Just as women notice physical and emotional changes when estrogen starts to decline, many men experience notable changes when testosterone production dips, although they may not attribute it as readily as women to hormonal changes. Symptoms of “Low T” include hot flashes, fatigue, moodiness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and less interest in sex. All of which may sound a lot like menopause. But menopause marks the end of fertility in women- which is not necessarily the case with men- so there really isn’t such a thing as male menopause. Testosterone has a big job to do in the body. It affects so many systems. That’s why it’s considered a fundamental hormone and should be in the appropriate range. It starts declining in a small proportion of men as early as their 30s. By the time they reach their 60s up to 25% of American men have “Low T”, but it doesn’t always cause symptoms. Routine health checks find nothing wrong but sometimes doctors have never checked testosterone levels. Diagnosis of “Low T” is based in part on a simple blood test. But the results are anything but simple to interpret. A normal level of testosterone ranges anywhere from 301-1100 ng/dL. So it’s no wonder the doctors differ on how to interpret these test findings. In other words, a normal range could be normal for an 80-year-old to an 18-year-old. I find that a man with symptoms would go to their family doctor who checks his testosterone and if it falls anywhere within that range they just say you’re getting older and it’s Normal. The key to diagnosis is asking a lot of questions about lifestyle and performance-on the job, and the gym, and in the sack. I treat the symptoms and not the lab values. If blood testosterone is 350 to 400, for example, but the patient has no energy, is irritable, can’t lose weight, lack of multitasking like he used to be able to and has lost interest in sex, he might benefit from testosterone therapy.
Signs and Symptoms of LOW TESTOSTERONE ✓ Decreased sex drive. ✓ Erectile dysfunction. ✓ Reduced energy level. ✓ Sleep problems. ✓ Reduced strength and endurance levels. ✓ Increased breast size and tenderness. ✓ Emotional problems including sadness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and depression.
The classic presentation is a guy in his 40s with low libido, the symptoms vary, and can include issues with memory, concentration, problem solving, lack of motivation, or depression. It may just be one symptom, so patients may ignore it and think you’re working too much or getting older. And that’s a shame because there is a viable treatment available. 90% of the time “Low T” is just simply a result of aging but don’t rule out the 20-30 year-old with “Low T” that can occur from lack of exercise, sleep and the ability to manage stress. When you sleep less you produce lower amounts of hormones in your body, including testosterone. Testosterone therapy has the added benefits of increasing muscle mass and bone density, which can keep men active and prevent fractures as they age. A testosterone check isn’t usually included in routine blood testing. It might be a good idea to get baseline checks as young as in your 20s because of the stressful life we lead today. Experts do agree, however, that men should avoid products sold over-the-counter, online and by mail order that promise to improve symptoms of low testosterone, in particular those emphasizing sexual function. At best, they are likely a waste of money and some could be potentially dangerous and have been pulled from the market. So the best way to get started is to simply get a blood test by your physician and followed with an ADAM Questionnaire and see where your levels are in relationship to your symptoms. You could be on the start to a brand new life, one in which you will look better, feel better, and perform at your best. Here’s to your health!
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Bolita Kingpin Charlie Wall
30 Blood is Thicker
Scott M. Deitche
Senior Writer & Managing Editor
Gary R. Mormino
The Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Smoking Room The Mob Lounge
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Arturo Fuente Don Carlos No. 4 The Fuente family makes some of the most popular cigars in the US. The Opus X and Hemingway lines seem to get the most notoriety in this part of the country, but right up there with them is the premium Don Carlos line of Cameroon wrapped cigars. The Don Carlos is a superbly constructed refined cigar that proudly bears the name of Don Carlos Fuente Sr. himself. The Don Carlos can be had in various vitolas, seven of which are the most common. The #2, #3, #4, Robusto, Double Robusto, Belicoso, and Presidente. Today we are smoking the Don Carlos No. 4. It is a handsome looking Mini Belicoso in a toothy, brown Cameroon wrapper that shimmers with an oily sheen. The Mini Belicoso is unique. The cigar is the size of a Petite Corona but with the tapered bullet head of a belicoso. The wrapper tastes sweet on the lips and the draw seems to be about perfect with just the right amount of resistance. Right off the bat it delivers a nice strong abundance of Cameroon sweet spice. This is one of the smoothest and most refined Cameroons weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve smoked (true of Don Carlos in general). We loved this Cameroon wrapped cigar! The flavor was pretty consistent the whole way. This size is a little stronger and more robust than the larger vitolas in this line. There is a little pepper in the background
and the finish is surprisingly light and pleasant. The construction is impeccable and the burn is perfect. It is the perfect smoke if you are looking to get a lot of straight forward, classic Cameroon flavor. SUMMARY:
Origin: Dominican Republic Format: Belicoso Size: 5 1/8 x 43 Wrapper: Cameroon Filler: Dominican Republic Binder: Dominican Republic Hand-Made
WE RATE THE DON CARLOS NO. 4 a 95
2015 SPRING EDITION 7
Mob Hangout and Cocktail Lounge
restaurants Some eschew their former infamy as a mob hangout, while others just tolerate the occasional mob buff that comes around looking for faint glimmers of the sordid history. Gaetano’s is one of those rare places that celebrates its role as a former mob hangout. But Gaetano’s was more than a hangout. It was the headquarters of the Denver Mafia and their monarchy, the Smaldone family. I had the opportunity to visit Gaetano’s this past summer. Gaetano’s has an old school feel with a decidedly modern touch. You can get gluten free pasta, while sipping a cocktail at the original bar. You sit underneath the upstairs rooms where the Smaldone and their crime family compatriots ran high stakes card games, and eat dinner above the basement where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis played craps, around the corner from an entrance to one of the tunnels than ran under the North Denver ‘hood where Prohibition era gangsters transported barrels of booze.
Punt E Mes One of the more unique vermouths that I’ve been frequently using lately is the venerable Punt e Mes, a staple Italian spirit (made in Milano) that is both bitter and sweet, with a uniquely herbal tonic quality to the flavor. It’s useful as a substitute for the usual sweet vermouth in a variety of cocktails, as well as an aperitif all on its own. Mito 1 oz Punt e Mes 1 oz Bitter Tonic or Soda Water 1 orange peel 1 handful ice
Fill a flat short tumbler with ice. Then pour 1 oz Bitter and 1 oz Punt e Mes. Add Tonic or Soda Water to taste and stir gently. Garnish with orange peel.
