Carlos Marcello promises his support to Lyndon Johnson at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. The Louisiana delegation that year did in fact go for Johnson. Marcello, when interviewed, says “Sure, I’ve got plenty of political connections; I don’t deny that. I’ve been helping put people in office for years. I’ve spent a whole lot of money on campaign contributions, and I’ve spread the word to people to support my candidates. Naturally, I’m not going to support someone who’s later going to go out of his way to try to hurt me. In the old days, when I was involved in gambling, I’d try to elect a governor or mayor or district attorney who took a lenient position on the gambling issue.”

It’s important to put Marcello’s support for LBJ in perspective. He sees both LBJ and Nixon a better choice than JFK in 1960. Once elected, President, John Kennedy appoints his brother Robert as U.S. Attorney General. Young Bobby immediately goes after organized crime. First on his hit list is Jimmy Hoffa and second is Carlos Marcello, but Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante are not far behind.

26a Bobby Kennedy_s Mob Hit List
Top: Jimmy Hoffa–Teamsters; Carlos Marcello–New Orleans Mob. Bottom: Sam Giancana–Chicago Mob; Santos Trafficante, Jr.–Tampa Mob

In February 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy is completely frustrated by J. Edgar Hoover’s reluctance to go after the Mafia. He asks for a meeting with his brother, the President, and the head of the F.B.I. Hoover attends the meeting but continues to maintain a hands-off approach with the Mafia for the time being.

27 JFK Hoover RFK meet
President Kennedy meets with F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover. Attorney General Robert Kennedy hates Hoover’s reluctance to go after the Mafia.

On the afternoon of April 4, 1961, 8 years after he is ordered deported, Carlos Marcello is finally expelled from the United States. As he enters the I.N.S. office in New Orleans for his regular appointment to report as an alien, he is arrested. Before he has a chance to open his mouth, he is seized and handcuffed by Immigration officers, rushed to the airport in an Immigration Service car, and by 1:30 p.m., he is on his way to Guatemala City.

Marcello’s attorneys condemn the deportation calling it “cruel and uncivilized.” Marcello’s attorney tells the press that his client was not even allowed to telephone his wife or see his lawyer. Upon arriving in Guatemala, Marcello is put in jail.

On the following day, April 5, 1961, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy states “Marcello’s deportation is in strict accordance with the law.” Of course, this is a blatant lie, and Robert Kennedy knows it. There was no due process of law. There was only the decision of a very arrogant attorney general who apparently thinks he is the law.

But Marcello does not stay in jail for long. Marcello explains, “It wasn’t like New Orleans. You know, they say I’m a crook. But let me tell you, it cost me $75,000 to buy my way out of jail here in Guatemala.”

Within a few days, Marcello moves from jail to the Guatemala Biltmore and begins doing business from there. From his hotel suite, he makes contact with local businessmen who want him to take over their Central American slot machines, racetracks, and gambling casinos. Marcello is making lemonade out of lemons, and when Robert Kennedy learns of it, he is frustrated and angry. He ratchets up the pressure on Marcello.

On April 10, 1961, just 6 days after Marcello is deported, the IRS files an $835,396 tax lien against Marcello and his wife. Then on April 23, under pressure from the U.S., Guatemalan officials take Marcello into custody because of the false citizenship papers he is holding.

28 JFK signs senate bill to combat organized crime
On September 13, 1961, President Kennedy signs a senate bill to combat organized crime as Attorney General Robert Kennedy and others look on.

The Guatemalan government receives more political pressure from Washington to move Marcello out of the country to an even more remote location. Because of this, Marcello is taken from Guatemala on May 3, 1961, and dropped off on the border of El Salvador. The El Salvadorans then quickly transport Marcello to a mountaintop in the jungle of Honduras.

Marcello has to navigate 17 miles of thick jungle filled with wild animals and poisonous snakes to a small village. Along the way, he passes out three times, falls, and fractures several ribs. Marcello miraculously survives the ordeal and reaches the village where he makes contact with one of his associates, Felice Golino, who owns a fleet of shrimp boats. Golino sends a boat to La Ceiba, Honduras, to pick up Marcello. Golino is able to smuggle Marcello back into the U.S. through the bayous of New Orleans. Along the way, Marcello angrily vows to get revenge on Robert Kennedy. He boldly states that he will see Kennedy dead. This occurs sometime in June of 1961.

Within two months of being kidnapped by Robert Kennedy’s Department of Justice, Carlos Marcello is back in New Orleans, and back in business. But Robert Kennedy is back on his case.

