The Buffalo crime family also known as the Buffalo Mafia, Buffalo Mob, and Magaddino crime family, is an Italian-American organized crime syndicate. The organization operates throughout Western New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, Washington, California, and Canada.
The Buffalo crime family gained immense power during the Prohibition era through bootlegging. In 1931, family boss Stefano Magaddino became an original member of The Commission. From the 1960s to the early 1980s the family fought an internal war, which ended when Joseph Todaro reunited the family. In 2006 he retired, leaving his son Joseph Todaro Jr as boss.
Buffalo's early Italian Americans
Buffalo, New York, is located at the eastern end of Lake Erie, directly across from the Canadian border town of Fort Erie, Ontario. Buffalo saw a huge influx of Italian immigrants from the 1890s through the 1920s, as the area provided abundant jobs for immigrants willing to do manual labor. The local mills and factories flourished as they made use of the hydro-electric power gained from nearby Niagara Falls. The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1957 provided additional employment opportunities on Buffalo's busy waterfront. Buffalo is the state's second largest city after New York City and was one of the first American cities to have electricity.
Like many other cities, such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh, the West Side of Buffalo saw the growth of a "Little Italy" neighborhood in the early 20th century. The East Side neighborhood of Lovejoy also had a small Italian immigrant community. In the 1980s the demographics of the West Side shifted, becoming a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, and now the North Side near Hertel Ave. is home to the largest Italian-American community in Buffalo.
The first known boss of the Buffalo crime family was "Buffalo Bill" Angelo Palmeri, who immigrated from the Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo, in 1908 or 1909. Palmeri was a well-known Sicilian mafioso who took over Buffalo's Little Italy by extracting extortion money from groceries, pushcart vendors and Italian food vendors. He also consorted with (and possibly led) a group of Black Hand extortionists who preyed on both legal and illegal businesses, including the "taxing" of local pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. Palmeri's affiliation was with the Mafia group known as the Castellammarese Clan, which had satellite groups all across the United States, from the big cities of New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Chicago to smaller towns such as Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Stefano Magaddino was born on October 10, 1891, and emigrated to the United States from Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, sometime in the early- to mid-1910s. He settled in the Sicilian enclave of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Magaddino came from a well-known and powerful Mafia family and already had the reputation of a hardened gangster and ruthless killer upon his arrival in the States.
Magaddino quickly established himself in New York and became a group leader in his Mafia clan, extorting, killing, torturing, stealing and cheating his way to extraordinary wealth, success and power. He quickly established his group of Castellammarese mafiosi known as "The Good Killers" as a powerful presence in the American underworld. In 1921 he was arrested in New York, along with a close associate and fellow Castellammarese named Gaspar Milazzo, for their alleged involvement in a murder of a man in Avon, New Jersey. The victim was a member of the Buccellato family of Castellammare, a rival Mafia clan that Magaddino, his relatives and associates had warred with in Sicily for years.
After being released by New York law enforcement, Milazzo moved to another large Castellammarese community in Detroit, while Magaddino moved his base of operations to western New York, settling first in the city of Buffalo, then moving north to the city of Niagara Falls by 1922.
Magaddino was a close associate of Angelo Palmeri, and upon the death of his underboss Joseph DiCarlo, Palmeri urged the respected and feared Magaddino to take over as boss. Magaddino accepted the position and named Palmeri his senior adviser. Under Magaddino the Buffalo crime family became an extremely powerful and influential criminal organization during the Prohibition era, benefiting from its proximity to the Canadian border and from the many underworld connections Magaddino possessed nationwide. Throughout Prohibition the Buffalo crime family had strong ties to Canadian Mafia organizations in southern Canada, which supplied liquor to many American underworld groups to smuggle into the United States. The most well-known association was with Hamilton Mafia boss Rocco Perri, (see King of the Mob by James Dubro for more details) who led a very large group of Calabrian mafiosi and was called "Canada's Al Capone" and "King of the Bootleggers" by the media.
Magaddino and his crime family became extremely rich and powerful during Prohibition, Magaddino was already a multi-millionaire in the early 1920s, his immense wealth and power vastly increased over the years, becoming a billionaire by the 1930s. Throughout the 1920s Magaddino made sure that his criminal interests and territory were protected from rivals. There were a large number of underworld deaths labeled "gang hits" in the western New York and southern Ontario regions during Prohibition. Some were tied to the "Bootleg Wars" between American and Canadian bootleggers, while others were the result of the "Sugar Wars" between the Magaddino crime family and the Porrello crime family of Cleveland, Ohio. The Sugar Wars erupted when the Porellos tried to expand their corn sugar business into eastern Pennsylvania and western New York at the expense of Magaddino and his group, but Magaddino's forces quickly put an end to the grand ambitions of the Cleveland mafiosi.
The Buffalo crime family vastly grew in power, wealth and influence throughout the 1920s and began to establish itself on a national level through the many influential criminal association Magaddino had forged with other Mafia bosses in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.
