Tap Game

Bugging device
Bugging device
The meeting to work out plans for the would-be assassination of John Gotti took place in Cassella's Restaurant in Hoboken, New Jersey, owned by a Genovese soldier. It was a logical location since the hit was ordered by Vinnie "the Chin" Gigante, the head of the Genovese crime family.

The one catch was that the FBI knew about the place and at times had previously bugged it. Naturally the Genovese men were suspicious, so they were careful about where they held their meeting. It took place in the ladies' bathroom. To get access the boys banged impatiently on the door to rouse the females inside.

A woman's voice called out, "Just a minute, OK?"

"Go piss in the street, lady," snarled Louie Manna, the capo in charge of the projected hit. "We got to have a fuckin' business meeting."

The toilet flushed and out came the woman.

Four plotters, Manna, restaurant owner Motts Cassella, Frankie Danello and Bocci DeSiscio, piled into the pink-tiled room and devised a plot in which Gotti and his brother Gene would be ambushed as they left the Gambino's Bergin clubhouse in Queens.

As it happened, the projected hit never took place. The FBI warned the Gottis of the plan.

Yes, the restaurant's men's room had been bugged, but the FBI had the foresight to plant a tap in the ladies' room as well. Such was one of the continuous cat-and-mouse episodes of the "tap game" between the FBI and its Mafia prey.

Sometimes all does not go well. Mafiosi like to have huge guard dogs for their homes or hangouts. Such was the case with Colombo soldier Donnie Shacks who kept two very mean Rottweilers posted at his social club, The Maniac Club.

To get in to plant their tapes agents fed the dogs meatballs laced with thorazine. The idea was that the drug would discourage the animals from bothering the agent or even leave them out cold in the courtyard. Instead the dogs gobbled down all the meatballs and dashed straight for the club.

There the dogs erupted all over the premises with, as one agent described, "the force of what appeared to be several fire hoses." Then the dogs passed out cold. Agents who entered the club had to tread carefully around the swamp of fecal material to install the hidden microphones.

No one ever accused Donnie Shacks of being long in the thought department, but he suspected something had made the dogs produce the terrible mess. He had the club swept by an electronics expert and uncovered the bugs. Score one for the mob.

Fortunately for the FBI, mafiosi are incessant talkers and even when they suspect their phones are tapped they will use it to call in an expert to check it out. That was what Gotti sidekick Angelo Ruggiero did when he feared his home might have been bugged.

A former New York City detective named Conroy was brought in, and he swept the residence. Conroy found the place clean, and a grateful Ruggerio paid him $1,000 in cash. Conroy's analysis had been on target, but only because the FBI had overheard his hiring, entered the house and removed the bugs.

As soon as the search was completed, agents reentered the house and restored the bugs. Meanwhile Ruggiero, believing his phone was clean, talked so much that agents nicknamed him QuackQuack. Ruggiero's chatter played a huge role in the downfall of Gotti and numerous other mafiosi.

Perhaps the most celebrated tap game was that played on Tommy DiBella when he was acting boss of the Colombos. The FBI had set up a sting operation with an informant utilizing bugs on his business premises. One day a Colombo soldier spotted what he thought was a security system meant to protect the premises. Actually it was a sophisticated bugging set-up.

The mob guy wanted to know where the man had gotten it. Thinking fast, the informant said he had gotten it free from a buddy who had ripped it off and given it to him.

"Gee," said the gullible soldier, "Mr. DiBella would love to have such a system."

"No problem," the informant assured him, "I'll get them to boost another security system and install it for Mr. DiBella for free."

For that price, Mr. DiBella certainly wanted the system.

When a workclothed FBI man came to DiBella's Staten Island house and identified himself as the man with the security system, DiBella said sternly, "Yeah? Well, you look like a fucking FBI agent to me."

"No shit, Mr. DiBella," the agent replied. "What does one look like?"

Now the 75-year-old boss laughed. "Ah, I'm just busting your balls. Come on in, guy."

The subsequent busts made law enforcement history.

