The Pittston-Scranton Family of LCN, based in Northeastern Pennsylvania, was for many years, a little known but influential entity of the American Mafia.
Better known as the Bufalino Family, they were originally formulated from newly arrived immigrants from the town of Montedoro in Sicily. This group operated primarily in the coal mines section of Pennsylvania.
These early mafiosi were known as Black Hand extortionists who preyed on the community at large, slowly but surely infiltrating and later coming to control much of the coal industry around their territory.
As Prohibition came into existence in 1920, this group was well poised to capitalize on the Volstead Act, building and operating alcohol stills, while knocking out the competition by either violence or domination by extortion until they alone were the top bootleggers in their area…..they made millions!
The first leaders were arguably Stefano (Steve) LaTorre, who had immigrated to America in early 1880, and joined shortly thereafter by his brother-in-law Santo (King of the Night) Volpe who took over as Capo of their fledgling borgata.
These two bosses, augmented by such close amici as Giovanni (John) Sciandra and Calogero (Charlie) Bufalino, became the original top hierarchy of this group. Collectively, they would rule for the first 50 years of the Family’s existence.
Although coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, Volpe was a powerhouse in the Mafia, as he had been back in Sicily. His reputation was nationwide within The Brotherhood.
Volpe spearheaded the infiltration and extortion of many coal mining companies, eventually gaining ownership interests in several of the larger, more important companies.
His troops also infiltrated several labor unions and coal industry association groups that oversaw the vast coal industry. Multimillion dollar coal-mining contracts and related industry businesses were soon under the knuckle of Volpe, LaTorre, Sciandra and their soldiers.
These “labor rackets” and the extensive alcohol-bootlegging networks they operated during the Prohibition years (thanks to the Volstead Act), in addition to the Italian lottery racket were among the “bread and butter” income for this early group.
He would lead his loyal followers for over 20 years, from approximately 1908 to 1933.
After the Prohibition years, which ran from 1920 through 1931, the mob nationwide started to make the shift into big-time gambling.
Liquor had been the catalyst to create millionaires out of many racketeers and mafiosi.
They now had both the bankroll and the established organization and network to seamlessly shift gears into horse and sports bookmaking, the policy racket, slot machines and dice, cards, roulette and other casino games.
The Italians had always run the Italian lottery (a form of numbers) and Ziganette card games among themselves. But they now expanded operations into the general public.
Soon, they would come to dominate these rackets as well, murdering the competition, or extorting any independents allowed to operate in their territory. It was typical Mafia-style control…. to monopolize any activity they focused on.-
By the early 1940s, John Sciandra had become the “Representante” of the group.
Sciandra was the son of a mafioso and early arrival from Montedoro in Sicily named Angelo Sciandra, one of the original “Mustache Pete’s” so to speak,
John Sciandra was a well-known businessman and powerbroker who was revered within his Scranton Wilkes-Barre community.
During his tenure he strengthened the small borgata’s stranglehold over the coal mining industry, infiltrating the various coal companies and the very labor unions that were supposed to represent its workers.
Remember, until other forms of “power” were developed, coal was integral to people’s lives. John Sciandra became a stockholder and primary owner-partner in the Knox Coal Co. of Exeter, among several other coal mining companies.
As a side note, during the early decades, this borgata probably numbered around 40 to 50 inducted members and many more “associates”.
They would continue to induct men on a very limited basis as the years went on through the 1950s and 1960s to the point that by the early 1970s into the 1980s, the Family’s membership numbered no more than 25 to 30 mafiosi. They relied on a large contingent of “associates” for the rest of their years of operation, choosing to no longer induct men.
The borgata would become extinct through attrition…It was their death knell.
During the early years, there was also a strong contingent of Sicilian mafiosi from Castellammare del Golfo who had settled in the Upstate New York communities of Endicott, Binghamton, and Endwell and were a powerful entity, who those from Montedoro would share power with in later years.
Giuseppe (Joe the Barber) Barbara, started out as a bootlegger and enforcer under this group.
After Sciandra’s retirement, Barbara would rise to become the Capo, shifting the power base from Scranton to Binghamton, New York where he lived, which although technically in another state, was right over the border by but a few miles.
Barbara operated with a small tight-knit crew that numbered several dozen trusted associates who mostly originated from his hometown in Trapani province, settling within the Endicott and Binghamton sections of Upstate New York.
These included soldiers Patsy Turrigiano, Gov Guarnieri, Sonny Cannone (his godson), Patsy Sciortino, Carlo Barbara (Joe’s brother), Bart Guccia, Manny Zicari, Sam Galante and Blackie Aleccia.
Each of them were highly enough placed and thought of within the hierarchy to have attended the infamous November 1957 Apalachin Mob Summit at the Barbara estate.
They oversaw a network of dozens more New York affiliates, as well as, a large rank and file who were based in their Pittston-Scranton, Pennsylvania home base.
