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Underworld Figure Providing Feds with Critical Information on “Cosa Nostra”

Aug. 4, 1963 - Somewhere in a secret hideout today, FBI agents are guarding an underworld figure who has given the Justice Department the most detailed information it has ever had on an organization which reputedly dominates much of the crime in the U.S. The informant is Joseph Valachi, 60. The organization he has described is the “Cosa Nostra” — literally meaning “our thing” — sometimes called the Syndicate. And what he has spilled is described by a Justice Department spokesman as “an extraordinarily important intelligence breakthrough” in the war against crime. Valachi has named Vito Genovese, 66-year-old Italian-born narcotics boss, as top man in the Cosa Nostra. Genovese, who made New York his headquarters, is now serving a 15-year sentence in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Valachi will appear before the Senate Investigations subcommittee when arrangements can be made in connection with its three-year-old investigation of the international narcotics traffic. The Justice Department has been sitting on the story for more than a year, but it confirmed the essentials after a copyrighted account appeared in today’s Washington Star. Among other things, Valachi has outlined the structure of the Cosa Nostra’s disciplined, terror-ridden organization and put the finger on some top racketeers already under investigation. Valachi was arrested on a drug trafficking charge in November 1959 and sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Penitentiary. Available sources say Valachi heard he was suspected of having informed on the narcotics ring and was marked for death. When a prisoner approached him on June 22, 1962, he thought the man was his intended assassin. Valachi killed him with a piece of pipe. He soon realized his mistake and sent for a narcotics agent who had questioned him during the dope investigation. He wanted to tell what had happened and soon began volunteering what he knew about organized crime in order to extricate himself from the killing.


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