Monday, June 20, 2011

"Olive Oil King" Joseph Profaci

Joseph Profaci was characterized as “one of the most powerful underworld figures in the United States” by Robert F. Kennedy during Kennedy’s tenure as US Attorney General. Born in Palermo, Profaci was the first boss of the crime family that originally bore his name --ruling from 1931 to 1962--and which later became the Colombo family. During Profaci’s reign, he was arrested several times, but unlike many of his cohorts, he never served time in an American prison. Often referred to as the “olive oil king” Profaci ran the Mama Mia Importing Company, a leading importer of olive oil and tomato paste.

Profaci died from liver cancer in 1962, at the age of 64 and is buried in St. John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, among a plethora of well-known organized crime figures.  Said to be the most devout Catholic of Mafia leaders, Profaci had an altar constructed in his home. His private mausoleum references his religious beliefs as well: A figure of Jesus, with arms outstretched, adorns the door, while a sculpture of St. Aloysius, bearing a cross signifying the saint’s piousness and clutching a skull, representing his early death, stands atop the building.

After Profaci’s death, his brother-in-law, Joseph Magliocco,  succeeded him as interim head of the crime family. This promotion did not sit well with the Gallo brothers, touching off many violent episodes in New York City. In 1965, Joseph Colombo assumed control of the Profaci family.

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