The Bufalino crime family is an Italian-American organized crime syndicate based primarily in the cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Pittston, Pennsylvania. The Bufalino crime family is one of the 26 crime families of the American Mafia (also known as La Cosa Nostra), and the family exercises immense power and influence throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and in northwestern New Jersey and southern and western New York State. The organization maintains strong relations with the Five Families, the Philadelphia crime family, DeCavalcante crime family, Chicago Outfit, Cleveland crime family, Buffalo crime family, Dallas crime family, Trafficante crime family, Los Angeles crime family, Detroit Partnership, Patriarca crime family, and the New Orleans crime family.
The Bufalino crime family has been bang connected to labor racketeering, counterfeiting, prostitution, loansharking and extortion, illegal gambling, cartage theft, fraud, and automobile theft, among other criminal operations that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In addition, the organization exercises control over a host of legitimate enterprises including trucking, carting, sanitation, and meat businesses. Although the Bufalino family is one of the smaller organizations within the Mafia phenomenon, the extent of its influence and strength has been underestimated by observers in law enforcement and the media.
Many reports claim that a large portion of the organization's income is through sweetheart contracts obtained through government bidding in the area of construction and waste management and through money laundering. In the early days, much of the family's income was derived by its control of the coal industry, especially through its manipulative influence over the labor unions governing coal miners.
Law enforcement estimated in the 1990s that the Bufalino family consists of approximately 30 made members, and an unknown (but presumably large) number of associates, operating chiefly in the area of northeastern Pennsylvania, northwestern New Jersey, and southern and western New York State.
The Barbara era to Apalachin
In 1957, Joseph Barbara's estate off Highway 17 was the scene of a meeting attended by about 100 Mafia heads from the U. S., Canada and Italy in order to peacefully divide up assassinated Albert Anastasia's Brooklyn rackets. A raid by New York State Police caught many heads of families or their deputies. However, the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed many of the cases on legal technicalities.
The Bufalino era
After the family founder, Santo Volpe stepped back to focus on more legitimate enterprises (a coal company for one), he named John Sciandra as boss. During John Sciandra's reign he named Russell Bufalino as his underboss. Bufalino took over the family after Sciandra's death in 1949 (it's a common misunderstanding that Barbara was boss of the Bufalino family, but he was more likely a capo in Stefano Maggadino's Buffalo family, but remained close with the Bufalino family) and ran it until a conviction in the 1980s, after which the aging boss retired. Besides being boss of his crime family, Bufalino was rumored to have been "acting boss" of one of the New York "Five Families" at one point in his Mafia career, but in fact he was sanctioned by the Commission to be the "trustee" of the Genovese crime family during an internal disagreement over the leadership succession during the 1970s.
When Bufalino was imprisoned in the late 1970s, Edward Sciandra, the family's consigliere, became the acting boss.
After Russell Bufalino's death in 1994, and Edward Sciandra's retirement to Florida, William D'Elia is believed to have become the boss of the family. D'Elia, born in 1946, started his career in the Bufalino family in the late 1960s as Russell Bufalino's driver.
D'Elia's background in solid waste brokering, and keen business sense, made him a valuable asset and aided in developing close connections with counterparts in New York City, Elmira, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Regarded as a peacemaker, he has helped resolve disputes over territory and business interests that could have erupted into bloodshed.
Over the last decade, D'Elia has attempted to improve his image and avoid prosecution by engaging in more legitimate enterprises.
In addition to the solid waste business, D'Elia maintains an active presence in the management of Spaniel Transportation, a trucking concern, and an equity share in the Newcastle Group. However, he continues to earn income from traditional criminal activities: drug trafficking, loansharking, illegal gambling and bookmaking, securities fraud, and cartage theft.
