26 June 2017

Summer 2017 issue of Informer

Informer - Aug 2017
Informer - Aug 2017 - AVAILABLE NOW
in print and electronic editions

IN THIS ISSUE:
- Excerpt from Dock Boss by Neil G. Clark, scheduled for release this summer by Barricade Books. It is the story of Eddie McGrath and the mobsters who controlled New York City's West Side waterfront.
- Lennert Van`t Riet and David Critchley provide a groundbreaking history of Frank Zito's little-known but influential Springfield, Illinois, Mafia organization.
- Justin Cascio explores the career and family connections of the "Capitano," Angelo Di Carlo, who held key underworld positions on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Edmond Valin digs through government records to discover the identity of Bonanno Family informant, "Willie the Tilemaker" Dara.
- Bill Feather provides details on the founding of twenty-nine United States Mafia organizations.
- Richard Warner reviews books on an axe-wielding killer, the origins of street gangs and revered New York law enforcement officer Joseph Petrosino.
- In The Warner Files, Richard Warner outlines recent changes in the Chicago Outfit.

25 June 2017

June 25, 1906: Murder at the Garden

On this date in 1906, prominent architect Stanford White was shot and killed at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden. The shooter was Harry Kendall Thaw, of Pittsburgh. Thaw, the heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, held a grudge against White, whom he blamed for thwarting his efforts to achieve the respect of high society. White was also the former lover of Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit had been a popular model and chorus girl and was the inspiration for the movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.
At trial, Thaw went with a temporary insanity defense (“temporary” probably being the only part that was exaggerated). The jury wound up deadlocked. At the second trial, Evelyn Nesbit took the stand and testified that Stanford White had abused her and that Thaw was just acting in her defense. She performed this task in exchange for the promise of a divorce and a million dollars from Thaw.  The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw received a sentence to the state mental hospital at Matteawan. Nesbit received her divorce, but not the money.
Thaw escaped from Matteawan in 1913 and fled to Canada. He was eventually apprehended and extradited to New York. After receiving a new trial, he was found sane and not guilty of murder. He was released from state custody in 1915.
Thaw was arrested again in 1916, this time for the abduction and sexual assault of 19 year old Frederick Gump (no relation to Forrest). He was found not guilty by reason of insanity (it’s like déjà vu all over again). In 1924, Thaw was judged sane and released from the asylum where he had been incarcerated.
Harry Thaw died of a heart attack in Florida in 1947. In his will, he left Evelyn Nesbit ten thousand dollars, about one percent of his estimated net worth.
Further reading:
Murderpedia – Harry Thaw  
Wikipedia – Harry Kendall Thaw

20 June 2017

70 years ago: The end of 'Bugsy' Siegel

On this date in 1947, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was killed at the home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, 810 North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills, California.

Siegel, a transplanted New York racketeer, was an organizer of west coast gambling rackets and developer of the Flamingo hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Siegel was known to be a close associate of Meyer Lansky and Mafia boss Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.

New York Post
Binghamton NY Press
Los Angeles Times
FBI Report, p. 1.
FBI Report, p. 4.
FBI Report, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times

Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle

Los Angeles Times


17 June 2017

Fruits, vegetables may be hazardous to your health

Police restrain John and Philip Scalise after they view the body of their murdered brother.
On this date in 1957 - Frank "Don Ciccio" Scalise, a top lieutenant (and former boss) of the Mafia organization that soon would become known as the Gambino Crime Family, was murdered at a Bronx produce shop. (The killing served as inspiration for a scene in the movie, The Godfather.)

New York Times
Scalise, a resident of 211 Kirby Street on City Island in the Bronx, stopped at Enrico Mazzare's produce shop, 2380 Arthur Avenue, in the afternoon. He spent ninety cents on peaches and lettuce and was putting change back in his pocket, when two gunmen appeared and opened fire on the Mafia leader.

Four slugs struck and instantly killed Scalise. He suffered gunshot wounds to neck, head and arm. The gunmen exited the store, jumped into a double-parked black sedan and sped away.

Mazzare witnessed the killing but provided little useful information to the police: "Suddenly two men brushed by me. I heard some shots, and I looked around. These two men were hurrying by me again. They weren't wearing coats and they had their sleeves rolled up. They got into an old black sedan and went up Arthur Avenue." Mazzare was taken into custody as a material witness.

Scalise's blue 1956 Cadillac was parked a couple of blocks away on Crescent Avenue, near the candy store run by his brother Jack. Police brought Jack and Philip Scalise to Mazzare's shop to identify their brother's remains. (Jack left the country for Italy a short time later. He was spotted on a visit to the U.S. in 1959 and quickly brought before a grand jury investigating the 1957 murder.)

Later in the day, Bronx District Attorney Daniel V. Sullivan told the press, "Thus far this appears to be definitely a gangland killing. [Scalise] was regarded as a big shot and kingpin in this area."

Frank Scalise and Charlie Luciano.
Federal authorities suspected Scalise of involvement in an international narcotics smuggling operation. Scalise had been sought by police for questioning related to several murders. Investigators knew that Scalise was a lieutenant to crime boss Albert Anastasia and a close friend of exiled Mafia leader Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.



