Carlos Marcello

Carlos Marcello

Carlos Marcello (Calogero Minacore) was born in Tunis, North Africa, on 6th February, 1910. Marcello emigrated to the United States and in 1929 was arrested for bank robbery by the police in New Orleans. These charges were later dropped but the following year he was convicted of assault and robbery and was sentenced to the State penitentiary for 9 years (served 5 years).

In 1938 Marcello was arrested and charged with the sale of more than 23 pounds of narcotics. Despite receiving another lengthy prison sentence and a $76,830 fine, Marcello served less than 10 months in prison. On his release from prison Marcello became associated with Frank Costello, the leader of the Mafia in New York.

By the late 1940's, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana's gambling network. He had also joined forces with Meyer Lansky in order to buy some of the most important gambling casinos in the New Orleans area. By this time Marcello was the undisputed leader of the Mafia in New Orleans. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.

On 24th March, 1959, Marcello appeared before the Senate Committee investigating organized crime. Serving as chief counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee. In response to committee questioning, Marcello again invoked the fifth amendment in refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities, and associates.

After becoming president John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, as U.S. Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide variety of issues including the attempt to tackle organized crime. In March 1961, the Attorney General took steps to have Marcello deported to Guatemala (the country Marcello had falsely listed as his birthplace). On 4th April, Marcello was arrested by the authorities and taken forcibly removed to Guatemala.

It did not take Marcello long to get back into the United States. Undercover informants reported that Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy. He told Edward Becker that a dog will continue to bite you if you cut off its tail. Whereas if you cut off the dog's head, it would cease to cause you trouble. Becker reported that Marcello "clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy murdered in some way." Marcello told another informant that he would need to take out "insurance" for the assassination by "setting up a nut to take the blame".

Just before Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, Jack Ruby made contact with Marcello, and another Mafia leader, Santos Trafficante, about a problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). Ruby also visited New Orleans that summer. So also did the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

After the assassination of Kennedy the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello. They came to the conclusion that they "did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized crime figure" and that Marcello earned his living "as a tomato salesman and real estate investor." As a result of this investigation the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link between Ruby and Marcello.

In 1966 Marcello was arrested in New York. He was eventually charged and after a long drawn out legal battle he was eventually convicted for assault. Sentenced to two years. he served less than 6 months, and was released on March 12, 1971.

G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, published The Plot to Kill the President in 1981. In the book Blakey argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. He believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved but believes that there was at least one gunman firing from the Grassy Knoll. Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello organized the assassination.

On 14th January, 1992, the New York Post claimed that Marcello, Jimmy Hoffa and Santos Trafficante had all been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963 Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the president." He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.

In his autobiography, Mob Lawyer (1994) (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab) Frank Ragano added that in July, 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Jimmy Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santos Trafficante concerning plans to kill President John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed Hoffa apparently said to Ragano: "I told you could do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santos did for me." He added: "This means Bobby is out as Attorney General". Marcello later told Ragano: "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."

Carlos Marcello died on 3rd March, 1993.

Primary Sources

(1) House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee (30th August, 1961)

Not until Carlos Marcello became a subject of deportation . . . did he start publicly conducting himself in a manner intended to substantiate his claim that he was a legitimate businessman. But this was contrived public relations having little relationship to fact. He continued to direct his underworld government and to press further expansion. He became involved in a series of motel transactions involving millions of dollars, and land negotiations of even greater worth. But for the most part, he kept his name off the record, using members of his family and trusted lieutenants for that purpose.

(2) Aaron M. Kohn, testimony to House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee, 11th June, 1970.

Marcello and his growing organization developed their capital or bankroll through extensive gambling, including casinos, slot machines, pinball, handbooks, layoff, football pools, dice, card games, roulette and bingo; also narcotics, prostitution, extortion, clipjoint operations B-drinking, marketing stolen goods, robberies, burglaries, and thefts. Their criminal enterprise required, and had, corrupt collusion of public officials at every critical level including police, sheriffs, justices of the peace, prosecutors, mayors, governors, judges, councilmen, licensing authorities, :State legislators, and at least one Member of Congress.

(3) Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina interviewed Carlos Marcello on 24th March, 1959.