In the 1990s, D'Elia's name was linked to a money laundering scheme that involved a weekly newspaper in Exeter, Pennsylvania called The Metro. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigators from Elmira, New York claim that $3 million, the proceeds of a drug and prostitution ring, were laundered through the newspaper. The Star Gazette reported, "The money is believed to have purchased bogus advertisements and subscribers that never existed. The Metro ceased operation in 1998."
D'Elia's long run as mob boss without being prosecuted for anything, and his ability to stay on the street and out of prison, have led some observers to speculate that D'Elia has been a long-time government informant, informing on other Cosa Nostra families. While this would explain his extraordinary run of good luck, it is entirely speculation at this point.
However, many mafia observers have pointed out that D'Elia's days as a free man may be numbered. D'Elia was at one time involved in gambling junkets to Atlantic City, New Jersey, recording almost $6 million in losses in a three-year period where he reported $8,000 per year in income to the IRS. On May 31, 2001, agents from the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, US Postal Inspectors and Pennsylvania State Police executed search warrants at the homes of D'Elia, his mistress, and three others, seizing records in an ongoing investigation. On February 26, 2003, D'Elia was banned for life from setting foot in casinos in Atlantic City by New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement, based on information shared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the now defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commission. On May 31, 2006, D'Elia was indicted on federal charges of laundering $600,000 in illegal drug proceeds and trying to have a co-defendant in the case killed.
In January 2008, Roman Catholic priest Father Joseph Sica was arrested for perjury after prosecutors gathered evidence that they believe reveals Sica misrepresented his relationship with Russell Bufalino. In testimony to a grand jury regarding the purchase of a casino in northeastern Pennsylvania by local billionaire Louis DeNaples, who prosecutors believe had ties to the Bufalino family. Prosecutors say letters and photos show that Sica and Bufalino had a "substantial relationship" despite Sica's testimony that the two had met by chance and were not close.
In March 2008, D'Elia pleaded guilty to reduced charges, a possible sign that he has agreed to testify against DeNaples, who owns the recently opened Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos and has been accused of lying to get a casino license.
D'Elia had been facing 18 counts, including solicitation of murder, but pleaded guilty to only two, witness tampering and conspiracy to launder money. D'Elia's attorney, James Swetz, refused to say whether D'Elia received a deal in exchange for his guilty plea, or whether he agreed to testify against DeNaples. Many think D'Elia is the last made member left. But reports say there are two other members still living. The members are Michael Insalaco and Albert Scalleat.
However, charges against both DeNaples and Father Sica were later dropped and DeNaples promised to divest himself of the Mount Airy Casino, which he has now transferred to his daughter. It is unclear how this will affect his state gaming license.
Historical leadership of the Bufalino crime family
Bosses (official and acting)
1905–1908 — Stefano LaTorre (1886–1984) (stepped down in 1908, but continued to be recognized as a senior member of the crime family, died in 1984 at the age of 98)
1908–1933 — Santo Volpe (unknown –1959). (LaTorre's brother-in-law, retired in 1933, but continued to be recognized as a senior member of the crime family, died 1959)
1933–1949 — John Sciandra (1899–1949) (Died of Natural Causes)
Acting 1949–1959 — Russell Bufalino (became acting boss after the Apalachin fiasco)
1959–1994 — Rosario Alberto "Russell" Bufalino (1903–1994) (became boss after the death of Barbara; imprisoned from 1978-1982 and throughout the second half of the 1980s, released from prison in 1990, he was effectively retired and living in a nursing home, but like so many other highly respected mafia bosses over the years he held the official title of boss until he died on February 25, 1994)
Acting 1990–1993 — "Big Billy" William D'Elia (officially ascended to the leadership with the death of Bufalino)
1994–2008 — William D'Elia (indicted October 17, 2006 on 18 charges including solicitation of homicide and money laundering; in November 2008 he became a government informant.)
2008– No Boss, the family could be extinct
James Osticco (served as Underboss to Russell Bufalino)
Edward Sciandra (served as consigliere to Russell Bufalino)