Sylvestro Carolla (June 17, 1896 – 1972) was a leader of the New Orleans crime family who was nicknamed "Silver Dollar Sam". He transformed Charles Matranga's Black Hand gang into a Cosa Nostra crime family.
Born Silvestro Davide Carollo in Terrasini, Sicily, Carollo immigrated to the United States in 1903 to join his parents in the French Quarter of New Orleans. By 1918, Carollo was a high-ranking member of the New Orleans Black Hand gang. In 1922, Matranga retired and Carollo became gang leader. Taking over Matranga's minor bootlegging operations, Carollo waged war against rival bootleggers. In December 1930, with the murder of rival William Bailey, Carollo gained full control of bootlegging in New Orleans
Carollo was married to Caterina Carollo and had three children, Anthony, Michael, and Sarah. Carollo owned several businesses in the New Orleans area, including the St. Charles Tavern, and a cafe in Terrasini.
Height of power
As his power increased, Carollo gained considerable political influence in New Orleans. In 1929, boss Al Capone was trying to force Carollo to supply Capone's Chicago Outfit with imported alcohol and cut off Joe Aiello, a rival bootlegger in Chicago. Arriving by train in New Orleans with several Outfit mobsters to press his case, Capone's party was intercepted at the station by Carollo and several New Orleans policemen. Carollo's cops reportedly disarmed Capone's henchmen and then broke their fingers. Capone was forced to immediately board another train to Chicago without any concessions from Carollo.
In 1930, Carollo was arrested for the shooting death of federal narcotics agent Cecil Moore during an undercover drug buy. Despite testimony by several New Orleans policemen that Carollo was in New York at the time of the murder, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
Released in 1934, Carollo negotiated a deal with two New York mobsters, Frank Costello of the Luciano crime family and Phillip "Dandy Phil" Kastel of the Genovese crime family, along with Louisiana Senator Huey Long, to bring illegal slot machines to New Orleans. The new mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, had started attacking mob gambling establishments in that city, and Costello thought that New Orleans might be a safer environment for them. Therefore, it was arranged that Carollo and his lieutenant Carlos Marcellowould run illegal gambling operations in New Orleans undisturbed for several years.
Deportation and exile
In 1938, a narcotics arrest would signal the decline of Carollo's fortunes. In 1940, after Carollo had served two years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, a court ordered him deported to Italy. However, in 1941, this order was delayed indefinitely when Italy declared war on the United States. Throughout World War II, Carollo was able to continue running the New Orleans crime family. At the end of the war, Louisiana Congressman Jimmy Morrison proposed a special bill in the U.S. House of Representatives making Carollo a naturalized citizen. If this bill had passed, it would have nullified the original 1940 deportation order. However, Washington D.C. reporter and columnist Drew Pearson exposed this deal, and the bill never passed Congress. In April 1947, seven years after the original order was issued, Carollo was finally deported.
Arriving in Sicily, Carollo organized a partnership with fellow exile Charles "Lucky" Luciano, establishing criminal enterprises in Mexico. In 1949, Carollo returned to the United States, but was deported again in 1950. At this time, control of the New Orleans crime family reverted to Carlos Marcello. In 1952, Carollo was arrested in Italy for swindling and narcotics trafficking. In 1970, after living in Palermo, Sicily for 20 years, Carollo once again returned to the U.S. According to Life Magazine, Marcello had asked Carollo to come home to mediate disputes within the New Orleans family. Despite another deportation attempt, Sylvestro Carollo continued to live in the U.S. until his death in 1970.
His son Anthony Carollo remained active in the New Orleans crime family for many years. At the time of his arrest and conviction in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Hardcrust" sting in the mid-1990s, Anthony Carollo had become the boss of the family.