I thought I would write about legendary Genovese Capo Matty “The Horse” Ianniello, because it’s Memorial Day. Matty, like many of those his age, stepped up when America needed them and served in World War Two. He enlisted and quickly made corporal in the Sixth Army, where he was an artillery gunner in the Philippines fighting the Japanese between 1943 and December 1945.
He was in an artillery position when it came under machine gun fire. The problem was that it was another American unit doing the firing. Matty crawled under the fire to alert the machine gunners of their mistake. He earned a Bronze Star for that incident. Matty’s artillery unit was charged by some grenade-wielding Japanese who were determined to stop the big guns from firing. His unit used their small arms to kill the Japanese but not before several grenades were thrown. Matty was wounded by the shrapnel and he was awarded a Purple Heart.
Once home, he moved to Long Island and worked in Manhattan. He was in the restaurant business, but he was not listed as the owner. He came up frontman to deal with the State Liquor Authority. He was still known as Matty “The Horse,” a childhood nickname he was given after an altercation where onlookers said, “That kid is stronger than a horse.” He was an imposing figure, but he also had a quick mind. He started running with the Genovese Family and he was soon inducted into the family with the help of Funzi Tieri.
He then gained control of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters of Bus Drivers local 1181. This gave him a lot of power to dictate which companies could bid on which jobs. At one point Matty controlled over 80 bars and restaurants in New York. He was made a Capo in the 1970’s. Times Square was full of sex clubs and Matty controlled them. As a side note, the Mafia also ran gay bars, which were illegal at the time.
The night that Joe Gallo was killed in Little Italy at Umberto’s Clam House, Matty was reportedly working in the kitchen. Joe was said to say hello to him. Joe would end up dying that night in the street right in front of the restaurant.
Matty, along with partner Benjamin Cohen, used straw owners very successfully to control bars, nightclubs and restaurants until their 1982 indictment.
They controlled the Mardi Gras in which they skimmed over two million dollars. Some of the others were the the Peppermint Lounge, the Haymarket and the Grapevine. In Little Italy he controlled Umberto’s Clam House. The FBI had wires up and were able to catch them but it only slowed Matty down for a few years.
In 1995 Matty was free once again and he stepped up to take over for the imprisoned Chin Gigante as acting boss.
He moved even deeper into labour racketeering, working with carting companies hauling garbage and even gravel.
He earned millions until the FBI took him down in 2005. He pleaded guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to two years in Federal Prison. He was released in 2009 and lived under the radar until his death in 2012. Matty was not the only Genovese war hero. Venero Frank "Benny Eggs" Mangano, who is now acting boss at 93, is also a hero. He was a tail gunner on a B-29 and flew 33 missions racking up a number of prestigious medals. If any of you have ever been in a B-29, you know this is impressive, because being in the small gunners turret in the rear is crazy! There are only a few B-29s left in the world, and they tour around the country visiting small airports. I highly recommend checking them out when they are in your area, and you can experience Benny Eggs (and so many other war heroes) seat of bravery for yourself.