Buffalo crime family

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Buffalo crime family
Stefano Magaddino.jpg
Named after Stefano Magaddino
Founded by Angelo Palmeri
Founding location Buffalo, New York, United States
Years active c. 1910–present
Territory Buffalo, throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, Syracuse, Rochester, Utica, the Canadian province of Ontario, Northwest Pennsylvania and Las Vegas
Ethnicity Italian, Italian-American, Sicilian people, Sicilian American made men and other ethnicities as "associates"
Criminal activities Extortion, bookmaking, drug trafficking, loan-sharking, gambling, racketeering, labor racketeering, conspiracy and murder
Allies Five Families
Papalia crime family
Luppino crime family
Musitano crime family
Rivals various gangs in the Buffalo area

The Buffalo crime family, also known as the Magaddino crime family, the New York State crime family, the Todaro crime family and The Arm,[1] is an Italian American Mafia crime family based in Buffalo, New York, United States. The family has operated throughout Western New York, Ontario, Canada and Erie, Pennsylvania.[2][3]


The Buffalo crime family gained power during the Prohibition era through bootlegging. In 1931, the family boss, Stefano Magaddino, became an original member of The Commission, the governing body of the American Mafia. The family remained strong and relatively united until his leadership was challenged in the 1960s. It then split into factions as they tried to assassinate him. The Reason?

Magaddino's empire began to crumble in 1968, when police found $500,000 stashed away in Magaddino's funeral home and his son's attic.

"At that time, Magaddino had been telling his underlings that money was tight, and he could not afford to pay them Christmas bonuses," Hartnett said. "People began to stop trusting him when we found all that money."[4]

The internal war continued after his death from natural causes on July 19, 1974[5] but ended in the early 1980s when Joseph Todaro Sr. became the boss.[6] Todaro united the family and retired in 2006, leaving many in law enforcement to believe Leonard Falzone had taken his place.[7] However, others thought he was only acting as the "front boss" for the Todaros and that Joseph Todaro Jr. was the acting boss while his father became the senior statesman for the family.[8]

The Buffalo crime family's main front operation was Laborers' International Union of North America Local 210. Over the course of the later part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st, the Buffalo crime family declined in influence. Factors included older members slowly turning away from the organization, younger Italian-Americans showing no interest in its operations, an 11-year federal operation that forced the family out of Local 210 between 1995 and 2006, introduction of the New York Lottery depriving the family of a major revenue source (illegal gambling revenue), and the rise of Joe Todaro Jr.'s legitimate pizzeria business.[9] In 1998 these factors led Lee Coppola, veteran organized crime reporter for The Buffalo News, to write an article titled "The Withered Arm."  In it he stated: "Today’s Buffalo mob -- disorganized and all but penniless -- is a far cry from its heyday,"  and that the "last visible remnants of mob power in Buffalo disappeared."[10]

However, Coppola's pronouncement was premature. The mob in Buffalo, although diminished, was not completely disorganized and penniless. The FBI continued to release the crime family's organizational charts until at least 2006.[11] The Niagara Falls Reporter indicated Leonard Falzone was promoted to the top spot after Joe Todaro Sr. reportedly stepped down in 2006.[7] After the deaths of Todaro Sr. in 2012[6] and Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti in 2013,[12] rumors swirled about who would lead the family.[7]

In 2012, Matt Gryta, crime reporter for The Buffalo News, said that many believe the family had "expanded into the new millennium through telemarketing, pump and dump stock scams and internet pornography with the 'family' expanding its operations nationwide."[2] That same year, Dan Herbeck wrote an article about Ronald Fino called "Life after Local 210 for the FBI’s inside guy." The article indicated Fino was "skeptical of the Justice Department’s claims that mob influences were totally removed from Local 210 and the Laborers international." Ronald believed the federal trusteeship the government established to clean the union "didn’t go far enough."[13] Additionally, The Toronto Star's organized crime reporter Peter Edwards indicated that in 2013 the Buffalo Crime Family was seeking to revive itself from recent losses through loansharking at the Casino Niagara in Canada on the American border.[14]

