#22: Angelo Bruno, The "Docile" Don (Part Two)


In the second episode of this multi-part series, we cover Angelo Bruno, Boss of the Philadelphia Mafia during the "Golden Age" of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra from the years 1960-1969.

We recap the following:

  • Bruno's ascension to Boss of the Philly Mob during 1959 when a dispute between himself and Acting Boss Antonio "Mr. Mig" Pollina, along with support from Bruno's good friend Carlo Gambino, resulting in Bruno taking the top chair in the Philadelphia underworld and joining The Commission as the first boss from Philadelphia to do so.
  • From there, we also recap Bruno's underworld dealings leading up to his time as boss and his involvement as the top numbers man in Philadelphia during the 1950's and 1960's, as well as his illegitimate and legitimate business interests in several vending companies, the Maggio Cheese Company, and even companies down in Florida as well as an amusement park in the Dominican Republic.
  • In the early 1960's, we cover the hierarchy of the family as well as a 1962 dispute between Bruno and his Underboss, Ignazio Denaro, which led to a major Commission beef. We also cover various arrests throughout the 1960's, some of which Bruno handled with great ease, and an extortion case from 1963 that caused Bruno to go on the lam to Italy and landed his trusted advisor Phil Testa in jail for over a year in the early 1960's.
  • Once Bruno deals with the 1963 extortion case, which was taking place at the same time as the infamous Valachi Hearings, we walk you through the key members of the Philadelphia underworld and the various goings-on in the mid-to-late 1960's, including the death of Felix "Skinny Razor" DeTullio and the rise in Atlantic City of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo.
  • Bruno closes out the 1960's hitting his stride in the Philly underworld, batting away cases with ease as the Bruno Crime Family significantly expands it's influence and wealth. By the end of the decade, Angel Bruno is ranked as one of the Top 6 Costa Nostra bosses nationally by a Justice Department report. We cover all of this, with a lot of details and amazing stories in between.

Episode Transcript


“Upon completion of his telephone call, Agent VERICA left the kitchen and passed through the barber shop. Mr. BRUNO stopped him in the presence of POLLINA, and asked him how he knew POLLINA. POLLINA attempted to say something and BRUNO told him to be quiet. POLLINA remained quiet. BRUNO then asked ‘Did you ever see him before,’ pointing to POLLINA? VERICA replied that he had seen him many times. POLLINA became excited. SA VERICA then suggested to Mr. POLLINA that if he has any problems he should see Mr. BRUNO. BRUNO laughed at this and POLLINA became very angry. Agent VERICA then began to depart and Mr. MIGO said that he wanted to talk further. Agent VERICA then told Mr. POLLINA and Mr. BRUNO that he, too, has a ‘Capo’ who tells him when to go and when to come. POLLINA, at this remark, appeared speechless with emotion. BRUNO was no longer laughing and said nothing. Agent VERICA then departed.”


Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of The Member’s Only Podcast. I am your host Jacob Stoops, and I’m a mob enthusiast and historian.

I’m really excited for today’s episode, in which we’ll be diving back into the life and times of Angelo Bruno, the long-time boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra.

For those that are maybe new to the genre, Angelo Bruno would rule the Philadelphia underworld for over 20 years and has the distinction of presiding over one of the most peaceful time periods in that city since the mob became active in the Philadelphia area. Ultimately, Bruno fell victim to plots from within, and was murdered in 1980 in one of the most infamous and enduring events in the history of Cosa Nostra in this country.

A few months back I did an episode on Bruno’s rise which covered his early years all the way up to how he ascended to the position of Boss, along with a little bit of early Philadelphia mob history sprinkled in. That episode was incredibly well-received, and if you haven’t checked it out I encourage you to go on over and watch that one before you watch this.

My original plan was to complete the Bruno series in what I thought was going to be just two parts. However, I have since realized that there was so much going on in the 1960’s let alone the 1970’s that I was going to have to break things down even more. 

In my experience, most content creators sort of gloss over the 1960’s when it comes to Bruno and sort of focuses on his rise to Boss or his downfall towards the end of the 1970’s, but you rarely hear what he was like in his prime, and all of the things that were going on during that time. That’s what we’re going to cover today, and let me tell you—Bruno was not idle during the 60’s. 

There were a lot of things happening, and quite frankly it would have been a lot to deal with, and while it was probably the most peaceful era in Philadelphia’s history, things were by no means calm and totally peaceful as I’m about to show you.

So we’ll be talking about the 1960’s in terms of all the activity surrounding Bruno, and then we’ll do an episode just on the mob-related hits associated with Philadelphia in the 1960’s (and maybe even the 1970’s) because that’s a can of worms by itself.

And after those, we’ll cover Bruno’s decline in the 1970’s and then the events surrounding his murder and the fallout. It’s a big story, and I’ve realized that two or even three parts just won’t do it justice, and because I’m detail-oriented and somewhat long-winded, I wanted to make sure I covered as much as I could to give you the total picture on one of the most legendary bosses outside of New York in the history of Cosa Nostra. 

So that’s the plan, the entire Angelo Bruno story — likely in 4-5 parts total.

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Alright, let's get into the episode—Part Two Angelo Bruno and what I’m calling “The Golden Era!”  

1960 - 1962: “The Golden Era Begins”

Now, when we last left you, in around 1959 or 1960 Angelo Bruno had just ascended to the Boss position within the family after a dispute with Acting Boss, Antonio “Mr. Mig” Pollina, in which The Commission sided with Bruno, and Mr. Mig was subsequently demoted. 

As is later reported, Bruno was said to have spared “Mr. Mig,” which is what ultimately earned him his nickname, “The Gentle Don” and/or “The Docile Don.”

And while Bruno was 100% more of a racketeer than many of his counterparts, we uncovered at least two instances in the 1950’s where he took care of a piece of work personally, and as you’ll see when this series is done, there was nothing gentle about him when it came to being the Boss. He wasn’t one to forego ordering violence when necessary, though he preferred to arbitrate issues peacefully when possible.

That said, I think that persona has been bestowed upon him over the years in part because of the legend created in the aftermath of the dispute with Pollina, but also because of how the levels of violence amped up so significantly after Bruno was gone once Testa, Scarfo, and Stanfa respectively took over. 

So, in effect, his era looked docile by comparison, even though it had its share of violence just as most other families around the country did at the time. And in what I found, the 1960’s in particular in Philadelphia, while there was violence, paled in comparison to what happened throughout the 1970’s and especially the 1980’s.

Now, by the early 1960’s, Bruno was already a very rich man, though he didn’t openly flaunt it, and his home on 934 Snyder Avenue in Philadelphia certainly wouldn’t indicate his true wealth. It was a very modest home, not dissimilar from the modest home his good friend Carlo Gambino had (they seemed to share the same philosophy and modesty in that regard).

Before we jump into the more chronological timeline, let’s do a quick recap on where the bulk of Bruno’s money was coming in from around this time just before he became the Boss.

Angelo Bruno had really began his criminal career in the bootlegging business back in the 1930’s and continued to make millions off of that racket well into the 1940’s and 1950’s with just one of his illegal stills said to have been generating over $1 million in the 1940’s.

From there, he made his name in the Italian lottery (or the numbers as it’s more widely known) working for a man named Frank Matteo (who was connected to Hyman “Harry” Stromberg, otherwise known as “Nig Rosen”) before becoming a partner with Philadelphia LCN member Marco Reginelli, and then rising to the top of Philadelphia underworld as probably the top numbers guy in the city by the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, despite still being somewhat of an independent.

He was taking pieces of crap games all over the city, and also had pieces of games going in Trenton, New Jersey through his cousin, John “Johnny Keys” Simone (alias at this time John Casablanca) as well as a piece of games run by Carl “Pappy” Ippolito, and Genovese member Charles “Charlie the Blade” Tourine out in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.

At a certain point, because numbers and loan-sharking goes hand in hand, Bruno also began to lend shylock money, which enhanced his wealth exponentially. Over time, reports would indicate that he preferred only to deal in large amounts with big-time racketeers who had more income. Additionally, Bruno was said to have been bankrolling members of the Jewish mob, who even by that point were still somewhat of a force in the area, and who Bruno was very close with — specifically guys like William “Willie” Weisberg, Samuel Hoffman, and Alvin Feldman.

Because he was very shrewd, Angelo Bruno was also smart enough at the time to invest his illicit proceeds in legitimate businesses, which could then be used as fronts to launder his money. This allowed him to hide his money and helped him largely avoid significant legal issues for much of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. 

Bruno would invest in the Atlas Sanitation and Extermination Company, based in Trenton, New Jersey, with his cousin and an up and coming power in his own right, Johnny “Keys” Simone, and Bruno’s son Michael would also operate the Globe Sanitation Company at 810 Snyder Avenue in Philadelphia. 

Additionally, Bruno around this time was also noted to be getting his hooks into Philadelphia City Councilman Paul D’Ortona, to receive a contract with the city to remove trash by means of water transportation. Very Tony Soprano-esque if you ask me.

To further his legitimate interests and hide his income, Angelo would also allegedly have a desk job at the Maggio Cheese Company, which was originally owned by long-time underworld powerhouse Michael Maggio (Bruno’s sponsor for membership into the organization) but at this time was run by Maggio’s sons, Mario, Peter, and Salvatore. 

According to reports, Bruno and the Maggio’s were “thick” meaning very friendly, and if you remember from the first episode, they were in fact related by marriage. Informants would suggest that Bruno at this time frequently used Maggio Cheese Company as his headquarters where he’d run his numbers operation, and for protection there was someone at the factory on a 24-hour basis (though the office itself appeared to have been wiretapped). 

Bruno would also frequently meet with his criminal associates and the entire Philadelphia hierarchy at various points in the rear office of a building on 775 South 8th Street (which appears to have also been wiretapped at some point in 1965).

Angelo Bruno would go on to invest in many other businesses and didn’t limit himself to just the Philadelphia area. He had a business selling glass shower doors down in Hialeah, Florida, a cigarette vending machine service (in his wife’s name) called the Penn Jersey Vending Company which he had sold by this time to a man named Dominic Katz, and several other vending companies including the Garden State Vending company with a man named Ben Golob, the P&J Vending company with Charles “Pinky” Costello, and the Philadelphia-New Jersey Express Company. 

In addition to all of those business interests, Bruno owned real estate in many places (supposedly even with Carlo Gambino), and even held a piece of the Sans Souci and/or the Hotel Plaza casino down in Havana, Cuba before Fidel Castro took over. His wife Sue would later claim that he’d been able to get his money out of Cuba (allegedly a $180,000 investment) before the money was able to be seized by the new government.

By the early 1960’s, Bruno would also be a principal investor in another overseas venture, this time the Coney Island Amusement Park down in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic of all places. He was said to have a piece of the amusement park along with a man named Bernard “Bucky” Allen, as well as others including Joseph Shesser, Norman Fromkin, and Ben Golob (all of whom seemed to be kind of at each other’s throats from what I could tell).

I would even find a report that Bruno at some point (thought the exact timing was unclear) had a hidden interest in the Victoria Sporting Club, which operated as a gambling casino all the way in good old London, England.

And then of course in the early 1950’s he gets officially “made” into the family, which bolsters all of his businesses and goes on to become incredibly popular, with relationships all over the country and especially to Carlo Gambino in New York, which really is the thing that helps to get him positioned to take the top seat in Philadelphia, despite not having been a member for very long at that point.

