Plants: secret mafia members

Plants: secret mafia members
Plants: secret mafia members

"Plants" are one of the Mafia's major long-term investments. Intelligence agencies rely on "sleepers" or "deep agents"—plants who lead normal lives and are only called upon when the situation warrants. Crime families do the same thing. With more astuteness than some so-called experts who insist the Mafia is dying, they recognize they are making a major investment in time, and in doing so they reveal their own view of their longevity and viability.

Crime family plants are noncriminal characters usually recruited in youth and are deliberately kept free of criminal activity so they can move into high places in business, labor or the political world. The Chicago Outfit also developed plants to function within law enforcement agencies. Whether for law enforcement or crime, the main asset of these plants is their anonymity.

One crime historian, David Leon Chandler in Brothers in Blood, offers Anthony Scotto as an example of a labor plant. Hailed as a "new breed" labor leader—college educated, articulate, bright—he was the president of Local 1818, International Longshoremen's Association, long a stronghold for the Anastasia-Gambino crime family.

In fact, Scotto was related by marriage to the late Tough Tony Anastasio. Despite his background, Scotto was named American delegate to the International Labor Organization by two presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. More important for the mob, in his local post, Scotto could offer jobs to, and influence, any firm doing business involving the New York wharves, and he was in a position to provide intelligence on import and export shipments.

But one can quarrel with Chandler's description of Scotto as a plant since the FBI had accumulated a large file on him and identified him as far back as 1969 as a capodecina (captain) in the Gambino family.

Probably a better example of a Mafia plant was John C. Montana, a prominent Buffalo, New York, businessman. By the late 1950s, he had a virtual monopoly of the city's taxicab business and was named Man of the Year by the Erie Club, the official social organization of the Buffalo Police Department.

Yet he had been a capo in the Magaddino family since 1931, under wraps except when Don Stefano Magaddino could not resist trotting him out in 1931 for a number of top hoodlums who were traveling by train through Buffalo to Chicago for a major underworld meeting. (One hood got off in Buffalo to make a 30-minute phone call. Montana showed his muscle by postponing the train's departure until all the boys were ready to go.)

Montana was nailed with about 60 other hoodlums attending the notorious Apalachin Conference in 1957. Unlike the other mobsters, he insisted he did not know Joseph Barbara, the conference host, and had only stopped at the house when his car brakes failed and he looked for help.

Before Apalachin, Montana had often told other mafiosi, as Joe Valachi put it, "he didn't want to be seen with any of us other members." After Apalachin, Montana tried to keep Magaddino mobsters away all the more because they were keeping him "hot." However, his usefulness as a crime family plant was shot, and Magaddino dropped him as a secret capo.

As the children of many mafiosi are moving into honest professions, it is hard to tell if they are legit or are actually sleepers. Without doubt, the most valued plants are those in Las Vegas and now Atlantic City. They perform vital functions for the mobs and can be trotted out when needed as front men.