Showing posts with label Dragna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dragna. Show all posts

20 July 2018

SoCal Mafia tries (again) to take out Cohen

On this date in 1949...

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles area gambling czar Mickey Cohen, a frequent target of Mafia assassination attempts, was shot as he left a Sunset Strip eatery in the wee hours of July 20, 1949. Three companions, including a state agent assigned to guard Cohen, also were wounded in the attack.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Edward Herbert in front of Sherry's
Cohen, then thirty-five, his thirty-eight-year-old aide Edward "Neddie" Herbert, twenty-six-year-old actress Dee David and state agent Harry Cooper emerged from Sherry's Restaurant, 9039 Sunset Boulevard, just before 4 o'clock in the morning and approached Cohen's black Cadillac. Shotguns erupted from across the street. Cohen inexplicably crouched just as the guns went off and, as a result, was the least wounded of the group. He took a slug to the right shoulder.

Edward Herbert, a recent addition to Cohen's gang and the scarred survivor of another recent gangland attack, was struck by several slugs. His spinal cord was damaged, and he was instantly paralyzed from the midsection down. He lingered near death for about a week, as doctors tried surgery and blood transfusions. He died of his wounds and complications on Thursday morning, July 28.

Los Angeles Times
Cooper and Cohen
shortly before the shooting
Dee David was wounded in her back. She was treated at Citizens Emergency Hospital. She recovered quickly.

Two large-caliber slugs struck Harry Cooper in the abdomen. Cooper had recently been assigned - somewhat curiously - by state Attorney General Frederick Howser to serve as a bodyguard for Cohen. As Howser made that appointment, he also urged city and county law enforcement agencies to steer clear of Cohen. Cooper was rushed to Hollywood Receiving Hospital. His condition was critical for some time, but the agent eventually recovered.

The gunmen were well positioned for their escape. They lurked behind tall grass and brush on an old abandoned building foundation. A stairway behind the foundation led downhill into the backyard of 9035 Harratt Street. After firing into Cohen and his companions, the gunmen fled down the stairway, through the Harratt Street home's yard and down a residential driveway. They climbed into a waiting automobile and sped away.

Underworld celebrity

Cohen had been often in the news since the June 20, 1947, Beverly Hills murder of his friend and underworld associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Authorities believed that Cohen controlled gambling throughout southern California following Siegel's killing. In the summer of 1948, Cohen survived an assassination attempt.

Cohen
The following March, seven Cohen gangsters were arrested fleeing from the scene of the brutal beating of Alfred Pearson. When certain police officials ordered that the gangsters not be charged and that records relating to their arrest be destroyed, a grand jury investigation was launched. The investigation exposed Cohen connections to law enforcement and resulted in conspiracy indictments against Cohen, a number of Cohen henchmen, three police officers, an attorney and a local businessman. Trial was originally scheduled for June 27, 1949, but later postponed to October.

In May 1949, police determined that another attempt had been made on Cohen's life. The gang boss's car was reportedly brought to a local garage with bullet holes in its body and blood staining its interior.

Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron was bothered by reports of corruption in the police department. On July 15, 1949, less than a week before the shooting at Sherry's Restaurant, Bowron went to the radio airwaves to promise the citizens of Los Angeles that graft would be exposed. "I want to know what police officers have received favors from Mickey Cohen or his mob and all matters relating to bookie operations within the city," the mayor stated. "I want to know if there are any possible connections between police officers and organized crime in any way at all..."

Attorney General Howser's assignment of agent Cooper to guard Cohen came to light just one day before the shooting.

Los Angeles Times

Investigation

Cohen recovered from his wound while under heavy police guard at the Queen of Angels Hospital. Though he told investigators he had no idea who was responsible for the shooting, there was reason to believe he was lying.

Some in the hospital overheard a Cohen telephone conversation on July 23. Cohen, obviously angry, said into the phone, "I know who did it. They've crippled me for life. Can't use my right arm. But I'll take care of them in my own way. The investigators keep coming up, keep asking me who did it. That's the end. I can handle this and I will handle it."

Jack Dragna
The Los Angeles Times reported on the conversation in its July 24 issue. The authorities questioned Cohen about it that day. But he denied the conversation occurred at all and insisted he did not know who the gunmen were.