Sources:

  • "Underworld figure murdered in Bronx," New York Times, June 18, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen end Scalise's life," Albany NY Times-Union (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 5.
  • "Scalise slain; pal of Costello and Luciano, Albany NY Knickerbocker News (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 7.
  • "Scalise bank box divulges no clue," New York Times, June 19, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Scalise data checked," New York Times, June 20, 1957, p. 21.
  • "Hint Scalise doubled as 'loan shark,'" New York Post, June 20, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Police photograph funeral of Scalise," New York Times, June 23, 1957, p. 58.
  • "Bronx' Scalise gets gangland sendoff," New York Post, June 23, 1957, p. 2.
  • Katz, Leonard, "Bail cut, witness to Scalise murder is let out of jail," New York Post, July 9, 1957, p. 21.
  • Katz, Leonard, and Abel Silver, "Scalise: Little Italy's fourth unsolved murder," New York Post, July 28, 1957, p. 12.
  • "Scalise brother flies in, seized," New York World Telegram and Sun (Brooklyn), April 4, 1959, p. 1.
  • "Scalise brother held," New York Times, April 5, 1959, p. 34.
  • "Scalise inquiry begins," New York Times, April 7, 1959, p. 19.
  • "Scalise in Paris," Kingston NY Daily Freeman (Associated Press), April 28, 1959, p. 5.

14 June 2017

San Francisco boss succumbs to blood disorder

On this date in 1937 - Francesco Lanza, Mafia boss of the San Francisco area, died of natural causes. His son Mariano Vincenzo (James) was deemed too young to succeed him, and the role of boss was passed to Tony Lima.


Originally from Castelbuono, Sicily, where the family surname was Proetto, Francesco Lanza entered the U.S. through New York in the early 1900s. His family, including two-year-old Mariano Vincenzo, joined him in New York in February of 1905.

The family made its way west during the World War I years and settled in San Francisco by the start of Prohibition. A low-profile Mafioso, Lanza ran produce-related businesses and became a legal supplier of grapes to illegal wine-making operations across the U.S. He remained far in the background while more conspicuous underworld figures perished in Prohibition Era gangland conflicts.

In the 1920s, he became part-owner of a vineyard in Escondido, California. Nick Licata, a Mafia leader from the Los Angeles area, later partnered in that business. California Mafioso Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno recalled Lanza as San Francisco's regional Mafia boss and partner with Giuseppe Alioto in a restaurant at the city's Fisherman's Wharf.

Lanza died at the age of 64. Historian Christina Ann-Marie DiEdoardo noted that the apparent cause of Francesco Lanza's death was aplastic anemia, a blood disease that could have been treated through transfusions. "Ironically," DiEdoardo wrote, "this made him the only boss around during the Booze Wars who died because his blood stayed in his body..."

A couple of decades after Francesco Lanza's death, his son James became boss of the San Francisco crime family. Unnoticed by the early 1950s Kefauver Committee, his name came up during the McClellan Committee hearings later in that decade. It was believed that James Lanza traveled east for the 1957 Apalachin convention as representative of San Francisco but managed to escape the notice of authorities. His presence in New York City and Scranton, Pennsylvania, hotels at the time of the convention was noted. The FBI began watching Lanza in the late 1950s and conducted electronic eavesdropping on his operations in the early 1960s. A widely publicized U.S. Justice Department listing of U.S. Mafia leaders in the late 1960s named James Lanza as the boss of the San Francisco crime family. James Lanza died in February 2006 at the age of 104.

Sources:

  • "Mafia's leadership list updated by Justice Dept.," Palm Springs CA Desert Sun, Aug. 22, 1969, p. 7
  • "San Francisco deaths," Oakland CA Tribune, June 15, 1937, p. 35. 
  • California Death Index, Ancestry.com.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno, New York: Times Books, 1981, p. 137.
  • DiEdoardo, Christina Ann-Marie, Lanza's Mob: The Mafia and San Francisco, Santa Barbara CA: Praeger, 2016.
  • Hart, Arthur V., "Meeting of hoodlums, Apalachin, New York, November 14, 1957," FBI report, file no. 63-4426-171, NARA no. 124-90103-10092, July 8, 1958, p. 103.
  • Investigation of Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Hearings Before the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Part 32, 85th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1958.
  • Mudd, Herbert K. Jr., "La Cosa Nostra San Francisco Division," FBI report, Aug. 23, 1968, file no. 92-6054-2397, NARA no. 124-10297-10131, p. Cover-C.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Sicilia, departed Palermo on January 26, 1905, arrived New York City on Feb. 10, 1905.
  • Polk's Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory 1934, San Francisco: R.L. Polk & Co. of California, 1934, p. 635.
  • SAC San Diego, "La Cosa Nostra AR - Conspiracy," FBI airtel, file no. 92-6054-1907, NARA no. 124-10222-10055, March 13, 1967, p. 4.
  • SAC San Francisco, "Mariano Vincenzo Lanza, aka James Joseph Lanza," FBI memorandum, file no. 92-3432-87, NARA no. 124-10222-10385, Dec. 29, 1960.
  • Social Security Death Index, Ancestry.com.
Read more about the Lanzas of San Francisco in:

11 June 2017

Vendetta ends life of 'Black Sam' Todaro

Son, wife, nephew of murdered 'Big Joe' Lonardo
participate in the slaying of Cleveland Mafia boss

Salvatore Todaro
On this date in 1929 - Cleveland Mafia boss Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro was murdered in front of a Porrello corn sugar warehouse at Woodland Avenue and 110th Street. Though recent killings in the region had resulted from underworld rivalries, authorities determined that the assassination of Todaro was an act of personal vengeance.

Todaro took power in the local crime family after the October 1927 murders of boss Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo and his brother John. His position was secured with the murder of Lonardo loyalist Lorenzo Lupo the following spring. The Lonardo faction, closely aligned with the national Mafia leadership of boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila, was replaced by an administration of Todaro and the Porrello brothers. The new regime was supported by rising New York Mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria. (Masseria had relatives in Cleveland.)

