The Lucchese Family
Tony Ducks and the Jaguar
Lucchese boss Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo did not get his nickname for his love of waterfowl. It was his luck in "ducking" prosecution early in his career that earned him the name, but unlike Tommy Lucchese who went over four decades without a conviction, Corallo was not totally immune from government scrutiny. As a young member of the Gagliano family, Corallo spent six months in the can for his involvement in a narcotics ring. This experience might have taught him a lesson. After his release, he turned his attention to criminal pursuits that were harder for the law to uncover and prosecute, principally union corruption.
By the 1950s, Corallo was one of several mobsters who had a tight grip over union locals with the tacit sanction of union officials. Corallo's cash cow was Teamsters Local 239 in New York. He was accused of creating dummy employees and pocketing their salaries, which amounted to $69,000 by the time authorities learned of this scam. Corallo and other mobsters worked hand-in-hand with Jimmy Hoffa, international Teamsters president, who had no problem with wiseguys looting union funds as long as they made sure the locals they controlled kept him in power. Corallo was cited by the U.S. Senate Labor Rackets Committee (better known as the McClellan Committee) as a major player in union corruption. Robert Kennedy, the committee's chief counsel, appeared on a nationally broadcast late-night television talk show to denounce Corallo and other mobsters by name. Subpoenaed to testify before the committee, Corallo was unflappable, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights 83 times when questioned about a bugged conversation in which Jimmy Hoffa seemed to be giving his blessings to Corallo's illegal union activities.
"Tony Ducks" managed to duck trouble with the union investigations, but he did get snagged for bribing a New York Supreme Court justice and an assistant U.S. attorney and served a two-year stretch as a result. Years later he was convicted on charges of bribing the New York City Water Commissioner, James L. Marcus, in an attempt to get contracts to clean and repair parts of the city's reservoir system. The contracts were worth over $800,000, and Corallo was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
By the time Corallo was released, Tommy Lucchese was on his deathbed and Carmine Trumunti was waiting in the wings. A few years later Trumunti was sent away to prison, and the family was in sore need of a stabilizing force, which Corallo provided for twelve years. Under Corallo's leadership, the Lucchese Family, though smaller in number than the Genovese and Gambino families, prospered and grew. In narcotics trafficking alone, they profited handsomely when a family associate named Matty Madonna became the main supplier for Leroy Nicky Barnes, the heroin king of Harlem. Madonna sold Barnes up to 40 kilos a month in the heady disco days of the early 1970s. The family's rackets ran smoothly and stealthily for many years, until Tony Ducks was bitten by a Jaguar.
In the early 1980s, investigators placed a bug inside the Jaguar owned by Corallo's bodyguard and chauffeur, Salvatore Avellino. Ironically, Corallo, who was known for being gruff and closemouthed, was caught on tape talking at length and in detail about mob business. The information gleaned from these tapes was used against Corallo in what became known as the Commission Case. Backed up by the RICO statutes, the government went after the heads of the New York families, attempting to prove that these men controlled an ongoing criminal enterprise. In 1986, Corallo was found guilty and sent to prison, where he died in 2000.
Corallo handpicked his own successor, and like other bosses before him, he picked the wrong man. (If Carlo Gambino had chosen his popular underboss, Aniello Dellacroce, to succeed him instead of his brother-in-law, Paul Castellano, John Gotti might never have become the Dapper Don.) Corallo's choice was Vittorio "Vic" Amuso, a man who in a former life might have operated the guillotine during the French Revolution.