Short Stories

  • Chicago’s Unione Siciliana - 1920 – A Decade of Slaughter -- (November 2000)
    Allan May takes us through in depth look at Chicago's Unione Siciliana during the bloody decade of the 1920s. All eight men who held the position of president of the society died. Seven of them were brutally murdered.”
  • Mob War in Beantown -- (September 2000)
    Boston’s Italian underworld has never approached the organizational level of its contemporaries in other cities in the United States. When it did have its heyday it was actually ruled from Providence, Rhode Island and became known as the New England Crime Family. In January 1995, a federal grand jury handed down a thirty-seven-count indictment against Salemme and six other members of the Boston underworld. Included in the indictment were James “Whitey” Bulger and Steve Flemmi. The two men were the leaders of Boston’s infamous Winterhill Gang. James A. Ring, the former supervisor of Boston’s FBI organized crime squad, said of the indictment, “It’s kind of the stake through the heart.”
  • Frank McErlane - Chicago’s “Murder Machine” -- (September 2000)
    According to the Illinois Crime Survey, Frank McErlane was “the most brutal gunman who ever pulled a trigger in Chicago.” Alleged to have murdered at least nine men, a woman and two dogs, McErlane was credited with introducing the Thompson sub-machinegun to Chicago’s bloody bootleg wars. In the end, it wouldn’t be a bullet that brought about the demise of this vicious killer, but rather a fatal case of pneumonia. The year 1926 got off to a slow start. The first South Side beer war shooting didn’t occur until February 10 when Sheldon associates “Mitters” Foley and William Wilson were wounded.
  • Charles “Cherry Nose” Gioe – (July 2000)
    Charles Gioe was a peripheral character in the Chicago mob whose credentials for making it up the leadership ladder were simply that he out lived other gang members. If it weren’t for his colorful nickname, “Cherry Nose,” and his association with the upper echelon of the Chicago Outfit, he may have faded into obscurity as just another victim of a Chicago gangland hit.
  • Gaetano Gagliano – (June 2000)
    A Mafia Short Story If the ingredients for being a successful mob boss are keeping a low profile, avoiding arrest, shunning media publicity, and above all else longevity – then no Mafia leader has proved himself more than Gaetano “Thomas” Gagliano.
  • Havana Conference – 1946 – (June 2000)
    The year 1946 was a busy one for Mafia chieftain Charles “Lucky” Luciano. He was released from prison; he boarded a boat to return to his native Sicily, and, within eight months, was executing his plan to get back to the United States with a stopover in Havana, Cuba. On the morning of December 24, 1946 the Havana Conference was underway. Luciano states that he sat at the head of a large rectangular table with Lansky, Costello, Genovese and Adonis at his side.
  • Frank Bompensiero
    San Diego Hitman, Boss & FBI Informant – (May 2000)
    San Diego Hitman, Boss & FBI Informant
    Few hoodlums ever handled the dual responsibilities of being a ranking member of a Mafia family and a FBI informant like Frank Bompensiero and James “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno. Ironically, the two mobsters were best friends. However, when the FBI decided that Fratianno was a bigger fish than Bompensiero, they left him out on a limb that was quickly cut off by the Los Angeles mob. In the mid-1960s, Fratianno claims he and Bompensiero had a series of meetings with attorney Joseph L. Alioto, the future mayor of San Francisco. Bompensiero knew many of Alioto’s relatives back in his hometown of Milwaukee. One of Alioto’s relatives was the boss of the Milwaukee Crime Family from 1953 to 1962.
  • Serving Up Harry – (May 2000)
    The Riccobene – Scarfo War Two decades of tranquility in the Philadelphia Crime Family came to an end on the night of March 21, 1980. Late that evening, as Mafia boss Angelo Bruno and his driver John Stanfa sat in a car outside Bruno’s row house chatting and smoking cigarettes, a gunman stepped out of the shadows, leveled a shotgun behind the “Docile Don’s” right ear and pulled the trigger.
  • Johnny Torrio - The “Fox” … after the Chicago Years – (May 2000)
    Some people think that after Johnny Torrio turned his crime empire over to a young Al Capone in 1925 that he retired from organized crime. Far from it. Many historians believe that his most important contributions to organized crime were yet to come. In the early 1930s Johnny Torrio purchased the Prendergast & Davies Company, LTD. for $62,000. The company was a wholesale liquor concern as well as an importer. Torrio set up an in-law as president of the company and hired a few former bootlegging pals to help run it.
  • Nick Civella - Kansas City Chief – (January 2000)
    In March 1983, Nick Civella was paroled from the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. He was going home to die. Civella was surrounded by family members when he passed away, but was unable to speak.
  • Charles Binaggio - A Promise Un-Kept – (January 2000)
    On July 13, 1934 Charles Binaggio, tears flowing from his cheeks, helped carry the coffin of his political and underworld mentor Johnny Lazia, to his final resting place in Kansas City’s Mount St. Mary’s Cemetery. Lazia had been assassinated by persons unknown at the age of 37. Sixteen years later, Binaggio, at the age of 41, would die under the same circumstances and be laid to rest less than one hundred yards away.