The murdered Lonardos were given a lavish gangland funeral - reports said their caskets were silver. But Lonardo kin almost immediately began experiencing money problems.

Concetta Lonardo and Fannie Lanzone Lonardo both claimed to be the widows of Joseph Lonardo. Though never formally married, Concetta had lived with Lonardo for many years until their 1925 separation and she was mother to their five children. Fannie was with Lonardo in the last few years of his life and claimed that the two had been married in Sandusky, Ohio on September 8, 1925. A court battle between the widows tied up the family fortune - cash and property estimated to be worth $200,000. Lacking financial resources, Concetta faced the loss of the family home at 13700 Larchmere Boulevard. She reached out for support from the new underworld boss.

Concetta Lonardo
(Cleveland Public Library)
Early in 1929, she began making regular visits to the front of the Porrello corn sugar warehouse - the Mafia leadership's local headquarters. Todaro dutifully stepped out of the building to meet her at her car, a maroon and black Chrysler Model 75 coupe, and provide her with some money. (Cleveland detectives considered the possibility that these were blackmail payments extracted by the Lonardo family under threat of cooperating in the investigation of the Joseph and John Lonardo murders.) Concetta was generally driven to the meetings by her oldest child, eighteen-year-old Angelo.

On the afternoon of June 11, Concetta's twenty-two-year-old nephew Dominic Sospirato came along for the  ride to see Todaro. As usual, Todaro emerged from the warehouse to greet his former boss's widow. As he crossed the sidewalk toward the waiting car, gunshots were heard and "Black Sam" collapsed. He had been shot five times. The Chrysler sped away.

Todaro's brother-in-law, Angelo Sciara, witnessed the shooting and gave authorities the names of the occupants of the car. Concetta was later taken into custody as a material witness, though she claimed to know nothing of the fatal shooting of Todaro. Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato could not be located. Concetta and the two young men were all indicted for first-degree murder.

“Black Sam” Todaro's funeral featured an expensive bronze and silver casket and abundant floral tributes, but restrictions on the use of marching bands and the route of the cortege were put in place by local Safety Director Edwin Barry.

On November 12, Concetta went to trial alone for the Todaro murder. The prosecutor argued that she must have known that occupants of her automobile planned to shoot and kill Todaro. The state's case included a jury visit to the Cleveland corner where Todaro was killed. After a deliberation of more than six hours, the jury acquitted her.

Angelo Lonardo in later years.
The not-guilty verdict seems to have encouraged Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato to come out of hiding and take their own chances with a jury. They surrendered to authorities in February 1930, pleading not guilty to the murder charges against them. They were convicted of second-degree murder on June 11, 1930 (the anniversary of Todaro's killing). They were immediately sentenced by Judge James B. Ruhl to life terms at the Ohio State Penitentiary. A successful legal appeal gave them a second chance, and they were both acquitted at retrial in November 1931.

Authorities briefly considered Lonardo a suspect when Rosario and Raymond Porrello and their bodyguard Dominic Mangino were murdered in February 1932.

Many years later, the seventy-seven-year-old Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo, by then a former Cleveland Mafia underboss who had become a government informant, testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Early in his testimony, he matter-of-factly stated, "...My father was murdered by Salvatore Todaro in 1927. In revenge, my cousin, Dominic Sospirato, and I killed Todaro."

Sources:
  • Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  • Neilsen, Sgt. William T., Criminal Complaint, Cleveland Police, June 11, 1929.
  • Porrello, Rick, The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar and Blood, Fort Lee NJ: Barricade, 1995.
  • Reports of the Detective Bureau, Police Department of the City of Cleveland, Oct. 13-16, 1927; June 13, 1929; July 2, 1929.
  • United States Census of 1930.
  • United States Census of 1940.
  • Zicarelli, Det., Information report to Inspector of Detectives Cornelius W. Cody, Oct. 16, 1927, Nov. 16, 1929.
  • "2 brothers murdered in bootleg war," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 14, 1927.
  • "Hits new lead in murder of two Lonardos," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 15, 1927.
  • "Police seek gunman in yellow car," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Seize gunman as suspect in Lupo murder," Cleveland Press, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Police hunt Lonardo, Jr. as slayer," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12, 1929.
  • "Lonardo's son indicted for feud killing," Cleveland Press, June 12, 1929.
  • "Bootleggers in Cleveland open warfare," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo indicted with son in murder," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 13, 1929.
  • "Detectives see blackmail sign as murder clue," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 13, 1929, p. 20.
  • "Slain 'baron' given gangster funeral," Cleveland Press, June 15, 1929.
  • "Royal burial," Wilmington OH News-Journal, June 17, 1929, p. 4.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo faces trial for murder," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 12, 1929, p. 29.
  • "Try woman for gang murder in Cleveland," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 13, 1929, p. 3.
  • "Gang murder trial," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 14, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Acquit Mrs. Lonardo of Todaro's murder," Mansfield OH News-Journal, Nov. 15, 1929, p. 19.
  • "Fails to get share of Lonardo estate," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Feb. 24, 1930, p. 23.
  • "Cleveland racketeers are under pen life sentence," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Cleveland men found guilty," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Extermination of gang about complete today," Piqua OH Daily Call, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "United States Courts," Cincinnati Enquirer, July 19, 1930, p. 20.
  • "Marriage here basis of suit," Sandusky OH Register, July 22, 1930, p. 12.
  • Kenen, I.L., "Corn sugar racket has taken seven lives in Cleveland with five marked for death; once mighty Porello clan is tottering," Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 4, 1930, p. 13.
  • "Acquitted at retrial," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 9.
  • "Free two convicts," East Liverpool OH Evening Review, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 11.
  • "Jail Lonardo in probe of feud killings," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb. 28, 1932.
  • Koziol, Ronald, "Jailed mob chief agrees to testify in casino trial," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 1985, p. 10.
  • Culnan, Dennis, "Former boss calls Mafia disrespectful," Cincinnati Enquirer, April 16, 1988, p. A4.
Read more about Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro, Prohibition Era underworld murders and the Mafia organizations of the region in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume I - to 1937 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

