The Day They Raided the Mob: What happened during the famed Apalachin mob bust?

APALACHIN, N.Y. - 2017 marks 60 years since the historic Apalachin Mafia Meeting bust at the home of Joe "The Barber" Barbara in November 1957.

In recognition of the milestone, NewsChannel 34 recounts the event and shows you how good police work and little bit of luck led officers to some of the biggest names in the Mob.

"He was having a barbeque with his friends, which he was, but they weren't your normal friends," said Broome County Historian Gerry Smith.

The excuse - visiting Joe "The Barber" Barbara at his Apalachin home because he was in poor health.

The real story - deciding the future direction of the Mafia.

Born in Sicily, Barbara eventually made Endicott his home where he operated a Canada Dry Distribution Center, but was better known as a Mafia Sergeant and Bufalino family Boss.

While old-school members wanted to stick to prostitution and gambling, up-and-comers, including the likes of John Gotti, wanted to get into the narcotics business.

"There was a big dispute. Barbara was asked to set up this meeting and bring in various members from all of the organizations so they wouldn't walk all over each other and start a gang war," said Smith.

With representatives from the Gambino, Genevese, Buffalino and Gotti families all headed to Apalachin, some came by train, but most came by automobile.

Broome County Historian Gerry Smith says while some stayed at the Carlton on Chenango Street, a few guys stayed at the Vestal Motel on the Parkway.

State Police Sergeant Edgar Croswell was called to the Vestal Motel for a complaint of a bad check that day, but ended up finding a familiar face.

"There was a complaint about that one of the residents bounced a bad check. While he was there, he noticed Joe Barbara Jr. and asked why he was there. The clerk said he was there with a bunch of his friends and that they all had black Cadillacs from out of state and a lot of dark suits," said Smith.

Croswell became suspicious and followed Barbara back to his home where he found a collection of Cadillacs.

He called for Vestal Police and other State Troopers for back-up.

When police arrived and had the property surrounded, the mobsters scattered all over the place. 

Some people claim you can find weapons and wads of cash all over the property, but Smith says it was a relatively weapon-free barbeque.

"The rule apparently was to leave the guns at the door so-to-speak. This was a friendly barbeque meeting, we will discuss things and nobody will be armed," said Smith.

As for the cash, that was being desperately thrown at neighboring farmers in hopes of finding a place to hide.

"There's a story that the neighborhood farmers wound up with wads of cash. They would carry wads of cash on them. They'd hand them everything and say 'Hide me here,' " said Smith.

Police eventually rounded up over 80 members of the mob and had them right where they wanted them.

While some were suspected of murder, gambling and obstruction of justice, on this day, they had done nothing wrong.

"The trouble is they weren't doing anything illegal here. They were just there for a friend's barbeque. The end result was they basically had to let them all go. What are they going to get charged with, having a bad piece of chicken or a bad wing?" said Smith.

While they did not stay in custody for long, the bust did convince mafia-skeptics like FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that the Mafia was indeed alive and well.

And, it also put a small town on a big stage.

"It still goes down as one of the biggest events for police officials in the 20th century. For one moment in time, all of the members were here and they had them. They just couldn't hold on to them," said Smith.

Joe Barbara Sr. died a few years after the bust in 1959.

On Friday, NewsChannel 34's Mike Tanzini sits down with a former owner of the Apalachin Bust house who discusses what it was like to live in the home.


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