Salvatore Mangiamelli and the Payroll Caper

During the Gallo and Profaci war from 1961-1963, Salvatore Mangiamelli was considered one of the Gallos’ top lieutenants.  It was suspected that Salvatore had committed several killings while working for them.  He also had a record for conspiracy to commit murder, grand larceny, conspiracy, theft and disposing stolen securities.

Although my research is mainly on New York City youth gangs from the 1950s, I sometimes come across information about the Mafia.  While researching the President Street Boys youth gang from the early 1950s (not to be confused with the adult President Street Boys in the early 1960s written about by Frank Dimatteo), I came across information on Salvatore Mangiamelli and one of his earlier crimes committed in 1951 when he was 22 years old.

The New York Mafia website has an excellent write-up of Mangiamelli covering his entire life. However, to my knowledge, this particular crime by Salvatore that you are about to read hasn’t been written about in detail until now.  I hope you find this information useful and interesting…

For 31 years up to Jun.26, 1951, Stephen O’Brien’s habit was to leave his office on the 7th floor of 360 Furman Street at 2:30 p.m., carrying the payroll for 175 employees.  O’Brien worked as the Treasurer for the White House Products Company, a manufacturer of stationery supplies.  He would neatly arrange the pay envelopes and carry them in a cardboard, cloth-covered box that was the size of a shoe box.

O’Brien would then walk down a long corridor with the payroll to another office where it was distributed to the employees.

On Friday, June 26, there was an unusually large payroll totaling about $18,000 that included two weeks of vacation pay for most of the 175 employees.  The money had been delivered earlier that morning by Wells Fargo from the nearby National City Bank.

At 2:40 p.m., O’Brien completed his work for 103 envelopes that totaled $3,849.56 in pay.  Like he did every other time, he packed the envelopes into the box, stepped out of his office and proceeded to walk down the 50 foot corridor.  But this time would be different.  As he began walking down the hallway, he was confronted by Salvatore Mangiamelli and Thomas Pennino who said, “This is a stick-up!”

For a brief moment, O’Brien hesitated.  Salvatore stepped forward, put his hand inside his jacket pocket as though he were reaching for a gun and added in an ominous voice, “I mean it.”  Salvatore grabbed the box of pay envelopes which O’Brien was carrying and bolted for the nearby stairway.  Immediately O’Brien shouted that he had been robbed.  Hearing this, a teenage factory worker named Quentin Cashman (perfect last name!) chased Salvatore and Thomas down the seven flights of stairs and out the building.  While Thomas and Salvatore were running for freedom, they stuffed their pockets with pay envelopes, scattering some of them as they tried to escape.

By the time they exited the building running, several people were hot on their heels shouting, “Help!” “Stop them!” “Robbery!” “Hold-up!”  As this dramatic scene opened onto Furman Street, it just so happened to be that two patrolman of the 84th Precinct were riding by in their car at about 2:45 p.m.  When they saw Salvatore and Thomas running away, they also gave chase, like human bloodhounds dressed in blue.

Thomas and Salvatore ran into an old-fashioned apartment house with a court yard, where they managed to lose the trailing cops.  At least for the moment.  The police did a systematic search of the huge building by following Thomas’s and Salvatore’s footprints left behind on the stairs and hallway (there was a light drizzle that afternoon).  They located the pair who was “cowering on a third floor landing.”  They were ordered to put their hands up and were searched on the spot.  There were about 3-4 pay envelopes found on Mangiamelli and about 16 on Pennino.  The police also found a 3 ½ inch switchblade on Salvatore.

The building where Thomas and Salvatore escaped into

The building where Thomas and Salvatore escaped into

The cops brought Thomas and Salvatore back to the scene of the robbery where O’Brien identified them as the robbers.  His box was found on the stairway and luckily it had most of the pay envelopes in it.  Some trusted employees were sent to find the other envelopes which had been scattered down the street.

