Showing posts with label Wyandotte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wyandotte. Show all posts

05 July 2019

New Book about the Detroit Mafia


It gives me great pleasure to present to you my fourth work; Vìnnitta: The Birth of the Detroit Mafia. This book is probably the most difficult one I have attempted yet. It had its origins in the early research that I was doing into the Purple Gang and other Prohibition-era gangs in the city. By the autumn of 1999, I had begun to notice repeated yet vague references to a gangster named Sam Giannola, who I had never heard of before. Further investigation revealed to me the existence of the so-called “Giannola-Vitale War,” which had apparently taken place in Detroit from 1918–1921, a few years before the Purple Gang had even come to power. Accounts of this conflict were conflicting and intriguing, with some claiming that over one hundred men had been killed during its duration. I took my first stab at fleshing out the story of the Giannola-Vitale War in my first attempt at a book during the winter of 2000–2001.

As the years passed, my research uncovered a lot of different factors and stories behind the rise of the city’s Mafia family. Some names, such as Giannola and Vitale, may have been known to criminologists while others, such as Caruso and Mirabile, were not. It is my hope that this work will provide a thorough look at the turbulent first years of the Detroit Mafia, culminating with the conclusion of the Giannola-Vitale feud in 1921. Complete portraits of the three Giannola brothers are drawn for the first time, as well as rivals such as John Vitale, Pete Mirabile and the two Adamo brothers. A fresh examination is also given to the Castellammare feud between the Buccellato, Bonanno, Bonventre, and Magaddino families.  
Giannola protégé and future Mafia boss Giuseppe "Pippinu" Zerilli

Early Detroit Mafia boss Sam Giannola.


In addition to giving an in-depth examination of the Mafia, I have also tried to recreate life in Detroit’s old Italian quarter and illuminate some individuals whose lives were affected either directly or indirectly by the gangsters, from the undertaker who ultimately ends up preparing many of his friends for burial during the violent underworld feuds; the deaf-mute barber who risks his life to provide information about Mafia crimes to the police; a frustrated housewife who longs for a wealthier life and gets in over her head with the Mafia or the group of hard-working Italian-born police detectives who tirelessly tried to bring the mafiùsi to justice. 

Special thanks to Scott Burnstein, James Buccellato, Thomas Hunt, and Richard Warner for helping to bring this work to fruition. 

Copies of Vinnitta can be purchased at the following links;

A link to a recent review of Vinnitta;

A link to a related article;

03 May 2017

Michigan mobster Joe Tocco succumbs

May 3, 1938: At four o'clock in the afternoon, Detroit Mafioso Joe Tocco died at Wyandotte General Hospital of gunshot wounds suffered the previous night.

Tocco, a native of Terrasini, Sicily, was regarded as a leader of the Detroit area's West Side gang and may have succeeded as boss of that organization following the February 7, 1931, murder of boss Cesare "Chester" LaMare. Authorities knew him as the "beer baron of Wyandotte" and as organizer of rackets in downriver communities. He had been arrested eleven times since 1915 - on charges including murder, arson, bootlegging and income tax evasion - but had never been convicted. At the time of his murder, he was the proprietor of the Kitty Kat Beer Garden, 635 South Bayside Avenue. About six months earlier, he shut down a gambling establishment.

At nine-thirty in the evening of May 2, Tocco parked his scarlet red sedan on Antoine Street and emerged. Shots were immediately fired at him from a shotgun and a revolver. Tocco ran from the car to the rear door of 215 Antoine Street, home of his longtime friend James Palazzola. As he ran, the guns continued to fire.

The gunfire halted as Tocco stumbled through the doorway into Palazzola's kitchen. Tony Bozzo, a neighbor of Palazzola, took Tocco to the hospital. Police interviewed Tocco in his hospital room, but the Mafioso claimed he was unable to identify the shooters.

Early in the morning of May 3, Tocco received a blood transfusion from his brother Peter and went into surgery. Doctors tended to six bullet wounds in the gang boss's back. Four slugs were removed. The damage to Tocco's internal organs was too great to repair. Tocco died of internal hemorrhage that afternoon.

Detroit Free Press, May 4, 1938.
An hour after his death, some children, playing in a field about 100 yards from the scene of the Tocco shooting, found a sawed-off shotgun in a ditch. Police determined that the gun had been fired twice and then jammed. It contained four unfired shells.

The authorities considered the possibility that Tocco was killed as the result of a romantic affair. While he was married and had children, Tocco was reportedly spending a good deal of his time with Mrs. Gina Rossi, wife of a former Tocco business partner. There was also suspicion that out-of-town gunmen had been brought in to murder Tocco. The previous Friday, two men asked Wyandotte police officers for directions to Tocco's beer garden establishment.

It appears that Tocco may have been eliminated in order to cement a new East-West alliance in the Detroit underworld. In later years, the Detroit Mafia, commanded by Joseph Zerilli, William "Black Bill" Tocco (said to be no relation of Joe Tocco) and Angelo Meli, was referred to by such nicknames as "The Partnership" and "The Combination."

Sources:

  • "LaMare, lord of West Side, assassinated," Escanaba MI Daily Press, Feb. 8, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Police arm to trap steel-clad gangster," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 11, 1931, p. 2.
  • "Tocco, Sciacca freed on bail," Detroit Free Press, Dec. 11, 1931, p. 8.
  • "Blasts wreck Tocco's home," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 22, 1932, p. 1.
  • "Police discover evidence of arson in debris of bootleg king's abode," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 23, 1932, p. 13.
  • "Ex-run chief shot in gang war outbreak," Port Huron MI Times Herald, May 3, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Two men and a woman sought in Tocco slaying," Detroit Free Press, May 4, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Joe Tocco, ex-beer baron, dies with lips sealed on identity of slayer," Lansing MI State Journal, May 4, 1938, p. 1.
  • "Detroit tavern keeper killed," Escanaba MI Daily Press, May 4, 1938, p. 2.
  • "Tocco's love affairs probed as police question relatives," Detroit Free Press, May 5, 1938, p. 1.
  • Michigan Deaths and Burials Index, Ancestry.com.


Additional information on Prohibition Era Detroit and its involvement in the U.S. Mafia's Castellammarese War can be found in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Vol. 1 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona