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Salvatore "Momo" Giancana (born Salvatore Giangana) (May 24, 1908 – June 19, 1975) was an Italian-American mobster and boss of the Chicago Outfit 1957–66. Among his other nicknames were, "Mooney," "Sam the Cigar," "Sam Flood" and "Sam Gold."


Early life

Born as Salvatore Giangana to Sicilian immigrants in Little Italy, Chicago, also known as "The Patch". His father, Antonino (later simplified to Antonio) Giangana, operated a pushcart and later briefly owned an Italian ice shop, which was later firebombed by gangland rivals of his son.

Criminal career

Sam Giancana joined the Forty-Two Gang, a juvenile street crew answering to political boss Joseph Esposito.[1] He soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, a high earner and vicious killer. After Esposito's murder, which Giancana was allegedly involved in, the 42 Gang was transformed into a de facto extension of the Chicago Outfit. Giancana's leadership qualities, the fact that he was an excellent "wheel man" with a get-away car and his knack for making money on the street gained him the notice of Mafia higher-ups like Frank Nitti ("The Enforcer") and Paul Ricca (also known as "Felice 'The Waiter' DeLucia").


Sam married Angelina DeTolve, the daughter of immigrants from the Italian Region of Basilicata, on September 23, 1933. They had three daughters. Angelina died in 1954 and left Sam to raise his daughters. Sam never remarried after the death of his wife and was known as a good family man, despite frequent infidelities, and held his wife in high regard and respect during their marriage and after her death. All of the Giancana daughters have married at least once. At least one daughter, Antoinette, has taken the "Giancana" name again.[2]

Rise to power

In 1945, after serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana (during which time he told his children he was away "at college"), Giancana made a name for himself by convincing Outfit boss Tony Accardo (also known as "Joe Batters," and "The Big Tuna") to stage a take-over of Chicago's African-American "policy" (lottery) pay-out system for The Outfit. Giancana's crew is believed to have been responsible for convincing Eddie Jones to leave his racket and leave the country. Giancana's crew was also responsible for the 1957 murder of Teddy Roe. Both men were leading South Side African-American bookmakers. However, Roe had refused to pay the Outfit street tax which the Italians had demanded and had fatally shot a member of Giancana's crew.

Though the South Side "policy"-game takeover by the Outfit was not complete until another Outfit member, Jackie Cerone ("Jackie the Lackey"), scared "Big Jim" Martin to Mexico with two bullets to the head that didn't kill him, when the lottery money started rolling in for The Outfit after this gambling war, the amount that this game had produced for The Outfit was in the millions of dollars a year and brought Giancana further notice. It is believed to have been a major factor in his being "anointed" as the Mafia's new boss when Accardo stepped aside from being the front boss to becoming "consigliere," in 1957.[3] However, it was generally understood that Accardo and another veteran of the Capone era, Paul Ricca, still held the real power. Giancana had to consult them on all major business transactions and assassinations.

Giancana was present at the Mafia's 1957 Apalachin Meeting at the Upstate New York estate of Joseph Barbara.[4]

Alleged CIA connections

It is widely reputed, and partially corroborated by the Church Committee Hearings, that Giancana and other mobsters had been recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Kennedy administration to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who had taken power in January 1959. Giancana was himself reported to have said that the CIA and the Mafia were "different sides of the same coin."[5]

The association between Giancana and JFK is indicated in the "Exner File," written by Judith Campbell Exner. Exner was reputed to be mistress to both Giancana and JFK, and some allege she may have delivered communications between the two regarding Fidel Castro.[6]

However, Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, has stated her belief that her father was running a scam in order to pocket millions of dollars in CIA funding.[7]

