Ten of the Best Mob Nicknames: Part 3

This is the final part in our series of best mobster nicknames. We have ten more notable monikers that we probably wouldn’t use if we were in the same room as these guys!

You can find Part One HERE, and Part Two HERE.

And, here we go, in no particular order…

Benjamin Ruggiero: ‘Lefty’ ‘Lefty Two Guns’

Benjamin Ruggiero was a soldier in the Bonanno family, possibly best known for befriending FBI undercover agent Joe Pistone – also known as Donnie Brasco. When Pistone’s infiltration of the Mob came to an end in 1981, Ruggiero was lucky to escape with his life. Others who were involved in bringing Pistone into the family were not so lucky. Ruggiero was intercepted by the FBI, arrested shortly after, and was charged with racketeering. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released in 1993, by which time he was suffering from lung cancer. He passed away on November 24, 1994. The nickname ‘Lefty’ comes from using his left hand to throw dice whilst playing craps. ‘Lefty Two Guns’ apparently stems from the fact that he liked using two guns on a hit.

Vincent Congiusti: ‘Vinnie Aspirins

Vinnie Aspirins was an enforcer from Tampa, Florida, and reportedly a torture expert who once drilled holes in the head of one of his victims, permanently eradicating any headaches.

Carmine Fatico: ‘Charley Wagons’

Carmine Fatico was a capo in the Gambino family, and was an early mentor to John Gotti. Fatico’s arrest record dates back to the 1930s, and over the years it grew to include bookmaking, grand larceny and assault. The moniker ‘Charley Wagons’ is related to his tendency to hijack transport trucks. He was also involved in hijacking cargo both at JFK Airport and the Brooklyn Waterfront. In the book Mafia Dynasty: the Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family, it was estimated that Fatico’s crew brought in approximately $30 million per year. When Fatico was sentenced to five years in prison for the theft of some fur coats, John Gotti took over as capo of the Bergin crew in 1977. Carmine Fatico died of natural causes in 1991.

Vincent Gigante: ‘The Chin’ ‘The Oddfather’

Gigante was the boss of the Genovese family from 1981 until his death in 2005. He was known for his crazy act to avoid prosecution, and turned his claim of mental illness into an art form. He’d wander around his neighborhood, Greenwich Village, in a bathrobe and slippers, muttering incoherently. Gigante’s act even fooled several psychiatrists, and it was stated that he suffered from dementia rooted in organic brain damage. He was extremely cautious of the FBI and wiretaps – members and associates of the Genovese family were not allowed to mention him by name, instead they had to point to their chin or make the letter ‘C’ with their hands. Cooperating witnesses Sammy Gravano and Al D’Arco both testified that Gigante was coherent at top-level Mafia meetings and that he had told other gangsters that his eccentric behavior was a sham. In 1996, it was ruled that Gigante was fit to stand trial, and in July, 1997 a jury convicted him of conspiring in plots to kill other mobsters and of running rackets as head of the Genovese family. Gigante was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $1.25 million in December 1997. Then in 2003, he was sentenced to an extra 3 years in prison on obstruction of justice charges, due to his insanity scam, causing his trial to be delayed by 7 years. Prosecutor Roslynn Mauskopf stated,  “The jig is up…Vincent Gigante was a cunning faker, and those of us in law enforcement always knew that this was an act…The act ran for decades, but today it’s over.” Gigante died on December 19, 2005.

From his crazy act it’s easy to see where the sobriquet ‘The Oddfather’ originated. According to his brother Louis, his nickname, ‘The Chin’, came from their mother calling him Chinzeeno as a boy, derived from Vincenzo, the Italian form of Vincent.

