Joseph Todaro, Sr. (September 18, 1923 – December 26, 2012) known as "Lead Pipe Joe", was a prominent Buffalo, New York businessman, and alleged boss of the Buffalo crime family or "The Arm" as it is referred to. He was suspected to have headed the family since the retirement of former Boss, Sam Frangiamore in late 1984. The testimony of government operative Ron Fino as well as Todaro Sr.'s long documented history in alleged labor racketeering activities had also supported such claims of his position in the organization, but it must be mentioned that none of the Todaro family members have been convicted of a crime at any time.
By the early 1960s, longtime Buffalo crime family Boss, Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino had begun to plan his retirement and left running of the day to day activities of his crime family in the hands of Acting Boss, "Freddie Lupo/the Wolf" Frederico Randaccio. Joseph Todaro, known as "Lead Pipe Joe" to his crime family associates was a top crime family capo who reportedly controlled bookmaking operations for "The Arm" with his son, Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro, Jr., brother and crime family soldier, Richard Todaro. "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro was a big earner for the Buffalo crime family with interests in bookmaking, card and dice games, loansharking, Las Vegas junkets and labor rackets and reported directly to Freddie Randaccio. In the 1960s and 1970s the Buffalo crime family used the Blue Banner Social Club run by crime family soldier Benny Spano as a principal base of operations, meeting place and gambling club, Randaccio usually met there with his capos every day in the late afternoons.
On May 8, 1967, the FBI received a tip from an informant and raided a stag party being held at Panaro's Snowball Lounge in Buffalo that night, which was owned by Las Vegas mob soldier Bobby Panaro's family. The FBI and the Buffalo media called the raid the "Little Apalachin Raid" being that a 'who's who" of top Buffalo crime family members were arrested, including Acting Boss, Frederico Randaccio, Joseph Fino, Salvatore Pieri, Daniel Sansanese, "the wolf" Joseph DiCarlo, Jr., a former Youngstown, Ohio rackets boss, Samuel Frangiamore, Pasquale "Pat Titters" Natarelli, John Cammilleri, James "Jimmy" LaDuca, Rosario Carlisi and soldier, Victor Randaccio, brother of Freddie and boss of Buffalo local 210 of the LIUNA. Todaro was also arrested at the stag party along with basically all of the top Buffalo crime family members, Todaro, Sr. was outraged over the fact that Panaro's Snowball Lounge lost its liquor license and went out of business, motivating him to launch a lawsuit against the Buffalo FBI alleging that they were "discriminating against persons of Italian descent". Todaro Sr.'s actions were later supported by the Italian American Civil Rights League (IACRL) led by New York Mafia boss, Joseph Colombo, but the lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
The Arm Splits
By the mid-1960s many of the Buffalo crime family's top members began to believe that Boss, Stefano Magaddino had become a paranoid and notoriously greedy leader with old age who was losing the respect of his underlings. This was reinforced in 1968 when Magaddino informed his top crime family members that their share of profits from the crime family's operations would be reduced and they would not receive their yearly bonus due to a decrease in the crime family's illegal earnings. The November 26, 1968 arrest of Magaddino and his son and crime family capo, Peter Magaddino on charges of interstate bookmaking allowed the arresting FBI agents, to conduct a search of the Magaddino homes where approximately $473,134 was found hidden in Peter's luxurious home. After learning of the cash the Magaddino's possessed it was reported that the top Buffalo crime family members wished to kill Boss, Stefano Magaddino, but were in fear of the Mafia Commission in New York and their punishment for an unauthorized killing of a crime family Boss.
Joseph Todaro was one of the alleged Buffalo crime family members who traveled from Buffalo to a Rochester farmhouse owned by Frank Valenti in December 1968 to discuss the present situation in Buffalo which was brought to bear on the decision to vote Magaddino out as boss. At this meeting it was decided that the top crime family members would revolt against Magaddino and his supporters, leading the crime family to split into 4 factions. Stefano Magaddino led a faction of Buffalo family members still loyal to him, while capos, Sam Pieri and Joseph Fino led the two most powerful factions of dissident crime family members, leaving capo, Frank Valenti announcing that the Rochester faction would split completely from Buffalo and become an autonomous crime family. The Buffalo crime family was now made up of two dissident factions, the Pieri-Frangiamore Faction was led by Capos, Sam Pieri and his right hand man, Sam Frangiamore, while capo Joseph Todaro, Sr. supported the Fino-Sansanese Faction led by Joseph Fino and his right hand man, Daniel Sansanese. Soon after the split, FBI surveillance placed several top Buffalo crime family members in New York meeting with Genovese crime family leaders in April 1969, allegedly to advise the New York leaders that the dissident Buffalo factions no longer recognized Magaddino as Boss. The Genovese family used to represent Buffalo on the Commission and their leadership recognized the new Buffalo regime, but Magaddino officially retained the title of Boss as the Commission did not sanction the new regime in Buffalo.
