Bombs And The Mob!
Part Two: Cleveland And Youngstown, Ohio
By J. R. de Szigethy
First came the knife. Then came the gun. Then came the bomb. Thus was the progression of tools made by Man to kill his fellow Man.
The American Mafia did not invent any of these, but instead perfected them, particularly the use of bombs to commit murder. Of these three methods of killing, the bomb had one decided advantage; it made a lot of noise, attracted a lot of attention, and projected an image of power and ruthlessness on the part of those who used it.
The bomb as a tool of murder and intimidation would be utilized by virtually every American organized crime syndicate in the latter part of the 19th Century and all of the 20th. However, the crime families of two cities, Cleveland and Youngstown, would utilize the bomb more so than any other of the families of the American Mafia. And, there would be consequences.
I. "How the Hell did this guy ever come into the picture?"
On February 24, 1977, an FBI wiretap recorded a conversation between James "Jack White" Licavoli, the Godfather of the Cleveland Mafia Family, and John Calandra, a confidante who otherwise was not a criminal. The topic of conversation was the Italian Mafia's plan - so far unsuccessful - to kill an Irish mobster, Danny Greene, who had encroached upon their lucrative rackets. As far as the Italians were concerned, the rackets in Cleveland - loan sharking, prostitution, and gambling, among others, belonged exclusively to them. Yet, in the space of just a few years, Greene, a corrupt Union leader, had put together a band of gangsters, many of whom were officials in the Teamsters and Longshoremen's Unions, which challenged the very existence of the Cleveland Mafia Family. Adding injuries to insults, Greene led a Mob War in which the signature weapon was the use of the car bomb.
"How the Hell did this guy ever come into the picture?," Calandra complained.
That very question being posed betrayed that Calandra, like many so-called "wiseguys," was in no danger of being accused of being a Rocket Scientist, let alone a Crime Historian. Put simply, the ancestors that built a criminal syndicate in America that Greene tapped into came to this country long before the ancestors that established the Mafia Family in Cleveland that Licavoli headed. Even more simply, it was the Irish, not the Italians, who first came to America in large numbers, seeking a better life.
II. "Help Wanted - No Irish need apply!"
Many American history books teach the doctrine that those people who immigrated to this country in the early years of it's founding came here to establish the practice of Freedom of Religion. That makes for a rather nice story, but the fact is that the early pioneers of America came to this country in order to freely practice THEIR particular religion. Intolerance among the early Americans towards those of different religions, races, and ethnic backgrounds provided the genesis for periods of unrest in the early Centuries of the United States, conditions which frequently resulted in bloodshed.
To understand the Irish in America it is necessary to describe the conditions which led to their leaving their homeland to start a new life in a land far away. Much has been written about the economic conditions which facilitated Irish immigration, notably the Great Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. Other factors were of importance, including the hostility Irish-Catholics received from Protestants, both in Ireland and the country of their domination, England. The attitude of the Government of England towards the Irish people was popularly revealed in 1729, in an essay by writer Jonathan Swift, best known for his later novel GULLIVERS TRAVELS. In "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public," Swift used the Latin form known as Satire to shock his contemporaries as to the hostility held by some in England towards the Irish. Swift used humor to underscore a deadly serious charge - that the Government of England's attitude towards the Irish fell just short of Genocide.
Two generations later, Irish-Americans would risk their lives in great numbers as participants in the American Revolution. A British military officer would complain before England's House of Commons that "half the rebel Continental army were from Ireland!" (1)
To this day, the Great Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852 is a defining moment for people of Irish descent worldwide. The historical record shows that during that time, exports of food continued from Ireland to England, during which one million Irish men, women, and children died. This, many to this day argue, is evidence of a campaign of Genocide by the British against the Irish, and helps explain why otherwise law-abiding citizens of Irish descent nevertheless express support and sympathy for people engaged in criminal behavior, such as that of members of the Irish Republican Army.
