Buster from Chicago
Buster from Chicago was the pseudonym used by a hitman in the 1930s whose true identity has never been confirmed. He was referred to by Joe Valachi in his testimony before the McClellan Committee, who told the committee that the hitman had been killed over an argument while playing in a crap game. This led to speculation that the hitman was a character that Valachi made up while testifying to cover some of his murders committed before he agreed to cooperate with government authorities. Others have speculated that Buster was Sebastiano Domingo, a Chicago-based member of the Salvatore Maranzano family.
Whoever he really was, Buster from Chicago worked freelance, and according to Valachi carried a Thompson machine gun in a violin case when he traveled between assignments, creating a long-standing cliché of the gangster world (a Thompson is too large to fit in a violin case). Buster was hired by Salvatore Maranzano to kill rival Giuseppe Morello, which he accomplished on August 15, 1930, in East Harlem. In the fall of the same year, Buster was hired to kill two members of the Masseria family, which were fighting with the Maranzano faction during what is known as the Castellammarese War. Buster killed the two with a shotgun which he concealed in a guitar case.
In the second killing Buster was fleeing the scene when he encountered a policeman who had heard the shots. Pretending to be frightened by the shots, Buster directed the policemen to the apartment yard where the murders had occurred before walking away, carrying the guitar case with the murder weapon within. He was then picked up by Joe Valachi, and returned to the train station and eventually Chicago. In February he returned to New York, this time under a contract to kill Giuseppe Catania, known to mobsters as Joe the Baker. Buster killed Catania from the window of a basement apartment in the Bronx, with a shotgun blast that did not injure Catania’s wife, who was walking beside the victim.
Mobster Joseph Bonanno claimed that Buster was Sebastiano Domingo, known as Bastiano to his associates. Bonnano participated in the Castellammarese War and later wrote that Domingo was the best shot of the Maranzano soldiers, describing him as a “virtuoso” with the machine gun. Bonnano’s physical description of Buster differed substantially from Valachi’s, leading to speculation that Buster was either a completely fictional character created by Valachi, or Valachi himself. Following the two murders in the Bronx in which Buster allegedly directed a policeman to the scene, Valachi became a made man in the Mafia, though he claimed to have merely driven the escape car.
Valachi’s description of Buster from Chicago and his exploits were given before the McClellan Committee in televised hearings. Shortly after his testimony, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago police had identified Buster from Chicago as Frank “Buster” Marlo, an associate of the Aiello mob which was at war with the Chicago Outfit of Al Capone. Marlo was murdered in New York in February 1931, meaning that for some elements of Valachi’s testimony to be true, Marlo could not have been Buster from Chicago. Valachi testified to conversations with the gunman subsequent to that time. Though Valachi described Buster as always carrying a machine gun in a violin case, none of the murders attributed to him were committed with a machine gun.