Near the end of Prohibition the New York Mafia and to a smaller extent the whole American Mafia was involved in the famous "Castellammarese War" of 1930-31, which had the New York mafiosi from Castellammare del Golfo and their supporters battling the New York crime family of "Joe the Boss" Giuseppe Masseria.
Magaddino's fellow Castellammarese mafiosi led by powerful mafiosi Salvatore Maranzano had become too wealthy, influential and independent for the liking of self-proclaimed "Boss of Bosses" Joe Masseria, and in 1930 a war erupted between the two factions. By the late 1920s a group of young, powerful and influential American bred mafiosi led by Lucky Luciano and his closest associates had aligned themselves in New York and across the nation with the intention of re-organizing and re-structuring the American underworld on a international level without the participation of the old world Bosses, but in order to do so they would have to remove all the "Old Guard" Mafia leaders or "Mustache Petes" including Joe Masseria and Sal Maranzano.
The Castellammarese war began in the late 1920s and erupted into a nationwide conflict with the assassinations of Castellammarese leaders, Gaspar "The Peacemaker" Milazzo in Detroit on May 31, 1930 and Joe Aiello in Chicago on October 23, 1930. Buffalo Mafia Boss, Steve Magaddino sent $25,000 a week to New York in support of his allies while the same was done by Castellammarese leaders and supporters across the nation to help New York Castellammarese war chief, Salvatore Maranzano and his loyal underlings including Magaddino cousin and future New York Mafia Boss, Joseph Bonanno defeat Joe Masseria. On April 15, 1931 powerful New York Boss, Joe Masseria was assassinated by his Underboss, Lucky Luciano in a Coney Island restaurant. Then, on September 10, 1931, the next self-proclaimed "Boss of Bosses" Salvatore Maranzano was assassinated in his Manhattan business office by Lucky Luciano allies posing as IRS agents. This allowed Luciano to take control of the American Mafia and form a "Board of Directors" and "governing body" to rule Mafia affairs worldwide. Luciano and his fellow leaders placed the newly organized Mafia at the helm of the National Crime Syndicate. The American Mafia was given the name Five Families by its members and the Mafia's governing body was called the Commission. Along with the overlords of the five New York crime families, the Chicago Outfit, the Buffalo crime family and its boss, Stefano Magaddino were given a seat on the Commission as a charter member. Some also believe that Cleveland crime family boss, Frank Milano was given a seat on the Commission.
The Buffalo crime family under longtime Boss Stefano Magaddino continued to be a major underworld force throughout from the late 1950s well into the 1960s with the crime family dominating the Western New York rackets, especially gambling, loansharking, illegal gambling, prostitution, pornography, bookmaking, numbers game, narcotics, and labor and union rackets. The Buffalo crime family controlled the most lucrative bookmaking operation in America with Western New York and Southern Ontario along with floating cards and dice games and illegal casinos. The bookmaking operation was raking in a staggering $4 billion a year. The crime family had been involved in narcotics trafficking since the 1920s and it continued and became a large, nationwide operation after the American and Sicilian Mafia's met in 1957 at the Grand Hotel des Palmes in Palermo, Sicily the week of October 10–16 to organize a multi-billion dollar global heroin empire, the Buffalo crime family was represented by Stefano's brothers, Antonino, Giuseppe and Gaspar. The Buffalo family along with longtime allies the Bonanno crime family used their Sicilian contacts and their Canadian satellite groups in Southern Ontario and Montreal to import multi-ton shipments of heroin into the Montreal ports and then move the heroin through the Canadian-American border crossings in Niagara Falls and Fort Erie-Buffalo and then distribute the drugs throughout the East coast. This network was maintained throughout the 1960s and 1970s, well into the 1980s and culminated with the famous "Pizza Connection" case in 1987.
Longtime Buffalo family Boss, Stefano Magaddino had led his crime family for basically 40 years by 1960 so he began to slow down and prepare for semi-retirement. By the mid-1950s, powerful and influential Buffalo mafiosi, Federico Randaccio was the underboss of the Buffalo crime family, it is believed he took over after the death of former underboss, Angelo Acquisto in 1956. Randaccio was a highly respected and greatly feared gangster who was always well dressed and had a calm and relaxed demeanor, but was known as a brutal killer. By the mid-1960s Freddie Randaccio was running the day to day operations of the Buffalo crime family and was seen as the Acting Boss by law enforcement and the most likely successor to his Boss Magaddino being that the old man was slowing down after a long criminal career and was likely looking forward to relaxing and eliminating the stress of running one of America's most powerful Mafia families. Magaddino fully trusted Freddie "The Wolf" Randaccio since he was known to be a loyal Magaddino supporter, coming up from a soldier in the 1930s and 1940s, promoted to Capo in the 1940s and overseer of local and Southern Ontario rackets. By the mid-1950s, he was Underboss with the top Buffalo area Capos reporting to him, and by the early 1960s all the Capos in the Buffalo crime family were reporting directly to Randaccio. Randaccio commanded respect from all his underlings like up and coming Buffalo area Capo, Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. who controlled bookmaking operations for "The Arm" and with his son, Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. and brother Richard Todaro. Joseph Todaro, Sr. was a highly respected and feared Buffalo crime family member and a big earner with criminal interests in bookmaking, floating card and dice games along with Las Vegas junkets and a profitable pizza business that continued to grow.