His arrest record to this point in his career would date back to 1928 with arrests all the way up to 1956. These arrests included violations of the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Act, the Witkin Firearms Act, unlawful lottery, receiving stolen goods and common gambling.

And although he was never arrested for anything violent, there are reports that he was involved personally as the shooter in multiple homicides, and we were able to dig up (no pun intended) at least two killings linked to Bruno, that being the hits on a man named Marshall Veneziale in 1954 and another killing of a man named Alphonse Lanatto in 1957. Some sources would suggest that Bruno was allegedly personally involved in several more slayings, as many as 6 or 7 before becoming Boss.

People don’t tend to associate Bruno’s name with heavy work, but I can promise you he had no qualms about pulling the trigger himself or ordering executions. But when it came to his management style as boss, he seemed to be a mostly fair and pragmatic leader who more often than not prioritized making money over dispensing violence.

So, you get the point. Bruno was certainly an earner with ventures and relationships nationally and internationally, he was at one point a hitter, he was generally popular at that time, he had charisma and leadership ability, and now he was in the captain’s chair so to speak in the Philly mob.

In fact, in a very funny anecdotal note I saw, which has an element of pop culture, on August 6, 1959, PH T-8 advised FBI Special Agent Robert W. Holmes that Angelo Bruno had been traveling between Philadelphia and Atlantic City and had recently had a large group at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where none other than Frank Sinatra was appearing. The informant noted, and this is the funny part, that Bruno became “roaring drunk” at the party.

So, the man was not afraid to let loose with the boys so to speak, and at least for one night, was a party animal.

So to get back to the chronological timeline, here we are in the early 1960’s, the local media does not appear to have been aware that there has been a leadership change in the Philadelphia LCN, despite the fact that Bruno had been a known underworld figure for years by this point. 

However, due to the efforts of the Kennedy brothers (along with some willing informants pointing them in that direction), which I recently covered, the FBI was hard at work building a large dossier on mobsters around the country, Bruno included.

By July 13th of 1962, the FBI pretty much knew that he’d taken over leadership with the family, and not only that, but that he sat on the Commission. So, they—the authorities—pretty much had him and the entire Philadelphia organization by this point pegged with respect to the quality of their information. 

The report, which was talking about the structure of the organization, noted the following:


“For the information of Legat, Rome, ANGELO BRUNO, Philadelphia hoodlum, is the ‘Representando Officiale’ of the ‘Commission,’ reputed ruling body of the United States Italian underworld, which body controls the legal and illegal activities of its society (members from New York City). The ‘Commission’s’ directives are executed through area representatives who are assigned territories. BRUNO serves in this capacity.

Its members of standing in conversation with each other have referred to themselves as belonging to ‘La Causa Nostra.’”

*End Quote*

Now, it is worth noting (and I had a quote in the Kennedy episode that leaned this way too), that the FBI in the early sixties regularly referred to the LCN incorrectly calling it”La Causa Nostra” instead of just Cosa Nostra. So that wasn’t just me mispronouncing it, they—the FBI—legitimately were misunderstanding the reference (until Valachi would later clarify it).

The difference I believe is that the FBI believed the translation was “Our cause” where in fact it really meant “Our thing” to initiated members. It’s splitting hairs I know, but for those aspiring researchers, just know that it’s not uncommon to see it called “La Causa Nostra” in old FBI field reports and other documentation.

In my research, there were reports pretty much laying out not just who Angelo Bruno was at that present moment, but his entire personal and criminal history. It was almost like they were getting a major information download. 

The FBI was even going so far as talking to all known associates and even friends. There are reports hundreds of pages long just laying out lists of people who were friendly with Bruno, and the FBI would travel as far as Florida to question them, asking things like “Do you know Angelo Bruno?,” “How do you know Angelo?,” “How long have you known Angelo?” among other probing questions.

Now, as noted above, in addition to becoming the family Boss, Angelo Bruno became the first Boss of Philadelphia to have an official seat on the Commission. This move would swing the balance of power away from the Genovese family and more towards the Gambino and Lucchese alliance within the national syndicate. 

Once the official representante, Bruno would name Joe Rugnetta, a highly-respected long-time member of the family, as his Consigliere and would choose to keep Ignazio Denaro, the man who had gone to bat for him with “The Commission” during the Pollina dispute, as his Underboss. 

Let me give you an idea of the size of the family he presided over around that time. In total, the FBI had a record of 121 people being recognized as members of the Philadelphia organization, 82 of which at the time were still living, with 39 deceased. Again, this is just a moment in time, but it gives you an idea of the relative size of the family in comparison to the New York families which are often reputed to have 150-250 members each or more.

In addition to the administration, Bruno was very close with the following people:

  • Phillip Testa, who by that point in the early 1960’s was running his numbers business for him and believed to be his chief lieutenant
  • The aforementioned Maggio brothers (Peter, Mario, and Salvatore),
  • Carl “Pappy” Ippolito (who’d invested in Cuba with him)
  • His cousin John “Johnny Keys” Simone
  • Another distant cousin Charles “Pinky” Costello for whom he was the best man at the wedding
  • Felix “Skinny Razor” DeTullio out in Atlantic City who was noted in one report as being “kill crazy” which makes sense as he mentored the likes of Nicky Scarfo
  • Alfred “Freddy” Iezzi who it was reported that Bruno had often taken him into his confidence with sensitive information and
  • The Boss of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Russell Bufalino (among many others). 

These were the men who’d formed his sort of inner circle at this time and helped him to solidify his power base in addition to his friendships within other families with the likes of Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese in New York, and Santo Trafficante down in Florida.

Now by this point, you’d think Bruno would be riding high, but informants and even a 1966 FBI dossier would state that he had many health issues and was suffering from ulcers, had a sinus operation, and he’d been making frequent trips to Florida. The popular thought at that time was that his personal health issues might take him out of the action before any of his enemies could.

Bruno was reputed to have been even considering retirement to Miami, stepping down and leaving the life. There are even records indicating that Bruno openly admitted this fact and had suggested it to other mobsters, including Gerard “Jerry” Catena of the Genovese family.

On February 14th, 1961 Bruno was arrested in a raid on his home on Snyder Avenue, and though the paper would splash a dramatic popcorn headline along with a mugshot in the Philadelphia Enquirer, as you’ll see, they truly had nothing. However, as you’ll see in the future, this case would eventually come back to bite Bruno in the ass.



Capt. Clarence J. Ferguson’s special investigation squad had its eye on Angelo Bruno for three months. Finally, the time came to close in.

Ferguson hoped to find evidence connecting Bruno, 50, with the operation of an illegal lottery. Instead, he found in a second-floor bedroom of Bruno’s home on Snyder Ave. near 10th St. a carton containing 10 tin cans. In each can were 20 white wafers.

On the outside of each can was this lettering and warning: ‘E. X. U. L.—Dangerous. Drugs. Not To Be Sold Without a Prescription.’

FERGUSON SAID there were no doctor’s labels on the cans to indicate that Bruno had a prescription. Bruno said the pills were for his ulcers and that he ‘got them in Florida.’

He was charged with illegal possession of dangerous drugs.

Looking further, Ferguson and his raiders found 50 slips of paper with names and notations, complete with dollar signs. Ferguson did some quick calculating and came up with a total of $600,000 to $700,000 in some kind of business.

Bruno said the slips of paper were records of his vending business.

IN THAT CASE, Ferguson said, he wouldn’t mind having the Internal Revenue Service look at the records. The Internal Revenue Service came around with subpoenas, picked up the records and now is looking—closely.

When Ferguson, Sgt. William Downs and Patrolmen Anthony Cristelli, Edward Kelly and Lawrence Thomas arrived on the scene, Bruno wasn’t home. His wife, Sue, made a telephone call and Angelo came running.

He was carrying $1,686 in cash. Ferguson confiscated that, too. But Bruno got it back today after Magistrate George Levin freed him.”

*End Quote*

Bruno was cleared the next day with local papers saying that “Angelo Bruno’s ability to avoid the shadow of prison bars has stood him in good stead for the ninth time in 32 years.”

And when the incident was all said and done, I just want to point out the fact that the police supposedly sat on Bruno for 3 months, and when they chose their moment to strike, the best they got were….some pills for his ulcers.

Talk about embarrassing. If I’m the FBI, or any other local authorities (who weren’t on the Bruno family payroll), I’d have to seriously question the keystone cops operation they had running at that time.

So, I guess it just goes to show that Bruno was smart at keeping his family’s business private despite being surveilled quite a lot in the early 1960’s. In my opinion, that arrest and subsequent release was just a case in point with how locked down and on top of things Bruno was in the early 1960’s. Sure, he was an LCN boss, but good luck catching him with more than just prescription pills.

But that was the genius of the original Cosa Nostra setup, the insulation. And of course we know Bruno was doing more with his new status—up to and including ordering violence and securing political connections to further build upon his local powerbase.

It’s around this time in the Spring of 1962 that Bruno allegedly began to have an issue with his Underboss, Ignazio Denaro. Although things generally ran smooth in this era, this would become an increasing trend.

As I reported in Part One, Angelo would encounter some friction after taking over as Boss, according to a 1966 Criminal Intelligence Digest put out to FBI field offices chronicling his rise.

The report would read:


“As might be guessed from Bruno’s remarks, his main conflicts since his promotion have been internal rather than external. To begin with, Angelo is Sicilian and–though he boasts that he does not judge a man by the province of his birth–a number of sources have advised that the Calabrians have been conspiring for years to overthrow the ‘Sidgies’ in the Philadelphia hierarchy and oust Bruno from power.

Another major cause of dissension at first was Angelo’s youth and his relatively brief membership in La Cosa Nostra at the time of his election to the ‘Commission.’ When resentment began to reach a dangerous stage during the early part of 1962, Bruno called a meeting of the older members of the organization and warned them that if they continued to resist his ‘administration,’ then they had better not come to him for help later in a time of need.

The biggest difficulty, however, is the allegation that Bruno is a ‘tightwad’ and that–having made his own fortune–he no longer cares about the welfare of those under him. Partly because of this, and partly because of Angelo’s tendency to use his friend Phil Testa as a confidant and an informal aide-de-camp, he has completely alienated his ‘Underboss,’ the man who made his rise to power possible by denouncing Pollina in 1960.”

*End Quote*

I know I shared this excerpt in the first episode, but wow that passage is prophetic, and though Bruno can now (in 2023) probably be considered the best boss in the city’s history, the cracks in the foundation that would play themselves out less than 20 years later, were already starting to show, and dated all the way back to his coronation as Boss.

And speaking of the issue with his Underboss, Ignazio Denaro, in May of 1962, ignoring the established chain of command as well as Commission rules, went to the Commission in New York behind Bruno’s back to have a “sit down” where he’d lodge a complaint against his Boss and allegedly attempted to have him removed. 

Apparently, Denaro was very unhappy, wanted to cut himself on the profits of this game, and was so miffed that he actually went to the ‘Commission’ to lodge a complaint about Bruno. Bruno and Denaro had also had a fairly loud public argument around this time which was likely around this subject.

Denaro would speak to Carlo Gambino and another person named Joe, which could have been Joe Bonanno, Joe Colombo, or Joe Magliocco about cutting himself in on said card game (imagine going to the Commission over that?!?). In keeping with the rules of operation, Denaro was advised to return to Philadelphia, “sit down” with Bruno, and resolve their differences.

