Frank Costello, born Francesco Castiglia on January 26, 1891, was a prominent Italian-American mobster and a key figure in the American Mafia during the mid-20th century. Costello rose to prominence as a member of the Luciano crime family, later known as the Genovese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominated organized crime in New York City. Known for his intelligence and diplomatic approach, Costello became a powerful and influential figure within the Mafia.
Costello played a crucial role in the establishment of The Commission, a governing body that facilitated communication and conflict resolution among the Mafia families. His strategic mindset and ability to navigate complex alliances earned him the nickname “The Prime Minister of the Underworld.” Costello was a shrewd businessman involved in various criminal enterprises, including racketeering, gambling, and labor unions. Despite his criminal activities, he managed to maintain a public image as a legitimate businessman, often frequenting high-society events.
In 1957, Frank Costello survived an assassination attempt, further solidifying his reputation as a resilient and elusive figure. His influence waned in the 1960s due to increased law enforcement scrutiny and internal conflicts within the Mafia. Costello eventually retired from active involvement in organized crime, spending his later years in a more discreet manner until his death on February 18, 1973. His life remains a complex and fascinating chapter in the history of American organized crime.
Here are 10 fun facts about Frank Costello to know more about him.
- Nickname Origins: Frank Costello’s nickname, “The Prime Minister of the Underworld,” was bestowed upon him due to his diplomatic approach and ability to mediate conflicts within the Mafia.
- Early Street Smarts: Growing up in East Harlem, Costello learned street smarts and survival skills, initially working as a street fighter before entering the world of organized crime.
- Prohibition-Era Profits: During Prohibition, Costello made significant profits through bootlegging and controlling speakeasies, establishing himself as a rising figure in the world of organized crime.
- Elusive Assassination Attempt: In 1957, Costello survived an assassination attempt orchestrated by Vincent “The Chin” Gigante. He was shot in the head but managed to recover, later testifying that he couldn’t identify his assailant.
- Rumored Diplomatic Connections: It is rumored that Costello had connections with high-profile individuals, including politicians and diplomats, which allegedly provided him with a degree of protection from law enforcement.
- Education and Intelligence: Costello was known for his intelligence and sophisticated demeanor. He attended public school until the age of 14 and was fluent in English, Italian, and Spanish.
- Rivalry with Vito Genovese: Costello’s power struggles with Vito Genovese, another influential mobster, led to tension within the Mafia. Genovese eventually ordered the failed assassination attempt on Costello.
- Film Cameo: Frank Costello made a cameo appearance in the 1971 film “The Valachi Papers,” a crime drama that depicted the life of mobster Joseph Valachi.
- Retirement from Crime: In the early 1960s, facing increased legal pressure and internal strife, Costello decided to retire from active involvement in organized crime. He focused on legitimate business ventures, including real estate.
- Death and Legacy: Frank Costello passed away on February 18, 1973, of a heart attack. Despite his criminal past, he is remembered as a complex and influential figure in the history of the American Mafia, known for his strategic mind and ability to navigate the complexities of organized crime.
Frank Costello, a towering figure in the annals of American organized crime, remains a paradoxical character, blending street smarts with an air of sophistication. His nickname, “The Prime Minister of the Underworld,” encapsulates his strategic mind and diplomatic approach within the complex world of the Mafia. Surviving an assassination attempt and navigating power struggles, Costello’s resilience became a defining feature of his legacy. Despite the criminal enterprises that marked his earlier years, his later retirement and focus on legitimate ventures showcase a multifaceted figure who adapted to the changing tides of his tumultuous world. Frank Costello’s life is a tale of contrasts, revealing the intricate web of power, survival, and influence that defined the American Mafia during its heyday.