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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Former Genovese crime family mob boss Matthew Ianniello, a.k.a. Matty the Horse, died on Aug. 15 at his home in Old Westbury, Long Island. He was 92.
Ianniello was born in 1920 in Little Italy. Legend has it, he earned his nickname by knocking down an older, opposing pitcher at a youth baseball game after he threw a pitch in his teammate’s face. “That boy is strong as a horse,” someone said, and a nickname was born.
Ianniello served in the Army in World War II and received a purple heart. He later got hearts racing when, with a business partner in the 1960s and ’70s, he owned clubs and bars for both gay and straight men, as well as topless clubs for straight men. He controlled the sex club and bar business in Times Square and Midtown, and reputedly controlled the Stonewall Inn in 1969 when rioting there sparked by police harassment famously launched the gay rights movement. Because the State Liquor Authority didn’t allow gay bars back then, the mafia had moved in to operate them illegally.
In 1972, Joey Gallo, a.k.a. “Crazy Joey Gallo,” was murdered at Umberto’s restaurant in Little Italy, which was owned by Matty the Horse. However, Ianniello, who was supposedly in the eatery’s kitchen at the time, denied prior knowledge of the hit.
From 1988 to 1995 Ianniello served time in prison on racketeering charges. He later served another two-to-three-year term for racketeering and was released in 2009.
When 6-year-old Etan Patz went missing in Soho in May 1979, Matty the Horse assisted the authorities, putting them in touch with a former employee of his whom they wanted to question.