Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy In The Big Easy

Criminal Coversations

Through the summer and into the autumn of 1962, Carlos was faced with increasing pressure from the feds. There were two indictments looming over him. One involved IRS tax liens of $835,000 against him and his wife; the other involved his forged Guatemalan birth certificate, which could lead to deportation a second time.

On September 11, it is alleged he visited his huge, swampland property called Churchill Farms. Located on the West Bank, it covered some 6,400 acres. Among other things, it was used for duck shooting, but was rumoured to also be his private burial ground for those foolish enough to cross him, or worse cheat him on business deals. In one of the ramshackle farm buildings, he had built a conference room butting on to a kitchen and a dining room. Here, he brought three other men for a session of drinking and business discussions. There was Jack Liberto, a man with ties to the French Quarter, and probably a member of the crime family. The second was Carlo Ruppolo, who was one of Carlos' closest aids and life long friends; they had grown up together in Algiers, and his wife Lillian worked for Marcello in one of his businesses. Then there was the third man, Edward Becker. He was connected to Ruppolo by a business deal, which they had been discussing earlier that day in Carlos' office at The Town and Country complex.

The men spent the afternoon eating, drinking and talking business, and then at one stage, Becker commented on the treatment Carlos had received from Robert Kennedy. According to Becker, Carlos started stomping around the room, ranting and screaming about what he was going to do to the younger Kennedy brother.

"Livarsi `na pietra di la scarpa!" he shouted. Translated from Sicilian it meant: "Take the stone out of my shoe!" He looked at Becker and said, "Don't worry about that sonofabitch Bobby, he's gonna be taken care of!"

"But you can't go after Bobby," Becker said. "Look at the trouble that will bring down."

"No, not that," yelled Carlos. "In Sicily they say if you want to kill a dog you don't cut off the tail. You go for the head." The meaning, to Becker, was very clear, but then Carlos elaborated by stating that he planned to have President Kennedy murdered, using someone not in any way connected to him or his organization.

Becker met with Marcello on a number of other occasions, but no mention was made of the Kennedys or the threats that had been made. A couple of weeks later, Santo Trafficante, the mob boss from Tampa and personal friend of Marcello was in Miami Beach at the Scott Byron Motel also discussing business with a Cuban businessman, Jose Aleman Jr. He was trying to raise a loan of $1.5 million to build a condominium building. The money was to come from the funds of the Teamsters Union and Trafficante was acting as a conduit to Jimmy Hoffa, the corrupt Teamsters' president.

At some stage in their conversation, Trafficante belittled Robert Kennedy for his war against Hoffa and made mention of the fact that he and his brother, the President were due some serious trouble. Aleman supported President Kennedy's actions and thought he would probably be re-elected. Trafficante, his face serious, leaned close to Aleman and said, "You don't understand me, Jose. Kennedy's not going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit."

Unknown to Trafficante, Jose Aleman was an informant for the FBI. He claims he reported this conversation to two agents George Davis and Paul Scranton but they or the agency took no action.

These are the two most famous anecdotes that tie Marcello into the events that would shake the world fourteen months later. Are they falsehoods or misunderstandings or did they actually occur as they were recounted? Hubie Badeaux, a former New Orleans police intelligence chief discounts the Marcello story. He claimed that Marcello did not talk like that. "He's not even Sicilian he was born in North Africa. You have to know Marcello and the way that he talked to know how stupid that story is." Frank Ragano, a lawyer for Trafficante, stated that he once asked of Marcello, in Sicilian, how many children did he have. Carlos replied: "Man, I don't speak that shit, only English."

Ragano also recounted that on March 13, 1987, he visited the ailing Trafficante, and they went for a drive in Ragano's car on Bayshore Boulevard, in Tampa. As they were driving along, Trafficante suddenly blurted out, in Sicilian, "We shouldn't have killed Giovanni (John). We should have killed Bobby."

On November 20th, 1962, the FBI in Los Angeles interviewed Becker in connection with another matter. He detailed his meeting with Marcello, but the agents conducting the interview were not interested. It seemed as if the FBI were just not going to take any steps to investigate Marcello. There was even a strong possibility that the FBI office in New Orleans was deliberately going out of its way to avoid trying to penetrate Marcello's criminal organization.

In 1979, before a Senate investigative committee, a former FBI agent stated that the two cities that the FBI failed to penetrate in terms of the Mafia were Dallas and New Orleans, both controlled by Marcello. It is even possible that the FBI agent assigned to Marcello, Regis Kennedy, was not only not diligently doing his job on the target assigned to him, but was in fact in the pocket of Carlos. Whatever is the truth, the fact is that events were unfolding that would lead inexorably to a motorcar on a street on November 22, 1963.

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