Freddie Randaccio kept in close contact with the Capos and in the 1960s the Buffalo crime family's members were known to use the "Blue Banner Social Club" located on Prospect Ave. and run by soldier, Benny Spano as a principle base of operations, meeting place and gambling club, Randaccio met with crime family members there in the late afternoons. On May 8, 1967 the Buffalo FBI received a tip from an informant that another well known Buffalo crime family hangout, "Panaro's Snowball Lounge" was being used for a stag party where high stakes gambling would take place and most of the top crime family members would be in attendance as the lounge was owned by the Panaro family, relatives of the Todaro family and a cousin of Joseph Todaro, Sr. The FBI raided the lounge and made a number of key arrests. The media called it the "Little Apalachin Raid," being that a "who's who" of top Buffalo crime family members were arrested that night. Those arrested included Acting Boss, Freddie Randaccio, Capos, Joseph Fino, a future Boss, Daniel Sansanese Sr., a future Acting Underboss, Salvatore Pieri, a future Boss, Joseph "The Wolf" DiCarlo Jr., son of the first Boss, former Youngstown rackets Boss and future Consigliere, Samuel Frangiamore, a future Boss, Pasquale "Pat Titters" Natarelli, a top enforcer, John Cammilleri, overseer of labor and union rackets, James "Jimmy" LaDuca, Magaddino son in law and Apalachin attendee, Rosario Carlisi, Appalachian attendee and brother of former Chicago Outfit Boss, Sam Carlisi and soldier Victor Randaccio, brother of Freddie and LIUNA Local 210 Boss.
Capo Joseph Todaro Sr. was present and was arrested alongside his fellow Buffalo mafiosi, Todaro Sr. was so outraged over the arrest and the fact that Panaro's Lounge lost its liquor license and went out of business that it motivated him to launch a lawsuit against the local FBI alleging they were "discriminating against people of Italian descent." Joseph Todaro, Sr.'s actions were supported by the former Italian American Civil Rights League (IACRL) formed by former New York Colombo crime family Boss, Joseph Colombo Sr., but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed. Another huge blow was dealt to the Buffalo crime family by law enforcement in mid 1967 when Acting Boss and favored successor to the Bosses crown, Freddie Randaccio was arrested along with Capo and right hand man, Patsy Natarelli on June 29, 1967 on charges of planning an armed robbery due to the collaboration of the first known Buffalo defector, soldier Pasquale "Paddy" Calabrese. Calabrese's testimony sent Randaccio and Natarelli to prison on December 11, 1967 when they were convicted and sentenced to a 20-year prison term. It is alleged by former FBI agent and author Joe Griffin in his book, "Mob Nemesis" that Peter Magaddino took over as Acting Underboss for approximately a year after Randaccio was arrested. Freddie Randaccio was one of the most powerful and influential Buffalo crime family members in the 1950s and 60s and would most certainly have taken over the crime family when Magaddino retired, but instead he spent 12 years in prison and was paroled on June 28, 1979 and never again was a prominent member of the Western New York underworld, as he retired to live out his last years in the Buffalo area and then died sometime later. After the 1957 Apalachin fiasco that caused many of the nations top Mafia Bosses to receive a great deal of law enforcement and media scrutiny, some of the same Bosses were preparing for retirement and some had been forced into retirement by such things as deportation and a loss of respect from fellow Bosses and by crime family underlings. Stefano Magaddino had lost much of his nationwide underworld respect and influence after the Apalachin meeting and from the early 1964 until late 1968 Magaddino found himself deeply involved in the New York conflict which became known as the "Bananas War" which pitted the powerful Mafia Boss and charter Commission member, Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno against a rebel faction within his own crime family and the current leaders of the Commission which included Bonanno's cousin, Stefano Magaddino. The "Bananas War" lasted roughly 4 years and kept Magaddino closely involved as the two principle people involved were his cousin, Joe Bonanno and brother in law, Gaspar DiGregorio who Magaddino supported in his rebellion against Bonanno. Allegedly on the night of October 20, 1964 Magaddino sent his son, Peter and his brother, Nino to a Manhattan, New York to kidnap his cousin Joe Bonanno. Apparently the kidnapping was successful and Magaddino held Bonanno captive for six weeks in an upstate New York cottage while they discussed the current conflict within the New York underworld and allegedly decided that Bonanno would officially retire and relinquish a control of his crime family to DiGregorio, but this would not be as Bonanno did not keep up his end of the deal and returned to New York in early 1965 to lead his forces in the war. The events surrounding the war involved Magaddino and he lost all respect from the Commission and many other Bosses as he was looked at as the prime instigator of the rebellion within the Bonanno crime family and the war by his cousin, the Commission and some of his own crime family members. Arm split
By late 1960s many of Magaddino's top underlings and crime family members began to believe that the Boss had become a paranoid and notoriously greedy leader with old age who was losing the respect of all his underlings. This notion was reinforced in mid 1968 when Magaddino informed his top Capos that their share of the crime family's profits would be reduced and they would no longer receive the yearly Christmas bonus of $50,000. This angered the top Capos including Joe Fino, Sam Pieri and Danny Sansanese since Magaddino's personal sports betting book was one of the largest in Western New York and was known bring in anywhere from $20,000-$30,0000 weekly. The next event sealed the fate of the Boss. On November 28, 1968, Stefano Magaddino and his son, Peter Magaddino, a Capo in the crime family, were arrested on charges of interstate bookmaking. During the subsequent arrest and search of the Magaddino homes, located on "Mafia Row" in Niagara Falls, New York, the arresting officer, former FBI agent and author Joseph Griffin and his partner located over $1 billion in three massive, reinforced steel cash vault hidden in Peter's mansion. After learning about the amount of enormous cash the Magaddino's had possessed it was reported that the top crime family members wanted to kill Boss Stefano Magaddino, but feared the retribution they would receive from the Commission for an unsanctioned hit of a Mafia Boss. In place of the hit the Buffalo crime family's top members no longer loyal to Magaddino opted to revolt and replace Magaddino as Boss.
