Matthew Ianniello was born in 1920 in Little Italy, Manhattan. He grew up in the Italian neighborhoods of New York. Ianiello allegedly got his nickname “Matty The Horse” in a youth baseball game. Ianiello was a gifted player with a hard swing. During one game, things got out of control. The opposing pitcher threw a hard pitch into the face of the batter. A fight erupted in which Ianiello knocked down the pitcher, who was older and taller than him. After this episode, someone remarked : “That boy is as strong as a horse.”
In 1940, Ianniello started working for his uncle as a waiter in a restaurant in the Brooklyn dockyards. In 1942 or 1943, Ianniello enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in World War II. In 1945 Ianiello returned home as a decorated war veteran, having received a purple heart and a bronze star. He went back to work at his uncle's restaurant and by 1949 became partners with his uncle in a second restaurant, Matty's Towncrest Restaurant.
In 1960, Ianniello became partners with Edward L. DeCurtis, a longtime associate, in running private after-hours drinking clubs for gay men. Ianniello would eventually own a strings of clubs and nightclubs for both gay and straight men.
Ianniello eventually controlled International Brotherhood of Teamsters bus drivers Local 1181, giving him the power to extort payments from school bus companies in New York as well as the union driver.
On February 2, 1965, Ianniello was indicted on contempt of grand jury charges for refusal to testify. However, the charges were dismissed in 1966.
At the beginning of the 1970s Ianniello, now promoted to capo. By now, Ianniello controlled over 80 restaurants and sex-oriented clubs in New York, including most of those located in the Times Square area of Manhattan. Officially he still had a respectable job with the union.
In 1972, Colombo crime family rebel Joey Gallo was murdered at Umberto's, a restaurant in Little Italy that was secretly owned by Ianniello. On April 7, 1972, early in morning, Gallo and his party arrived at Umberto's for a late night snack. When he arrived, Gallo greeted Ianniello. A Colombo associate sitting at the bar saw Gallo and immediately left to notify his superiors. Soon afterwards, three armed Colombo associates stormed into the restaurant and shot and killed Gallo. Ianniello was in the kitchen at the time and missed the entire attack. Ianniello later claimed no prior knowledge of the attack and was not charged in relation to it.
On February 28, 1985, Ianniello was indicted in federal court in New York on charges of racketeering charges involving the operation of several restaurants, bars and carting companies. Using a wiretap on Ianniello's office, agents assembled proof that he was skimming profits from several establishments that he secretly owned. On December 30, 1985, Ianniello was convicted numerous counts. On February 16, 1986, Ianniello was sentenced to six years in federal prison on the 1985 charges.
On May 13, 1986, Ianniello was acquitted on all charges in the 1986 indictment on racketeering in the garbage industry. On May 17, 1986, Ianiello was indicted in federal court in New York on new charges of labor racketeering, construction bid-rigging, extortion, gambling and murder conspiracies.
On May 18, 1988, Ianniello was indicted again in Newark, New Jersey on racketeering charges involving the 1984 Genovese takeover of a gravel company in Edgewater, New Jersey. On October 13, 1988, Ianniello was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison after being convicted of the 1986 bid rigging racketeering charges.
In 1995, Ianniello was released from prison. When Genovese boss Vincent Gigante went to prison, Ianniello became acting boss. By 1998, Ianiello was deeply involved in Teamsters Union Local 1181, a bus drivers union. Through the union, Ianiello forced a medical center to pay $100,000 to renew their lease and then make regular cash payments in order to keep it. Between 2001 and 2005, protection fees on Connecticut garbage businesses earned Ianniello more than $800,000.
On July 27, 2005, Ianniello was indicted on racketeering charges in New York involving extortion and loansharking. Agents arresting Ianniello at his home reported that he was watching the film The Godfather III. On June 10, 2006, Ianiello was indicted in federal court in New Haven on charges of racketeering involving trash hauling in Southwestern Connecticut. In 2006, Ianniello pleaded guilty to the New York racketeering charges and received an 18 month prison sentence. The same year, he pleaded guilty in Connecticut to two racketeering charges for extorting the trash hauling industry and was sentenced to two years in federal prison to run concurrent with the 18 month New York sentence. Ianniello's attorney had ask for leniency, saying Ianniello had cancer and was in general poor health.
On April 3, 2009, Ianniello was released from the Federal Medical Center (FMC) for prisoners in Butner, North Carolina. On August 15, 2012, Ianniello died at his Long Island home in Old Westbury, New York of health problems related to heart ailments and other illnesses, including prostate cancer.