The police identified three suspects and brought them in for questioning. Joseph E. Messina, a former barber who was believed involved in gambling, was interrogated and released. Tony Brancato, a Kansas City mobster who relocated to southern California, was taken into custody on July 24 on a charge of suspicion of attempted murder. A Brancato associate, Anthony Trombino, surrendered to authorities on July 25. Brancato and Trombino were released on the twenty-seventh.

Cohen checked himself out of the hospital against his doctor's orders on July 29, in order to attend the funeral services for Edward Herbert. Following the services at Willen Mortuary on Santa Monica Boulevard, Herbert's remains were transported by plane to New York City for burial. Cohen intended to fly to New York and even made plane reservations but changed his mind at the last minute and went to his home. He later told the press, "It would cause too much commotion. It wouldn't do any good to go East now." Cohen reportedly paid $1,500 in hospital bills for himself, Edward Herbert and Dee David and several thousand dollars for Herbert's copper coffin.

Detectives seemed to be on the right track as they connected the shooting at Sherry's Restaurant with underworld gambling rivalries, particularly the long rivalry between Cohen and the Dragna Mafia clan of Los Angeles.

Near the end of July, Ignatius "Jack" Dragna was questioned. Dragna admitted knowing Cohen and also admitted attempting to compete with Cohen's organization in a horse-race wire service racket some years earlier. But Dragna claimed he long ago gave up on that racket and knew nothing about the shooting.

The case remained unsolved.

Weasel's account

Several decades later, Mafia turncoat Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno revealed what he knew of the incident. According to Fratianno, Mafia boss Jack Dragna was obsessed with the idea of killing Cohen and enormously frustrated with Cohen's series of lucky escapes.

Fratianno said Dragna ordered Dominic "Jimmy Regace" Brooklier and Arthur "Army" DiMaria to ambush Cohen outside Sherry's. Their getaway car, according to Fratianno, was driven by Simone Scozzari.

None of those individuals were charged in connection with the shooting that killed Edward Herbert and wounded Cohen, Cooper and David.

Dragna died in February 1956. The next year, Simone Scozzari was one of the Mafiosi noted at the Apalachin, New York, Mafia convention. Scozzari rose to the position of underboss of the Los Angeles Mafia. He was deported to Italy in 1962.

DiMaria reportedly remained a soldier in the crime family. He died in 1972, nine years before being publicly accused of murder by Fratianno.

Brooklier was a recent addition to the crime family at the time of the Cohen shooting, and his assignment as a gunman was intended to test his mettle. His botching of the Cohen hit did not prevent him from rising within the organization. Brooklier became boss of the crime family in the mid-1970s. His poor handling of the organization and hostility toward Fratianno helped convince Fratianno to cooperate with the FBI. Brooklier died in federal custody in 1984.

Mickey Cohen, Dragna's longtime nemesis and longtime target, died of natural causes in the summer of 1976.

Sources:
  • "Jury investigating Cohen case summons four more witnesses," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Bowron asks grand jury action in police scandal," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen jailed, officers get suspensions," San Bernardino County CA Sun, March 23, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen to appear at grand jury's inquiry," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Two Mickey Cohen pals arrested in Phoenix home," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Attorney halted booking of Cohen gang, jury told," Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Jury investigating Cohen case summons four more witnesses," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen, three police officers and nine others indicted in conspiracy," Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Last two Cohen men surrender in beating case," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1949, p. 23.
  • "Cohen and 12 others to go on trial June 27," Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1949, p. 2.
  • "New search starts for Allen records," Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Court postpones Mickey Cohen and henchmen's trial," Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1949, p. 6.
  • "Bowron vows all-out inquiry of police graft," Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1949, p. 2.
  • "Howser assigns officer to protect Mickey Cohen," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Gang guns wound Cohen and 3 aides," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Circumstances aid escape of gunmen," Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1949, p. 6.
  • "Mickey Cohen, henchmen blasted in gang warfare," Santa Rosa CA Press Democrat, July 21, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Cohen lets it slip, he knows assailants," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Angry Cohen refuses to tell who shot him," Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Control of race information seen as Cohen attack motive," Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Sheriff acts to bar gangs from strip," Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Cohen fails to fly east as planned," Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Former Cohen rival quizzed in shooting," Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Explosion near home upsets Mickey Cohen," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3, 1949, p. 2.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno, New York: Times Books, 1981, 36-37.
  • Feather, Bill, "Los Angeles membership chart 1920-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, Nov. 7, 2017. 
  • Murphy, Kim, "The godfather's son," Los Angeles Times Magazine, Sept. 17, 1989, p. 14.

