“Joey the Hit Man” was a Bronx-born hired assassin who achieved widespread notoriety after writing a bestselling memoir and appearing on the David Susskind show. In this “down-to-earth realistic account,” Joey tells the riveting story behind the strangest of his thirty-eight kills (Los Angeles Free Press).
In the fall of 1969, a public execution in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn earned Joey a mention in the New York Daily News and a twenty-grand payout from the mob. On the surface, his next job seemed just as routine: The bosses suspected their trusted numbers controller, Joe Squillante, was skimming the nightly bets to settle personal debts. Joey gave Squillante two weeks to live.
But there was one problem: Squillante once had a hit out on Joey too. No clueless patsy, #29 was an unpredictable bull’s-eye, and the contract holder was a dangerous mobster with a personal grudge against Joey. Taking the job meant entering into a game of predator and prey as nerve-racking as the cock of a .38 hammer.
From first tail to all-night stakeouts to the intricate planning of the final confrontation, this is the shockingly detailed first-person account of a professional hit. Full of twists, turns, and double crosses, Hit #29 “tells it like it is” and delivers an unforgettable insider’s view of the mob (Kirkus Reviews).
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About the Author
“Joey the Hit Man” was a loan shark, numbers king, professional assassin, and the New York Times–bestselling author, with David Fisher, of Killer: The Autobiography of a Mafia Hit Man (1973) and Hit #29: Based on the Killer’s Own Account (1974).
Read an Excerpt
Based on the Killer's Own Account
By David Fisher, Joey the Hit Man
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1974 Joey and David Fisher
All rights reserved.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE
Number 29, from beginning to end, took place in New York City between the months of October and November, 1968. Obviously I wasn't there for every part of it, but I can fill in any blanks because I know how these things work. And I know people who know people, so I can keep pretty good track of what transpires when I need to. In this case, since I believed there was more involved than a simple contract, I felt I needed to. The whole thing started with a simple robbery which actually was not so simple. And, pure coincidence, it started the night I finished number 28.
Joseph "Tiger" Maresca is a pretty well-known numbers controller in the Bronx. For the uninitiated, the numbers is the biggest betting game in New York, and maybe in the nation. To play, an individual places a bet of any size, from a penny to whatever, on either a three-digit number or, in single action, on one number. If your number wins — the number is usually determined by the last three digits of the total betting handle at a local track — the payoff is 600 to 1 on a three-digit number and 8 to 1 on single action. The guys who take the bets off the people on the streets are the runners. The man in charge of the runners, that individual who collects from the collectors, is the controller.
For example, Joseph "Tiger" Maresca. He's worked the same section, first as a runner, then as controller, for maybe 20 years and everybody knows him and everybody likes him. I've known him since I was a kid just getting started in the business. I know he has a wife and some children, and I know that basically he is a pussycat. In fact, I'm told that he got the nickname "Tiger" because he's so soft, like a tall guy who's called "shorty," or a weak guy becomes "muscles." At one time he probably was pretty tough, he had to be to work himself into his very lucrative position, but at this point he depends more on the reputation of a man we will refer to as the "Fat Man" than his own dwindling muscle. This is okay though because the Fat Man, an individual who still controls most of the numbers in the Bronx and Westchester, has a substantial reputation. It is said he has planted more men in the ground than the National Forestry Service has put in trees.
In other words, it is usually not a good idea to bother one of his people.
Maresca normally finishes his day's work on 139th Street and St. Ann's Avenue in the Bronx. He has a runner who lives in a building there. By the end of his day he has seen all his people and is liable to have as much as $8000 cash on him.
One night in mid-October, cash in pocket, he left his runner's apartment and started walking down the staircase. I assume he saw that there were two men standing there, waiting, but he obviously didn't think nothing about it. This was a great mistake. The two individuals — both white, one tall and the other regular-sized — were waiting especially for him. Actually there was no reason he should have noticed them. They were dressed very average, and they didn't wear masks or anything silly. It's just that Maresca would have been better off if he had. The tall one pulled out a gun and pointed it right at Maresca's head. "Let's go, sweets." he said.