As you would expect, this sort of back-dooring of his authority would greatly upset Bruno. Months after the dispute between Bruno and Denaro, it’s alleged that Bruno related the following to informant T-5:


“Bruno stated that as soon as Denaro went to New York, he, Bruno, was contacted and advised. Bruno stated that Denaro was the sorriest man that ever did what he did, that is, going to the Commission. Bruno stated that he, Denaro, was told by Carlo Gambino: ‘I want you to know Angelo is with me even if he is not here, he is sitting right there just the same, just like we represent Angelo.’ This statement was interpreted by informant to mean that Gambino respects Bruno as an equal because Bruno, too, is a member of the Commission.”

*End Quote*

Now that’s power, and that’s the value of such a friendship in this life—one that would be the lynchpin of Bruno’s authority in the underworld for years to come. The two men through their friendship would use each other over the years to propel themselves forward.

Now, Denaro would stay on as Underboss for the time being, but that’s the kind of thing that really sours the relationship. In actuality, Testa would be “minding the store” when Bruno was out of town.

And to illustrate Bruno’s thinking as it regarding Philadelphia’s relationship with the Commission just before all this backbiting took place, he would allegedly relate the following in February 1962 to an informant:


“We respect the Commission. Do you understand? And we couldn’t do nothing without New York.”

*End Quote*

Despite all this Bruno would generally be considered as fairly popular, especially due to his relations over the years with the local police and the Jewish mob in the area. As the Boss, Bruno was reputed to have been well-regarded by his fellow ‘Commission’ members.

However, I wouldn’t get it twisted. Bruno, despite his probably unwarranted reputation as being ‘docile,’ was anything but. According to a 1966 Criminal Intelligence Digest put out to FBI field offices, Bruno was caught in a conversation during the early 1960’s showing his more brutal side:


“During the course of a recent conversation, Bruno tried to stress his ‘new image’ by stating that he did ‘not necessarily want to hurt people,’ but the professional gunman of his youth slipped out when he added that, if a situation developed whereby it became essential to kill someone, he would know what to do about it and would make the final decision. Apparently calling upon his experience as the leading suspect in four murders between 1948 and 1957, he then derided the bravado of anyone who was enough of a ‘sucker’ to warn a potential victim ahead of time that he was going to be hurt or killed.”

*End Quote*

Pretty chilling stuff.

Speaking of Gambino, the first note I really came across connecting both Bruno and Gambino together in any way came from a 1962 FBI field report. In the report, which again provided a large dossier of information on Angelo Bruno, they mentioned a man named Calogero Sinatra (famous last name right?) who was in fact the cousin of Bruno and allegedly would become a boss in the Sicilian Mafia based in Caltanissetta, Sicily.

While this certainly isn’t the most important report in this video, I felt it was interesting enough to include as it shows both Bruno and Gambino’s connections to Sicily:



Italian National

Passport Number 8709167

Cousin of Angelo Bruno

During May 1962 PH T-3 advised that he was told that BRUNO was expecting a visitor; that the visitor, who was not identified, would be readily recognized by PAT MASSI; and that it was BRUNO’s intentions that PAT MASSI and PETER MAGGIO would meet this visitor who was apparently coming from outside the continental United States.

PH T-1 advised, also in May 1962, that PAT MASSI, an associate of ANGELO BRUNO, told him that he had a discussion that day with PAT MASSI regarding BRUNO’s visitor, who was coming from Italy, who was identified as CALOGERO SINATRA, and was going to arrive in New York via air. BRUNO said that SINATRA may want to say hello to PAUL, not further identified, and GAMBINO while SINATRA was in New York; that SINATRA wanted to visit Buffalo and Chicago. SINATRA was described as being 42 or 43 years of age.

PH T-2 on January 19, 1962, reported that PETER MAGGIO was active in furnishing documents to admit CALOGERO SINATRA to the United States on a visitor’s visa. Information pertaining to the same is set forth under the name of PETER J. MAGGIO in this report.”

*End Quote*

Skipping past some heavily redacted and hard to read portions, the report goes on to say the following.


“The New York Office advised on June 16, 1962, that BRUNO and PAUL GAMBINO, the latter of New York City, met SINATRA on his arrival in New York on June 16, 1962.

On June 17, 1962, PETER MAGGIO was observed by SA JOSEPH A. VERICA driving CALOGERO SINATRA and ANGELO BRUNO with BRUNO’s wife SUE as passenger in Philadelphia.

It is to be noted that SA’s EDWARD D. HEGARTY, DAVID W. BREEN, and JOSEPH A. VERICA on June 26, 1962, saw PETER MAGGIO arrive at the Immigration and Naturalization Service Office in Philadelphia with SINATRA for the purpose of having SINATRA interviewed by Immigration and Naturalization Service Agents that date. Photographs of SINATRA and PETER MAGGIO, walking together, were obtained by SA HEGARTY on this date.

PH T-5 identified SINATRA as an ‘amico nostro,’ which is known to this source as a name applying to members of the organized Italian underworld.

It is to be noted that ANGELO BRUNO and PAUL GAMBINO along with others met SINATRA on his arrival at Idlewild Airport, New York, on June 16, 1962, as observed by Agents of the FBI. Further, PAUL GAMBINO is the brother of CARLO GAMBINO, previously identified as a member of ‘the organization.’”

*End Quote*

Again, not a particularly important report, but interesting for sure, and it makes the connection between Bruno, Gambino, and also the Sicilian Mafia.

I would find other reports from 1962 indicating that Bruno would also meet directly with Gambino all the way down at the Golden Gate Hotel in Miami, Florida and again the same day (coincidentally my birthday) driving around Hallandale, Florida. 

Again, interesting as when you think of Gambino you tend to think of him as very much staying low-key and staying up in New York City, but this report does tend to indicate that he did move around at least a little bit. And to have been a fly on the wall in that car would have been very, very interesting I’m sure.

Speaking of other interesting reports from right around this time, I also came across another very interesting note dating to February and May of 1962 indicating that Bruno was working with a man named Frank Palermo to negotiate with boxing manager, George Katz, who had a 10% interest in a local boxer, none other than Charles “Sonny” Liston. 

Now, when I first read the note I thought that Bruno was trying to get a piece of Liston himself, but it appears that Bruno was actually trying to help Katz get at least 10% but maybe as much as a 13% stake in the fighter. Additionally, Bruno was good friends with a man named Samuel Margolis who had an interest in Liston over the years and who owned (according to his own testimony) 25% of the company that promoted Liston’s fights, including the legendary fight with one Cassius Clay. 

And of course we know that Liston was long-connected to the mob, so finding this note actually didn’t surprise me that much, but because of how famous Liston was, I had to share the note for all the boxing fans out there.

To take this a step further, there were some reports indicating the Bruno was not very happy with Liston in which he used to fairly derogatory language and really wanted him to stop communicating with Katz via phones and a reference that I didn’t 100% understand about killing people and having to know how to do it right if he’s going to do it. It was fascinating to be honest, but I decided to pull myself out of this particular rabbit hole.

Hell, there was even a story with an extensive transcript that might warrant its own episode, where Bruno allegedly in late 1962 at a wedding in Trenton, New Jersey of all places, seized the opportunity and “made” four members into his family in hopes of spinning up a new regime in either Trenton or Newark.

First, this will give you an idea of how shrewd Bruno was, and second, it will go to show that maybe the books weren’t truly closed when it came to inducting new members (although the books were supposedly closed from ‘57 to around ‘76 or ‘77 at least in New York).

Here’s a completely out of context note from the transcript, which is absolutely going to be made into an episode at a later date because of how obviously fascinating it is. 

The initials in the conversation below refer to Angelo Bruno as "AB," an associate named Frank Nicoletti as "FN," an associate named Mike as "M":


“‘M: You used his brother-in-law?

AB: Yea, it was a Saturday or Sunday. That is the night that we (interrupted)

M: When we went to Trenton…

AB: Yeah, when we made those kids, you know? The two of them over there, because I used them two, those two fellows. You remember? I used that crew, 1 2 3.

M: Yea.

FN: Yea.

M: His brother-in-law was in jail.

AB: No he wasn’t in yet. It was the night that we made, we made somebody else too that night.

FN: We made four of these kids, CHARLIE’s kid.

AB: And SAM, SAM from Chester. See, so that night when he saw it, see, nobody knew nothing, nobody. They did not know that anything was going to happen that night, not even GNATZ (IGNATIUS DENARO), not even JOE (JOSEPH RUGNETTA) because we were going to do it like a week later, understand? So nobody knew what I had in mind. I figure that if I get a chance that night when somebody is there, I’ll do it. So when I saw the situation and everybody was there (struck desk violently).

M: That was real good.

AB: So the first thing I did, I called JOE (RUGNETTA) so I told JOE and GNATZ at the wedding. I called him in the other room and told him that it was a good chance now instead of worrying about it. Instead of doing it next week or the week after. We can do it now and nobody knows nothing. So right away we start calling the CAPIES in (CAPOREGIMI) but we did not tell them nothing; we just told them, who ever you came with, go there, who ever you came with, go there. So now all these kids were there. SAM wasn’t there. I made sure SAM was there. I told him to bring SAM, you see, he gets to know everybody, but he did not tell anybody what I had in mind. He made sure that CHARLIE’s kid was there and I made sure that TONY brought those other two guys. I figured that if I get a chance I am going to do it tonight. Now TONY, when he sees who is there, knows what is going to happen. Now his brother-in-law is going to the can on Monday, a week from then.

M: It was on a Sunday.

AB: He was sentenced to five years but I got it out to four years. I got a year taken off. So TONY gets me on the side. He says, ANG, it would be good if we made my brother-in-law.

M: He said that?

AB: Yea.

M: Then he changed his mind.

AB: He said it would be good if we made my brother-in-law too. I said, TONY, I have been after you for so long, now it is impossible. Number one, your brother-in-law ain’t here. Number two he is not proposed. Had he proposed him, I said, so where is he. In Newark. So it takes 45 minutes to get there. So we could send a car up and bring him in, but he is not proposed. So I said, before you make anybody he is got to be proposed. I says you can’t propose him now and make him on Monday or Tuesday. He says, because when he proposed him the Family has got a right to know if anybody has anything to say. He said, you wanted to do it, it is a shame being that he is going to Atlanta and there’s PETE over there, there is VITO over there. I figured that it would have been nice but it was impossible. He thought of it too late.

M: It is a shame, but there was nothing that you could do.’

The above clearly shows that ANGELO BRUNO assembled a group of Amici Nostri of the Philadelphia Family of La Causa Nostra for the purpose of ‘making’ an additional four members of the Philadelphia Family. References to TONY and his brother-in-law are at this time not meaningful to Philadelphia.

The wedding at which the new members were ‘made’ took place in Trenton, N.J.”

*End Quote*

And I’ll just say, sometimes when you’re doing research there is just so much information that you’re inundated with, that it can be hard to parse out what is relevant for videos like these, versus what is overkill. 

Now I know that I tend to go much further than most channels with the details, but believe me when I tell you, there is a lot that I choose to leave out (some of that probably right or wrong). In this case, I chose to pull it in because of how it showed Bruno’s style of operation. I mean have you ever heard of a family making guys at a wedding? 

But then again, on the flip side despite being commonly surveilled, the FBI is not likely to try to wiretap a wedding (at least at that time), people were not wearing wires, law enforcement is not allowed in, and who is going to notice guys stepping away here or there to do the ceremony. 