For the Irish immigrant, assimilation into the American culture would be a process that would take several generations. Irish Catholics would be pitted against Irish Protestants in some cases, notably the formation in America of chapters of the Orange Institution, a Fraternal organization named after William of Orange, who became King of England, Ireland, and Scotland after his military defeat of a Catholic Monarch. Riots led by members of this order in New York City in 1824, 1870, and 1871 led to the deaths of over 70 people. (2)
It was in the large cities along the Eastern Seaboard such as New York City where large communities of Irish immigrants sprang up, and in such places discrimination would become blatant. Imported from 19th Century England were the infamous "Help Wanted - No Irish Need Apply" signs that memorialized institutionalized racism. As with all groups who immigrated to America, most Irish citizens were not involved in criminal activity. However, because such groups were discriminated against, some members of ethnic groups fell easy prey to members of their own nationality who capitalized on their inability to obtain loans of money from legitimate banks. Thus was created in many ethnic communities a person who could provide such a service for a price; the "loan shark." Throughout the large cities of America, the seeds of what would become mob gangs were being sowed.
III. "And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air."
For 80 years now, a quiet, well-mannered, and, some would say, completely unnecessary debate has raged in the United States regarding the National Anthem. Since that day in March, 1931 when "The Star Spangled Banner" was made official by an act of Congress, critics have waged a campaign to have the song replaced. The song, the music of which was originally a British drinking ballad, is difficult to sing, and, as numerous embarrassed public performers can attest, the lyrics can be hard to remember. One recent Harris poll indicated that 2 of 3 Americans cannot correctly recite all the lyrics of their national song.
Another point of contention by critics is that the current Anthem is militaristic, and want a song that glorifies rockets and bombs to be replaced by one that celebrates the haunting beauty of "amber waves of grain." Also, the themes of the Anthem confuses the true story of America's history of it's wars, and the instruments of destruction used to wage those wars. Many Americans believe the "rockets and bombs" described in the National Anthem are from the Revolutionary War, and that they were OUR bombs. The actual weapons were used by the British in the War of 1812, in an attack on Ft. McHenry in Maryland. These crude projectiles, fired from cannons aboard a ship, were largely ineffective and inaccurate weapons. Much more effective were the British troops on foot who burned Washington - and the White House - to the ground.
A 'bomb,' as defined by Americans today, is a compact and portable device, which can kill one person or one million, depending on it's construction. By such definition, the 'bomb' did not play an important role in the wars fought during the first 100 years of American history. There were, however, a few notable incidents that provided a glimpse into what would one day become an integral device for the American criminal. In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, there was one notable, ingenious attempt at delivering a small bomb as an instrument of war. The delivery vehicle was an invention by an American named David Bushnell, who created the "American Turtle." Bushnell's idea was basically to turn a bicycle into a one-man submarine, which could be piloted to an unsuspecting British ship anchored in the harbor of New York City. There, unseen, underwater, the pilot of the vessel would attach a bomb to the hull of the ship, which would later explode, sinking the ship. Although this vehicle sunk no ships, it was nevertheless a worthy example of what would be called American Ingenuity. (3)
During the American Civil War, almost a Century later, two brothers from North Carolina, Gabriel James Rains and George Washington Rains, would provide to the Confederacy a remarkable new bomb. The bomb was small, and made to resemble a large lump of coal. If secreted upon an enemy ship, the bomb could be placed in the coal storage unit in the bowels of the ship. Later, when a crew member threw a shovel full of what they thought was only coal into the furnace that powered the ship, the bomb would explode. In November, 1864, just such a shovel full of coal was thrown into the furnace of the GREYHOUND, a steamship of the Union Army. Although no one was killed, the ship was destroyed and sunk. (4) In the passage of just a few more years, the evolving technology, along with evolving social conditions, would come together and change America forever.
The time was May, 1886. The place, Chicago, Illinois. Into the Windy City descended thousands of Labor Union activists for what would become known as "May Day." It had been just 5 years since the founding of the first major Union in America, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada. The group became more commonly known as the AFL, and survives today as the AFL-CIO. The father of organized labor had been the philosopher Karl Marx, who, in 1848 published "The Communist Manifesto." This book was particularly influential in the American Midwest. One of the goals of the fledgling Labor Union movement was the establishment of the 8-hour workday. May 1st, 1886 - May Day - was the target date set by these activists in order to achieve this goal.