05 June 2018

Buckshot finishes Tampa big shot

On this date in 1950:



James Lumia, businessman, gambling rackets boss and Tampa Mafia leader, was in his car, double-parked on 19th Street near Harper Street(*) in the Palmetto Beach neighborhood south of Ybor City. The headquarters of his gasoline and oil distributing company was close by. It was about 10 o'clock Monday morning, June 5, 1950, and he had stopped to give some instructions to employees Fernando Gil and Gaspar Montes, parked in a Chevrolet pickup used for oil company maintenance work.

James Lumia
As he spoke to the men through the passenger side window of his new, green, Chrysler sedan, a blue Ford pulled alongside and slightly in front of him. The driver of the Ford tapped his horn, causing Lumia to turn to his left and look out his window. A man rose from the Ford's back seat and fired a shotgun into Lumia's face.

The buckshot blast tore off the top front of Lumia's head, leaving a five-inch wound that stretched from "an inch or so below his eyes to some distance above the hair line." Blood, flesh and brain tissue were splattered about the inside of the vehicle. The gunman's car then drove off. In a futile effort to save his boss, Gil climbed into the driver's side of Lumia's car, pushing Lumia just enough to the right to allow him space on the seat, and raced off toward the hospital. Montes got the attention of off-duty Hillsborough County, Florida, Deputy Sheriff George Penegar, who was driving by, and told him to follow the gunman.

The speeding Chrysler caught Penegar's eye, and the deputy sheriff pursued it rather than the Ford. He stopped Gil at the busy intersection of 19th Street and Adamo Drive. Penegar seized a pistol found in the vehicle and called for an ambulance.

It took Lumia's forty-seven-year-old body nearly a half hour from the time of the shooting to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone else: Lumia was dead. His breathing reportedly continued for about fifteen minutes after he reached the hospital.

Lumia's funeral was held on Wednesday afternoon, June 7. He was entombed in the family mausoleum at L'Unione Italiana Cemetery.

Traffic is directed around the Lumia automobile.

Police investigators were quickly frustrated. Gil and Montes said they could not recall any helpful details about the gunman's car or its occupants. Their instincts for self-preservation may have clouded their memories.

There was reason to believe that the brothers of crime figure Jimmy Velasco, shot to death in 1948, had set up the killing of Lumia to avenge Jimmy. When Jimmy Velasco's accused killer, Joseph Provenzano, was brought to trial in 1949 (he was acquitted), Velasco's widow testified that Lumia was a leader of a regional gambling syndicate and an enemy of her husband.

Detectives questioned Roy and Arthur Velasco about the shooting of Lumia. Though neither was at all upset at learning of Lumia's demise, each provided alibis. The possibility that Lumia had a falling out with underworld figure Salvatore "Red" Italiano could not be pursued, as Italiano was known to be away in Italy, arranging wine deals for his Tampa business.

Lumia's name had been mentioned in the press recently in connection with the trial of several - including Roy and Arthur Velasco - who were accused of plotting to kill Hillsborough County Sheriff Hugh Culbreath. Defense attorneys suggested that the plot against Culbreath was fabricated by Lumia, Italiano and Primo Lazzara, working with Culbreath, in order to halt the Velasco brothers' investigation into Jimmy Velasco's murder. The defense wanted to call Lumia, Italiano and Lazzara as witnesses, but they could not be located. The trial was paused on May 11 at the request of the defense. At the time Lumia was murdered, he was scheduled to appear as a witness when the trial resumed in mid-June.

Lumia was known to be well connected politically and was found to have close acquaintances in the Mafia across the U.S. Within the Tampa area, Lumia had kinship ties to the Diecidue and Antinori clans. It was later revealed that the godfather of Lumia's son was Pittsburgh Mafia leader John LaRocca and that LaRocca attended the wedding of Lumia's daughter. (Pittsburgh area Mafia leader Gabriel Kelly Mannarino later served as godfather to a Lumia grandchild.) Upon the arrest of southern California crime boss Jack Dragna, Lumia's telephone number was found to be in Dragna's possession.