And not only that, but if you’re a guest at this wedding, who would tell even if they knew something was up? So, fairly shrewd on Bruno’s part.

Anyhow, as 1962 ends, Bruno was about to find himself in the middle of what I’d call his most tumultuous year within the decade of the 1960’s, and law enforcement would come very close to nailing him.

1963: “Bruno On The Run”

In 1963, the underworld would be turned upside down as the Kennedy administration, and particularly Bobby Kennedy, was by this point launching a full-court press on the Mafia. 

With arrests skyrocketing and several intra-family wars happening in New York around this time, it was most certainly not an easy time to have been a Boss and a member of the national Commission. And for the Philadelphia mob, and Angelo Bruno in particular, 1963 would be a year that would take him nearly to the brink.

Things for Bruno and the rest of the Mafia would really start to heat up when a now well-known mafiosi named Joseph”Joe Cargo”  Valachi, former soldier in the Genovese family of New York, began cooperating and revealing information not just about the Five Families of New York City, but about the entire organization nationally—including Angelo Bruno’s status as the Don of Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, August 5, after finding out that Valachi had indeed flipped, the Justice Department had gotten word that “The Commission”—Bruno included—had not only been named by Valachi, but had put out a $100,000 bounty (close to $1MM in today’s money) on his head. 

This news, which couldn’t have been unexpected, led authorities to take extraordinary steps to hide and protect their star informant, so that he could continue to feed them information, ultimately culminating in the Valachi Hearings (which are also referred to as the McClellan Hearings) in October of 1963. 

These hearings would shine a major light on the Mafia to the world at large and would be very damaging to the organization in terms of the bad publicity.

In the reports that would come out revealing the $100,000 contract, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary would comment on Valachi’s accusations against Bruno, saying the following:


“He is one of the principal heads of the rackets here. He’s also a very shrewd leader and he has great influence beyond the confines of the state of Pennsylvania.”

*End Quote*

Captain Clarence J. Ferguson, the man who tried to tie the bogus drug case to Bruno in 1961, would agree with his boss that Bruno is:


“The head man in the rackets here. Police are having a tough time linking him with the rackets.”

*End Quote*

As a result of Valachi’s testimony, Bruno and other mobsters were about to have a lot more law enforcement scrutiny coming their way. 

Just three days after the news of the $100,000 contract, a report broke in the Philadelphia Enquirer indicating that the Justice Department, on orders from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was preparing to indict Bruno (as well as his wife) on charges of income tax evasion.

As we know, that charge that ended the career of the great Al Capone (and pretty much what they had to do back then when they couldn’t nab you for anything else). Follow the money. 

This information came to law enforcement’s attention as a result of the information obtained during the 1961 raid on his home, so apparently it wasn’t a complete failure so to speak. 

News of the pending bust led Police Commissioner Leary to comment that “The heat is on. We are going after them,” even going so far as to call it Operation Bruno.

And the heat would be ratched up almost immediately as just one day after the tax evasion report broke, news would also break about the Philadelphia organization’s involvement in the murder of two local hoods who’d been informants regarding an infamous heist that took place in Pottsville, PA in the early 1960’s. This was really the first murder I saw linked to Bruno during his time as boss, and it does bear all the hallmarks of mob retribution:



Did the stool pigeon who cracked open the Pottsville Heist fall victim to the brutal code of the infamous ‘Cosa Nostra,’ national crime syndicate?

‘There’s no question of it,’ Capt. Clarence J. Ferguson flatly stated. Richie Blaney, whose tattling resulted in the arrest of six persons for the $478,000 burglary, was murdered because he violated the code of omerto—silence or death, said Ferguson.

Blaney was blasted into eternity on July 27, 1961 when he stepped on the starter of his car, parked in front of his Northeast Philadelphia home. The killers have never been captured.

‘This was a syndicate killing,’ said Ferguson. ‘There were gang killings like that in Chicago, New York, Ohio and Florida, but never here.’

THE SYNDICATE is currently being exposed as ‘Cosa Nostra’—Our Thing—by FBI canary Joseph Valachi. Valachi has identified South Philadelphian Angelo Bruno as the local leader of the crime combine.

Bruno, 53-year-old vending machine operator, was questioned about three gangland slayings in the early 1950s but was released each time. He has been arrested nine times and convicted twice, never serving a day in prison.

Agents of the Internal Revenue Service are reportedly preparing to indict Bruno and his wife, Sue, for income tax evasion. They live in a modest row home on Snyder Ave. near 9th St., and show no evidence of great wealth.

Blaney blew the whistle on the big haul from Pottsville home of coal magnate John B. Rich (nee Giovanni Batista Recchione) and Blaney’s own brother, Vincent, was pinched as part of the burglary gang. Vincent, who cooperated with police, was fished from the Atlantic Ocean with a bullet hole in his skull on Aug. 22, 1960.

AMONG THOSE arrested was handsome, smooth-talking John Berkery and Ferguson feels there is a link between Bruno and Berkery.

The others nabbed for the caper were curvy Lil Reis, sometime nitery operator, and her good friend, Ralph ‘Junior’ Staino; Robert Poulson, who was shot and seriously wounded when he got too chummy with the cops, and Clyde ‘Bing’ Miller, the alleged finger man who placed the ‘X’ on Rich’s antiquated safe.

‘Berkery is close to ‘Skinny Razor’ and Skinny is Bruno’s top lieutenant,’ said Ferguson. Skinny was described as a well-known racketeer with a long record in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

Berkery and his brother, Edward, were questioned at length by homicide detectives, as was Lil, but all were released. The Homicide Squad has shown no inclination to interrogate either Bruno or Skinny Razor about Blaney’s death.”

*End Quote*

Nothing would actually happen as a result of these murders (and I’ll cover this case more in depth in the hits episode), but you’re going to see a theme in 1963. It’s a very bad year to be the top guy in the Philadelphia LCN.

News in August of 1963 would continue to be hot and heavy as the authorities were leaking out information to local law enforcement and newspapers regarding some of their findings, in an effort to put pressure on the syndicate ahead of Valachi’s public testimony.

A robust dossier was being compiled at the time about every family in Cosa Nostra, and there was large amounts of very interesting information being reported in papers, some of which was accurate while others were not. 

For example, in Philadelphia it was reported that the numbers racket was the group’s number one source of income, taking in multi-millions of dollars each year, followed by other traditional rackets including gambling and shylocking.

Though the paper was mostly right in saying that the mob had phased out bootlegging (though Bruno was still making money off of illegal hooch well into the late 1940’s) and had moved away from prostitution, it was dead wrong in the assertion that the mob had moved away from drugs. 

Of course there was the “deal or die” ban for public appearances, but many mobsters around the country were clearly still partaking in drugs either on the sneak or more blatantly. It’s one of the enduring myths about the Mafia.

Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary would go on to testify in front of the McClellan Committee in September of 1963, putting the Philadelphia Mafia on blast.

Continuing the publicity of 1963, the Philadelphia mob would be splashed all over the front pages of local papers with headlines like “Cosa Nostra Cash Finances Crime in Phila. At Usury Rates” with big pictures of Bruno and top lieutenants like Phil Testa and Felix “Skinny Razor” DeTullio and full-page explanations of their exploits. For mobsters who are looking to stay low key, as this group generally was, this is not the type of publicity you want. 

And it really goes to show how effective the efforts of law enforcement were in the early 1960’s. What they were doing was indeed working, and as I said in the Kennedy episode, it was getting to the mob in a serious way and they were on the ropes for sure.

Joe Valachi would finally take center stage in October of 1963, bearing all he knew not just about New York but about other families including Philadelphia.

And while all the Valachi stuff is going on, authorities in Philadelphia as noted above, were doing their best to take it to the Philadelphia mob. On October 11, 1963, the police raided a million-dollar numbers operation and picked up three men, associates Frank “Herbie” Colone, Andrew Colone, and family soldier Frank “Chickie” Narducci.

On the same day, it was announced that two police officials faced suspension and/or dismissal in connection with payoffs related to gambling in South Philadelphia. 

Three weeks before the Narducci operation was raided, it appears that Bruno along with seven others was picked up and released after questioning.

As I said multiple times, this was not an easy period for the family, and as a result of the brewing shit-storm Bruno would make the decision to go on the lam as things were not just warm, but were about to be scorching hot. 

Police Inspection Howard Gatter would indicate that Bruno had indeed fled, saying the following:


“Bruno has definitely blown town. He’s nowhere to be found and the number-one bank is passing the word they’re out of business, taking nothing.”

*End Quote*

So, the tremendous law enforcement heat being applied had sent the hierarchy running for cover, and things would just continue to go from bad to worse as the Justice Department would issue a warrant for his arrest on October 20, 1963, charging Bruno and several henchmen with interstate extortion and conspiracy. 

Now, as I said during the introduction of this episode, when people generally talk about Bruno, they tend to skip towards his becoming Boss as well as towards the end of his reign. And in the 1960’s, I think most people tend to believe it was all sunshine and rainbows in Philadelphia, and I’d have included myself in that discussion until doing research for this episode. Clearly, it wasn’t.

As you get to the late 1963, the situation in Philadelphia is a mess, and when it rains it pours. Ironically, this takes place roughly 1 month before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Now, back to the warrant, which was in fact a new set of charges separate from the raids in the few months prior. The two-part expose, which was splashed on the front page of The Philadelphia Enquirer read as followed:



Bonds Fixed At $25,000 To $100,000

A warrant for the arrest of Angelo Bruno, identified by Attorney General Robert Kennedy as the Philadelphia head of Cosa Nostra, national crime syndicate, was issued Saturday night by the Justice Department.

The warrant charged Bruno and five other suspected henchman with interstate extortion and conspiracy. The accusations were based on threats against a group which purchased a Philadelphia building with a loan obtained at high interest in hopes of making a quick windfall.


Four of the others, including one man from New York and two from New Jersey, were placed under arrest Saturday night. Bruno was still being sought by FBI agents.

Also taken into custody and held as a material witness was Philip Testa, identified as a top lieutenant for Bruno.

The extortion suspects held were identified in Washington by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as:

Harold Konigsberg, 35, of Union st., Lodi, N.J. He was arrested at his residence.

Ignazio Denaro, 59, of South Uber st. near Packer st., Philadelphia. He was arrested at his place of business, Cafe Internazionale, 1824 S. 3d st.

Armand Colianni, 47, of Federal st. near 7th, Philadelphia. He was arrested at his home.

Joseph Robert Juliano, 59, of Park ave., Nutley, N.J. He was arrested at his residence.

Samuel James Roberts, 35, of 143 W. 74th st., New York City. He is being sought.

In addition to Testa, 39, who was picked up at his home on Carpenter st. near 10th, another Philadelphian sought as a material witness was Marvin Leonard Chivian, 38, of Chestnut st. near 60th.”

*End Quote*

The article would go on to explain the various court proceedings and bail restrictions. And of course, the second of the two-parter further detailed the situation and reasons for the warrant, which did indicate a certain degree of violence in the extortion:



A ‘Shylock’ operation led to the arrest warrants of Angelo Bruno, Philadelphia Cosa Nostra don, and five others, the FBI said Saturday night.

Harold Konigsberg, 35, of Lodi, N.J., one of the men seized, lent $13,500 to a Broomall man for use in a real estate speculation.

The speculator, Joseph Zobad, purchased the West Philadelphia Jewish Community Center, at Ludlow and 63d sts., at a public auction June 24, with the hope of a quick resale and profit.

The terms of Konigsberg’s loan required weekly interest payments of $675 and payment in full of $25,500, the agents explained.

Zobad failed to meet his payments, according to the FBI, was threatened, and in one case, an actual beating was administered with a lead-filled rubber hose.

Six men were charged with conspiracy to violate a Federal law which prohibits interstate travel to commit extortion.

Bruno became involved, the FBI explained, when he tried to take over collection of the loan payments. He was miffed by the transaction, considering Konigsberg an intruder on his territory. The mechanics of the transaction were disclosed at a hearing late Saturday night before U.S. Commissioner Edward Furia in the Federal Courthouse, 9th and Chestnut sts.

*End Quote*

The article would go on to detail more information about the threats made by Konigsberg and his associates as well as Bruno’s displeasure with Konigsberg, an infamous Jewish hitman, had been doing shylock deals in Philadelphia without letting Bruno know about it.

So that’s two-thirds of the Philadelphia hierarchy nailed in one fell swoop.

The FBI in the following days after the warrants went out would make it very clear that they were not interested in negotiating a surrender deal with Bruno, who was in the wind and being actively hunted as a fugitive at large (though they believed he would imminently surrender himself and were putting pressure on him to do so). 

This is not something I’d have expected to find about one of the country’s most preeminent Don’s during what was supposed to have been the Golden Age, but alas this did happen, and what’s crazy about it was that it really wasn’t Bruno at the heart of the extortion. Really Bruno was just defending his territory in the entire matter and got pulled in as the biggest fish in the pond. All of this for a rather inconsequential scheme just to make a quick buck.

Finally, the wiretaps from the Kennedy episode coming from the perspective of Madeline Costello (wife of Bruno lieutenant Charles “Pinky” Costello) make more sense. Although they were talking about the Valachi Hearings, Madlines comments had to have been around this series of law enforcement efforts to nab Bruno as well.

For those that didn’t hear the Kennedy episode, she was recorded saying the following:


“MADELINE: I’ll tell you the things they are doing to that man [Angelo Bruno] are awful, just terrible***.

UNKNOWN MALE: They are crucifying him!

MADELINE: And for what? It’s all a political thing, you know.

*End Quote*

Honestly, when I first read the comments, though I thought they were interesting, I didn’t understand the full extent outside of the Valachi Hearings (which all Cosa Nostra leaders were really going through). It didn’t make complete sense to me. However, once I started seeing case after case in late ‘63 it really all started to click.

Things in 1963 truly were really circling the drain for Bruno quickly, who even before he was arrested had a bail of $100,000 (nearly $1 million in today’s money) set despite never having done a day in prison to this point.

Now, from an objective and novice legal perspective, the case here against Bruno did not appear to be very strong, but once law enforcement had their hooks in him a little, and then had Bruno on the run, I think they decided it was time to dig in. They even went so far as to proclaim that this case was “expected to grow into an earthquake that’ll shake Cosa Nostra racket men out of their skins.”

Now, at this point, there are literally articles with Bruno on the front-page daily in Philadelphia and elsewhere, including one on October 25, 1963 entitled, “Cops Link Bruno To Mob Executions.” The funny thing is the paper actually cites the same language I found from Part One in FBI field reports describing Bruno as a racket man who “is alleged to have committed gangland executions in the past.” 

The article does not actually specify what those murders were alleged to have been in terms of names and actual cases, but by this point the paper seemed to have been a mouthpiece for the FBI and local police, and was really putting the heat on from a public sentiment for Bruno to turn himself in.

Despite the pressure, Bruno would continue to stay on the lam and his right-hand man Phil Testa as well as one of the other men picked up in the case would stay true to Omerta and would keep their mouths shut with Testa going to jail for contempt of court rather than testify to a Federal grand jury. He would sit in jail until winning bail on November 9, 1963 despite government protests.

To keep the pressure up, the authorities would even bring in family soldier and Bruno’s brother-in-law Peter Maggio to testify to the grand jury, where he spoke for 20 minutes before leaving in a hurry being overheard commenting that, “This whole thing is ridiculous.”

On October 31, 1963, the federal grand jury would leverage the Konigsberg issue into an indictment which would ensnare Bruno and 8 others. And again, not that this individual case didn’t warrant attention, but when you consider the broader enterprise going on, catching Bruno in this case when he was at best a secondary participant and then giving him the star billing, I guess I would have to agree with Madeline Costello in that it was probably political. 

In fact, on November 1, 1963, even the local papers would admit that Bruno’s role in this case was minimal.

To keep this shit-storm going, on November 2, 1963, with Bruno still at large, news would drop that the FBI was looking into bringing more charges forward related to the $600,000 “windfall” profit that Bruno was said to have made from the purchase and resale of a vending company in Florida. If I’m right, this goes all the way back to the bogus 1961 raid where cops tried to arrest him for some non-prescription pills, but found a few notes of papers indicating figures related to his vending machine business. That raid, which seemed like a major failure by law enforcement at the time, was somewhat of a thorn-in-the-side for Bruno by this point.

By November 5, 1963, there were some newspaper reports speculating that Bruno was potentially planning to abdicate his Cosa Nostra position in favor of living in exile, ala his predecessor Joseph Ida. It was even speculated that Bruno fled the U.S. before Valachi even testified, knowing that bad storms were on the horizon for himself and others.

The report also stated that Bruno’s hideout had been located by FBI agents, and that he was reputed to be holed up in a pleasant villa somewhere in Italy near the Adriatic Sea (though the report didn’t say where, only saying he was quitting for Dolce Vita which is an Italian expression that simply means a life full of beauty, pleasures, and mundane events. It means a life of music, love, good music, and food…”). 

So, there were beginning to be thoughts that Bruno was never coming back, and can you imagine how different things might have been in Philadelphia and for Bruno had that been the case? Talk about a butterfly effect sort of moment.

Although it was alleged that the Italian government may have been thinking of deporting him, and with the U.S. was asking for help from Italian authorities to pinpoint his exact location, a long-term stay in Italy could have simply been a pipe dream.

And what I find crazy, is that when people talk about the Valachi hearings, and everything going on at this time with the mob and Bobby Kennedy, a lot of times people fail to line up the timelines of events. 

We’re literally less than a month before the assassination of President Kennedy when all of this stuff is going down, and now I can really now see the boiling point that was being reached in the conspiracy, though to be clear I don’t believe the Mafia was the organization who pulled the trigger.

And through all of this drama, you’d think that the Philadelphia underworld would be at a standstill, but in fact that’s the genius of the Cosa Nostra structure. When one player is out, the next guys step up and the whole thing (at least at that time) keeps going.

On November 14, 1963, there would be an arrest of some family members you might know for a beating laid out to two brothers who’d been delinquent on paying back their loans. The arrested would become well-known within the Philly underworld: Frank “Chickie” Narducci; Frank “The Barracuda” Sindone; and three others. 

There would also be hoods getting nabbed with numbers slips, indicating that things in the Philadelphia underworld were still going. 

So the beat goes on.

But for Bruno who was still on the lam, things were still not in a good place. On November 16, 1963 (just 6 days before the assassination of President Kennedy) news broke that one of those arrested as a material witness and being held in jail in contempt of court in his case, Samuel J. Roberts, had agreed to appear before the grand jury and answer questions. He would eventually be cleared of all charges in the probe. Not good.

And it’s worth noting that just a week-and-a-half after being granted bail, Phil Testa’s bail was revoked and he was remanded back to jail. Testa would be stuck in the can for over a year before finally gaining freedom, and you’ve gotta wonder what he might have been thinking in his situation with his Boss on the lam, and maybe never coming back. 

And then, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. And as you can imagine, all mentions of Bruno in Philadelphia papers ceased and he wasn’t talked about again, despite getting literally wall-to-wall daily coverage for months, until November 27th (five days later).

And from November 27 to December 11th, you don’t see another mention of Angelo Bruno. This is not surprising, as the nation was still largely in mourning and reeling from the tragedy. And I really do think that this was the break in law enforcement’s momentum, though I do ultimately believe he’d have beaten the case either way.

But they truly did have him on the run.

Unsurprisingly, on December 12, 1963, news would break that Angelo Bruno had decided to return from Italy and would be arriving at New York’s Idlewild Airport on December 13th to face the charges. Apparently, he’d stayed in Italy on the hopes of making a deal to get the income tax case against himself and his wife (or at least just his wife) dropped, but stayed because no deal had been agreed to. That’s the story at least. My bet is that after the Kennedy assassination, it made it a lot easier for someone like him to come back to the U.S. confidently because now the government was reeling and Cosa Nostra again had the upper hand.

Upon his return to the U.S. it was reported that he was seeking a “dignified way” to return to the country, and that he didn’t want to spend any more time in jail than he had to. 

In actuality, Bruno would be seized in Boston rather than New York and would not be granted the “dignified” return that he’d hoped for. This is where the often circulated picture of Bruno in a fedora and handcuffs pushing forward and grimacing comes from.

Six FBI agents and a number of U.S. marshals would be waiting for Bruno, who traveled alone (and had sent his wife home separately), at the airport and arrested him as soon as he came down the exit ramp from his plane. He’d stay at the Boston airport for 3 hours before ultimately paying $75,000 bail and going free.

Once back in the country, Bruno and his lawyers would begin their legal maneuvering in an effort to separate him from this case. Bruno would even say that he was “thinking of going into a multimillion-dollar business in Italy and may have even stayed, was said to have been staying with family under his own name, and all of this was of course an attempt to shift his narrative for fleeing.

Bruno would ultimately plead “Not Guilty” on December 17, 1963, and the trial would be set for the following year.

So the bad times weren’t over….yet.

1964 - 1969: “Getting Back to Business”

To put a bow on the outcome of the extortion case, which quite honestly was law enforcement’s big push to nail Bruno. Let’s bury the lead. It didn’t work out well for them.

On March 18, 1964, the U.S. District Court would dismiss charges against Phil Testa, though they would keep him in jail on contempt charges for his failure to testify, meaning he’d stay in jail for the foreseeable future. The next day, Bruno’s trial would be postponed indefinitely.

Bruno would detail to friends his close relationship with Testa and that he felt he could not, nor would, leave Philadelphia with Testa still incarcerated.

But, just when you thought things were starting to break Angelo’s way, on April 4th of 1964, Deputy Police Commissioner would launch a personal campaign against Bruno, saying flatly that Bruno was “the No. 1 vice figure in the City of Philadelphia,” and mincing no words about his intentions:


“I accused him of being back in business. I told him we were going to give him a workout.”

*End Quote*

Driscoll explained by “business” he meant the numbers rackets. He said not only has Bruno been active in the racket since his return to Philadelphia from Italy recently but that he also was “forcing a big numbers banker to stay in business.”

Driscoll did not identify the victimized racketeer, who he said owes Bruno a large sum of money, but did say the following:


“This man borrowed money from Bruno and Bruno is making him stay in the rackets to pay back this loan at high Shylock rates of interest.”

*End Quote*

Bruno would finally go on trial in the odyssey that was the Zavod extortion case in June of 1964. 

The accuser, Joseph L. Zavod, would testify that Bruno had cut $11,000 from his debt originally when trying to take over the loan, and also how he was even stabbed by one of Bruno’s codefendants Harold Konigsberg. 

However, Zavod would quickly come under scrutiny when he admitted on the stand that neither Bruno or Denaro attempted to extort money from him and also admitted that the FBI was eavesdropping during one of his extortion calls and was even offered $5,000 by FBI to tell his story in Saturday evening post.