Unsatisfied by the results of the Demonstration on May 1st, on May 4, 1886, thousands of Union activists descended upon the Haymarket Square retail center in Chicago. There Union activists clashed with the police, and a riot ensued, which escalated when a member of the Union protesters launched a bomb towards the police officers on hand. The bomb exploded, and in the ensuing chaos 7 police officers and 4 civilians were killed. 8 Union activists were charged with the murder of Police Officer Matthias U. Degan, who was killed by the bomb. Four Union activists would be convicted and executed for the murder of Officer Degan. Another man convicted, Louis Lingg, an activist with the International Carpenters and Joiners' Union, committed suicide by exploding a bomb within his mouth just hours before his scheduled execution. (5)
To this day, the "Haymarket Riot," as it came to be called, is the source of controversy. According to the police, it was the Union activists who caused the riot. According to the Union activists, it was the police who rioted. According to History, the Haymarket Riot marked the first major convergence of organized labor, what would become organized crime, and the use of a bomb to achieve the agenda of such people. The day of bombs and the Mob in America had arrived.
IV. The Irish Mob and Organized Labor
The Haymarket Riot and it's aftermath resulted in a backlash amongst the American people against the Labor Union movement. Thus, almost two full decades would pass before the next significant event in that movement. That event was the founding in 1903 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Chicago, created by career criminal Cornelius Shea, the scion of Irish immigrants who would become a leader in what would later be termed the Irish Mob.
The Teamsters' Union would eventually become synonymous in the minds of many Americans with organized crime. Of all the Presidents of the Teamsters Union, 4 have been Irish, 1 English, and 2 of German descent. None have been of Italian descent. Over the course of decades, officials of the Teamsters' Union would alternately do business with, and sometimes compete against, and even murder, members of the Italian-American Mafia. And, at least two Teamsters' Presidents would manage to commit crimes with the Irish Mob, as well as the Italian Mob, while at the same time secretly working as an FBI Informant.
Leaders of the various Irish Mobs in America would also insinuate themselves into this unholy triangle, among them; Whitey Bulger of Boston and Danny Greene of Cleveland. But before that would happen, a full half-Century of organized crime would have to evolve.
V. The rise of the Youngstown and Cleveland Mob
During the "Roaring Twenties," Prohibition offered up to organized crime a single racket that would rake in millions of dollars in each of the large cities of America in which the Mob had already established themselves. With it's proximity to the Canadian border, across from which much of the "good stuff," high-quality alcoholic beverages, was smuggled, Chicago led the way in terms of crime, corruption, and bloodshed. The small, portable bomb, which made it's debut at the Haymarket Riots decades earlier, was a preferred method of death and intimidation. In a 7 month period beginning in October 1927, 64 Mafia bombings occurred in Chicago. (6)
The violence reached international attention on February 14, 1929, when the off-and-on tensions between the Irish and Italian Mafia in Chicago culminated in the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre," in which 7 members and associates of the Irish gang led by "Bugs" Moran were executed with machine guns by hitmen for the rival Italian gang led by Al Capone.
Prohibition had certainly played a major role in the rise of the Cleveland Mafia. Like Chicago, Cleveland was close to the Canadian border and quickly became a preferred and lucrative route for the smuggling into America of commodities such as Canadian liquor. Cleveland also became a center for the production and distribution of domestic alcohol, and once again, geography was the Mother of this Invention. Adjacent to Cleveland were the vast "waves of grain" that made the Midwest the breadbasket of America. In this case, that commodity was corn, which could be converted into corn sugar, an ingredient for the manufacture of alcohol. Cleveland was also a major intersection of mass transit, be it by rail, road, or waterway, through which commodities such as alcohol could be distributed to a thirsty American public.
Thus, all of the ingredients for a recipe for Fortune lay in Cleveland, waiting for the taking. The "Takers," as it would turn out, would be 11 members of two families, the Lonardos and the Porrellos, brothers to their own blood and each other, who grew up in the close-knit town of Licata, Sicily. There, the 11 boys slowly grew into manhood, sealing the bonds between them in their common vocation of harvesting from the ground what Nature had provided them for the taking; in this case, it was not corn, but sulphur. Work in a sulphur mine is not a pleasant vocation, so the 11 young men, like so many from Italy from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, immigrated to America, seeking a better life.
It was only in America that these young men, devoted friends in their homeland, started to kill each other.
In the book, "THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA: Corn Sugar and Blood," author Rick Porrello recants the tales of these young men, who left their boyhood home in search of the American Dream, which, by some measures, they attained; both families grew rich, powerful, and respected in their communities. The Porrello and Lonardo sons became players in the corn sugar industry, but in a 5 year period during the "Corn Sugar Wars," 3 Lonardo brothers and 4 Porrello brothers were murdered. 18-year-old Angelo Lonardo would use his own mother as bait to lure an unsuspecting "Black Sam" Todero to his Fate. Todero, who ordered the murder of Angelo's father, was shot point-blank by Angelo in broad daylight. As was common during that time when people feared for their lives to testify in a Mafia trial, Justice did not prevail. "Big Ange" Lonardo was on his way to dominate the Cleveland Mafia Family for decades.