Current position of the family

In March 2017, nearly 20 years after Coppola's article "The Withered Arm", Dan Herbeck wrote a similar piece titled "The Mafia is all but dead in Western New York." In it the FBI field office in Buffalo stated only "scattered remnants that are no longer believed to be active or organized remain." The piece, also, highlighted many of the same factors that the 1998 article cited for the decline of the Buffalo crime family.[9]

However, recent arrests by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Otremens Project indicate the pronouncements about the Buffalo Crime Family's demise are overstated. In November 2017 the FBI and Canadian newspapers indicate the family is still active.[15]

The Toronto Star said that Giuseppe (Joe) and Domenico Violi,[3] who have longstanding ties to the Buffalo Mob, were arrested on narcotics trafficking charges.[14][16] These charges indicate a continuation of the long established mafia drug trafficking triangle from Toronto/Hamilton to Buffalo and Montreal to New York City established by Stefano Magaddino and his cousin, Joseph Bonanno.[17][18] Michael McGarrity of the FBI said the Otremens operation, "unearthed and dug up the roots of a partnership extending from New York City to Buffalo and Toronto to Montreal, proving once again that Italian organized crime groups have evolved far beyond the neighbourhood cliques of days gone by."[19]

Additionally, Peter Edwards in the Toronto Star wrote, "The arrests also hit members of the Buffalo crime family headed by the late Joe Todaro."[20] The US Department of Justice said that Canadian law enforcement authorities had arrested various members and associates of the Bonanno, Gambino, and Todaro crime families on charges that include narcotics trafficking.[21] In response to these arrests, Canadian journalist Adrian Humphries wrote:

Among those arrested in Canada are members of the Todaro organized crime family, based in Buffalo, according to U.S. authorities. The Todaro crime group was built by the now-deceased Joseph Todaro Sr., who took over the Buffalo Mafia once led by the influential boss Stefano (The Undertaker) Magaddino.[22]

Further, in September 2018 Peter Edward reported that "the Buffalo Mob isn't dead, despite some media reports."[23] According to his article the Buffalo/Todaro Crime family is strong enough to call the shots in the recent mob war between the Musitano and other crime families in the Hamilton, Ontario underworld. This article reports:

  • "New York State mob still has considerable influence in the southern Ontario underworld, sources say."
  • ""I don’t think anyone knows for certain how this plays out,"Paul Manning, a former Hamilton undercover police officer who worked on organized crime investigations. "One thing’s for sure, Buffalo will always have a say north of the border.""
  • "Buffalo would have to give approval for high-level killings, sources said, adding that mob leaders there are believed to have turned their backs on one side in the dispute and given tacit approval to the other.
  • "They’re all supposed to be under Buffalo," one source said of the two feuding Ontario crime factions."
  • "Buffalo factions of Traditional Organized Crime are not ‘in’ Canada per se, but historically have controlled aspects of Canadian ‘family business’ and do get kickbacks from profits from illicit activity," Manning said.[24]

Reporters allege that Al Iavarone of Ancaster was killed in September 2018 in retaliation for the May 2017 murder of Angelo Musitano. Rumors circulated that the Musitano hit was related to "an unpaid debt and rivalries between Niagara mobsters and influence from the Buffalo mob."[25] Revenge was another reason for the Musitano's death. James Dubro indicates this hit wasn't just approved by the Buffalo crime family, but ordered by Dominic Violi, later to be revealed as the Buffalo mafia's underboss.[26] Angelo's murder occurred nearly 20 years after the Musitano hitman Kenneth Murdock killed Johnny "Pops" Papalia, the long time Buffalo mob captain and head of the Papalia crime family, and his right-hand man Carman Barillaro a Buffalo and Papalia crime family soldier.[27][28][29]