The government’s case against Bruno and others would continue to fall apart when one of their key witnesses would fail to identify Bruno when asked.

Finally, on July 9, 1964, news broke that Bruno and three others would be acquitted by the jury, although two of his co-defendants would be found guilty. 

So the long odyssey and what I thought to be a very weak case against Bruno finally fell through and he was able to claim a legal victory over the government.

Bruno would say the following to reporters after the case:


“I have only one comment to make. When I called from Rome I said I had great confidence in American justice. This proves it.”

*End Quote*

Now that the case was over, Bruno would take a vacation and the Philadelphia underworld would rest a little easier. For the time being.

Let’s reset on the family at this point. As noted, it would have about 80 active members running all sorts of criminal enterprises by this point including your normal gambling, loansharking, extortion activities, but also venturing into union corruption and yes, drugs.

Also, by 1964, the FBI had noted at least 24 informants in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Florida reporting on the activities of the Bruno Crime Family. That is a lot of people talking, and speaks to the effectiveness, even after the assassination of his brother, of Bobby Kennedy’s efforts, as well as the fact that there were plenty of people informing well before the likes of Joe Valachi came around.

In addition to informants, there were a lot of bugs around (most of which were illegal in nature) catching conversations of Bruno and other family members around this time.

In fact, Bruno’s crew was caught on wiretaps on October 21, 1964 discussing the “kidnapping” of Joe Bonanno of New York with a man named Frank Nicoletti suggesting that Bonnano was trying to obstruct his testifying before a Federal Grand Jury in New York City, and stating that Bonnano has been around“a long time and that they didn’t think he’d talk. 

When the conversation turned to Bruno’s thoughts, Bruno was alleged to have ignored the question, making no comment. Silence is a powerful thing. 

Another report indicated that acting in the capacity of ‘Commission member,’ Bruno had been intimately involved in the handling of the Bonanno situation and Bonanno’s subsequent suspension from Cosa Nostra activities.

In another situation around this time, there was an incident in which a special agent overhearing an argument between Bruno and Antonio “Mr. Mig” Pollina, went into enemy territory so to speak, and nearly got himself outed. It was in fact a very dangerous situation. 


“Shortly after noon, ANGELO BRUNO was observed standing at the southeast corner of 8th and Christian Streets. BRUNO called out a greeting to Agents who were in an automobile facing west at the corner of 8th and Christian Streets, awaiting traffic signal light to change from red to green.

At about 1:20 p.m., again while driving west on Christian Street, Agents stopped for a red light at 8th Street. FRANK LO SCALZO was standing on the southeast corner and he motioned toward the Agents indicating he wanted to speak with them. Agents then turned left and parked on the west side of 8th Street between the corner and ALFONSO MAIORIELLO’s barber shop. LO SCALZO walked over to the car and exchanged greetings with the Agents. He then informed the Agents that he had received a three year probation sentence as a result of an action in the U.S. District Court at Philadelphia. He said that it would be very difficult to comply with the terms of the probation which prohibit him from associating with gamblers. LO SCALZO said that all of his friends are gamblers and that he has associated with gamblers throughout his life.

Subsequently LO SCALZO departed and Agent HEGARTY noted that ANTONIO POLLINA was on the premises of the barber shop and was looking towards the Agents. Agent HEGARTY then glanced to his left and observed ANGELO BRUNO standing directly across the street, that is on the east side of 8th Street. BRUNO greeted the Agents and walked over to the car the Agents were seated in. He inquired as to the Agents’ health and asked if there was anything he could do to assist the Agents. He offered to treat the Agents to a cup of coffee, a hot meal, or a shave at Maioriello’s Barber Shop. All three offers were declined. BRUNO departed.

At 1:30 p.m., Agent VERICA entered Maioriello’s Barber Shop, 902 South 8th Street, Philadelphia, Pa., and observed ANGELO BRUNO and DOMINIC POLLINA engaged in a heated conversation. Conversation was in a foreign language. Agent VERICA told Mr. BRUNO that he, VERICA, wished to use the telephone. BRUNO directed Agent VERICA to the kitchen where a phone was located on a small stand location on the left side of the room. The kitchen is on the first floor of the building directly to the rear of the barber shop.

Upon completion of his telephone call, Agent VERICA left the kitchen and passed through the barber shop. Mr. BRUNO stopped him in the presence of POLLINA, and asked him how he knew POLLINA. POLLINA attempted to say something and BRUNO told him to be quiet. POLLINA remained quiet. BRUNO then asked ‘Did you ever see him before,’ pointing to POLLINA? VERICA replied that he had seen him many times. POLLINA became excited. SA VERICA then suggested to Mr. POLLINA that if he has any problems he should see Mr. BRUNO. BRUNO laughed at this and POLLINA became very angry. Agent VERICA then began to depart and Mr. MIGO said that he wanted to talk further. Agent VERICA then told Mr. POLLINA and Mr. BRUNO that he, too, has a ‘Capo’ who tells him when to go and when to come. POLLINA, at this remark, appeared speechless with emotion. BRUNO was no longer laughing and said nothing. Agent VERICA then departed.”

*End Quote*

But that’s how close the FBI was watching Bruno and his men at this time. And in turn, though they had no idea how much of their conversations were being regularly recorded, they were doing their own counter-surveillance, and this report could have easily turned into a problem for the Special Agent even despite the rule against harming law enforcement officials.

But finally, by 1965 after five years or so of being the Boss, my research leads me to believe that Angelo Bruno finally settled into a groove without too much additional drama. Sure, there was the occasional law enforcement issue here and there, but by and large he was in the clear around this time.

Speaking of a little bit of law enforcement coverage, in February of 1965 there were some connections made to the Philly LCN but no actual arrests or serious charges made in the execution-style, double-murder from June of 1964 of a woman named Judy Lopison and Joseph “Joe Flowers” Malito in a South Philadelphia establishment named Dante’s Restaurant (which for those Philadelphians, correct me if I’m wrong eventually became Dante & Luigi’s?).

Then in March of 1965, there were raids of Bruno’s wire rooms, but again no serious charges against Bruno himself.

In May of 1965, Bruno would be called to testify in front of a Federal grand jury in New York in which claims that a “Little Apalachin” conference of nine Commission members had been held in Philadelphia at some point in the past 18 months. Law enforcement officials were very keen to tie arrests to the national syndicate and there were several “Little Apalachin” incidents reported by the papers around this time.

This subpoena in particular allegedly was at the time the first one served to an alleged leader of Cosa Nostra outside of Manhattan according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. Bruno and his brother-in-law Peter Maggio would be called to testify several times in 1965, and specifically the grand jury was looking for information on the goings on in the Bonnano family, though ultimately nothing significant would come of it.

More raids of dice games would happen in September of 1965, with Bruno family member Frank “Chickie” Narducci getting picked up (great picture by the way). But again, no major issues for Bruno himself.

And because the 1964 trial saga didn’t quite want to go away for good, news would break in October of 1965 that two witnesses allegedly “took a dive” in favor of Bruno. So, they’d gotten to the jury it appears. Now this doesn’t surprise me, but again, the case against Bruno was weak. So he was probably trying to play all the angles to make sure it was 100% certain he’d beat the case, so they did their best to rig the odds in their favor.

Despite the losing streak on the part of the federal government after Kennedy went down, they were still claiming that Cosa Nostra and even Bruno himself were on the ropes by the end of 1965. 

But history will tell us that Bruno would trudge forward as the family’s leader for another 15 years.

To bolster Bruno’s power in the mid-1960’s was the fact that one of South Philadelphia’s leading Police Inspectors, John F. Driscoll, who’d long been bullish on nailing Bruno and the mob, had been stripped of his command after the FBI discovered an interstate gambling ring operating right in his area (no surprise).

From a hospital bed in February of 1966, Driscoll would relay the story of how an informer came to him in fear of his life and told him that he “was on the way out,” and that he “was to be discredited.” 

It was alleged in the story that members of the Bruno organization offered plainclothes policeman $800 a month to allow them to operate in South Philadelphia, and Driscoll would go on to say that the demotion had brought his reputation down to zero and that the racketeers wouldn’t fear him now. 

So Bruno, who was good at this, was playing politics and was smart enough to buy off the local police force. And quite honestly, it sounds like he broke this man Driscoll’s will, although the demoted commander was still outwardly defiant.

That said, throughout 1966 authorities would continue to make gambling raids and police probes of numbers banks though the overall effectiveness in slowing down the Bruno organization, who had a piece of most of the action by this point, was limited at best.

In April of 1966, police arrested Bruno, Phil Testa, Genovese family member Gerald Laietta, as well as two others in another gambling crackdown. The authorities had been onto the men for approximately two weeks, and allegedly the actual takedown occurred during a meeting about territorial discussions between Cosa Nostra families.

And in this case, knowing how the history would turn out, I found this to be an interesting read and thought some of the article worthing quoting:



The arrest of Angelo Bruno and four other men came at a ‘mediation’ meeting between two gangland syndicates setting up boundaries of operations, a high police official said today.

The police official, who asked not to be named, said there are two large syndicates now operating in Philadelphia. One is the well-known Cosa Nostra or Mafia and the other is a nameless organization, not so well known but almost as powerful.

Some problems were developing between the two groups over ‘territorial boundaries’ and to avoid trouble a ‘meet’ was ordered for Tuesday night in Dave Shore’s restaurant on S. Quince St.

The dispute was to be settled by a ‘mediator’ from a national crime syndicate.

BUT POLICE barged in and arrested the four negotiators and the mediator. They also booked the two owners of the restaurant on charges of serving undesirables.

The police official said two of those arrested, Bruno, 55, of Snyder Ave. near 9th St., and his side kick, Philip Testa, 41, of Carpenter St. near 10th represented the Cosa Nostra.

Two others pinched, Jack Newman, 68, of 15th St. near Locust, and Albert Silverberg, 67, of 17th. St. near Limekiln Pike, represented the second local organization.

And the fifth man, Gerald Laietta, 60, of Long Island City, N.Y., was the imported mediator.

BOUNDARY LINES within which each organization would have had to work were an ‘immediate necessity’ the police officers said. When one organization encroaches on another’s territory deadly squabbles can develop.

Laietta, a top-ranking henchman of Vito Genovese, reputed national Cosa Nostra boss, ‘knew the ropes and the boundary lines of existing organizations in Jersey, Delaware and Maryland,’ therefore he was the natural to mediate between the Philadelphia factions.

Although police have been ‘keeping an eye’ on Newman and Silverberg, their arrest was the first indication they were back in the business.

Back in the 30s, both men had been called the city’s ‘number one public enemies…professional killers…gangsters.’ But a short time later they were jailed for a gangland killing in the Midwest. They each spent 31 years behind bars.”

*End Quote*

Ultimately, all five men would be charged with common gambling and released on $500 bail. I did find it interesting to see the family involved in a territorial dispute and I can only assume that these guys may have been part of the Jewish mob who Bruno had a good relationship with. Had they not, I’m going to assume Bruno would have had them whacked summarily, as would most bosses before the point of even meeting in any sort of territorial mediation dispute.

And because Bruno at that time pretty much ran the city, it took all of 15 minutes to dismiss the case, as the newspaper would say “with almost embarrassing ease.” This meeting would also be dubbed as another “Little Apalachin” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, although the significance of the meeting was highly questionable at best and insignificant at worst. But again, anything to drum up a little media attention and shine a spotlight on the Mafia if you’re law enforcement. And to the newspapers, the Mafia sells.