Gaetano’s is also one of the top go-to places in Denver for cutting edge cocktails. Though they recently changed their cocktail menu for the fall, this past summer they had a menu full of interesting and tasty libations, all nicknames of infamous gangsters. I started with the Breeze, nickname of Chicago Outfit hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. The Breeze is concoction of Rittenhouse rye, lemon juice, orgeat syrup (key ingredient of the previous column’s tiki drinks), and orange bitters. It was surprisingly light, a perfect start to a late July night. Next up was a barrel-aged Gaetano’s cocktail, their take on a Negroni. It was Caprock gin (an organic distiller in North Fork Valley, Colorado), Aperol, and sweet vermouth. From there I tried a California gin, St. George, in a twist on an Old Fashioned. Both drinks showcased the botanical gins while balancing nicely with the other ingredients. I finished it off with the Sony Red, named after Bonnano capo Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato, who was whacked in 1981, dramatized in the movie Donnie Brasco. The Sonny Red was bold and dynamic and not for the faint of heart. Chianti, Plantation 5 rum, Lillet rose liqueur, St. Germain, lavender rose syrup, and bitters. Gaetano’s is a must visit for mob buffs and cocktail enthusiasts. It’s located at 3760 Tejon St in the Highland neighborhood of Denver.
By Gary R. Mormino
Hollywood screenwriters dare not dream up a more improbable script: Descendent of blue blood pioneer Southern family rebels against wicked stepmother, is expelled from military school and seeks refuge in exotic immigrant quarter, where he becomes prince of the underworld. Along the way, the character kicks his morphine habit, fixes elections and dodges bullets with his name on them. Yet he is generous and compassionate with orphaned children. Naysayers may excuse the script as steeped in Hollywood B, but it is all true. Our hero or, anti hero, is Charlie Wall whose life reads like a character from the seamy world of Tennessee Williams, rather than the underworld rather than the underworld of Vito Corleone. 10 WWW.TAMPAMAFIA.COM
Wall was born in Tampa in 1880. The son of distinguished physician and civic leader John P. Wall, Charlie Seemed destined for a brilliant political or legal career. A stormy youth and and family tragedy sidetracked him, culminating in the shooting of his stepmother and his expulsion from military school for visiting a brothel. For reasons that phsycobiographers might better explain, Charlie broke fromthe flock to become a black sheep. Worse, he spent his formative years frequenting the gambling tables of Ybor City and West Tampa. A mathematical wizard, he was fascinated by the magic of probability. Beginning in in the early 20th century, Charlie Wall grasped control of the Cigar City's most profitable enterprise: bolita. He would remain in control of the numbers racket game for nearly 25 years.
profits. To assure compliance, Wall bestowed lavish gifts upon elected officials. In the process he became a political forceâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;wheeling and dealing, brokering votes and hobnobbing with senators and judges. Wall told a 1938 grand jury that the devil took care of him. His Faustian bargain protected him from rival bids: On a dozen occasions, he dodged assassins' bullets. And what dons could not do, morphine nearly did. Wall became addicted to the drug, only to conquer his weakness after harrowing dry out. In the late 1930s Wall gracefully backed away from the hurly burly of gambling, whoring, and bootlegging. A bloodbath ensued, as rival factions grappled for control of the lucrative vice economy. In 1950, even the most jaded Tampan must have gasped
On April 19, 1955, Charlie Wall was found murdered in the bedroom of his home on Columbus Drive in Ybor City.
Introduced to Ybor City in the 1880s, bolita (literally meaning "little ball") quickly expanded it's domain; bolita peddlers soon trafficked chances in in Hyde Park, downtown, and the Scrub. With it's 80:1 payoff, a bolita chance offered hardscrabble Tampa an elusive hope. One theory holds that until Wall seized control, bolita profits returned to Cuba. With his familial and political contacts at the local and state levels, Wall ensured the reinvestment of a locally owned enterprise. As President Lyndon Johnson once exclaimed of J. Edgar Hoover, when asked why he tolerated the FBI chief, "it's better to have him on the inside pissin' out, than on the outside pissin' in!" Perhaps Tampa adopted a similar philosophical attitude about Charlie Wall. Standing 6 feet 2 and garbed in white linen suits, Wall cut an imposing figure. In 1912, a crusading Jacksonville newspaper profiled his power base. "Tampa is reeking in crime, and gamblers operate openly. Tampa is the most wicked city in the U.S." Bolita existed, of course, because the public desired it, civic authorities tolerated it and the police department allowed it. Rampant corruption pervaded the city because of bolita's
as Wall emerged fromretirement to testify at the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime. Described as the elder statesman of bolita," he captivated the imposing inquisitors, graphically detailing Tampa's criminal network. On one April night in 1955, Charlie Wall's luck ran out. One or more assassins brutalized the 75-year-old legend, bludgeoning his head with a baseball bat and slitting his throat. Police discovered a curious relic resting on Wall's bead stand: Crime in America by Estes Kefauver.
2015 SPRING EDITION 11
CIGAR CITY MAGAZINE
Bolita Vice Squad! By Matt Morgan
March 22, 1958 The sound of urine pinging into a tin bucket echoed throughout the decrepit Ybor City warehouse filled with crates of food destined for Tampa-based restaurants. A few drops splashed from the bucket and, when mixed with the layers of dirt and dust, caked to the floor like an au naturel carpet, beaded into tiny muddy clumps. Buddy Meisch, a young hard-nosed ex-Tampa cop turned deputy who had been with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Vice Squad for a little over one year, finished his manly duty, zipped up and walked back to the “comfortable chair” he had been lounging on for over 10 hours- a splintered crate of canned beans. He grabbed his binoculars and stared at his target located 100 yards away; it was the Ybor City home of one of Tampa’s most notorious gangsters, Frank Diecidue, the underboss of the Santo Trafficante-led crime ring that controlled the city’s underworld. Meisch’s radio squawked, “Homerun.” That was the signal for which he had been waiting. He looked back to the target home. Numerous law enforcement officers, guns at the ready, began to creep towards the house, some to the back door, some to the front, others surrounding it. The head of the raid stood before the front door and casually knocked. History was about to be made. The evidence was inside that home: thousands of bolita tickets collected throughout multiple counties–enough to deliver a crippling financial blow to the Trafficante empire and, perhaps, finally a change that could stick to Santo Trafficante and put him in jail for a long time. The months-long investigation was about to come to fruition. As if on cue, a rat scurried across the floor of the warehouse. Ironic, thought Meisch; this entire raid was due to rats in the mafia, and the Vice Squad had to plan the raid knowing that rats in the Sheriff’s Office could have compromised it at any moment.