Neither family succeeded in killing every member of the other, so that today, some of their descendants are still alive to tell their tales. One such is a Grandson of the Porrello family, who, as a young man, decided to not follow the "Family business," but rather cross the line to the "other side" and become a Police Officer. His name is Rick Porrello, and today he is the Chief of the Lyndhurst, Ohio, Police Department. Porrello is also the author of "TO KILL THE IRISHMAN: THE WAR THAT CRIPPLED THE MAFIA."
Both books by Porrello also deal with Youngstown, Ohio, from which organized crime rackets were operated by the Cleveland and the Pittsburgh Mafia families. The history of Youngstown, Ohio in the early part of the 20th Century includes tales of violence, precursors of the coming age when residents of that city would refer to it as "Murdertown." What Nature had to offer the residents of that town was deposits of coal and iron ore, the ingredients for steel. As the steel mills in the area increased their production with each passing decade, so did the violence escalate between the steel companies and the Unions that sought to recruit the steelworkers into their collective.
In 1916, guards at the Youngstown Sheet & Tube mill opened fire on striking steelworkers, killing 3 people. In the ensuing riot 125 people were injured, with rioters setting fire to the business district. The Governor had to send in 2,000 National Guards troops to restore order. Many years later, Youngstown Sheet & Tube would be at the center of a legal battle between the Labor Union movement and President Harry Truman. Steelworkers were demanding wage increases, something they had been deprived of during World War II, but Truman, claiming the steel industry's output was vital to fighting the war in Korea, seized the steel mills nationwide. In it's decision in Youngstown Sheet & Tube vs. Sawyer, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the President acted beyond his authority to do so. (7)
Racism in Youngstown also led to violence. In 1924, the Ku Klux Klan instigated a riot in Youngstown, targeting immigrants from Ireland and Italy. The Ku Klux Klan was an organization formed in the South after the Civil War, popularly known for their hatred of African-Americans. However, the Klan, which professed a doctrine based on Protestant Christianity, also targeted Roman Catholics, as well as those of the Jewish Faith. Thus, Italian and Irish Immigrants, often at odds with each other, found themselves the common enemy of this Southern hate group. Once again, the Governor had to declare martial law in to restore order in Youngstown. (8)
In June, 1937, a strike by steelworkers in Youngstown turned violent, when local law enforcement authorities opened fire, killing 2 steelworkers outside the Republic Steel mill. A backlash of anger and sympathy spread nationwide, making this riot a turning point in favor of the labor Union movement. A memorial to the 2 killed strikers was unveiled in 2007 at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.
By comparison, a statue was erected in 1889 in Chicago of Police Officer Matthias Degan, who was killed by the bomb during the Haymarket Riot. On the anniversary of his murder in 1927, a streetcar was intentionally run into the statue. On the anniversary in 1968, protestors against the Vietnam war vandalized the statue with black paint. The statue was blown up by a bomb by the Weathermen domestic terrorist group on October 6, 1969. When the statue was rebuilt, the Weathermen again destroyed the memorial to Officer Degan with a bomb on October 6, 1970. The statue was rebuilt again and today is safe inside the Chicago Police Headquarters. (9)
In 1932 the rise of the steel industry in Youngstown and throughout America was accelerated with the election of Franklin Roosevelt as President. While Roosevelt succeeded in coercing Congress to end Prohibition, which ended the Mob's monopoly on alcohol, Roosevelt proposed legislation which would have an enormous impact on organized crime in America; the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. This new law streamlined the process by which Workers could established Labor Unions, and within just a few years' time, millions of Americans had formed and joined such collectives. Almost overnight, the rise of Labor Unions formed an American Middle Class that possessed substantial and unprecedented disposable income. This newfound prosperity was used to create an era of consumerism never before witnessed in human history. Americans used their purchase power to buy necessities such as food, clothing, and housing, as well as luxury non-essentials, including the purchase of radios, then televisions, and the American-made automobile.
