Anthony Carfano (1898 - September 25, 1959), also known as "Little Augie Pisano", was a New York gangster who became a caporegime, or group leader, in the Luciano crime family under mob bosses Charles Luciano and Frank Costello.
Anthony Carfano was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1898. not much is known about his early life.
From the Bronx to Miami
In the late 1930s, Costello and Adonis sent Carfano to South Florida to expand family operations in that region. Based in Miami, Carfano successfully organized both illegal gambling operations and legitimate spas and hotels, including Miami's Wofford Hotel.
At this time, mob associate and Florida gambling operator Meyer Lansky persuaded the Mafia Commission that both Miami and Miami Beach should be considered "open cities", places in which any crime family in the country could set up operation. Despite Carfano's objections, Costello persuaded him to cooperate with Lansky. By the late 1950s, Carfano had carved out a multi-million dollar gambling empire in South Florida. Florida crime boss Santo Trafficante, Sr., based in Tampa, controlled the majority of the state, but was closely aligned with the New York bosses and his counterparts in New Orleans.
Family power play
In the late 1940s, Genovese was extradited from Italy to New York, but managed to escape the murder charges. Genovese now set about retrieving control of the family from Costello. Over the prior decade Genovese had garnered much support from the "blue collar faction" of the crime family, the soldiers who carried out the street level crimes and had felt neglected under Costello's rule, while higher level crime family members within the "white collar faction" led by Costello carried out and oversaw the operations such as union and labor racketeering, stock scams and political corruption.
In May 1957, Costello survived an assassination attempt organized by Genovese. Immediately after the attack on Costello, Genovese ordered all the caporegimes in the family to accept him as the new boss. Costello had few allies support him. Costello ally Willie Moretti had been murdered in 1951; Adonis had been deported in 1956; John De Noia and Rocco Pelligrino were retiring. In a show of support for Costello, Carfano flew to New York from Florida to meet with him. In retaliation for supporting Costello, Genovese ordered his right-hand-man and caporegime Anthony Strollo to murder Carfano.
Assassination of Carfano
On the night of September 25, 1959 (although other sources incorrectly claim September 29), Strollo invited Carfano to dinner at Marino's restaurant and Carfano accepted. Earlier that night Carfano relaxed at the Copacabana nightclub and later that evening left to meet with Strollo. At Marino's, Carfano ran into mutual friends among them Janice Drake, a former Miss New Jersey and the wife of comedian Allan Drake. Drake had been previously called in as a witness to testify on gangland slayings of Manhattan Nathan Nelson and Gambino crime family boss Albert Anastasia. Carfano offered to drive Janice home after supper to her apartment in Rego Park, Queens where her 13-year old son Michael was sleeping.
In the middle of the meal, Carfano allegedly received a phone call. After hanging up, Carfano told his group that he and Drake had to leave; he had been called away "on urgent business". Carfano and Drake left Marino's and drove away in his Cadillac. Police later theorized that this phone call was from Costello warning Carfano about the hit. When Carfano and Drake left the restaurant, they were allegedly heading to La Guardia Airport in Queens to board a flight to Miami. However, according to this theory, Strollo had anticipated such a move and had hidden gunmen in the back seat of the Cadillac. Once on the road, the gunmen forced Carfano to drive to a quiet location near the airport. At 10:30 that evening, 45 minutes after Carfano and Drake left Marino's, their bodies were found in Carfano's car near the airport. Both had been shot in the head.
Alternative theory on Carfano's murder
Another theory regarding Carfano's death lies with his vast gambling empire in South Florida and a belief he was making moves to investment in Cuban casinos at the time of his death. With the emergence of Genovese as the new leader of the Luciano crime family in late 1957, former boss Charles Luciano lost a great deal of underworld influence in New York and America. No longer in control of his crime family, longtime Luciano ally and supporter Meyer Lansky who had vast gambling interests across America, along with casino interests in Las Vegas and Cuba was in need of a new sponsor and ally within the former Luciano family. Luciano and Costello had given Lansky underworld protection for decades. Now Lansky sought an alliance with new boss Vito Genovese.
Underworld rumor has it that after Costello was deposed as boss of the Luciano crime family in late 1957, Carfano took it upon himself to show much disregard and even contempt for the new leadership. He apparently spent most of his time overseeing his criminal and legitimate interests South Florida and traveled to New York only when necessary, and by 1959 had begun making plans to expand his gambling operations into Cuba. The theory goes that Carfano, who was not a Genovese supporter began to encroach on the Havana casino operations of Meyer Lansky and the new Genovese crime family.
With Carfano's prior, blatant disrespect for his new boss Genovese and now his encroachment onto Genovese and Lansky territory without permission sealed Carfano's fate. This, along with the added bonus that Lansky would take over all the Carfano gambling interests in Florida where Lansky was also based gave the two New York Mob bosses all the excuse they needed to have Carfano hit that fateful September night. The fact that Lansky's criminal association with Genovese strengthened after his takeover of the Luciano crime family and that Lansky did in fact take over Carfano's Southern Florida gambling interests after his death is more than likely the catalyst for this theory surrounding Carfano's murder and Lansky's involvement.
In popular culture
In Martin Scorsese's 1995 film Casino, the name of the character "Augie Pisano" (meant to represent real-life Nick Civella's brother-in-law Carl DeLuna) is derived from Anthony Carfano own name. "Augie Pisano" was played by actor Vinnie Vella in the film.