Luciano, Lucky

Luciano, Lucky (Charles Luciano), 1896–1962, American crime boss, b. near Palermo, Sicily, as Salvatore Luciana. His family emigrated in 1906, settling in New York City, where he almost immediately embarked on a life of crime. Jailed briefly (1916) for narcotics sales, he was soon associated with Meyer Lansky, “Bugsy” Siegel, and Frank Costello. In 1920 he entered the crime family of “Joe the Boss” Masseria and within five years was overseeing bootlegging, prostitution, and other illegal enterprises. A gang war with Salvatore Maranzano's crime family ended in 1931 when Luciano had both older gangsters murdered. Thereafter, he helped bring a corporate structure and approach to organized crime as a leader of the newly formed Syndicate. Luciano lived up to his nickname until 1935 when reformer Thomas E. Dewey targeted him. A year later he was convicted of prostitution charges and imprisoned, but he continued as a mob boss from his cell. During World War II he helped U.S. naval intelligence end waterfront sabotage in New York, and in 1946 his sentence was commuted. Deported to Italy, he maintained considerable control over American drug traffic until his death.

See biographies by H. Powell (1939, repr. 2000) and S. Feder and J. Joesten (1954, repr. 1994); M. A. Gosch, The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano (1975).

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