Abraham Telvi

Abraham Telvi
Abraham Telvi
A 22-year-old hood, Abraham Telvi was recruited by labor racketeer Johnny Dio to acid-blind crusading labor columnist Victor Riesel in 1956. Eager to get ahead in organized crime, Telvi agreed to the proposition, according to a federal investigation, by Joseph Peter Carlino.

Fingered by Gondolfo Miranti, Riesel found himself confronted by Telvi at about 3 A.M. as Riesel was leaving Lindy's, a famous New York Broadway restaurant. Telvi hurled sulphuric acid in Riesel's eyes and face, blinding him permanently.

Eventually, Miranti and another man involved in the plot were all set to identify Dio as the mastermind of the attack, but in the end refused to testify because of underworld threats. Charges against Dio and three others had to be dropped.

Telvi did not fare nearly as well. He had been paid a meager $1,175 for doing the job, and when he saw the heat being generated in the investigation, he angrily started dunning Dio and the other conspirators for a more equitable reward. In mid-July, Telvi was told he would get his bigger payoff in two weeks. The promise was not broken. On July 28, exactly two weeks later, Telvi was murdered in gangland style on the Lower East Side.

Frederick J. Tenuto

Frederick J. Tenuto
Frederick J. Tenuto
In February 1952 Arnold Schuster, a 24-year-old Brooklyn clothing salesman, became a short-lived hero after he spotted the highly publicized, wanted criminal Willie "the Actor" Sutton, while riding on a New York City subway train.

He followed Sutton, notified the police and Sutton was captured. On March 9, 1952, Schuster was found dead on the street where he lived. He had been shot four times, twice in the groin and once in each eye—all the markings of a Mafia murder.

Although Sutton had no connection with the Mafia or organized crime, Schuster's death had been decreed by Albert Anastasia, the brutal crime family boss. Watching the new celebrity, Schuster, being interviewed on television following Sutton's capture, Anastasia flew into a screaming rage, not unusual for him. "I can't stand squealers!" he shouted. "Hit that guy!"

The murder was carried out by Frederick J. Tenuto, at the time on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted criminals. Tenuto had a police record dating back to the age of 16 and had been in prison several times in the 1930s and 1940s. He was doing a term of 10 to 20 years for the hired killing of a Philadelphia man when he escaped from prison, only to be quickly recaptured. In 1945 he escaped again and was retaken. In 1947 he escaped a third time with four other men, including Sutton.

Shortly thereafter Tenuto turned up in Brooklyn underworld haunts where he came under the protection of Anastasia, a man of violence who always appreciated another cut of the same cloth. (If Tenuto had been around when Anastasia was issuing orders to his by then defunct Murder, Inc., troop, Tenuto would doubtless have been one of his star hitters.) Anastasia ordered Tenuto to take care of Schuster. Unfortunately, Tenuto was identified by a witness as he fled the scene of the crime.

This made not only Tenuto but also Anastasia vulnerable. Ordering Schuster's murder was a stupid thing for Anastasia to do. Anastasia made amends by ordering Tenuto murdered. Tenuto's body was never discovered although, according to some police informants, he had been given a "double-decker funeral"—being placed in the paneled false bottom of a coffin with an about-to-be buried corpse.

The brutal Anastasia had solved his immediate problem, but the Schuster murder was later used by Vito Genovese as a justification for having Anastasia assassinated as a "Mad Hatter," whose irrational deeds were a threat to the entire organization of the Mafia.

Vincent Charles “Fat Vinnie” Teresa

Vincent Charles Teresa
Vincent Charles “Fat Vinnie” Teresa
When Joe Valachi started singing, the mob price on his head was set at $100,000. On Vincent Teresa it was a half-million.

In the public mind Joe Valachi was the most important criminal informer in recent decades, a tribute more to the draw of television than to the gravity of his revelations. But many crime experts find Valachi's testimony limited in scope and not always consistent.

Experts agree that Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno and Teresa—who follow Valachi by about a decade—were both far more productive "pigeons" for the law, and a strong case is made that Teresa, or Fat Vinnie, ranks as the number one informer.