Early 1950s Captain Ellis Clifton didn’t know the definition of fear. Perhaps because it often seemed he had an angel on his shoulder as, no matter how dangerous his job became, he never suffered any consequences. He had been head of the Vice Squad–the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s department charged with bringing down the Tampa mafia- since 1953 and had survived his fair share of threats. Thousands of dollars in bounties had been
put on his head, yet no one dared to collect. He had been followed by gangsters as though they were the police and he was the criminal, yet nothing ever came of the pursuits. And he had raided dozens of bolita parlors and walked away from each unscathed; not a scratch. Yet, in the early 1950s, when he sat in his car parked on a desolate road in the middle of Tampa’s boondocks, a known Sicilian felon seated next to him, he was shaking. The shakes were not from fear, though, but from excitement. Just a few days earlier, Clifton busted the Sicilian committing a crime. But, rather than arresting him, he made a deal. If the Sicilian would meet him on a desolate road at a specific time in a few days time and tell him everything he knew about Tampa’s underworld, he would let him go. The known felon agreed. He provided Clifton with a “family tree,” a who’s who in the Tampa underworld, as well as an understanding of how the gambling operations were run. “I finally got a guy who was a Sicilian and I told him I would lay off him if he would talk to me for six months,” explained Clifton. “So I got me a legal pad and got him in the car with me and we talked for five hours.” Clifton would never reveal the source, though. Not even over 50 years later when he knew he would soon succumb to cancer. As the Sicilian felon bared his soul, Clifton understood why it had been so difficult to make any major headway in the Sheriff’s Office’s war on bolita, an illegal lottery that flourished in Tampa and earned the mafia millions of dollars a year. Sure they had made dozens of small bolita busts, but nothing earth shattering. They were never able to find where a major haul of bolita tickets or money was counted. The reason: the Sicilians knew what they were doing. The tickets and money for major bolita rings were each separately run through a maze of bureaucracy and multiple hand-offs until they reached their final destinations, making them hard to follow unless law enforcement had insider information. According to Clifton’s new Sicilian source, the maze started with the street peddlers, who were also called “writers.” Some of the street peddlers literally sold numbers on the street corners, while others may have sold numbers from an establishment they owned- restaurant, café, bar, hardware store, etc. Once the player made his bet, the peddler gave the player a ticket with the number he played printed on it. The peddler then called a “Call-In House” and read the “Call-In Guy” the numbers he sold and to whom and the 2015 SPRING EDITION 13
Call-In Guy would write up tickets for each sale for his records. it was also a Call-In House]. The numbers were called in at The peddler rarely knew who the Call-In Guy was; he simply 1 p.m., so we’d wait until 1:01 p.m. to make a bust because knew what phone number to call. we knew the bolita tickets would be scattered on a table so The winning bolita numbers were that week’s winning Cuban the numbers could be tallied. We went to the store and we lottery numbers, which were drawn in Cuba at 1 p.m. on went up to the front door and an old man was coming out Saturday. Everyone involved in bolita in Tampa–from the and when he saw us he hollered, “Tres conejos.” We went players on up–listened to a Cuban radio station at 1 p.m. for the in and the old man who owned that grocery story was winning numbers. At 1:01 p.m., the Call-In Guy would gather scrambling to get rid of his bolita tickets. Well, we came to all his bolita tickets, place them in an envelope, and walk to a realize that tres is three and conejo is rabbit. So the old man specific street and look for a specific car. When the car slowly yelled the three rabbits, tipping them off that we were drove by, the Call-In Guy nonchalantly handed the driver (D1) coming in. So, I guess after a while we were referred to as his envelope. The Call-In Guy’s job was done for the day and the three rabbits.” he had no idea where the The Vice Squad often cut driver was going. D1 coldeals with those they lected from all the Call-In arrested for information in Guys in a specific territory. exchange for less jail time Once he had collected or none at all. If the from all his Call-In Guys, prospect of jail time didn’t he then drove down a scare them, the Vice Squad specific street and looked would bribe the answers for a specific car. When the out of them. The Sheriff’s two cars cruised by one Office had a fund they another, D1 handed his called “The Emergency envelopes to the other Fund” that was eardriver (D2). D1’s job was marked for such bribery. If done for the day and he the peddler or driver gave had no idea where D2 was them information that led going. to a small bolita raid, they The process repeated were paid a few dollars. itself another five to eight But, if it turned into a times in each territory, each major raid, they’d be paid Hillsborough County Vice-Squad Chief Ellis Clifton (left) and Polk County Deputy Jim driver handing his enve- Bowen (right) take inventory of thousands of bolita tickets and two adding machines $200–a lot of money for a lope to another driver, found at the home of Frank Diecidue on 10th Avenue. nickel and dime bolita never knowing where the new driver was going. The only peddler or driver to earn in 1950s. driver who knew the final destination of the envelope was the The more information they received, the more frequent last driver, who then took the envelope to the “Drop House,” the busts became. “It seemed like we were busting somewhere bolita tickets from numerous Call-In Houses and up to body on gambling charges every Saturday,” said Whitt. And dozens of peddlers were delivered and calculated. The money with each bolita bust, the Vice Squad gathered more inforwent through the exact process, but was taken to another house. mation that led to more and larger busts. The tickets and money were always kept separate, so that if one Usually, a peddler would provide Clifton with the Call-In was busted the other was safe. House number. Clifton and his men would track down the Clifton’s Sicilian source helped him to begin to crack the owner of the phone number and stake out the establishment. mazes and also provided him with names and addresses of When the Call-In Guy would leave to deliver his tickets to a numerous bolita dealers. Meanwhile, the family tree helped driver, Clifton and his crew would follow him and begin trackClifton identify the major players in town. ing the maze of exchanges. Once the maze was documented, “Ellis was everywhere,” said Meisch. “[The bolita dealers] they’d return the following week to arrest everyone who was called him the rabbit because he was always popping up all part of it. The arrests had to be quick and well planned, though. over town.” “The bolita numbers were often printed on cigarette paper,” “One Saturday, Charlie Whitt [a third partner] and I and Ellis explained Whitt. “That paper was easily flammable and would went to a local grocery store in Ybor City–I can’t remember burn quickly if the cops walked in.” Despite all this activity, after months of arrests, a $200 which one–because we knew they were selling bolita [and knew 14 WWW.TAMPAMAFIA.COM
reward for a huge bust had yet to be paid. Some of the bolita busts were substantial, but none were major. Then, in early 1958, Clifton found himself yet another informant looking to earn a few dollars, and the new informant provided him with information that while worth $200, was in fact priceless. The informant told Clifton specifics about a maze of bolita tickets that began in St. Petersburg every Saturday and included bolita tickets for Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Polk counties. This was the biggest bolita maze Clifton had been tipped off on. The next Saturday, Clifton got to work. Following an entire bolita maze was tough; a typical bolita maze wound through Tampa for miles. To follow the drivers and not be seen was no easy task. When following at a distance, it was easy to lose the drivers. To compound matters, this particular bolita maze began in St. Petersburg. So it took a few weeks for Clifton to follow the entire route. If he lost a driver one week, he would remember the last spot he saw that particular driver, park nearby the following week and
“You couldn’t park a car in Ybor City without somebody being alert,” said Clifton. “We always had to watch our backs and go home at night and make sure we had plenty of ammunition, if you understand what I am saying,” said Whitt. “I remember when I first went to work for the Vice Squad, they told me that morning that by the evening time the bolita people would know who I was, my car, my tag number, where I lived and my phone number,” said Meisch. “I got home that evening around 9:30 p.m., the phone rang, and when I answered it they hung up. It was them. For sure, they knew right away.”