Maresca didn't panic, but he wasn't thrilled about the situation either. "Look," he said, "you guys go ahead and take anything you want. I ain't gonna fight yas. But don't bother me."
You really can't blame him. Normally there is very little violence connected with the numbers. There are people in this line who are violent, or have a reputation for violence, but they are usually the exceptions. Most runners are normal men. They're married, they have kids. Maybe they talk funny and rough, but they are usually very easy to get along with. They don't hurt anybody. And they don't like to get hurt.
This was fine with the thieves also. "We don't want to hurt you," the tall one told him, "we just want the money." They took him down to the basement and made him lean up against the oil burner. The money was indeed all they wanted. They didn't bother his slips — his list of who bet how much on what — and they didn't even ruffle his jacket.
"We're gonna leave you now," the regular-sized one told him after his partner had pocketed the cash. "You just stay here for awhile, because if we see your head we're gonna have to shoot it off." Then they disappeared.
Maresca immediately did absolutely nothing but stand there and shake. Until this time the worst thing that had ever happened to him were a few misdemeanor pinches. He waited about 15 minutes and then, very slowly and very carefully, went back upstairs to his runner's apartment and called the office. "I been robbed," he said.
The particular bank that Maresca worked for was located in the basement of a funeral home in East Harlem. I had worked for them at one point and I will never forget how they used to lay the money out on body slabs. Just piles and piles of bills, and on occasion, a stiff would be laid out there waiting for the embalmer or cosmetician or his funeral. I don't mind killing them, but I'm not too thrilled about looking at them. The office told Maresca not to move and they sent two men over to bring him back. By the time he arrived at the bank with his slips, the Fat Man had been contacted and had come over.
They sat Maresca down, gave him a good stiff drink to calm him down, and then they started questioning him. For five hours they grilled him and regrilled him, over and over. If he was hiding anything, or lying, he would have burned out at some point during the questioning. But he didn't. It wasn't that they didn't believe him, Maresca had been with the organization over 20 years and they had never had any problems with him before, but runners as well as controllers have been known to hold themselves up. But he was really terrified and they figured he was telling the truth.
Two days later they were completely convinced when a second controller was held up. This was an Irish kid working up in the Gun Hill section, around 214th Street and Lacombe Avenue. Again, as I later found out was true in all the robberies, the kid had just seen his last runner of the day. This particular runner lived in the project up there and he took the numbers for the whole project. The Irish kid walked out of the building and toward the parking lot. Before he reached his car, two guys, the same two guys who heisted Maresca, came up to him and stuck a gun in his ribs. The Irish kid said absolutely nothing and did absolutely nothing, he didn't resist at all. "Empty your pockets, sweets," the big one commanded. "Don't give us no trouble and we ain't gonna hurt you." They took his money and his car keys. The money was a hell of a day's pay, almost $10,000. The keys were worth maybe 30 cents. They told him they were going to leave the keys under a mailbox about two blocks away. And they did.
Now the office knew something was happening, but they weren't sure it was an inside job. They figured maybe the organization was just having some bad luck. The luck got worse.
Down at the end of Tremont Avenue in Throgs Neck, there are a bunch of private homes and a boatyard. The runner worked in the yard, taking action from all the boat crews, as well as restaurants, gas stations and bait shops in the neighborhood. Normally the controller didn't even get out of his car. He showed up about 5:30 in the afternoon, honked his horn twice and waited. The runner came out, handed him an envelope, and went back inside. Normally.
This time the controller collected his envelope and started to pull out of the parking lot. Before he could get down the driveway another car cut him off. The tall guy jumped out and had a gun pointing at the controller's head before he could make a move to back up. "Step on that accelerator, sweets, and you're dead," he said. Knowing what I know now, that these were punk stick-up men and not gunsels, I personally doubt he would have pulled the trigger. Of course, I could be wrong. But the controller was not about to test him.
"I'm yours," he shrugged. He handed over what he had, which was about $6000. The tall man reached into the car, took out the keys and heaved them across the parking lot. Then he was gone.