10 June 2017

Youngstown racketeer Farah killed at his home


On this date in 1961: Mike Farah, 56, was practicing his golf swing outside his Warren, Ohio, home, when gunshots from a blue Chevrolet cut him down. 

Mike Farah
Two or three shotgun blasts were fired. Farah's hip was badly damaged and some of the fired shot penetrated the side of his abdomen. His 16-year-old daughter Grace witnessed the shooting. She said the Chevrolet pulled up to the curb, about 30 feet from where her father was standing. Shotguns were fired from the rear seat of the vehicle, and it then sped away around a corner toward Youngstown, Ohio.

Farah dragged himself into the house, and an ambulance was summoned to take him to the nearby hospital. About two hours later, Farah died of internal bleeding.

Police found the blue Chevrolet abandoned just a half mile from Farah's home. They determined that it had been stolen from Canton three months earlier.

Mike Farah was known to authorities as the former part-owner (with his brother John and Tony Delsanter) of the Jungle Inn gambling casino, in Liberty township, just outside of Youngstown. James "Jack White" Licavoli, Cleveland-based Mafia leader, also appeared to hold an interest in the establishment. (Licavoli was known to have partnered with Mike Farah in the Girard Novelty Company in Niles and the Triangle Novelty Company in Warren.) The casino, opened following the repeal of Prohibition, proved itself impervious to law enforcement until the late 1940s, when the Ohio governor sent in agents from the state liquor control board. The Jungle Inn was closed after a raid in 1949.

Authorities in the region believed that Farah continued to be involved in racketeering, though he insisted that he was retired. He was charged with assault with intent to kill following an attack against Trumbull County Republican chairman and Board of Elections member Jean Blair in June 1959. In that case, he was convicted on a lesser charge of assault and battery and was sentenced to four months in county jail, a $200 fine and court costs. He did not begin serving that sentence until his the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Farah served two and a half months of the sentence before being released on March 31, 1961. Common Pleas Judge G.H. Birrell granted Farah's freedom in consideration of his good behavior while behind bars.

The Jungle Inn
Before "retirement," Farah had been imprisoned on racketeering charges (later pardoned by the governor) and for operating a still.

The Farah murder was counted as the fourth in a series of shootings in Mahoning and Trumbull counties dating back just over a year. The first was Joseph "Sandy" Naples, killed along with his girlfriend on the front porch of her home. Joseph Romano was struck by a shotgun blast but survived. He said he could not identify the shooters. "Big John" Schuller was shotgunned to death while fixing a tire on his car at the side of the highway. Authorities determined that the tire had been rigged to go flat. Additional murders of underworld figures would follow in the very near future.

Rumors indicated that the shootings were part of an effort by Cleveland mobsters to take direct control of gambling operations in the Youngstown area.

Sources:
  • "Motion filed by Mike Farah for new trial," Dover OH Daily Reporter, Jan. 6, 1961, p. 12.
  • "Warren rackets figure released," Salem OH News, April 1, 1961, p. 8.
  • "Around Ohio," Akron OH Beacon Journal, April 1, 1961, p. 19.
  • "Ohio mobster slain in own front yard," Pittsburgh Press, June 11, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Racketeer Farah slain in Warren," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Warren racket boss Mike Farah slain by gunmen," Salem OH News, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Youngstown racketeer fatally shot," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Clues sought in murder of rackets boss," Sandusky OH Register, June 12, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Purple gang member quizzed on slayings," Sandusky OH Register, Aug. 1, 1961, p. 1.
Read more about Mike Farah, the Jungle Inn and Youngstown racketeering in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II - From 1938 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

02 June 2017

'Al Capone's Beer Wars' set for June 6 release

http://amzn.to/2s2p8w8
John J. Binder's latest book, Al Capone's Beer Wars, is scheduled for release in hardcover and Kindle and Nook e-book formats on Tuesday, June 6. It can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Although much has been written about Al Capone, until now there has been no complete history of organized crime in Chicago during Prohibition. This book, based on twenty-five years of research, covers the entire era, 1920 to 1933. Binder, an authority on Chicago organized crime history, discusses the bootlegging gangs in the region and examines other major rackets, such as prostitution, gambling, labor racketeering and narcotics.

Binder focuses on how the Capone gang — one of twelve major bootlegging mobs as Prohibition began — gained a virtual monopoly over organized crime in northern Illinois and beyond. Binder also describes the fight by federal and local authorities, as well as citizens' groups, against organized crime. In the process, he refutes numerous misconceptions related to the Capone gang, other organizations, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and gangland killings.



Al Capone's Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago during Prohibition by John J. Binder.

01 June 2017

June 1, 1948: Death of a Blues Legend


On this date in 1948, bluesman John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson (not to be confused with another musician who had appropriated his name), was murdered during a robbery in Chicago, IL. 

