03 March 2010

David Petillo (1908 – 1983) gangster.

Petillo was born in New York with connections to the Genovese crime family. In his teens he was reputed to be a finocchio, but at age 18 was sent to Chicago where Al Capone straightened him out. However he did like to dress as female when committing murder.

On return to New York he worked with Lucky Luciano, and in 1936 he was arrested on ‘white slavery charges’ in a racket that grossed $12 million a year. The women were happy to testify against him and he served twenty years in Sing Sing prison.

He was paroled in 1956 and then trafficked heroin for the Genovese family though Lower East Side and Greenwich Village bars including the 82 Club. He was involved in pornography in the late 1960s and until the business was sold to the Gambino family. He continued in sex-related businesses and cocaine trafficking until he fled the US after a murder. He died in Spain.
  • “David Petillo”. History of Gay Bars in New York City.  Currently requires a password.

See the footnote to my article on Finocchio’s nightclub for the etymology of ‘finocchio’.

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