Niagara Gazette — For decades Niagara Falls was infamous for its connections to organized crime.
Ironically, many local residents for whatever reason didn’t seem bothered by that image. In fact, they seemed to just accept it.
It took a meeting in November 1957 in the small town of Apalachin, 15 miles west of Binghamton, to convince the rest of the world that the Mafia really existed. If it hadn’t been for State Police Sgt. Edgar Croswell, that secret meeting at the home of mobster Joseph Barbara Sr., and the list of nearly 100 mobsters in attendance would probably never have been unveiled. On routine patrol, Croswell noted the steady line of sleek cars arriving at the Barbara residence and called for backup. When all the license plates were run, a roadblock was quickly in place and the crime figures soon in custody.
The riveting story is recounted in the “Mafia Summit,” by Gil Reavill (St. Martin’s Press, 301 pages, hardcover, 2013). Reavill, an author, screenwriter and playwright, co-authored “Beyond All Reason: My Life With Susan Smith.”
Area delegates at that session included Stefano Magaddino of Lewiston, known in crime circles then as “The Undertaker,” for the funeral home he operated. (Police investigators said he had a powerful voice in deciding the summit site); Anthony “Nino” Magaddino, 60, vice president of the former Magaddino Funeral Home, Niagara Street; James V. LaDuca of Lewiston, 45, secretary-treasurer of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, Buffalo, and John C. Montana, 64, owner of Van Dyke Taxi (Yellow Cab) & Transfer Co., Buffalo (The year before the mob convention, the Erie Club in the Queen City honored him as its “Man of the Year” for numerous civic contributions.
Lest we forget, the Apalachin Summit was a kind of bust, as the author says. No blood spilled. No gunfights as the crime bosses dashed to avoid the roadblock. The federal conspiracy convictions of 20 of the participants were reversed upon appeal. Still, as Trooper Croswell said after the roundup: “I don’t know what is going to happen in the courts. But the State Police action threw the mobsters up in the air, where everybody could take a shot at them.” The author aptly noted: “The resulting exposure dosed the Mafia with its least favorite poison: publicity.”