By this time they were screaming bloody murder in the funeral home. It was obvious the controllers were being fingered by someone on the inside who had definite information, because robbing a controller is not as easy as it sounds. First, you have to figure out who the controller is. That in itself is not terribly difficult. But then you have to find out where he is going to be, when he's got the most money on him, and when he is going to be there. This is very difficult because a good, hustling controller may make 40 or 50 stops a day, and he never stays in any one place too long. Even if you do get his schedule, you've still got to isolate him, and since the job requires the controller to be around people, that is not very simple either. But these two stick-up men were doing it, and doing it perfectly, so it was obvious they were being fed information.
The office tried everything except calling the New York City Police Department. They had the controllers change their schedules. They started using armed guards to ride shotgun. But none of that did any good. The stick-up boys were always too quick. Before the guard could raise his shotgun they were on him. These boys did a death and destruction job on the office in October and early November. It reached the point where they were hitting the same controllers two and three times and still the office could not get a line on who these guys were or who was supplying their information. All counted, they picked up more than $100,000.
Then, unfortunately for certain parties, they got themselves picked up.
Since it was obvious that someone in the office, presumably a controller rather than a clerk or runner, was informing the dynamic duo about every change, the Fat Man and his top buttonmen took some important steps without bothering to mention them to anyone else. They went outside their own organization and hired some heavies. They started using backup cars equipped with walkie-talkies and two of the heavies. Even the controllers didn't know they were being followed. It took about a week to grab the pair.
This particular controller had changed his schedule so he finished up at Crotona Park where 174th Street and Crotona Avenue meet. Normally he made it a point to get to the park during daylight, because you never can tell who is going to be in the park after dark. All a controller needs is to get mugged and lose his day's receipts. But these were unusual circumstances so he went after dark and was very careful. He simply pulled into a bus stop, parked, and went into the park. His runner was waiting on a bench. After receiving the works the controller headed back toward his car. Our two friends were waiting for him.
"Oh, shit," he said, "not you guys again," or something near that. At that moment I bet he wished a mugger would have showed up. The stick-up men relieved him of his daily bread. Then they told him it would be far safer for him to walk in the park rather than out of it, and started for their own car.
The regular-sized one was driving. He didn't get very far. He had just put the key in the ignition when he looked up and was surprised to discover a very large gun pointing directly at his head. The tall one had made the same discovery. "Game's over gentlemen," said one of the heavyweights. He was dead right.
The stick-up boys were named Manny Sanchez and Allie Jacobs. Manny was the short one and Allie was the tall one. Manny lived out in the ass-end of Brooklyn and Allie came from Queens. They were simply two small-time punks and nobody within anybody's organization had ever seen them or heard of them.
The heavies brought them up to the funeral home and escorted them down into the basement. From there the buttonmen took over. The conversation covered the usual subjects: world affairs, politics, the United Nations. At first Manny and Allie were reluctant to enter the discussion with their own opinions, but they were soon persuaded that the organization did indeed care about their ideas on these subjects. It's not that Manny and Allie wanted to play hero and protect their silent partner, it's just that they took one look around, saw the empty coffins, and figured they were going to have a bad case of death as soon as they told everything they knew. So they were in no particular hurry to talk.
Therefore it was up to the buttonmen to (a) convince them they would not be hurt if they told everything they knew, or (b) convince them that being dead could actually be better than being alive. The buttonmen opted for alternative b. They used some very subtle techniques. It is a well-known fact in funeral-home basements that you can hurt a guy pretty good by poking his balls with an ice pick. Pins inserted directly under the fingernails also prove very persuasive. This was demonstrated to Allie and Manny and they showed a willingness to talk. And, as soon as they stopped screaming, they did. By the time the Fat Man had been notified and gotten down there, the boys were so eager for some friendly conversation they would have told him the last time their mothers got laid if that's what he wanted to know.
"Let's have it," the Fat Man said.
"A few months ago," Allie said, "this guy came to us and asked us how would we like to make some money. We said we'd like."
"This guy. This Joe Squillante guy. And so ..."
