Tommaso "Tommy" Gagliano (1884 − February 16, 1951) was an American gangster who founded the Lucchese crime family, one of the powerful "Five Families" of New York City, and served as its low-profile Boss for over two decades. His successor was his longtime loyalist and Underboss, Gaetano Lucchese.
Gagliano remains a shadowy figure in the history of Cosa Nostra with little information on his early life in Sicily. Gaetano Gagliano was born in Sicily in c.1884 and in the early 1920s, Gagliano arrived in New York. He soon joined a Sicilian criminal gang in the Bronx under Gaetano Reina and by the mid-1920s was underboss to Reina. Frank Gagliano was a distant relative of Tommaso and the son of a deported mobster. He was also the cousin of mob boss Thomas Eboli's chauffer and bodyguard, future Genovese crime family underboss Dominick Alongi who would later achieve notoriety when they were among the many mobsters arrested fleeing the famous 1957 Apalachin Meeting. He was a blood relative of mobster Joseph (Pip the Blind) Gagliano, who became a childhood friend and early accomplace of future government witness Joseph Valachi. The two performed many burglaries and armed robberies together.
During the late 1920s, a bitter gang rivalry arose in New York between Giuseppe Masseria, the most powerful mobster in New York, and Salvatore Maranzano, head of the Castellammarese Sicilian clan. Masseria had demanded more money from Reina, prompting Reina to consider switching allegiance to Maranzano. When Masseria heard about Reina's plans, Masseria murdered him in February 1930. To head Reina's gang, Masseria appointed one of his loyalists, Joseph Pinzolo. Both Gagliano and Gaetano Lucchese hated Pinzolo and resented Masseria appointing an outsider as gang leader. In September 1930, Pinzolo was shot and killed by unknown assailants. To replace Pinzolo, Masseria appointed Gagliano as head of the Reina gang. It is speculated that Gagliano and Lucchese formed a secret alliance with Maranzano at this time while still professing loyalty to Masseria. As the war continued, Masseria began suffering more defeats and key defections. On April 13, 1931, Masseria was assassinated at Brooklyn restaurant by several of his men. These defectors, guided by Charles Luciano, had made a deal with Maranzano guaranteeing their power if they switched sides. However, after Masseria's death, Maranzano started promoting himself as the "Boss of All Bosses" for all the Italian-American criminal gangs in the country. Feeling betrayed and threatened, Luciano arranged Maranzano's assassination a few months later in September 1931. During this period of instability, Gagliano remained in control of the Reina gang.
Cosa Nostra Families
After Maranzano's death, Charles Luciano restructured all the Italian-American criminal gangs into several crime families regulated by a Commission of family bosses. The aim of this restructuring was to settle disputes without bloody gang wars. The New York City gangs were divided into five crime families. Gagliano became the boss of the Gagliano family, with Gaetano Lucchese as underboss, and took a seat on the Commission.
Gagliano steered the Lucchese family through a period of high tension between the Five Families. In 1936, Charles Luciano was sent to prison for running a prostitution racket and then, in 1946, deported to Italy. With Luciano's absence, power on the Commission was held by an alliance of mob bosses Vincent Mangano, Joseph Bonanno, Stefano Magaddino and Joe Profaci. Gagliano had to be very careful in the face of this alliance, and was keen to keep a low profile while furthering the business interests of his section of Cosa Nostra, in industries such as gasoline rationing, meat and black market sugar. Very little is known about Gagliano between 1932 and his death from natural causes in the 1950s.
The actual date of Gagliano's death is still uncertain. In 1951, Gaetano Lucchese stated during the Senate hearings on organized crime that Gagliano died on 16 February 1951. However, many historians believe Gagliano actually died in 1953. It has been speculated that Gagliano retired in 1951 and turned leadership over to Lucchese, but kept this information secret to prevent law enforcement or media scrutiny; however, there is no concrete evidence to support this theory. Tommy Gagliano is interred in a private mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.