On August 27, 1944, Vito Genovese was placed under arrest in Italy by U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Agent Orange C. Dickey, who had recognized Vito from wanted posters. With the war nearing an end, Dickey had difficulty finding anyone who cared about having Genovese brought back to the U.S. to face pending murder charges.
While he waited patiently, Dickey visited Vito’s apartment in Naples. He had never seen such a lavishly furnished residence in his life or so extensive a wardrobe for one man. Even more intriguing was a pile of highly priced permits allowing Genovese unlimited travel in occupied areas of Italy, as well as letters from a number of American offices extolling his virtues. One typically declared that Genovese was “absolutely honest and, as a matter of fact, had exposed several cases of bribery and black market operations among so-called trusted civilian personnel.” This was in reference to when Genovese served as an interpreter to the Allied military courts after Naples was taken, an opportunity that Vito used to eliminate competition for control of the black market.
Eventually, Dickey was given permission to bring Genovese back to the U.S. At first, Vito resisted, offering Dickey a $250,000 bribe in cash if he would just “forget” about him. But later he changed his tune as it was clear Vito saw opportunities waiting for him upon his return to the states.
Genovese and Agent Dickey were handcuffed together when they set sail on board the steamship SSJames Lykes, arriving in New York City on June 1, 1945, where Vito faced murder charges. He was acquitted when a key witness died from suspicious poisoning while incarcerated.
Once again a free man, on July 20, 1946, Vito purchased the F.G. Boffey property at 130 Ocean Blvd. in Atlantic Highlands (pictured above) for $40,000 cash. According to Zillow.com, the house was built in 1925. In land records, the house is a “palatial home overlooking the yacht basin.” Anna would later claim in divorce court that Vito spent $250,000 on improvements to the mansion, including imported carpets, marble staircases and 24-carat gold plates.
Vito was just one of many top mafia leaders who left New York City for the suburbs. With the FBI more focused on finding communists than investigating organized crime, having a state line between the residence and theater of operations provided a great deal of protection.
When Vito heard that one of his top lieutenants, Joe Valachi, was also moving out of the city, he pulled him aside with some advice. “It’s different from living in the city,” Vito said. “Make the people in the neighborhood like you. Don’t fool around with the ‘weak’ (meaning, ordinary law-abiding citizens). Give to the Boy Scouts and all the charities. Try to make it to church. Don’t fool around with the local girls.”
This was exactly the persona that Vito had established for himself. To neighbors in Atlantic Highlands, the nattily dressed fellow walking the streets looked like any other businessman. He described himself as a scrap paper dealer, a legitimate business he established as a cover for his organized crime leadership. “Genovese has been a familiar sight in the Atlantic Highlands area. He often has been seen in a local supermarket pushing a market basket around. He also has played golf at a club in West Long Branch.” Vito is described as “a model citizen…he lives a quiet, retired life and is seldom seen about the boro except in the early evening [and] is said to be a generous contributor to local charities.”
In 1957, Vito Genovese made his move to assume leadership of the Luciano crime family by having his top hit man, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, murder Frank Costello, who had taken over after Lucky Luciano was deported. Gigante’s shots only grazed Costello, who survived. In anticipation of a violent reprisal, Genovese and his men “took to the mattresses,” barricading themselves while armed to the teeth. But Costello chose to retire and no reprisal came. During this time, Vito stayed home in Atlantic Highlands, protected by some 40 armed mafia gunmen.
Gigante became famous later in life when, facing murder charges, he was frequently seen walking around Greenwich Village in his bathrobe, appearing to be senile, which was perceived by many as a ruse to avoid facing prosecution. If it was a ruse, it did not work.
Hunting Down Vito Genovese in WWII Italy. (2009). Online: http://crimemagazine.com/hunting-down-vito-genovese-wwii-italy.
Genovese Buys $40,000 Hideaway on Jersey Hillside. (1946). The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 17, 1946, P. 2.
Vito Genovese Takes Residence In Swank Atl. Highlands Home. (1946). The Daily Record (Long Branch), August 17, 1946, P. 1.
Vito Key Racketeer Wife Says in Court. (1953) Asbury Park Press, March 3, 1953, P. 1.
Maas, Peter. (1968). The Valachi Papers. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, N.Y.
Grutzner, Charles. (1969). Ruled ‘Family’ of 450; Genovese Dies in Prison at 71; ‘Boss of Bosses’ of Mafia Here. The New York Times, February 15, 1969, P. 1. Available: https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1969/02/15/90048380.html?pageNumber=1
U.S. Marshals Hand Summons To Genovese. (1952). Asbury Park Press, November 22, 1952, P.2.
Dewey Quoted as Naming Genovese as Gang Leader. (1949). Asbury Park Press, February 20, 1949, P. 2.
Rumson Accident Case Is Postponed. (1948). Asbury Park Press, August 10, 1948, P. 17.
Pays For Speeding On Rumson Road. (1948). The Daily Record (Long Branch), August 25, 1948, Section II, P. 9.