Sam-Giancana

Salvatore Giancana (born Salvatore Giangana; June 15, 1908 – June 19, 1975), better known as Sam Giancana, was a Sicilian American mobster and boss of the Chicago Outfit from 1957–1966. Among his other nicknames were, “Momo”, “Mooney,” “Sam the Cigar,” and “Sammy.”

Giancana was at the height of his power when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated – and has been depicted in popular conspiracy theory folklore as one of the background movers of that event.

The 1995 TV film “Sugartime” depicts Giancana’s relationship with singer Phyllis McGuire of The McGuire Sisters. In the movie, Sam Giancana is played by John Turturro.

Video comes courtesy of You Tube:

So much for Hollywood.

Here’s what history has to tell us:

Giancana’s Early Life

Giancana was born as Salvatore Giangana to Sicilian immigrants in Little Italy, Chicago.

His father, Antonino (later simplified to Antonio) Giangana, owned a pushcart and briefly owned an Italian ice shop, which was later firebombed by gangland rivals of his son.

Criminal Ties

Sam Giancana joined the Forty-Two Gang (the 42ers), a juvenile street crew answering to political boss Joseph Esposito.

Giancana soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, a high earner, and a vicious killer.

After Esposito’s murder (in which Giancana was allegedly involved), the 42 Gang was transformed into a de facto extension of the Chicago Outfit.

The Outfit was initially wary of the 42ers, thinking them too wild. However, Giancana’s leadership qualities, the fact that he was an excellent “wheel man” with a get-away car, and his knack for making money on the street gained him the notice of higher-level Cosa Nostra figures like Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo.

In the late 1930s, Giancana became the first 42er to join the Outfit.

In 1942, Giancana also allegedly forced jazz musician Tommy Dorsey into letting singer Frank Sinatra out of his contract early, so that Sinatra could expand his career.

Family Life

On September 23, 1933, Sam married Angelina DeTolve, the daughter of immigrants from the Italian region of Basilicata. They had three daughters: Antoinette, Bonnie and Francine.

Angelina died in 1954, and left Sam to raise his daughters.

Sam never remarried after becoming a widower and was known as a good family man (despite frequent infidelities), and held his late wife in high regard and respect during their marriage and after her death.

All of the Giancana daughters have married at least once.

As of 1984, at least one daughter, Antoinette, had taken the “Giancana” name again.

Giancana’s Rise to Power

In 1945, after serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana (during which time he told his children he was away “at college”), Giancana made a name for himself by convincing Accardo (then the Outfit’s enforcement chief) to stage a take-over of Chicago’s African-American “policy” (lottery) pay-out system for The Outfit.

Giancana’s crew is believed to have been responsible for convincing African-American mobster Eddie Jones to leave this racket, and leave the country.

Giancana’s people were also responsible for the murder on August 4, 1952 of African American gambling boss Theodore Roe.

Both Jones and Roe were leading South Side “Policy Kings”. However, Roe had refused to surrender control of his operation as the Outfit had demanded.

To further complicate matters, on June 19, 1951, Roe had fatally shot Lennard “Fat Lennie” Caifano, a made man in Giancana’s organization.

The South Side “policy”-game takeover by the Outfit was not complete until another Outfit member – Jackie “the Lackey” Cerone – scared “Big Jim” Martin to Mexico, with two bullets to the head that did not kill him.

From then on, the lottery money started rolling in for The Outfit.

After this gambling war, the amount that this game produced for The Outfit was in the millions of dollars a year, and brought Giancana further notice. It is believed to have been a major factor in his being “anointed” as the Outfit’s new boss when Accardo stepped aside from being the front boss to becoming “consigliere,” in 1957.

However, it was generally understood that Accardo and Ricca still held the real power. No major business transactions (and certainly no hits) took place without Accardo and Ricca’s approval.

Giancana was present at the Mafia’s 1957 Apalachin Meeting at the Upstate New York estate of Joseph Barbara.

Later, Buffalo crime boss Stefano Magaddino and Giancana were overheard on a surveillance tape saying that the meeting should have taken place in the Chicago area. Giancana claimed that the Chicago area was “the safest place in the world” for a major underworld meeting, because he had several police chiefs on his payroll. If the syndicate ever wanted to hold a meeting in Chicago, Giancana said, they had nothing to fear because they had the area “locked up tight.”

Alleged CIA connections

It is widely reputed – and partially corroborated by the Church Committee Hearings – that during the Kennedy administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Giancana and other mobsters to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro. Giancana reportedly said that the CIA and the Cosa Nostra were “different sides of the same coin.”

The association between Giancana and JFK is indicated in the “Exner File” written by Judith Campbell Exner. Exner was reputed to be mistress to both Giancana and JFK – and claimed she delivered communications between the two, regarding Fidel Castro.

However, Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette, has stated her belief that her father was running a scam, in order to pocket millions of dollars in CIA funding.

Cuba and Castro

According to the recently-declassified CIA “Family Jewels” documents, Giancana and Tampa / Miami Syndicate leader Santo Trafficante, Jr. were contacted in September 1960 by a go-between from the CIA, Robert Maheu, about the possibility of an assassination attempt.

After Maheu had contacted Johnny Roselli – a Mafia member in Las Vegas, and Giancana’s number-two man – Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international business firms in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro.

He offered $150,000 for the “removal” of Castro through this operation. The documents suggest that neither Roselli, Giancana, nor Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job.

According to the files, it was Giancana who suggested employing a series of poison pills that could be used to doctor Castro’s food and drink. These pills were given by the CIA to Giancana’s nominee, Juan Orta – whom Giancana presented as being a corrupt official in the new Cuban government, and one who had access to Castro.

After a series of six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro’s food, Orta abruptly demanded to be excused from the mission, handing over the job to another, unnamed participant.

Later, a second attempt was mounted through Giancana and Trafficante using Dr. Anthony Verona, the leader of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become “disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta”.

Verona requested $10,000 in expenses and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, it is unclear how far the second attempt went, as the entire program was canceled shortly thereafter due to the launching of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961.

Intrigues

At the same time, Giancana (according to the “Family Jewels”) approached Maheu to bug the room of his then-mistress Phyllis McGuire – whom he suspected of having an affair with comedian Dan Rowan.

Although documents suggest Maheu acquiesced, the bug was not planted, due to the arrest of the agent who had been given the task of installing the device.

According to the documents, Robert Kennedy moved to block the prosecution of the agent and of Maheu (who was soon linked to the bugging attempt), at the CIA’s request.

Giancana and McGuire, who had a long lasting affair, were originally introduced by Frank Sinatra. During part of the affair, (according to Sam’s daughter Antoinette), McGuire had a concurrent affair with President Kennedy.

Giancana’s Downfall

Giancana’s behavior was too high profile for Outfit tastes, and attracted far too much federal scrutiny. He also refused to cut his underlings in on his lavish profits from offshore casinos in Iran and Central America.

Both of these factors resulted in much bitterness among the Outfit’s rank-and-file.

Giancana was also the subject of many hours of wiretap surveillance. On one recording, he was heard to say “We’re whacking a lot of the wrong guys lately.”

As a result, Giancana was deposed in the mid 1960s by Ricca and Accardo as day-to-day boss, and replaced by Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa.

After about seven years of exile inside a lavish villa in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Giancana was arrested by Mexican authorities in 1974 and deported to the United States.

He arrived back in Chicago on July 21, 1974.

The Death of Sam Giancana

After his return to the U.S., Giancana joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a witness in the prosecution of organized crime in Chicago.

The police detailed officers to guard his house in Oak Park, Illinois.

However, on the night of June 19, 1975, someone recalled the police detail.

A gunman later entered Giancana’s kitchen and shot him in the back of the head as he was frying sausage and peppers.
After Giancana fell to the ground, the gunman turned him over and shot him six more times in the face and neck.

Investigators suspected that the murderer was a close friend whom Giancana had let into the house. One reason for this suspicion was that Giancana, due to his heart problems, could not eat spicy foods. Therefore, he might have been cooking for the friend.

Giancana was interred next to his wife, Angelina, in a family mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois.

Conspiracy Theories

Giancana was killed shortly before he was scheduled to appear before a U. S. Senate committee investigating supposed CIA and Cosa Nostra collusion in plots to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Some commentators have alleged that the CIA killed Giancana because of his troubled history with the agency. However, former CIA Director William Colby has been quoted as saying, “We had nothing to do with it.”

Another theory is that Trafficante crime family boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. ordered Giancana’s murder due to mob fears that Giancana would testify about Cosa Nostra and CIA plots to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Trafficante would have needed permission from Outfit bosses Tony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa to kill Giancana. Johnny Roselli – whose body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating off Miami – was definitely killed on Trafficante’s orders.

Most investigators believe that Aiuppa ordered the Giancana murder. Giancana was still refusing to share any of his offshore gambling profits with the Outfit. In addition, Giancana was reportedly scheming to become Outfit boss again.

According to former Mafia associate Michael J. Corbitt, Aiuppa seized control of Giancana’s casinos in the aftermath of the murder, strategically sharing them with his caporegimes.

Longtime friend and associate Dominic “Butch” Blasi was with Giancana the night he was murdered, and was questioned by police as a suspect. FBI experts and Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette, do not consider him Giancana’s killer.

Other Mafia suspects are Harry Aleman, Charles “Chuckie” English, and Charles Nicoletti.

Within days of Giancana’s murder, Willow Springs police chief and Outfit associate Michael J. Corbitt discussed the murder with capo Salvatore Bastone.

Bastone told him, “You know, Sam sure loved that little guy in Oak Park… Tony Spilotro…. Tony was over to Sam’s house all the time. He lived right by there. Did you know Tony even figured out a way where he could get in through the back of Sam’s place without anybody seeing him? He’d go through other people’s yards, go over fences…”

When Corbitt asked for a reason for Giancana’s death, Bastone quipped, “Let’s just say that Sam should’ve remembered what happened to Bugsy Siegel.”

Indeed.

A cautionary tale.

And one I hope will sustain you, till our next one.

Peace.

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