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Unmasked in New York: Bungled Mafia Summit Was Beginning of the End (FPD CASE VAULT)

Unmasked in Apalachin: Bungled Mafia Summit was Beginning of the End
Source: Frank Castoral/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Joe "The Barber" Barbara's 53-acre ranch in Apalachin, N.Y., was the site of a Syndicate summit that proved the American Mafia was real.

Sep. 17 2023, Published 3:06 p.m. ET

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Until Nov. 14, 1957, most Americans suspected there was a National Crime Syndicate running the big-money rackets, but the FBI insisted it didn't exist.

All that changed when cops broke up a Mob summit at Joseph Joe "The Barber" Barbara's 53-acre farm in sleepy Apalachin, New York. The spectacle of wise guys running through cow dung in $500 Italian shoes turned the Mafia into a laughing stock — but proved it was all too real.

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The bust happened by accident. Barbara, the ranking godfather of the Pennsylvania Mafia families, wanted a sit-down to discuss new federal laws against the lucrative narcotics trade, issues in the garment industry, loan sharking, casino operations and disloyal hoods who needed to "disappear."

It was big doings — and Barbara needed a lot of prime meat to feed his 100 invited guests. The tiny Apalachin butcher shop was suddenly overwhelmed by his massive order, which made local state trooper Edgar Croswell curious.

Unmasked in Apalachin: Bungled Mafia Summit was Beginning of the End
Source: AP Photo/Jack Harris

State trooper Edgar Croswell caught the Mob flat-footed


So, on the day of the Mob meet, Croswell and a few other lawmen watched Barbara's place as limo after limo arrived. New York godfather Joe Profaci, 60, was first. He was followed by rising capo Paul Castellano and his boss Carlo Gambino. Vito Genovese made a grand entrance as did Chicago's Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante and Joe Marcello from New Orleans.

Suddenly, a housekeeper spotted Croswell taking down license plate numbers. She told her boss — and the mobsters scattered, racing to their cars, running across fields in $2,000 silk suits and dropping hundred dollar bills.

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Unmasked in Apalachin: Bungled Mafia Summit was Beginning of the End
Source: Bettmann/CORBIS; Everett/Shutterstock; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Bettmann/CORBIS; Bettmann/CORBIS; Ed Giorandino/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images; Frank Hurley/NY Daily News via Getty Images; ; Bettmann/Corbis

Attendees included (top, from left to right) Joseph Barbara, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Santo Trafficante, (bottom, from left to right) Sam Giancana, Paul Castellano, Joe Profaci and Joe Marcello.

About 60 gangsters were hauled in. They all said they were visiting a sick friend. They got slapped with minor fines. But the consequences were major.

The summit forced FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to acknowledge the existence of a National Crime Syndicate. The feds would now declare total war on the Mafia. It was the beginning of the end.


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