A group of Buffalo crime family Capos including Sam Pieri, Joe Fino, Danny Sansanese, Joe Todaro Sr., Joe DiCarlo Jr. and Sam Frangiamore traveled to Rochester and met at the farmhouse of Capo, Frank Valenti to discuss the present situation in Buffalo. At this meeting is was decided by vote that they would revolt against the current leadership in Buffalo and no longer recognize Magaddino as Boss. There was only one problem with that, the Commission still recognized Stefano Magaddino as the official Boss in Buffalo so the family did what they could and the crime family split into two major faction, the "Magaddino loyalist" and those who supported the "Dissident Factions", the Buffalo crime family was now made up of four sub-groups. The Magiddino loyalists included the former Underboss who was incarcerated at the time, Freddie Randaccio, the current Consigliere, Antonio "Nino" Magaddino and Capos, Peter Magaddino, Jimmy LaDuca, Roy Carlisi, Vincent Scro and Charles A. Montana, all but Carlisi were related to Magaddino in some way. The two largest and most powerful factions were the Pieri-Frangiamore faction and the Fino-Sansanese faction, led by Capos Sam Pieri, Sam Frangiamore, Joe Fino and Danny Sansanese. The Pieri-Frangiamore faction included Capos, Joe DiCarlo, Joe Pieri Sr., John "Johnny Ray" Pieri, who was incarcerated at the time, Anthony "Tony" Romano and Toronto, Ontario soldier, Paul Volpe. The Fino-Sansanese faction included Joe Todaro Sr., John Cammilleri and Pat Natarelli who was incarcerated at the time. The final faction was the Rochester faction led by Capo, Frank Valenti, but by 1970 he used the opportunity and his close affiliation to his father in law, Pittsburgh Capo, Antonio Ripepi to announce that the Rochester crew would no longer be under the Buffalo crime family's influence and would be an autonomous crime family. The rest of the Capos such as Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti Sr. of Niagara Falls, New York, Albert "Babe" Billiteri Sr. of Buffalo and Joseph Falcone of Utica, New York lined up behind one of the three Buffalo area sub-groups while the Canadian Capos, John Papalia of Hamilton, Ontario, Santo Scibetta and Jack Luppino stayed relatively neutral, but were in actuality Magaddino supporters as they stayed loyal to who ever was the official Boss at the time.
Former Buffalo FBI agent Joe Griffin stated in his book that that in the beginning of 1969 he learned through informers that Sam Pieri had been elected by Acting Boss in January 1969, while in April 1969 FBI surveillance captured the dissident Buffalo crime family leaders, Sam Pieri, Joe Fino, Joe DiCarlo Jr., Sam Frangiamore and Danny Sansanese meeting on the West Side of Manhattan, New York with Genovese crime family leaders. The Genovese crime family represents the Buffalo crime family on the Commission and New York needed to be alerted that the dissident factions no longer recognized Stefano Magaddino as the Boss of the crime family. The Genovese crime family leaders affirm their recognition of the dissident leaders and sanction a vote in Buffalo to elect temporary or "Acting" Bosses until an official leader is eventually chosen. According to the Senate Hearing report, "Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi", the top Buffalo crime family members in the dissident factions met on July 9, 1969 and elected a new leadership, Sam Pieri was named Acting Boss, Joe Fino remained Underboss, a promotion he allegedly received in June 1968, a year after the arrest of Randaccio and Joe DiCarlo Jr. was named the Acting Consigliere. The Buffalo crime family had never had an internal conflict of this scale or any revolt in its roughly 50 year history, but now the crime family was split and no longer the large, strong and unified crime family it was once and it stayed this way for roughly a decade and a half.