However, with this rise in prosperity came the infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars to the various Labor Unions in the manner of Union Dues, Pension Funds, and health care plans. The American Mafia, largely created by the opportunities that came with Prohibition, quickly moved in to steal a portion of these vast funds. One tangible consequence of this was the establishment of a major city in the middle of a desert where natural resources were not to be found, that being Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the case of Youngstown, the growing amount of disposable income of it's citizens attracted gangsters from the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Mafia families, given that Youngstown was geographically situated at equal distances from both cities. Then would come an event that would forever change Youngstown, and indeed, the world. On December 7th, 1941, the government of Japan launched a military attack on the United States on the island of Hawaii. 2,402 American men were killed. Essentially, the entire Western military apparatus of the United States was destroyed. Further attacks by the Japanese against the United States, from Anchorage to San Diego, even invasions by Japanese troops, were suddenly a real possibility.
President Franklin Roosevelt, regarded as a Pacifist who undertook extraordinary measures to keep the United States out of World War II, thus found himself in the Ironic position of leading a reluctant nation into war. Decrying before Congress and the American people about that "Day of Infamy," Roosevelt embarked the nation into an unprecedented evolution, from a country based upon agriculture into a country based upon industry and manufacturing, which included the production of the weapons of war.
Young American men would leave their families for the battles to be waged in Europe and the Pacific; young American women would take their places in the factories that sprung up to build the means of human destruction. Steel was needed for this mission, and the steel mills in and around Youngstown, as well as around the country, operated at full capacity.
The American women who replaced the men who worked in such factories would become canonized by iconic posters during the war which depicted "Rosie the Riveter," an unlikely but willing war hero - in this case - heroine - who welcomed the challenge of taking on work traditionally ascribed to men, and did so with accomplishment, while retaining their attributes of being a woman. It was in this American experience of war that would be sowed the seeds of what in the 1970s would become the fight for equal rights for women.
In the case of the American Mafia, it would also be revealed many years after the war that a "truce" had been arranged between law enforcement and the Mob, notably with the Mafia-controlled Longshoremen's Union, who controlled the docks of the American harbors, and were more than eager to secure America from saboteurs. Thus, during the war, the American Mafia was allowed to operate with impunity.
It would take the detonation of two atomic bombs by the United States over Japan to end this war. During the next two decades, the 1950s and 1960s, Youngstown continued it's heyday of full employment at good wages for those able and willing to work. The steel mills that had provided the foundation for America's armaments industry was then diverted to that new industry that became part of the American Dream; the automobile.
However, this newfound affluence did not exist in a vacuum. One of the conditions of the surrender of Japan was that that country would never again be allowed to possess a military. One unintended consequence of this was the fact that the Japanese government no longer had to devote a substantial amount of it's Gross National Product to Defense. As the Japanese economy grew, resources that previously would have been devoted to it's military instead were recycled into the Japanese economy. In the 1970s, the Japanese government imitated two programs that would have devastating results upon the working people of the United States. One such program involved the manufacture of small, fuel-efficient automobiles, which, over the years, successfully competed with the product being manufactured by American car companies.
Then, the government of Japan began to dump into the United States market Government-subsidized steel, at prices substantially lower than steel produced in the United States. The consequence was immediate and devastating; within a few years, the American steel industry was destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of once-proud steel workers were suddenly unemployed. The "Steel Belt" that encompassed Cleveland, Youngstown, Pittsburgh, and all the communities adjacent, was soon rendered the "Rust Belt."
Critics would claim that while the United States had won the military war against Japan, it was Japan that had won their second, undeclared "Economic War" against the American people. The people of the "Rust Belt" who believed they were the victims of the Japanese government were understandably angry, and a politician would come along who would tap into that anger. His name was James Traficant.
VI. Murdertown, USA.
The city that James Traficant, the self-proclaimed "son of a truck driver," grew up in during the 1940s and 1950s had by that time become one of the most corrupt cities in America. During that time, the bomb, as a means of murder and intimidation, had become a preferred tool of Mafia criminals operating in the State of Ohio. The term "Youngstown Tune-up" had by that time entered into the American culture, which signified a car which had been wired with a small, compact bomb, which would ignite the gas tank once it received the electrical spark created when the driver turned on the ignition key.