Joseph Lanza: ‘Socks’

Lanza was a member of the Luciano family, which would later become the Genovese crime family. He was also big in fish! Born in Sicily, he relocated to the US and began working as a handler at Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan. He became involved in labor union activity and, by 1923, had become an organizer for the USW union. Soon after this, Lanza became involved in the world of organized crime. He threatened wholesalers with delays in loading and unloading their goods, which resulted in alleged profits of $20 million just from the Fulton Fish Market. Although he was mainly a labor racketeer, he was also reputedly involved in safeguarding New York’s waterfront during the early part of the 1940s, and it’s said he advised the Office of Navel Intelligence during this time. However, soon after this, he was convicted of extortion and was sentenced to 7 – 10 years in prison. He gained his release in 1950 and returned to his role at the Fulton Fish Market. Apparently the nickname ‘Socks’ had more to do with his fists and the punch he packed, rather than his footwear. Joseph Lanza died in October, 1968.

Frank Illiano: ‘Punchy’

Frank Illiano was a capo in the Genovese family, though he began his criminal career as part of the Gallo crew in the Profaci (now Colombo) family. He was heavily involved with the Gallo brothers during the two Colombo wars against the family leadership. During the mid-70s he was welcomed into the Genovese family, where he became a capo and was eventually promoted to street boss by an imprisoned Vincent Gigante during the late 1990s. The nickname ‘Punchy’ was bestowed upon Illiano after a brief boxing career. He died of natural causes on January 6, 2014. (Thanks to Peter Morales for the suggestion).

Richard Cantarella: ‘Shellackhead’

Cantarella is a former capo and acting underboss in the Bonanno family. In October 2002, he was arrested on a 24-count RICO indictment, which included charges of murder, arson, extortion, loansharking, kidnapping, illegal gambling and money laundering. Whilst in prison, He learned that another Bonanno capo, Frank Coppa, had turned cooperating witness and that he had told investigators that Cantarella had bragged about setting up the murder of Robert Perrino, a delivery superintendent at the New York Post, who had connections to the Bonanno family through Salvatore Vitale. Cantarella realized that this would probably mean life in prison, and December 2002, he accepted a deal and became a government witness. His nickname was derived from his liberal use of hair pomade.

Joseph Bonanno: ‘Joe Bananas’

Joe Bonanno was born in Sicily in 1905, but settled permanently in the US in 1924 after stowing away on a Cuban fishing boat on it’s way to Florida. Following the Castellammarese War, Joe Bonanno took control of most of Salvatore Maranzano’s family in 1931. At the age of just 26, Bonanno became one of the youngest ever bosses of a crime family. The Bonanno family still bears his name to this day.  In 1963, Bonanno made plans with Joseph Magliocco to to kill several rivals on the Mafia Commission, Magliocco passed one of the contracts to Joe Colombo, one of his hit men at the time. Colombo, however, warned the targets after learning of the plot. Magliocco was then forced to retire, whilst Bonanno fled temporarily to Canada. He then returned to New York for a short time, before vanishing again until 1966. The media labeled the state of discontent and the leadership struggles within the family during this time as the Banana War. After his reappearance, Joe Bonanno ended the conflict by agreeing to retire as boss and move out to Arizona. In 1983, he published the book A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. His nickname was given to him by the newspapers, though he detested it as he thought it implied that he was crazy. Joe Bonanno died of natural causes in Arizona, at the grand age of 97.

Louis Daidone: ‘Louis Bagels’

Louis Daidone is a former consigliere and acting boss of the Lucchese crime family. He carried out several hits given on the orders of Vic Amuso and Anthony ‘Gaspipe’ Casso, many based on information received from crooked NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. In July 2004, Daidone was convicted on conspiracy to murder and loansharking charges and sentenced to life in prison. In his book Mob Boss, Al D’Arco states the reason for Daidone’s nickname was because he owned a catering operation called Bagels By the Bay.

Vincent Basciano: ‘Vinny Gorgeous’

Vincent Basciano is a former acting boss of the Bonanno family. He is currently serving life without the possibility of parole after being convicted of ordering the murder of an associate. He narrowly escaped the death penalty. His nickname comes from the fact that he owned a beauty salon in the Bronx called ‘Hello Gorgeous‘. Apparently, it’s also due to his personal immaculate grooming and hairstyle.

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