|L.A.Times, Oct. 18, 1931|
Joseph E. Ardizzone, wealthy southern California ranch owner and Mafia chief, left his Sunland, Los Angeles, home about six-thirty in the morning of October 15, 1931, to visit relatives in Etiwanda. He was never seen again.
A day later, his brother Frank reported him missing. Police were informed that Ardizzone was making the trip from his Mount Gleason Avenue home to the Cuccia ranch at Etiwanda in order to pick up a cousin, Nick Borgia, who had recently arrived from Italy. Ardizzone was driving a dark blue Ford coupe.
Ardizzone was described as forty-five years old (he was almost forty-seven), five feet eleven inches tall, 220 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair. When last seen he was wearing a brown suit, brown tie and brown felt hat.
After searching the approximately fifty-mile route for almost a week, authorities had not turned up a single clue relating to his disappearance. Local police theorized that Ardizzone had been "taken for a ride," murdered and buried in a remote section of desert.
The Los Angeles Times noted that Ardizzone was known "as a man who settled many of the differences which existed from time to time among local Italian residents."
The newspaper also recalled that he had been the apparent target of an assassination attempt earlier in the year. In March, when Ardizzone and companion Jimmy Basile were starting home to Los Angeles from a dinner at Rosario DeSimone's home in Downey, they were overtaken on the Downey-Vernon Road by a large sedan. Shotguns fired at them. Basile was killed, and Ardizzone was seriously wounded.
Ardizzone staggered back to the DeSimone home with seven wounds in his back. DeSimone's son Leon, a doctor, administered first aid and summoned an ambulance to take Ardizzone to Hollywood Hospital.
Authorities speculated that Ardizzone and Basile were targeted as the result of a vendetta stemming from the recent killing of Dominic DiCiolla, described as the "king" or "czar" of the Little Italy underworld at Los Angeles' North End.
Around the same time, a number of Italian Americans disappeared and were presumed murdered in a war over liquor rackets.
Many today identify Ardizzone as one of the earlier Mafia bosses in southern California. Born in November 1884 in Piana dei Greci, Sicily, Ardizzone crossed the Atlantic in 1899, first settling in New Orleans. Within a few years, he relocated to the Los Angeles area.
Ardizzone emerged victorious in 1906 from a gang war with the forces of George Maisano, though the conflict took the life of Ardizzone cousin Joseph Cuccia. Ardizzone was suspected of the June 2, 1906, fatal shooting of Maisano. (Maisano died of his wounds at the county hospital on July 28.) Authorities could not locate him until spring 1914. At that time he was charged with the 1906 murder. However, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, after witnesses refused to testify against him.
Later in the 1910s, the Ardizzone underworld faction warred with a Matranga faction. That conflict resulted in several killings in 1919.
In the mid-1920s, Ardizzone partnered with Ignatius "Jack" Dragna in an organization called the Italian Protection League. Dragna was president of the league, while Ardizzone was its treasurer. The league's purpose was uncertain, but may have related to bootlegging activities and to a defense of local racket territories from outside influences.
DiCiolla, killed early in 1931, may have been one of the outside influences. It appears that DiCiolla had been friendly with the Genna Mafia in Chicago before relocating to Los Angeles.
The disappearance of Ardizzone left Dragna in command of the Mafia of Los Angeles.
- "Another gang killing hinted," Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1931, p. 3.
- "Arrest clears old mystery," Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1914, p. 10.
- "Black Hand in new slaying," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26, 1919, p. 1.
- "Bootleg gangs open new war," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 18, 1931, p. II-2.
- "Domenico 'Dominic' DiCiolla," Findagrave.com, Feb. 8, 2011, accessed Jan. 1, 2016.
- "Federal agents strike hard blow at racketeering by sweeping rum raids in North End," Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1931, p. II-2.
- "Fruit peddler shoots another," Los Angeles Herald, June 3, 1906, p. 5.
- "Gang war killers known," Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1931, p. 8.
- "Gang war stirs police crusade," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1931, p. II-2.
- "Injuries are fatal after three months," Los Angeles Herald, July 29, 1906, p. 3.
- "Italian surprises surgeons," Los Angeles Herald, June 28, 1906, p. 7.
- "L.A. rounds up 21 men for deportation as criminals," Oakland Tribune, March 29, 1931, p. 9.
- "Liquor-racket murder solution likely as Italian underworld 'boss' aide talks," Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1931, p. 2.
- "More racket violence feared as asserted gangster vanishes," Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1931, p. II-2.
- "Police trail the murderer," Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 26, 1906, p. 8.
- "Search futile for Ardizzone," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1931, p. II-8.
- "Seek for assailant," Los Angeles Herald, June 9, 1906, p. 7.
- "Slain boss of racketeers buried in costly coffin carried by pallbearers in tuxedos," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1931, p. 2.
- "Three fined as shooting sequel," Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1931, p. II-3.
- Giuseppe Ardizzone Declaration of Intention, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 13512, July 14, 1920.
- Giuseppe Ardizzone Petition for Naturalization, District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 9738, Aug. 9, 1922.
- Joseph Ernest Ardizzone World War I Draft Registration Card, Los Angeles County, Sept. 12, 1918.
- Reid Ed, The Grim Reapers: The Anatomy of Organized Crime in America, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1969.
- Tiernan, M.L., He Never Came Home: The Mysterious Disappearance that Devastated a Family, The Early History of Sunland, California, Vol. 5., Amazon Digital, 2014.