With the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approaching, I decided to share a few items of my own research on the matter. These items could change our thinking about the nexus of mob leaders, rogue CIA agents and anti-Castro Cuban exiles at the center of most assassination scenarios. My information suggests it was the thwarting of the mob’s vision to create a parallel governmental entity in America that propelled the plot.
The big piece of evidence is a reinterpretation of the November 1957 Apalachin, N.Y., gathering of national leaders of organized crime, at Joe Barbara’s estate, when the mob was outed to America.
This revision is based on the statements of two impeccable police sources whose inside knowledge has never been part of the traditional story surrounding the event. Their statements cast a different light on what Apalachin was all about, and how it could relate to the JFK assassination.
Sgt. Joe Benenati and George Karalus were both New York State Police troopers. Benenati, a highly decorated war veteran, was part of police operations at Apalachin and signed the official report of the incident.
Karalus was specially trained in intelligence operations. He served from 1964 to 1972 in a top-secret New York State Police Special Investigations Unit. The unit wiretapped and monitored the operations of Buffalo mob chief Stefano Maggadino, who organized the Apalachin meeting. I interviewed Karalus three times, intensively, during the last six years. Karalus met Benenati when he interviewed him extensively on three occasions for work on a book, “The Teflon Don,” written with Matt Gryta.
According to Karalus and Benenati, traditional accounts explaining the purpose of the Apalachin meeting are incomplete. The conference was not called simply to address problems with the drug trade or to settle blood feuds relating to the murder of Albert Anastasia. Instead, item one on the agenda was expanding the political power of the mob in national life.
Perhaps the Mafia hoped to become a para-governmental entity in America — as it had been for centuries in Southern Italy and, more recently, in many urban neighborhoods in America. Among the areas to be exploited: national control of unions, the textile industry, the trucking industry, the sugar trade, urban political machines and even the prison system.
Benenati knew about the agenda through his friendship with Melvin John Blossom.
Before the police activity began, Blossom, the caretaker of the Barbara estate, was in the same room with the early arrivals — Joe Profaci, (Brooklyn), Stefano Maggadino (Buffalo) and Tommy Lucchese (New York City). Blossom heard their pointed conversation, led by Lucchese, who wanted to expand the mob’s national political power.
Considered the most intelligent of the mob bosses, Lucchese was fascinated by politics. It has been reported (e.g., by Bill Bonanno in his book “Bound by Honor”) that Lucchese was the diplomat who engineered the coup that made Lyndon Johnson JFK’s vice presidential running mate.
During the 1960 election, mob bosses were critical in lining up union support behind Kennedy; and, as the story goes, Sam Giancana’s Chicago outfit provided the votes that put Kennedy over the top. The national political star of the mob was clearly ascending.
However, when RFK became U.S. attorney general, he vastly intensified his investigations and fierce attacks on the mob and Jimmy Hoffa, their close ally. The momentum toward Dallas continued to build. Each of the three crime heads closely associated with plot theories, “The Triumvirate” — Giancana (present at Apalachin), Tampa’s Santo Trafficante (attended Apalachin ) and New Orleans’ Carlos Marcello (represented at Apalachin) — are reported as wanting either RFK or JFK, or both, killed.
The mob triumvirate had personal as well as business reasons to want to eliminate either or both of the Kennedys. For example, RFK was responsible for kidnapping Carlos Marcello (an illegal alien), eventually dumping him in a remote jungle in Honduras to fend for himself. JFK “stole” Giancana’s mistress. RFK tried to pin the Anastasia murder on Trafficante, who fled to Cuba for a time.
How much more would the princes of a parallel government take? Mob men had been working with CIA operatives to kill Castro. On their own initiative, the mob put out a $5 million hit on Castro, who had destroyed their business and gambling empires in Cuba. Why wouldn’t they take the lead in acting against the Kennedys?
Investigative writers such as Dan Moldea and David Kaiser spell out the plot nexus of mob, rogue CIA operatives and Cuban exiles. Authors Waldron and Hartman discuss how the mob hijacked the assassination plot. In 2009 the Discovery Channel aired a two-part series, “Did the Mob Kill Kennedy?”
More work on the Mafia’s leadership role needs to be done. Sealed government documents must be opened.
However, when we connect the political ambitions of organized crime, as developed by the time of Apalachin, to their thwarting by Castro and their attempted eradication by RFK, we might reasonably conclude the mob led the conspiracy against JFK. The triumvirate of mob princes had business, personal and political motives, along with the contacts and ability to do so.
Silvio Laccetti is a retired professor of history at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey and a national columnist. Contact him at [email protected] His forthcoming book is “An American Commentary: Social Problems that Changed America in the 21st Century” (QJbooks.com).