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Valachi, Joseph (22 September 1904?–03 April 1971), career criminal and Mafia informer, was born Joseph Michael Valachi in New York City, the son of Dominick Valachi, a vegetable peddler and garbage scow laborer, and Marie Casale. Some sources give his year of birth as 1903. One of seventeen children, Valachi grew up in abject poverty in Manhattan’s East Harlem. The Valachi family was so poor that they had to store stacks of stolen coal for winter heat in the filthy room that Valachi slept in, and his mother used old cement bags for sheets. When he was eleven, Valachi was sent to reform school. His formal education ended at that point, and he remained functionally illiterate for most of his life until he made the momentous decision to write his “memoirs,” which became Peter Maas’s famous ...