Sam Ervin: "I would like to know how you managed to stay in the United States for 5 years, 9 months, and 24 days after you were found ordered deported as an undesirable person."

Carlos Marcello: "I wouldn't know".

Sam Ervin: "Those who have no claim to any right to remain in America, who come here and prey like leeches upon law-abiding people ought to be removed from this country."

(4) Federal Bureau of Investigation report (January, 1961)

On January 12, 1961, a source advised that Carlos Marcello is extremely apprehensive and upset and has since the New Orleans States-Item newspaper on December 28, 1960 published a news story reporting that... Robert F. Kennedy stated he would expedite the deportation proceedings pending against Marcello after Kennedy takes office in January 1961.

(5) Edward Reid interviewed Edward Becker for his book, The Grim Reapers (1969)

It was then that Carlos' voice lost its softness, and his words were bitten off and spit out when mention was made of U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was still on the trail of Marcello. "Livarsi na petra di la scarpa!" Carlos shrilled the cry of revenge: "Take the stone out of my shoe!" "Don't worry about that little Bobby, son of a bitch," he shouted. "He's going to be taken care of!" Ever since Robert Kennedy had arranged for his deportation to Guatemala, Carlos had wanted revenge. But as the subsequent conversation, which was reported to two top Government investigators by one of the participants and later to this author, showed, he knew that to rid himself of Robert Kennedy he would first have to remove the President. Any killer of the Attorney General would be hunted down by his brother; the death of the President would seed the fate of his Attorney General.

No one at the meeting had any doubt about Marcello's intentions when he abruptly arose from the table. Marcello did not joke about such things. In any case, the matter had gone beyond mere "business"; it had become an affair of honor, a Sicilian vendetta. Moreover, the conversation at Churchill Farms also made clear that Marcello had begun to move. He had, for example, already thought of using "nut" to do the job. Roughly one year later President Kennedy was shot Dallas - two months after Attorney General Robert Kennedy had announced to the McClellan committee that he was going to expand his war on organized crime. And it is perhaps significant that privately Robert Kennedy had singled out James Hoffa, Sam Giancana, and Carlos Marcello as being among his chief targets.

(6) Edward Becker, interviewed by House Select Committee on Assassinations (8th November, 1978)

My account of the meeting and discussion with Marcello in 1962 is truthful. It was then and it is now. I was there. The FBI (their agents in Los Angeles) have tried to discredit me. They've done everything except investigate the information I gave Reid. They apparently have always said it was not the truth, but they've never investigated it to arrive at that judgment?

(7) Robert G. Blakey, House Select Committee on Assassinations (September, 1978)

Becker stated that Marcello had made his remarks about the Kennedy brothers after Becker said something to the effect that "Bobby Kennedy is really giving you a rough time.") He could not recall the exact words Marcello used in threatening President Kennedy, but believed the account in Reid's book "is basically correct."Marcello was very angry and had "clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy murdered in some way." Marcello's statement had been made in a serious tone and sounded as if he had discussed it previously to some extent. Becker commented that Marcello had made some kind of reference to President Kennedy's being a dog and Attorney General Robert Kennedy the dog's tail, and had said "the dog will keep biting you you only cut off its tail," but that if the dog's head were cut off, the dog would die.

Becker stated that Marcello also made some kind of reference to the way in which he allegedly wanted to arrange the President's murder.Marcello "clearly indicated" that his own lieutenants must not be identified as the assassins, and that there would thus necessity to have them use or manipulate someone else to carry out the actual crime.

Becker told the committee that while he believed Marcello had been serious when he spoke of wanting to have the President assassinated, he did not believe the Mafia leader was capable of carrying it out or had the opportunity to do so. He emphasized that while he was disturbed by Marcello's remarks at the time, he had grown accustomed to hearing criminal figures make threats against adversaries.

Becker stated that the only error in Reid's published account the meeting related to the statement that Becker had informed two Government investigators of it. Becker said that he never told any Government Investigator of Marcello's remarks about President Kennedy; he "would have been afraid" to repeat Marcello's remarks to anyone during that period, out of concern that Marcello or his associates might learn he had done so.