The interior of Lumia's Chrysler is examined.

Local police Chief J.L. Eddings told the press of rumors that Lumia worked in the background of the regional gambling syndicate. He noted, however, that Lumia had never been arrested.

A week and a half after the Lumia murder, with the investigation going nowhere, Chief Eddings announced his resignation. The fifty-year-old Eddings indicated that his doctor required him to take a long rest. In the same period, Hillsborough County Sheriff Culbreath and State's Attorney J. Rex Farrior were criticized for underworld links and failure to resolve a series of gangland killings.

Lumia was discussed when the U.S. Senate's Kefauver Committee investigated the impact of interstate rackets on Florida. One witness brought before the committee, the ex-wife of Deputy Sheriff DiLorenzo, said her ex-husband appeared to know about the Lumia murder before it occurred. She said Anthony DiLorenzo was familiar with Santo Trafficante and Primo Lazzara and served as a messenger between law enforcement and organized crime. The deputy sheriff indicated beforehand that he had some role to perform in connection with the Lumia murder. He told his wife that he wished he could get out of it, but "he was in it so deep that he couldn't get out." DiLorenzo allegedly told his wife years earlier that Lumia was "getting too big and someone had to stop him."

(*) These Tampa streets, 19th and Harper, no longer intersect.

Sources:
  • Images from June 6, 1950, issue of Tampa Tribune.
  • "Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce," Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate, 81st Congress, 2d Session, and 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Part 1-A Florida, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, p. 39-44.
  • "Investigation of Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce," Hearings Before a Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, U.S. Senate, 81st Congress, 2d Session, and 82nd Congress, 1st Session, Part 1-A Florida, Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, p. 49.
  • Forsyth, Thomas G. III, "Gabriel Mannarino," FBI report, file no. 92-2914-351, NARA no. 124-10277-10007, June 26, 1969, p. 2.
  • Voege, Robert A., "Sebastian John La Rocca," FBI report, file no. 92-2940-33, NARA no. 124-90104-10151, July 9, 1958, p. 11-12.

  • "Golden wedding today," Tampa Tribune, Aug. 12, 1945, p. 29.
  • "Funeral notices," Tampa Tribune, April 25, 1947, p. 2.
  • "Defendants accuse sheriff of frame-up," Palm Beach FL Post, May 12, 1950, p. 11.
  • "Rodrigez charges 'frameup,'" Tampa Tribune, May 12, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa murder plot suspects charge sheriff with frame-up," Tampa Tribune, May 12, 1950, p. 12.
  • "Tampa gambler murdered," Orlando FL Evening Star, June 5, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Lumia killed; described as gambling boss," Binghamton NY Press, June 5, 1950, p. 14.
  • "Gambler slain in gang-style," Franklin PA News-Herald, June 5, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Funeral notices," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 2.
  • Murray, J.A., "Two men in blue car...," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Warren silent on slaying of Luma; warning recalled," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • Abbott, Bill, "Lumia's slaying 15th spewed on Tampa by flaming gang guns," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "None of 15 gambling slayings here ever solved," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1950, p. 6.
  • "Fla. gambler is killed by gun blast," Shreveport LA Times, June 6, 1950, p. 15.
  • "Lumia murder may again baffle Tampa police force," Orlando FL Evening Star, June 6, 1950, p. 11.
  • "Tampa gang style killing puzzles police," Fort Lauderdale FL News, June 6, 1950, p. 13.
  • "Slaying of Lumia baffling to police," Tallahassee FL Democrat, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa gaming czar is slain," Palm Beach FL Post, June 6, 1950, p. 1.
  • "Tampa chief of police resigns," New York Times, June 16, 1950, p. 20.
  • "Crime probe of Miami underway," [Salem OR] Daily Capital Journal, Dec. 29, 1950, p. 2.
  • "Text of Rex Farrior's sworn statement to senators is released," Tampa Times, Feb. 22, 1951, p. 1.

13 May 2017

95 years ago: End of DiGiorgio

Feared California Mafia leader killed in Chicago barber chair

Chicago Tribune
May 14, 1922

May 13, 1922: Vito DiGiorgio, the leader of southern California's Mafia, was shot to death in a barbershop at Oak and Larrabee Streets in Chicago.

