Let’s begin with a look at the D’Avanzo family tree so we can get familiar with the key people in Lewis’ story. Lee’s grandfather was Leo. Leo D’Avanzo was married to Veronica and he had a sister named Helen. Helen D’Avanzo married Harold Giuliani. Leo and Veronica had a son, Lewis D’Avanzo. Harold and Helen had a son, two years later, Rudolph Giuliani. Lewis D’Avanzo and Rudolph Guiliani are first cousins. Lewis marries Lois and has a son, Lee D’Avanzo, Rudy’s second cousin.
Leo D’avanzo allegedly headed up a loan sharking and gambling operation out of a Brooklyn bar, called Vincent’s Restaurant (named after Vincent D‘Avanzo, a policeman). Harold Giuliani worked there as a bartender and an alleged debt collector. Leo would have Harold collect on unpaid loans for him. Harold reportedly used a baseball bat or his fists to inspire clients to pay their debts. Sometimes he would have to persuade them by breaking legs, shattering kneecaps, or breaking noses.
Leo and Harold were reportedly in a mafia shootout in Brooklyn, in 1962. This shootout involved another mob member and was over an issue they had regarding one of their loan sharking businesses. The mob was not too happy with Leo for shooting at another mob member. He got a stern warning. Leo left town and gave the bar to Harold.
Enter Lewis! Lewis went to school with his cousin Rudy. In the spring of 1960, Lewis dropped out of St John’s University to sign up with the draft board to go to Vietnam. Unfortunately, Lewis was rejected due to obesity, as he weighed in at well over 300 pounds. Having nothing but time on his hands, Lewis stole a car and immediately sold it to a woman. He also managed to steal license making equipment from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. Suddenly, he was facing grand larceny charges. Uncle Harold made a call to the boy’s former High School, Bishop Loughlin, and spoke to a Father O’Leary. He explained the situation regarding his nephew Lewis and asked if O’Leary would speak to the judge on his behalf. Father O’Leary agreed. When O’Leary went in to see the judge, he didn’t have to say a word. The judge was already prepared to suspend Lewis’ sentence, believing that the boy’s bad upbringing is what lead him to get in trouble.
Lewis moved on and allegedly started a major car theft operation. The FBI also alleged that he was also suspected of being involved in several murders. He was considered a dangerous criminal. Part of his criminal record includes a ten year Federal sentence that he received for an armed hijacking of a truck that contained $240,000 worth of mercury. Lewis D’Avanzo was also reportedly known as “Steve the Blond.“ In 1968, Lewis and his wife, Lois, attended Rudy’s first wedding.
In 1977, Lewis was killed by the FBI, in Brooklyn. He tried to run down an agent who had stopped him for a warrant for transporting 100 stolen luxury cars. After the shooting, he was taken to Maimonides Hospital where he was pronounced dead at the age of 36. On his body was found 3 envelopes containing over $8,000 in cash.
This is the rich, mafia tradition passed on to Lee D’Avanzo from grandfather to father to him. In 2001, Lee, who was considered the head of a mafia farm team called the “New Springfield Boys,” was indicted with “Fat Joe” Gambino for alleged drug deals and bank robberies possibly dating back to the 1980’s. He served eight years. According to Drita, he was released for a couple of years before going back to prison for another 2 to 5 years for similar crimes.
Much of the D’Avanzo family mob history is well documented in an unauthorized biography of Rudolph Giuliani, written in 2000, called “Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani.” The author, Wayne Barrett, editor of the Village Voice, seems to have done a thorough job researching documents and interviewing numerous people. The two families are so interconnected that much of the book is devoted to the D’Avanzos. You can read about all this and more in his book.
Picture Credit: Wikipedia, public domain