Teresa had been the number three man in the mafioso crime family in New England—by his own count, which may have been somewhat inflated— when he started to talk, not out of any great moral reformation but because his own mob stole his money, failed to aid his wife while he was in prison and menaced one of his children.

While Valachi knew very little of import outside of New York crime circles, Teresa's knowledge ranged from Massachusetts to the Bahamas and Europe. He provided hard information that could stand up in court, testimony about mob infiltration of business, about crooked casinos and gamblers, fixed horse races, gang wars and stock thefts.

He also cleared up several murders that authorities had shunted off to the unsolved file. His evidence led to the indictment or conviction of 50 mob figures and provided valuable leads on hundreds of others. And he did something no other mob informer ever dared do—he testified in open court about the "Little Guy," the much-feared Meyer Lansky.

In a book he wrote with Thomas C. Renner, My Life in the Mafia, Teresa traced the way $150 million poured into underworld coffers through his own efforts. In a 28-year crime career Teresa had himself netted $10 million which went almost as fast as he stole it.

Upon completion of his testimony Fat Vinnie was "buried" under the federal witness protection program with a new identity as Charles Cantino. In 1984, the Cantino address was Maple Valley, Washington.

The federal government itself blew Fat Vinnie's cover in December 1984 when a grand jury indicted him and five members of his family on charges of smuggling hundreds of exotic and expensive birds and reptiles into the country. Most of the animals were listed as endangered species. There was talk in the underworld that Fat Vinnie had himself once more become an endangered species.

Ciro Terranova

Ciro Terranova
Ciro Terranova

Although Ciro Terranova often gained a "good press"—from the underworld's point of view—as a brutish killer, the fact remains he was one of the most overrated mafiosi ever to be called a boss. Terranova came to the fore during the heyday of New York's Morello family and Lupo the Wolf; as long as he had them to lean on, he too was a dynamic crime figure. He could and did order a number of murders but gained a reputation as a man who could not do the dirty work himself.

Actually he operated quite well as a number two man and was to thrive as a junior partner to Dutch Schultz in the Harlem numbers racket. He was also called "the Artichoke King" by the newspapers for running an efficient racket with Morello muscle behind him. As informer Joe Valachi explained: "He tied up all the artichokes in the city.

The way I understand it he would buy all the artichokes that came into New York. I didn't know where they all came from, but I know he was buying them out. Being artichokes, they hold; they can keep. Then Ciro would make his own price, and as you know, Italians got to have artichokes to eat."

With the passing from the active roster of most of the leading Morellos and Lupo the Wolf by the 1920s, Terranova was in position to claim the leadership of mafioso elements in New York. He proved incapable of that and had to settle as an underboss to Joe the Boss Masseria.

During the Maranzano Masseria war of 1930–1931, he had another opportunity to assert his leadership but could only watch as Lucky Luciano took up the reins. Luciano and his assistant Vito Genovese tabbed Ciro Terranova a weakling and one who could be, according to Valachi, "stripped [of power] ... a little at a time."

Luciano's disdain for Terranova was rooted in the cowardly role the latter had played in the murder of Joe the Boss. Luciano arranged the killing by luring Masseria to a meal in a Coney Island restaurant. While Luciano went to the men's room, four killers—Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Joe Adonis and Bugsy Siegel—marched in and ventilated Masseria.

The quartet marched rapidly out of the restaurant to a waiting black limousine where Terranova sat at the wheel. The four killers were cool and relaxed, but Terranova was trembling, so much so that he was unable to put the car in gear. Contemptuously, Siegel shoved him away, took the wheel himself and sped off.

When, in the new order in the underworld, Luciano ordered Dutch Schultz's murder, Terranova moved to take control of the Harlem numbers racket. Luciano and Genovese informed Terranova he was now in retirement, replaced by Trigger Mike Coppola. Usually, such displaced crime leaders are assassinated for fear they will go to war to retain their rights. Luciano correctly figured that Terranova would do nothing.

Three years later, according to a gloating Valachi who hated Terranova for personal reasons, "he died from a broken heart." Generally speaking the death of Terranova was considered the final demise of the old Morello Gang, the first Mafia family established in New York. Many descendants of the Morellos are still active but have been absorbed by the other crime families.

