Michele Sindona, Criminal Financier

Michele Sindona
Michele Sindona

At one time banker Michele Sindona served as a financial adviser to the Vatican and was hailed by Italian government officials as the "savior of the lira." When it became clear he worked hand in glove with both the Italian and American Mafia, an Italian state prosecutor denounced him as one of "the most dangerous criminal elements in Italian society."

As Sindona's true character was bared, he faced fraud charges in the United States, as well as fraud and later murder conspiracy charges in Italy. He fought back by recruiting his Mafia cohorts to eliminate anyone who threatened him. Sindona recruited hit men to kill a government-appointed liquidator of his bank in Milan. The man was murdered.

A murder plot in the United States proved less successful. Sindona sought a "Zip" hit man to murder Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kenney who was prosecuting a case against him. The hit man, Luigi Ronsisvalle, had previously handled some "rough-up work" for the financier. Sindona wanted him to plant heroin or cocaine on Kenney's body to make the murder seem drug related.

While he was an accomplished contract killer, Ronsisvalle balked, saying, "You talking about something heavy." Ronsisvalle was not considered a smart man, but he knew the American mobs frowned at killing prosecutors; in fact the mob made it a practice, such as in the case of Dutch Schultz's plot to have prosecutor Tom Dewey assassinated, to whack out anyone daring to upset the status quo in that fashion.

Sindona continued the plot with others but finally backed off when one of the intermediaries arranging the would-be murder carelessly mentioned Sindona's name on a telephone that the banker feared might have been tapped. Sindona was convicted for his American crimes and sentenced to 25 years. U.S. authorities then shipped him to Italy where he was convicted on charges there and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Shortly after his conviction the 65-year-old Sindona drank a fatal cup of poisoned coffee in his prison cell. The coffee in his cup had been laced with cyanide. He keeled over and shouted, "They have poisoned me."

Nevertheless authorities decided Sindona had committed suicide.