Better known in New York’s underworld as Mr. Gribbs, Carmine Tramunti was a very well-rounded mobster active in many lucrative mob rackets.
At one time, he was said to have served as a strong-arm man, enforcer, and personal bodyguard for John (Johnny Dio) Dioguardi in the labor rackets.
He steadily rose up the ranks and eventually became the overall boss of the Lucchese Family.
Either way, for Carmine Tramunti, it all came crashing down in the 1970s.
Continue reading to learn more about the trial and tribulations of Lucchese boss Carmine Tramunti.
Carmine Tramunti – The Beginning
Carmine (Gribbs) Tramunti – aka “Mr. Gribbs,” “Carmine Gribbs,” and “Carmina Paolo Tramunti” (TN) – was born on October 1, 1910, in Naples, Italy.
He immigrated to this country with his parents in 1913 when he was a child with the family settling in the East Harlem section of Manhattan.
This is the neighborhood where Gribbs would be raised and mostly operate from for the rest of his life.
Carmine Gribbs stood about 5-feet 10-inches tall and weighed a rock-solid 200 pounds with dark brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes.
He had a heavy build and hands like bricks, perfect for the strong-arm enforcer he was early on in his underworld career.
Growing up, he resided in numerous apartments around East Harlem and the Bronx over the years including his original family home 215 E. 112th Street in 1932 where he lived with his mother Angela and his siblings.
Other locales were 228 E. 112th Street as a young buck in (1939), 1429 Leland Avenue in the Bronx (1945), and 1462 Leland Avenue by (1950).
By the mid-1950s he was residing with his wife Lilian and three kids at 145-79 Sixth Avenue in the Whitestone of Queens, an area that was densely populated with numerous members of both the Lucchese and Genovese Families.
FBI # 471313, NYCPD # B-87534
As a longtime member of the Gaetano Lucchese Family, Tramunti based himself out of the area between East 112th through East 114th Street.
He was a close boyhood friend and running partner of another East Harlem legend named Paul (Paulie Ham) Correale who grew up direclty down the block from Gribbs at 323 E. 112th Street.
As young hoodlums, Tramunti and Correale were nailed on a felonious assault and armed robbery charge and sent away on a 6 to 15-year state sentence up at Sing Sing.
Tramunti’s police record dated to 1922 and included such early charges as juvenile delinquent:
• 1930 – robbery
• 1931 – assault and robbery
• 1931 – felonious assault (6-15 years)
• 1932 – robbery
• 1932 – assault (5-10 years)
• 1939 – disorderly conduct (30 days)
• 1940 – alien registration
• 1945 – felonious assault (by gun)
• 1950 – vagrancy
• 1958 – vagrancy
• 1959 – dice game
• 1965 forward – criminal contempt of court (5 times), jailed repeatedly
• 1973 – narcotics trafficking and conspiracy (15 years)
Moving Up the Mob Ladder
By the early 1940s, Tramunti had been formally inducted as a soldier into the borgata. By the early 1960s, he had been elevated to a capo status.
Dating back to the 1957 McClellan Hearings, which probed the mafia’s infiltration of the labor movement, Carmine Tramunti had been receiving attention from federal law enforcement.
In fact, both he and his friend Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corallo, a notorious labor racketeer, both figured prominently into those hearings.
Tramunti dropped from sight once those hearings began. Senate investigators searched for him for over half a year in an attempt to serve him a subpoena.
At one time, he was also said to have served as a strong-arm man, enforcer, and personal bodyguard for John (Johnny Dio) Dioguardi in the labor rackets.
It was thought by investigators that Tramunti was placed in charge of the Greater New York Cartmens Association by Dio and Corallo.
After the death of boss Thomas Lucchese in 1967, Vincey Rao helped maintain the borgata until Tramunti was finally installed as the boss after a vote by the membership.
His position was ratified by the New York Commission, and Carmine became the official boss of the borgata. There were some who viewed Tramunti more as a “seat warmer” until Corallo was paroled from prison.
