For the last installment of Portraits of Infamy, we bring you yet another mug shot of a well-known Mafia boss related to Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. Learn about controversial gangster Vito Genovese and his portraits of notoriety after the jump!
Vito Genovese was another Italian-born mafioso who became a prominent and powerful figure in the dark realm of the Mafia. Shortly after he emigrated to the United States from Naples along with his family, Genovese started working for the Mafia in New York in the early 1920s, involving himself in extortion and bootlegging. He served the gang’s boss, Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, who considered him an asset for his inclination to violence.
It seems that the lives of Genovese, Lucky Luciano, and Frank Costello were intertwined early in their gangster careers. Genovese and Luciano started out young as mobsters in the slums of New York City and continued to work together throughout their Mafia years. Costello and Genovese started out as allies who worked for Luciano’s crime family, but when Genovese fled to Italy to escape murder charges in 1937, Costello became the new under boss in his place. Worse, he was demoted to caporegime. This created a conflict between Luciano’s two trusted colleagues, which most likely peaked when Costello eventually became the boss of the family.
Costello reigned for 20 years, but the tables soon turned away from his favor; Genovese was deported from Italy to New York, and was cleared of the murder charge shortly after his return to the United States. Driven by the desire to regain control of the Luciano family, Genovese ordered an assassination plot against Costello and two other major position-holders in the family. Only Costello survived, but he was reportedly shaken enough to relinquish his position as boss. “Don Vito” soon became the boss of the family that eventually carried his name.
In 1959, Genovese was found guilty of selling heroin in large quantities, for which he was given a 15-year imprisonment sentence. He was incarcerated in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Georgia. Ten years later, the Mafia boss passed away due to heart attack while still in prison. He was 71.
If his name sounds inexplicably familiar, that’s because he shares his name with fictional crime boss Vito Corleone, the main character of Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather, and the trilogy of films bearing the same title. Although Vito Corleone is said to be largely based on Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, and other well-known real-life gangsters, some also cite Vito Genovese as an inspiration for the fictional yet famed mobster.
For more mug shots and stories on the most prominent gangsters and criminals, don’t forget to check the rest of Portraits of Infamy installments!