Over the next four years until the opportunity for the Commission to choose a new Boss arrived the Buffalo crime family would still officially be under the rule of Stefano Magaddino, but there were a succession of Acting Bosses starting with Sam Pieri from January 1969 until he was soon convicted and jailed on September 25, 1970 and sentenced to five years. Then came Joe Fino who was promoted to Acting Boss while Danny Sansanese took over the position of Acting Underboss, but on September 15, 1971 Joe Fino and his brother Nick Fino were arrested on gambling charges and released on bail until the hearing, but this started to diminish the Fino-Sansanese factions power. Danny Sansanese was arrested in early 1972 and convicted of jury tampering in April 1972 which gave the Pieri-Frangiamore faction the ability to take over once again from the weaken Fino-Sansanese faction. Joe Fino stepped down as Acting Boss in July 1972 and stays on as official Underboss to the new Acting Boss, Sam Frangiamore while Joe DiCarlo Jr. has been the official Consigliere since the 1971 death of Nino Magaddino. It s known that Frangiamore was Acting Boss of the Buffalo crime family by 1973 as Ronald "Ron" Fino, son of Joe Fino, former Business Manager of Laborers Local 210 and an FBI undercover operative has stated in many instances including his testimony in Senate Hearings.
The Buffalo crime family continued with its criminal interests and legitimate business ventures and stays in solid control of the areas rackets throughout the early 1970s including the local and upstate New York area construction, labor and union rackets it has controlled for decades. Longtime Buffalo crime family Capo, John Cammilleri was the overseer of the labor and union rackets in the Buffalo areas since the late 1940s and was an influential crime family member. Cammilleri was born in Campobello di Licata Gigenti, Italy in 1905 and arrived in the Buffalo area with his family in 1910. By the mid to late 1920s he was a Buffalo crime family associate and in 1930 he was arrested for grand larceny, while over the next few years his a rap sheet included burglary, robbery, extortion and intent to kill and in 1933 he was sent to Elmira prison on a 20 years sentence. Paroled in 1939 Cammilleri soon became a "made man" in the Buffalo crime family and obtained a mid level position in Buffalo Local 210 as his cover for handling union problems as a Lieutenant for Stefano Magaddino. Cammilleri's power and influence within "The Arm" grew steadily as he had interests in gambling activities, construction companies and his union activities while gaining a reputation as a dependable man who could get the job done and do favors for organized crime associates. He stayed out of trouble until he 1971 when he was caught lying to a grand jury about his association to Buffalo gangsters, Joe and Nick Fino during their troubles concerning the gambling charges.
The Buffalo crime family like some many other mafia families were deeply involved in labor and union racketeering and Buffalo's LIUNA Local 210 had become a well known haven for crime family members and their relatives. It was rumored that former crime family associate, Ron Fino, was elected to his post within LIUNA Local 210 through the efforts of John Cammilleri, and as a reward, Cammilleri expected a high level executive position within the union, but Fino turned him down. Cammilleri was greatly angered by Fino's rejection and decided to plea his case in front of the acting crime family hierarchy, which in early 1974 was clearly in control of all crime family activities and operations as Stefano Magaddino had been fairly ill over the last year. Sam Pieri had been paroled in early 1974 and it is not clear exactly what his acting position was as some in law enforcement and the media believe he was the Acting Boss while others believe that Sam Frangiamore was still the leader at this time. Either way, both men were present on May 8, 1974 when Cammilleri was allowed to plead his case in a Buffalo cigar shop. The leadership denied his request and he stormed out of the meeting. Later that night he dropped of his girlfriend at a popular West Side Italian restaurant, "Roselands", and left to attend a wake. After the wake Cammilleri returned to the restaurant, parked his car and proceeded to walk across the street when someone called his name. Several shots rang out and Cammilleri was hit in the face and chest and died instantly. Several customers ran outside just in time to see a car speeding down Chenango St.
The killing of Cammilleri was seen as a part of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction's final bid to take over the Buffalo crime family, knowing that official Boss Stefano Magaddino would soon die, which happened on June 19, 1974. Magaddino was given a Catholic funeral and buried at St. Josephs Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.
Pieri and Frangiamore era
After the death of Stefano Magaddino in the summer of 1974 the Commission officially sanctioned longtime crime family member Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore as the new official Acting Boss of the Buffalo crime family for a one-year term as is customary in most La Cosa Nostra families to see if he has the full support and loyalty of the crime family. It has been debated for the last three decades as to whether or not Frangiamore was only an Acting or Front Boss for former Acting Boss and powerful crime family member Sam Pieri, as the local Buffalo law enforcement and the FBI have stated that sometime in 1975 after Sam Frangiamore's year term was up he stepped down for Sam Pieri; what is known is that by 1975 longtime crime family member and official Consigliere Joseph "Joe the Wolf" DiCarlo Sr., who was also the brother-in-law of Sam Pieri, stepped down and retired. He was replaced by Joe Pieri Sr., brother of Sam. It is hard to determine the facts and to come to a credible conclusion regarding the leadership of the Buffalo crime family in the mid to late 1970s, but what can be definitely determined is that Sam Frangiamore and Sam Pieri were the two top Bosses in the Buffalo crime family from 1974–78; On November 20, 1978 Sam Pieri was once again sentenced to prison for five years. So once again by late 1978 Sam Frangiamore became the real Boss of the Buffalo crime family and Sam Pieri's criminal interest and his leadership position was taken over by Joe Pieri Sr. who was promoted to Acting Underboss while Vincent Scro was named Acting Consigliere. Sammy was never the boss of the family.
