He is known as “The Snake” and “The Immortal.” He is a throwback to another era, when the Italian mafia ruled New York’s street with fear, intimidation, and violence. Today, 84-year-old mafioso Carmine Persico sits behind sits behind bars, but his story is a fascinating peek into a world of days gone by, a time capsule of sorts, if you will.
Persico was born in 1933 and grew up in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York. Persico’s father had a respectable job as a legal stenographer, but the young man who eventually became known as “The Snake” was set on pursuing a life of crime from a young age. He joined the Garfield Boys gang and quickly gained a reputation as a fearsome street fighter. At just 17 years old, Persico was charged with killing a rival gang member during a street brawl, though the charges were later dropped.
His violent ways caught the eye Frankie Abbatemarco, a member of the Profaci crime family, and soon thereafter Persico was recruited as an enforcer. In the 1950s, he branched out from the Profaci family and did some work with the infamous Gallo brothers.
On October 25, 1957, legendary crime boss Albert Anastasia was gunned down while getting a haircut and a shave in midtown Manhattan. Carmine Persico was allegedly involved in the high profile shooting.
With Anastasia out of the way, it seemed as if some semblance of peace might prevail on the streets of New York, but this was not to be. The Profaci family began feuding with the Gallos, and more killings quickly followed. Persico was targeted many times but always managed to escape. When the bloody war subsided in 1963, the Profaci family became the Colombo family, and Persico was named a capo, or a boss.
The Colombo family flourished, despite Persico’s eight year stint behind bars in the 1970s. As other crime bosses around him fell victim to violence, including Joe Colombo and Joe Gallo, Carmine Persico continued to stand tall, even while in the joint. He ran his crew’s operation from prison, producing huge profits from loan sharking and racketeering.
In 1984, the leaders of the Colombo crime family, including Carmine Persico, were indicted on racketeering charges. He managed to avoid authorities for months but was eventually arrested in February 1985. The ensuing trial became known as the Mafia Commission Trial, and prosecutors intended to crush all of the five major New York City organized crime groups, also known as the Five Families.
Carmine Persico acted as his own lawyer during the highly-publicized trial, but to no avail. He received what amounted to a life sentence in January 1987. Persico maintained control of his crew from behind steel bars and barbed wire, directing business and ordering murders when necessary, while his son Alphonse assumed the role of the boss on the street.
Today, the 84-year-old Persico is in ill health and is lobbying for an early prison release. His family continues to make news, as his son Michael Persico was recently slapped with a prison sentence for loansharking.
Even behind bars, Carmine “The Snake” Persico is still recognized as the boss of the Colombo crime family.
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