The KC/Tampa Drug Connection
By Scott M. Deitche
One night in the spring of 1940, gambling kingpin Charlie Wall was being driven into downtown Tampa by his bodyguard, when the driver suddenly slammed on the brakes, smashing Wall's head into the windshield. Wall realized quickly what was happening:
"Then, when I came up I saw something out of an automobile in front of me- and they were stopped too- like a hoe handle or a fishing rod or something about that width. Why, somebody shot and, of course, I ducked down under the front of the car."
This was the third attempt on the life of Wall, and it came during the "Era Of Blood", when the Mafia was attempting to wrestle control of the bolita rackets and other illicit ventures, from the Cuban and Anglo crime groups. What was unique was the identity of the two assailants in the Wall incident. Police later confirmed (23 years later) that they believed the hitmen to be James DeSimone and Nicholas Impastato.
DeSimone and Impastato were imported Mafia killers from Kansas City and they were staying at the time with the Anotnori family, whose patriarch was Ignacio Antinori. Ignacio was a top narcotics supplier to the Kansas City crime family, as well as to St. Louis and Chicago. Ignacio would buy large quantities of narcotics from Cuban suppliers in Tampa and Havana, then send them across the country with the help of his two sons, Paul and Joe. Ignacio's reign, however, would not last long.
In the early morning hours of October 23, 1940, Ignacio Antinori was sipping coffee at the Palm Garden Inn, with a friend and a young female companion. He was amicably chatting away when, unbeknownst to him, a gunman came up to the glass in front of the bar and fired two shotgun blasts at Antinori. The buckshot blew the back of Ignacio's head off.
His demise was linked to a bad shipment of narcotics that was sent to Chicago, reputedly to the top men in the Outfit. The drugs were poor quality and the Chicago group wanted a refund. Anitnori balked and ended up in a closed casket at his funeral.
The death of their father gave Paul and Joe the opportunity to lead the trafficking organization. They kept the Kansas City connection alive, and strengthened ties with DeSimone and Impastato. They once again set up a large scale drug ring between Tampa and Kansas City, with members of the Kansas City Mafia family, including Carl Carramusa. In 1942, however, Carammusa was indicted for narcotics violations and decided to turn state's evidence and testify against his fellow co-defendants which included: Paul and Joe Antinori from Tampa; Charles Gerrigimina, Nick Impastato, James DeSimone, Charles Tiabi, Samuel Pernice, Louis Ventola, Patsy Ventola, and Fellipo Fernice, all from Kansas City.
All the defendants were found guilty, and Carramusa went into hiding in, of all places, Chicago. That ruse didn't last too long, and in June of 1945 Carramusa had his head blown off by a shotgun, while he was seated in his car. The main suspect in the killing was James Lumia, a ally of the Antinori's and a top racket man in Tampa. Lumia himself was killed in June of 1950, in one of the most spectacular of Tampa's gangland killings. One of the suspects was Nicola Impastato.
Following the rise of the Mafia to power in Tampa in the mid 1940's and the emergence of the Trafficnate family, the link between Kansas City and Tampa deteriorated with respect to the Anitnori's. After he was released from prison, Joe Antionri himself became the victim of a gangland assassination (read my story on Johnny Scaface for the details). Paul Anitnori fell out of the rackets after his brother's death. Nicolo Impastato died in September of 1979. James Desimone died in May of 1977.
* the testimony of Charlie Wall came form the Kefauver hearings in Tampa
© 2000 Scott M. Deitche
Copyright © 1999 PLR International