Vincenzo John Rao (June 21, 1898 – September 25, 1988) also known as Vincent or Vinny, was a New York City mobster who served as consigliere in the Lucchese crime family.
Vincenzo John Rao was born on June 21, 1898 in Palermo, Sicily. Vincent Rao was a short, heavy-set man with an aggressive temperament. In later years, he dressed in expensive silk and woolen garments. His father was Antonio Rao and his mother Liboria Gagliano. On his mothers side, Rao was a distant relative to Lucchese crime family founder Gaetano Gagliano. Vincent Rao had a brother, Calogero "Charles" Rao and a sister, Mary Speciale. His cousin, gangster Joseph Rao. Vincenzo Rao was married to Carmelina Alberti and they had two daughters, Nina Vento and Liboria Pancaldo.
In the early 1910's, Rao's family moved to Manhattan's heavily Italian East Harlem. Rao had uncles working for the Black Hand on both sides of his family. This soon led to Vincent associating with powerful New York mobsters in the Mafia such as Nicholas "Nick" Morello, Gaetano Reina, Vincenzo Terranova and Jack Dragna. Vincent and his brother joined gangster Stefano LaSalle in committing petty crimes. On December 5, 1921, Rao became a naturalized United States citizen in New York City.
Reina crime family
Rao continued working for the Black Hand and joined the 107th Street gang under Gaetano Lucchese. The 107th Street gang was under the protection of the Reina family boss Gaetano Reina. Rao committed crimes for his new boss, until Reina was murdered on February 26, 1930. Giuseppe Masseria appointed Joseph Pinzolo as the new boss of the Reina family. The family then split into two factions, the Gagliano/Lucchese faction and the Pinzolo/Masseria faction. Months later the Castellammarese War broke out in New York City for control over all the Italian gangs in America. The Gagliano/Lucchese faction murdered Joseph Pinzolo on September 5, 1930, allowing Gaetano "Tom" Gagliano to become the new boss. Rao aligned with Gaetano Gagliano and served him during the Castellammarese war.
Lucchese crime family
After the Castellammarese War, Rao remained a member of the Bronx/East Harlem Gagliano family. In 1953, new boss Gaetano Lucchese promoted Rao to Consigliere. Rao was already a top member of the Lucchese crime family with operations in East Harlem, the Bronx and Westchester County.
In 1957, Rao was arrested with 60 other mobsters at the abortive Apalachin meeting in rural Apalachin, New York. When asked by investigators why he was at the meeting, Rao said he went there for the luncheon buffet and did not speak to anyone else because he was not "introduced".
In 1963, mobster Joseph "Joe" Valachi became a government informant and told authorities about the Mafia. Valachi named Rao as the Lucchese consigliere, guaranteeing him constant government surveillance during the following years. In 1965, Rao was convicted on perjury charges and was sentenced to five years in prison. At the same time the longtime boss Gaetano Lucchese had become ill and Rao was thought as suitable successor. His chance to become the new boss never happened due to his trials. Rao remained as consigliere under Carmine Tramunti, with his criminal interest in gambling, money laundering, labor unions and real estate. Officially, Rao was a contractor and union official who also owned a garage, a restaurant, and a liquor store.
On September 25, 1988, Rao died of natural causes. He was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.