In 1963, the Saturday Evening Post published a cover story on Youngstown, detailing the 75 car bombings and 11 murders that had plagued the tough steel belt town in the preceding 10 years. The post told the horrific story of one such bombing, which occurred in 1962. The primary racket of organized crime in those days was gambling, and "Cadillac Charlie" Cavallaro was among the more successful gamblers of his time. One afternoon, Charlie and his two boys, ages 11 and 12, climbed into the family car so that Charlie could drop them off at football practice. When Charlie turned on the ignition a bomb that had been secreted into the car exploded. Charlie was blown into two pieces while most of the 11 year old's body was never found. The 12 year old survived, although crippled for life. The mother of the two boys, Helen Cavallaro, came running out of the family home to see what had happened, only to run back inside the house and barricade herself against the police, whom she knew were soon to arrive. Mrs. Cavallaro remained silent, refusing to speak to the authorities about who might have murdered her husband and their son.
This phenomenon of silence is often referred to as "Omerta," the Mafia code of silence, but in Mrs. Cavallaro's case, it can also be described as survival. Mrs. Cavallaro knew, as did most residents of Youngstown, that the Mafia "owned" the police and the Courts, and that by talking to them, she would likely expose herself and her surviving son to further harm.
The Post Feature would pretty much detail such corruption, mentioning local Mafia figures such as Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia and "Little Joey" Naples, who were portrayed as men who brazenly broke the law with impunity. Ronnie Carabbia, Charlie's brother, would be Acquitted of his role in a safe-cracking robbery team after members of his jury were threatened with violence.
The Post also noted how a sarcastic resident overseas wrote a letter back home to Youngstown, addressing the envelope; 'Murdertown, Ohio.' The Postal Service delivered the letter to the correct address in Youngstown.
Hoping to shame the citizens of Youngstown into taking action against local corruption, the Editors of the Post wrote: "The time now has come for action on the part of the whole citizenry. Until each honest man is aroused, the cesspool will remain. And Youngstown will remain a shame to the nation."
This was the Youngstown that James Traficant grew up in, becoming a star athlete as the quarterback of the local high school football team. That success translated into a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh, in those days a powerhouse on the national collegiate football scene and a perennial candidate for the National Championship. Traficant excelled again there and achieved a Bachelor's Degree and then later a Masters Degree from Youngstown State University. However, by the time Traficant had finished his education, the Youngstown of his childhood had changed drastically. The steel mills, which had brought decades of prosperity, were closing down. The only lucrative industry left in the city were the rackets run by the Mob. And, as the money both families had counted on for so long dried up, tensions between the two escalated. Violence, in a town known for violence, was to follow.
VII. How Danny Greene came into the picture
As a young man growing up in Cleveland, Danny Greene was fascinated by the oral histories that were passed from one generation of Irish immigrants to another. The stories had common themes, notably the troubled history between the English and the Irish, the Genocide of the potato famine, and the lives of the Saints. Greene was particularly fascinated by the "Celtic Warriors," bands of brave men who dominated Europe from the Iron Age on. Greene cloaked himself in the mythology of the Celts, and acquired anything possible in the color green; clothing, carpeting, cars, even ink pens. By the time Greene was a young man, he was a Celt looking for a cause, a criminal in search of a criminal enterprise. Greene first found what he was looking for in the Longshoremen's Union.
Founded as a charter of the AFL in 1895 by an Irish-American, the Locals of the ILA were, for the most part, run by Irish-Americans, many of whom who were prejudiced against Italian-Americans. Irish-Americans thus controlled most of the Locals, the notable exceptions being New York City, dominated by Italian immigrants, and the port of Baltimore, dominated by immigrants from Poland. Thus, Danny Greene, proud, indeed, obsessive about his Irish heritage and who already as a young man was prejudiced against Italians, found a perfect brotherhood in his Longshoremen's Local Union. Already a bully and a thug by nature, Greene used such skills to rise up through the ranks of this Union, soon attaining the office of President, upon which he turned his Local into his own private piggy bank.
A quick study, Greene read "On the Waterfront" about the corruption in the Longshoremen's Union in New York, and "The Enemy Within: The McClellan Committee's Crusade against Jimmy Hoffa and Corrupt Labor Unions," by Mob buster Robert Kennedy. Looking back on Greene's career of crime, it appears he used these books as "how to" instruction manuals to achieve his quest for power. Throughout his life Greene would form alliances with Teamsters and Longshoremen and other Unionists to form his own money making network.
