Charles Luciano was born in Sicily in 1897. After living in Sicaly for 9 years, his family decided to move to the United States in search of a better life. Things were going smoothly in his new life until he was arrested for shoplifting.
Charles started making a living from protecting younger kids on their way to school from bullies. For this service he would charge money and, if they chose not to pay, they were badly beaten. The cost of the service was only a few pennies per day, but Charles was able to make good money from it.
One day he came across a boy that wouldn't pay. As usual Charles attempted to beat him, but the boy was too good of a fighter. After failing, Charles asked the boy to join his racket. The boy turned out to be named Meyer Lansky, an immigrant from Poland. The two would turn out to be good friends and business partners.
Charles started getting into more serious crimes such as murder and robbery. At the age of 18, he was arrested for selling morphine and heroin and sent to a reformatory for a length of 6 months, only to do the same thing after being released. At this young age, he was already the leader of a notorious gang called the Five Points Gang and suspected in numerous murders.
By the time he was 23, Charles had joined the Masseria family, which was the largest crime family in the United States at the time. In the family, Charles set up huge bootlegging rackets and made excellent contacts. However, Charles quickly became disgusted with the way Masseria was leading the family. Charles met with Frank Costello and was shown how Costello hired non-Italians and bribed city officials. However Masseria refused to operate this way, electing only to hire Sicilians.
Charles' suggestions must have made Masseria paranoid, because a hit was soon attempted on him. Charles was walking down six avenue when a limousine rolled up and three men dragged Charles into the limo. Inside, Charles was beaten until he was unconscious, along with several knife stabs. Charles woke up on the beach and was surprisingly taken to the hospital by a police officer.
Charles didn't know who was behind the hit, but had his friend Lansky ask around, coming back with the answer, "Masseria was behind the hit." Charles decided to join Masseria's enemy, Sal Maranzano, in the second-biggest family in New York and betray Masseria.
By joining Maranzano, Charles caused a war to erupt between the two families, later known as the Castellammarese War. Charles stayed pretty quiet during the two years that the war lasted, until deciding to make the final move. Maranzano was winning the war, but many men were just waiting for one of the bosses to die to continue their normal lives as mobsters.
Charles organized a meeting with Masseria after meeting with some of his men first. During the meeting, the 4 men turned on Masseria and killed him. The death of Masseria made Maranzano the victor of the war and Maranzano appointed Charles as his underboss. Maranzano declared himself "Boss of Bosses" and set up five families underneath him in a vast organization. However Charles had him whacked and immediately seized the position.
Now that he was in power, he worked with Lansky to set up legitimate businesses everywhere. The organization even set up casinos, brothels, and bars in Cuba. The family was soon the most powerful in the United States, surpassing even Al Capone's organization. They also started Murder Incorporated, a group of hitmen that could be hired out by any family, but never against high profile legitimate people.
During the depression, Charles was making more money than ever, while the rest of the country scraped by. In 1936 he was arrested on prostitution charges for forcing all of the brothels in the city to pay protection money. A huge raid netted half of the brothels and the testification of the prostitutes allowed Charles to get sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Even in prison, Charles ran his criminal empire through his friends. In 1942, the Naval Intelligence Office decided to enlist the help of Charles in securing the waterfront in New York from potential Nazi sabotage. He was transferred to a country club style prison and commanded his soldiers to protect the harbor. After the war, governor Thomas Dewey granted his release on the condition that he be deported to Italy.
In Italy, Charles could only travel a few miles away from his home. Despite the restrictions, he was still able to conduct business through telephone and runners. Charles had a weak heart, however, and had a fatal heart attack on January 26, 1962. He was buried in New York City with a huge funeral.