Checking Evidence: Deputy Sheriffs Charlie Whitt, left, and Ellis Clifton (right) , head of thecounty vice squad, are shownexamining batches of bolita tickets found during a raid ona house in Gary that was allegedly a four-county lottery headquarters.
begin his pursuit from there. He did that until he was able to document every exchange–eight in all. When the final driver delivered the envelope to the Drop House, Clifton covered his face (he was a known man to the all the criminals after all) and slowly cruised by the Drop House. Once a safe distance away, Clifton sped back home to contemplate what he just learned. The Drop House he found was the residence of Frank Diecidue, who, according to Clifton’s original informant, was THE underboss of the Trafficante crime family–Santo’s number one bolita man in Tampa. Despite the huge discovery, Clifton kept the news to himself for a few weeks. He was always careful with his information. Rats were everywhere. 16 WWW.TAMPAMAFIA.COM
Mob informants were also located within the Sheriff’s Office. The late-Roland Manteiga, former publisher of La Gaceta newspaper who had his own inside sources at the Sheriff’s Office, wrote in March 1958 that Clifton and the Vice Squad spoke via radio on private radio waves rather than over the designated Sheriff’s Office radio waves because they didn’t know who they could trust within their own ranks. Clifton trusted his two Vice Squad partners, though–Meisch and Whitt–but, before he told them, he tailed the maze of exchanges for a few more weeks, just to be certain that Diecidue’s home wasn’t a onetime Drop House; he didn’t want to get their hopes up until he was sure it was the regular Drop House. Once he was sure, he told his partners and they began to plan their raid.
The first thing they needed was a detailed map of the radioed in the news via code words. The chosen code was route–every twist, every turn along the way and the exact cor- baseball. When the first exchange was made, an officer ner or block the exchanges were made. To do so while tailing radioed in, “The ball game has started.” When the second in a car proved difficult, as they would always have to stay a was made, an officer radioed in, “The batter is coming up,” safe distance away so not to be discovered. How could they the third officer said, “He is on first base,” and so on. Eight map the exchange route then? Clifton had heard that another exchanges had eight different baseball phrases, with the Sheriff’s Office in the State of Florida had recently used an final delivery to Diecidue’s being, “Homerun.” airplane for surveillance and decided to mimic their tactic. Clifton, a former newspaper reporter, knew this raid was The next time the exchanges were made, Clifton hovered a going to be huge, so that morning he called a friend who few hundred feet above the route in a tiny airplane. worked with a local television station and tipped him off, Because this was only the second time in the history of the offering to bring a camera crew with him when they broke state that an airplane had tailed criminals, Clifton had noth- down the door. ing to worry about. The drivers and peddlers had no reason Around 3:50 p.m., the raid began. to believe that an airplane was following them. Clifton went to the front door with the camera crew and Once the route was detailed, Clifton had all the evidence some backup officers. Whitt and some additional he needed to get a court order officers went to the back door to raid Diecidue’s home. But, to make sure no one could he couldn’t plan the raid from escape and more backup Tampa. The streets had too officers surrounded the house. many eyes and ears. If anyone When Clifton knocked, connected to the Tampa Diecidue’s wife, Rose, looked underworld saw an army of outside, saw the small army of Hillsborough Sheriff’s officers law enforcement officers on gathering on a Friday night, her lawn, and asked what they would know something they wanted, to which Clifton big was being planned. Manreplied that if she didn’t open teiga wrote in La Gaceta that, the door they would force it outside of the Vice Squad and open. She refused to open it, top local officers, Clifton so Clifton ordered Whitt and primarily used state law his officers to force open the enforcement officers rather back door using a fire axe. than officers with the Once inside, Clifton and his Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office crew arrested six people– because he was unsure who Biaggio Savrino, Frank he could trust locally outside Ippolito, Rose Diecidue, Alice Biaggio Savrino (left), Frank Ippolito (right) and are lead by Ellis Clifton Lazzara and Primo Lazzara. of his own Vice Squad. (center) from what was described as “one of the biggest bolita banks on Everyone involved in the Florida’s West Coast.” Clifton said between $15,000 and $25,000 in bolita Upon searching the home, all raid was told to drive to tickets were found in the house. the law enforcement agents St. Petersburg at various times, so as not to draw any suspi- were blown away by what they found. They knew this raid cion. They then all met in a hotel, went over the plans, and would be big, but not this big. returned to Tampa, again at various times. They found thousands of bolita tickets hidden Meisch was one of the first to return to Tampa. He and throughout the house–the most Clifton had ever seen in another officer were charged with surveillance from a ware- one place– adding up to tens of thousands of dollars. house 100 yards away from Diecidue’s home. They were More importantly, they found the names of 50- 100 given coffee, some snacks and a bucket to use as a toilet; they individuals involved in that particular bolita ring–a ring had no reason to leave that warehouse. They were to have a that was estimated to earn millions of dollars a year. pair of eyes on that home from 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning This was one of the largest bolita raids ever on the west until the raid began in the late afternoon. If anything out of coast of Florida. The only thing missing from the house the ordinary took place, they were ordered to inform Clifton. was the key man; Frank Diecidue was nowhere to be Clifton then set up men at every exchange point along the found. But, this was his home. Clifton knew he had him route. When each exchange was made, the particular officer so he waited. 2015 SPRING EDITION 17
Following the raid, the television crew’s footage was broadcast on the evening news, so Diecidue must have known about it. He didn’t run, though. Instead, he returned to his home and was peacefully arrested. Diecidue was convicted of running an illegal lottery, but the other six defendants were freed after mistrials. No evidence was uncovered that could bring charges against Santo Trafficante. Despite convicting only one individual, this raid was considered a resounding success, as the list of individuals involved in bolita led to numerous raids throughout the Tampa Bay area in the ensuing weeks. Soon after the raids, the Tampa underworld began wondering who the informants were and who they could trust. And, with bolita profits taking a hit because of the numerous raids, factions began jockeying for control of their competitors’ games. In the months ahead, these two issues would turn Tampa into a mafia warzone, as hits were ordered on potential stool pigeons and competitors. But that is a Vice Squad Tale for another time. Bolita set
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Box of Bolita balls
The Real Housewives of Bolita By Matt Morgan