Williamson was walking home after playing a gig at Chicago’s Plantation Club when he was attacked by a man armed with an icepick. His last words were reported to have been, “Lord have mercy.” Details of the crime are hard to come by, but there is no indication that the killer was ever brought to justice.

Here’s Sonny Boy performing his 1947 hit “Shake the Boogie.”

 

 Further reading:

 Biography.com - Sonny Boy Williamson

 Encyclopedia Britannica - Sonny Boy Williamson (American Musician)

The Blues Harp Page – Sonny Boy Williamson I

 Fact Monster – Sonny Boy Williamson

 Wikipedia – Sonny Boy Williamson I

30 May 2017

Zanghi 'squeals' after brother's murder

On this date in 1927, two men were felled by shotgun and automatic pistol fire as they chatted outside a South Philadelphia restaurant. The shooting resulted in unprecedented cooperation with law enforcement by a Philadelphia gang leader and the arrest and (largely unsuccessful) prosecution of local Mafia leadership.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927.
The location of the shooting was the Cafe Calabria, 824 South Eighth Street near Christian Street. Gunmen positioned in the area coordinated with others in a passing automobile for the carefully planned 6 p.m. attack.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi, 27, an arrogant gang boss who regularly found himself in as much trouble with other underworld figures as he was with law enforcement officers, was the apparent target of the gunmen. But he avoided any injury, reportedly by ducking for cover at just the right moment.

Zanghi's little brother Joseph, 19, and underworld colleague Vincent "Scabby" Cocozza, 31, were not as fortunate. They were hit by flying lead as they stood near Musky on the sidewalk. A slug penetrated the center of Joseph Zanghi's forehead, killing him instantly. Scabby was shot multiple times. He died minutes after arrival at Pennsylvania Hospital.

One of the witnesses to the double-murder was a six-year-old Alfred "Freddy" Cocozza, nephew of the slain Vincent Cocozza. Years later, Freddy Cocozza embarked on a fabulously successful singing career using the name Mario Lanza.

Vincent Cocozza death certificate

Early accounts of the shooting were vague. Some reports said Joseph Zanghi and Vincent Cocozza were shot while waiting for Musky to finish dinner at the Giardino di Torrena restaurant next door at 822 South Eighth Street.

Musky was so enraged by the killing of his brother that he provided detectives with a detailed story of the incident and formally accused a number of Philadelphia-area men of taking part in it. Police officials said it was the first time they recalled any crime figure of Zanghi's rank breaking the underworld's "code of silence."

According to his story, he and Cocozza had been in Atlantic City, New Jersey, earlier in the day. Upon their return to Philadelphia, Anthony Zanghi was warned to stay out of sight, as gunmen from out of town were looking for him.  Zanghi did not follow the advice.

Minutes before six o'clock, Musky and Cocozza encountered local Mafiosi Salvatore Sabella and John "Big Nose" Avena along Eighth Street. Sabella and Avena greeted Zanghi with unusual warmth, patting him on the shoulders and inquiring about his health.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi
"I knew they were a couple of [John] Scopoletti's men, and it struck me funny that they were making so much fuss over me," Zanghi told detectives. (Zanghi believed that Scopoletti was the boss of the local Mafia at the time. That appears to have been an error.)

Cocozza walked on and bumped into Joseph Zanghi, who was on his way to meet his brother. The two men stopped to talk, while Anthony Zanghi worked to extract himself from the Sicilian gangsters.

Zanghi told investigators that he spotted a few Scopoletti men sneak around a corner. Certain that something was up, he stepped away from Sabella and Avena. At that moment, a blue sedan sped around the corner from Christian Street and Sabella and Avena and other men on the street drew pistols.

Musky dove for cover as the weapons from the sidewalk and the street opened fire. As Scabby and Joseph collapsed, the gunmen on the sidewalk jumped onto the sides of the automobile and were quickly carried away.

Hearing this story, police gathered up Scopoletti, Sabella, Avena, Joseph Ida, Dominick Festa, Luigi Quaranta and Dominick Pollina. They also arrested four men from New Brunswick, New Jersey, who showed up to meet with the Mafiosi as the arrests were being made. The New Jersey suspects were identified as Norman Marsella, Nicholas Messino, Joseph Bruno and John Marco.

Early on the morning of May 31, an emotional Zanghi identified all of the Philadelphia men in a police lineup, calling the suspects "dirty dogs" and "dirty rats." As he first saw the lineup, he called out, "There's the dirty rats that killed my brother. Let me get at them." According to reports, Zanghi decked Sabella with a single punch to his head.

After making the identifications, the gang leader wept: "I've done something I never thought any cop could ever make me do. I've squealed. I'll be killed now for sure, but I don't care. My brother is dead, and I loved my brother."

Zanghi provided police with information on underworld activities, including regional trafficking in liquor, narcotics and women. Police also learned that Zanghi's organization had been shaking down saloons in the region that did business with his bootlegging competitors, a possible motive for the Mafiosi to wish to eliminate Zanghi.

A short time later, there was reason to doubt Zanghi's stated determination to see his brother's killers brought to justice. Musky went missing. Luigi Quaranta was tried and convicted during his absence. Quaranta was later given a new trial because Zanghi - his original accuser - had been unavailable for cross examination.

Defense witnesses testified that Zanghi falsely identified the suspects. One witness testified that Zanghi privately admitted he did so in order to extort large payments from the Mafiosi. Zanghi's disappearance was said to be evidence that he had received a payment. He soon returned to Philadelphia, but he had little credibility left. None of the other murder suspects were convicted.

