The Coll-Schultz War
February 13, 1930
Carmine Barelli had been working for Dutch Schultz for a few years, making more money than he ever dreamed of. Barelli was good friends with Vincent Coll until September 17, 1928. On that date, the two men pulled a heist of the Sheffield Farms dairy plant, resulting in an argument of how to divide the loot. Since then there was friction between the two.
In early 1930, Coll started to hatch his plan to depart from the Schultz organization and start his own mob. Barelli caught wind of this and as Coll feared he would spill the plan to Schultz, he took action.
In the wee hours of the morning of February 13, Barelli and his girlfriend, Mayme Layton, were walking to their apartment near Inwood Avenue and West 170th Street in the Bronx. They were approached and gunned down by Vincent Coll, Patsy Del Greco, Frank Esposito, and one other associate. The gunmen then sped off in their car, driven by a fifth associate.
Coll was charged with the double homicide on March 30, 1930, but discharged due to lack of evidence.
May 13, 1931
On May 12, 1931, shortly after midnight, Roy Herbert Sloane was sitting and drinking at the Mad Dot Boat Club at 251 Dyckman Street in upper Manhattan, with three other men, engaging in what appeared to be friendly conversation. Just about 1:00 a.m., Sloane and one of the men walked outside of the club. Seconds after exiting the club, a car parked down the street started its engine. The car drove slowly past the entrance of the club, the passenger side door swung open, and a man armed with a shotgun, fired two shots, both hitting Sloane. While his companion fled, Sloane staggered before collapsing on the sidewalk, where he died from the assault. A popular report of the shooting is that Sloane, who resembled Coll, was targeted by mistake. However, it was later speculated that Sloane was actually associated with the Coll mob.
May 28, 1931
On the evening of May 28, 1931, Joey Rao was hanging out in front of 164 East 116th Street with two of his associates, Dominic “Louis Slatz” Bologna and Frank “Big Dick” Amato. Around 10 p.m. a car cruised by as six men armed with machine guns blasted away at the trio. Amato fell to the pavement, while Bologna staggered a few doors down into the Alpi Restaurant where he collapsed. Although Bologna and Amato were both killed in this assault, the main target, Joey Rao escaped with minor wounds.
May 30, 1931
In the early morning hours, Peter Coll was driving in West Harlem, near Central Park when another car pulled alongside. Gunmen appeared, fired away at Peter, and then sped off. Peter Coll was rushed to the nearby Fifth Avenue Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
May 31, 1931
There were roughly a dozen men left lounging around at the Hub Bowling Alley on East 149th Street in the Bronx. Merely watching the handful of players bowling, the spectators didn’t pay much attention when three well-dressed men walked in. When the manager asked if they wanted to play, they indicated that they were just going to watch, and joined the other spectators. Just after 2:30 a.m., there was only a handful remaining. One of those in the bowling alley was 20-year-old Gennaro “Chin” Iadaroli, who was known for running a local craps game and also worked as a collector for Dutch Schultz. He was also friendly with Vincent Coll and it is uncertain which side he was aligned with. Just as a thrown ball connected with the bowling pins, the three men backed up to the entrance, drew pistols, and fired shots at Iadaroli. When police found his dead body, he had no money in his pockets, only five dice.
June 2, 1931
Bystanders on 177th Street and Noble Avenue in the Bronx ducked for cover as two cars speeding side by side down the street were engaged in a shootout. There were no reported casualties from this shootout.
Coll and his gang continued their assault on Schultz’s operation by raiding one of his Bronx warehouses and demolishing a number of his trucks used to transport beer.
June 3, 1931
The dead body of Louis DeRosa, a Schultz associate, was found in a car parked in the southern section of the Bronx. DeRosa was shot four times in the back and three in the head.
June 8, 1931
In the evening, the body of 24-year-old John Jacapraro was found on the floor of a Buick sedan parked not far from the Bronx Zoo. Jacapraro was one of Dutch Schultz’s truck drivers, but he may have jumped over to Coll’s side.
June 16, 1931
The body of another Bronx associate of Schultz turned up. 46-year-old Abe Rosenberg was found with a bullet in his brain and his skull crushed in Queens, not far from where his car was parked.
June 18, 1931
Living in the ninth floor apartment of the swanky Fifth Avenue building, Dutch Schultz was known to the doormen as Russell Jones. Recently, he spent more time than usual in his apartment, in fear of an assault by Coll and his mob. That evening was one of the rare occasions that Schultz stepped out. At his side at all times was his loyal bodyguard “Dangerous Dan” Iamascia. As they were returning to the apartment later that evening, Iamascia noticed two men coming toward them. Considering the recent events, he drew his gun. The two men, NYPD detectives Steve DiRosa and Julius Salke, pulled their weapons, and fired upon Iamascia, who died hours later. The Dutchman tried to run, but was too slow, as he was caught and arrested for possession of a handgun. Shortly thereafter, he was released on $75,000 bail.
