Charlie Luciano, the son of a sulphur miner, was born in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, on 11th November, 1896. His family moved to the United States in 1906 and they settled in New York. Luciano left school at fourteen and got a job as a shipping clerk. He also sold drugs and in 1915 was arrested in the possession of several kilos of heroin.
After his release from prison, Luciano returned to crime and in 1920 became a member of the gang headed by Joe Masseria. By 1925 Luciano was Masseria's second in command, directing bootlegging, prostitution and drug distribution. In 1929 open warfare broke out between Masseria and a rival gang led by Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano was kidnapped by Maranzano's men and after being stabbed with an ice pick, had his throat cut and was left for dead on Staten Island beach. Luciano actually survived the attack and afterwards was always known as Lucky Luciano.
In April 1931, Luciano and two other gang members, Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel, were involved in the murder of their leader, Joe Masseria. Six months later, with the help of Meyer Lansky, Luciano arranged the killing of Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano was now the most important criminal boss in New York. He also joined with Louis Lepke Buchalter, Abe Reles and Albert Anastasia to form what became known as Murder Incorporated, an organisation that carried out executions for money.
Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York, instructed New York's special prosecutor, Thomas Dewey, to investigate Luciano's business interests. By 1936 he had enough evidence of Luciano's illegal activities and he was arrested and charged with various offences concerning prostitution and extortion. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. However, Luciano continued to control his criminal empire from prison, and in 1942, helped the United States government deal with acts of sabotage that were taking place in New York Harbor.
In February, 1946, Thomas Dewey, now governor of New York, decided to commute Luciano's sentence and deport him to Italy. He lived in Rome for a short-period but by 1947 was running his criminal activities from Cuba. The United States government managed to persuade the Cuban authorities to send him back to Italy. Charlie Lucky Luciano died of a heart attack in Naples on 26th January, 1962.