Carlos-Marcello

Carlos “The Little Man” Marcello (February 6, 1910 – March 3, 1993) was a Sicilian-American Mafioso who became the boss of the New Orleans crime family during the 1940s, and held this position for the next 30 years.

Marcello, together with fellow crime bosses Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, Jr., has long been suspected of involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – but no such links have ever been proved.

Here’s some footage of the man testifying before the U.S. Congress, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination (Video comes courtesy of YouTube):

And here’s what history has to tell us about the man, himself:

Marcello’s Early Life

Born as Calogero Minacori (or Minacore) to Sicilian parents in Tunis, Tunisia, Marcello was brought to the United States in 1911.

His family settled in a decaying plantation house near Metairie, Louisiana.

Carlos turned to petty crime in the French Quarter. He was later imprisoned for masterminding a crew of teenage gangsters who carried out armed robberies in the small towns surrounding New Orleans.

At the time, local newspapers compared him to the character of Fagin from Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist”.

This conviction was later overturned. However, the following year Marcello was convicted of assault and robbery, and was sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for nine years. He was released after five years.

Gangster

In 1938, Marcello was arrested and charged with the sale of more than 23 pounds of marijuana. Despite receiving another lengthy prison sentence and a $76,830 fine, Marcello served less than 10 months in prison.

Upon his release, Marcello became associated with Frank Costello, leader of the Genovese crime family, in New York City.

At the time, Costello was involved in transporting illegal slot machines from New York to New Orleans. Marcello provided the muscle, and arranged for the machines to be placed in local businesses.

Louisiana Crime Boss

By the end of 1947, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana’s illegal gambling network. He had also joined forces with New York Mob associate Meyer Lansky, in order to skim money from some of the most important casinos in the New Orleans area.

According to former members of the Chicago Outfit, Marcello was also assigned a cut of the money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, in exchange for providing “muscle” in Florida real estate deals.

By this time, Marcello had been selected as the “Godfather” of the New Orleans Mafia, by the family’s capos and the Commission. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.

Marcello continued the family’s long-standing tradition of fierce independence from interference by Mafiosi in other areas. He enforced a policy that forbade Mafiosi from other families from visiting Louisiana without permission.

Crime and Politics

On March 24, 1959, Marcello appeared before a United States Senate committee investigating organized crime. Serving as Chief Counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee.

In response to committee questioning, Marcello invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities and associates.

In 1960, Marcello donated $500,000 through Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa, to the Republican campaign of Richard M. Nixon, challenging the Democrat John F. Kennedy.

Deportation to Guatemala – Or Not

After becoming President, John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide range of issues, including the attempt to tackle organized crime.

In March 1961, under Attorney General Robert Kennedy – acting on requests which had first been made to the Eisenhower administration by former Louisiana state police superintendent Francis Grevemberg – the CIA abducted Marcello and forced him to jump from a C-130 aircraft (at night) over Central America.

Their plan backfired when Marcello reappeared in New Orleans just two weeks later.

On April 4, of that year, Marcello was arrested by the authorities and taken forcibly to Guatemala.

Once again, he reappeared in Baton Rouge, two weeks later.

Conspiracy

Undercover informants reported that Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy, at one time uttering the traditional Sicilian death threat curse, “Take the stone from my shoe”.

In September 1962, Marcello allegedly told private investigator Edwin Nicholas Becker that, “A dog will continue to bite you if you cut off its tail…,” (a reference to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.), “…whereas if you cut off the dog’s head…,” (meaning President Kennedy), “… it would cease to cause trouble”.

Becker allegedly reported that Marcello, “clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy killed in some way”.

Marcello allegedly told another informant that he would need to take out “insurance” for the assassination by, “…. setting up some nut to take the fall for the job, just like they do in Sicily”.

Just before Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby allegedly made contact with Marcello, and Tampa, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, about a labor problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).

G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, published, “The Plot to Kill the President” in 1981.

In the book, Blakey argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Blakey believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was a shooter, but also believes that there was at least one other gunman involved.

Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Chicago Outfit boss Salvatore “Sam Mooney” Giancana were complicit in planning the assassination.

On January 14, 1992, a New York Post story claimed Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa had all been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963, Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: “You won’t believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the President.” He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.

In his autobiography, “Mob Lawyer” (1994), (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab), Ragano added that in July 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santo Trafficante, concerning plans to kill President Kennedy.

When Kennedy was killed, Hoffa apparently told Ragano, “I told you that they could do it. I’ll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me.” He added: “This means Bobby is out as Attorney General.” Marcello later told Ragano, “When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big.”

Exonerated?

After Kennedy’s assassination, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello. They came to the conclusion that Marcello was not involved in the assassination.

On the other hand, they also stated that they, “… did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized crime figure,” and that Marcello earned his living, “… as a tomato salesman and real estate investor.”

As a result of this investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link between Ruby and Marcello.

Arrest

In 1966, Marcello was arrested in New York City after having met with the National Commission.

The meeting was reportedly called because Marcello’s leadership was being challenged by Santo Trafficante Jr. and Anthony Carolla, the son of Marcello’s predecessor as boss of the New Orleans Combine, Sylvestro Carolla.

The Commission had reportedly ruled in Marcello’s favor just before the police burst in.

Marcello was charged with consorting with known felons.

After a long, drawn-out legal battle, Marcello was convicted of assaulting an FBI agent whom he had punched in the face, on his return to Louisiana. Sentenced to two years in prison, he served less than six months, and was released on March 12, 1971.

The BriLab Indictment

In 1981, Marcello, Aubrey W. Young (a former aide to Governor John J. McKeithen), Charles E. Roemer, II (former commissioner of administration to Governor Edwin Washington Edwards), and two other men were indicted in U.S. District Court in New Orleans for conspiracy, racketeering, and mail and wire fraud, in a scheme to bribe state officials to give the five men multi-million dollar insurance contracts.

The charges were the result of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe known as BriLab.

U.S. District Judge Morey Sear allowed the admission of secretly-recorded conversations that he said demonstrated corruption at the highest levels of state government.

Marcello and Roemer were convicted, but Young and the two others were acquitted.

Marcello stayed out of prison for BriLab while his conviction was being appealed.

He finally reported to prison in 1983, when his appeal was denied.

The Death of Carlos Marcello

Early in 1989, Marcello suffered a series of strokes that left him severely disabled, and by the end of March, he was showing obvious signs of Alzheimer’s disease. At times he became so disoriented that he thought he was living in a hotel, and could not recognize family members who visited him.

In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his BriLab conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled.

In October – after having served six years and six months of his sentence – Marcello was released.

He returned to his white marble, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course in Metairie.

Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses, and watched over by his wife and family. Apparently, he lost the power of speech and regressed to his infancy.

He was never seen in public again, and died on March 3, 1993.

The Marcello family and its descendants still own or control a significant amount of real estate in southeast Louisiana.

Nice work, if you can get it.

That’s all, for this one.

I hope you’ll join me, for our next story.

Till then.

Peace.

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