NYC’s Little Italy kidnapping case leads to bigger mystery

Jan 21, 2022 1060

Giuseppe Varotta, 5, disappeared on May 24, 1921. Six days later, a woman with a pleasant face and two suitcases arrived at his family’s tenement home on E. 13th St. in Little Italy. Antoinette Varotta, the missing boy’s mother, told neighbors that the woman was a cousin who had come all the way from Detroit to help with cooking, cleaning and caring for the couple’s four other children.

But the woman was neither from Detroit nor kin. She was Rae Nicoletti, an NYPD police officer, sent undercover in the most dangerous assignment of her life. “If the kidnappers had found me out, I never would have left the Varotta house alive,” she recalled in a 1924 Daily News feature.

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