The Frangiamore faction continued to lead the Buffalo crime family while throughout the 1970s Capo Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. was not only growing in power and influence, but in popularity among the younger, up and coming crime family members. The Buffalo crime family was divided and weakened throughout the 1970s, but maintained a dominant presence within Western New York's underworld at all times. In early 1981 Sam Pieri was paroled from prison on humanitarian grounds due to his ill health, he returned to Buffalo and died soon later on July 24, 1981 at the age of 70. Sam Frangiamore was definitely the official Boss and Joe Pieri Sr. is the official Underboss while Vincent Scro is promoted to official Consigliere. As the Buffalo crime family enters the 1980s the old guard leadership of Sam Frangaimore and Joe Pieri Sr. are being rivaled by the Todaro faction which is supported by many of the younger and ambitious crime family members and the support for Joe Todaro Sr. has grown to a level of power and influence within the American underworld and the national Mafia that he will most definitely be the next successor to the throne. It is most likely that Underboss to Sam Frangiamore, Joe Pieri Sr. may have been another hopeful for the Bosses crown once Frangiamore retired and what is known is that on October 8, 1984 Joe Pieri Sr. and former Buffalo area resident and Cleveland crime family Acting Boss, John Tronolone traveled to New York and met with Genovese crime family Acting/Front Boss, Anthony Salerno in regards to internal conflicts and the issue of leadership within the Buffalo crime family that were becoming very explosive and could possibly end up in an internal war.
The late 1984 meeting in New York shows that the leadership of the Buffalo crime family had most likely been officially chosen by then and that there seemed to be serious conflict within new regime that could keep the crime family divided and weakened if the conflict was not resolved. Two high-ranking mafiosi from Buffalo and Cleveland met with powerful New York Mafia Boss Tony Salerno at his "Palma Boys Social Club". The headquarters of Salerno and his Palma Boys Crew was located at 416 East 115th St., East Harlem in Manhattan, New York. What the three Mafia leaders didn't know was that the East Harlem social club was bugged and the FBI had been recently recording Boss, Tony Salerno and his closest associates, picking up very damaging conversations and information concerning the New York Mafia and other crime families nationwide. Joe Pieri Sr. was apparently the Consigliere of the Buffalo crime family at this time and he spoke with the Genovese crime family front Boss, Tony Salerno about the Buffalo crime family's current situation and addressed some growing concerns he had over the leadership succession in Buffalo. "The Commission wants it straightened out", Salerno states, Joseph Pieri Sr. who was clearly bitter towards his Boss states, "I killed a few guys who were against him and he got to be Boss, now he starts neglecting me" Supporting Joe Pieri Sr. was a former Buffalo native and the present Cleveland crime family Acting Boss, John "Peanuts" Tronolone, "They're walking around with machine guns, these guys, suppose we walk around with machine guns", Tronolone adds to the conversation. "No, I'll send word to Junior to straighten this thing out", Salerno is referring to Colombo crime family Boss, Carmine Persico who along with several members of his crime family has had a long standing association with members of the Buffalo crime family and being that Persico is a Commission member it is a good idea that he makes any overtures towards the Buffalo crime family leadership concerning any Buffalo Mafia affairs the Commission choses to be involved in. Salerno chimes in, "As for the Buffalo Boss, give him the word from the Commission", Pieri is quick to please the powerful Mafia Boss, Salerno, "I'll send word!" Salerno is not finished and is eager too show his guests the level of authority the New York Commission carries, "Tell him", meaning the Buffalo Boss, "It's the Commission from New York, tell him he's dealing with the big boys now."
For years local and national law enforcement and crime writers have maintained that sometime in 1984 or 1985, the leadership of the Buffalo crime family once again changed hands. It is not clear exactly when, but by late 1984 and certainly by 1985, Joseph Todaro, Sr. was sanctioned by the American Mafia's National Commission in New York as the new official Boss of the Buffalo crime family. Joseph Todaro Sr. known as "Poppa Joe" to his family and friends was born in 1923 and is the owner of the La Nova Pizzeria and Wing Company located at 371 West Ferry St. on Buffalo's West Side. Todaro Sr. has been a prominent Buffalo crime family member since the 1950s and active in labor unions where he may have picked up his nickname and he rose steadily through the ranks of the crime family throughout the 1960s and 1970s until he became the top Boss by 1985.
