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Mafia Conference in Havana, Part 1
The year 1946 was a busy one for Mafia chieftain Charles `Lucky` Luciano. He was released from prison after serving 10 years, deported and paroled to his native Sicily, and, within eight months, had made it all the way to Havana, Cuba as part of his plan to get back to the United States. This stopover, on the way to his intended final destination – New York City – would be the site of an important mob summit – the `Havana Conference` – and would bring the wrath of the U.S. government down on the island. The Feds made it clear that having Luciano just 90 miles from the U.S. mainland was too close and demanded that Cuban officials send him back to Italy.

The following is a concise chronology of events regarding Thomas E. Dewey’s pursuit of Luciano until Luciano’s arrival in Havana, Cuba:

January 31, 1936 – Special Prosecutor Dewey, who built his political career around prosecuting high-profile mob figures, begins making raids and arrests on New York City’s houses of prostitution.

February to March 1936 – The investigation continues, culminating with a 90-count indictment against Luciano and 15 others. Luciano flees New York City for Hot Springs, Ark., where he is under the protection of Owney Madden.

April 1, 1936 – Lucky Luciano is arrested in a Hot Springs gambling club. After legal proceedings are completed, Luciano is extradited to New York City.

May 13, 1936 – Luciano’s trial gets underway. The defense learns that three fellow defendants have agreed to testify for the government against Luciano.

June 7, 1936 – A jury finds Luciano guilty on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution. He is sentenced to a prison term of 30-to-50 years.

June 18, 1936 – Lucky Luciano enters Dannemora Prison in upstate New York.

June 1936 to May 1942 – Luciano languishes in Dannemora, known as the Siberia of the New York prison system. In 1938 and 1942 he is turned down for parole.

February 9, 1942 – The transatlantic liner S. S. Normandie is sabotaged in New York harbor.

May 12, 1942 – Lucky Luciano is transferred to Great Meadow Prison, close to New York City, after agreeing to provide protection from German saboteurs on the New York docks. He also helps by getting word to his Mafia counterparts in Sicily to help during the Allied invasion there.

May 7, 1945 – With the war in Europe over, a petition for executive clemency and freedom for Luciano is sent to now Gov. Thomas Dewey, who agrees to a reduction of sentence, not a pardon.

January 3, 1946 – Dewey announces that Luciano will be released, but deported. He will be paroled to his native Sicily.

February 2, 1946 – Luciano is released from Great Meadow Prison. He is taken to Ellis Island.

February 9, 1946 – Luciano boards the Laura Keene to set sail for Genoa, Italy. A huge party is held for him on board. After a two-week voyage, the boat arrives in Italy.

February to October 1946 – Lucky Luciano is first moved to his hometown of Lercara Friddi, Sicily. His travels then take him to Palermo, Sicily; to Naples, Italy; and finally Rome.

October 1946 – After obtaining two passports, Luciano secretly boards a freighter, which takes him to Caracas, Venezuela. He flies to Mexico City and then books a private plane for a flight to Havana, Cuba.

by Allan May, from
Article ID 224
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