Anthony Zanghi remained a racketeer. Suspected of the 1928 murder of Anthony Denni, he left Pennsylvania and began operating in New York under the name of William Martino. Musky was shot to death in Manhattan's Little Italy, on Mulberry Street between Canal and Hester, on August 7, 1934. Police believed that Zanghi business partner Anthony Cugino, then in hiding, killed Zanghi after an argument related to a currency counterfeiting operation. Zanghi's widow, Antoinette, was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted of working in the same counterfeiting racket. Police tracked down Cugino the following year. He hanged himself in a holding cell at New York City Police Headquarters on September 8, 1935, before he could be arraigned for his partner's murder.


Sources:
  • Joseph Zanghi Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 47793, reg. no. 12335, filed June 1, 1927.
  • Vincent Cocozza Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 46043, reg. no. 12345, filed June 1, 1927.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 18199, Aug. 7, 1934, Ancestry.com.
  • Register of Interments, Mt. Moriah, Philadelphia PA, Ancestry.com.


  • "2 slain in street by gunmen firing from racing auto," Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927, p. 1
  • "Gangsters kill 2 men," Wilmington DE Evening Journal, May 31, 1927, p. 8.
  • "Use pump guns in gang warfare," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Two men slain on street corner," Pittsburgh Press, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Breaks gang law in helping cops nab brother's slayers," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1927, p. 6.
  • "Gang chief names seven as slayers' bares crime ring," Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Scopeletti trial nearly disrupted by 'buying' charge," Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "New trial in killings," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 30, 1927, p. 2.
  • "Gangster killed in crowded street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1934, p. 11.
  • "Zanghi widow held as bad bill passer," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 19, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Ex-inmate of Maryland pen, wholesale killer, hangs himself in cell," Baltimore Sun, Sept. 9, 1935, p. 20.

29 May 2017

Chicago's Genna is laid to rest


On this date in 1925, Chicago Mafia leader Angelo Genna was laid to rest at Mount Carmel Cemetery in the village of Hillside, west of the Windy City. Observers said his funeral was as spectacular as that of his gangland rival Dean O'Banion half a year earlier.

The twenty-seven-year-old Genna was shot to death earlier in the week while driving in his roadster. Authorities determined that four shotguns fired at him from an automobile that pulled alongside of his. Genna's car smashed into a lamppost at Hudson and Ogden Avenues. Genna was taken to the hospital, where he died a few hours later without providing any statement about his killers. Family members also had no useful information for police and insisted that Genna, who had been involved in gangland conflicts for years and was once tried for murder, hadn't an enemy in the world.

Decatur Herald May 30, 1925
 Catholic officials denied Genna a church funeral, but a priest from Holy Guardian Church visited to pray with family members. A wake was held at the home of Genna's in-laws, the Spingolas, at Taylor Street near Halsted. (The Spingolas had become Genna's in-laws just a few months earlier at a lavish wedding that reportedly featured a one-ton wedding cake.)

As thousands, including judges, politicians and federal officials, visited the Spingola home to pay their respects, the home and the sidewalk outside became filled with enormous floral tributes. Chicago Tribune reporter Genevieve Forbes Herrick noted that notorious bootlegger Johnny Torrio, then in prison, sent a large vase constructed of pink and white carnations. Herrick went on to describe additional offerings:

There were bachelor buttons from the "Boys from Cicero;" a pile of blood red roses from the widow; a heart of pinks from the boys at Spingola's garage; peonies from "Diamond Joe" Esposito; lilies from Al Capone; a mass of flowers from "Samoots" Amatuna; more flowers from the Genna boys, still more from the Spingolas, and so until they spilled out of 31 limousines on the way to the cemetery.

Another source indicated that Capone's impressive eight-foot-tall floral piece was not his only contribution. The gang boss was said to have helped arrange the funeral.

Herrick noted that Genna's wounds were carefully concealed within the open casket at the wake. "The rich folds of the purple robe swathing his body hid the dozen or so bullet wounds, ugly things, which four enemies had poured into him...," she wrote.

At 10 o'clock, Friday morning, May 29, pall bearers from the Unione Siciliana carefully moved Genna's heavy $6,000 casket - said to be bronze with silver trim and the occupant's name written in gold - to the waiting hearse. A published report estimated the weight of the casket at 1,200 pounds.

A band played as the funeral cortege - a mile and a half long - made its way to the cemetery. An estimated 20,000 people lined the narrow streets of Chicago's Little Italy to view the spectacle. Genna's remains were interred in a $10,000 vault a short distance from O'Banion's gravesite.

Sources:
  • Angelo Genna death certificate, Cook County, State of Illinois, reg. no. 29944, filed Nov. 19, 1925, original reg. no. 1006, filed May 28, 1925.
  • Herrick, Genevieve Forbes, "New rich rum chief slain by gunmen in car," Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1925, p. 2.
  • "Feudist's death may renew war," Decatur IL Herald, May 27, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Splendor will surround Genna funeral today," Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1925, p. 3.
  • Herrick, Genevieve Forbes, "Chicago ne'er had funeral like Genna's," Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1925, p. 1.
  • "Funeral pomp awes Chicago's 'Little Italy,'" Decatur IL Herald, May 30, 1925, p. 1.
Link:

24 May 2017

On This Day in 1933: Lepke & Lucky Linked to Broadway Shootout



The well-dressed patrons of Broadway's evening thoroughfare likely expected to be wowed and dazzled by any number of eateries, cabarets or simply the neon lit spectacle.  Slugs from automatic shotguns? The unmistakable scent of gunpowder? A wildly out of control car chase?  No, these were not what visitors  foresaw, but a loud outdoor show they most certainly did get, and it ended with bloody collateral damage.