As his second in command, he picked Rosario (Russ) Bufalino, the nephew of Charlie Bufalino.
This was an era where law enforcement was becoming more aware of the significance of their presence around the Scranton area, and starting to recognize them as more than just isolated racketeers and criminals, but a well organized entity often referred to as the Mafia.
As underboss, Bufalino served his Capo Joe Barbara loyally, carrying out orders as directed while overseeing the Pittston-Scranton area for the Family as the de-facto leader in that area.
Among Russ Bufalino’s closest aides and henchmen was Swimmy DeBella, Cappy Guimento and Murph Loquasto, three trusted soldiers who did his bidding and dirty work for years. They, along with Capodecina Sandy Sciandra, Dave Osticco, Nick Alaimo and Angelo Polizzi rounded out the core of the Pennsylvania faction of the Family.
Collectively, they oversaw the smooth operation of the coal mining and garment rackets, gambling networks and other street racket activity the borgata’s members and associates engaged in over the decades…. and DeBella, Guimento and Loquasto in particular handled any “problems” or strong-arm work that was required.
Bufalino became interested in the garment industry.
Within a few years he had invested in several dress factories who received major sub-contract work from top New York City garment manufacturers. His sewing machine operators would sew the various garment pieces together, later shipping those same garments back to New York by mob affiliated trucking firms for nationwide distribution.
As the years passed, the Pittston-Scranton garment industry would expand to huge proportions, thanks in large part to Bufalino and the Scranton mob.
At the height of his power, Russ Bufalino was said to control upwards of 50 garment firms and related companies, and opened the door for many of his mob brethren from other borgatas to operate in his area running their own “non-union” or “sweetheart” contracted dress factories.
He would come to spend at least three to four days every week in Manhattan for decades, overseeing his vast garment interests, entrusting several key soldiers and associates to help him run operations.
When in the city, he always resided at the same preferred Hotel Forest on Manhattan’s West Side, and held court nightly for years at the popular Vesuvio Ristorante, a top Italian eatery Bufalino was said to hold a hidden financial interest in.
Giuseppe (Joe) Barbara meanwhile, more closely controlled and oversaw their New York State holdings. Binghampton, Endicott, and Endwell, among other districts like the Albany area came under the purview of Barbara and his men, many of whom were Castellammarese natives.
Bookmaking, numbers-lottery and other forms of gambling, shylocking, labor-union rackets, extortion, alcohol stills, thefts, business infiltration, etc., were all daily pursuits of theirs.
Barbara has secured the rights for a large Canada Dry franchise for the Endicott area, as well as other holdings like extensive real estate, bars and lounges, restaurants, and jukebox-vending machines his trusted minions operated for themselves and their borgata.
Joe Barbara, as well as the Bufalino and Sciandra Families traced close connections to blood family and dear friends up in the Buffalo area where the Magaddino mob operated, and the Falcone brothers of Utica, NY.
John Sciandra’s brother Andrew operated in Buffalo as well. Several members including Joe Barbara and Charlie and Russ Bufalino had started out there before migrating to Binghamton and Pittston, respectively.
With the death of Barbara several years later in 1959, Russ Bufalino officially took over as Boss of the Family. He would lead for next 35 years until his own death in 1994 at the age of 90.
This network spanned a wide geographical area, operating in varied sections of three states: PA, NY, and DE.
The following cities and towns were where they were most prominent:
• PENNSYLVANIA: Pittston, Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Dunmore, Old Forge, Hazelton, Exeter, Harrisburg, Wyoming, Eastern, Carbondale, Duryea, Kingston.
• NEW YORK STATE: Binghamton, Endicott, Endwell, Albany, Vestal, Geneva, Schenectady, Oneida, Fulton, and in New York City’s garment district.
• WILMINGTON, DELAWARE
• SOUTH FLORIDA: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Coral Springs.
The network’s hierarchy from the late 1950s (after Barbara’s death) through 1980s
And soldiers are represented from 1930 through the 1980s era. Various Capodecina were replaced or shifted around through the years as the need arose;
Rosario (Russ) Bufalino
Edward (The Conductor) Sciandra
Vincenzo (Dave Osticco) Sticco
Stefano (Steve) LaTorre
Santo (King of the Night) Volpe
Giuseppe (Joe) Barbara, Sr.
Dominick (Nick) Alaimo
Angelo (Sandy) Sciandra
William (Billy) Medico
Anthony (Gov) Guarnieri – NYS
Joseph Saraceno – NYS
Joseph Falcone – NYS*
* In later years Utica’s Joe Falcone and Anthony DeStefano were said to have transferred their membership to the Bufalino Family.
