Birthday: November 11, 1897
Nationality: American, Italian
Died At Age: 64
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Salvatore Lucania
Born Country: United States
Born in: Lercara Friddi, Italy
Notorious As: Gangster
Quotes By Lucky Luciano
Height: 1.78 m
father: Antonio Luciano
mother: Rosalia Capporelli
siblings: Bartolomeo Lucania, Concetta Lucania, Filippa Lucania, Giuseppe Lucania
Partner: Gay Orlova; (1929–1936); Igea Lissoni;
Died on: January 26, 1962
place of death: Naples International Airport, Italy
Who was Lucky Luciano?
Lucky Luciano was an Italian-born gangster. He is regarded as the father of modern organized crime in the United States. As the head of the modern Genovese crime family, he played an instrumental role in the development of the ‘National Crime Syndicate’ in the United States. He was so powerful that he could influence the crime world even while being imprisoned! Born in Sicily, he migrated to the United States with his family when he was nine years old. He dropped out of school as a teenager and did not take long to enter the world of crime. He created his own gang and offered protection to Jewish youngsters from the Italian and Irish gangs for 10 cents per week. As a young man, he also became involved in pimping, which was a lucrative trade at the time of ‘World War I.’ His criminal activities expanded over time; his acquaintances with many future Mafia leaders, including Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, provided him with the opportunity to amass great wealth through criminal dealings. Eventually, he became one of the top crime bosses in New York City and went on to establish the Commission, which served as a governing body for organized crime nationwide.
Childhood & Early Life
Lucky Luciano was born Salvatore Lucania on November 24, 1897, in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, Italy, to Antonio and Rosalia Lucania. He had four siblings.
His father worked in a sulfur mine in Sicily. The family migrated to the United States in 1907, when Salvatore was nine, and settled in New York City.
He dropped out of school when he was 14 and started doing odd jobs to make a living. He soon took to earning money on street and fell in bad company.
Aggressive and shrewd, he created his own gang as a teenager and was also a member of the old ‘Five Points Gang.’ But his interest was not limited to petty crimes; Luciano also offered protection to Jewish youngsters from the Italian and Irish gangs for 10 cents per week.
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Lucky Luciano soon gained notoriety for being a ruthless thug and was arrested several times on charges, including assault, illegal gambling, blackmail, and robbery. However, he spent no time in prison.
In the 1920s, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages. As there was a substantial demand for alcohol, the prohibition provided a lucrative opportunity to the criminals for illegal sale of alcohol.
By this time, Luciano had become friends with many future Mafia leaders, including Vito Genovese and Frank Costello. His notoriety as a rising figure in the criminal underbelly of New York gave him an opportunity to work as a gunman for Lower Manhattan gang boss Joe Masseria. Around this time, he also started working for gambler Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein.
Rothstein recognized the illegal opportunities the alcohol prohibition offered and trained Luciano on running bootleg alcohol as a business. Luciano, Costello, and Genovese started their own bootlegging operation with financing from Rothstein.
Under Rothstein’s guidance, Luciano’s criminal career flourished and his bootlegging operation became the largest in New York and also extended into Philadelphia. He was involved in illegal gambling, prostitution, and narcotics distribution among several other rackets. By the mid-1920s, he was earning over $12 million a year.
In October 1929, he was abducted by a group of men; he was beaten, stabbed, and left with his throat slit. Left to die on a beach, he was discovered by a police officer who took him to the hospital. Even though it was unclear who had ordered the attack, some speculated that the crime boss Masseria was behind the attack.
Masseria was involved in a terrible gang war with rival boss Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano decided to make the best of this opportunity and had Masseria assassinated in April 1931. Six months later, he had Maranzano murdered by four Jewish gunmen. After eliminating two powerful crime lords, Luciano became capo di tutti capi (boss of all the bosses).
By the mid-1930s, he had teamed up with the leaders of other crime families to develop the national crime syndicate or cartel. In 1935, Thomas E. Dewey was appointed to serve as a special prosecutor to look into organized crime. Dewey wasted no time in gathering evidence against Luciano.
Luciano, along with eight members from his racket, was brought to trial in May 1936. He was convicted on charges of extortion and prostitution and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in jail. He was then sent to the ‘Clinton Correctional Facility’ in Dannemora, New York.
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When ‘World War II’ started, the U.S. government struck a secret deal with the imprisoned Luciano. He agreed to use his criminal connections in Italy to advance the Allies' cause and facilitate negotiations. The state of New York transferred Luciano from ‘Clinton Correctional Facility’ to ‘Great Meadow Correctional Facility’ in Comstock, New York.
Luciano promised to completely assist the Navy in exchange for a commutation of his sentence. Accordingly, it is believed that he provided the U.S. military with mafia contacts in Sicily and also informed his contacts to co-ordinate with the U.S. military.
After the war, he went to Italy before traveling to Cuba. The Cuban government sent him back to Italy in 1947 where he spent the rest of his life.
Lucky Luciano is most notorious for his role in the establishment of the ‘National Crime Syndicate,’ a multi-ethnic American confederation of several crime organizations. At least 14 criminal organizations were members of the syndicate. Along with Luciano, other leading underworld figures like Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, and Dutch Schultz were also affiliated with the syndicate.
Personal Life & Legacy
Lucky Luciano met Gay Orlova, a featured dancer in one of Broadway's leading nightclubs, ‘Hollywood,’ in 1929. They became involved in a romantic relationship that lasted till he went to prison.
He fell in love with Igea Lissoni, an Italian nightclub dancer, in 1948. The couple started living together and there were rumors that they were married. In spite of his love for Igea, he continued having flings with other women. Igea died of cancer in 1959. Lucky Luciano never had children.
Lucky Luciano died of heart attack on January 26, 1962.