Also happening in April of 1966, Bruno would lose one of the key pillars of his power base and a guy who’d been instrumental in his rise to power with the death of one of his top lieutenants, Felix “Skinny Razor” DeTullio of congestive heart failure. DeTullio had been one of Bruno’s biggest loan sharks and enforcers and had been his main man in Atlantic City for quite some time. 

Ultimately, the death of “Skinny Razor” would prove to be a critical event in the future of Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia as it would set the stage for one a man named, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo to step into the forefront as the next-man-up so to speak in Atlantic City.

As a result, Scarfo would begin his ascension throughout the rest of the 1960’s and into the 1970’s, eventually becoming one of Bruno’s key men and eventually becoming the Boss himself in the 1980’s. 

That being said, while I won’t get into it too far, I think it’s fair to say that Nicky and Angelo’s relationship was probably much different than DeTullio’s relationship with Angelo, and that fact probably didn’t help Angelo’s overall standing in the years to come. 

But for now, Scarfo was just a lowly soldier left in charge of the dwindling prospect that was Atlantic city at that point in time. 

Fast-forward to the summer of 1966, and Bruno was discovered to have been lamming it in Vegas after his last gambling pinch. The FBI would say that they had evidence that Bruno and 21 others had a hidden interest in several Vegas casinos. 

According to reports at the time, and also what history will tell us about the mob’s involvement in the Vegas skim, the Cosa Nostra families were taking at least $1 million per month off the top from Vegas casinos (roughly $9.4MM per month in today’s money, or a paltry $113MM annually).

But despite knowing what was going on, the FBI at that point was pretty powerless to stop it (despite having a pretty good idea that Bruno was and his position in the Underworld), and so the rivers of illicit profits for Bruno and the rest of Cosa Nostra coming out of Vegas kept flowing.

As a result, with no more success than before, the IRS would attempt to open up a Capone-era tax war in the Bruno mob and organized crime in general in Philadelphia, hoping to capture gangsters who couldn’t account properly for their illicit wealth in their taxes. 

But by this point, Bruno was pretty much a master of hiding his illegitimate money in legitimate businesses, and was very much insulated from the day-to-day crimes of his organization. So catching him would prove next to impossible.

Hell, Bruno would be riding so high by this point that he’d look to expand into casinos in London in partnerships with a few other underworld figures. Reports indicate that he’d been seen in London roughly 9 different times by authorities over the course of 9 weeks, along with his cousin John “Johnny Keys” or “Johnny Casablanca” Simone. By this point, it was said that Bruno did actually own a piece of a London casino, reputed to have been The Colony Sports Club. 

And who did he own this casino with you might ask? None other than Meyer Lansky. I bet you weren’t aware of that connection. And additionally, it was alleged that they used actor George Raft as their front man. 

So this is an indication of how powerful Bruno had become by this point and the relationships he truly had.

Now, unfortunately for Bruno and his compatriots, Britain would crack down on U.S. crime figures and ban him the following year, but you get the point. Powerful by this point, nearly above the law, and looking at expansion opportunities.

Bruno would have another bit of luck as in September of 1966, the infamous La Stella Restaurant raid would occur which law enforcement gloated at the time as another “Little Apalachin” (although it also wouldn’t end up being very significant in any way). 

Bruno, as fate would have it, was supposed to have been at the LaStella meeting, but changed plans at the last minute and thus avoided the publicity of the bust.

As you get into 1967, the Bruno family appeared to be gaining strength under Bruno’s leadership.

By February of 1967, the federal government would claim they were winning the “quiet war” on Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia, with more than 80 men working on the Bruno family full-time, but the facts of the matter really don’t support that argument as the Bruno organization by that point was just getting stronger and Bruno himself was probably at or close to the height of his power in the mid-to-late 1960’s (although that might be debatable). This was public posturing in my opinion that had very little tangible effect on the day-to-day operations of the Bruno organization and Cosa Nostra as a whole.

As evidence, in the same month, the very same FBI that said they were winning the “quiet war” on Bruno would in fact link Bruno to 80…..say that again, 80….legit businesses. 

To any objective person, this fact doesn’t scream winning, this screams that you’re losing and Bruno is outsmarting you. The Philadelphia Daily News would say the following:



Federal agents say Angelo Bruno, the squire of Snyder Ave. and reputed capo mafioso (local leader) of the Cosa Nostra here, has his hands in some 80 ‘legit’ businesses.

These facts were uncovered by a flying squad of 50 Federal agents who recently descended on the city to look into Bruno’s activities. 

The squad, made up of members of the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Narcotics and the Treasury and Labor Departments, is the Justice Department’s latest weapon in a national attack on at least 15 of 24 big LCN ‘families.’

THE 50-MEMBER SQUAD currently is putting the heat on local boy Bruno of Snyder Ave. near 10th St. So far, they reportedly have connected the syndicate allegedly headed by Bruno with 80 enterprises in this country and abroad.”

*End Quote*

Again, this doesn’t seem like winning on the government’s behalf. This seems like losing spectacularly. They had 50 people and 4 governmental divisions on Bruno at this point, and could come up with nothing but legit businesses to connect him to criminal activities.

Bruno by this point would be so confident that he’d actually sort of joke with newspaper photographers when called into Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo’s station for a “get acquainted” session, with the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting Bruno saying the following:


“I came to see the reporters, not the commissioner.”

*End Quote*

Jokingly, when a photographer ran in front of him for a better camera angle, Bruno playfully grabbed him by the collar and said, “Slow down.”

So by this point, I think it’s clear he’s feeling pretty good and very secure in his position.

But don’t worry, they’d get him for speeding in 1967, and it was the one charge in the 1960’s that he couldn’t beat!

Good job guys! You got him. $55 fine.

Now on a more serious note, by October of 1967, the Mafia and Bruno, who would be arrested, would be caught taking advantage of the tax on cigarettes, importing large quantities of cigarettes from North Carolina (where there is no tax) and selling them in Pennsylvania (which had the highest tax in the nation). 

Now, this scheme, which the authorities creatively dubbed “buttlegging” doesn’t seem like it’d be illegal, but it’s the same thing as with numbers. When the government is being cheated out of tax money, that’s when they are going to pounce, and this scheme in particular was very big for the Mafia not just in Philadelphia, but up and down the East Coast.

But despite all the legal hubbub of 1967, a lot of which was just blowing smoke, to close out the year Bruno would actually win a “major award” (for those that get the reference)! You might think that this is a joke, but in the Christmas season of 1967, his Trenton, New Jersey residence would win a Christmas lightning contest. True story. Even mob bosses like Christmas lights.

And that is the kind of hard-hitting facts and investigative research you get with this podcast! 

As I mentioned, by the late 1960’s, Bruno was probably at the height of his power in Philadelphia in terms of personal power and prestige (although you could argue that maybe his power grew when Atlantic City started booming again). 

By this point, much of the progress made by the FBI in the early 1960’s had been shelved and law enforcement had fallen back into somewhat of a state of apathy with regards to combatting the Mafia.

Ralph Salerno, a well-known expert on organized crime and retired NYPD detective, would discuss the Philadelphia LCN to a panel of 100 executives at a Crime Commission luncheon in January of 1968. He would say the following:


“Organized crime could, theoretically, work without a fix. However, racketeers elect not to operate in an area where two things are not present—fear and corruption.

*End Quote*

Salerno would go on to say that organized crime in Philadelphia followed the same pattern and that one of the biggest problems of the time when it came to policing the Mafia was that police were required to fight modern crime with “antiquated laws” and had not yet developed sophisticated methods of electronic evidence gathering (the bugs used in the Kennedy days were still illegal at the time). Remember, this was before the days of RICO, and the Mafia was in the full zenith of its power.

And the Bruno family specifically would be very strong, and would have some degree of stability going into the late 1960’s with respected members like Joe Rugnetta still in place as Bruno’s Consigliere and even the much-maligned Ignazio Denaro, despite their differences earlier in the decade, was still serving as the family’s Underboss. 

And though these things change over time, during the late 1960’s, the FBI would report that the family had 8 Capos leading the family’s crews, which were headed up by the following men:

  • Joseph “Joe” Scafidi
  • Peter Maggio (who replaced Alfred “Freddy” Iezzi) *It’s worth noting that Harry “The Hunchback” Riccobene was reputed to have refused a promotion, so Maggio replaced Iezzi
  • Joseph Lanciano (who replaced Pasquale “Pat” Massi who was having some legal issues at the time and had allegedly engaged in some sexual proclivities that enraged the Philadelphia LCN resulting in his demotion, though he’d live on until 1980)
  • John “Johnny Keys” Simone
  • Nicholas “Nicky Buck” Piccolo (Scarfo’s uncle)
  • Philip “Chicken Man” Testa
  • Joseph Sciglitano
  • John “Johnny” Capello

In total, the FBI had a record of 121 people being recognized as members of the Bruno family, 82 of which at the time were still living, with 39 deceased. Again, this is just a moment in time, but it gives you an idea of the relative size of the family in comparison to the New York families which are often reputed to have 150-250 members each or more.

Another FBI report in 1968 would also list out the following men as alleged members of the family living and residing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at the time (not counting the Capos and Administration members I just mentioned). 

Some of them you’ll most assuredly known as powerhouses or members who’d eventually rise up to leadership positions within the family, while others will most certainly be new information:


  1. Amato, Vincenzo
  2. Caminiti, Edward
  3. Casella, Peter
  4. De Vito, Domenick
  5. Di Bella, Francesco
  6. Di Condina, Rocco
  7. Di Girolamo, Ignazio
  8. D’Olio, Adam
  9. Esposito, Albert
  10. Fusci, Vincent
  11. Galante, Leonard
  12. Gatto, James
  13. Girgenti Jr., John
  14. Greco, Frank
  15. Iacono, Anthony
  16. Idone, Santo
  17. Iezzi, Alfred
  18. Lagana, Frederico
  19. Lagana, Joseph
  20. Le Pore, Dominick
  21. Marconi, Alphonse
  22. Marconi, Guerino
  23. Monte, Frank
  24. Narcisi, Anthony
  25. Narducci, Frank
  26. Nicoletti, Frank
  27. Nicoletti, Leonard
  28. Palermo Sr., Frank
  29. Perricone, Ernest
  30. Piccolo, Anthony
  31. Piccolo, Joseph
  32. Piccolo, Michael
  33. Pollina, Antonio
  34. Pollino, Fillippo
  35. Quaranta, Luigi
  36. Ricci, Frank
  37. Riccobene, Harry
  38. Romeo, Santo
  39. Rugnetta, Domenic
  40. Sabato, Giuseppe
  41. Scafidi, Rocco
  42. Sciglitano, Antonino “Nino”
  43. Sciglitano, Antonino “Tony”
  44. Testa, Philip
  45. Zirfoli, Frank

New Jersey:

  1. Amico, Michael
  2. Battaglia, Carmen
  3. Campbell, Louis
  4. Caponigro, Antonio
  5. Casella, Peter F.
  6. Cherico, Angelo
  7. Costello, Charles
  8. Costello, Joseph
  9. Genna, Vito
  10. Girgenti, Joseph
  11. Gioe, Vincenzo
  12. Ida, Giuseppe
  13. Ippolito, Carl
  14. Lapergola, William
  15. Luciano, Domenic
  16. Massi, Pasquale
  17. Oliveto, Dominick
  18. Passalacqua, Salvatore
  19. Scafidi, Samuel
  20. Scarfo, Nicholas
  21. Scimeca, George
  22. Tramontana, Michael
  23. Turco, Vincenzo
  24. Verniero, Anthony

So the empire Bruno was running at this time was fairly significant, and the family, despite maybe not being as big as New York or Chicago, had many members operating across several states. 