According to "Organized Crime:25 Years After Valachi, Senate hearings and the Chronological History of La Cosa Nostra in the U.S. 1920–87" the top Buffalo crime family members, including Joseph Todaro, Sr. met on July 9, 1969 to elect a new leadership and capos Sam Pieri, Joe Fino and Joe DiCarlo were elected Acting boss, Underboss and Acting Consigliere by the dissident crime family factions.
Boss of the Buffalo Family
On July 19, 1974 legendary La Cosa Nostra Boss and charter Commission member, "The Undertaker" Stefano Magaddino died of a heart attack after leading the Buffalo family for 52 years. After Magaddino's death the Commission sanctioned Sam Frangiamore as the official Acting Boss of the Buffalo crime family. The Buffalo crime family stayed under the leadership of the Pieri-Frangiamore regime from 1974–84, while capo, Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro, Sr. with the help of his son, Joseph Todaro, Jr. continued to run his criminal operations, his successful pizzeria and other business investments and amassed more power, influence and popularity in the crime family throughout the 1970s. Frangiamore lead the crime family until the mid-1980s when he retired.
By 1980, Joseph Todaro Sr. was one of the most powerful Buffalo crime family members with a faction of loyal allies who supported him as the future boss. Joe Todaro's popularity among Buffalo family members and with La Cosa Nostra members across the US was well known and his supporters included bosses from other crime families including Russell Bufalino, Samuel Russotti and the New York Bosses of the Genovese and Gambino crime family's. Todaro received a lot of support from many of the longtime Buffalo family members as well as the younger members who respected him as a leader who could motivate, re-organize and re-unite the Buffalo crime family after a decade of being divided and weakened.
In October 1984, Buffalo family Underboss and possible Acting Boss, Joseph Pieri, Sr. and former Buffalo area resident and Cleveland crime family Acting Boss, John Tronolone met with Genovese crime family Acting/Front Boss, Anthony Salerno in East Harlem, New York to discuss current conflicts in the Buffalo crime family and to solicit support from the Commission in Peri Sr.'s bid to officially become the new Buffalo crime family Boss. The FBI listened in on their conversation through a bug planted in Salerno's social club. After Tony Salerno listened to Joe Pieri Sr. discuss the affairs of Buffalo Local 210 union and his opposition to the Todaro Sr. and his perceived insult in Todaro Sr.'s bid for leadership, Salerno stated, "The Commission wants it taken care of, let the Commission decide", "Tell him it's the Commission from New York, tell him he's dealing with the big boys now" Joseph Todaro, Sr. was chosen by the Commission as the new boss of the Buffalo crime family in late 1984 or early 1985 and Todaro Sr.'s first official action was to name his son, Joseph Todaro, Jr. as the Underboss of the crime family.
The Todaro era
Joe Todaro quickly showed his intelligence and political wit by naming Joe Pieri Sr. as the Consigliere, eliminating any chance of internal conflict and subversion on the part of Pieri Sr. and his supporters, hopefully keeping the crime family unified for the time being.
By the end of 1985, Joseph "Lead Pipe" Todaro was in firm control of Buffalo crime family, leading roughly 50–75 soldiers and a number of associates. Joe Todaro Sr. quickly attempted to unite the weakened Buffalo crime family by making new members, promoting his loyal supporters, re-opening longtime associations with crews in Ontario, Rochester, Youngstown, Ohio and Eastern, Pennsylvania, along with expanding the crime family's rackets and territory. Joe Todaro Sr. strengthened the Buffalo crime family's Canadian ties to longtime crime family crew, the John Papalia crime family in Hamilton, Ontario, as well as associations with the Rizzuto crime family of Montreal, Quebec.
The Buffalo family maintained its control over the traditional rackets in Western New York such as gambling, loansharking, union and labor racketeering, making Buffalo a hub for bookmaking operations for the crime family due to its influence upstate, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, North Eastern Ohio and Southern Ontario. The Buffalo crime family expanded its rackets and territory into Las Vegas, Nevada and Southern, Florida, as Joe Todaro Sr. sent capo Sonny Nicoletti, Sr. and soldier Bobby Panaro to Las Vegas to oversee gambling and loansharking operations there while he established a base of operations in Fort Lauderdale after becoming Boss. Joe Todaro Sr. was observed by the FBI meeting with Philadelphia and Bufalino crime family Bosses "Little Nicky" Nicodemo Scarfo and Edward Sciandra in Florida in the late 1980s, as his respect and influence grew, becoming a universal adviser of sorts in La Cosa Nostra after the 1987 "Commission Case" imprisoned all of the Commission members.
