One of the largest regimes of the legendary Luciano/Genovese Crime Family was the one headed by longtime “capo di decina” Antonio (Tony Bender) Strollo. Dating to the mid-1930s, this particular crew oversaw the activities of dozens of formally inducted soldiers and literally hundreds of crew associates of every size and stripe.
With boss Lucky Luciano’s deportation back to his native Sicily in the 1940s and his underboss Vito Genovese having fled the United States to avoid prosecution on a murder charge around that same era, Lucky elevated his trusted consigliere Frank Costello to the coveted position of “Acting Boss” of the Family to watch over the shop, so to speak.
But during his extended absence in Italy, Vito was eventually captured and returned to the states to face justice. He was tried, but later acquitted, for the murder of small-time hood, Ferdinand (The Shadow) Boccia.
With his acquittal, Vito once again set his sights on becoming the top man in the Family…the boss! In his bid to gain back his underworld power, at first, Vito bided his time. He slowly reestablished himself within the Family by making friends and alliances among key soldiers and capos he was closest to before his hasty departure overseas years before.
Genovese also reached out to old allies he had in other Cosa Nostra Families across the country. Most notably, members of the “Napolitani” faction of the Italian underworld.
By the mid-late 1950s, he felt secure enough, once again, to make his ultimate grab for power. He started scheming and plotting to overthrow “Acting Boss” Frank Costello, commissioning several of his loyal soldiers to carry out a deadly plot.
A Deadly Plot
Legend has it that Vito tapped three Greenwich Village-based soldiers from Tony Bender’s crew to do his bidding. An up-and-coming young hoodlum named Vincent (Chin) Gigante was chosen to be the actual shooter, with Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli and Dominick (Cokey Dom) Alongi acting as the getaway driver and lookout, respectively. Several other soldiers were assigned to man a second “crash car” to protect the hit team from any interference from police.
As luck would have it, Gigante only grazed Costello’s head that fateful evening in 1957, allowing Frank to walk away to racketeer another day. But it did convince Costello to immediately relinquish the top spot in favor of his adversary, lest he risk an all-out bloody gangland war.
After Vito Genovese consolidated his underworld power as the new boss of the Family, Strollo’s power and influence also increased. Once he was the “official” boss of the newly named “Genovese Family,” Vito elevated his longtime sidekick to the coveted underboss position, his second in command.
Nonetheless, the regime Strollo led for decades was still “unofficially” his to command. And after his mentor and benefactor was convicted just a few years later in 1959 and jailed for 15 years for narcotics conspiracy, Tony Strollo’s power only further increased exponentially. For all intents and purposes, Strollo was now, more than ever before, the top figure in the entire Genovese Family, and Vito’s eyes and ears over the membership.
The “crew” Strollo commanded was part of, yet, separate from the borgata itself. And it was massive. It boasted among its soldiers some the biggest names in organized crime. These soldiers not only operated some of the largest moneymaking rackets of the Family, but they were also some of its deadliest torpedos!
Tony Bender’s Regime
The “Anthony Strollo Regime” was seemingly into every conceivable illicit activity and racket imaginable, in a major way.
Strollo’s men controlled such key industries and rackets as the New York-New Jersey waterfront and private sanitation industry, jukebox and cigarette coin machine distribution, second-mortgage and private funding companies, bars and nightclubs, and dozens of key labor unions including the International Longshoremen’s Association, New York and New Jersey Cartmens Associations, and vending machine unions. To name but a few.
As far as street rackets went, they were among the biggest operators of multimillion-dollar policy numbers and bookmaking networks, put millions of dollars in usurious shylock loans “on the streets,” controlled dozens of Manhattan “after-hours” clubs serving untaxed-liquor, underground bars catering to homosexuals and deviants, and were leaders in the “art” of business infiltration.
Ancillary rackets included strong-arm extortions, organized auto theft, cargo theft, truck hijacking rings, cigarette bootlegging, money counterfeiting operations, etc.
Vito Genovese’s Family, in general, and especially Tony Bender’s crew, in particular, were also at the forefront of the international smuggling and wholesaling of both heroin and cocaine into the country for eventual distribution to other Mafia Families throughout the United States.
A Short-Lived Bromance
As mentioned above, after Vito was jailed he relied on his trusted underboss Anthony Strollo, even more, to watch over their membership and rackets and to make sure Vito got his fair share of the spoils. In essence, Strollo became Vito’s acting boss…but their bromance didn’t last long.
Before long Genovese started to suspect that Tony was quietly usurping his authority and sneaking behind his back. Vito felt Strollo was in cahoots with various soldiers dealing drugs and in other racket schemes without splitting the profits with Vito.
Genovese’s answer came quickly.
On the evening of April 8, 1962, Tony threw a topcoat on over his pajamas and mentioned to his wife that he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and that he’d be back shortly. He then got into his car and drove away from his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey…He was never seen again!
Strollo simply disappeared off the face of the earth. His body was never recovered. But everyone in the mob knew what had taken place. Tony was gone and he wasn’t coming back!
With Anthony Strollo’s demise, Vito first named Tommy Eboli as the new capo in charge. A few years later, Eboli was elevated to acting underboss. So, in his place, Eboli’s brother Patty assumed control over the crew. But in time, both Eboli brothers would be killed.
At that point, Vincent Gigante became the new “capo di decina” assigned to head this crew. Gigante, a former bodyguard and driver for the boss, was a natural and the odds-favorite for the job.
“Chin” didn’t disappoint. He soon became a top figure within the Genovese Family and quickly consolidated his new regime and expanded its operations. By the late 1970s to the early 1980s, it’s believed that he was elected as the “official” boss over the entire Genovese borgata. It is a position he held, unwaveringly, until his own death behind bars in 2005.
Vito would have been proud!
The Strollo Regime Chart
Side Note: This particular regime was always among the strongest and most influential of the entire Family. Through the years, it produced many men who later became capos and top hierarchy figures themselves. Aside from Strollo, Eboli, and Gigante, other soldiers who rose to prominence included Patty Eboli, Dom Alongi, Mario Gigante, Dom DeQuatro, Bobby Manna, Jimmy Napoli, Joey Pagano, and Pepe Sabato.
The chart below lists 37 inducted members as well as 172 associates who were known to be part of this regime. Not all those listed necessarily operated during the same time periods.