DiGiorgio, forty-three, was returning from a Mafia meeting in Buffalo, New York, and stopped off in Chicago for a couple of days. He, thirty-five-year-old James Cascio and an unidentified third man visited the barbershop of Salvatore DiBella and John Loiacono, 956 Larrabee Street. The location was in the center of a Sicilian neighborhood in Chicago's Near North End. DiGiorgio sat down in a barber's chair, while Cascio and the third man busied themselves at a pool table in a rear room.

Just a few minutes later, two gunmen burst into the shop and, without saying a word, shot DiGiorgio in the side of his head and put three bullets into Cascio. Both victims died of their wounds. The gunmen, accompanied by the man who entered the shop with DiGiorgio and Cascio, fled through a rear door.

Police found papers in DiGiorgio's pockets that linked him to an address on Dauphine Street in New Orleans. DiGiorgio had lived in New Orleans for years, managed a grocery business and earned his underworld reputation there before relocating to southern California. He may have returned to his home in the Crescent City after being wounded in an attempt on his life at Los Angeles in the summer of 1921.

New Orleans Daily
Picayune, June 12, 1908

Cascio was said to have Buffalo and New Orleans addresses.

DiGiorgio (image at left) appears to have been closely aligned with New York-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila and may have secured his position as southern California boss through D'Aquila's insistence. (D'Aquila inserted his personal representatives into crime family leadership positions in a number of U.S. cities, including Boston and Philadelphia.)

At the time, D'Aquila was attempting to consolidate power by moving against supporters of the former Giuseppe Morello regime in New York and elsewhere. A Los Angeles-area Mafia faction led by Jack Dragna and Salvatore Streva had connections with Morello.

Sources:
  • "The Serio explosion a Black Hand deed," New Orleans Daily Picayune, June 12, 1908, p. 1.
  • "Shot down by mystery assailants," Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1921, p. 13.
  • "Two men killed in Black Hand feud," Logansport IN Pharos-Tribune, May 13, 1922, p. 8.
  • "Double murder in 'Little Italy' baffles police," Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1922, p. 18.
  • Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  • Orleans Parish, Louisiana, Death Records Index, Ancestry.com.
  • United States Census of 1920, Louisiana, Orleans County, Precinct 2, Ward 8, Enumeration District 130.
  • Vito DiGiorgio World War I draft registration card, serial no. 1117, order no. A1450, Div. no. 7, New Orleans, Louisiana, Sept. 12, 1918.
See also:
http://amzn.to/2q08aOg

10 February 2017

On this date: Mafia executes SoCal informant

Bompensiero
On this date in 1977: Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero, a longtime leader of the southern California underworld, is shot to death near his apartment in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego.

At about 8:30 p.m., police found Bompensiero in a pool of blood on the sidewalk in front of an alley. Nearby were four spent .22-caliber cartridges and a cigar stub Bomp was chewing on when he was shot. The Mafioso had four bullet wounds in his head. One slug hit him in the neck near the spine. One entered through his right ear. Two cracked through his skull closely together, creating a large hole behind the ear. Bompensiero was declared dead on arrival at Mission Bay General Hospital.

Detectives found no witnesses. No one had even heard the shots fired. The authorities concluded that a silencer was used by the killer.

Some cash and a notebook were found in Bompensiero's pockets. The notebook held coded loansharking figures and telephone numbers for phone booths around the United States. Bompensiero was convinced that law enforcement agencies had tapped into his own home phone and the phones of other Mafiosi and only communicated with underworld associates through pay telephones. He was said to have been returning home from a nightly visit to a phone booth when he was shot.

The Milwaukee-born Bompensiero was well known to the police as a leading figure in the Los Angeles-based Dragna Crime Family. He was said to occupy the position of consigliere in the organization and to oversee rackets in the San Diego area. He had strong connections with mobsters across the country and in Mexico and was known to have been a close ally of the recently murdered Johnny Roselli.

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1977.

As the story of Bompensiero's assassination hit local newspapers, rumors surfaced that the San Diego underworld chieftain had been supplying information to the FBI for more than a decade. Several years later, Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno testified in federal court that southern California Mafia bosses ordered the murder of Bompensiero because he betrayed the underworld code of silence.

Read more about Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero.