There doesn’t seem to be any doubt these days that the Mafia exists. In fact, that goes without saying.
But in the 1950s, not everyone subscribed to that assumption.
Jerry Capeci of Gang Land News, the premiere website on the Mafia, has unearthed documents which show that J. Edgar Hoover’s agents in the late 1950s were asking mobsters if the Mafia existed.
On March 24, 1958, Mafia boss Joe Profaci, a charter member of the Mafia’s Commission that was established in 1931, told two agents who stopped at the gangster’s offic e at the Carmela Mia Packing Company in Brooklyn that he knew “nothing of the Mafia organization” but “assumed it was just a term used in referring to Italians.”
Agents got more of the same on October 15, 1958 when they stopped by to chat with Anthony (Tony Bender) Strollo, the powerful Genovese family capo who would fall out of favor with his mob superiors and disappear four years later in a still-unsolved murder.
“Strollo claimed that the Mafia was a fantasy created by newspapers,” said the report. In an August 22, 1958 interview, Michael Genovese, a brother of the “top underworld leader” Vito Genovese, (right) “ridiculed the idea that the Mafia ever existed outside the nation of Italy or that the criminals in the United States of Italian extraction are members of such an organization,” the report stated.
Well, as we’ve learned , The Godfather, the Sopranos and Goodfellas were based on something more than someone’s imagination. And Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was more than just a hoodlum wannabe.