At any rate, from the late 1960s era until Corallo’s ascension in approximately 1974, Tramunti was largely viewed as the official boss of the old Lucchese Family.
Among his closest aides and friends within the Family was Samuel (Big Sam) Cavalieri, an old-time member who Tramunti trusted implicitly.
Big Sam was soon elevated to a capos status once Tramunti was put in position.
For a time during Tramunti’s leadership, soldier Vincent (Vinny Beans) Foceri was also elevated. He served in the consigliere position of the borgata.
It’s Just Business
For years, Tramunti ostensibly listed his business as the owner of Rosalie Florist Shop, at 2121 Third Avenue in Manhattan. He later also opened a second location at 645 Lexington Avenue. This florist business was named after his daughter Rosalie.
He was also listed as the owner-operator of Imperial Trucking Co., of West 37th Street, in the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District.He operated mob operations for years out of the area of 112th Street and First Avenue in Harlem.
At one time, Gribbs had held the well-deserved reputation of operating the largest floating crap game in Upper Manhattan – the so-called “Harlem Game.”
He and Paulie Ham were among the top partners in a game that dominated all other crap games in New York City.
They were bucking the “Joe Rivers” game which was the other legendary major floating dice game in the borough, headed by veteran Gambino soldier Joseph (Joe Rivers) Silesi.
As an interesting side note, Silesi told a NY district attorney to drop dead after a 48-state alarm was issued for his arrest.Authorities wanted to question him about Albert Anastasia’s murder.
Silesi told a news outlet that authorities knew he was in Cuba and could have just asked him to come in instead of putting him on blast.
“I would have cooperated willingly then,” he told the newspaper, “but now that he’s given me the blast, let him drop dead.”
Down in Florida
By at least 1962, it was being reported by informants that in the winter months, Tramunti was known to also operate a huge dice game down in the Miami Beach area for the “snowbirds,” which was attended by well-heeled gamblers from all over the country.
This game was said to offer a limousine service to and from the game’s location which changed periodically.
Among the bettors who attended these games were a veritable who’s who of America’s underworld, as well as some of the biggest legitimate businessmen and manufacturers in the United States.
In 1963, one of the locations for these games was discovered as 19440 N.E. 26th Street in Ojus, Florida.
The FBI uncovered that the woman who rented the home used for the game came from Flushing, Queens – a stone’s throw from the Tramunti residence in Whitestone.
Several of the men who ran this game for Gribbs included Allie Harris, a well-known Jewish hoodlum gambler, and Joe Vecchio who was a Gribbs disciple from back in Harlem.
More Than Meets the Eye
Carmine Gribbs was also known to be knee-deep in the Harlem policy rackets, horse bookmaking, and shylocking.
He also dabbled in various extortions, narcotics, labor union infiltration, and corruption. He was a very well-rounded mafioso.
On that last note, Teamsters Union Local # 875 was said to be under the domain and control of Gribbs and mobster Antonio Corallo for whom Gribbs also once served as a bodyguard.
By the mid-1970s, Tramunti also exercised control over a Blasters union local of the Laborers Union of North America through soldier Sam Cavalieri.
The Tramunti Crew and Mob Glitterati
As a caporegime, Tramunti had several men under his control who were soldiers in his personal regime. Others were crew “associates” but, collectively, he oversaw a large crew some of whom included:
• Joseph (Joe Babes) Bendenelli
• Angelo (Cheesecake) Urgitano
• Vincent (Vinny Beans) Foceri
• FNU (Chick) Berardi
• Thomas (Teaballs) Mancuso
• Thomas (Moe) Lentini
• Louis (Gigi the Whale) Inglese
• Henry Scelza
• Salvatore (Sal the Sailor) Ciccone
• Anthony (Tony Moon) Ciccone
• John (Johnny Hooks) Capra
• Carmine Pugliese
• Francis Pugliese
• Gennaro (Jerry Z) Zanfardino
Aside from his personal crew, he was also an intimate of most of New York’s mob glitterati, especially top members of his own Lucchese Family including:
• Boss Thomas (Tommy Brown) Lucchese
• Ettore (Little Eddie) Coco
• James (Jimmy Doyle) Plumeri
• Vincent Rao
• Charles (Charlie Bullets) Albero
• Mariano (Mac) Macaluso
• Joseph (Joe Brown) Lucchese
• Joseph (Joey Narrow) Laratro
• Anthony (Tony Grio) Vadala
• Samuel (Big Sam) Cavalieri
• Hugh Mulligan
• Joseph (Babo) Vento
• Nunzio (Frank) Arra
• John (Big John) Ormento
• Paul Vario Sr.