(8) Robert G. Blakey, House Select Committee on Assassinations (September, 1978)

The evidence shows that the FBI's failure to investigate the allegation that Marcello had discussed assassinating President Kennedy constituted a violation of the Director's promise to investigate all circumstances surrounding the President's murder even after the official Warren Commission investigation had ended in 1964. In his appearance before the Commission on May 6, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had personally affirmed that promise stating:

I can assure you so far as the FBI is concerned the case will be continued in an open classification for all time. That is, any information coming to us or any report coming to us from any source will be thoroughly investigated, so that we will be able to either prove or disprove the allegation.

The FBI's failure to take seriously the alleged Marcello threat was all the more disturbing given the time at which the Bureau learned of and discarded the allegation - less than 2 months after the leadership of the Bureau had been faulted by President Johnson himself not pursuing another allegation by an underworld informant that Mafia figures and Cuban agents might secretly have been involved in President Kennedy's assassination.

(9) An unnamed criminal was quoted by Michael Dorman in his book, Payoff: The Role of Organized Crime in American Politics (1972).

You know, the Federal government has been harassing Carlos (Marcello) for the last ten years, and it's all because of politics.... In 1960, when Bobby Kennedy was managing his brother's presidential campaign, he sent a guy down here to see Carlos. This was before the Democratic National Convention. He wanted Carlos to use his influence to swing the Louisiana delegation for Kennedy at the convention. Carlos said that he was sorry, but that he'd already promised his support at the convention to Lyndon Johnson. The Louisiana delegation went for Johnson. Even though Jack Kennedy got the nomination and picked Johnson for Vice President, Bobby was pissed off at Carlos and promised he'd get even. When he became attorney general, the first thing he did was start a campaign to put Jimmy Hoffa in the pen. The second thing he did was go after Carlos's ass... All the Feds have been harassing Carlos ever since... Once these things get started in Washington, it's hard to stop them no matter who's President.

(10) In 1989 David E. Scheim was asked by Blaine Taylor who killed President John F. Kennedy.

The three people are Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans... The second figure is Santos Trafficante, who was the Mafia boss at Tampa, Florida. The third is Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters' boss who was killed... Like Carlos Marcello, each of the other two had spoken openly of assassination plots against the Kennedys, and this all occurred in the summer months of 1962. All three of them were very close friends, and, when we look at Jack Ruby's telephone records, we find an astonishing peak in the number of out-of-state calls in the months before the assassination - it's actually 25-fold greater than in the month of the previous January. Most of those calls are to organized crime figures, in particular to top associates of Marcello, Trafficante, and Hoffa.

(11) G. Robert Blakey was interviewed by Frontline in 1993.

Q: Was there a connection between Oswald and organized crime?

A: At this point in time, New Orleans was corrupt, and the principle figure behind that corruption, gambling etc, was Carlos Marcello. Oswald at this time brushed up against organized crime in its worst forms. Oswald's uncle, a man named Charles "Dutz" Murret, was an ex-prize fighter and promoter who was also a bookie. He was under the control of Carlos Marcello, who at that time was the head of the Mafia in New Orleans. These were the people who were in the sphere of Lee Harvey Oswald's life as a child.

Q: Mobsters talked of their hatred of Kennedy. Could you talk about that - which mobsters, what did they say?

A: There is a story told by a man named Edward Becker, of a conversation with Carlos Marcello, in which Carlos Marcello talks about getting, he speaks in Sicilian, "getting the stone out of my shoe," and talking about getting a nut to kill, not Bobby Kennedy, who was his nemesis, but John Kennedy, who was the man behind the nemesis. We took that statement very seriously and investigated Becker and Becker's credibility. Was he associated with the people he says he was? Was he in New Orleans at the time and place he says he was? Our judgment was that Becker's story was true.

More significantly, in recent days, a man named Frank Ragano, who was a long-time lawyer for Santo Trafficante, tells the story that Trafficante, shortly before he underwent a serious operation, confided to him that "Carlos messed up." He said that "we should have killed Bobby and not Giovanni." This evidence is of extraordinary significance.

Q: A number of Mafia leaders have been overheard either threatening or boasting about having a hand in killing Kennedy. What was the evidence?