Additionally, the Toronto Sun alleges that the current mob war in Southern Toronto has it roots in the mob conflict that had Paolo Violi and his brothers Francesco & Rocco (Dominic and Giuseppe "Joe" Violi's dad and uncles) murdered in Montreal during the late '70's by the Rizzuto crime family. Brad Hunter writes: "It may have taken years but the Violi family were not going to let sleeping dogs lie." Nicolo Rizzuto Jr was gunned down December 28, 2009 followed by his brother-in-law Paola Renda on May 10, 2010. Renda was the Rizutto crime family consigliere at the time of his murder. Finally, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr was killed by a sniper on November 2010.[26][30]

Dr. Anna Sergi (lecturer in criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Essex, United Kingdom, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology) confirms the Otremens operation which resulted in the Violi brothers' arrests, indicates New York crime families are using drug trafficking routes they established long ago and that these families are being "reinvigorated" by their long established working relationships with the Calabrian mafia in Canada. However, her article calls into question the current affiliation of the Todaro Crime Family in Buffalo. She indicates it is a "Crime Syndicate" formerly aligned with the LCN (La Cosa Nostra) families of New York. See chart in linked article: New York Crime Families Survive and Collaborate.[18]

In December 2018 Dominic Violi was sentenced to 8 years for his role in the mob drug trafficking ring unearthed by the Otremens operation.[31] The Globe and Mail reports:

During the investigation, according to the agreed statement of facts presented in court Monday, police listened in as the agent and Mr. Violi discussed "a variety of criminal activity and profit-making opportunities."

Over the course of several transactions – the first in March, 2017 – Mr. Violi trafficked approximately 260,000 pills (of the drugs PCP, MDMA and methamphetamine) to the agent for more than US$416,000. He also received another US$24,000 as his cut of the profit.[32]

Court documents that were unsealed after the hearing indicate Dominico Violi was recently made the underboss of the Buffalo crime family by boss Joseph Todaro Jr. Adrian Humphries writes:

It was in October 2017, at a meeting in Florida, that Joseph Todaro Jr., the alleged Buffalo boss, told Violi he had hand-picked him, according to wiretap transcripts and summaries entered as exhibits in pre-trial proceedings.

After he told the story to his friend, the New York mobster leaned in and kissed Violi in a traditional show of respect, the Crown’s evidence claimed.

He told Violi it was "in his blood."[33]

After being promoted to the underboss position Violi is heard on wiretaps boasting that "he had beaten out 30 other people for the position," indicating the Buffalo family has at least 30 made men which include Canadian members which included the Violi brothers' uncles Natale and Rocco Luppino. In his new role Dominico was to “assume control over the operations of the Luppino-Violi crime family and solidify his power base with further and greater collaboration with the New York-based Mafia families.”.[32]

The Violi case is extraordinary for three reasons.

First, it reveals that Joseph Todaro Jr. never retired to run his pizza business as reported by the Buffalo News. The Star reports:

Todaro runs a highly successful pizzeria in Buffalo and, last year, in an article on the demise of the Buffalo Mafia in the Buffalo News, Todaro is quoted saying he works seven days a week at his restaurant, just as his father did.

"I’m not going to comment" on organized crime questions, he said, according to the newspaper, "but if you want a great recipe for cheese and pepperoni, I’ll tell you."

Second, Dominico Violi made history by being the first Canadian to ever hold the second highest position in a US mob family.