Philip “Chicken Man” Testa

Philip - Chicken Man - Testa
Philip “Chicken Man” Testa
Few American cities acknowledge their mafiosi as freely as Philadelphia, the City of Mafia Love. Mafioso watching has long been considered a fine spectator sport. A restaurant in the city noted as a feeding place for the Mafia, Cous' Little Italy, even sported a hamburger called the Testa Burger, named after a godfather of the early 1980s, Philip "Chicken Man" Testa.

The Wall Street Journal, a publication much impressed with effective methods of salesmanship, cited the pitch for the Testa Burger, "If you didn't eat it, you'd get your fingers broken."

It was a gag, but Phil Testa, in his criminal activities, was no laughing matter. Classified by the FBI as one of the most violent members of the Angelo Bruno crime family, Testa was also its underboss.

Bruno, known as "the Gentle Don," was assassinated in 1980, almost certainly by New York Mafia crime families seeking to take over Atlantic City's new and enormously valuable crime concessions (flowing from now-legal casino gambling). The consensus among crime specialists was that Testa would be a tougher man to down than Bruno and that he would fight for what the Philadelphia mafiosi regarded as their turf.

Testa, in fact, was considered a man who would fight almost anybody over almost anything. Testa operated from the cover of a chicken shop on Christian Street. One time a rookie FBI agent, doing a routine check on a federal job applicant, wandered into the place to question the proprietor. Testa had four of his brawny enforcers heave him out into the street.

With Testa running the mob, a local newspaper thought it would be wise, considering the great public interest in local mafiosi, to have its resident astrologer study the Testa future in the stars. "With Neptune in exact conjunction with his retrograde Jupiter," the horoscope proclaimed, "no matter what's going on, Testa will come out in a better position than he started."

It was at best a short-term forecast. In March 1981, almost a year after Bruno's rubout, Chicken Man Testa got his. He was blown to bits when a shrapnel-filled remote control bomb tore up his house and porch as he returned there in the middle of the night.

Mob boss Angelo Bruno (right), 58, and underboss Philip Testa (left), 44
Mob boss Angelo Bruno (right), 58, and underboss Philip Testa (left), 44

Most theories lent themselves to the likelihood that the New York mobs had struck again. But the once-homogenous Philly mob was indeed coming apart. Rivals within his own organization had eliminated Testa, and the two decades of peace in Angelo Bruno's Philadelphia Mafia was over. Bruno's and Testa's deaths demonstrated that with bloody certainty.

(The night after Testa was blown up, Cous' Little Italy stopped serving the Testa Burger.)

Salvatore Testa: Mafia Mobster

Salvatore Testa
Salvatore Testa

An FBI agent once said of young Philadelphia mafioso Salvatore Testa, "He wants to be a bad guy in the worst way—and Lord knows he's got the breeding." He certainly did, being the son of the late, violence-prone Philadelphia Mafia bigwig, Philip "Chicken Man" Testa.

Young Testa most assuredly looked forward to the day when he would be the Philadelphia godfather, an attitude that undoubtedly dismayed some other criminals, both within and without the crime family. As a result, Salvatore Testa became the clay pigeon of the Philadelphia underworld.

The elder Testa, who had succeeded the murdered, longtime Mafia boss Angelo Bruno, was himself blown to bits by a remote-control bomb planted under the porch of his home in March 1981.

A little over a year later, Sal Testa, now a capo under the new boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, made his most amazing escape from death. He was eating clams outside a South Philadelphia pizza parlor when two would-be executioners blew him out of his chair with shotgun blasts. Testa took eight slugs in his body but recovered.

The gunmen, who were caught when their car crashed into a utility pole as they were fleeing, turned out to be soldiers for a rival mob leader, Harry Riccobene, a gentle-looking but murderous septuagenarian mafioso.

After young Testa made an unsuccessful try at Riccobene's life, he was almost cornered again when he and three bodyguards were driving through a warehouse district in South Philadelphia. Their car was cut off by another one loaded with four Riccobene gunmen. Several shots were exchanged but Testa was unscathed. Still in his 20s, the hood was labeled by mob associates "unkillable."