The Buffalo crime family led the way in telemarketing during the 1990s. In 1987, capo Leonard Falzone was promoted to Consigliere, as longtime Buffalo crime family member Joseph Pieri Sr. retired from active participation in crime family affairs, Falzone went on to help advise the Todaro's in the day to day running of the crime family as Falzone oversaw the loansharking operations, later being convicted of running a large loansharking operation with the help of top Buffalo Key Bank executives in 1996. Joseph Todaro, Jr. was a former LIUNA local 210 business manager and helped maintain the crime family's labor and union operations in the Buffalo area through the influence he carried in local 210. Traditionally the Buffalo crime family held influence in many of the Western New York labor unions, such as local 91 in Niagara Falls, local 435 in Rochester and local 214 in Oswego. The dominant grip the Buffalo crime family held over Western New York's union and labor affairs began to end in 1995 when the Justice Department launched a 200-page RICO complaint and suit against LIUNA executives with alleged crime family ties; eight Buffalo crime family members were removed from the executive board of local 210 in 1996, including crime family Underboss Joseph Todaro, Jr. and Consigliere Leonard Falzone. The Buffalo crime family traditionally had long-standing ties to the Bonanno crime family and its Montreal faction (Cotroni/Rizzuto crime families) during the Magaddino era and allegedly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but the crime family no longer dictates time to local and international narcotics trafficking as Black and Hispanic crime groups have moved into the predominantly Black East side and Hispanic West side and taken over narcotics distribution in those areas.
By the mid-1990s Buffalo's local law enforcement alleged that Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro Jr. was made Acting Boss and overseer of the Buffalo crime family's day to day operations with the help of Consigliere, Leonard Falzone, while Joseph Todaro Sr. relaxed in Florida and returned frequently to Buffalo to check on the crime family operations and his million dollar pizzeria and chicken wing business that is run by grandchildren, Joseph Todaro III and Carla Todaro.
In recent years, federal and local law enforcement have gone back and forth on the strength and size of the Buffalo crime family, from one of the strongest crime families in the nation to generally extinct, which most believe is highly exaggerated.
In the late 1990s, several other well established crime groups such as Hamilton and Toronto-based Calabrian Ndrangheta cells, Montreal based Sicilian clans and MC biker clubs such as the Hells Angels made direct and calculated moves to takeover Buffalo crime family operations in Ontario, leaving the Buffalo crime family's leaders in Ontario and the Todaro regime back in Buffalo at a crossroads of sorts concerning the crime family's future in Ontario. In 1997, long time Buffalo crime family members, "Johnny Pops" John Papalia, the crime family's Ontario based caporegime and and his Niagara Falls based lieutenant and "made" Buffalo soldier, Carmen Barillaro were assassinated by the rival, Calabrian Musitano crime family of Hamilton. Musitano clan leaders, brothers Pasquale "Pat" and Angelo Musitano Jr. were soon convicted and imprisoned on a ten year sentence related to the murders of Papalia and Barillaro.
The present Buffalo crime family is in decline as are many other traditional La Cosa Nostra crime families outside of New York and Chicago, the crime family is now alleged to have a membership of 40 made members and a number of associates who assist with the day to day criminal activities of the crime family, but law enforcement states that the Buffalo and Western New York area still has a traditional organized crime presence and that the Todaro family still lead the way with their most trusted allies and associates at their side.
La Nova Pizzeria
Joe Todaro started the famous La Nova pizzeria in North Tonawanda, New York in 1957 with the help of a good friend Sal DiGaetano. By the 1990s, Joseph Todaro, Sr. and his family had turned La Nova Pizza and Wing Company into the estimated #1 independent pizzeria in North America with annual sales that have been recorded at $25,000,000. The Todaro family often show their humanitarian side by donating large numbers of pizzas, wings and money to charities and other groups, including the American armed forces during the Gulf war. The family has established the annual "Feast of St. Joseph Table" where the Todaro family invite people from all over the Buffalo area to come and celebrate the Italian feast day with a table full of la Nova specialties. The younger Todaro generation, Joseph III and his sister Carla show their young, fun side by handing out over 4,000 bottles of free champagne to La Nova customers over the Christmas and New Years holiday.
Joseph Todaro, Sr. died on December 26, 2012 at age 89 following a lengthy illness.