Irene Savage
On May 25th, 1933, As people were filtering in and out of various establishments around Manhattan's 80th and 81st street, two sedans raced by (one report claimed three vehicles were involved), with one vehicle's occupants visibly the aggressor, firing high-powered shotguns and/or machine guns at the other.  The gun battling pursuit, though short-lived, ended when the presumed dominant car sped off east on 81st while the bullet-ridden loser vehicle crashed into a fence on 84th.  All of the firefight participants escaped - including two bloodied, limping mobsters who fled the wrecked vehicle.  The shooting, however, put three of four civilian victims in the hospital:  Irene Savage, 24, took a bullet in the shoulder, Walter O' Donald, a visiting shopper from Hornell New York, suffered a presumed minor scalp grazing via shotgun slug, Sadie Fontine, 45, suffered the worst injuries, hit directly with a bullet in the back and shrapnel in her hips. Edward Safern, whose car was struck by stray bullets, suffered no physical injuries.

Waxey Gordon
Despite plenty of witnesses  the only physical evidence retrieved from the scene - blood throughout the crashed car, two pearl colored fedoras with New Jersey haberdashery labels, car registration to an 'Edward Rosen' of the Bronx, and the inch think glass of the vehicle windshield.  The thick car windows were obviously intentional 'bullet proofing' (though proved a failure against the high powered rounds), the hats helped in the police theory that a bootlegging war involving Irving Wexler, aka Waxey Gordon could be the motive, but upon following up the registration lead... it appeared Edward Rosen was a manufactured name, and the vehicle didn't belong to anyone at the given address in the Bronx.

"As police locked the trio up, they announced they had definite information that a beer war between Gordon and two men whom they named as Louis "Lefty" Buckhalter and Charles Luciano, has been ended by a truce." - Associated Press, September 1, 1933.


Lepke Buchalter 1933
It took a few months for all the puzzle pieces to fall into place, climaxing when police pinned charges on Charles 'Chink' Sherman, his brother Henry, and Jack Weinstein.  The trio had already been in custody for other weapons and narcotics charges, and were noted as being "the few remaining members of the Waxey Gordon Gang."  Although the three men denied any participation in the May 25th shootings, information led police to identify two other involved individuals, both of whom carrying reputations  known to certain law enforcement entities, yet not very familiar to the larger public.  Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter and Charles Luciano.  Indeed, in 1933 neither man was a household name, but within the underworld they possessed quite a resume and status.
Lucky Luciano 1931

Waxey Gordon, once allied with Luciano, Lepke, Meyer Lansky, and so on, had been losing favor with the group and feuds erupted between the factions, which included Dutch Schultz who, at the time, was in good graces with the likes of Luciano.  Some theorize it was Meyer Lansky who filtered tips to police that eventually put Gordon away on narcotics charges.  In any case, Gordon was in jail, several allies had been murdered both in New York and Los Angeles, and 'Chink' Sherman's fate would be far worse than that of the innocent bystanders caught in his gang's fusillade. 


Sherman, who had bad blood with Dutch Schultz dating back to knife and gunfights in 1931, met the grim reaper in 1935. His body... discovered in a shallow lime pit within a barn in Monticello New York.  Sherman had been shot in the arm, his skull showed a bullet wound and that of a blow from a fire axe, presumably.  The property where the body was found belonged to the Drucker family.  It took another five years before the connection was made that Sherman's grave was one of several in the region, and that  one of the property owners -  Jack Drucker - served as an icepick wielding member of Murder Inc. The greater gangland irony - Schultz, who also eventually fell out good graces with the fellas, was gunned down by Murder Inc. henchmen barely two weeks before Chink Sherman got whacked. Further, 1935 was also the year that Charles Luciano's name escalated into public recognition,  having made much larger headlines in regard to theories of who may have ordered the Dutch Schultz murder.





Sources:
AP. "Gang Gunners Hit Two Women On Broadway." Geneva Daily Times. 25 May 1933. P.3.
"Auto Gun Duel Injuring Three Laid to Beer Feud." Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 25 May 1933. P. 8.
Cipollini, Christian. "Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend." Strategic Media Books. 2014.
AP. "Sherman, One of Few Left Of Gordon's Gang, Nabbed." Buffalo Courier Express. 1 September 1933. P. 3.









19 May 2017

The Long Black Veil: The Widows of Frankie Yale

Before 1925, women associated with mobsters were rarely seen in the newspapers.  The mob funeral, which spawned a mid-1920s genre of photojournalism, would lift the blackout on mob women and their children.

With Prohibition, newspapers kept mob activity in the face of the law-abiding.  It was a time when everybody read the paper.  While gangland hits were making the front page, some vestiges of Edwardian morality kept most gangsters' molls away from the camera lens.  With the mob funeral, photojournalists at last found a tasteful way to portray the mystery women connected to gangland. 

Summer in the city and gangland murders made for dramatic sendoffs.  By 1925, the war between the Torrio/Capone and Genna factions raged on Chicago's West Side.  On June 13th, Mike Genna of the alcohol-making Genna family was mortally wounded in a battle with police officers.  Angelo Genna had been killed three weeks prior on May 26th, and Anthony "Tony" Genna would die on July 8th.