Salvatore Testa was said to regard his foes as foul-ups. Then he turned careless. One day in September 1984, Testa, clad in tennis whites, left home for an afternoon of sport. At 10:23 P.M. on September 14, police in southern New Jersey received an anonymous call from a man who reported finding a body alongside a country road 20 miles southeast of Philadelphia.

Testa had been shot twice in the back of the head at close range with a small-caliber gun. He was the 23rd victim in the Philadelphia underworld since Bruno's murder had shattered the longtime peace that prevailed in the mob. Sal Testa had turned out to be no more unkillable than any of the others.

In fact, he had been eliminated by members of his own murder crew on orders of Little Nicky Scarfo, who had originally promoted young Testa to capo. The problem, from Scarfo's view, was that Testa had worked hard at the killing game and had distinguished himself as the real rising star of the Philly crime family. Scarfo began seeing every expression by Testa as a show of disrespect and ordered him hit before he made a direct move for the boss job.

Tommy Gun: Mobster weapon

Original Tommy Gun
Original Tommy Gun

The Thompson submachine gun—nicknamed the "tommy gun," "Chicago Piano," "chopper" and "typewriter"—was described by a Collier's magazine crime reporter: "the greatest aid to bigger and better business the criminal has discovered in this generation ... a diabolical machine of death ... the highest powered instrument of destruction that has yet been placed at the convenience of the criminal element ... an infernal machine ... the diabolical acme of human ingenuity in man's effort to devise a mechanical contrivance with which to murder his neighbor." With accolades like that, the American Mafia quite naturally became the weapon's best customer.

The weapon was named the Thompson (inevitably shortened to the affectionate "tommy") after its coinventor, Brigadier General John T. Thompson, director of arsenals during World War I. Thompson had tried to get the weapon ready for use in trench warfare (he called the weapon "a trench broom"), but it was not perfected until 1920. Weighing less than 9 pounds and firing .45 caliber bullets from a circular magazine, the Thompson was effective up to 600 yards and could spew out 1,500 rounds a minute.

To Thompson's disappointment the army had no interest in the weapon which at $175 seemed expensive. Ironically, its prodigious rate of fire also worked against it. The army felt it used too much ammunition.

The underworld had a more positive attitude about the gun. Organized bootlegging gangs found it a spectacular aid as an intimidator weapon during hijackings, and the way it could turn an automobile into a sieve in a half-minute made it very attractive for assassination purposes.

Best of all, it was completely legal. While many states and cities had passed laws similar to New York's 1911 Sullivan Law, prohibiting the possession of easily concealed weapons without a permit, there were no restrictions on tommy guns, which could even be ordered through the mail. When stricter federal and state laws finally were enacted, the underworld was still supplied, although the illegal price jumped into the thousands of dollars.

According to some crime historians, the first victims of the tommy gun were William H. McSwiggin, an assistant state's attorney, and Jim Doherty and Tom Duffy, two hoodlums from the O'Donnell Gang who were taken out in front of the Pony Inn in Cicero, Illinois. It was said by some that Al Capone handled the weapon personally.

Ilustration: mobster with tommy gun
Ilustration: mobster with tommy gun

Capone was a true devotee of the tommy gun, but he was hardly the first. Tommy guns were first used by the Saltis-McErlane Gang of Chicago's Southwest Side. Both Joe Saltis and Frank McErlane were a bit dimwitted, and they had murderous instincts. They took gleefully to a killing weapon on which all one had to do was squeeze the trigger and hold on. After them, every mob in Chicago and every Mafia family around the country had to have its supply of tommies.

After the underworld demonstrated the value of the tommy gun, the U.S. Army and its allies took a more positive view of the weapon, supplying their troops with almost 2 million of them in World War II.

John Torrio

John Torrio
John Torrio

His contributions to the fathering of syndicate crime were enormous. Johnny Torrio taught Al Capone all he ever knew. Yet that hardly measures Torrio's impact on organized crime. He was nicknamed "the Brain," a sobriquet borne, significantly, by two other men—Arnold Rothstein and Meyer Lansky.