  • Johnny Lazia - Law of the Land – (January 2000)
    Johnny Lazia was born in 1897, the son of a laborer. Although his education ended in the eighth grade, Lazia was a bright youth and found work as a clerk at a small law firm and for a while studied law. However, the bad influences he was exposed to constantly in his environment soon put him on the wrong side of the law.
  • Refusing to Refuse – (January 2000)
    The Kleinman / Rothkopf Testimony
    The committee’s last scheduled stop was New York in mid-March 1951. Then committee members returned to Washington DC where, according to Kefauver, some “important witnesses from the government and odds and ends from the underworld (were) due to appear.” Included in those “odds and ends” were two members of the Cleveland Syndicate – Morris Kleinman and Louis Rothkopf.
  • Sylvestro Carolla – (December 1999)
    Will the Real “Silver Dollar Sam” Please Stand Up
    While trying to spread my column topics to all corners of the nation, I decided to include one on Sylvestro Carolla, the New Orleans Mafia boss from 1925 to 1947.
  • Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson – (December 1999)
    Source Wahoo
    Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson wasn’t constrained when it came to providing information to the FBI and the New York City Police Department when it suited his needs. Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson's handler, Agent Abbott, informed Willie Boy about what was about to happen.“I will be killed,” Johnson said. “My family will be slaughtered.”
  • Louis Campagna – (November 1999)
    Done in by a Grouper
    When Louis “Little New York” Campagna met his demise, it wasn’t because he ended up “sleeping with the fishes.” Instead, it was because he was done-in by one.
  • Jerry Buckley – (November 1999)
    A Victory Short Lived
    In July 1930 Detroit was suffering through a wave of unsolved murders. Buckley’s was the eleventh during a nineteen-day period.
  • The Brothers Capone - (November 1999)
    The name Al Capone is to crime, what the name Babe Ruth is to baseball. Ruth was an over achiever and rose to the top of his profession, so did Capone. Some Capone historians believe that had Frank Capone lived he would have been the brother to take the lead role in the family’s affairs.
  • The Last Days of Lepke Buchalter, et al – (November 1999)
    It was Thursday, March 2, 1944, and time was running out in Sining prison for Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and the four men facing execution with him.
  • Jimmy McBratney: A Footnote to Mob History – (October 1999)
    When Gotti was convicted on April 2, 1992, the Staten Island Advance interviewed members of McBratney’s family. “My father’s claim to fame is that Gotti earned his bones by killing (him). Trying to live with that is the hardest thing to do,” said Joseph McBratney, one of two sons interviewed.
  • Colletti & Drake: Women In the Wrong Place At the Wrong Time – (October 1999)
    Although most women are safe from the atrocities of organized crime, the deaths of Christina Colletti and Janice Drake prove that the mob will not hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way.
  • Ciro Terranova: Tales of the Artichoke King – (October 1999)
    Terranova began his monopoly of the artichoke market by purchasing all the produce shipped to New York from California at $6 a crate. He created a produce company and resold the artichokes at 30 to 40 percent profit. Dealers were frightened away from finding alternative sources to buy the artichokes for fear of violence.
  • Lakewood Tranquillo Incident – (October 1999)
    On June 10th, a Canadian rum-running boat named the Tranquillo sailed into the Rocky River lagoon and anchored near the foot of Clifton Park Hill. The initial estimate of illegal whiskey hidden aboard the craft was 2,000 to 2,400 quart bottles of “Johnny DeWar Scotch.” Three days later, after a tip from a boat owner at the lagoon, Lakewood Police officers went out to inspect the suspicious craft.
  • La Stella Restaurant Incident – (September 1999)
    The Power Lunch – Mob Style
    In 1966, thirteen members of organized crime were arrested at an Italian restaurant in Queens, New York. The arrests appeared on the front page of the New York Times which called the affair “Little Apalachin.”
  • Vannie Higgins: Brooklyn’s Last Irish Boss – (September 1999)
    Charles “Vannie” Higgins had all the right connections and built a thriving bootleg empire in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn during the 1920s. Higgins greed would cause him to perish before Prohibition had run its course.
  • Greed in the Desert – (August 1999)
    The Herbie Blitzstein Murder Trial
    The investigation into the murder forced a two-year FBI probe called “Operation Button-down” to surface. The investigation, which was also targeting the Milano Crime Family, returned indictments on 25 individuals with a total of 101 counts. In the end though, only two men would be tried for the murder of Blitzstein.
  • Alvin J. Sutton, Jr. - Cleveland’s Forgotten G-Man – (August 1999)
    These are the twilight days of Big Al’s life. Things weren’t always this serene. Back in the late 40s and early 50s, Sutton created a legacy that was second only to Eliot Ness when it came to fighting crime in Cleveland.
  • Iron River Revolt - The Michigan Whiskey Rebellion – (August 1999)
    It seems improbable, but just weeks after the Volsted Act brought national prohibition into effect on January 16, 1920, armed federal agents accompanied by an army of news reporters descended on the village of Iron River, Michigan to squash a “whiskey rebellion” that had captured headlines throughout the country.
