Lucky Luciano

Lucky Luciano, Gangster, NYC

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Charles "Lucky" Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania) (November 24, 1897 - January 26, 1962) was a Sicilian-American mobster. Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime and the mastermind of the massive postwar expansion of the international heroin trade.

Time magazine has named Luciano amongst the top 20 most influential builders and titans of the 20th century.


Salvatore Lucania was born on November 24, 1897 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, a town primarily known for its sulfur mines. The promise of a new and better life led his family to immigrate to America in 1907 and he arrived in New York late that year. At age 10, Salvatore was arrested for the first time for shoplifting. At age 14, he served four months in a Brooklyn youth correctional facility for truancy.

In 1915, Salvatore and his gang were kicked out of a theatre in East Harlem for rowdy behaviour. It was that same night that Salvatore Lucania met Francesco Castiglia, better known as Frank Costello. Salvatore and Frank became close friends.

At age 18, Salvatore was sentenced to six months in the reformatory for selling heroin and morphine.

By 1920, Luciano had met many of the mafia heavyweights including Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, his longtime friend and business partner. Together they began a bootlegging venture using a trucking firm as a front.

In 1923, Genovese introduced Luciano to Charlie "Big Nose" Lagaipa, a heroin dealer who was known to mix business with pleasure. Lagaipa persuaded Luciano to invest in his drug ring. Luciano was later arrested in possession of a large amount of heroin. Facing a long prison sentence, Luciano tried and failed to bribe his way out. He eventually gave the government the location of a large amount of heroin. Luciano then planted the heroin in that location for the agents to find. Luciano later discovered that only half of the planted heroin was ever turned in by the agents.

By 1925, Luciano was grossing close to a million a year; however, he was netting much less each year due to the high costs of bribing politicians and cops. Luciano ran the largest bootlegging operation in New York, one that also spanned into Philadelphia. He imported scotch directly from Scotland, rum from the Caribbean and whiskey from Canada. He was also involved in gambling, loan sharking and extortion. By this time Luciano was already a big player in the New York mob.

Soon Luciano joined forces with Joe "the Boss" Masseria. But the partnership was doomed from the start as Luciano's and Masseria's methods of business differed greatly. One day in 1929, Luciano was forced into a limo at gun point by three men, beaten and stabbed, and dumped on a beach on New York Bay. Luciano survived the ordeal, but was forever marked with the now infamous scar and droopy eye. After his abduction, Luciano found out through Meyer Lansky that it had been ordered by Masseria. Luciano then secretly plotted with Masseria's enemy Sal Maranzano to betray Masseria. This plot would herald the beginning of the Castellammarese War.

In his later years, Luciano came into conflict with Lansky over the amount of money he was receiving from Mafia operations in the early 1960s. However, Luciano's failing health prevented him from putting up a fight in the matter. Luciano was also told not to promote or participate in a movie about his life, as it would have attracted unnecessary attention to the mob. He relented until after his girlfriend died of breast cancer, and was scheduled to meet with a movie producer arriving by plane at the Naples International Airport. As fate would have it, the man who engineered the assassination of Dutch Schultz and his gang would never live to see his own name in lights. On January 26, 1962, Lucky Luciano's luck finally ran out, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 64 at Naples International Airport. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens, where he was raised. Even today Luciano is recognized as the biggest gangster ever and one of the most influential criminals in world history due to his direct participation in major criminal conspiracies like the establishment of La Cosa Nostra in the United States and the importation of heroin during his exile in Italy.

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