Crime historians agree that this trio, often working in tandem and certainly conferring frequently, laid out the basic strategy for organizing crime in America. Lucky Luciano, similarly, is recognized as the "doer" who ultimately carried out the plan.

If there is any knock on Torrio it is that he failed to develop a doer to carry out his plans to the fullest. His protégé, Capone, did not organize crime in America and, in fact, never completed the chore of organizing Chicago although he was nearing that goal when he went to prison in the early 1930s. Experts agree Chicago was the toughest place of all to bring under organized control; by comparison Luciano, with strong assistance from Jewish mobsters, had a relative breeze in New York.

Even after Luciano and Lansky succeeded in genuinely organizing crime, they frequently sought out the advice of the then-retired Torrio. (By that time Rothstein had been murdered.)

Born in Italy in 1882 and brought to New York at the age of two, Torrio grew up in the ghetto of the Lower East Side. He was still in his teens when he rose to the positions of subchief in Paul Kelly's huge Five Points Gang, one of the city's two most powerful (the other being the Eastmans), and of head of his own subgang, the James Streeters.

Torrio managed in this period to avoid ever being arrested although his reputation as a tough young gangster grew. Known as Terrible Johnny, he took part in a number of gang battles and was adept with fists, boots and knives. As an opponent, he was regarded as cold, cruel and above all calculating.

He was extremely short but his natural meanness qualified him as a bouncer at Nigger Mike's on Pell Street, regarded as one of the roughest and wildest joints in Manhattan, where, incidentally, Irving Berlin got his start as a singing waiter.

By 1912 the Bowery was no longer a big-money center, and Torrio shifted his personal interests to a bar and brothel for seamen in an even tougher section near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Now and then he offered strong-arm employment to one of his James Street gang, a big, bullying teenage hoodlum named Al Capone.

Torrio felt the rewards of the whoring business were limited; he got into hijacking and narcotics. He expounded on how crime could be made into a big business. Those who listened to him, including Capone started calling him "the Brain."

As early as 1909 Torrio was trekking west to Chicago from time to time to do mob chores for his uncle by marriage, Big Jim Colosimo, the biggest whoremaster in that city. Around 1915, when Torrio was 33, Big Jim offered Torrio a full-time job with him.

Torrio turned over most of his Brooklyn racket operations to his partner, Frankie Yale. In Chicago Torrio took over running most of Big Jim's whore joints, everything from such landmarks as the House of All Nations to the low-cost joints on what was known as Bedbug Row. Under Torrio all of these places upped their revenues handsomely.

Late in 1919 Torrio brought Capone out to Chicago, after he was informed Capone was having some troubles concerning a couple of murders. Technically, Capone was to help out in the whorehouses, but actually Torrio wanted Capone as his link for Prohibition and the bootlegging that would follow, knowing the racket would be worth a mint. The only trouble was that Torrio couldn't interest Big Jim in the booze business.

He had made the mistake of making Colosimo so rich that he was lazy and couldn't see the need for more money. Torrio understood that Big Jim was a hindrance to his own ambitions and to the operation in general. He resolved that he had to go. By this time Capone was Torrio's number one aide, but he knew neither of them could assassinate Big Jim without coming under immediate suspicion. Frankie Yale came west to handle the job.

Once Colosimo was erased, Torrio simply moved in and took over the entire organization. Anybody objecting had to deal with Capone. However, Torrio didn't see himself merely as the head of Big Jim's old empire. He wanted to build a new kind of empire in Chicago, one that brought all the gangs under a single confederation.

Mug shot of Italian-American mobster Johnny Torrio, in the immediate aftermath of his 1936 arrest for tax evasion.
Mug shot of Italian-American mobster Johnny Torrio,
in the immediate aftermath of his 1936 arrest for tax evasion.

