"The whole story has not yet been told. The raid and the events of the past few days are proof that a community can allow places like Jungle Inn to exist only at its peril. The fact the crowds who went there to gamble were in constant danger of being burned to death is not the worst of the indictments that can be brought against it. Worse still was the nest of corruption that it fostered - the influence it wielded over public officials and over the political life of Trumbull and Mahoning counties. If money could not tempt men in public life - men with power over the lives of these communities - it had its gunmen always ready to persuade them"
From an editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator, August 16, 1949
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“Crimetown, U.S.A.” is a narrative of organized crime in Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding Mahoning Valley during the years 1933 to 1963. It begins with the Valley's participation in the Midwest Crime Wave of 1933-34, describing the demise of the legendary bank robber “Pretty Boy” Floyd. This is followed by the demise of one of the Valley’s own in the brutal slaying of “Happy” Marino, which also happens to be one of the Valley’s few gangland murders in which all the participants were tried, convicted and sent to prison.
The mid-to-late 1930s is chronicled showing the dominance of the ethnic-based lottery houses, which operated in Youngstown. These operations came to end after a run-away grand jury created enough interest to draw the governor’s attention. The late 1940s saw the height of popularity of the infamous Jungle Inn gambling den, located just over the Mahoning County line in Trumbull County. The history of this establishment is chronicled in “Welcome to the Jungle Inn,” also by Allan R. May, and is a companion book to “Crimetown U.S.A.” describing the history of organized crime in Warren and Trumbull County, Ohio.
By the end of the 1940s the citizens of Youngstown put a new mayor in City Hall. Charles Henderson ran on the platform of “Smash Racket Rule” in the city. The man he brought in to do the “smashing” was Edward J. Allen. The feisty and fearless police chief began by chasing out two-thirds of the Valley’s “Big 3,” including Mafia member Joe DiCarlo, who muscled into the race wire service and controlled the local bookmaking.
This period was followed by what was known as the "bug" craze, which was the Valley's nickname for the numbers game or policy, as it was also known. The battle for dominance resulted in a bombing war throughout the 1950s for supremacy in this field by the city's top policy racketeers, Sandy Naples and Vince DeNiro. By the end of the 1950s, Youngstown had become known as “Bomb Town.”
In the early 1960s, the bombs that were used to scare the competition were now being used to eliminate it. A wave of vicious killings took place, some taking the lives of innocent people. No murder was more notorious than the November 1962 car-bombing that took the lives of “Cadillac Charlie” Cavallaro and his 11-year old son. The senseless killing shocked the country and brought national attention to Youngstown. It also brought the city an everlasting and despised nickname, “Crimetown, U.S.A.”
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From the moment of the senseless double-murder on New Year’s Eve Day 1920, the police never gave up the hunt for the six suspects involved in a payroll robbery-gone bad. Police officers and prosecutors tracked to and /or arrested the killers in Los Angeles, Mexico City, San Francisco and finally Sicily, taking some fifteen years to make sure justice was served.
The crime was carried out by members of Cleveland’s infamous Mayfield Road Mob. The plot to rob the local businessmen was hatched after one gang member, convicted of auto theft, was desperate for cash to file an appeal. Short on manpower, the gang’s leader was forced to involve himself and an immature teenager in the daring hold-up. The young man’s inexperience led to the double slaying and the manhunt was on.
In the end, of the six participants, three would pay with their lives in the electric chair, one would be sent to prison for life, another received 30 years at hard labor, and the last one, the younger brother of Cleveland’s first Mafia boss, would go free.
This story also gives a chilling look at one of the most violent periods the city of Cleveland has ever faced. When a new prosecutor took office on January 1, 1921, he was faced with handling three sensational murder trials in addition to the one which took place only the day before. This lawless period resulted in the Cleveland Crime Survey of 1921, the country’s first in depth study of the justice system in a major United States city.
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Authored by a well-known writer in the field of organized crime, this volume contains 10 lengthy biographies on Mob bosses from New York and New Jersey. May presents case studies of organized crime in New York State through biographies of Jo Adonis, Albert Anastasia, Louis Buchalter, Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, Dutch Schultz, and Abner Zwillman. Noticeably absent are Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the author notes, because they left the New York/New Jersey area the earliest. The book also includes brief biographies of 15 other prominent figures mentioned in the text, in entries ranging from one-third of a page to more than three pages. An “Appendix” is provided, but what it contains is not obvious to the user and its organization is unclear. Chapter bibliographies are augmented by a bibliography for the whole. A time line covers events from 1882 (Arnold Rothstein’s birth) to 1976 (Carlo Gambino’s death). This is a valuable resource for public and college libraries where patrons are interested in biographies of organized crime members, although the limited coverage may cause it to be considered only as an additional selection. Also available as an e-book. --Sara Marcus
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