“New York State Soldiers”
• Carlo (Charlie) Barbara (Joe’s brother) • Samuel Rotella •Augustine (Augie) Riolo
• Louis Marconi • Louis Cordi
• Nicholas Benfante • Emanuel (Manny) Zicari • Ignazio (Sonny) Cannone
• Frank Cannone • Salvatore (Blackie) Aleccia • Anthony J. Mosco
• Vincenzo (Jimmy) Coppola • Salvatore Saraceno • Pasquale (Patsy) Turrigiano
• Anthony Santacroce • Giuseppe Galante • Salvatore (Sam) Galante
• Bartolomeo (Bart) Guccia • Pasquale (Patsy) Sciortino • William (Brooklyn Willy) Meringolo
• Francesco Vultaggio • Anthony DeStefano • Charles (Charlie Lips) Fratello
….. and associates:
• Joseph (Blackie) Mazza • Anthony (Tony Bentro) Bentrovito
• Joseph Barbara, Jr. • Joseph Marconi
• Luigi (Lou) Pagnotti • Angelo Polizzi • Vincenzo (Jimmy) Amato
• John Parente • Albert Scalleat • Samuel Scalleat
• Samuel Son • Angelo J. Son • Gioacchino (Dandy Jack) Parisi
• Samuel (Swimmy) DeBella • Modesto (Murph) Loquasto • Casper (Cappy) Guimento
• Charles Gelso • Burgio (Bill) Medico • Arcangelo Medico • Angelo Medico
• Cataldo (Charlie) Polizzi • Joseph Polizzi • Vincenzo (Jimmy Mac) Maccarone
• Charles Schifano • Joseph Scifano • Salvatore (Sam) Cometa • Luigi Manunca
• William (Big Bill) D’Elia • Gaetano (Tommy) Sesso • Ernesto Sesso • Dominick Sesso
• Joseph Contessa • Aldo Magnelli • Giovanni (John) Parrino • Angelo Parrino
• Giovanni (John) Salvo • Carmelo Morreale • Antonio (Tony) Morreale
• Gaetano (Tommy) Morreale • Luigi Consagra • Calogero Consagra
• Angelo Falzone • Salvatore Carcasole • Joseph Costanzo • Samuel Costanzo
• Rosario Calomera • Samuel Insalaco • Agostino Alfano • Angelo Alfano
• Rosario (Ross) Mantione
• …and the Gambino Family’s Joseph (Lefty) Lapadura of Brooklyn lived for a time under the auspices of Bufalino in the Pittston area.
And Many Key Associates
• Leonard Blandino • Joseph Blandino • Louis DeNaples • Lou Cohen
• Sam (Gummy) Chillot • Pete Genell • Charlie Pascucci • Frank Sheeran
• Pasquale (Cooney) Scalleat • Michael (Hoppy) Carsia • Salvatore (Sam) Alaimo
• Joseph Castellino • John Buscemi • Nicky Ross • Eugene Allegrucci
• Albert Giambra • Charles Sciandra • David (Mel) Sciandra
• Joseph Sciandra • Salvatore Falcone • Angelo J. Bufalino
• Samuel (Kooch) Marranca • Michael Insalaco • John Maciejewski
• Palmer Correale • Steven LaTorre • Joseph LaTorre
• Paul (Manuca) LaFocca • Jimmy Viola • Carmen DiBiase
• Elio (Al) Baldassari • Robert (Bobby) Baldassari • Joseph (Jojo) Baldassari
• (Sixty) Schwartz • Joseph Noto • Peter Belletieri
• Willy Stevens • Max Stein • Frank Silva • Louis (Buttons) Bottone
• Nicholas Robilotto • Eugene Boffa • Dave Roberts • Vito Santoro
• Salvatore (Sam Lovelle) Lovecchio • Joseph Giliberti
• Joseph Pinto • Michael War
• William (Bill) Bufalino-(noted labor lawyer of Detroit) who was the in-house counsel for Teamsters President James R. Hoffa, claimed to be a distant cousin of Russ Bufalino. It gave the Pittston Mafia boss a direct link into the highest echelons of the Teamsters Union and labor movement for decades.
More Pennsylvania-based associates:
• Joseph Capozzi • Nicholas Benfante • Michael D’Allesandro Sr.
• George Sam • Dennis Sweeney • Richard Baker
• George (Eskimo) Joseph • Francis (Goo Goo) Rich • Habout (Boots) Shumar
• Joseph (Detroit) Sciandra • Stanley Reppucci • Robert (Bobby) Rinaldi
• Theodore Fanucci • Philip (Fibber) Forgione • John Francis
• Anthony (Tony) Leta • Andrew Quinlan • Ellis Klepfer
• George Feinberg • Jack Craig • James Smith
• Gerald Sines • Gary Kusher • Carmen Delanzo
• Thomas Dellarocco • Benjamin (Benny) Musso • Salvatore DeFrancesco
• Donald (Big Donny) Cabello • Joseph Maruca • Daniel Salvaterra
• Anthony (Sonny) Pelosi • Michael DelGaizo
Joe Barbara and Russ Bufalino were also instrumental in organizing and hosting the infamous “Apalachin Meeting” on November 14, 1957 at the Barbara estate.