A: We took very seriously the possibility that organized crime had a hand in the President's death. I personally did not believe it at the time. I thought we could prove that they didn't. The FBI had an illegal electronic surveillance on the major figures of organized crime in the major areas in this country... in New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo and elsewhere. We did a survey of that illegal electronic surveillance: Eight months before the assassination and six months after. We were looking for some indication in these men's conversations that would connect them to the assassination - to either Lee Harvey Oswald, or to Jack Ruby. We found no evidence in it to connect them to Oswald or Ruby. On the other hand, what we did find, shockingly, is repeated conversations by these people that indicated the depth of their hatred for Kennedy, and actual discussions saying: "he ought to be killed," "he ought to be whacked."

Q: But you're pointing the finger towards Carlos Marcello and organized crime rather than the equally violent anti-Kennedy elements in the anti-Castro Cuban movement.

A: You don't have to separate the anti-Castro Cubans and organized crime. There are substantial overlaps. Santo Trafficante (who some claim had met Ruby) from Tampa was in Cuba, and many of his associates in illegal businesses are Cuban and were people who were thrown out of Cuba by Castro. They're both organized crime and anti-Castro Cubans. On the other hand, not every anti-Castro Cuban is involved in organized crime. Indeed most are not. They were legitimate ex-patriots.

(12) G. Robert Blakey was interviewed by ABC News in 2003.

ABC News: In your book you point the finger squarely at Carlos Marcello and his organization. Why would he want to kill Kennedy?

Blakey: Carlos Marcello was being subject to the most vigorous investigation he had ever experienced in his life, designed to put him in jail. He was in fact summarily, without due process, deported to Guatemala. He took the deportation personally. He hated the Kennedys. He had the motive, the opportunity and the means in Lee Harvey Oswald to kill him. I think he did through Oswald.

ABC News: How central is Jack Ruby's murder of Oswald to your understanding of this case?

Blakey: To understand who killed President Kennedy and did he have help, I think you have to understand what happened to the assassin of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald. I see Jack Ruby's assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald as a mob hit.

This is in direct contradiction to the Warren Commission. The Warren Commission portrayed, wrongly I think, Jack Ruby as a wild card who serendipitously got into position to kill Oswald. I think in fact he stalked him. I can show you from the Warren Commission's evidence that he tried to get into where he was being interrogated, number one. That he tried to get in where there was going to be a lineup, number two. That he was seen around the garage, where he was announced that he was going to be moved. And we know, from Jack Ruby himself, that he had a gun with him at the time of the lineup.

I believe that Ruby was able to get in to kill Oswald through the corrupt cooperation of the Dallas P.D., that he was let in through a back door and he was given an opportunity to kill Oswald. I see that, therefore, as a mob hit. And if that's a mob hit, there is only one reason for it, and that is to cover up the assassination of the president himself. You kill the killer.

ABC News: Since you believe that Lee Oswald shot the president, and you also believe that Carlos Marcello was behind the assassination, what connections do you point to between Oswald and Marcello?

Blakey: I can show you that Lee Harvey Oswald knew, from his boyhood forward, David Ferrie, and David Ferrie was an investigator for Carlos Marcello on the day of the assassination, with him in a court room in New Orleans. I can show you that Lee Harvey Oswald, when he grew up in New Orleans, lived with the Dutz Murret family [one of Oswald's uncles]. Dutz Murret is a bookmaker for Carlos Marcello.

I can show you that there's a bar in New Orleans, and back in the '60s, bars used to have strippers and the strippers circuit is from Jack Ruby's strip joint in Dallas to Marcello-connected strip joints in the New Orleans area. So I can bring this connection.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald grow up in a criminal neighborhood? Yes. Did he have a mob-connected family? Did he have mob-connected friends? Was he known to them to be a crazy guy? He's out publicly distributing Fair Play for Cuba leaflets. If you wanted to enlist him in a conspiracy that would initially appear to be communist and not appear to be organized crime, he's the perfect candidate. Ex-Marine, marksman, probably prepared to kill the president for political reasons.

Could he be induced to kill the president for organized crime reasons unbeknownst to him? I think the answer is yes and compelling.