Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

HIDDEN HISTORY: Mobsters arrested in Batavia, 1970

Stefano (aka Steve) Magaddino, American mobste...Batavia is known as a quiet, relatively crime-free community, but for several days in June 1970, the city was the ''Mafia capital'' of upstate New York.
It began around lunchtime on Tuesday, June 2 when state police — acting on a telephone tip — raided a downtown Batavia restaurant. Six men were taken into custody. Police charged them with loitering because they allegedly ''failed to give a reasonable account of their actions'' when questioned at the restaurant.
These weren't ordinary suspects. Among those rounded up were Fred Sebastian, 64, of Niagara Falls and Albert Marks, 51, of Brighton, both of whom were active in the Western New York construction industry.
Police identified the other four suspects as Mafia chieftains in the notorious Western New York crime family headed by Stefano ''The Undertaker'' Magaddino. The then ailing Magaddino's territory included his hometown of Niagara Falls, as well as the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, southern Ontario and even parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The best known of these suspects was Frank J. Valenti, 58, of Henrietta, described as the Rochester Mafia ''boss'' and a Magaddino lieutenant. The other Mafia leaders were Roy Carlisi, 61, and Joseph Fino, 55, both of West Seneca; and Rene Piccaretto, 45, of Pittsford.
As reporters and TV crews flocked to Batavia to cover the story, the main question on everyone's mind was — What brought all these high-powered mobsters and construction officials to Batavia?
Several theories were advanced. One possibility was the mob leaders were trying to exert influence over the construction trades to end strikes then taking place in Buffalo, Rochester and the Falls. Hence the meeting with the two construction chiefs.
Police also theorized that the Batavia meeting may have involved a ''reorganization of the Western New York cosa nostra setup,'' according to The Daily News. The 78-year-old Magaddino, reportedly near death, was said to be stepping down as Western New York boss and the Rochester mob was preparing to break away from the Buffalo crime family.
Or maybe it was a combination of factors.
Later on June 2, the six men were arraigned in Batavia City Court and then allowed to return to their homes. They would be back the following week.
More information soon filtered out. The Rochester Times Union reported on June 3 that the previous day's meeting apparently wasn't an isolated event. Mafia leaders had been holding monthly meetings in Batavia for at least six months, the paper said, usually on the last Wednesday of each month.
State Police denied knowledge of any such monthly gatherings, reiterating the previous report that they were only acting on a telephone tip.
Unfortunately for the State Police, their case against the six men began to unravel within days. Early the following week, loitering charges against Sebastian and Marks were dropped for lack of evidence.
A few days later, City Court Judge Charles F. Graney dismissed the charges against Valenti, Carlisi, Fino and Piccarretto on similar grounds.
Fino's attorney Thomas Calandra of Brockport had argued that the loitering charge was unconstitutional because it violated the right to peaceably assemble, to remain silent, to gather with whom you wish and the right to privacy.
The judge agreed and the mobsters were allowed to go free. But one message was made clear, even if it wasn't stated openly. These men were not welcome to return to Batavia at any time, for any purpose. As far as can be determined, they never did.
Batavia's foray into the underworld of the Western New York Mafia had apparently ended.
Stefano Magaddino, the most powerful mob boss in Western New York history, apparently wasn't as close to death as journalists had surmised in 1970. He lived until 1974. But his influence had waned considerably by then.
The Rochester mob headed by Frank Valenti did indeed break away in 1970 and aligned itself with the Pittsburgh crime family. Valenti remained Rochester boss until 1972, then served time in prison for extortion before moving to Texas and Arizona. He died in 2008 at age 97.
The American public (including myself) has always been fascinated with the violent, complicated world of organized crime. The films ‘‘The Godfather’’ and ‘‘The Godfather Part II’’ were critical and box office smashes, winning the Academy Award for best picture in 1972 and 1974, respectively. ''The Sopranos" was a highly rated TV series on HBO for nearly a decade.
The Mafia's influence has declined since its heyday in the 1950s and '60s, but the recent arrest of 120 mobsters shows that it's far from dead.
To its credit, Batavia has never been a ''mob town,'' notwithstanding the events of June 1970. It continues to be a community of hard-working individuals from many ethnic backgrounds, all of whom have contributed greatly to the city's development.



  1. By the looks of thing this 'author' neglected the Tri-county family of Mancuso. Uncle Nat (enforcer), the Lamp Lighter Restaurant, the ownership of car dealerships and other points of interest.