Imagine a mob boss moving to a quiet waterfront town, chatting at the hairdresser, hanging out at the fire station, and doing ordinary things while running a criminal empire.
It looks like a Jersey Shore knockoff of “The Sopranos.”
Except it’s not a TV show. It really happened in Monmouth County.
Vito Genovese, a prominent donor who was instrumental in the rise of the Italian Mafia in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, lived in three different houses along the Bayshore, the last two of which were residences at full-time.
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That’s the subject of a free presentation called “Love, Death & Betrayal: The Anna & Vito Genovese Story,” taking place at 7 p.m. on June 28 at the Middletown Public Library (and also streaming live online). through Zoom). Local historian John Barrows, a Little Silver resident who has researched the subject extensively, will lead the event in partnership with the Middletown Township Historical Society.
“Vito Genovese has been a widely covered topic, but very few books talk much about his domestic life or anything about his time in New Jersey,” Barrows told Asbury Park Press.
Drawing on newspaper archives and a 12-part “Mob Queens” podcast featuring Anna Genovese, Barrows pieced together the Bayshore activities of the Genovese family as they ran their businesses (criminal and otherwise) in New York City. .
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Vito Genovese’s Jersey Timeline
1935: Vito purchased what was known as the Dangler Mansion at 152 Red Hill Road in Middletown. A large two-story ‘Colonial Revival’ house on 35 acres, it was built by Edward and Theresa Dangler in 1928 and sold on Edward’s death shortly thereafter.
“Supposedly, Vito only wanted him for a summer residence, and they (Vito and his family) lived full-time in an apartment in Washington Square (in lower Manhattan),” Barrows said. “They were there (in Middletown) from time to time on weekends.”
The grounds of the mansion included a three-hole golf course, a tennis court and a working model of Italy’s infamous Mount Vesuvius.
1937: As Vito began an eight-year exile in Italy on the run from murder prosecution, the Dangler mansion burned down. Anna and their children were in Manhattan at the time.
“The official version was a faulty oven,” Barrows said. “It wasn’t a very old furnace, but that’s what they blamed. It was convenient. Dominic Caruso, the guy doing all the work on the house, said they had all kinds of different contractors working there. If anyone wanted to speculate, maybe Anna had cleaned up everything that really mattered to her and Dominic Caruso might have cleaned up everything of value, and they would have burned the thing down.
Later, Vito sold the property to none other than Dominic Caruso.
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1946: A year after returning from Italy and beating another killer rap, Vito bought a house at 130 Ocean Blvd. in the Atlantic Highlands. According to Anna’s later court testimony, Vito spent $250,000 on renovations ($3.7 million in today’s money). The family moved full time.
“He’s very much a city man in the Atlantic Highlands,” Barrows said. “He got his hair cut at the same hairdresser, always left a tip in dollars, stopped at the fire station and gave them a few dollars. Some family members owned a piano bar in Long Branch, so he was known to go there.
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1950: Anna left Vito. She was involved in running several nightclubs in New York City and it was assumed that she was tired of life in a sleepy suburb. She ended up suing Vito for financial support and testified against him in state superior court in Freehold. It was sensational.
“(Mafia wives) weren’t even supposed to speak in a supermarket, let alone on the witness stand,” Barrows said. “Eventually, his testimony forced Vito out of the Atlantic Highlands mansion. Anna said he made $20,000 a week through an illegal lottery in New York, and he claimed he made $120 a week. $ per week as a scrap paper dealer.
1953: With a few lawsuits hanging over him, Vito auctioned off the furnishings of the Atlantic Highlands mansion and downsized by moving into what the Asbury Park Press described as a “two-bedroom bungalow” at 68 West Highland Ave. . in Atlantic Highlands.
“It was supposed to be a rental,” Barrows said. “The landlord said he is a good tenant who has always paid his rent (apparently $100 per month) on time. Keep in mind that Vito was an expert at playing fast and free with real estate.
It was the last place Vito Genovese would live before being locked up in federal prison from 1959 until his death in 1969.
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Postscript: Why New Jersey?
The question remains, why did a crime boss from New York decamp to the Jersey Shore?
“There’s an idea that in the Italian culture he grew up in, successful people had their summer villas outside of town,” Barrows said. “But also, all of the (Genovese family’s) crimes took place in New York, so living in New York would have made him an easy target for (New York) state prosecutors.”
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What happened to his three New Jersey homes?
The Dangler Mansion in Middletown is now Deep Cut Park. A small storage building and a remnant of mini-Mount Vesuvius remain from the original enclosure.
“Dominic Caruso returned it, and it changed hands two more times before it was given to the (Monmouth County) Parks Department,” Barrows said.
The Ocean Boulevard mansion in Atlantic Highlands “has been extensively renovated,” Barrows said, and no confirmed photos of the place as it looked during Genovese’s stay have surfaced.
The supposedly rented Atlantic Highlands Genovese bungalow is still there.
To attend “Love, Death & Betrayal: The Anna & Vito Genovese Story” via Zoom, registration is required at www.middletownnjhistory.org. No registration is required for those attending in person.
Jerry Carino is a community columnist for Asbury Park Press, focusing on Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at [email protected]