Aerial photos of the Genna corteges lining the streets showed a strange ink blot.  Closer inspection revealed a cluster of black-garbed women of the Genna family, bereaved of sons and lovers.









New York reporters would not be outdone by Chicago.  On July 1, 1928, Frankie Uale, whose ethnic name was often anglicized to "Frankie Yale," became the first recorded New York mob boss to die in a submachine gun ambush.  (Some initial accounts attributed his wounds, which rendered him unrecognizable, to a shotgun blast.) 

Yale, a strikebreaker, racketeer and fixer in the parlance of the day, was a Capone associate.  He is said to have been the assassin of  "Big Jim" Colosimo.  Uale was killed as he drove his expensive sedan down a Brooklyn street in broad daylight.  A car bearing Illinois or Indiana license plates fired six shots aimed at his head.  His car crashed through a fence and stopped in a yard as pedestrians ran for cover. 

The press covered the lavish funeral from a unique angle.  Frankie Yale had not one but two widows, each with her own children in attendance.  No aerial or bird's eye view of this event would satisfy photographers, who used close-up techniques to snap tear-stained faces hiding beneath yards of black tulle.   

There was the "aging Mrs. Maria Yale with her two children..." and there was "the other woman, Lucienda, for whom the gangland emperor deserted Maria."

Public records indicate the likelihood that Maria (nee' Pea) might have been the only Mrs. Frankie Uale.  The two were married on March 1, 1917 in Brooklyn.  No record of a divorce or subsequent remarriage is recorded for Frankie Uale in New York City.


Sources: 

March 3, 1929, 'Chicago Gangland:  The True Story of its Murders, its Vices and its Reprisals," by James O'Donnell Bennett, Chicago Daily Tribune

July 2, 1928, "Rich Flowers Smell of Guns and Revenge," New York Daily News.

Kings County Groom Index

Photos:  Collection of author




  

18 May 2017

Another King falls


Thirty-eight year old Bill Kirkillis was a former Chicago hoodlum who had moved to Massillon, Ohio, and had become known as the "King of Columbia Heights," a section of that city. On this date back in 1931, Kirkillis was exiting an apartment and heading for his car when a gunman opened fire on him. One of the four shots plowed into his right side and made it to his hear, killing him.

Kirkillis had been recently released from the workhouse where he did a stint for stabbing a man. He had also been picked up on suspicion of killing another. However, police believe that Kirkillis was  bumped off for tipping off Federal Prohibition agents about speakeasies belonging to his rivals.

 


16 May 2017

88 years ago: Capone arrested in Philadelphia



May 16, 1929 - Chicago crime lord Al Capone and his lieutenant, Frank Rio, were stopped by police detectives outside the Stanley Theatre, southwest corner of Nineteenth and Market Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Washington Post
May 17, 1929
The notorious gangsters insisted they were in Philadelphia to kill only time, while waiting for the next Chicago-bound train. Detectives found that both men had handguns. Capone and Rio were arrested for carrying concealed deadly weapons.

Authorities determined that Capone and Rio were returning from an underworld peace conference at Atlantic City, New Jersey, when automobile problems caused them to miss the afternoon Broad Way Limited train at the North Philadelphia Station. The next train was scheduled to leave North Philadelphia some hours later, and the two gangsters decided to relax in the theater.

Capone's surprising stay in Pennsylvania began with a night in police lockup and would stretch on to a year. Treating the charge dismissively, the next day the Chicago boss and his aide pleaded guilty. They appeared stunned when Judge John E. Walsh sentenced them to one year sentences in state prison.

The U.S. press immediately began speculating that Capone orchestrated his arrest and conviction in order to escape the vengeance of underworld rivals. Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred only three months earlier. Some claimed that former Chicago underworld leader Johnny Torrio had come out of retirement to order Capone to have himself arrested so things in the Windy City could cool down.
 

"Al Capone's long stay in Philly" 
in this back issue of Informer.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/112621

Gone Fishin'

Police had been searching the Cincinnati area for all around bad man Jack Parker. Parker, 35, operated out of the city of Hamilton, Ohio, and was known as a bank robber, gunman and killer. Police wanted him in connection with the murder of a man in a Kentucky roadhouse.

Since the murder, Parker had been hiding out in a fishing camp. On this day in 1928 some visitors picked him up at his hideout and took him for a ride, literally. The following day his body was found in a shallow pool of water at the bottom of an embankment. Police reasoned that he had been riding in the back seat of the car when the person in the front  passenger seat turned, and shot him in the face four times. He was then dragged from the car and rolled down the embankment. Cincinnati gunman Robert Zwick was subsequently credited with the killing.


15 May 2017

Perhaps he should have knocked first



On this date in 1932, two Detroit gangsters, Sam and Andrew Farrera. were doing some business in Toledo, Ohio when some local gangsters decided that they didn’t need any Motor City hoodlums muscling in. The Farreras, and another guy, were parked in their cousin's driveway when a car load of rivals pulled up and opened fire. The windshield of the Ferraras’ car shattered, sending glass into Sam’s eyes. His vision impaired, Sam managed to slip from the car and dive through a basement window. His brother caught a bullet in the hand.


After the first barrage, the attackers pulled around the corner and one of them, John Incorvaia, alias Engoria, 33, jumped from the auto and returned to the house with an automatic pistol. Not bothering to knock, Incorvaia rushed into the house and opened fire. Moments later he dropped dead with two bullet wounds, one of which pierced his head. Mabel Candela, a cousin of the Ferreras, confessed to the shooting saying that she fired in self-defense.