"Squillante!" The Fat Man couldn't believe it. Joe Squillante had started running numbers for him in the mid-1950s. He was made a controller in 1965 and there had never been a single problem with him or his customers. The Fat Man obviously found it hard to believe that Squillante was his man. That was more than biting the hand that feeds you, that was chopping it off with a fuckin' hatchet. "Bullshit," the Fat Man challenged, "Squillante got robbed himself."
"He sets hisself up so no one suspect him," Manny said in a squeaky voice. "We went over, he give us the money, that was it. He was givin' us all the info on all them other people. Joe Squillante."
"How come he told you his real name?" the Fat Man, who wasn't at all convinced he wasn't being put on, asked.
The boys shrugged their shoulders. "We was doing some things with a bartender in Bayside and ..." Allie started to explain.
"What sorta things?"
"Hey man, you know, things. A little collecting for people, getting some bets placed for some people, a little muscle work, a gun job ..."
"Stick-ups only," Manny said. "We never shoot nobody. Never. I never even fired the mother."
Allie looked at him sort of disgustedly. "You know what I mean," he continued, "things. So this bartender, he told us he had this guy who maybe had some work for us. We met him and he told us he was this guy Joe Squillante That's all."
"What'd he look like?" I guess the Fat Man figured it wasn't below some fucker to use Squillante's name.
But Manny described him perfectly. "He was like regular size five foot ten and weighed maybe hundred 'n' seventy. He gettin' a beer belly. And he got black hair which he combs to the side and it looks like maybe he going bald in front. And plus he got one scar on his face over his eye."
Allie continued the narrative. "So we met Squillante, or whoever he is, and he tells us he's gonna finger guys for us to stick-up. He said he was taking sixty percent and we could split the other forty. It sounded good."
"Sounds shitty to me," the Fat Man said. "You guys were taking all the chances and he was getting sixty percent. How come you guys go for such a shitty deal?"
"Hey, listen, it was still lots more than we was making anywhere else," Allie said truthfully. They had ended up making about $35,000 apiece.
The Fat Man just couldn't believe it. He turned to the man who told me this story and asked, "Why the fuck would Squillante get into this shit? The guy is making five thousand a week."
Nobody had an answer. All Manny and Allie knew was that Squillante fed them good information and never cheated them on the split. The Fat Man didn't ask any more questions. Instead, he took his buttonmen upstairs and held a meeting. He just left the boys sitting there. I would have to guess that they spent their time praying hard. They had to figure they were dead, but they figured wrong. The Fat Man, he needed them.
He just could not believe Joe Squillante was his man. He knew Squillante, he knew the wife, he had even been to both his kids' confirmations. In the upstairs meeting he kept talking about the fact that he trusted Squillante, and believed in the guy, and knew the guy. Then he said he just would not blitz the punks until he was sure Squillante was his man. So he went downstairs and told them that if they followed his instructions perfectly, there was every chance they might live to become godfathers.
They listened very, very carefully.
A hit is always bad for business so the Fat Man wanted to be sure he had the right man. He told Manny and Allie that they were supposed to act like nothing had gone wrong. Like they hadn't been picked up and they hadn't given up Squillante. He told them they were going to be given the money and a couple of slips from the controller they had held up that evening. They were to give this to Squillante. But they were to inform the office before every meeting they had with him. And when Squillante outlined the next job, they were to let the office know in complete detail.
Excerpted from Hit #29 by David Fisher, Joey the Hit Man. Copyright © 1974 Joey and David Fisher. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- Cover Page
- Hit #28
- Say It Ain’t So, Joe
- Contacted and Contracted
- Sweetlips Gives Me the Envelope
- Tailing Him
- Doubts and Great Danes
- Young Ladies and Old Ladies
- Squillante Bets His Life
- Near Miss?
- The Best Laid Plans
- Near Mrs.
- Right Guy, Wrong Crime
- The Longest Day
- But First a Brief Word From My Sponsor
- The Longest Night
- After the Ball Is Over
- Copping Out
- About the Authors
- Copyright Page