Forget everything you THINK you know about told me they were going to Cuscaden Park in Ybor City Tampa mafia wives and girlfriends in the 1950s. Unlike to swim. So I offered them a ride and when I drove back how mafia girlfriends and wives are usually depicted in over the bridge I looked like a mom who drove to movies, in Tampa these women were not stay-at-home Palmetto Beach to pick up her son and friends to take housewives or trophy girlfriends. They were as impor- them to the pool, so [Clifton] had no reason to suspect tant to the bolita rings that flourished in Tampa as the me of anything.” Jitterbug said she then dropped the kids off at the pool male mafia members were. “A lot of women would sell numbers or would collect and delivered the numbers. And, she said even if police numbers. We could hide from the police a little easier did tail her, when she entered the Drop House they than men could,” explained a woman who would only would have no reason to believe she was making the call herself “Jitterbug.” Jitterbug was a girlfriend of one final delivery. “I didn’t have anything in my hands,” she laughed. of the Tampa Bay area’s most prominent gangsters and she was trusted to not only sell numbers, but to run a “The numbers were hidden under my skirt.” Other women had even better ways to hide the num“Pick Up House” out of a grocery store in Tampa and, on occasion, to be the final driver in her territory’s bolita bers. “I remember a black lady in maze, bringing all the numbers St. Petersburg used to bring to the “Drop House.” bolita numbers to Tampa in a She remembered one specific big Dodge and always brought occasion in which all the numa bunch of kids with her,” said bers for Palmetto Beach had Jitterbug. “In fact, she is the one been collected, but Ellis Clifton, who gave me the idea to pick head of the Hillsborough up those kids that day because County Sheriff’s Office’s Vice she always had kids with her to Squad, was tipped off and lookthrow off the police. Anyway, ing for the final driver to pick the police were on to her that up the numbers and bring them day. She was speeding so they to the Drop House. used that as an excuse to pull “If police were tipped off and her over. The bolita banker looking for a big delivery, I bailed her out of jail and I would often get the call to make figured she would be too scared the big pickup and drop it off to go see the banker and because I could be trusted,” said apologize for speeding and Jitterbug. “So I was called to losing all the bolita numbers make the Palmetto Beach Two women (Alice Lazzara & Mrs. Frank Diecidue) were pickup and I was told to be among six persons arrested by sheriff’s deputies and state because if she got rid of the careful because Ellis Clifton was men here in a raid on what was described by officers as one numbers before she was pulled of the West Coast’s biggest bolita banks. The woman in this over or the police took them it under a bridge on the route and photo is Alice Lazzara. would be a major hassle. Well, was looking for the car making the pickup. He had a green station wagon back then–it she showed up to the Drop House to see the banker was important to always remember what the police after she was bailed out and wasn’t scared at all. She drove–and when I crossed that bridge I saw that green said she had all the numbers on her. She then opened station wagon sitting under it. So I made the pickup, but up her shirt, took out one of her breasts and lifted it up. was worried that if he saw my car cross that bridge She had big breasts. I mean big, big, big breasts. And, twice in a short period of time he would stop me to underneath her breasts she had every bolita number. The check on me. So when I got close to the bridge I saw police didn’t search her too thoroughly. I guess because three or four kids walking down the road. They were they were too much of a gentleman and didn’t want to wearing bathing suits and had towels. I pulled over and offend a lady.” asked if they were going to the swimming pool and they
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John DiCarlo, 1967
Buffalo Police Department “Bertillon” card for DiCarlo, 1945
Mobsters Eyed Florida Rackets By Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona
After breaking away from the Magaddino Crime Family in 1969, mobsters from Buffalo, New York, explored racketeering options in Volusia County, Florida, and entered into negotiations with the Tampa-based Santo Trafficante organization and other Mafia groups before law enforcement pressure triggered their retreat. The failed effort to establish an organized crime colony in Florida left the once powerful Buffalo Mafia struggling for revenue and relevance in the post-Valachi Era. A decade and a half of decline followed. By 1984, the organization effectively ceased to exist. Rebellion Brothers-in-law Salvatore "Sam" Pieri and Joseph "J.D." DiCarlo led the late 1960s Buffalo Mafia mutiny. DiCarlo, son of western New York’s first known Mafia boss, was briefly considered as heir to the regional underworld throne when his father died in 1922. Other leaders in the criminal society decided DiCarlo, just 22, was not mature enough for the role of boss and awarded it to Stefano Magaddino. DiCarlo and his Buffalo followers reluctantly accepted a subservient role to Niagara Falls-based Magaddino for decades before venturing out to seek their fortunes elsewhere. In the late 1960s, Magaddino’s health and underworld clout were in decline, and the DiCarlo gang returned to Buffalo to incite the anti-Magaddino rebellion. It is tempting to view the insurrection as a personal DiCarlo effort to correct a perceived 1922 injustice, but DiCarlo actually refused the top spot in the rebel group’s administration and served as adviser or consigliere to Sam Pieri, ten years his junior. When Magaddino learned of the mutiny, he first tried to force the Buffalo group back in line. When that failed, he attempted negotiation and manipulation. But the opposition already was far too strong. The rebel faction had the support of most of Magaddino’s top men in western New York, including Joseph Fino, Roy Carlisi, Joseph Pieri, John Cammilleri, Sam Frangiamore, Daniel Sansanese, Sr., Frank Valenti and Salvatore Bonito. Of his active lieutenants, only Benjamin Nicoletti, Sr., and Stefano Magaddino’s kin–brother Antonino and son Peter– remained unquestionably loyal. Sam Rangatore, a trusted Magaddino aide, had become inactive due to age and illness. Strengthening Pieri’s hand were his solid long-term
relationships with many of the bosses on the American Mafia’s conflict-mediating Commission, a panel comprised of the country’s leading capos. Pieri felt he had the backing of New York City bosses, as well as bosses in Chicago, Cleveland and Tucson, Arizona. In June, DiCarlo met with Cleveland Mafia member Leo Moceri. As appointed ambassador of Buffalo’s rebel group, DiCarlo informed Moceri of recent developments: A demand had been delivered for Magaddino’s resignation as boss. When Magaddino refused, the rebel group brought charges against him to the Commission and asked it to resolve the matter. Law enforcement surveillance made it too dangerous for the Commission to assemble for a meeting, so the panel sent representatives to gather data and report to individual Commission members. The Commission was sympathetic toward the rebel cause but reluctant to act against Magaddino, himself a Commission member. The panel attempted to slow the Buffalo rebellion by delaying a decision on the dispute. The rebels were unwilling to wait. Moceri learned that “the Buffalo Family has no intentions of bowing down to the …Commission as they feel they have the right to elect the boss they want.” On July 9, 1969, the group met and formally elected Pieri as acting boss, Fino as acting underboss and DiCarlo as acting consigliere. The needs of the new Mafia splinter group were substantial. Recognition from the Commission would help ensure the Buffalo organization’s survival and would put it on an equal footing with other crime families around the country. But more important was income. The rebel regime in Buffalo needed to provide racket opportunities to satisfy lieutenants that backing the insurrection was a profitable decision. Great amounts of money would also be needed if Magaddino decided to put down the uprising through force. Acquainted with Florida Joseph DiCarlo had spent considerable time in Florida. Following the DiCarlo Gang’s exodus from Buffalo in 1946, DiCarlo established himself as a manager of gambling operations in Youngstown, Ohio and soon began vacationing in Greater Miami. With his brother Sam DiCarlo and longtime friend John “Peanuts” Tronolone, he organized seasonal gambling rackets with some of the top figures in the American Mafia. 2015 SPRING EDITION 21
DiCarlo also joined in private underworld gambling events at Miami Beach’s Wofford Hotel, a popular winter resort. Participants in those games included Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano, “Trigger Mike” Coppola, John “King” Angersola, Charles Fischetti, Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, Alfred “Big Al” Polizzi, Max Weinberg and Joe Massei. With regular guests such as Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Joe “Adonis” Doto, Abner “Longie” Zwilllman, Willie Moretti, Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo. Phil Kastel and William “Lefty Clark” Bischoff, the Crime Commission of Greater Miami branded the Wofford Hotel “a meeting place for well-known racketeers and gangsters from all over the country.”