There is a limit, even within corrupt labor unions, as to how far a corrupt Union boss can go. As President of his Local, Danny Greene turned his men into virtual slaves, making many of them work for many hours in adverse conditions for no pay whatsoever, and skimming and extorting from Workers money from their paychecks when they were in fact paid. Greene's use of threats, beatings, gunfire, and the occasional bomb gradually caught up with him.
In 1964, Sam Marshall, an investigative reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, spoke to numerous members of Greene's Union and exposed Greene's brutal and criminal regime. Danny Greene responded by threatening harm on Marshall's wife and four children. Marshall didn't go to the police. Instead, he contacted a high-ranking member of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family, who then contacted John Scalish, the Godfather of the Cleveland Mafia Family. It had long before been codified by the Italian-American Mafia that members of law enforcement and the Media were never to be harmed. Danny Greene was not a member of the Italian Mob, but he had been allowed to co-exist and operate in a city dominated by them. The Godfather sent word to Danny Greene, who then apologized to Sam Marshall.
Danny Greene was not accustomed to taking orders from anyone, especially Italian gangsters, nor was he accustomed to apologizing to anyone, but that was the least of his troubles. In Court proceedings that were the direct result of Marshall's reporting, it would soon be revealed that Danny Greene had committed crimes against every one of the members of his Union. Part of the lavish renovation of the Local Union hall, it was revealed, had included the secret implants of microphones in all of the rooms, including the bathroom. With the flick of a switch in his office, Danny Greene could secretly listen to - and record - anything being said. Members of his Union had long suspected others within the Union of being a "snitch" - how else did Danny Greene come to know everything that was being done and said about him? The answers were in the tapes.
Anybody else would have gone to prison for many years for committing the various and outrageous crimes Greene had been caught red-handed doing. When all was said and done, however, Greene did not go to prison.
A similar case would be revealed many years later, in 1994, when the New York Times reported on Greg Scarpa, a hitman for the Colombo Mafia Family in New York who once bragged to an accomplice of having murdered over 50 people. The Times noted: "from 1950 to1985 Scarpa was arrested 10 times on charges like carrying an unlicensed gun, assault, fencing hijacked liquor, heading bookmaking and loan sharking rings and trying to bribe police officers. His scrapes with the law included charges in 1974 that he was a major conspirator in the theft of $4 million in stocks and bonds and in 1985 that he was behind a plot to counterfeit credit cards." (10)
The result of all of this was that Scarpa spent a total of 30 days in jail.
Scarpa and Greene, it would be eventually revealed, had one thing in common; both men were secretly on the payroll of the FBI, working as Informants, and, the evidence suggested, they were both "protected" by the FBI from prosecution.
Expelled from the Longshoremen's Union, Danny Greene decided to muscle in on the garbage hauling business. Greene targeted hauling businesses operated by a legitimate business man, Mike Frato. Greene started out by befriending Frato, but Frato pulled away when he realized that Greene was a criminal.
In September, 1971, Sgt. Edward Kovacic of the Cleveland Police Department questioned one of Danny Greene's Union enforcers, Art Snepeger, about the bombing of a grocery store in which Snepeger was a suspect. Snepeger stunned the Sgt. by confessing that Greene had forced him to plant a bomb in Mike Frato's car but that he had second thoughts and removed the bomb. Snepeger also confirmed to Kovacic that Greene was an FBI Informant. Several weeks later, on October 31, 1971, police responded to the site of a car which had been destroyed by a bomb. The car belonged to Frato, but the body parts found at the scene belonged to Snepeger.
What happened? Did Snepeger accidentally set off the bomb while installing it? Was Danny Greene the look-out in his car outside, and it was he who set off the bomb by remote control?
The case has never been solved, but Cleveland was on it's way to being dubbed the "Bombing Capital of America."
Danny himself would nearly die one night because of his relationship with Alex "Shondor" Birns, a Jewish-American gangster who made money in gambling and prostitution rackets, as well as the restaurant business. From a very early age, Birns was exposed to horrific acts associated with the Mob which should have been a wake up call to not associate with such people. Birns was just 13 years old in 1920 when his immigrant mother was tending an illegal still in her home, making alcohol for Big Joe Lonardo's crew. The still exploded, burning the young woman over 75% of her body. Her son would then be sent to an orphanage, and ultimately die a similar death. Frequently in trouble with the law, a grown-up Shondor was put on trial in 1957 on allegations he was involved in the bombing of the house of Don King, one of his numbers people in the black communities. Birns was Acquitted and King, who testified against Birns and lived to tell about it, went on to become America's pre-eminent boxing promoter. Birns would also be tried - twice - for the car bombing of his gambling associate Joe Allen. Once again, Birns beat the rap.
