By Allan May
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.
Little is known about the early life of Gioe (pronounced Joy). There doesn’t even seem to be a reference for his nickname. On February 17, 1930, along with future Chicago mob boss Anthony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Gioe was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The two were released the same day and the case was never tried. William Roemer, in his book Accardo: The Genuine Godfather, tells us that Gioe was one of Accardo’s “closest pals” during the early 1930s, along with Lawrence “Dago” Mangano who, like “Cherry Nose,” rose to a high level in the Chicago Outfit but is remembered for his highly publicized murder.
Some of what we know about Gioe comes from the fact that he was a mentor to Des Moines, Iowa mobster Louis “Cockeyed” Fratto, who went by the name of Lew Farrell. It was said that Fratto road Gioe’s coattails into the Chicago underworld.
The story goes that Gioe was sent to Des Moines in 1936 to establish a branch of the Chicago rackets there. In Clark Mollenhoff’s book, Strike Force: Organized Crime and the Government, the author claims that, “Farrell (Fratto) arrived in Des Moines in 1939 to replace Charles (Cherry Nose) Gioe, who for unexplained reasons was giving up his role as the Capone mob’s ambassador to Iowa.” Gioe continued to own and operate two theatres in Des Moines until his death. Although questioned in Gioe’s murder, Louis Fratto was not considered a prime suspect.
As Prohibition came to an end and Al Capone was sent off to prison convicted of income tax evasion, Frank Nitti became the leader of the Chicago mob. Roemer informs us that Nitti held a conference at the Lexington Hotel and handed out “assignments.” Gioe was one of twenty attendees to be given new responsibilities by Nitti, although what these new duties were not specified by Roemer. However, his capabilities must have been important because Gioe and the hierarchy of the Chicago Outfit were about to venture into a major money making scheme which would become known as “The Hollywood Extortion Case.”
In the early 1930s two minor Chicago labor racketeers, Willie Bioff and George E. Browne, began extorting money from local theatre owners. Under the guise of donating money to area soup kitchens to feed the city’s Depression victims, the two men hit up one theatre chain for $20,000. While celebrating this coup, Bioff and Browne got drunk and mouthed off in front of Chicago hood Nick Circella, alias Nick Dean, about their financial windfall. The two loud mouths soon became “employees” of the Chicago Outfit.
With the backing of the Chicago mob Browne soon became president of IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Operators. The membership consisted of motion picture employees, from stagehands and technicians in Hollywood to projectionists at local movie houses. Bioff and Browne extorted from, and dictated to, the biggest names in Hollywood’s motion picture industry including Louis B. Mayer and the Warner brothers.
On May 24, 1941, Bioff and Browne were indicted in New York City, where many of the movie moguls maintained their business offices, on federal anti-racketeering charges. The two were found guilty on October 30. Bioff was sentenced to ten years in prison while Browne received eight. Both men were fined $20,000.
Nick Circella, who was indicted at the same time, had pled guilty and received an eight-year sentence. On February 2, 1943 Circella’s girlfriend, Estelle Carey, was found brutally murdered in her burning Addison Street apartment. Bioff used the killing as impetus for he and Browne to turn state’s evidence against the Chicago mobsters.
On March 18, 1943 another New York City grand jury handed down indictments on Gioe, Nitti, Paul “the Waiter” Ricca, Louis “Little New York” Campagna, Phil D’Andrea, Frank Maritote (alias Frank Diamond), and Ralph Pierce. In addition, Johnny Roselli from Los Angeles, and Louis Kaufman of Newark, New Jersey were indicted.
Nitti, rumored to be despondent at the possibility of returning to prison (he had served a stretch for tax evasion), committed suicide the day after the indictments were announced. The trial for the remaining defendants began on October 5, 1943. During the trial the charges were dropped against Ralph Pierce. The prosecution’s star witnesses were Bioff and Browne. Also testifying, were Louis B. Mayer, Harry and Albert Warner, Joseph Schenck, the former chairman of 20th Century Fox, and his brother Nicholas Schenck, president of Loews, Inc.