Wofford Hotel, 1924
(In fact, in the 1940s, a ten-year lease arrangement with owner Olive Wofford and related management contracts allowed hotel operation to fall under the direct control of Mafia investors, including Carfano, Angersola and Frank Erickson. The facility became a headquarters for overseeing syndicate horse race layoff betting as well as a center of underworld recreation.) By 1953, growing pressure from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Youngstown caused DiCarlo to relocate to Miami Beach full time. It was an opportune moment, as the grip of New York Mafiosi on Miami-area gambling was weakened by the recent murder of Willie Moretti, the jailing of Joe Adonis and the distraction provided by the opening of hotel-casinos in Havana, Cuba. The wedding of DiCarlo’s daughter on Valentine’s Day of 1955 was an extravagant affair. Nine hundred guests attended a reception at Ciro’s, an exclusive Miami Beach nightclub. Entertainment was provided by Billy Daniels, Sammy Davis Jr., Milton Berle and Jimmy Durante, in addition to the club’s own musicians. Abundant food and drink were provided, along with a six-foot-tall wedding cake and a flamboyant cherries jubilee dessert. A Ciro’s spokesman estimated that the event cost $35,000, a figure that appeared in local newspapers and immediately 22 WWW.TAMPAMAFIA.COM
drew the attention of federal prosecutors. DiCarlo had avoided full payment of an old 1924 federal fine by claiming he was broke. U.S. attorneys hoped that the lavish wedding reception could be used as evidence that DiCarlo had been lying. An investigation showed, however, that the reception bills had been directed to New York City racketeer “Trigger Mike” Coppola. Stolen Property Sam Pieri’s rapid rise to power in the breakaway Buffalo Crime Family made him a special target for FBI surveillance. On Sept. 5, 1969, agents noted that Pieri was traveling aboard Eastern Airlines Flight 328 from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Greater Buffalo International Airport. He was accompanied by Anthony Romano and Ralph William Jacobs. Jacobs was observed carrying a brown leather bag with two leather handles and a zipper closure. The next morning, Pieri, Romano and Jacobs were seen meeting with Victor Randaccio and Paul LaFlamme in Buffalo. The same brown leather bag was brought to that meeting. FBI agents arrested Pieri, Romano, Jacobs and Randaccio later in the day. The bag, still in their possession, was found to contain about fifty items of jewelry, valued at $191,630. Pieri and the three other prisoners were arraigned on charges of interstate transportation of stolen property and released on bail. Paul LaFlamme was arrested at the Washington D.C. National Airport after a flight from Buffalo. He was processed at Alexandria, Virginia. After postponing preliminary hearings, federal prosecutors decided to drop their existing complaints and pursue grand jury indictments. The move was reportedly designed to protect the identity of a secret informant. Though Pieri was momentarily free of the charges, his supporters in the Buffalo Mafia organization were discouraged by recent events and his local support reportedly was weakened. Sources told the FBI that Pieri was in danger of being replaced as leader of the rebel faction. Seeking Greener Pastures Pieri and DiCarlo were troubled by their vulnerabilities both inside and outside their underworld organization. They faced the possibility of one or more traitors within the Buffalo Crime Family, as well as their lieutenants’ growing dissatisfaction over shares of racket income. They also needed to prepare for any aggressive moves by the Magaddino group. At the same time, they faced intense scrutiny from law enforcement throughout western New York. Pieri once remarked that the “heat” from policeagencies was enough to “fry you standing up.” In December of 1969, the two men began looking into gambling and loan-sharking rackets in the area of Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach, Florida, popular seasonal vacation spots.
Sam Pieri, 1975
Tampa International Airport near noon on Dec. 13. He was met by Pieri and some other men, one of whom, Gino Albini, turned out to be an FBI informant. The group traveled to the Columbia Restaurant on Twenty-Second Street in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood. The restaurant was known to be a favorite of Tampa Mafiosi, and FBI agents saw a number of Trafficante associates, including the Mafia boss’s brother Salvatore, speaking with DiCarlo and Pieri. The presence of boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., was not noted, and agents subsequently learned that Trafficante was in Miami that day. In the evening, Pieri and DiCarlo drove down to Miami and registered at the Johnina Hotel at Collins Avenue and SeventyFirst Street. That hotel was known for its Dream Bar nightclub, popular with visiting mobsters from New York’s Genovese Crime Family. An informant told the FBI that DiCarlo met with Santo Trafficante, Jr., the next morning at Wolfie’s Restaurant on Lincoln Road. During the meeting, Trafficante reportedly “gave his blessing” to any gambling operations Buffalo Mafiosi wanted to set up in central Florida. However, the Tampa boss warned DiCarlo about law enforcement activity in the state and competition from rival criminal organizations. Trafficante explained that Cuban racketeers in the state had forced him out of the lucrative “bolita” gambling racket and he planned to stay away from gambling ventures for about six months. That afternoon, DiCarlo took a United Airlines flight from Miami back to Buffalo. Pieri drove to Daytona Beach and remained there until Jan. 7, when he returned to western New York.
