American Mafia—had ordered the murder as Caponigro had murdered Bruno without their approval. All the other Philadelphia family members who had a part in Bruno’s murder were also brutally killed for this reason.
Bruno’s successor was Philip Testa, also called “Chicken Man.” He led the family for nearly a year until he was killed at his home using a nail bomb. After his death, Scarfo took over the reins of the Philadelphia family.
In the 2015 film ‘Legend’, Bruno was portrayed by the actor Chazz Palminteri. In the movie ‘The Irishman,’ which was released in 2019, he was portrayed by Harvey Keitel.