  • Anthony Giordano - St. Louis Hot Head – (July 1999)
    He is Anthony Giardano. He lives here, works here and heads La Cosa Nostra (“our thing”) here.
  • The Wexler / Gordon Story – (July 1999)
    Waxey put a gang of hoods together from the old neighborhood to help him with the rum running business. The liquor would be retrieved from “Rum Row,” the fleet of ships anchored off the coast of New York and New Jersey, just outside the three mile limit.
  • The History of the Race Wire Service – (July 1999)
    The History of the Race Wire Service: Mont Tennes and the Birth of the Race Wire, Moses Annenberg and the Growth of the Race Wire, and James Ragen and the End of the Race Wire.
  • “Undying Loyalty” The Thomas Aurelio Affair - (June 1999)
    Aurelio stated: “During my brief acquaintance with Mr. Costello of approximately six months standing, I knew him to be a businessman of good repute, and I definitely disavow any knowledge of his criminal background.”
  • Lawrence Mangano
    The Immigrant Who Became Public Enemy No. 4 – (June 1999)
    Mangano was a suspect in two prominent murders in 1931. On April 29 he was playing cards with Mike “de Pike” Heitler, a thorn in Capone’s side. The following day, Heitler’s charred remains were found in a burning house in the suburbs.
  • “Three Thin Dimes” - The Demise of Larry Fay – (June 1999)
    Fay’s ambition to move beyond “gangster status” could be seen in the elaborate offices he maintained in a respectable office building off Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
  • “Sammy G” Home Town Gangster - (June 1999)
    Salvatore Gingello was the most colorful gangland figure in Rochester, New York’s organized crime history. His quick rise to fame and sensational ending was characteristic of the Rochester mob itself.
  • The Two Tonys – (May 1999)
    A couple of shake down artists, who were muscle for hire, the two Tonys began their criminal careers in Kansas City. The fates of Anthony Brancato and Anthony Joseph Trombino were sealed when Jack Dragna said "The way I see it, we’ve got to clip them. Set something up, will you."
  • “Mad Sam” DeStefano -The Mob’s Marquis de Sade – (May 1999)
    “Mad Sam” was despised by everyone who knew him. Police considered that anyone who ever had contact with him could be considered a suspect.
  • Charles Workman - “A Bug’s Life” - (May 1999)
    One of the prolific murderers, who supposedly racked up an impressive body count, was Charles (Charley or Charlie) Workman. Known as “The Bug,” “The Powerhouse,” and “Handsome Charlie,” this curly-haired, “casual” killer was rumored to have dispatched twenty individuals.
  • Thomas Eboli - Down for the Count – (April 1999)
    Eboli had been involved in the fight game during the 1940s and managed several boxers. Despite his long involvement with organized crime his only prison time was a sixty-day sentence for jumping into the ring and assaulting a boxing referee.
  • The Tortured Soul of Ann Coppola - (April 1999)
    Despite the beatings he gave Ann, Coppola continued to shower her with expensive gifts. Ann stated, “He gave me this vast amount of material things to prove to people how big and successful he was.
  • Jack Zuta – Angina from the Grave - (April 1999)
    After his murder investigators discovered cancelled checks to two judges and two state senators as well as records showing $3,500 in bribes to police officers.
  • Murder on the Day the Pope Came to Town - (April 1999)
    On the evening of October 1, 1979, the day Pope John Paul II visited the Big Apple, James Eppolito and his son were killed in Coney Island by members of the Gambino Crime Family.
  • Yasha, “The Wandering Jew” – (March 1999)
    Narcotic and drug dealing was going on during the 1920s and 1930s and involved both Italian and Jewish mob leaders.
  • Whacked By the Good Guys - (March 1999)
    Vincent "The Schemer" Drucci left behind quite a legacy, he may have been the only mob boss ever to be killed by a law enforcement officer.
  • Cleveland's Sly - Fanner Murders - (March 1999)
    On the morning of December 31, 1920 a payroll robbery would result in the double slaying of Wilfred C. Sly and George K. Fanner of the W. W. Sly Manufacturing Company.
  • Late for the Opera - “Samoots” Amatuna - (March 1999)
    Musical and murderous, a gay, light-hearted troubadour, and one of the most treacherous and cold-blooded killers in gangland.
  • Perfecting the Number Two Spot - (March 1999)
    Phillip Kastel chose to hitch his wagon behind two of the most successful crime bosses of all time; Arnold Rothstein and Frank Costello.
  • The First Shooting of Frank Nitti – (February 1999)
    On December 19, 1932, Nitti would face his biggest challenge in trying to survive after he was shot three times by a Chicago police detective.
  • Ghosts of Bader Avenue - (February 1999)
    This story could serve as the basis for a good murder mystery with all of the unanswered questions.
  • Forgotten Man at Sparks - (February 1999)
    The possibility that Bilotti would be left to run the Gambino family must have left members of all five families shaking their heads.
  • A Sicilian Bedtime Story - (February 1999)
    Who were the 40 individuals who perished in one night of butchery?
  • The Last Hours of Mr. Big – (January 1999)
    Arnold Rothstein seemed more myth than man and had his own booth at Lindy’s.
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