June 21, 1931
One of the cardinal rules gangsters follow is: “Never to answer the door yourself.” At 3:45 a.m., 31-year-old John Soricelli found out the hard way why this basic rule is so critical to someone in his racket. When the doorbell rang, it awakened him and he answered it. When he opened the door, two men with guns put two bullets in his chest and fled in their waiting car. Soricelli, didn’t collapse immediately from the assault. He staggered, asked his wife for a cigarette, and had her set him in his bed while waiting for the police to arrive. He eventually died from the bullet wounds.
July 28, 1931
Summer in New York City has always been a fun time for children of all ages. School was out and the days were longer, which meant they could stay out and play longer. The East Harlem block of East 107th Street between Second and Third Avenues was usually crowded with residents lounging outside and children playing well into the evening hours. On July 28, 1931, 14-year-old Frank Scalesi was running a lemonade stand, strategically set up in front of the Helmar Social Club, a popular hangout for the neighborhood locals, including those running the rackets. One of the officers of the club was Vincent Rao, cousin of Joey Rao. The same Joey Rao, an associate of Dutch Schultz and arch enemy of Vincent Coll.
Seven-year-old Salvatore Vengalli was playing in the street with his five-year-old brother Michael, and five-year-old Samuel Devino, as they were watching Frank Scalesi selling his lemonade for a penny a glass. Standing right by the boys was 12-year-old Florence D’Amello, who was attending to her three-year-old cousin, Michael Bevilacqua in his carriage. Several men were lounging in front of the Helmar Social Club, smoking cigarettes and chatting, while the enterprising Frank Scalesi was trying to make some lemonade sales. On this evening, Joey Rao was among those on the street and at 6:30 p.m. all the laughter turned to screams of terror as the tires of a green sedan with five men inside came to a screeching halt in front of the club. The men in the car fired shotguns and machine guns at their target Joey Rao who quickly ducked for cover. The children started screaming and running. Adults dropped to the ground. After 60 shots were fired, the car tore out toward Third Avenue and disappeared.
Joey Rao was unharmed, but the lemonade stand with its glasses was shattered and fortunately it’s proprietor, young Frank Scalesi was unharmed. Five of the other children were not as fortunate. When the smoke cleared, Mrs. Catherine Vengalli came running out of her home and saw her boy, Salvatore, lying on the sidewalk covered in blood. She picked him up and rushed him to a taxicab to nearby Fifth Avenue Hospital. Her protective motherly instincts prompted her to act quickly and get her injured boy immediate medical attention. As the taxicab sped toward the hospital, she realized that her younger boy, Michael was also playing outside.
During that era in New York City, residents living on the same street were neighbors in the true sense of the term. In a neighborhood like East Harlem, many of the residents were of Italian descent, with a good number having immigrated to the United States some years earlier. There was a strong sense of camaraderie among such neighbors. Some of the men worked together or helped one another find jobs during difficult times. The women cooked, shopped, did laundry, and gossiped together. When children were born, they pushed their baby carriages together and the children grew up as close friends. They considered their street to be a safe place for their children to play.
Other mothers came rushing out and when a neighbor found Michael Vengalli lying near a doorway, knowing that his mother just sped off with her other son, she did not hesitate to carry him off into another taxicab. The two closest hospitals were Fifth Avenue Hospital and Beth David Hospital. The neighbor did not know where Mrs. Vengalli took Salvatore, and Michael ended up at Beth David. In the chaos, as neighbors helped get the wounded children to hospitals, Florence D’Amello and Samuel Devino joined Michael Vengalli at Beth David, while Michael Bevilacqua was taken to Fifth Avenue Hospital where Salvatore Vengalli was being treated.
Florence D’Amello took a bullet in her right shoulder, as she tried to shield her toddler cousin, Michael Bevilacqua, who got caught with two shots in his back as he sat in his carriage. Samuel Devino got hit in his right leg and Salvatore Vengalli got hit in three spots all on his left side. Fortunately all four of these children survived. Five-year-old Michael Vengalli was not as lucky. Surgeons vigorously applied all their skills, but were unable to save the boy.
Citizens were outraged. While most of the witnesses were unable to give clear description of the killers, police had one mystery witness who gave the name of Vincent Coll as one of the shooters in the sedan. The NYPD offered $10,000 for any information leading to an arrest. Newspapers were offering rewards. Police Commissioner Edward P. Mulrooney dramatically increased the police street patrols and issued a “shoot to kill” order should any officer encounter Coll or his mob. The newspapers dubbed him Mad Dog Coll and the public demanded justice!