Pieri felt that the State of Florida was ripe for underworld “colonization.” He and other Mafia leaders expected Florida’s eastern seaboard to quickly grow into a giant metropolitan complex that could rival the northeastern United States as a source of organized crime revenue. In order to set up rackets in Florida, Pieri and DiCarlo needed to meet with representatives of various underworld organizations already established in the state and ensure that Buffalo mobsters would not be stepping on any powerful toes. The most important Mafia organization in the region was the Santo Trafficante Crime Family. Trafficante’s group was based in Tampa. It had racket interests across the state and into the islands of the Caribbean and maintained strong business relationships with Mafia clans based in New York City. Pieri flew to Miami on Dec. 11. Though he was far from western New York, law enforcement agencies continued to monitor his movements. Pieri and his companion, loan-shark Frank “Poochie” Chimento, met with Joe Indelicato. A Miami-based member of New York’s Bonanno Crime Family, Indelicato was the brother of Bonanno capodecina Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato. Pieri stayed overnight at the Miami Beach Holiday Inn and drove with Chimento to Daytona Beach the next day. They stayed at the Howard Johnson Motel that night and headed into Tampa on the thirteenth. DiCarlo was observed by FBI agents upon his arrival at
Preparations Ten days after Pieri’s return, federal agents arrested him, Victor Randaccio, Anthony Romano and Ralph Jacobs. A federal grand jury had returned a six-count indictment against the men relating to the jewels recovered the previous fall. Prosecutors had managed to link the seized jewels to robberies in Saratoga, New York, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The four defendants were charged with conspiracy and with receiving and concealing stolen goods. Pieri and Romano were taken into custody at Santasiero’s Restaurant. Randaccio was arrested at a hotel in New York City. Jacobs was arrested at his home at Ormond Beach, Florida. While awaiting trial, Sam Pieri made another trip to Florida. DiCarlo, suffering at the time with severe stomach pains, did not travel with him. Pieri arrived in Miami in the late afternoon of Jan. 23 accompanied by Gino Albini. Pieri and Albini went directly from the airport to Dean Martin’s Restaurant and Lounge for a meeting with about a dozen other underworld figures. Along the way, Pieri’s car was tailed by deputies of the Dade County Sheriff’s Office. The meeting was held in a private room to the side of the restaurant. Among the attendees were close Trafficante associate Norman Rothman, Genovese Crime Family representative Pasquale Michael Erra, Louis Triscaro of Cleveland, Fred
Santo Traficante, Jr
Gabourie of Toronto and Dominic Mantell of Miami. The FBI concluded the mobsters were working to clearly define racket boundaries in Florida and to protect the interests of established South Florida racketeers. Following the meeting, Pieri, Rothman and some other attendees drove to the Johnina Hotel’s Dream Bar for an evening’s entertainment. At the end of the month, Pieri left Miami for a meeting in New York City and then spent two weeks home in Buffalo before heading back to Daytona Beach. He and Albini visited numerous bars and restaurants in the area, developing contacts for the bookmaking operations and high-stakes craps games he hoped to establish. On this trip, Pieri brought about fifteen thousand dollars with him, and he spent it freely. Money was spread around the local businesses on high-priced meals and alcohol and extravagant tips. The Buffalo boss expressed an interest in buying a bar in the area, which he intended to use as a front for gambling operations. He looked into the purchase of a home, and he placed an order with a local dealership for a new Lincoln sedan. Pieri also began planning for his underboss, Joseph Fino, to visit Daytona Beach around the end of February. DiCarlo was having surgery in Buffalo, but planned to join his brother-in-law soon in Daytona Beach. Change in Plans The approach of Pieri’s trial in spring 1970 halted his travels. The trial opened on May 26. Three weeks later, as the prosecution was completing its case, an informant told the FBI that Pieri had been bribing a juror. Agents gathered evidence of the bribery charge. One member was then dismissed from the jury and agreed to cooperate in a jury tampering case against Pieri. On June 23, a mistrial was
declared in the stolen jewels case and Pieri was arraigned for obstruction of justice. Bail was set at $100,000, and Pieri was remanded to the custody of U.S. marshals. Pieri was convicted in September of bribery and jury tampering. Informants told the FBI that the verdict was a “major strike” at the Buffalo Crime Family and could “shatter current family cohesiveness.” By early October, the Buffalo Crime Family boss was serving a five-year prison sentence. As he was locked away, the FBI learned that the Buffalo Crime Family’s plans to expand into central Florida had been aborted. The attention of western New York’s Mafiosi subsequently turned inward. The DiCarlo-Pieri faction struggled to maintain control of the breakaway Buffalo Crime Family, and a number of underworld figures met with violent ends. On Oct. 11, 1980, the organization lost its most senior member and consigliere, as eighty-year-old Joseph DiCarlo succumbed to heart disease. Sam Pieri, who had been in and out of prisons during the 1970s, died on Aug. 24. 1981, at age seventy. Lacking its longtime leaders, the old DiCarloPieri faction of the Buffalo underworld soon collapsed.
Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona are the coauthors of the two-volume DiCarlo: Buffalo’s First Family of Crime, available in hardcover, softcover and e-book formats. Visit www.buffalomob.com
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Fun in the Sun: Detroit Mafia Made Presence Felt in Florida By Scott M. Burnstein
Those blustery, bitterly-cold Motor City winters have long seen mobsters from Detroit scurrying for the warmth of sunny Florida. The relationship between the mafia in Michigan and the Sunshine State dates back to the days right after Prohibition, when Detroit mob captain Joseph (Beach Bum Joe) Massei settled in Miami in the mid-1930s. Massei, who was half-Irish, but born in Sicily, rose through the ranks of the Midwest underworld as a coleader of the River Gang bootlegging syndicate, becoming rich on smuggled booze from Canada, alongside his close friend and River Gang boss Peter (Horseface Pete) Licavoli. The pair helped create the city of Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra family in 1931, known locally as “The Combination,” or “The Partnership,” due to the fact that it brought all the region’s various bootlegging crews under a single banner. They were both tabbed capos in the new regime by family “founders” Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli and William (Black Bill) Tocco. In 1932, Massei and Licavoli were indicted for murdering St. Louis gangster Milford Jones inside the Stork Club, a popular mob hangout and speakeasy on Detroit’s eastside. The charges were dropped before trial and within a few years Massei departed for the sandy beaches of South Florida, spawning his nickname. From the moment he stepped foot in Florida around 1935, taking over a penthouse suite at the Grand Hotel on 23rd Street in Miami Beach, Massei opened shop on bookmaking, loansharking and wire-room activity. He fronted his illegal endeavors with a legitimate business, Miami Provisions,