Upon his elevation to Boss, Joe Todaro Sr. promoted his son Joseph "Big Joe" Jr. to be his Underboss while he quickly showed his crime family members that he knew his Mafia politics and named former Underboss, Joe Pieri Sr. as the Consigliere of the crime family to keep the peace and too begin uniting the long divided crime family. Peri Sr., who clearly was not a Todaro Sr. supporter, was demoted in 1987 and retired from active crime family activities, leaving longtime Todaro Sr. ally, Leonard Falzone as the new Consigliere in the Buffalo crime family, Falzone was obviously promoted to the position as a reward for his years of service with the Todaro faction and for his loyalty to its leader. The Buffalo crime family under Joe Todaro Sr. kept its control over the traditional rackets of gambling, loansharking, extortion and narcotics, labor and union rackets, but added new modern rackets such as telemarketing, stock swindles and insurance fraud. The Buffalo crime family has dominated bookmaking activities in Western Yew York for basically a century as the Buffalo area is a hub for bookmaking operations due to the crime families influence in upstate New York, Northern Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and Southern Ontario. The gambling and loansharking rackets go hand in hand and close Todaro family friend, Leonard Falzone, once known as the "Loanshark King" was chosen as the overseer of loansharking operations from the mid-1980s until he was convicted on loansharking and racketeering charges in the mid-1990s.
The Buffalo crime family still dominated the labor and union rackets well into the 1990s even after informer and former LIUNA Local 210 Business Manager, Ron Fino helped with law enforcement prosecutions in the mid-1990s. After Fino left Local 210 in 1988 for an executive position within LIUNA's national structure crime family associates Sam Caci and then Todaro Sr. son in law, Peter Gerace held the position of LIUNA Local 210 President until the Justice Department filed a 200 page RICO suit against LIUNA Local 210 in November 1994 and eventually expelled eight alleged crime family members who held executive positions within the local in June 1996 due to the help and testimony of FBI undercover operative Ron Fino who had and continued to work for the CIA and became well known for his undercover operations regarding the Russian Mafia and the El Quadia spinoff - Asbat Al Anser. At one time the crime family controlled many New York state LIUNA Locals by placing crime family members in positions of influence. Such New York locals as LIUNA Local 214 in Oswego, New York, LIUNA Local 435 in Rochester along with LIUNA Locals in Utica, Albany and Massena, New York fell under the influence of the Buffalo crime family due to their past association with former LIUNA National President Arthur Coia Sr. and his son Arthur Coia Jr.
Even before Prohibition the Buffalo crime family was involved in narcotics, running local and international operations under longtime boss Stefano Magaddino. Some of the crime family's members with close ties to Sicily continued in the international narcotics trade well into the 1990s, due to the close relationship the Buffalo crime family had with Canadian Mafia families from Quebec, Southern Ontario and Toronto. However, the Buffalo crime family no longer invests much time in these operations and has given up their local ventures, after Hispanic and Black crime organizations moved into Buffalo. These now dominate the local drug trade.
By the mid-1990s Joe Todaro Sr. was the owner of the multi-million dollar La Nova Pizzeria and Wing Company which had sales in excess of $100 million annually, he was semi-retired and frequently visited South Florida to spend time at his condominium, leaving the day-to-day operations of the crime family in the hands of his son, Underboss and newly promoted Acting Boss, Joseph Todaro Jr., Consigliere Leonard Falzone and Capos, Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti Jr., overseer of the Niagara Falls, New York area rackets, Gaetano "Tommy Chooch" Miceli, overseer of the North Buffalo/Hertel Ave. area rackets, "Butchie Bifocals" Frank BiFulco, overseer of the West Side area and labor and union rackets and "Johnny Pops" John Papalia, overseer of the Southern Ontario rackets while top soldiers like John "Johnny Catz" Catanzaro, Bart T. Mazzara. Donald "Turtle" Pinepinto, Vincent "Jimmy" Sicurella, Joseph P. Rosato, Daniel G. Sansanese Jr., Victor Sansanese, Joseph R. Pieri Jr., John A. Pieri, Samuel Lagattuta Jr., Michael Muscarella, and Matthew "Steamboat" Billiteri. Joseph Todaro Sr. and his son not only held business interests in the food and restaurant business, but they also had investments in the construction, real estate and bar business, they often showed and still do show their humanitarian and charitable side by frequently donating large numbers of pizza and chicken wings to local area charities and even our armed forces. Close family friend, Leonard Falzone helped the family establish "The Feast of St. Joseph Table" where people from all over Buffalo and the surrounding areas are invited to celebrate the Italian feast day with a huge table of free La Nova specialties. The Todaro's can be found operating a booth at the annual Hertal Ave. Italian Festival, and the younger generation of Todaro's, which includes grandson Joseph Todaro III and his sister, Carla Todaro, show their appreciation to the la Nova customers by handing out over 5,000 bottles of expensive champagne during the Christmas and New Years holidays.
