John C. Montana - Last Days

Last Days

While it was a brief relief for the Mafia, less than three years later the State Crime Commission began an investigation into Apalachin and questioned Montana’s attendance all over again. Two months after that, a U.S. Senate Subcommittee began an open investigation into the Mafia as a whole, not just the mob summit that was discovered. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy was becoming a thorn in the Mafia’s side – including the elderly Montana.

New York City mob soldier Joe Valachi was arrested dealing drugs in a distribution network with the Buffalo Mafia’s Canadian wing; Valachi, however, didn’t have the approval of his New York boss, Vito Genovese. Allegedly because he feared retribution from the boss, Valachi chose to tell everything about the Mafia for the first time – he disclosed information first to the Bureau of Narcotics about the scope and concepts of the Mafia. Again, Senators brought up evidence against Buffalo’s Mafia and John Montana’s leadership role. Senators went over Montana’s attendance at the Apalachin Conference, his business partnerships with the Magaddino’s, and his powerful Van Dyke Taxi empire. They noted that the former councilman’s daughter/niece married boss Magaddino’s son and how Montana’s nephew Charles married Magaddino’s oldest daughter.

In October 1963, Detective Amico from the Buffalo Police Department showed the structure of Buffalo’s Mafia before the Senate. He said that police observations “tend to show us strongly that Montana is associated with the Magaddino empire.” While Detective Amico labeled Montana as the consiglieri of the Mafia, he explained that Montana didn’t even have a traffic ticket.” Just as Joe Valachi told authorities that Montana asked to remove himself from his role atop the Mafia in Buffalo because authorities were getting too close and he couldn’t be seen publicly with the mobsters under his command. Detective Amico then told Congress that “since 1957, Montana seems to have severed his activities completely from the syndicate.”

Senator Javits then asked Detective Amico about Montana’s taxi empire. Amico said that “Montana’s cabs dominate the industry” but he also runs things legit and “has the most courteous and most trusted drivers of any company.” Amico said Montana was said to have a corrupting hand in the creation of City Services in 1938.

After it all, Montana wouldn’t show his face anywhere in public anymore. His power in the Mafia dwindled quickly after being caught on a barbed-wire fence – he even asked to be demoted in his later years as he didn’t want the responsibility or police heat that’s generally attributed to mob bosses. Just like his Mafia power, Montana’s political influence was also erased when he was publicly identified as a mob leader. At age 70, Montana couldn’t keep up with his business interests that were being scrutinized constantly by authorities. Living an influential life and going where many mobsters never could, Montana began having health problem while living at an expensive apartment in the Delaware Towers.

On March 18, 1964, John Montana died shortly after being admitted to the Buffalo General Hospital because of a heart attack. He was survived by two brothers, Peter and Angelo, and his nephew Charles who was solidly entrenched in the Mafia’s hierarchy; Charles and his wife Josephine Magaddino lived in a lavish house on Mafia Row out in Lewiston, where Stefano Magaddino, his sons-in-law and daughters each had houses.

While Rose Montana and her attorney John J. Naples had copies of the will, Buffalo will never know the extent to which John Montana had his hand in the affairs of the Mafia – in the affairs of the community – in the affairs of business – in the affairs of the government. Living for years as a business tycoon and political influencer, Montana fell to disgrace in the end after being caught red handed. After the Apalachin fiasco, his prestige was damaged so much so that his health deteriorated quickly and he died. His brothers and nephew Charles carried out the Montana name and remained active in the Mafia for another decade or so.

John C. Montana was a political power in Buffalo, a business leader, and a Mafia controller – all at the same time. He mingled with Buffalo’s elite in public, while breaking bread with other Mafia leaders secretly. After he was exposed at Apalachin, his power in all circles was diminished and destroyed, forcing the elderly Montana to suffer health problems and pass away peacefully. After it all, John Montana is now a footnote in the history of Buffalo, but an influential man that ran well in many circles.

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