Although he did not come to absolute power until 1931, Charles "Lucky" Luciano was the leader of an up-and-coming group of gangsters who would eventually rule New York City's organized crime families. Arriving in NYC from Sicily as a 10 year old, Luciano was already making more than $12 million per year by 1925, primarily in bootlegging and gambling. However, he had restrictions put upon him by one of New York's two old-style Mafia dons (or "Mustache Petes")--Joe "The Boss" Masseria. Masseria had long been battling his arch rival, Salvatore Maranzano, and their bloody feud between 1928-1931 came to be known as the Castallammarese War. After Luciano survived a "one-way ride" assassination attempt by Maranzano hit men in 1929, Luciano cunningly cut a deal with his would-be killer: "Lucky" would get rid of Masseria if Maranzano made Luciano his #2 man. Maranzano agreed. As Luciano dined with Masseria one day, he suddenly excused himself to use the restroom. Three future gangster legends--Bugsy Siegel, Joe Adonis and Vito Genovese--entered the restaurant and shot Masseria to death.
Maranzano was now the undisputed Mafia leader of New York City, the Boss of Bosses--for all of five months. Believing that Luciano had become too powerful, Maranzano ordered a hit on his second-in-command. But Luciano already had plans to kill Maranzano, and he was able to beat his boss to the punch by a mere matter of minutes. In September 1931, Luciano associate Meyer Lansky assembled a hit team who, disguised as government agents, murdered Maranzano in his office. On their way out of the building, they met Marazano's top hit man, "Mad Dog" Coll, coming up the stairs intent on killing Luciano.
Though the popular Luciano was now the true Boss of Bosses, he quickly eliminated the title, fearing it would cause more warfare between the rival families. He determined to make organized crime a true business, reorganizing the Five Families of New York, a group who would work together (most of the time) to make their illegal activities more profitable than ever. Luciano became the head of The Commission, a group of top family leaders who would make decisions for all of the families.
Luciano's reign over The Commission was relatively short; he was sentenced to 30+ years in prison for Federal income tax evasion in 1936. He was succeeded by his underboss, Genovese, and then his consigliere, Frank Costello, though Luciano still gave orders from his prison cell. Luciano was released from prison in 1946 and deported to Sicily, but he still oversaw many of his family's decisions and was given the honorary title Capo Di Tutti i Capi ("Boss of Bosses") in the 1950s. Luciano died of a heart attack in Naples International Airport in 1962. His old friend, Carlo Gambino, spoke at his funeral.