Saturday, August 15, 2009

Philip Lombardo,Cockeyed Phil", Genovese Crime Family

Philip Lombardo (October 6, 1908 - April 1987) also known as "Benny Squint" and "Cockeyed Phil", was a boss of the Genovese crime family. Federal arrest photo of Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo
Lombardo began his career as a soldier on Michael "Trigger Mike" Coppola's powerful 116th Street Crew in the East Harlem section of New York. During the 1940s, Lombardo served a brief prison stretch for narcotics trafficking, his only imprisonment. Due to this thick eyeglasses Lombardo earned the nickname, "Benny Squint."

In 1959, family boss Vito Genovese was sent to prison. However, Genovese used a series of acting bosses to maintain control of the family from prison. His three acting bosses, or Ruling Panel, were consigliere Michele Miranda, underboss Gerardo "Jerry" Catena, and acting boss Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli

. The trio panel was known to authorities but in 1962 former mobster turned government witness Joseph Valachi stated before a US Senate subcommittee that Lombardo was also a part of this same panel. In that same year Anthony Strollo disappeared and was presumed murdered. Strollo's role as a front or acting boss was given to Thomas Eboli. Eboli himself was later gunned down in 1972

Lombardo was then seen as the true power behind the crime family with Anthony Salerno as consigliere and Gerardo Catena as the underboss. Miranda had fallen ill in 1971 and would pass away a year later. However the rank or role of these figures was irrelevant as it was agreed upon by historians and law enforcement that each of these mobsters held equal status, despite Catena's retirement from criminal activities in 1972

. Additionally with the murder of Eboli, the Gigante brothers, most notably Vincent Gigante were considered important figures within the Genovese criminal network. The Gigante brothers had previously been soldiers under Eboli.

power with Catena, Lombardo, Salerno and now Vincent Gigante. Upon Tieri's death, which was preceded with a 1980 conviction for racketeering in 1981, Lombardo was recognized as the official boss by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In 1981 Lombardo was hospitalized and it is generally considered he stepped down as boss to allow the combination of Vincent Gigante and Anthony Salerno to manage the Genovese crime family.

According to FBI informant Vincent Cafaro, Lombardo had been boss since 1969 and had been using Eboli and Tieri as decoys to insulate himself from the FBI. It then seems that he coincided his retirement with Tieri's death and named Vincent Gigante as his successor whilst at the same making Anthony Salerno the new front boss to disguise Gigante's transition into boss. This way, the FBI would still not know who was really in charge and would continue to go after the wrong people, which they did sentencing Salerno to 100 years in prison in 1986. Although there is no definitive evidence Valachi's and Cafaro's testimonies have made it widely believed that he had been boss all along.

Tieri and Gigante manipulated members of the Philadelphia crime family into murdering their boss Angelo Bruno in 1979, and then killed off those same members of the Philly mob to cover their tracks. It is worth noting that Lombardo may also have been involved. As he was at least the de facto boss, and probably the official boss during that time he probably had the final say on whether the plan could go ahead. Adept at remaining behind the scenes he may have been privy to this scheme also, this is purely speculation however.

By 1981, Lombardo was in poor health and played a more relaxed role in the day-to-day operations of the family. Although he resided in Englewood, New Jersey,he spent his remaining winters in Hollywood, Florida. He made it clear that Gigante was to become the new boss, and Salerno would continue as the front boss. Although he began to pass leadership to Gigante, Lombardo was still the real power in the Genovese family until his death in April 1987. He was 78 years old and living in Florida.