Valachi’s Early LifeGrowing up learning to be a low life delinquent, Valachi joined a small gang known as The Minutemen that specialized in small time burglaries. He was actually the driver for this band, and his ability to make a quick getaway earned him a reputation as a rising star in the underworld.
Friend of Mine
Through Dominick The Gap Petrillo, Valachi was introduced to the Cosa Nostra and in a short amount of time, became a soldier in the Lucchese Family.
Fighting side by side with Sal Maranzano, they defeated Joseph Masseria, then he became a personal bodyguard for Maranzano. This did not last long. Sal Maranzano was killed in 1931 and then Joseph Valachi went to work for Lucky Luciano.
With time, this organization became The Genovese Family.
Valachi Breaks the Code of Silence
At the end of his career as a low-level thug, Valachi turned traitor on his Mafia bosses, and his testimony brought down some of America’s most notorious members of the Cosa Nostra.
When he broke the code of silence Omerta for the first time in the history of the Mafia, it left him a marked man where no where to run, or hide.
Joe The Rat Valachi
Joe Valachi had such a big mouth and was talking so much, that Attorney General Robert Kennedy called him Joe “The Rat” Valachi, and went on to say that his revelations about Cosa Nostra was the government’s “single biggest intelligence breakthrough” in combating organized crime.
In October 1963, Valachi had testified before Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations that the Mafia did exist
Big Mouth Valachi
Among his accusations were contract killings, loan sharking, racketeering, burglary, and narcotics dealing.
Valachi had been part of the Genovese Family since its beginning, but it was his role as an informant that will make him famous.
Until Valachi, even J. Edgard Hoover denied the existence of a Mafia, but with Valachi’s allegations, naming names before a Senate subcommittee the FBI could not only substantiate the reality of the Mafia but could identify key players in the hierarchy of the organized crime syndicate.
Valachi’s disclosures never led directly to the prosecution of many Mafia leaders, he was able to provide many details of its history, operations and rituals, aiding in the solution of several murders that were not cleared, as well as naming many members, and the major crime families.
Testimony Bad for Cosa Nostra
His testimony, which was broadcast and published in all the media everywhere, was devastating for the Cosa Nostra. Following his testimony, the mob was no longer invisible to the public.
The reason that Joseph Valachi had to become a snitch to his own people, including wife Carmela the daughter of Gaetano Reina, are not conclusive.
Part of his family was mentally ill, with 3 or 4 of his brothers and sisters ending up in mental institutions. But also, he was probably trying to avoid the death penalty for a murder he committed in 1962, and was hoping for US government protection.
Imprisonment and death
On June 22, 1962, Valachi killed a man while serving his sentence.
In 1966, He tried to hang himself in his cell with an electrical extension cord but it did not work. He died of a heart attack in 1971 at La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution in Texas.