Imagine you are in a small town in upstate New York. It is a cool, rainy November day in 1957 and you are a State Trooper out on patrol and suddenly a lot of fancy cars with out of state license plates converge on your idyllic town and head to one place, a 50 plus acre ranch owned by Joseph “The Barber” Barbara. You, the trooper, have long suspected that Joe Barbara, a soft drink distributor, was involved in the illegal bootlegging of liquor and was associated with the Mafia. Up to this point in time, there was no real proof of the existence of the Mafia and even J. Edgar Hoover said there was no such thing as the Mafia. (More about Hoover and his "alleged" ties with the Mafia in a future article.)
That is exactly what happened to Trooper Edgar Croswell and Investigator Vincent Vasisko. These two State Troopers just happened to be at the right place at the right time and have become a part of history for that. They were at a local motel investigating a bad check that was used to pay for a room when they overheard someone making reservations for six rooms for a soft drink convention that was coming to town. This upcoming convention intrigued Croswell. The next day, November 14, Trooper Croswell, Inv. Vasisko and two Treasury agents took a ride on McFall Road in Apalachin, (pronounced Apa-lay-kin). They saw about thirty cars on the Barbara property, a lot with out of state plates as there was a large party out by the barbecue pit. The uniformed troopers got out of the car and started writing down license plate numbers. Sounds like a scene from the Godfather movie.
This “party” was really a meeting with some of Mafia’s top bosses to discuss the state of affairs in the organization. One item on the agenda was to discuss the death of Albert Anastasia and to name Vito Genovese the “capo di tutti capi” or Boss of Bosses of the national crime syndicate. Genovese also intended to name Carlo Gambino the head of the Anastasia family. They were also going to discuss the banning of drug distribution within the organization. However, when the troopers and the Treasury agents began writing down the plate numbers, the guests panicked and fled. Approximately sixty-three people were rounded up and of those detained and questioned were Vito Genovese, Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno, Joseph Barbara Sr., Frank deSimone, a boss from Los Angeles, Joe Scalish, a boss from Cleveland and many other bosses and lieutenants. The men had a total of 300,000 dollars on them and said they were at the ranch to visit Joe Barbara as he was recuperating from a heart attack.
Of those that got away by fleeing through the woods or hiding in the cellar was Santo Trafficante Jr. of Florida, Stefano Magaddino of Buffalo and from San Francisco, James Lanza. The men were questioned and released and there was finally evidence that the Mafia or at least Organized Crime did in fact exist. This was discovered in the small town of Apalachin, New York. The ironic thing was that this meeting was originally supposed to take place in Chicago.
This also sent Chief Counsel of the McClellan Committee, Robert Kennedy from going after corruption in organized labor to going after organized crime.
For more on the Apalachin Summit, please check out the links at the bottom of this article.