According to the recently-declassified CIA "Family Jewels" documents, Giancana and Tampa/Miami Syndicate leader Santo Trafficante Jr. were contacted in September 1960, about the possibility of an assassination attempt by a go-between from the CIA, Robert Maheu, after Maheu had contacted Johnny Roselli, a Mafia member in Las Vegas and Giancana's number-two man. Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international business firms in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro. He offered $150,000 for the "removal" of Castro through this operation (the documents suggest that neither Roselli, Giancana, nor Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job). According to the files, it was Giancana who suggested using a series of poison pills that could be used to doctor Castro's food and drink. These pills were given by the CIA to Giancana's nominee, Juan Orta, whom Giancana presented as being a corrupt official in the new Cuban government and who had access to Castro. After a series of six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro's food, Orta abruptly demanded to be let out of the mission, handing over the job to another, unnamed participant. Later, a second attempt was mounted through Giancana and Trafficante using Dr. Anthony Verona, the leader of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become "disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta". Verona requested $10,000 in expenses and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, it is unclear how far the second attempt went, as the entire program was canceled shortly thereafter due to the launching of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961.[8][9][10]

At the same time, Giancana, according to the "Family Jewels," approached Maheu to bug the room of his then-mistress Phyllis McGuire, whom he suspected of having an affair with comedian Dan Rowan. Although documents suggest Maheu acquiesced, the bug was not planted due to the arrest of the agent tasked with planting the device. According to the documents, Robert Kennedy moved to block the prosecution of the agent and of Maheu, who was soon linked to the bugging attempt, at the CIA's request.[10] Giancana and McGuire, who had a long lasting affair, were originally introduced by Frank Sinatra.[11] During part of the affair, according to Sam's daughter Antoinette, McGuire had a concurrent affair with President Kennedy.[12]


Giancana's behavior was too high profile for Outfit tastes and attracted far too much federal scrutiny. He also refused to cut his underlings in on his lavish profits from offshore casinos in Iran and Central America. Both of these factors resulted in much bitterness among the Outfit's rank-and-file.

As a result, Giancana was deposed as day-to-day boss by the still in control Accardo and replaced by Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa. After about seven years of exile inside a lavish villa in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Giancana was arrested by Mexican authorities and deported to the United States.


Shortly after returning to Chicago, Giancana was shot in the back of the head on June 19, 1975, while frying Italian sausage and peppers in the basement of his home in River Forest, Illinois. After falling, his body was turned over and shot a further six times in the face and chin. It was believed by investigators that his murderer was a close friend whom he had let into the house. At the time, Giancana was scheduled to appear before a Senate committee investigating CIA and Mafia collusion in plots to assassinate John F. Kennedy.

Some have alleged that the CIA was responsible for the shooting as Giancana had a somewhat troubled history with the agency. However, former CIA Director William Colby has been quoted as saying, "We had nothing to do with it."[13]

Santo Trafficante Jr. may have ordered the hit on Giancana because he was afraid Giancana would testify about Mafia and CIA plots to kill Fidel Castro. If so, Trafficante probably got permission to kill Giancana from Chicago bosses Tony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa. Johnny Roselli, whose body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating off Miami, was definitely killed on Trafficante's orders.[citation needed]

Most investigators believe that Joey Aiuppa, Giancana's onetime friend and successor as Chicago Outfit boss, was responsible for ordering the hit on the disgraced former boss.

Giancana had reportedly continued in his refusal to share the profits from his offshore gambling operations and was also scheming about how to regain his former post as boss. According to former Mafia associate Michael J. Corbitt, Aiuppa seized control of Giancana's casinos in the aftermath of the murder, strategically sharing them with his caporegimes.

Longtime friend and associate Dominic "Butch" Blasi was with Giancana the night he was murdered, and was questioned by police as a suspect. Leading FBI experts and Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, do not consider him Giancana's killer.[14] Other Mafia suspects are Harry Aleman, Charles "Chuckie" English, Charles Nicoletti and Anthony Spilotro.