and strong-armed his way into doing virtually all of the deliveries of produce and grocery products to the city’s many hotels and resorts. With Massei planting a flag for the Michigan mob in the area, numerous other Detroit Mafiosi began following suit, buying vacation property in Miami, and in some cases, investing in street rackets there. Detroit mob dons Joe Zerilli and Black Bill Tocco, underboss Angelo (The Chairman) Meli and top capos Pietro (Machine Gun Pete) Corrado, Salvatore (Sammy Lou) Lucido, Salvatore (Little Sammy) Finazzo and both Giacalone brothers, Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone and Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, the syndicate’s heavily-feared street bosses, all purchased winter residences in Florida. Much like back home in Michigan, where the innercircle LCN figures and their families lived in a two-block area in ritzy Grosse Pointe Park, known as “The Compound,” their houses and apartments in the Miami area were all within close proximity to one another. While Corrado, Zerilli’s and Tocco’s brother-in-law, spent the New Year’s holiday in Miami in 1957, he dropped dead of a massive heart attack at only 54 years old as he swam in his backyard pool. FBI agents trailed Detroit mobsters, Billy Jack Giacalone, Matthew (Mike the Enforcer) Rubino, Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli and Anthony (Tony the Bull) Corrado to Miami in January 1963 and observed the four mafia powers–Tony Z was the son of Rustbelt Godfather Joe Zerilli, Tony the Bull 2015 SPRING EDITION 27
Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone
was Pete Corrado’s youngest son–meeting with Massei and obtaining NFL-authorized field passes to watch the Detroit Lions’ 17-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first-round of the playoffs from the sidelines at the Orange Bowl. Giacalone, Zerilli and Corrado were linked to the 1950s and 60s-era Lions, investigated for point-shaving and their relationship to All-Pro defensive lineman, team captain and future Hollywood actor Alex Karras, eventually resulting in Karras season-long suspension imposed by the NFL in the months after the FBI reported the Detroit gangster contingent’s presence on the field in the ’63 playoffs to the league. Beach Bum Joe Massei died of natural causes in 1971, Black Bill Tocco, who had joined him in Miami on a full-time basis in the 1950s, passed away a year later in 1972, however, Detroit LCN kept a foothold in Florida even with them gone. The “second-generation” of the Detroit mob, a group made up of the sons of nephews of the crime family’s founding fathers, led by Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco, Black Bill’s oldest son and Tony Zerilli, the syndicate’s new boss and underboss, respectively, remained drenched in the Florida sun–Black Jack assumed command of the organization upon his uncle Joe Zerilli’s death of natural causes in 1977, on the heels of heading the Detroit mafia for over 40 years and holding a seat on the national Commission. The FBI snapped surveillance photos of the comings-andgoings at a January 22, 1983 meet-up of mob dons from Detroit and St. Louis at a Pompano Beach, Florida Hilton Hotel. Detroit Godfather Jack Tocco, flanked by capo Tony 28 WWW.TAMPAMAFIA.COM
Corrado and St. Louis LCN boss Mike Trupiano, a boyhood friend of Tocco’s in Michigan, accompanied by high-ranking Missouri mafia associate Sorkis (Sorkie Blue Eyes) Webbe, holed up in a penthouse suite and discussed the sale of their joint hidden-ownership in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, for the entire day. The face-to-face between Tocco and Trupiano was used as evidence at Tocco’s RICO trial in 1998, which concluded with convictions for Black Jack and most of his administration. Tocco was actually at his home in Florida when the indictment dropped in March 1996. Quick getaways to the beach weren’t always to avoid the bad weather back home. “Those guys would go down to Miami in the winter, most of the time it was to get away from their wives and to be with their girlfriends,” former Detroit FBI agent Mike Carone said. “They had roots there from all the way back to the 1930s, they would mostly stick to themselves and tried to keep a low profile. The violence and hardcore stuff was left back home.” Taxpayers in the Sunshine State got bit hard by the Detroit mob in the 1980s. Tocco’s pal Louis (Butch) Stramaglia, an alleged Motor City wiseguy, and his baby brother, Frank, owned Vito’s Trucking and Excavating, a company which did a lot of construction work in Florida and spawned a spattering of federal racketeering indictments–alleged to have bilked the state for literally millions of dollars. The Stramaglia brothers were hit with racketeering, tax evasion and theft charges related to sewer construction jobs in Orange and Lee Counties in 1983 and 1988, respectively.
Black Jack Tocco
Broward County awarded them a municipal contract to build the Sawgrass Expressway in 1984, a project that went awry fast and ended in more racketeering charges, this time in 1989 and alleging the stealing of nearly two million dollars from county coffers. Found guilty of a 38-count indictment at a 1990 trial and sentenced to 50 years in prison, Butch Stramaglia had the conviction tossed on a technicality and was freed in 1993. His younger brother, Frank, vice-president of Vito’s, as well as the Stramaglias’ other family business, the Four Bears Water Park, back in Detroit, never made it to trial in the Broward County case. He died under suspicious circumstances three weeks prior to jury selection beginning, found overdosed on cocaine in a Metro Detroit hotel room on New Year’s Day 1990 Frank Stramaglia, 34, had reached out to Florida prosecutors and the FBI, per federal documents, in the days leading up to his death, to discuss possibly cooperating. The autopsy showed that the cocaine Stramaglia ingested the night he died had been cut with a poisonous metallic substance and was 20-times stronger than a normal potencylevel. Mark Giancotti, Stramaglia’s best friend, Four Bears comptroller and fellow Detroit mob associate, was killed on February 10, 1990, after being seen in the presence of local organized crime members in the hours that preceded his slaying. Giancotti was found shot dead behind the wheel of his car in a grocery store parking lot less than 10 miles away from the hotel where Stramaglia was discovered. No charges have ever been filed in either case, but FBI investigators insist the two deaths were related and suspect they had something to do with their knowledge and/or participation in shady dealings (possibly the laundering of mob money) within Vito’s and Four Bears. Vito’s Trucking and Excavating still operates today. Four Bears has been closed for over a decade. At least a half-dozen retired or semi-retired Detroit mobsters currently reside in Florida, a group of aging Midwest Mafiosi highlighted by Tony Zerilli, who at 87, has been a free man since 2008 (released from six-year federal prison sentence imposed for 2002 RICO conviction) and lives in a retirement community in West Palm Beach. Butch Stramaglia, 68, attended Jack Tocco’s funeral last summer. He told the Miami Herald during an interview in 1990 that he was “proud to consider Tocco a friend” and that he’d “rather be friends with a man like Tocco than 20 FBI agents.” For all the latest up-to-date gangland news, visit www.gangsterreport.com
Tampa Mafia Book Suggestions Mafia Prince is the first-person account of one of the most violent eras in Mafia history–“Little” Nicky Scarfo’s reign as boss of the Philly family in the 1980s–written by Scarfo’s underboss and nephew, “Crazy” Phil Leonetti.
The Detroit True Crime Chronicles sets forth the rich history of criminal activity in the Motor City. Using information from declassified federal documents and many firsthand accounts, the book focuses on the city’s local Mafia, key mobsters, drug kingpins, serial killers, and unsolved crimes. Family Affair: Greed, Treachery, and Betrayal in the Chicago Mafia. With a contract out on his life, Nicholas "Nicky Breeze" Calabrese turned government witness and revealed the truth about the murders of a notorious Mob enforcer and his brotherculminating in a criminal case that would challenge the Mob from the street to the highest seats of power. Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit chronicles the storied and hallowed gangland history of the notorious Detroit underworld, from its glory days in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, all the way to the downfall of the area's mob reign in the 1980s and 1990s.
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