Running a family of this size and magnitude is a lot to handle if you’re Bruno (or anyone), and there is certainly a lot of complexity and finesse involved in running the family well, which I think most people at the time would agree he was doing despite some grievances here and there from members. 

Had you polled the members by this point, I think they’d have said he was a very good boss.

But I digress.

In March of 1968, you would begin to see reports indicating that Atlantic City was becoming a favorite destination of many East-Coast mobsters, Bruno included. This was a bit of foreshadowing of things to come in the next two decades or so. This is how Scarfo’s powerbase ends up growing so significantly.

Also going on in March of 1968, an informant dubbed MM T-3 out of Florida advised that whenever there is any dispute among the Italian criminal element over shylocking in the Miami area, the four individuals who meet and make a decision are some names you might recognize: Angelo Bruno, Joe Massei (LCN member from Detroit), Tony Salerno (of the Genovese family in New York), and Joe Rivers (Joseph Silesi). 

Miami of course and much of Florida was an “open” city in that no LCN families could headquarter there, and there were reputed to have been as many as 10 LCN families represented down in Miami in the late 1960’s.

One of the events that required a major sit down was relating to the very public murders of John Biele and Thomas Altamura, which has caused major trouble in Miami, Florida. I won’t get into this case, but suffice it to say that Bruno, playing his part on the Commission, had a significant voice in ironing out the tense situation that had developed down there.

Fast-forward to July of 1968 and Angelo Bruno along with other mob heavyweights in what I’ll just call “Little LaStella” were arrested over eggrolls in the House of Chan restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. 

Also a part of the arrest was none other than Bruno’s good friend Carlo Gambino, fellow Commission member Joe Colombo, as well as other LCN members Thomas Masotto, John Scimone, and Vincent Alo.

This, like the 1966 LaStella meeting, is significant as it puts multiple Commission members together in a public place at the same time, but ultimately nothing would come of this raid and everyone would quickly be released.

If I’m not wrong, this is where you get the famous pictures of Bruno talking to Gambino and walking along with other members down the streets of New York.

I’m pretty sure these are the only known photos that put Bruno and Gambino physically together in the same picture. But I could be wrong?

In September of 1968, Bruno and 5 Other men including his protege Phil Testa would again be picked up on gambling charges as part of a police raid, this was pretty routine by this point. 

And speaking of famous mob pictures, this is where you get that famous picture of Bruno smiling in the background with Phil Testa being handcuffed in the forefront. 

All the men would be charged with breach of peace, common gambling and conspiracy.

Save for the 1963 case and the House of Chan arrest, this was one of the more interesting occasions that Bruno was picked up in that he was apprehended at a meeting where the subject of London casinos was supposedly being discussed, and the other men who were picked up included some interesting names: 

  • Phil Testa: Bruno’s right-hand man in Philly
  • Robert Dick: The manager of the Victoria Sporting Club in London
  • Joseph Napolitano: Reputed to have been a lieutenant to Raymond Patriarca in New England
  • Theodore Fucillo: A rackets figure in Boston
  • Frank “Frankie Flowers” D’Alfonso: Philadelphia associate at this time, who would famously be murdered in the 1980’s under Scarfo’s regime

And just like every other case in the 1960’s, Bruno, Testa and the others would beat the rap fairly quickly and with great ease. To show just how much Bruno had things in the bag, the Philadelphia Daily News would report the following:



Angelo Bruno, some other reputed Cosa Nostra bigshots and a London gambling man were freed today of the charges on which they’d been arrested in a South Philadelphia raid on Sept. 25.

The hearing before Magistrate Lewis Mongeluzzo at the 11th and Wharton St. police station had about as much tension and animosity as a family picnic. Everyone was pleasant to everyone else, there was much laughter and no one got mad at anything.

Magistrate Mongeluzzo finally broke up the gabfest by announcing:

‘Right now I don’t have anything in front of me and I’m discharging the case.’

He meant there was no evidence before him on the charges of breach of peace, common gambling and conspiracy.

*End Quote*

So as you can see, the pattern of law enforcement at this time was pretty much “catch and release” as no charges against Bruno and his pals were really sticking, and Bruno had enough power and influence to pretty much have most issues taken care of with minimal effort. 

Closing out the 1960’s, a Pennsylvania Crime commission would refer to the national LCN as having 5 branch offices in the state, with Angelo Bruno serving as one of the “branch managers,” which in my opinion actually had the effect of making him seem less important in the overall grand scheme of things that he actually was, and maybe even had the effect of belittling each Boss despite the point of trying to say just how pervasive the Mafia was in the state.

According to a February report in the Philadelphia Enquirer, the commission would report that Mafia-related crime in the state was thriving:



HARRISBURG, Feb. 7—Five of 24 ‘branch offices’ operated by a national crime syndicate—the Mafia or Cosa Nostra—are in Pennsylvania, with a heavy concentration in Philadelphia, it was reported Friday by a special task force investigating crime in the state. The Pennsylvania Crime Commission said 78 of the 142 known syndicate members in Pennsylvania were under the command of Angelo Bruno, who runs the southeast Pennsylvania branch of the syndicate.

Bruno, the grandfatherly type who lives in a modest South Philadelphia row house, also sits on the nine-member ‘board of trustees’ that operates the national crime syndicate, according to the report.


Among Bruno’s aides, according to the commission, 44 live in Philadelphia, 27 in New Jersey, six in Delaware County and one in Schuylkill County.

‘Organized crime is thriving in Pennsylvania,’ the report stated. ‘In Pennsylvania, from gambling alone, organized crime grosses an estimated $2 billion a year—as much as the entire state operating budget.’

The crime ranges from organized racketeering with its brutal enforcement methods through white-collar tax cheats to the pitiful alcoholic, who accounts for 46 percent of the non-traffic arrests each year in the state.


The list of 142 syndicate members does not give proper significance to the status of organized crime in the state, according to Attorney General William C. Sennett.

This is because, Sennett said, there are hundreds of minor thugs who work for the syndicate, doing the dirty work and accomplishing the day-to-day business.

The commission singled out Samual DeCavalcante, a Trenton mobster, as running the rackets in Bucks County.


The other Pennsylvania crime bosses were listed as Stefano Magaddino, a Buffalo, N.Y. hoodlum who operates with seven accomplices in Erie County; John La Rocca, a McCandless Township operator who controls the Pittsburgh area and several adjacent counties with 32 cohorts, and Carlo Gambino, a New York racketeer who, with ‘underboss’ Russell Bufalino, deals in the northeast portion of Pennsylvania and has 18 men in Luzerne County, three in Lackawanna County, one in Philadelphia and one in Delaware County.

*End Quote*

Now, for the record, I think the commission got Bufalino’s status wrong since he was running his own family by that point, but he was a bit of an all-around player for the families and very influential nonetheless.

Overall, the report just goes to show how effective the Mafia had become since getting pushed really hard by the government in the early 1960’s and how much they were really hitting their stride going into the 1970’s—making this time period really a golden age for the mob across the country and specifically in Philadelphia.

But for Bruno, the end of the 1960’s would pass with a little fanfare.

There would be wiretaps from 1966, which would subsequently be reported in the papers, in which Bruno was caught lecturing fellow boss Sam “The Plumber” DeCavalcante on the code of the Mafia while mediating a dispute. Probably slightly embarrassing for both, but really no harm done. Maybe I’ll do an episode eventually on those transcripts.

Headlines that year would read that “Bruno Looks Like a Businessman and Goes About Unnoticed,” and I think that was purely intentional. He wanted to stay low-key, and he was good at business. That’s his essence and that’s probably played a part in his various nicknames. He seemed harmless. But in reality, he was anything but.

And not to overstate Bruno’s importance or power, because we all know there was heavy influence there from Gambino, but an August 1969 report from the Justice Department would list Bruno as one of top Cosa Nostra bosses in the entire nation:



Angelo Bruno, to no one’s surprise, has retained his position as local boss in the Justice Department’s latest edition of ‘Who’s Who in La Cosa Nostra.’

Bruno, representing the Philadelphia branch, was named with five other Mafia ‘commission members’ in an updated list of underground hierarchy published yesterday in the Congressional Record by Sen. John L. McClelland (D., Ark.).

THE NAMES of Mafia commission members supplied by Attorney General John N. Mitchell included Carlo Gambino, Joseph Colombo, and Paul Sciacca, all of New York; Stefano Magaddino, Buffalo, N.Y.; Joseph Zerilli, Detroit, and Bruno.

Mitchell’s list noted there are two commission spots open in the New York Mafia ‘families’ of Vito Genovese and Thomas Luchese.

The list of Mafia officers in Philadelphia, as supported by the Justice Department, includes: Angelo Bruno Annaloro, boss; Ignazio Denaro, underboss; Joseph Rugnetta, consigliere (counselor), and capodecina (lieutenants) Philip Testa, John Capello, Joseph Lanciano, Joseph Sciglitano, Peter J. Maggio, Nicholas Piccolo, Joseph Scafidi and John Simone.

*End Quote*

Now, you can argue here and there with the accuracy of the Justice Department’s information, as I believe the Lucchese and Genovese families probably did have active representation at this time on the commission, but the report was directly accurate and underlined Bruno’s standing nationally as one of LCN’s most prominent members—both in actuality and according to the government.

And as the 1960’s finally closed, there would be more speculation that Bruno would consider vacating Philadelphia permanently for the call of the South. And if he knew his ultimate fate, I’m sure he’d have been happy to have retired peacefully to Florida, but alas that’s not what happened.

And so, as you got into the 1970’s, Bruno’s decline as head of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra would begin and the chinks in his armor would start to show. 

But we’ll discuss that in Part Three or Four of our ongoing Angelo Bruno series.

Final Thoughts & Closing

Okay, that’s it for this episode! Again, it was another beast of an episode, and I apologize that it takes me so long to produce these episodes though I hope you can appreciate the lengths I go to in my research.

Coming up next, we’re going to knock out the final part on the Cerrito’s before coming back and (eventually) finishing up Bruno which at this point is going to be a 3, 4, or 5 part series.

After that, we’ll be focusing on another city or mobster. I have also said I want to do the Castellammarese War. I’ve been kind of moving along organically, and though I have a general roadmap, I tend to produce episodes organically as they appeal to me. 

Over the longer-term with this podcast, I hope to cover all the families at some point or another and even all the major players, but for now I’m just sort of meandering along and I hope you enjoy my research!

As I’ve said, I absolutely will be sprinkling in more interviews, and getting back to movie breakdowns as I think everyone enjoys those as well.

Before you go, please don’t forget to Subscribe so that you can continue to enjoy my content as it's released and if you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments on YouTube or write us a review on Apple. Lastly, feel free to check out our website, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Until next time, gratzie!

Online Sources:


Jacob Stoops, the host of The Gangland History Podcast

Jacob Stoops

Host of the Gangland History Podcast

This podcast sits at the intersection of my life-long love for history, my love of mob movies, my now decades-long fascination with the Mafia, as well as my passion for content creation.