Just three months later, in September 1961, JFK signs Senate Bills 1656, 1657 and 1653 to combat criminal rackets. The bills are designed to go after the main mafia leaders in the U.S., with Carlos Marcello at the top of the list. This is the last straw for Marcello. The New Orleans kingpin decides this is now total war with the Kennedys, and no prisoners will be taken.

Meanwhile, various court actions and appeals on Marcello’s deportation and illegal reentry case are continuing. Once again, he is called before the McClellan committee to testify about organized crime gambling activities in Louisiana. As in his previous appearance before a Congressional Committee, he invokes the Fifth Amendment over and over again, refusing to provide any information other than his name and alleged place of birth. Robert Kennedy is furious and vows to have the mobster thrown under the jail. The scene is set for a showdown, just like a gunfight in the old west.

29 Senate Rackets Committee grill Marcello
Senator John McClellan, Chairman of the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-1960), Chief Counsel Robert Kennedy and Senator John F. Kennedy grill Carlos Marcello.

In September 1962, a meeting between two people and Carlos Marcello takes place in a farmhouse at Carlos Marcello’s Churchill Farms, the 6,500-acre swampland plantation outside of New Orleans. Marcello and three other men go to the farmhouse in a car driven by Marcello himself. Marcello and the other men meet inside the farmhouse and discuss over drinks subjects of business and sex. After a while, the conversation turns to serious matters, including the pressure Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department is bringing to the Mafia brotherhood.

Carlos raises his voice to say “Livarsi na petra di la scarpa!” (“Take the stone out of my shoe!”) He goes on to say, “Don’t worry about that little Bobby, son of a bitch. He’s going to be taken care of!”

Ever since Robert Kennedy turned him out in the jungles of Central America, Carlos Marcello has wanted revenge. He knows that to rid himself of Robert Kennedy he will first have to kill President John Kennedy. He knows that President Kennedy will hunt down any killer of the Attorney General.

Everyone at the meeting understands Marcello’s intentions when he abruptly gets up from the table. This is business, and he never jokes about such things. When it comes to honor, only a Sicilian vendetta will do. Moreover, the meeting at Churchill Farms makes it very obvious that Marcello is making a move to rid himself of the Kennedy problem.

Jimmy Hoffa’s attorney, John Ragano, is sent to New Orleans in July, 1963, to meet with Marcello and Trafficante concerning plans to kill President Kennedy.

On November 4, 1963, Marcello goes on trial in New Orleans on Federal conspiracy charges stemming from his falsification of a Guatemalan birth certificate.

Two months after Attorney General Robert Kennedy announces to the McClellan committee that he is going to expand his war on organized crime, President Kennedy is assassinated. Robert Kennedy points the finger of suspicion at people like Jimmy Hoffa, Sam Giancana, and Carlos Marcello.

On November 22, 1963, Carlos Marcello is acquitted in Federal Court. The news of President Kennedy’s murder in Dallas reaches the New Orleans courtroom shortly before the verdict is announced. That evening, Carlos Marcello has a dinner in New Orleans to celebrate his acquittal and the success of the coordinated assassination that took place in Dallas.

30 Marcello the Mafia mastermind
Carlos Marcello is believed to be the Mafia’s mastermind behind the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy.

Jimmy Hoffa on the same evening tells his attorney John Rogano. “I told you that they could do it. I’ll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me.” He added: “This means Bobby is out as Attorney General.”

Marcello later tells Ragano, “When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me, and he owes me big.”

After JFK’s death, Marcello has enough “dirt” on Lyndon Johnson to make the new President forget about investigating anything that might lead to Carlos Marcello’s involvement in the assassination.

The mob’s collusion with government officials helps Marcello’s syndicate continue to run like a well-oiled machine. Marcello’s influence extends to all levels of government: police departments, sheriffs, justices of the peace, prosecutors, mayors, governors, judges, aldermen, licensing authorities and state legislators. The federal government knows that Marcello is involved in the Mafia, but he has the best attorneys money can buy, and the government cannot pin anything on him. He stays very low-key, never tries to call attention to himself, and is always clever about his business dealings.

When questioned about his mob connections, Marcello’s answer is always, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m just a poor tomato salesman.” All of his legal businesses, such as restaurants, nightclubs, and real estate, are in the names of his eight children or his loyal lieutenants who were born in the U.S. By the end of 1963, the only thing the government can pin on Carlos Marcello is the claim that he is not a legal resident of the United States.