A Book on New York City’s Secret Mafia Judge

The Genesis of the Book

by G.T. Harrell, the author of the book

In October 2006 I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as the great-nephew of a high-ranking member of the Mafia from the 40s until his death in the mid 90s. He told me that three generations of his family members had a wealth of stories about the Mob that needed to be told. He said he would like to commission me to write a book detailing the life and times of his great-uncles. I was invited to travel to New York City to meet him, his great-uncle Sonny Della Universita, the last living sibling of Paulie "Lefty" Della Universita, as well as a former criminal attorney and his brother. The following week I was introduced to everyone in Little Italy, NYC, and videotaped seventeen hours of interviews with Sonny. He told compelling stories about many of his life experiences with well-known gangsters and associates of his brother, Paulie, many of whom were the Who's Who of the Mafia.

After I returned back home from my fascinating and very productive taping sessions, I looked up Sonny's brother's name on the Internet, as well as sought confirmation of his identity in history books and documents about the Mafia. I found nothing, but I still believed in his story and those related to me by other relatives. I decided to go to the definitive source about the Mafia, the FBI. After a few days of working my way up the chain of command, I was finally directed by a department head to talk to a man who was described as "the expert on the history of the Mafia." He promised to be a person who would definitely be able to confirm Paulie's existence and ranking, if he did in fact exist.

To my great surprise he knew of him but neither wanted to talk about him nor wanted me to pursue my inquiries about him any further. This really piqued my interest to press him some more. After another brief conversation, he confirmed that Paulie Lefty was not only known by law enforcement authorities, but that he was known to be "the Consigliere for all five families." I was stunned and knew that I had been offered a unique opportunity to penetrate secrets that had never been disclosed over decades.

Having spent nearly twenty years in the newspaper business in London, England, Philadelphia and New York City, I knew when I had a good story. It later evolved into a great story. Over the next fourteen months I talked almost daily to Sonny and other close relatives about this epic story and the enigma who had evaded the attention of the press and Mafia historians. As the saga unfolded, I gained an insight into the origins of the American Mafia, its principal key players, as well as unknown bosses who ran the whole syndicate in a shroud of secrecy. I learned about rackets and parts of the Mob culture that to my knowledge have never before been reported. I later learned details behind some of the most interesting and intriguing events during the storied history of the Mafia, events that shaped the intricate tapestry of the Mafia underworld.

For Members Only is more than just an expose. It is an in-depth look into the life and times of known figures and secret bosses who reigned supreme during the formative years in the growth of the Mafia worldwide. Along the way I have attempted to dispel many myths and correct many inaccuracies in Mob history.

Much of the American economy was and to a certain extent still is influenced by the Mafia and its bosses in the US and Sicily. For Members Only seeks to open doors for you to look in and form a unique perspective into this mysterious underworld of ruthless killers and adept businessmen.

Fagettaboutit!! You'll enjoy this book. Come along for the ride.

G.T. Harrell