Born in Calabria in southern Italy, and arriving in the US at age 8, Francisco Iole, better known as Frankie Yale (1893 – 1928), was an early New York mafia leader and hitman, who once employed Al Capone in his operations. As a teenager, Yale joined the Five Points Gang and quickly developed a violent reputation as a ferocious fist fighter and brawler.
He was first arrested in 1912 at age 19 for disorderly conduct. He started his organized crime career running a protection and extortion racket, and in 1913 was arrested for robbery and assault of a dry goods store, but walked after the store owner retracted his identification of Yale. By 1917, he had invested his racket proceeds into opening a bar in Coney Island, which became his base of operations.
Yale’s criminal enterprise typified a new trend in American Mafiosi “families” in its employment of Italians from all regions, not just the boss’ hometown or district, and its willingness to cooperate and work with other ethnic gangs so long as there was money to be made. From protection, he soon branched out into prostitution, running a string of brothels, and when Prohibition arrived, Yale became one of Brooklyn’s biggest bootleggers.
The high profits came with high risks, and in 1921 Yale barely escaped an assassination attempt by rival bootleggers, getting shot in the lung while one of his bodyguards was wounded and another killed. He survived another assassination attempt a few months later, that claimed the life of another bodyguard, followed by yet another attempt in 1923 when he escaped with his life only because the assassins mistook an associate for Yale and shot him dead instead.
In 1924, he traveled to Chicago with a hit team to murder a rival of his former underling, Al Capone. He was arrested after the killing but was released when police failed to shake his alibi. Capone returned the favor the following year when during a visit to NYC he joined Yale in murdering three rivals and wounding a fourth in an ambush outside a nightclub.
The friendship with Capone ended in 1927 when Yale, Capone’s whiskey supplier, got greedy and started hijacking the Chicago gangster’s trucks. A meeting failed to resolve matters, and Capone set plans in motion for his former boss’ downfall. On July 1st, 1928, Yale received a call that something was wrong with his wife. Refusing to wait for his usual escort of bodyguards, he jumped into his armor-plated and sped off, only to be intercepted en route by gunmen who riddled his car and shot him to death with armor-piercing bullets.