October 2, 1931
27-year-old Joe Mullins was in charge of one of Schultz’s garages located at 2918 Park Avenue in the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx. It was one of the locations used for the Dutchman’s his beer distribution. On the morning of October 2, 1931, Mullins was standing in front of the garage when a brown Buick stopped. Frank Giordano was behind the wheel and Tuffy Odierno, in the passenger seat. Odierno stepped out and said he was looking for Joe Mullins. As soon as Mullins identified himself, Odierno walked up to him, pulled a gun, and pumped three bullets into him. Tuffy then reached into his pocket, pulled out two pennies and tossed them next to Mullins, who was laying on the sidewalk. Those coins were meant to convey the message that the two cents was the mere value of Mullins’s life.
Tuffy turned and ran back to the Buick, but in the process, his hat fell off his head. He did not go back to retrieve the hat, but hopped in the car as Giordano pulled away. That hat would later be crucial evidence that determined Tuffy’s fate!
Two New York Edison Company workers were performing some repairs on the street when they heard the two shots. As the car went by, one of the workers was quick enough to jot down the license plate number and both were able to get a good enough look at the occupants.
October 3, 1931
While Coll was back in the city, federal prohibition agents were turning up the heat on everyone. The day after the Mullins murder, eight agents were in the process of raiding the Majestic Garage on 1262 Westchester Avenue in the Bronx. This was another location used by the Dutchman as a distribution warehouse. As the agents were confiscating the wares, car occupied by Vincent Coll and a couple of his boys drove by and one of the passengers threw a stone into the garage’s glass door, followed by a homemade bomb that exploded seconds later. Fortunately nobody was harmed, and a bystander managed to capture the license plate number of the vehicle.
February 1, 1932
Louis Bifano lived on Commonwealth Avenue, a residential street with several two-story homes. The building next door to his was owned by Mike Basile’s mother. Residing in an apartment on the second floor were Mike Basile’s sister, Margaret Ziccardi and her family. That apartment served as a headquarters for Coll and his mob ever since his acquittal the previous month. Inside that night were a dozen men, women and children, including Patsy Del Greco and Fiore Basile, Mike’s brother, also associated with Coll’s mob. Just before 9:30 p.m. a car pulled up in front of the two-story house in the Bronx. Responding to a knock on the door, one of the children opened it, allowing four men with guns to burst in. Firing away, they focused their assault on the two Coll mobsters. Everyone ran for cover and while the five children in the apartment escaped the bullets, not everyone was as fortunate. When the smoke cleared, three were left dead. While Patsy Del Greco and Fiore Basile, the targets, were left dead, 32-year-old Emily Torrizello was killed by a bullet to her head. Emily was visiting with Lena Vinciguerra, sister of the Basile’s, who was also injured in the attack. Lena, along another brother, Louis Basile, and Joseph Parrone, a 19-year-old who lived in the next apartment were rushed to Fordham Hospital and treated for gunshot wounds. All three survived. But the gunmen didn’t get their main target: Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll.
February 8, 1932
A short walk from the Cornish Arms on West 23rd Street is the London Chemists drugstore. They were opened late as Vincent Coll and his bodyguard strolled in a little after 1:00 a.m. The identity of his bodyguard is not known, and Lottie claims she did not know who accompanied Coll on that day. At least, that is her story! Coll went into one of the phone booths and his bodyguard went into another. After making a quick call, the bodyguard exited the booth and sat at the counter by the soda fountain, while waiting for his boss. Dr. Leo J. Latz was at the counter next to the bodyguard, while Jean Scott, the pharmacy clerk was filling a prescription for Dr. Edward Pravaner, who lived just up the street. The other clerk in the store was Morris Kernowitz. Margaret “Peggy” Bonner was the only other customer.
The bodyguard was patiently waiting at the counter for 10 minutes while Coll was still in the phone booth. A black sedan pulled up in front of the store and three men stepped out. Two of the men remained outside by the front door, while the third man entered London Chemists armed with a machine gun. He looked at the bodyguard, motioned toward the exit, and the bodyguard walked out of the store. The gunman pointed his gun at the five remaining persons in the store and told them “keep cool now.” He quickly approached the phone booth, and fired several shots at Coll inside. He watched Coll fall to the ground, then exited, and jumped into the waiting car with his two companions.
Just up the street on West 23rd Street was NYPD Patrolman James Sherlock, who heard the shots fired. As he watched the three men jump in the sedan and pull out, he alertly jumped onto the running board of a taxicab and told the driver to follow the car. The taxicab tried to keep up, as the car turned north on Eighth Avenue, where it picked up speed. Traveling at over 65 miles-per-hour, Sherlock drew his gun and fired a few shots at the car with no effect. After a chase of close to thirty blocks, the sedan picked up speed and pulled away.
Body of Abe Rosenberg
Patsy Del Greco
Gennaro "Chin" Iadaroli
Body of Joe Mullins
Roy Herbert Sloane
Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll