John Avena

John "Nazzone" Avena (1893, Messina, Sicily – August 17, 1936, South Philadelphia) was the boss of the Philadelphia crime family in the 1930's.

South Philly Boss

Avena took over the Philadelphia crime family after the first boss, Salvatore Sabella stepped down at the end of the Castellammarese War in 1931. The Philly Mob sided with Salvatore Maranzano faction in the underworld conflict. Avena was an odd choice as Mafia boss because he was born in the Messina region of Sicily, usually not associated with the Mafia tradition. During his time as boss, the Philadelphia crime family formed an alliance with Jewish organized criminals called the 69th Street Mob. A civil war erupted in the Family during the mid-1930s. The Lanzetti brothers are believed to have been responsible for the shooting death of 43-year-old Avena at the corner of Washington and Passyunk Avenues in the summer of 1936. A gunman firing from the rear window of a passing automobile shot to death both Avena, and his lottery racket partner, Martin Feldstein. Police noted that three other attempts had been made on Avena's life in the past 10 years. There was considerable media attention to the September 18, 1937, arrest of Michael Montanaro on Philadelphia's North Broad Street. Montanaro was suspected of involvement in the murder of Avena and was shot and wounded by Detective Richard "Pete" McClure during the arrest.

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