• Louis (Louie Beans) Foceri
Tramunti in the Spotlight
Within a few years after his elevation to Family boss, Tramunti started to receive tremendous exposure from law enforcement and the media. This was an era in which the public became enthralled with the idea of the mafia and mafiosi.
By 1969, he had been before numerous investigating grand juries. He was cited for contempt for refusing to openly testify about his knowledge of organized crime and rackets.
Beginning in 1970, Gribbs was one of 16 mafia members and associates indicted for operating a massive “over the counter” stock fraud. Another 10 men were named as unindicted co-conspirators.
The 72-count indictment alleged conspiracy to violate anti-fraud securities laws, selling unregistered stock, mail and wire fraud, and interstate transportation in aid of extortion.
The case involved a veritable who’s who of the New York mafia, naming Lucchese capo John (Johnny Dio) Dioguardi; Colombo bigwigs Vincent Aloi, Pasquale (Checko Brown) Fusco, and Vincent (The Sicilian) Gugliaro; and Miami-based Vincent Lombardo, who was a son-in-law of the iconic Meyer Lansky.
They were accused of strong-arming their way into gaining control of a worthless Miami shell company called Imperial Investment Corp., and then pumping up its worthless stock to $24 per share. They then sold off over 190,000 shares at that price. The stock eventually plummeted again.
After a jury trial, Tramunti, Aloi, and Fusco and Gugliaro were acquitted. The other defendants were convicted.
Dating to the mid-1960s forward, Gribbs started getting subpoenaed by grand juries probing the underworld.
In December of 1966, he was first jailed for contempt after balking at answering the grand jury’s questions. He and soldier Anthony (Tony Higgins) Castaldi were both jailed after appearing before the jury but clamming up.
Then in 1970, Tramunti was convicted in Bronx County after his refusal to answer 37 questions before a rackets grand jury after he was granted immunity. He was sent away for one year.
This would be the start of multiple contempt of court arrests, convictions, and jail terms over the next few years.
By 1972-1973, Tramunti had been jailed repeatedly as a central target of various probes.
Multiple grand juries in Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Nassau Counties had charged him with either contempt or perjury. He was repeatedly imprisoned on back-to-back 30-day jail terms.
In one instance, he actually received an exceptionally heavy three-year sentence on three counts of contempt (one year each to run consecutively.)
The Beginning of the End for Mr. Gribbs
Then in 1974, Tramunti was one of 14 major mob figures accused of being top narcotics traffickers in federal court. In fact, he was indicted as the “boss” of the entire operation.
Charged with controlling a massive heroin and cocaine distribution network from their base in the Bronx and East Harlem that operated throughout the city, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., this case would be the cherry on top of the cake for federal prosecutors and the beginning of the end for Mr. Gribbs.
After an intense seven-week, highly publicized trial, the 64-year-old Tramunti, and all the others were convicted. He received a whopping 15-year sentence and a $50,000 fine.
Other defendants involved in the case included Joseph (Joe D) DiNapoli who received 20-years, Louis (Gigi the Whale) Inglese, Johnny (Hooks) Capra, and other top hoods.
Tramunti was incarcerated and would spend the rest of his days in federal and state prisons.
Gribbs died on October 15, 1978, at the age of 68 years old while still locked up behind prison walls.
Until next time…”The Other Guy”