Joe Profaci, the first and longest reigning boss of the Profaci Family, was hated by his men. As soon as Joe Colombo took his place after his death, the family was almost immediately re-christened the Colombo Family in an effort to erase the memory of his stingy, iron-handed tenure on the throne. Profacis legitimate business, importing olive oil and tomato paste, earned him the nickname the Olive Oil King, but this business was only a small fraction of his empire.
According to Carl Sifakis in The Mafia Encyclopedia,
Profaci lived in a huge mansion on a 328-acre estate on Long Island
, which boasted a hunting lodge and its own private airport. But while other bosses were often generous with their wealth, Profaci was a skinflint who taxed his men for the right to be in his family. On top of the usual percentage that a mob boss is entitled to, Profaci charged an additional tax on all criminal activities pursued by his men. Each family member also had to pay dues of $25 a month. Many of Profacis wiseguys complained behind his back that he was just another mean, tight-fisted Moustache Pete, but Profaci saw himself as a traditionalist who lived by the code of the original Sicilian Mafia.
Profaci was a clever survivor who managed to steer clear of the upheaval of the Castellammarese War in 1931, keeping his family intact while the young Turks, led by Lucky Luciano, were carving up the remains of Salvatore Maranzanos family. The Profaci Family, which was based in Brooklyn and parts of Staten Island, pursued the usual mob enterprises - labor rackets, gambling, hijacking, loan sharking, and extortion, later adding heroin importation to its portfolio. Profaci maintained a close alliance with Bonanno Family boss Joseph Bonanno, and together they were powerful enough to scare off the other encroaching New York families.
Profaci ruled his family for three decades without a serious challenge to his leadership. But by the beginning of the 1960s, the bosses of the Gambino, Lucchese, and Genovese Families were ready for a shift in the power alignment in New York. The Profaci-Bonanno alliance had become an 800-pound gorilla, frequently getting in their way. As mob expert Jerry Capeci points out, Carlo Gambino, who sought out allies among Profacis men, fomented trouble from within.
The Gallo brothers - Lawrence, Albert, and Joey - along with their crew from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn had been dissatisfied with Profacis leadership for some time. They scratched out a living with their rackets, but because Profaci always took a big chunk of their profits, they felt that they werent getting ahead. They were particularly bitter about the Profaci-ordered execution of fellow crew-member Frank Frankie Shots Abbatemarco. Profaci felt that Frankie Shots, a numbers banker, had become disloyal and disrespectful in withholding tribute to the boss. The Gallos didnt dispute the charge, but felt that the punishment far outweighed the gravity of the crime.
By February 1961, the Gallo crew had finally had enough. In a bold move, they kidnapped several prominent members of the family, including longtime underboss Joseph Magliocco and capo Joe Colombo. The Gallos then sent word to Profaci that they wanted some changes made in the way profits were divvied up. Profaci sent his consigliere
Charles The Sidge Locicero to negotiate with them. After weeks of negotiations, the two sides came to an agreement, and the hostages were released. Everyone was apparently happy with the outcome.
But six months later, Profaci retaliated. One of the hostages, soldier John Scimone, lured Larry Gallo to a bar in Brooklyn
, where two thugs threw a rope around his neck and started to choke him. They threatened to kill him if he didnt call his brothers and tell them to come to the bar. Larry Gallo knew he and his brothers would all be dead if he did that, so he refused to cooperate. The rope was pulled tighter, and Gallo would have been a goner if a policeman hadnt suddenly walked in. The front door of the bar had been left ajar, and because it was a Sunday, and blue laws demanded that all commercial establishments close shop on Sundays, the cop came in to investigate. Scimone and his thugs ran for the door. The cops partner tried to stop them, but one of the hoods shot him in the face. They escaped in a waiting Cadillac.
The Gallos then learned that Profacis men had killed their chief enforcer, Joseph Joe Jelly Gioelli, a few days earlier. The Gallo crew lashed out, taking potshots at Profaci loyalists wherever they found them. The police raided the Gallo crews headquarters in Brooklyn, hoping to head off an all-out war within the family. The violence subsided, but the bitterness festered.
Profacis troubles werent relegated to internal matters. In early 1962, Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese went before the Mafia Commission and proposed that Profaci retire as boss for the good of his family and the mob in general. Joe Bonanno vehemently objected to such a move, fearing that hed lose his most important ally. The Commission decided not to decide in this matter, and it became a moot point when Profaci succumbed to cancer on June 6, 1962.
Profacis underboss, Joseph Magliocco, was quickly installed as boss, which did not please Lucchese and Gambino. From all indications, Magliocco would faithfully carry on with Profacis policies, including the close alliance with Joe Bonanno. For that reason, the old bosss enemies automatically became the new bosss enemies.