Michael Clemente (August 29, 1908 – December 1987), also known as "Mike Costello" and "Big Mike", was a New York mobster with the Genovese crime family who became a major force in controlling the East River waterfront of Manhattan from the 1950s to 1979.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Born in New York City, Clemente lived in Brooklyn. He married Josephine Tresonte and was the father of three daughters. His official jobs included labor organizer, secretary, and business agent for Manhattan Local 856 of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). Clemente's criminal record included rape, assault, disorderly conduct, extortion, conspiracy to violate federal liquor laws, and perjury.

A lieutenant of mobster Rocco Pellegrino, Clemente used his power at the waterfront to extort monies from shipping companies and the companies that loaded and unloaded cargo. At one point, the president of a company managing stevedores paid Clemente $11,000 for one of his daughter's weddings. In 1953, Clemente was convicted of extortion, removed from office at the ILA local, and sent to prison for five years. After his release, he exercised control at the ILA through his surrogates.

In 1977, the government gained the cooperation of William Montella, a shipping company employee, and planted undercover surveillance devices in his office. Over the next two years, law enforcement recorded meetings there in which Clemente received payments from Montella. In 1979, Clemente was convicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges including extortion and tax evasion and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

On February 21, 1987, Clemente was released from prison.[1] In December 1987, Clemente died.

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

Clemente was reportedly the inspiration for the character of waterfront boss "Johnny Friendly", played by Lee J. Cobb, in the 1954 film On the Waterfront.[2]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Treasury Department, "Mafia: the Government's Secret File on Organized Crime, HarperCollins Publishers 2007 ISBN 0-06-136385-5

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Genovese crime familyTemplate:American Mafia

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