Frank Costello was born Francesco Castiglia on January 20, 1891 in the Calabria province of Italy. When he was four, his family sailed to America and started a new life in New York. With the Americanized name Frank Costello, he took to the streets and met some friends. By his early teens, Frank was already a member of a gang.
Frank ran into the law a number of times, but lucked out in 1915 with concealed weapon charges. He was put in prison for eleven months, but after his release his ambition was even stronger. He teamed up with Charles "Lucky" Luciano and his crew to get involved in the true fruits of the underworld. Soon Costello was raking in money from bootlegging and illegal gambling.
Frank Costello's real skill was in negotiating with the legitimate world for the underworld. He was very charismatic and seemed able to work out deals with any politician or judge. Through these skills, Frank developed an amazing reputation and earned the respect of many.
When Luciano was locked up in 1936, Frank was named the acting boss, even though Luciano still ran things from prison. Frank's under boss, Vito Genovese, fled to Italy on fear of getting arrested, leaving Costello with no challenger. Costello's diplomatic skills were put to good use during the late 30s and early 40s since he was able to keep peace with all the other families. Throughout this time, Costello built new businesses and expanded his criminal empire.
When Genovese returned on June 11, 1946, Frank's leadership was finally challenged. Since Luciano had been deported, Frank had no other option except to give control of the family to Genovese in order to maintain peace.
For a while, things went smoothly between Costello and Genovese. The Kefauver Hearings came and Frank was subpoenaed to answer questions about organized crime. Despite the Justice Department's inability to prosecute him, Frank was made a big target for racketeering. A number of charges were brought against him, including tax evasion, and the government began a de-naturalization process.
In 1951, Genovese had strong ambitions to take down Costello, but Costello was arrested for contempt of a senate conviction and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Frank was released early in October of 1953 only to be put on trial for tax evasion in April of 1954. He was found guilty of conspiring to hide over $50,000 in income from the government over a four year period and given five years in prison as well as a $30,000 fine.
In April of 1957, Frank was released on parole pending an appeal. During this time he enjoyed leisurely activities in NYC with his old friends. However, Genovese had not finished with Frank.
Frank went home after a night out and heard the words "Hi, this is for you, Frank!" as he stepped into the elevator. Frank managed to react and, although the gunman was only ten feet away, the bullet grazed his neck and hit the elevator wall. The gunman was none other than Vincent "Chin" Gigante and ran out of the building without finishing the job.
Despite the failed hit, Genovese appointed himself boss and Frank made it very clear that he wanted peace and would not interfere. Genovese decided to give Frank his life, only after demoting his rank to that of soldier, an entry level in the organization. Frank lost all of his gambling businesses and investments and made a promise to never get involved in racketeering again.
Costello lived out the remainder of his life in peace, dying from a heart attack on February 18, 1973 at the age of 82.