EBOLI, Thomas

"Thomas Ryan" (191 1-1972):
Genovese aide

Although he rose extremely high in organized crime
circles, including sitting on the so-called commission
as Vito Genovese's proxy when the latter went to
prison, Tommy Eboli was clearly over his head. After
Genovese's death in 1969, Eboli proved incapable of
holding the crime family together. It was basically a
case of a muscleman trying to do a brain's work.

Actually, it is often a myth that a crime family
boss can long continue to hold control of his family's
affairs from behind bars. But in the case of Genovese
it was true. He knew how to pick subordinates he
could cow so that they would never dream of trying
to dethrone him. Eboli, a volatile and violent man,
was always in awe of Genovese, considering Vito to
be even more fearsome than himself. With such a
personality, Eboli was extremely valuable to Gen-
ovese, a faithful retainer always eager to do his mas-
ter's bidding.

But, despite fealty to Genovese, Eboli was too hot-
headed to rule successfully. Under his own name and
the alias of Tommy Ryan, Eboli made numerous for-
ays into the sporting world as a sometime prizefight
manager. He was eventually barred from boxing, not
because of his underworld connections, but rather
for jumping into the ring to deck a referee over a
decision against his fighter. With his temperament he
was always eager to do mayhem himself when he
should have assigned it to underlings, thus qualifying
as another underworld "cowboy," like Bugsy Siegel.

When Genovese, from his jail cell, ordered Eboli to
have another top aide, Tony Bender, erased, Eboli,
underworld whispers had it, did the job himself.
Even in an affair as hot as the attempted assassina-
tion of Frank Costello, Eboli, according to a police
theory, insisted on personally driving the escape car.

Eboli was not the only Genovese lieutenant put in
charge when the boss went to prison. Control of the
old New York Luciano-Costello family was left to a
two-man regency of Eboli and Gerry Catena. Neither
of them, in spite of whatever personal ambitions they
had, were capable of running the family, placating
the organization and still kowtowing to Genovese,
who raged and spat orders from his Atlanta jail cell.

Eboli demonstrated little tact in dealing with other
mafiosi. As a member of the commission he some-
times spoke mindlessly, insulting other members with
comments Genovese had given him privately. As a
result, even after Genovese's death in 1969 and
Catena's imprisonment in 1970, Eboli had few allies
to prop him up in power.

But Eboli did manage to build himself a private
racket empire — nightclubs, music and records, vend-
ing machines, jukeboxes and Greenwich Village bars
catering to homosexuals. He showed a pronounced
disinclination to cut any of his troops in on the gravy
and did little to lead them in other ventures or even
supply them with financing in drug deals.

Not that Eboli wasn't deeply involved in drug traf-
ficking himself. In 1972, Eboli helped finance a major
deal with Louis Cirillo, tabbed by federal authorities
as the largest wholesaler in the nation. Because he
could not swing the required $4 million up front him-
self, he cut in Carlo Gambino and the leaders of other
crime families. Possibly, he was seeking to ingratiate
himself with them, but authorities cracked the plot.
Cirillo got 25 years in prison. At that he was luckier
than Eboli. The crime families' $4 million had gone
down the drain. Gambino and the others blamed
Eboli for the loss and suggested he make good. Eboli
refused, under the illusion that the mob operated on
some sort of luck-of-the-draw philosophy.

Intense discussions were held on replacing Eboli,
the somewhat errant boss of the Genovese family.
Gambino saw that his drug-money losses would be
insignificant if he could get a cut of what the Gen-
ovese family should net from their rackets. Gambino
had by this time gained varying degrees of control
over the three other New York families, and, with his
own man heading the Genovese family, his position
as de facto boss of bosses would be virtually secure.
Gambino decided on Funzi Tieri as Eboli's successor.

Eboli was not bright enough to gauge how per-
ilous his situation was. In the early morning hours of
July 1, 1972, the 61-year-old Eboli left the apartment
of one of his many mistresses, in the Crown Heights
section of Brooklyn. His bodyguard-chauffeur,
Joseph Sternfeld, was opening the rear door of his
Cadillac when a gunman in a red and yellow van put
five shots in Eboli's face and neck at a range of about
five feet. Eboli had not even time to grab the gold
crucifix he wore around his neck. Eboli's bodyguard
insisted he had hit the pavement at the sound of the
first shot and had not seen who had done the shoot-
ing, a line that led to a perjury indictment. It eventu-
ally was dropped.

The saying in the underworld was that Eboli was
granted the full "respect" of a boss in his hit. After
all, it was said, he could have been popped on his
way in to see his lady friend, but it was decided to let
him have his joy before dying.