He was as vicious as Mafia boss Vito Genovese, as ambitious as Vito Genovese, and he was deeply involved in the heroin business as was Vito Genovese. However, Carmine “The Cigar” Galante, would not die of natural causes as did Vito Genovese (albeit in prison). Instead, Galante was murdered in one of the most memorable mob hits of all time. After his body was filled with lead, he lay sprawled on his back in the tiny backyard patio of a Queens restaurant, his trademark cigar clenched tightly between his teeth.
Camillo Galante was born on February 21st, 1910, at 27 Stanton Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Because both his parents, Vincenzo, a fisherman, and his wife (maiden name Vingenza Russo) had been born in the seaside village of Castellammarese del Golfo in Sicily, russos near me Galante was a pure first generation Sicilian/America. Galante had two brothers and two sisters, and when he was in grade school, Galante ditched his given name Camillo, and insisted he be called Carmine instead. Over the years it was shortened to “Lilo,” which was the name most of his associates called Galante.
Galante first got into trouble for petty theft from a store counter when he was fourteen years old. But since he was a juvenile at the time, an account of this arrest is not in his official police record.
At various times, Galante attended Public High Schools 79 and 120, but he dropped out of school for good at the age of fifteen. Galante was in and out of reform school several times, and was considered an “incorrigible delinquent.”
From 1923 to 1926, Galante was ostensibly employed at the Lubin Artificial Flower Company at 270 West Broadway. However, this was a ruse to satisfy the law that Galante was gainfully employed, when, in fact, he was engaged in a very lucrative criminal career.
In December 1925, Galante was arrested for assault. However, money changed hands between Galante’s people and crooked policemen, and as a result, Galante was released without serving any prison time. In December 1926, Galante was arrested again, but this time he was found guilty of second degree assault and robbery, and sentenced to two-to-five years in prison. Galante was released from prison in 1930, and in order to satisfy his parole officer, he got another sham “job” at the O’Brien Fish Company at 105 South Street, near the Fulton Fish Market.
However, it was not Galante’s nature to stay on the right side of the law. On March 15th, 1930, five men entered the Martin Weinstein’s shoe factory on the corner of York and Washington Streets in Brooklyn Heights. On the 6th floor of the building, Mr. Weinstein was in the process of getting his weekly payroll together, under the protection of police officer Walter De Castillia of the 84th Precinct. The five men took the elevator to the 6th floor. While one man stood guard at the elevator, the other four men burst into Mr. Weinstein’s office. They ignored the $7,500 sitting on the table, and opened fire on Officer De Castillia, a married father of a young girl, with nine years on the force. Officer De Castillia was hit six times in the chest and he died instantly.
The four men walked calmly back to the elevator and joined their cohort, who was guarding the elevator operator Louis Sella. Stella took the five men down to the ground floor. He later told the police that the men had exited the building, calmly walked to a parked car, got into the car, and fled the scene. When the police arrived minutes later from the station house just 2 blocks away, the killers were nowhere to be seen. Sella described the five men as “early to mid-twenties, with dark skin and dark hair.” Sella said the men were all “very well-dressed.”
The police theory was, that since no money had been taken, that this was a planned hit on Officer De Castillia. On August 30, 1930, Galante, along with Michael Consolo and Angelo Presinzano, were arrested and indicted for the murder of Officer De Castillia. However, all four men were soon released due to lack of evidence.
On December 25th, 1930, four suspicious men were sitting in a green sedan on Briggs Avenue in Brooklyn. Police detective Joseph Meenahan just happened to be in the area. He spotted the men in the sedan, drew his gun, and approached the sedan cautiously. One of the men shouted at Meenahan, “Stop right there copper, or we’ll burn you.”
Before Meenahan could react, the firing commenced from the green sedan. Meenahan was shot in the leg, and a six-year-old girl walking nearby with her mother was seriously wounded. The driver of the sedan had trouble starting the car, so the four men leaped from the sedan and tried to escape on foot. Three of the men manged to flee the area by jumping on a passing truck, but the fourth man slipped as he tried to get onto the truck and was apprehended by the wounded Meenahan. That man was Carmine Galante.