The top Buffalo crime family members continued to control the areas rackets into the 2000s and even made expansion moves in territories like Las Vegas where members were sent to set up gambling and loansharking operations with members of the Los Angeles crime family, Todaro Sr. sent lontime Capo and gambling specialist, Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti Sr. to oversee the crime family's gambling operations and the move into the state of Nevada. Buffalo crime family soldier and Todaro family cousin, Robert "Bobby Panaro Jr. was another Buffalo area resident who had an underworld presence on the West coast and represented the Buffalo crime family's interests in the 1990s. Bobby Panaro Jr., along with former Buffalo area resident and Los Angeles crime family soldier, Stephen "The Whale" Cino were sentenced in September 1999 to 7½ and 15 years in prison for planning the murder of Chicago Outfit associate and Las Vegas loanshark, Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein in 1997, according to past media reports the two gangsters were allegedly part of a joint effort by the Buffalo-Todaro crime family and the Los Angeles-Milano crime family led by Peter Milano to set up gambling and loansharking operations in Las Vegas. Herbert Blitzstein was a former associate of the previous Chicago Outfit representato in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro and ran a large and lucrative loansharking operation that Panaro and Cino allegedly wished to take over. It should be mentioned that before Bobby Panaro Jr.'s arrest in 1997 and eventual conviction in 1999 he had no criminal record, unlike Steve Cino who had a lengthy and well documented criminal record dating back decades. Buffalo crime family members continued to make money from new rackets throughout the 1990s such as, telemarketing, pump and dump stock scams and internet pornography well into the new millennium and by all accounts of local and national law enforcement and the media, the Buffalo crime family continues to thrive in North America's underworld.
The Buffalo crime family's base of power has been the City of Buffalo, New York, for the last century, but the group has also had criminal interests and satellite groups, or "crews", in other areas, such as Rochester Massena and Utica in upstate New York; eastern Pennsylvania; Youngstown, Ohio; and the southern Ontario cities of Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Toronto. The Buffalo crime family remains active to this day, but law enforcement and the media have estimated the crime family's current underworld presence at anywhere from one of the most powerful crime families in La Cosa Nostra to being on the verge of extinction. The family also had significant power in Niagara Falls, New York and was associated with the corrupt leadership of the Laborers Local 91 laborers' union
Since the 1990s it has been predicted by local law enforcement, the media and crime writers who keep a close watch on the Western New York underworld that Joseph Todaro Jr. was the most likely successor to his father as the next Buffalo crime family Boss being that he has been Acting Boss since roughly 1995, but as recently as late 2006 there has been a rumor circulating that the Todaros, Joseph Todaro, Sr. and Joseph Todaro Jr. have officially retired from active participation in Buffalo crime family activities and affairs and have officially elevated Consigliere, Leonard Falzone and Capo, Benjamin "Sonny" Nicolletti Jr. to the positions of Boss and Underboss. In other words, the Buffalo crime family may no longer be called the Todaro crime family as the "Todaro Era" has possibly ended, but this has not been verified yet by local or national law enforcement, agencies such as the Buffalo P.D., the FBI or the DEA. It is worth noting law enforcement has stated that the Buffalo Family is now likely defunct. It has been 20 plus years since the Buffalo area has seen a Mafia bust or any violence.
The early history of the what became the Buffalo family was controlled by two different men Angelo Palmeri and Joseph DiCarlo. The two groups merge into together becoming a crime family.
1908–1912 – Angelo "Buffalo Bill" Palmeri – stepped down, becoming Underboss.
1912–1922 – Giuseppe "Joseph" Peter DiCarlo Sr.
1922–1974 – Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino – died of natural causes on July 19, 1974 at the age of 82.
Acting 1962–1967 – Frederico "Fred Lupo/the Wolf" Randaccio – jailed June 1967
1974–1984 – Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore – sanctioned by the Commission; retired
Acting 1984 – Joseph Pieri Sr. – served as underboss to Frangiamore, became consigliere and retires 1987
1985–2006 – Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. – became semi-active in 1995, retired. Died in 2012.
Acting 1995–2006 – Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. – the son and underboss to Todaro Sr.
2006–present – Joseph Todaro Jr. – son of former boss Joseph Todaro Sr.
Front Boss 2006–2016 – Leonard Falzone – former consigliere
In 1969 the Buffalo family split into four factions, "Magaddino-Randaccio faction", "Pieri-Frangiamore faction", "Fino-Sansanese faction" and the "Rochester faction".
Acting Boss 1969–1970 – Salvatore "Sam" Pieri – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction; imprisoned Acting Boss 1970–1972 – Joseph Fino – leader of the Fino-Sansanese faction; imprisoned Acting Boss 1972–1974 – Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction; served as acting boss from July 1972 until Magaddino death in July 1974.
List of Captains and Soldiers
(Former and Present)
The Westside Crew
Capo - Frank BiFulco ("Butchie") - Butchie is also an arsonist, and was sentenced in 2003 for 10 years in federal prison. He was put in charge of the New York area rackets and labor interests.
Soldier - Frank Thomas Billiteri (deceased) - Born in 1946 to Albert "Babe" Biliteri, who was a Buffalo Made man. Billiteri was a veteran of the Vietnam War and died in 2010.
Soldier - John Pieri - Nephew to former Buffalo crime family captain, Sam Pieri.
The Hamilton Crew
Capo - Dominic Italiano ("Dom")
Soldier - Joseph Pugliesi ("Joe") - overseer of the Southern Ontario rackets in the Niagara and Hamilton region.