On December 22, 1943, Gioe and the remaining defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to extort more than one million dollars from the motion picture industry. After being allowed to spend Christmas with their families, the seven men were sentenced on New Year’s Eve. The five Chicago mobsters and Johnny Roselli received prison terms of ten years each and a $10,000 fine. Kaufman drew a seven-year sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Incredibly, on August 13, 1947, after serving just three and a half years in prison, Gioe, Ricca, Campagna, D’Andrea and Roselli were paroled. Chicago’s mayor and police commissioner were outraged and warned Gioe, Ricca and Campagna to stay out of the city. The release of the hoodlums unleashed a public outcry and a congressional committee was begun to investigate the parole scandal. Virgil W. Peterson, in Barbarians in Our Midst, discusses the hearings:
“Lengthy hearings were held in Chicago and Washington, and numerous witnesses were called upon to testify. It was brought out that a Republican politician, Harry Ash, while superintendent of the Division of Crime Prevention for the State of Illinois, had written letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles in May 1947, urging the parole of Capone mobster, Charles Gioe, and offering to serve as his parole adviser. The publicity given this incident by the press resulted in the resignation of Ash as state superintendent of crime prevention just a few days before the congressional committee hearings began. Gioe, who gave his occupation as gambler when arrested in 1943, had also once been affiliated with a so-called crime prevention project. During the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and 1940, he had profited from a commercial amusement enterprise named ‘Crusaders Against Crime, Inc.’”
Up until the time the congressional committee met, Harry Ash had served as Gioe’s parole adviser and helped him submit his program for rehabilitation. Through the legal maneuverings of a crafty attorney, Paul Ricca was able to remain free. However, Gioe and Campagna were arrested by United States marshals and hustled out of Chicago before they could make contact with their lawyers. Both men were locked up in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. They were soon free on an appeal that eventually went all the way to the United States Supreme Court before the whole affair was over, although it continued well into the 1950s.
There are conflicting stories about Gioe’s life after his release from prison, and the events leading up to his murder. Prior to Gioe being sent to prison he ran one of the biggest lay-off betting operations in Chicago. With Ralph Pierce and brothers Harry and David Russell, the business, located on State Street, handled over one million dollars each year taking in bets from handbooks run by Anthony Gizzo and Charles Carollo in Kansas City and from as far away as Frank Erickson’s operations in New York City.
When the Kefauver Hearings were in session in the early 1950s, Gioe, Ricca and Campagna were subpoenaed to testify. Some of the questioning revolved around their amazing parole from Leavenworth, but the focus, like in every city the committee visited, was gambling. Of the three men, Gioe was the only one who wasn’t evasive and didn’t hide behind the Fifth Amendment. However, his answers were to the extent that Senator Kefauver remarked, “Gioe appeared to be the most forthright and his testimony the most complete” of the trio. Kefauver continued, “Gioe told everything he knew of value to the Committee.” When Gioe was told of the Tennessee Senator’s statements, in comparison to what his two associates revealed, he turned white.
During this period, Tony Accardo was clamping down on the bookmakers in the Chicago area, demanding fifty percent of the profits. William Roemer in his biography of Accardo states that the mob leader called a meeting of the top people in his organization. Most of those in attendance were gambling bosses, others were enforcers. Accardo announced a new set of rules and, “Those who participated in Tony’s conference fanned out all over their assigned areas and the word was spread.”
Roemer claims Gioe was murdered with Accardo’s permission because “he was a cheater.” Gioe, according to Roemer, had been with the Outfit a long time and had paid his dues in the Hollywood Extortion Case. Because of this he felt immune from Accardo’s greedy proclamation and was therefore killed. However, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of support for Roemer’s theory.