Over 100 Mafia leaders and their top aides from all over the country attended, and 62 mafiosi brethern were arrested after NYS Police raided the property.
Industries Infiltrated and Businesses Owned By This Borgata Through the Years
• Volpe Coal Co. • Can-Do Coal Co. • Sullivan Trail Coal Co.
• Mission Beverage (Endicott,NY) c/o Canada Dry Beverage franchise
• Medico Industries Group
• [Congressman Dan Flood]
• United Mine Workers Union Local #Teamsters Local # 506
• Teamsters Local # 326 – (of Wilmington, DE, run by F. Sheeran)
• Mount Airy Lodge-Casino • Atlas Sports Enterprises (boxing promoters)
• Garbage landfills – brokerage • A & J Sales Co
• J & J Pinballs & Amusement Co. • LaTorre’s Poolroom
• Fern Poolroom • Dave’s Poolroom (28 Main st)
• Printing (Acme – lottery tickets) • A.B. & S. Contracting Co.
• Teamsters-Local # 693 of Binghamton NY
• Laborers Union – Local #7 of Binghamton NY
• United Mine Workers of America Local # 1005
• Flatiron Building, Pittston • 119-121 North Main St, Pittston
• City Auto Repair Service • Club 82 (and property)
• Suspected of a hidden interest in the Vesuvio Restaurant in midtown-Manhattan.
• Several private mob social clubs were used for years to hold regular dice and cards games, the Old Workmen’s Social Club among them.
• Penn Drape & Curtain Co. • Tri-Cities Dresses • Irene Dress Co.
• Nuremberg Dress Co. •Madison Dress Co. •Alaimo Dress Co.
• Jane Hogan Co. • Ann-Lee Frocks Inc. • Claudia Frocks Inc.
• Jenkins Sportswear • S. & B. Machine Co. •Patty-Lee Garments, Inc.
Family Involvement in Rackets
• Garment racketeering • Labor-union rackets • Shakedowns and extortion
• Alcohol stills-tax bootlegging • Receiving/fencing stolen goods
• Organized auto theft • Burglary-robberies • Dice and card games
• Bookmaking • Lottery tickets and policy-numbers • Shylocking
• Fight-boxing rackets
Some of the Murders Through the Years Committed to Take or Maintain Their Control of Their Territories
• Edward Weiss
• Samuel Wichner
• Joseph (Colorado Joe) Morreale
• Calogero Calomera
• James (Jimmy Flip) DeFillippo
• Charles (Charlie the Sheik) Fiannaca
After having served 4 years (1978-81 for extortion) and then a 10-year prison term ( 1981 – obstruction of justice and murder conspiracy) back-to-back, Russell Bufalino was eventually granted parole.
As a side note, Bufalino’s troubles began after he had tried intervening for a business associate who had been fleeced by a scam artist. Bufalino had reached out to a well known California based Licata Family soldier named Michael (Mike Rizzi) Rizzitello – a former Gallo gang hoodlum from Brooklyn who years earlier had migrated west to Los Angelos.
Bufalino and Rizzitello had conspired to track down and “clip” the man who had stolen a cache of jewelry from a jeweler friend of Russ Bufalino and then informed to authorities on Bufalino for extortion related crimes after Bufalino’s effort to recover the jewelry or have the scammer pay an appropriate amount of money to its rightful owner in New York.
He passed away in 1994, leaving a tattered and battered borgata that, in time, would see its own total demise.
The Pittston-Scranton, Wilkes-Barre Family thrived for nearly 100 years.
But Bufalino’s fateful decision not to induct any new blood over its last 20 to 30 years simply forced extinction through death and attrition.
The Family hobbled along in the coming years with a skeleton hierarchy and aged membership.
Ed Sciandra served as the “Acting Boss” for several years over what was left of their borgata by remote control from both his Bellmore, Long Island and South Florida residences.
Longtime soldier and Bufalino aide William (Big Billy) D’Elia later also led the troops for awhile until his Rico indictment. He subsequently turned informant and testified in open court against associate Lou DeNaples and several others.
In my opinion this was the death kneel of the borgata. With the recognized boss going “bad” as they say, the last remnants of this crew faded away. They either retired because of age, or just did “their own thing” without any central command or formal hierarchical structure.
Today, in the year 2020, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Family is extinct. There may be a few elderly members and associates still alive, but they are mostly inactive.
I do not doubt that certain relatives or younger friends of theirs are still active in gambling and related activity but as a cohesive “structure” they are no more!
With almost a century of operation under their belts, they had a great run that’s for sure!