Monday, April 20, 2009

James Genovese -- The life & times of the last great Pittsburgh mobster

On an 82-acre farm in wooded West Deer, the final act in the decades-long drama of the Pittsburgh mafia has played out.
Quietly, of course. That was always the way with the secretive Michael James Genovese.
Consigliere and protege to Sebastian John LaRocca, Mr. Genovese succeeded his mentor in 1984 to become the low-profile head of La Cosa Nostra in Western Pennsylvania, according to the FBI.
He died in 2006 at age 87. But his widow, Jennie Lee Genovese, and his adopted son, Michael A. Genovese (a Post-Gazette truck driver), have been fighting each other over what's left of the estate they both call home.
Jennie and her late husband executed the Genovese Living Trust 21 days before he died, under which she and Michael were co-trustees. But last year she removed him as a beneficiary and kicked him off the property. He challenged her right to deny him his inheritance but lost in Orphan's Court. A county judge ordered that Michael had to move out by March 1.
The property, meanwhile, has fallen into disrepair -- a metaphor of sorts for the decline of the Pittsburgh mob. It used to be a working farm, but when Mr. Genovese died, workmen stopped coming around to maintain it.
It's hard to reconcile this forlorn scene with Michael J. Genovese, who embraced cocaine dealing and oversaw the most lucrative period in mob history here until the feds brought it down with a racketeering case in 1990.
Now old FBI intelligence files, recently released to the Post-Gazette under the Freedom of Information Act, offer new glimpses of his life. Although heavily redacted, they paint a fuller picture than ever before. read more