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Willie Moretti

Willie Moretti was Frank Costello's boy. He ran Newark and northern New Jersey from 1933 to 1951. With the help of Joe Adonis, Moretti set up a whole slew of gambling joints across the border from Manhattan and along the Jersey shore. Eventually, many of his underground casinos would become legitimate as Atlantic City became a bastion of legal gaming.

But when Willie ran things, it was all under the table. In Newark alone, it was rumored that he controlled 100 separate gaming rooms, ranging from simple poker dens to extravagant roulette, blackjack, and craps houses. His rooms flourished because he always offered a fair game, unless of course his underlings were doing something behind his back.

As far as gangsters go, Willie was relatively humanitarian. He was more interested in earning cash from illegal activities than he was in killing and intimidating those who stepped out of line. Thanks to his existence in the shadows of Frank Costello and Joe Adonis, he rarely needed to enforce his law around north Jersey. If anything went wrong, Costello would send a couple gorillas over, and Willie's territory would soon return to normal.

That's not to say that Willie never did anything violent or crazy. According to legend, and Mario Puzo, Willie was the man that discovered Frank Sinatra. Allegedly, Willie heard Frankie Blue Eyes in a low class club in Hoboken in the early 30's. He loved the singer's voice so much that he started booking him in some of his own clubs.

Eventually, Willie introduced Sinatra to Tommy Dorsey, one of the biggest band leaders in the country. Sinatra signed a contract and began singing for the Tommy Dorsey band all over the country.

Mario Puzo describes Frank's big break as a movie offer that came through in 1939. Evidently, Tommy Dorsey wasn't willing to let Sinatra out of his contract, and told Frankie he had to stay put.

According to Puzo, Willie found Dorsey in his dressing room after a show and made him an offer he couldn't refuse: Either he sold Moretti the contract for $1 or Willie would blow the band leader's head open with a .38.

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Whether or not this story is true, Willie went on to make a name for himself in his own right. When Senator Estes Kefauver held hearings in 1950 to discern the nature of organized crime in America, he made sure to televise the proceedings so that all of America could see the criminals for who they really were.

Among those called to testify were Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Frank Costello, and Willie Moretti. Of all the gangsters who showed up to testify, Willie was the only one who really talked. While his compatriots pleaded the fifth amendment over and over again, Willie made jokes, talked candidly, and generally played the part of the kind hearted clown in front of the cameras and Congress.

In doing this, he was violating the mafia code of "Omerta," or "silence." When asked if he belonged to the mafia, he replied "No, I do not belong to the mafia, as I do not have a membership card." When asked other questions, he mimicked Curly Stooge by saying "Soitenly!" Finally, as the congressional board thanked him for his candor and openness, Willie invited the whole assembly to his beach house in New Jersey for coffee.

Willie's associates were not amused. In the 1950's, most folks didn't know what the mafia was, and the mainstay of the national crime syndicate was ardent in it's attempts to deny its existence entirely. So when Willie spoke to George White, a member of the US Department of the Treasury, and a nemesis to many mobsters around the country, the big cheeses decided it was time to act.

According to White, he had lunch with Moretti, and Moretti spilled the beans all over the table. Metaphorically, of course:
Moretti: Of course there's a Mafia. And I'm just what you say I am, I'm the head man in my territory. But what's so bad about that? We don't bother anybody outside our own people. We just don't run to the cops when someone gets out of line. We settle things among ourselves.

White: Maybe so, but we citizens can't have a bunch of outlaws shooting people indiscriminately. For one thing, you're not the best shots in the world. Once in a while, an innocent citizen gets hurt by mistake.

Moretti: It can't happen often. Nothing like that happens any more unless someone is away out of line. We don't want no trouble like that. That's why Charlie is respected so much today. He got the fellows together and showed it was bad business to go around shooting people.
In 1951, the syndicate met to discuss Willie's loose lips. While Frank Costello and Joe Adonis were strongly opposed to offing Moretti, Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia were all for it. The latter two took matters into their own hands on October 4, 1951. Willie entered Joe's Restaurant in Palisades New Jersey with three other men. As soon as he was seated at the counter, the three men stood, fired one bullet each into Willie's head, and then escaped.

By the end of the week, Thomas "Three-finger Brown" Luchese assumed control of north Jersey.


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