Third, it indicates "The Commission" (or the governing body of the American Mafia) is still in operation despite the assumption it had ceased to exist. Wiretaps indicate that Violi's promotion was so unusual that Buffalo crime family boss Joe Todaro, Jr. had to ask The Commission for permission to install him as Buffalo's new underboss.[33]

Historical leadership

Boss (official and acting)

The early history of what became the Buffalo family was controlled by two different men: Angelo Palmeri and Joseph DiCarlo. The two groups merged, becoming a crime family.[34]

  • 1908–1912 – Angelo "Buffalo Bill" Palmeri – stepped down, becoming underboss.
  • 1912–1922 – Giuseppe "Don Pietro" DiCarlo Sr.[35]
  • 1922–1974 – Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino – died of natural causes on July 19, 1974, at the age of 82.[35]
    • Acting 1969–1970 – Salvatore "Sam" Pieri – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction, imprisoned.
    • Acting 1970–1972 – Joseph Fino – leader of the Fino-Sansanese faction, imprisoned.
    • Acting 1972–1974 – Samuel Frangiamore – leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction.
  • 1974–1985 – Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore – appointed by the Commission, retired in 1985 and died in 1999.[35]
  • 1985–2006 – Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. – became semi-retired in 1995, officially retired in 2006. Died in 2012. Todaro was the last officially recognized boss of the family.[35]
  • After 2006 – Joseph Todaro Jr. became the boss when his father retired-according to FBI operative and former Buffalo LCN Associate/informant Ron Fino.[citation needed] It has been alleged by the FBI that Leonard Falzone took over as the acting boss when Joe Todaro, Senior retired in 2006.[7]


  1. ^ "Mob's Control of Local 210 Has a Long History". The Buffalo News. December 5, 1999. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Gryta, Matt. (2012). The real teflon don : how an elite team of New York State Troopers helped take down America's most powerful Mafia family. Karalus, George. Buffalo, NY: Cazenovia Books. Kindle Locations 940-955. ISBN 978-0-97492-536-3. OCLC 820457199.
  3. ^ a b 1963-, Schneider, Stephen, (2016). Iced : the story of organized crime in Canada. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. pp. Kindle location 9019-9022. ISBN 9781443429900. OCLC 960637982.
  4. ^ "Buffalo's Crimes of the Century Mayhem, Murder and the Mafia -- Darker Moments in the City's History". The Buffalo News. December 27, 1999. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  5. ^ Rizzo, Michael F. (2012). Gangsters and Organized Crime in Buffalo: History, Hits and Headquarters. Charlestown, SC: The History Press (Kindle Edition). Kindle Locations 959–960. ISBN 978-1-61423-549-1.
  6. ^ a b Hudson, Mike. "RIP: Joe Todaro, reputed mob boss and noted businessman". Niagara Falls Reporter. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Hudson, Mike. "Who will lead now that Todaro, Nicoletti gone?". Niagara Falls Reporter. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Fino, Ronald; Rizzo, Michael (2013). The Triangle Exit: The True Story of a Secret Undercover Operative for the FBI and CIA. Tel-Aviv, Israel: Contento De Semrik. pp. Kindle Locations 5095-5105. ISBN 978-965-550-193-3.
  9. ^ a b Herbeck, Dan (March 19, 2017). "The Mafia is all but dead in Western New York. So what killed it?". The Buffalo News. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  10. ^ Coppola, Lee (January 31, 1998). "The Withered Arm The Death of the Buffalo Mafia Is All About Losing Its Old-fashioned Values and Falling Behind the Times". The Buffalo News. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  11. ^ Hudson, Mike. "Mob May Be Dead But Not Forgotten". Niagara Falls Reporter. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  12. ^ Hudson, Mike. "Falls' Benjamin "Sonny" Nicoletti; Part of the Falls' unique character". Niagara Falls Reporter. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  13. ^ Herbeck, Dan (September 30, 2012). "Life after Local 210 for the FBI's inside guy". The Buffalo News. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Edwards, Peter (2015). Business or blood : Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto's last war. Nicaso, Antonio,. Toronto: Random House of Canada. Kindle Locations 528–637. ISBN 9780345813763. OCLC 890512099.
  15. ^ "RCMP GTA CFSEU and its policing partners land a tremendous blow to organized crime in Canada". Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  16. ^ Edwards, Peter. "Accused Violi brothers in trafficking bust come from colourful family". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  17. ^ Humphreys, Adrian (1999). The enforcer : Johnny Pops Papalia : a life and death in the Mafia (1st HarperCollins hardcover ed.). Toronto: HarperCollins. pp. 40–46, 106–108. ISBN 0002000164. OCLC 40982427.
  18. ^ a b Sergi, Anna (June 5, 2018). "New York Crime Families Survive and Collaborate". Janes Intelligence Review.
  19. ^ "Hamilton police officers allegedly aided accused mobster, leaked report reveals". CBC News. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Edwards, Peter (November 9, 2017). "RCMP and FBI to announce fentanyl trafficking arrests". OurWindsor.ca. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  21. ^ "Members and Associates of Gambino and Bonanno Organized Crime Families Arrested in Coordinated U.S.-Canadian Takedown". United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. November 9, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  22. ^ Humphries, Adrian (November 10, 2017). "'Congratulations': Undercover agent inducted into Mafia in secret ceremony captured on video by police". National Post. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  23. ^ Edwards, Peter. "Buffalo mob involved in deadly Niagara Region dispute". peteredwardsauthor.com. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  24. ^ Edwards, Peter. "Buffalo mob playing role in deadly Ontario dispute, sources say". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  25. ^ O'Reilly, Nicole (2018-11-16). "Mob, murder and the Hamilton connection". TheSpec.com. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  26. ^ a b Hunter, Brad (2018-12-28). "UNDERWORLD GTA: Drugs, guns, murder and revenge served cold". Toronto Sun Online. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  27. ^ "Ancaster man's murder is 'retaliation' for 2017 mob hit: former undercover cop | The Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  28. ^ "Mafia hitman reveals his code for killings | The Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  29. ^ "The man who killed 'Pops'". NiagaraThisWeek.com. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  30. ^ Lamberti, Rob (2013-10-19). "Ontario mobsters on the run". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  31. ^ "Murdered mob boss's son pleads guilty in Hamilton to selling drugs to 'made' New York Mafia member | The Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  32. ^ a b "'It opens up an underworld:' How a drug plea has exposed a Mafia network in Hamilton". Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  33. ^ a b "Shocking mob trial allegation: Hamilton crime figure was Underboss of Buffalo Mafia". National Post. 2018-12-04. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  34. ^ Bruno, Anthony. "The Bonanno Family". truTV. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
  35. ^ a b c d Kurek, Albert S. The Troopers Are Coming II: New York State Troopers 1943–1985. pp. 177–181.

Further reading

  • Dubro, James. Mob Rule: Inside the Canadian Mafia. MacMillen, 1985
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia, Second Edition. Checkmark Books, 1999
  • DiVita, Louis P. "A Wiser Guy" 2016
  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiots Guide to the Mafia:The Buffalo Family. Alpha Books, 2002
  • Humphreys, Adrian. The Enforcer: Johnny Pops Papalia, A Life and Death in the Mafia. Harper Collins, 2002
  • Griffen, Joseph. Mob Nemesis: How the F.B.I. Crippled Organized Crime. Prometheus Books, 2002
  • Edwards, Peter. The Northern Connection: Inside Canada's Deadliest Mafia Family. Optimum International, 2006
  • Dubro, James and Robin Rowland, "King of the Mob: Rocco Perri and the women who Ran His Rackets" Penguin 1987
  • Herbeck, Dan. "Justice Dept. Claims Union has been dominated by the mob" Buffalo News (New York). January 31, 1996
  • U.S. vs Laborers International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, 212 Page RICO Complaint
  • Statement of Ronald M. Fino to Sub-Committee on Organized Crime - July 24 & 25, 1996.
  • The Cosa Nostra and Labor Rackeering by Ron Fino (1998)

External links

  • Pennsylvania Crime Concession. "Organized Crime in Pennsylvania: Traditional and Non-Traditional". (April 15, 1988). The Nevada Observer.
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