Frank Costello: Minister of the Mob

HISTORY

Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Frank Costello was a famous gangster in the middle of the 20th century. In which city did he do most of his criminal deeds?

Costello grew up in rundown areas of New York, the same city in which he became a very powerful mobster. Provided you can forget about the violence and thievery, his story is a true rags-to-riches tale.

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Costello was an immigrant from Italy.

He was born in Italy in 1891 and was only about four years old when he arrived in America. He was still a young kid when he became enmeshed in criminal activity.

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What was Frank's mob nickname?

Costello was a fabulously powerful mobster. His influence earned him the nickname "The Prime Minister" of the dark underworld.

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Frank went to jail at least four times between 1908 and 1918. During that time he was NOT arrested for which crime?

He didn't go to jail for sexual assault. His crimes were mostly centered around robbery, assault and weapons.

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Costello went to jail over and over again. In 1918, he went to jail for which crime?

In 1918, he was caught with a concealed weapon and sent to jail again. Sick of being behind bars, he decided to stop performing dumb street crimes and took up more complicated schemes instead.

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New York City has always been home to numerous big crime families. Frank was associated with which family?

Frank was part of the Luciano crime family. This particular family rocketed to fame thanks to Charles Luciano, a notorious mafia man who rose to the top ranks of organized crime.

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In 1918, what event contributed to "Frankie's" vow to give up weapons and violence?

Love works in mysterious ways. Costello married a woman named Lauretta, an event that contributed to his desire to stay out of prison. So he gave up guns and took up crimes that were easier to conceal.

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In the 1920s, Costello ran with gangs who made most of their money doing what?

As Prohibition became law of the land, booze was big business. All of the gangs in New York City made money smuggling alcohol.

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Costello was fast friends and partners with Lucky Luciano, along with other up-and-coming gangsters. They were known as what?

Luciano and Costello were the Young Turks. They differed from the older mobsters in one important way. They worked their shady deals with Italians and non-Italians alike, so long as there was good money in it.

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Like Costello, Lucky Luciano was an Italian immigrant.

Lucky was from Sicily; Costello was Italian. Luciano's elders were angry that he was choosing to spend time with an Italian, but the two remained good friends, anyway.

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The end of Prohibition meant the end of a very lucrative booze smuggling trade. How did Costello keep making money?

Costello went from one big monkey maker to another. He traded booze for gambling, especially slots, and made a killing with the machines.

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Mayor Fiorello La Guardia despised gangsters and gambling. What did he do to Costello's slot machines?

La Guardia made a publicity stunt using the slot machines. He threw them all in the river to show that he wouldn't let gangsters run the city.

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How did Costello respond to La Guardia literally throwing the beloved slot machines into the river?

Costello was none too happy about the slot machine fiasco, but rather than risk another watery incident, he simply moved the gambling side of things to New Orleans.

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Costello had an aversion to which kind of crime?

Frank was happy to make huge profits from just about any kind of crime. But he wasn't keen on drug dealing and stayed away from the trade.

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The Castellammarese War was a gang war that pitted two crime families against one another. What did Luciano and Costello think of the bloody war?

The Castellammarese War decimated two gangs dominated by Italians and Sicilians, and it was a distraction that threatened to minimize their influence. Luciano and Costello decided that the debacle needed to be stopped.

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How did Luciano and Costello plan to end the Castellammarese War?

Tired of the infighting, they plotted to kill the leaders of both families. They knocked off Joe Masseria and then planned to kill Salvatore Maranzano, too.

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Why did New York crime boss Salvatore Maranzano try to kill the Young Turks?

Salvatore Maranzano was hugely powerful and didn't want Luciano and Costello elbowing in on his business. He set a trap to have the young gangsters murdered.

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What happened when Salvatore Maranzano set a trap for the Young Turks?

Costello and Luciano weren't budging. They got wind of the trap and turned the tables. Salvatore Maranzano wound up dead … and the Young Turks became more powerful than ever.

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Costello was good at managing gambling operations. How far did he take his schemes?

Costello was a whiz at setting up profitable gambling operations. He expanded throughout the country and even internationally in places like Cuba.

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Luciano was Costello's closest gangster friend. How did he wind up in prison?

"Lucky" Luciano was finally nailed for pandering prostitution (perhaps on trumped-up charges). His imprisonment meant that Costello's power was somewhat diminished, but only for a short while.

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Once Luciano went to prison, Costello was in charge of the Luciano crime family.

Vito Genovese was next in line for the top spot. He didn't last long. Just a year later he was charged with murder and forced to flee the country.

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After Genovese fled America, Costello was left in charge of the gang. How did the crime family respond?

Costello was a very capable leader who ran the gang's operations efficiently (and profitably). He was generous with the proceeds, a fact that made him a popular boss.

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Genovese eventually made it back to America and escaped conviction (partly by murdering witnesses). Then what did he do?

Vito wanted his old position of power. He plotted to oust Costello and kill him if necessary.

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Vito Genovese sent a hit man to kill Costello. What happened?

A Genovese gangster named Vincent "Chin" Gigante shot Costello right in the head. The shot, however, only grazed Costello's head. He survived the assassination attempt.

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After the near-assassination, "Chin" Gigante eventually gave himself up and faced a mob trial of sorts. What did Costello do?

Costello knew that it was Vito Genovese, not Gigante, who wanted him dead. He opted not to point the finger at Gigante, a fact that helped him avoid gangster justice.

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After giving up guns in 1918, Costello never again went to jail.

Giving up guns and petty crime was a smart move on his part.

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In the 1950s, Costello was dragged before the Kefauver Committee, a Senate group investigating organized crime. Costello agreed to appear only on what condition?

Costello agreed to testify, but only if the cameras didn't show his face. Instead, the video feed showed him constantly wringing his hands in anxiety. That turned out to be a mistake.

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What happened to Frank's influence following the committee hearings?

His public hand-wringing devastated his standing in organized crime. He lost most of his influence and wound up going to prison.

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Costello lived a hazardous lifestyle. How did he die?

After a long life as a gangster, it wasn't bullets that did him in -- it was a heart attack. Costello died at age 82.

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Why did a mobster named Carmine Galante blow up Frank's burial vault?

Galante was another New York mobster who'd recently been released from prison. He decided to make a splash with his re-entry into society by blowing up Costello's tomb, an act meant to grab the public's attention.

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Image: Wiki Cimmons

About This Quiz

The middle of the 20th century was a heyday for organized crime, and few mobsters were as fabulous as Frank Costello. He became enormously wealthy through his shady business dealings and outright backstabbing. How much do you know about this notorious criminal?

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