Virgil Sollozzo was a Sicilian businessman who was a mobster of the Sicilian Mafia. He was closely aligned with the Tattaglia crime family and the Barzini crime family, beginning the great narcotics trade in 1945. He was assassinated by Michael Corleone, a mobster of the rival Corleone crime family.
Sollozzo was born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, in 1895. He immigrated to America in 1910, but returned to Sicily in 1930 to become a part of the growing drug trade there. Using all the money he possessed, he bought poppy fields in Turkey, which gave him the nickname "The Turk". He learned to be adept with a knife during his time in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where he processed his heroin and other types of drugs. Sollozzo married a local Turkish woman, and had one son, Martino. He made a mint from the drugs trade, and began to move his operations into Italy and in America.
On July 5, 1940, he was arrested by the Sicilian police for possession and selling of illegal drugs, and served a year, until he made bail. He served a term in America for the same reasons from 1943 to 1944, as he was able to make bail again. Nevertheless, he continued the drug trade, with his narcotics being bought particularly by the Sicilian Mafia Tattaglia crime family, who controlled Brooklyn and Little Italy.
He enlisted the aid of the Barzini crime family in 1945 at the marriage of Connie Corleone and Carlo Rizzi, when he was introduced to Don Emilio Barzini by Don Philip Tattaglia. Sollozzo began to set up warehouses in Little Italy and Midtown to begin smuggling narcotics, and also set up drug fronts in abandoned houses to stash his drugs. He became a high-ranking associate of the Tattaglias, despite being officially a businessman.
In December 1945, he made a deal with the Corleone crime family under Don Vito Corleone, offering him 30% of the money from the heroin profit. This was a part of a conspiracy by the Five Families of NYC to scare off the corrupt officials who allied with the Corleone family, as they were growing in power and threatened to destroy the other families. Corleone refused, anticipating this move, so Sollozzo returned to the Tattaglias with the news.
He took part in the murder of Corleone enforcer Luca Brasi, who was sent to infiltrate the Tattaglias and find out what was under Sollozzo's fingernails. Sollozzo stabbed Brasi in the hand with a knife, attaching it to the table of The Luna Bar, as Tattaglia hitman Adriano Maserati suffocated him to death with a garrote wire.
In revenge for the assassination attempt, Sollozzo ordered Tattaglia caporegimes Donnie Marinelli and Nico D'Avella, and soldato Mikey Saleri, to gun down Don Vito Corleone. They succeeded, but Corleone was not killed; he was sent to the hospital with five gunshot wounds. Sollozzo then kidnapped Corleone consigliere Tom Hagen, telling him to make peace with Sonny Corleone, the Don's son, and tell him to accept the narcotics trade deal. Hagen, however, was rescued by Corleone caporegime Peter Clemenza before he could be forced to comply, and the deal went awry. He tried to kill Don Corleone again, at the hospital in Little Italy, but failed again, as the assassins were killed by Corleone soldier Aldo Trapani.
Sollozzo's biggest worry now were his prized heroin stashes, scattered across NYC; there was even a drug front in New Jersey. Clemenza and the Corleone family bombed several of his drug fronts and destroyed Sollozzo's Warehouse in Midtown, blowing up his contraband. Sollozzo concieved the idea of a peace meeting with the Corleones to end the suffering.
Sollozzo called for a meeting with Michael Corleone at the Louis Restaurant, a Barzini racket in Midtown. He was guarded by his NYPD bodyguard Captain Mark McCluskey, who had earlier beat Corleone as he left guard duty at the hospital where his father was held.
Sollozzo and Corleone sat down in the diner, discussing the terms. Corleone wanted there to be no more attempts on his father's life, while Sollozzo just wanted an end to the war. Just then, Michael Corleone asked permission to go to the bathroom. When he returned from the lavatory, he shot Sollozzo in the head with a modified .38 Snub Nose revolver that had been placed behind one of the box-and-chain toilets by Peter Clemenza. His blood fell on the apron of the owner, Louis Bocchicchio, who was shocked and immobile. Corleone then shot McCluskey in the throat, and then in the forehead, killing him as well. As he left, Corleone let the gun fall out of his hand, walking away without looking at or away from anybody, and nobody knew who shot him. Sollozzo's death caused an uproar of violence that was known as the Five Families War.
Sollozzo's death was a surprise to the Five Families, who then called for an offensive against the Corleone businesses everywhere. Every Corleone was a target; the Tattaglias, Barzinis, Cuneos, and Straccis killed their men on the streets, bombed their businesses, and sent out their men in drive-bys. Sollozzo's narcotics were eventually burnt away by 1955, when the last of his drug fronts were blown to smitherenes.