Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti (October 1, 1910 – October 15, 1978) was a New York mobster, businessman, and drug kingpin who was the boss of the Lucchese crime family. Tramunti was the mastermind and creator of the massive French Connection heroin smuggling ring. Tramunti also controlled a multi-billion dollar international drug trafficking empire, his global heroin empire stretched all over four continents, North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, which he exported multi-ton shipments of heroin on a daily basis, At his height, Tramunti was smuggling a staggering 30 tons of heroin a day, and he was raking in a staggering $14 billion a year, and had a whopping net worth of $10 billion as of the early 1970s, making him one of the richest drug kingpins of all time. After his death his immeasurable heroin empire was succeeded by future Lucchese family boss Anthony Casso.
Operating in Harlem
Tramunti was born October 1, 1910, in Manhattan, New York and raised in a tenement on 107th street in Harlem. He eventually ran the "Harlem Game", one of the major floating craps games in New York. Tramunti was a beefy man who stood 5'10, had a triple chin, and bore a remarkable resemblance to comedian Jonathan Winters. Tramunti's headquarters was The Stage Delicatessen in Manhattan. Tramunti lived in Whitestone, Queens and had a wife and three children. One of Tramunti's sons, Louis, died at age 14.
In 1922, the 12 year-old Tramunti was sent to a Catholic reform school due to truancy from school. On December 9, 1930, Tramunti was arrested on charges of robbing a rent collector. However, on December 26th, a judge dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence. In July 1931, Tramunti was convicted of felonious assault and was sentenced to six to fifteen years at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. He was paroled in 1937, then returned to prison for a violation.
Boss of Lucchese family
In 1967, with the death of Lucchese boss Gaetano Lucchese, Tramunti became the official boss of the Lucchese family. Carlo Gambino, the head of the Gambino crime family, allegedly used his influence to make Tramunti the Lucchese boss. Other sources said that Tramunti was a compromise candidate who was acceptable to the different family factions. A more common version is that the Mafia Commission designated Tramunti as temporary boss until mobster Anthony Corallo was released from prison
On November 19, 1970, Tramunti was indicted on 14 counts of stock fraud and other charges. The government charged that Tramunti and other mobsters forcibly seized control of a Miami, Florida investment firm. On December 23, 1971, Tramunti was acquitted of all charges in the stock swindle case.
On November 29, 1972, Tramunti was indicted on criminal contempt charges for lying to a grand jury about calls he made to capo Paul Vario. Tramunti was convicted and sentenced on August 6, 1973, to three years in state prison.
French Connection conviction
At the time of his appointment as temporary boss, Carmine Tramunti was almost 60 years old and in ill health. With boss-in-waiting Anthony Corallo in prison, Tramunti was expected to hold power until Corallo's release. Tramunti faced a number of criminal charges during his time as acting boss and was eventually convicted of financing a large heroin smuggling operation, the infamous French Connection. This scheme was responsible for distributing millions of dollars in heroin along the East Coast during the early seventies.
Before the French Connection trail, the seized heroin was stored in the NYPD property/evidence storage room pending trial. In a brazen scheme, criminals stole hundreds of kilograms of heroin worth $70 million from the room and replaced them with bags of flour. Officers discovered the theft when they noticed insects eating the so-called heroin. The scope and depth of this scheme is still unknown, but officials suspect the thieves had assistance from corrupt NYPD officers. Certain plotters received jail sentences, including suchmajor heroin kingpins as Virgil Alessi, Anthony Loria and Vincent Papa (he was later assassinated in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia). Papa's crew is considered to be the masterminds behind the whole scheme of stealing all the "French Connection" narcotics from the NYPD property room. Although never officially proven, this is considered fact as published in NY Newsday's Pulitzer Prize winning "The Heroin Trail" and in Gregory Wallace's book "Papa's Game" In 1974, after Tramunti's incarceration, Anthony Corallo finally took charge of the family.
On October 4, 1973, as a result of "Operation Shamrock" (now known as the French Connection Case), Tramunti and 43 other mobsters were indicted on narcotics trafficking charges. Ultimately Tramunti was convicted in the famous French Connection case for financing a huge heroin smuggling operation. A former steward at an espresso cafe testified to hearing drug dealer Louis Inglese discuss a deal with Tramunti and seeing Tramunti nod his head in approval. Some observers felt the case was a miscarriage of justice, including crime reporters Jack Newfeld and Murry Kempton. Tramunti always denied the charges, stating "I may be a mobster and may have done bad things but I am not a drug dealer".
On May 7, 1973, Tramunti was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, the judge stating that he was "dangerous. Anthony Corallo succeeded Tramunti as head of the Lucchese family.
On October 15, 1978, Carmine Tramunti died of natural causes in prison. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens.
In popular culture
That incident is referenced in the 1990 movie, Goodfellas. In the movie, Lucchese capo Paul Cicero (based on the real life counterpart Paul Vario) warns the main character Henry Hill against drug dealing, and brings Gribbs up as an example.
Tramunti may have been the inspiration for the Mafia character Dominic Cattano, played by the Sicilian-American actor Armand Assante, in the 2007 motion picture American Gangster.