Thomas and Salvatore were then brought to the 82nd Station House for questioning where Thomas quickly buckled, admitting his guilt.  His story was that he met two girls at Coney Island the previous evening and they told him they worked at White House Products Company so he decided to pay them a visit to make a date.  Mangiamelli decided to join him and they were on the 7th floor looking for the two girls at the moment O’Brien stepped out of his office.  Salvatore admitted he was on the 7th floor with Thomas and had run from the scene of the crime, but didn’t know anything about the robbery.

When Salvatore was interrogated by the police, he was described as “more sullen and taciturn than his younger partner.”  He agreed with Thomas’s story that they met on President Street and that Thomas invited him to come along to a gym for some training (Thomas was a prize fighter and was friends with none other than Rocky Graziano).  Salvatore said he was good with that plan and as they walked along, Thomas told him about the two Spanish girls he had met the night before in Coney Island.  That was when they supposedly changed their minds and decided to go to the factory to find the two girls.  When asked why he would want to meet two girls when he was married with two children, Salvatore said he did not go out with other girls.  So then why did he go along to make a date?  The investigator said that in answer to this question, Salvatore “impatiently rejects this question with the remark that he does not know, he was just going along to be company.”

Salvatore also said he knew nothing about the robbery and didn’t know who held up “the old man” (O’Brien).  Salvatore admitted that the envelopes were found in his pocket, but he wasn’t sure how they got there (italics emphasis mine).  When told that O’Brien identified him as one of the robbers, Salvatore said that it was an outright lie.  He also disagreed that his partner-in-crime Thomas was the one who held up O’Brien.

“I don’t know nothing,” he remarked.

Salvatore’s evasive answers bordered on the hilarious, so I will let the replies speak for themselves, quoting the investigator:

The defendant (Salvatore) admits he ran down the stairs and when they reached the street cries of holdup, and police were raised.

When the improbability of this story was remarked, it was suggested that perhaps the defendant and his partner (Thomas) had agreed upon an alibi prior to the crime in case it misfired.  “I don’t remember Pennino saying anything about an alibi.”  We asked if Pennino might have made such a comment and perhaps the defendant forgot about it.  “He might have said it, but I don’t remember,” is the defendant’s final remark on this question.

Obviously Salvatore wasn’t giving anything up.

In the end, almost the entire $3,849.56 was recovered.  All that was missing was two envelopes that totaled $70.89.

The investigators came to what I believe to be reasonable conclusions.

The defendants stated that it was a spur of the moment stickup, but the evidence said otherwise.  When the police told O’Brien it was an impulsive stickup, he said witnesses placed both Thomas and Salvatore in the hallway for about an hour, not for five minutes as they claimed.  As for their story about trying to meet the two girls, it seemed very odd that they would try to meet the girls while they were working at their jobs.  Plus they didn’t know the girls by full name.  Not only that, but Pennino’s description of the two girls was extremely vague.  Adding further suspicion to whether this was a planned robbery or not, when Salvatore’s wife was interviewed, she said that on the day of the robbery, Salvatore left the house early in the morning telling her that he was going to visit a factory on Furman Street to inquire about getting a job.  He did this because she had been nagging him about his plan to continue to work as a longshoreman.

A glimpse into Mangiamelli’s notoriety at such a young age happened while he was being questioned on this case.  In an unrelated matter, the Investigating officer of the case of Alphonse Persico (Carmine’s brother) who had plead guilty to murdering one Steve Bove – which had received lots of newspaper notoriety – felt that Salvatore was involved in the murder too.

The final conclusion was that neither Salvatore nor Thomas shared everything they knew about the stickup.  Their story of visiting the 7th floor of a busy factory building just to “meet a couple of broads,” pushed the limits of credulity according to the investigators.  O’Brien felt that it was an inside job.

In the end, Mangiamelli was convicted of 2nd Degree Robbery, which was a step down from the original charges of Robbery 1st Degree, Grand Larceny 1st Degree and Assault 2nd Degree.  He was convicted on August 14, 1951 and sentenced on October 3, 1951 to 4-10 years at Sing Sing Prison.

Salvatore Mangiamelli's Prisoner's Criminal Record

Mangiamelli’s Prisoner’s Criminal Record prior to the stickup shows his previous criminal history