Vincenzo John Rao (pronounced "RAY-oh") (June 21, 1898 – September 25, 1988)[1] also known as Vincent or Vinny, was a New York City mobster who served as consigliere in the Lucchese crime family.[2]

Biography[edit | edit source]

East Harlem[edit | edit source]

Vincenzo John Rao was born on June 21, 1898 in Palermo, Sicily.[1] Vincent Rao was a short, heavy-set man with an aggressive temperament. In later years, he dressed in expensive silk and woolen garments.[3]

His father was Antonio Rao and his mother Liboria Gagliano. On his mothers side, Rao was a distant relative to Lucchese crime family founder Gaetano "Tommy" Gagliano. Vincent Rao had a brother, Calogero "Charles" Rao and a sister, Mary Speciale. His cousin, gangster Joseph Rao.[4] Vincenzo Rao was married to Carmelina Alberti and they had two daughters, Nina Pancoldo and Liagria Vento.[1]

In the early 1910's, Rao's family moved to Manhattan's heavily Italian East Harlem. Rao had uncles working for the Black Hand on both sides of his family.[5] This soon led to Vincent associating with powerful New York mobsters in the Mafia such as Nicholas "Nick" Morello, Gaetano "Tommy" Reina, Vincenzo Terranova and Jack Dragna. Vincent and his brother joined gangster Stefano LaSalle in committing petty crimes.[5] On December 5, 1921, Rao became a naturalized United States citizen in New York City.[1]

Reina family[edit | edit source]

Rao continued working for the Black Hand and joined the 107th Street gang under Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese.[5] The 107th Street gang was under the protection of the Reina family boss Gaetano "Tom" Reina. Rao committed crimes for his new boss, until Reina was murdered on February 26, 1930. Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria appointed Bonaventura "Joseph" Pinzolo as the new boss of the Reina family. The family then split into two factions, the Gagliano/Lucchese faction and the Pinzolo/Masseria faction. Months later the Castellammarese War broke out in New York City for control over all the Italian gangs in America. The Gagliano/Lucchese faction murdered Joseph Pinzolo on September 5, 1930, allowing Gaetano "Tom" Gagliano to become the new boss. Rao aligned with Gagliano and served him during the Castellammarese war.[5]

Lucchese family[edit | edit source]

After the Castellammarese War, Rao remained a member of the Bronx/East Harlem Gagliano family. In 1953, new boss Gaetano Lucchese promoted Rao to Consigliere. Rao was already a top member of the Lucchese crime family with operations in East Harlem, the Bronx and Westchester County.

In 1957, Rao was arrested with 60 other mobsters at the abortive Apalachin meeting in rural Apalachin, New York. When asked by investigators why he was at the meeting, Rao said he went there for the luncheon buffet and did not speak to anyone else because he was not "introduced".[3] [6]

In 1963, mobster Joseph "Joe" Valachi became a government informant and told authorities about the Mafia. Valachi named Rao as the Lucchese consigliere, guaranteeing him constant government surveillance during the following years.[7] In 1965, Rao was convicted on perjury charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.[8][9] At the same time the longtime boss Tom Lucchese had become ill and Rao was thought as suitable successor. His chance to become the new boss never happened due to his trials. Rao remained as consigliere under Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti, with his criminal interest in gambling, money laundering, labor unions and real estate.[10][11] Officially, Rao was a contractor and union official who also owned a garage, a restaurant, and a liquor store.[3]

Death[edit | edit source]

In 1973, Rao retired to Florida. On September 25, 1988, Rao died of natural causes. He was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.[12]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Giancana, United States Treasury Department, Bureau of Narcotics ; foreword by Sam (2007). Mafia : the government's secret file on organized crime pg.602 (1st ed. ed.). New York: Collins. ISBN 0-06-136385-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=e7inUx6QwkgC&pg=PA658&dq=%22Joseph+Rao%22&hl=en&ei=4f7LTtzBJuHu0gHyuNQi&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Rao&f=false. 
  2. Grutzner, Charles. "Mafia Candidates Jockeying for Job as Lucchese Successor" (June 26, 1967) New York Times
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Sketches of Gangland Figures Named by Valachi in Senate Testimony". New York Times. September 28, 1963. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70D10FE3B541A7B93CAAB1782D85F478685F9. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  4. "Gangster is Seized in a Street Fight". New York Times. January 5, 1932. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10D10FA3B5A16738DDDAC0894D9405B828FF1D3. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Critchley, David. "The origins of organized crime in America: the New York City mafia, 1891-1931". (pg 89, 90, 205)
  6. La Soret, Mike. "Attendee Profiles at the 1957 Apalachin Mob Confab". May 2008
  7. "The Gaetano Lucchese Family" McClellan Chart 1963. Gangrule.com
  8. Nixon vs. the City's Top Crime fighter by Peter Maas (June 30, 1969) New York Magazine (pg.24-27)
  9. "United States of America, Appellee, vs. Vincent John Rao" United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit. 394 F.2d 354 (Argued April 3, 1968 – Decided May 9, 1968)
  10. The American Mafia.com "Chronology – Section V 1950-1988"
  11. Hunt, Thomas." White Collar Mafioso: Tommy Lucchese (1899-1967)". 2007 (page 2)
  12. "Vincent Rao". Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rao&GSfn=Vincent&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=6539064&df=all&. Retrieved 21 November 2011. 
Business positions
Preceded by
Stefano "Steve" Rondelli
Lucchese crime family
Consigliere

1953-1973
Succeeded by
Christopher "Christie Trick" Furnari

Template:Lucchese crime family Template:Lucchese crime family (1963) Template:American Mafia

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