Vito Genovese was in many ways the archetypical mafia hitman, appealing to the same kind of spooky yet subliminal Jungian duality of civilized man and bloodthirsty savage that Joker kept talking about in Full Metal Jacket. He wasn't especially loud, assertive, or even physically imposing, but he possessed an absolute-zero cold stare, a naturally placid personality, and a rock-solid sense of reliability while at task, which consisted usually of pointing a pistol at a man and pulling its trigger until he fell down. Genovese was an amoral sociopath with absolutely no sense of ethics or empathy for the people whose lives he exploited and destroyed, which made him an ideal candidate for organized crime or the legal profession.
But Genovese had neither patience nor respect for the law, nor an education anywhere nearly good enough to consider practicing it. So that really left the only other named option on the table. Vito emigrated with his family from Naples to the U.S. in 1913 at the age of fifteen and, taking after the many other immigrant teens who were turned off by the idea of an honest day's work, fell in with Joe Masseria's gang. The cops arrested him twice during the decade for carrying a gun, once in 1917 and again in 1919. Although there is no definitive proof, it is highly likely he started making hits for Masseria somewhere around this time.
As irony would have it, Genovese was fortunate enough to meet Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano in the 1920's through their mutual employment by Masseria. Luciano was highly impressed with Genovese's reputation as a ruthless, brutal bastard, and immediately used his skills as a negotiator to keep the gang's farmed whores, bookies, and dope dealers obedient and productive. It was with his help that Luciano managed to build a massive empire of prostitution in the city. In no time at all, Luciano's ascent to power was helping to buoy Genovese's concurrent rise to the top.
By the end of the decade, Luciano and Genovese had become respected officers in Masseria's crew, and began itching for a bigger piece of the pie than the old Sicilian don was willing to dish out. Before they could act on that, however, a gang feud broke out between Masseria and his only other real rival in the city, Salvatore Marranzano. Marranzano sent a couple of thugs to ventilate Luciano's neck one night. "Lucky" survived the attack, and was so happy he decided to take his assailants out to dinner. He invited Masseria to what amounted to a four-hour banquet at an Italian restaurant on Coney Island. Unbeknownest to his dining companion, Luciano arranged for Genovese, Bugsy Siegel, and two other gunmen to perforate the wrinkly old Sicilian schmuck while Luciano was off on a restroom break.
With Masseria and (shortly thereafter) Marranzano out of the way, Luciano was free to set up his National Crime Syndicate (TM), a consortium of criminal interests that sought to bring all sorts of different rackets in North America under one common roof. It was then that Genovese began to sink his bloody fingers into the drug trade, bringing dope and Sicilian foodstuffs to Manhattan under the front of his Italian import / export company. The Syndicate officers paid the harbor officials so well that few attempts at concealing the drugs were made at all; often, they lay right out in the open, yet somehow "overlooked" by customs.
Like most high-rolling mobsters, Genovese had a penchant for gambling, though, as you might guess, he was prepared to break just about every rule of fair play to ensure he stayed on top. One prosperous poker game he had rigged yielded him about $150,000 from a wealthy Italian. When his assistant, small-time hoodlum Ferdinand Boccia asked for a cut of the killings, Genovese responded by saying he would consider it, then sent a few gorillas in cheap suits to whack him.
Ironically, this wanton, spontaneous hit would be the one that the D.A. decided to use to send him up the river. With a warrant out for his arrest, Genovese fled back to Italy in 1937, where he met the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Genovese developed strong ties to Il Duce, supplying him with a hefty $350,000 political "contribution" and his son-in-law with fresh middle-eastern chiba.
When the war finally broke out, Genovese found a quick and easy way to make some money; this time by selling out the fellow countrymen to whom he thereotically had a sense of duty. After the Americans landed on the Boot, Genovese ratted out all the local black marketeers in a certain region. Army MPs would take action, arresting the local fences and fixers, and Genovese would of course move in and start selling his own forms of vice after the competition had been all but eradicated.
Of course, this kind of behavior tends to create a high profile, especially in a war-time country in a state of occupation. Genovese was eventually arrested and extradited back to the U.S., where he was meant to stand trial for the murder of Boccia. The court acquitted Genovese speedily after the only witness met an untimely end before he was scheduled to testify.
Freed from the burden of justice, Genovese expanded his drug trade even further in the golden years of the 40's and 50's, striking up deals with traders in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Americans had more money in their pockets to spend and more liberal ideas about heroin than they did in the past, and so the wealth flowed into the coffers of the big drug kingpins. But Genovese found himself again with foils to his foreseen potential, with two longtime arch-rivals, Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia. In 1957 he convinced two of Murder Inc.'s finest, Carlo Gambino and Vincent "The Chin" Gigante to clip the two mobsters, thereby leaving Genovese firmly in control of the New York drug trade. Anastasia was whacked in a barbershop not long afterward, but Gigante's aim was not as good -- a blast from his shotgun delivered a superficial head wound to Costello. He survived, a partially bald, frightened little shell of a man who decided it was in his best interests to get out of Genovese's way. After the famous Appalachian Conference, a charming little get-together ruined by J. Edgar Hoover and other feds, Genovese emerged the uncontested crime lord of New York.
At least, for a couple of months, until a few of his men picked up by police started squealing on Genovese and his drug-smuggling operations. He was convicted on various charges stemming from smuggling and dealing drugs and sentenced to fifteen years' prison in 1959. Left alone in his cell with nothing left to do for a decade, Genovese ordered paranoid assassinations of henchmen left and right, usually justified by nothing more than a gut feeling that they had somehow ratted him out. He died of a heart attack on Valentine's Day in 1969, just another bitter, beaten, and largely forgotten old mobster.
A nodeshell rescue by Deckard97. Thank you for reading.