The Disappearance of Anthony Strollo

Anthony Strollo, also known as Tony Bender, was born on June 18, 1899, in New York. He was the son of Calabrian immigrants and had two brothers, Emilio and Dominick. He was a cousin of Lenny Strollo (Pittsburgh mobster), and Dante Strollo (Youngstown, Ohio family). 

Strollo operated as a successful bootlegger during the Prohibition era, and in the early to mid-1920s, he began  working for gang boss Giuseppe ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria. However, after the Castellammarese War began in 1931 he joined Masseria’s rival, Salvatore Maranzano.

Anthony Strollo

Following the death of Maranzano in September 1931, Strollo joined the Luciano (now known as the Genovese) crime family. Strollo became a capo in the family, working for boss Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, and underboss Vito Genovese. Strollo’s crew operated illegal gambling rackets in Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan, New York.

In 1936, Vito Genovese became boss after Luciano received a 30-50 year prison sentence for pandering (in basic terms, encouraging prostitution). Genovese then promoted Strollo to underboss. However, in 1937, Genovese was looking at a possible murder indictment, and in an attempt to escape it, fled to Italy.

Genovese wanted Strollo to keep control of the family for him, but Genovese’s rival, Frank Costello, took over as acting boss and put Willie Moretti in place as underboss. Nine years later, on his return to the US after escaping indictment, Genovese returned to the family as a capo with Strollo as his assistant. For the next ten years, Strollo looked after Genovese’s rackets on the New Jersey waterfront. Strollo also successfully ran a string of Greenwich Village nightclubs and bars. 

In December, 1952, Strollo was summoned to testify at the New York State Crime Commission hearings. He was an uncooperative witness, and pleaded either the Fifth Amendment or a bad memory throughout the hearing.

In 1957, Strollo helped Genovese in planning an assassination attempt on the then boss Frank Costello. On the day of the murder attempt, Strollo met with Costello in the late afternoon and learned his movements for the evening. Strollo then passed that information on to Genovese’s hitman, a certain Vincent ‘Chin’ Gigante. Although Costello was only slightly wounded in the attack, he got the message loud and clear, and immediately retired from the family allowing Genovese to take back control.  

In 1959, Strollo changed allegiance again and helped in a conspiracy against Vito Genovese. After a secret meeting with Gambino boss Carlo Gambino, Strollo allegedly assisted in a plot to set up Genovese on a drug trafficking conviction. In 1959, Genovese was sent to prison for 15 years on narcotics trafficking charges.

The arrest of Vito Genovese, 1958

The imprisoned Genovese now reputedly decided to kill Strollo. There are a few theories as to why – one is that Genovese found out Strollo had betrayed him and set him up, and the other is that Strollo had been cheating Genovese out of money from a drug operation. 

On the morning of April 8, 1962, Strollo disappeared after leaving his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. His remains were never found and no one was ever charged in his disappearance. When Joe Valachi (later to become a government witness) visited Genovese in prison, Genovese allegedly hinted at responsibility for Strollo’s murder.

Read more from FBI transcripts and surveillance on the slaying of Anthony Strollo here.

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