Pellegrino Morano (deported 1919) was a leader of the Neapolitan Camorra and its American "Grand Master" from roughly 1907- 1917 he was also one of the earliest bosses of the family which became known as the Gambino crime family.
The Camorra had a presence in Italian communities all across America from the mid-19th century and was considered a major rival of the Sicilian Mafia for power over the Italian-American underworld. In New York City, the Camorra ruled Brooklyn until the early 20th century. However, in New Orleans, the Neapolitan Camorra rivaled the Sicilian Mafia until the two absorbed after World War II.
Boss of bosses
Morano was the godfather of the Brooklyn Camorra and had his base of operations in an Italian restaurant in Coney Island. There he met frequently with underlings for dinner and was known to make his disdain for all Sicilians known by toasting, "Long life and prosperity to all Neapolitans, death and destruction to all Sicilians!"
Morano was sought out by Camorristi from across America seeking his advice and counsel. High ranking Camorristi like Andreo Ricci of Philadelphia would come to New York to meet with Morano to discuss Camorra operations and their planned expansion. Morano led the Camorra's expansion into other areas of New York, but soon came into direct conflict with Sicilian mafiosi in Manhattan, as Morano and his group tried to take over gambling and extortion operations in the Sicilian enclaves of East Harlem and Greenwich Village.
By 1914 the Morano and the Morello crime family of East Harlem were at war for domination of the most lucrative rackets in the Italian quarters of New York such as the Italian lottery, extortion, and food distribution routes. Pellegrino Morano and his lieutenant, Alessandro Vollero, the leader of the Navy Street Gang, were planning to eliminate their Sicilian rivals in New York and take over the Italian underworld completely. Camorra leaders from across America had met in New York several times in a council of war and it was decided that the other Camorra groups would support their New York brethren against the Sicilians.
The Brooklyn Camorra's major move was expansion into the territory of the Morello crime family, the top Sicilian mafia group in New York which was based out of East Harlem, Manhattan and by 1914 the hostilities had increased and a shooting war began between the two mafia factions. The war between the Neapolitans and Sicilians had raged for close to two years when Morano decided to strike at the heart of the Sicilian leadership.
The Neapolitans had approached the Sicilians previously with the idea of a meeting to see if an accord could be reached between the two Italian crime groups. On September 7, 1916 Morello crime family leader, Nicholas Morello and his bodyguard, Charles Ubriaco arrived at the Navy St. Cafe in Brooklyn for a sit-down with Morano. As Morello and Unbriaco reached the sidewalk in front of the cafe a five man hit team fired at the two Sicilian mafiosi in broad daylight. The Camorra leaders were sure that they would have no problems with possible witnesses in the community, but Morano and Vollero were arrested within days of the murders due to the defection of a recently inducted Camorra member who was used as one of the shooters.
Instead of wiping out the mafia the Camorristi lost their leader as Morano was prosecuted for his involvement in the murders of the Sicilian leaders and was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1917. He showed no signs of nervousness or fear after the guilty verdict was read and as the mafia leader was being removed from the courtroom, Morano was surrounded by dozens of Italians who braved the guards and bowed, showered him with kisses on his hands and forehead and wept for him. Morano was allegedly deported back to Italy in 1919. The Morano blood line had lost its place in organizied crime until the 1950s when a nephew, Dominic "Sarge" Morano, took his place as a soldier, after serving in WWII. It was his son, Michael, "East Coast Mickey," Morano, who made a name as a wise guy. He found flaws in crime plans and made corrections which avoided violence and made money "hand over fist" for the bosses. Alleged to be involved in at least 27 killings he was never convicted of a crime and was permitted to retire in the early 1990s after naming a successor to take over his crew.
The Camorra/Mafia war in New York ended soon after Pellegrino Morano was convicted and sent to prison. By 1920 the balance of power had shifted and the Sicilians began to dominate the City's underworld. The remaining Neapolitans in New York aligned themselves with the various Sicilian mafia groups within the city boroughs and the five New York crime families began to form.