As the boss of the Luciano family for twenty years, Frank Costello (played by Anthony DiCarlo) wielded immense power while taking an understated approach to business. Costello preferred discussion and deal-making to confrontation and score-settling. Intelligent and engaging, he cultivated close relationships within entities that could impede the smooth operation of mob business: the police department, the judiciary, the district attorney’s office, and most importantly, Tammany Hall, home of New York’s Democratic political machine. Dispensing bribes and favors as he saw fit, Costello bought protection, influence and smooth operations for himself and his colleagues, who dubbed him “Prime Minister of the Underworld.”
Costello was born Francesco Castiglia, the youngest of six children in a poor Calabrian farming family. He came to New York in 1895, and grew up in an East Harlem tenement. To Costello’s frustration, his family continued to struggle financially. At age 13, he dropped out of school and began his life of crime with petty thefts and membership in the 104th Street Gang. He was arrested twice for robbery and assault, but wasn’t charged. In 1915, the recently married Costello was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and this time the charge stuck. Costello spent 11 months in prison, and decided he would rely on his brain to make money; he never carried a gun again. It was a good decision; by late 1920, he was in the bootlegging business and well on his way to wealth. It was in these early years of Prohibition that Costello is believed to have met the reigning underworld kingpin Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, along with his future associates Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.
Costello kept a low profile during the tumultuous period that saw the overthrow of the Old Guard Mafia bosses. When Lucky Luciano took over Masseria’s rackets in 1931, Costello became a top-ranking capo. He oversaw the family’s extensive gambling interests, including the slot machine empire he launched in 1928. When Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia succeeded in his drive to ban slot machines from the city, Costello called on his friend, Louisiana governor Huey Long, and moved the business to New Orleans. In 1937, with Luciano in prison and his underboss Vito Genovese a fugitive, Costello became the acting boss of the Luciano family. When Luciano was deported to Italy in 1946, Costello’s position became official. The family prospered under him and he was well-liked. But the 1950s brought new and difficult challenges. A Senate investigation into organized crime brought an uncomfortable Costello into the public eye, and he was subsequently indicted for tax evasion. Meanwhile, Vito Genovese had returned to New York and was busily courting allies and eliminating threats as he sought to topple Costello. In 1957, following a flubbed attempt on his life, Costello stepped down. After completing a final prison term, he enjoyed a pleasant retirement with his wife of 60 years.