Giancana was interred next to his wife, Angelina, in a family mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois.[15]

In popular culture

  • Giancana is the subject of the biography Mafia Princess, written by his daughter Antoinette.[16] This book was later adapted into the 1986 TV film Mafia Princess, starring Tony Curtis as Giancana.
  • The 1995 TV film Sugartime depicts Giancana's relationship with singer Phyllis McGuire of The McGuire Sisters, with Giancana being played by John Turturro.
  • Rod Steiger portrayed Giancana in the 1992 TV miniseries Sinatra.
  • Robert Miranda played Giancana in the 1998 TV film, The Rat Pack.
  • As of May 2007, a six-hour miniseries on Giancana is under development in Hollywood.
  • Influential mafioso-rapper Kool G Rap once stated that the "G" in his name stands for Giancana. Kool G Rap released an album in 2002 called The Giancana Story.
  • Giancana plays a major role in James Ellroy's fiction, most notably "American Tabloid" and its sequel "The Cold Six Thousand".
  • News footage of Giancana is featured in the film JFK.
  • Giancana is portrayed under the name "Joseph Palmi" in the 2006 film, The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon. Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, is depicted in proposing Palmi (Joe Pesci) assist in the assassination of Fidel Castro.
  • Giancana is mentioned in the song "Dope money" by The Lox. "Bring Drama 'cause Giancana got Kennedy Killed". "Dope money" is song number six, on The LOX second Album, Ryde or Die Vol. 1.


  1. ^ The name of the 42 Gang came from associating themselves with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. They thought they were one better, hence 42.
  2. ^ Giancana 1984.
  3. ^ Roemer 1995, pp.125-129.
  4. ^ Giancana 1984, pp.190, 195-197.
  5. ^ Giancana 1992, p.215.
  6. ^ Michael O'Brien (1999-12-01). "The Exner File. (Judith Campbell Exner, John F. Kennedy's mistress)". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  7. ^ Television documentary "Mafia Women", Discovery Channel.
  8. ^ Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan (2007-06-27). "CIA tried to get Mafia to kill Castro". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  9. ^ Thomas Blanton (2007-06-26). ""Family Jewels" Archive". National Security Archive. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  10. ^ a b Alex Johnson (2007-06-27). "CIA opens the book on a shady past Declassified ‘family jewels’ detail assassination plots, break-ins, wiretaps". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  11. ^ Giancana 1984 pp.259-284, 287-293, 347-348.
  12. ^ Giancana 1984 p.179.
  13. ^ Godwin 1978, p.145.
  14. ^ Giancana 1984, p.367.
  15. ^ Giancana family mausoleum location: 41°51′51″N 87°54′51″W / 41.8642299°N 87.914274°W / 41.8642299; -87.914274
  16. ^ Giancana 1984


Further reading

  • Cain, Michael J. The Tangled Web. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-60239-044-7
  • Brashler, William. The Don: The Life and Death of Sam Giancana. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977. ISBN 0-06-010447-3
  • Giancana, Sam and Chuck. Double Cross: The Explosive, inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America. New York: Warner Books, 1992. ISBN 0-446-51624-4
  • Giancana, Antoinette and Renner, Thomas C. Mafia Princess. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1984.ISBN 0-380-69849-8
  • Hersh, Seymour M. Dark Side of Camelot. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997. ISBN 0-316-35955-6
  • Morgan, John M. Prince of Crime. New York: Stein and Day, 1985. ISBN 0-812-88297-0
  • Nash, Jay Robert. Bloodletters and Badmen. New York: M. Evans & Co. 1973. ISBN 0-871-31777-X
  • Sifakis, Carl. Encyclopedia of Crime. New York: Facts On File, 1982. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
  • Talbot, David. Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. Free Press. May, 2007. ISBN 0-743-26918-7
  • Thompson, Nathan (2003). KINGS The True Story of Chicago's Policy Kings and Numbers Racketeers. The Bronzeville Press. ISBN 0972487506.
  • Waldron, Lamar, Hartmann, Thom. Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. Carroll & Graf. 2006. ISBN 0-786-71832-3
  • Zion, Sidney. Loyalty and Betrayal: The Story of the American Mob. San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1994. ISBN 0-006-38271-1
  • Dark, Tony. The FBI Files Sam Giancana, H H Productions, Chicago, 2004. ISBN 0-615-12720-7

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Anthony Accardo
Chicago Outfit Boss
Succeeded by
Sam Battaglia

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