Meanwhile, the newspapers saw Gioe’s death in a different light. On May 18, 1954, just three months before his murder, a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, under construction on North Harlem Avenue, was bombed causing an estimated $50,000 in damage. Chicago labor racketeer Joseph “Joey” Glimco, described as the Outfit’s top labor czar, was believed to be responsible. Motives offered for the bombing were disputes over labor being used to work at the restaurant, and over the suppliers who provided such items as soaps and towels.
At this point “someone” asked Gioe for his help “to get the heat taken off the restaurant.” Gioe agreed to intercede. He sought out Glimco and allegedly told him to “lay off” the Howard Johnson restaurants. Apparently Glimco did back off and this seemed to give Gioe confidence to pursue a plan of action.
On August 18, 1954, the day Gioe was murdered, he met with Hyman Wiseman, a business associate, and Vincent Occhipinti at Ciro’s restaurant. An ex-deputy, Occhipinti knew Gioe was involved in a plastics factory and approached him with an idea to manufacture plastic novelty dolls based on the twelve signs of the zodiac. The three men discussed the project for several hours over dinner.
Wiseman, who had initially given the police a false statement after the killing, was brought back in for questioning on the evening of August 21. He claimed that he was associated with Gioe in Tote-Brush, Inc, a plastics manufacturer, and that when they left Occhipinti after dinner they went to an office building on Erie Street to discuss the business proposal. Around 10:00 p.m., the two men left the office and were heading to an automobile Gioe had borrowed from Jack Weingarten, the sales manager of Tote-Brush. Gioe entered the driver’s side from the street and had just sat down.
“All of a sudden I saw flashes and heard shots and I dropped to the ground,” Wiseman claimed. Another automobile had pulled up with three people inside. One shooter was seen standing on the floor of the car trying to shoot over the top of the Gioe automobile in an obvious effort to kill Wiseman. Another gunman fired five shots at Gioe, one of which struck him in the right temple, killing him instantly. The keys to the ignition were still in his hand as his body fell to the right, his head resting on the passenger side of the front seat.
Wiseman said after the shooting stopped, he heard the “roar of a car speeding away. I got up and kept running until I got away.” He finally hailed a cab and took it to the Seneca Hotel, where Gioe had been living since his release from prison. The hotel was owned by Alex Louis Greenberg, a one-time intimate of Frank Nitti. In 1955, he would be the victim of another Chicago mob hit.
Wiseman told police he did not recognize any of the men doing the shooting, nor could he identify the killer’s automobile. Ironically, while Wiseman was being questioned, mob assassins murdered Frank Maritote, one of Gioe’s co-defendants in the extortion case. Like with Gioe, three gunmen pulled up in an automobile and shot the one-time Capone bodyguard to death as he opened his garage door. Maritote’s toddler son sat unharmed on the front seat of the car. The Chicago Daily Tribune revealed that the men police were looking for in both killings were “three small fry” mobsters – “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, Marshall Caifano, and Albert Frabotta.
The police had picked up Maritote for questioning the day after Gioe’s murder. Detectives state that he spoke freely of Gioe’s demise. Maritote described Gioe as a fading figure in the Chicago crime syndicate. Gioe had recently approached Maritote about using his “formidable appearance and reputed fearlessness to wring profits out of certain unnamed unions.” This was apparently after Gioe felt he had scared Glimco off.
Maritote claimed Gioe, “was subsisting on interests in restaurants.” Gioe’s wife, Alberta, who spelled her last name Joye, operated one of these restaurants, Angelo’s Pizzeria, located near where he was murdered.
It was after their interview with Maritote that police decided that Glimco was their prime suspect. Days later, Glimco appeared at the police station with his lawyer. Though questioned about both murders, he was charged with neither. Nobody ever was.
Charles “Cherry Nose” Gioe, the Chicago gangster who had few highlights to his criminal career, was buried with similar fanfare. His funeral, held in a mortuary on Grand Avenue, had less than fifty mourners in attendance.
Copyright A. R. May 2000