Gaetano "Tom" Reina (1889 – February 26, 1930) was a New York City mobster who was the boss of the Reina family and a top lieutenant to powerful mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria. Reina's murder would trigger the bloody Castellammarese War between the Sicilian criminal gangs in the United States.
Born in Corleone, a Sicilian town near Palermo 1889, Reina began running criminal operations based mainly in the Bronx. During an era in which all food stuffs and beverages were refrigerated in ice boxes, Reina acquired a virtual monopoly on ice distribution. Reina's crime group first existed alongside the Morello crime family of the Bronx and Harlem, later under Morello relative Ciro "The Artichoke King" Terranova. Later on during Prohibition, Reina formed an alliance with rising Masseria crime organization and soon became a high-ranking member. Future government informant Joe Valachi married Reina's oldest daughter Carmela (she was called Millie for short and is often thought to have been named Mildred), despite the objections of her mother, brother, and uncles.
Alliance with Maranzano
In the 1920s, Reina became entangled in a high stakes confrontation between Giuseppe Masseria and his bitter rival, Salvatore Maranzano. Arriving in New York in 1925, Maranzano was part of a Sicilian family from Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily. Most of Maranzano's organization came from that Sicilian town and were called "Castellammarese". Naturally, Masseria wasn't planning to turn over any of his operations to a newcomer without a fight. In addition, Masseria was in conflict with the Castellammarese clan regarding disputes in Chicago with mob boss Al Capone's Chicago Outfit. Maranzano was soon hijacking truckloads of Masseria's liquor and taking over Masseria's bars in New York. Masseria soon was making his counterstrikes.
As the conflict began, Reina began to rethink his alliance with Masseria. The main reason was that Masseria had recently started demanding a share of Reina's profits. Reina now considered defecting to Maranzano. Being informed of Reina's gunmen entering the Bronx's Roman Gardens during a fund raising dinner for city Magistrate Albert Vitale on December 27, 1929, Giuseppe Masseria began planning to murder Reina and prevent him from allying with Salvatore Maranzano.
According to Charles Luciano in Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer's The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Reina was "...a man of his word, he had culture, and was a very honorable Italian." However, Luciano's respect for Reina did not stop him from ordering his murder.
On February 26, Reina was leaving his aunt's home in the Bronx after dinner (although other sources claim he had been leaving the apartment of his mistress). In any case, Vito Genovese approached the 40 year-old Reina on Sheridan Avenue and killed him with a shotgun blast to the head.
After Reina's death, Giuseppe Masseria installed his ally Joseph Pinzolo as the new head of the Reina organization. Angry over being passed over, Reina lieutenants Gaetano Gagliano and Gaetano Lucchese defected to Maranzano. Over time, Masseria continued to weaken as more family members deserted him. Finally, Luciano and other Masseria underlings struck a secret deal with Maranzano to eliminate Masseria. On April 14 1931, Masseria was murdered in a Coney Island, New York restaurant.
The victor in the Castellammarese War, Maranzano, enjoyed a very short reign as boss of all bosses. In September 1931, with the connivance of Luciano and Lucchese, Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his office by four men posing as Bureau of Internal Revenue agents. After Maranzano's death, his family eventually became the Bonanno crime family.
In popular culture
Reina would later be portrayed in film by the following actors:
- Amedeo Nazzari in the 1972 film The Valachi Papers
- Joe Tornatore in the 1981 film Gangster Wars
- Chris Penn in the 1990 film Mobsters.