Part III: Chicago's Unione Siciliana 1920 – A Decade of Slaughter

Oct 14, 2009 - by Allan May - 0 Comments

Antonio "Tony" Lombardo

Antonio "Tony" Lombardo

Being the president of Chicago's Unione Siciliana was a ticket to the morgue, but that didn't stop Tony Lombardo, Capone's man, and Joe Aiello from wanting that job more than any other.
by Allan May

With the death of Samoots Amatuna in November, 1925, Al Capone was finally able to place his own man, Tony Lombardo, into the leadership of the Unione Siciliana. It was not an easy task. Opposing the Capone interests was Joseph Aiello, one of nine brothers active in the Unione. Aiello desired the throne himself. He bided his time…and plotted.

Antonio "Anthony, Tony" Lombardo

By his own account he came by boat to America, arriving in Chicago by train with just $12 in his pockets. Lombardo got into the commission business. Some accounts describe him as a wholesale grocer and a cheese merchant in partnership with the Aiello family. Another source claims he was a sugar broker and became rich by supplying the Genna brother's alky cookers.

Although not much else is known about Lombardo's earlier years, two things are certain. He was the man Capone wanted as president of the Unione Siciliano, and second, when he became president, his friendship with the Aiellos deteriorated into what some historians called the "War of Sicilian Succession."

Author Alson J. Smith, in his 1954 classic Syndicate City: The Chicago Crime Cartel and What To Do About It, wrote that Chicago Municipal Court Judge Bernard Barasa was the "top dog" in the Unione Siciliana in the wake of Amatuna's murder, but only in a figure-head position. Smith provided this description of the Unione Siciliano:

"Up until 1920 or thereabouts it had been a reasonably law-abiding organization. It provided insurance and burial benefits for its members and functioned as a go-between for Sicilian immigrants and American politicians, police authorities, labor leaders, etc. On the side it acted as an intermediary in the settlement of personal feuds between various members of the Sicilian community who did not wish to take their dispute before the legal authorities. Quite often these private matters involved extortion, kidnapping, etc., which in the Old World had been the province of the Sicilian Mafia, the old Black Hand. The Unione was also the custodian of a set of weird medieval customs by means of which the Sicilian community in America was bound to that back in Sicily, such things as 'blood brotherhood' and 'omerta,' the law of silence."

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