Each gang would have its own area to milk without any competition. He called all the gangs together—the Italian gangs, many of whom were mafioso, the North Side Irish, the South Side Poles, etc. He promised them that they'd all make millions and, what was more important, actually live to enjoy their wealth. Torrio did not believe in the veiled threat; the alternative, he said softly, was war and he would win that. It was join the new syndicate setup or, sooner or later, die.

The various gang leaders were tough men who'd made it to the top because they could shove better than others, but most of them were persuaded, by Torrio's logic and perhaps as well by his threats. Some of the others, especially among the Irish gangs, said they would join up but didn't.

War soon raged, with the tough North Siders headed by the murderous and erratic Dion O'Banion. The Italian Genna gang joined but never stopped double-dealing, continuing to invade other territories with its lowerpriced rotgut. The wars that raged often were multisided and marked by double crosses, with henchmen bribed to kill their own leaders.

Several Genna men fell, but O'Banion remained a thorn. Then suddenly O'Banion sent word to Torrio that he wanted to quit the rackets and get out. If he could sell his Seiben Brewery for a half-million dollars, he would be through. Torrio jumped at the offer.

It was a cheap price to pay to have O'Banion go away. A week after the deal was finalized and O'Banion got his money, federal agents raided the brewery and confiscated everything. Torrio realized O'Banion had suckered him. He discovered O'Banion had been tipped off that the federal action was in the works and had cunningly let Torrio take the loss.

Torrio stormed about his office, brandishing a gun and screaming he'd have vengeance on the Irish mobster. It was an uncommon reaction from Torrio who seldom let his emotions show. Torrio made good on his threats. Frankie Yale, Colosimo's assassin, was sent for again. Yale and two hoods, Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, murdered O'Banion in the flower shop he ran.

Capone was overjoyed by O'Banion's murder, but Torrio knew it would only produce more gang conflict. O'Banion's gang, now bossed by Hymie Weiss, would fight and the longer it took Torrio to subdue them, the greater the chances other gangs would start revolting. As expected, Weiss and some of his boys tried to ambush Torrio as he was riding in his limousine.

The chauffeur and Torrio's dog were shot to death, but Johnny escaped with just two bullet holes in his gray fedora. Torrio had Capone and his gunners out looking for Hymie Weiss but Hymie Weiss stayed undercover. Then on January 24, 1925, Torrio was ambushed in front of his apartment building.

He was cut down with a shotgun blast and then a second gunman pumped four slugs into him. Hit in the chest, arm and stomach, Torrio hovered near death for a week and a half while Capone kept a troop of 30 hoods stationed around the hospital to ward off any further tries at him.

After Torrio recovered, he did a lot of thinking. His dream for a syndicate setup in Chicago was far from realized and any hope for a national syndicate was still far in the future. And there was an excellent chance he'd be killed. He'd survived five years at the top in Chicago gangland, no easy task. He was 43 years old and had $30 million. Torrio's pioneering was done. He told Capone: "It's all yours, Al. I've retired."

Torrio walked away from what was up until then the greatest setup ever established. It was he rather than Capone who had first said, "I own the police force." Now he was going to retire in Brooklyn after lazing around for a year or two in the Mediterranean sun.

The law and the press often expressed doubts that he really retired, but basically he did except for occasionally playing elder statesman. Luciano and the emerging national crime syndicate often sought his advice, as did Capone.

Torrio attended the underworld's landmark 1929 Atlantic City Conference, and it is known that his counsel was sought before the decision was voted to hit Dutch Schultz because of his dangerous plan to assassinate prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. It was said that several Murder, Inc., hits also required his approval. Torrio said it wasn't so at all, that he was a has-been who just wanted to die in bed.

In April 1957 Johnny Torrio sat down in a Brooklyn barbershop chair and suffered a heart attack. He lingered long enough to die in bed. He was 75.

Ironically, a few months later, Albert Anastasia was assassinated in a barber chair in Manhattan. Anastasia had been relaxing with his eyes closed when the assassins struck. Torrio, on the other hand, had not been an assassination victim and hadn't expected to be. But in the barber chair, he had been sitting Chicago-style—with his eyes wide open and the chair facing the door so that he could see who was coming. Johnny Torrio was the cautious one right to the very end.