By the 1970s Birns was farming out some of the tasks he would have readily handled himself during his younger years. One such task was given to Danny Greene, whose assignment was to plant a bomb at the house of one of his gamblers who was slow on paying his protection money. Driving up to the house, Greene pulled the fuse on the bomb, which was inching it's way towards the bomb more rapidly than Greene expected. Greene then tried to throw the bomb out of his car, but it hit the side of the window, bouncing back inside. Greene then jumped out of the car just as the bomb blew the roof off the auto. Greene dismissed this near-fatal incident as the "Luck of the Irish."
While Danny Greene almost died in his car, Greene saw to it that Mike Frato would die in his. An expert marksman back during his youth in the Marine Corps, Greene shot Frato in his car while it was in motion, and would beat the rap by claiming he returned fire in self defense.
Danny Greene's next venture was to start a company called Emerald (after the color green) Industrial Relations. The company's function was to provide "security" to the labor union industry. What this actually meant is that Greene would extort money from businesses and Unions in order that they would be "protected" from sabotage from Greene's own hired thugs. This scam brought in a lot of money but also left a paper trail, and Danny Greene was just about to be indicted on labor racketeering charges and other charges when the Judge assigned to the case dropped it completely. This, the Judge would claim, was done at the personal request of J. Edgar Hoover.
Danny Greene's self-destructive behavior continued to escalate. Greene wanted to open a bar and gambling club and went to Shondor Birns to borrow the money. Birns, however, was cash-poor so he borrowed the $70,000 from the Gambino Family in New York. The money, however, was squandered by an associate of Greene's in a drug deal. Birns and the Gambinos demanded Greene pay back the money and Greene refused.
Birns thus began farming out a contract on the life of Danny Greene. The first attempt failed, when a bomb was improperly attached to Greene's car. Greene found the bomb and dismantled it himself, and found something rather surprising inside; the fuel for the bomb was not dynamite, as was the standard of the day, but rather C-4 plastic explosive, something only the military was supposed to have access to. Evidently, "the bomb," as used by the Mob, was evolving.
On an evening in March, 1975, Shondor Birns stepped into his Cadillac, parked outside a Catholic Church. When he turned on the ignition, a bomb blew his body into pieces. The bomb was made with C-4 plastic explosive.
The next bomb would be for Danny. Asleep with his teenage mistress, Greene was awakened one morning by the crash of a bomb being thrown through one of his windows. A second bomb was placed at the rear of his apartment building. The building was destroyed, but miraculously, Danny and his girlfriend somehow escaped unharmed. This event only reinforced in Danny's mind what he tried to convince others of; that he was invincible.
Greene next attempted to move in on the vending machine rackets, long a staple supplier of consistent income for the Mafia. Those rackets were largely controlled by Thomas Sinito, an associate of "Big Ange" Lonardo. One day Sinito found a bomb attached to his car. Another player in this business was a man named John Conte, who left his house one day telling his wife he was meeting up with Danny Greene. His body was later found bound and gagged. Conte did not die a quick and painless death.
VIII. Mob War!
The Cleveland Mafia Family inherited another crisis besides Danny Greene when, in 1976, John Scalish, Godfather of the Cleveland Mob, died after open-heart surgery. His heir apparent was assumed by most to be "Big Ange" Lonardo, who assisted Scalish during his remarkable 32 year reign, but Underboss Milton "Deer Hunter" Rockman astounded everyone with his claim that it was Scalish' dying wish that "Jack White" Licavoli succeed as Godfather. The ambitious "Big Ange" coveted the position of Godfather whereas the elder Licavoli, an unassuming 72-year-old bachelor living a comfortable old age as head of the Youngstown rackets, did not want the job. The new Godfather named his cousin "Lips" Moceri, head of the Akron rackets, as Underboss.
As in the unexpected and unwanted elevation of the bumbling Claudius as Emperor of Rome, Jack White Licavoli proved to be an unorthodox and uncertain choice as Godfather. Such apparent incompetence on the part of Jack White served to spawn plots against his authority by Danny Greene and his accomplices.
On an evening in July, 1976, Mob enforcer Eugene "The Animal" Ciasullo walked up to the door of his house in Cleveland. Next to the door was a potted plant, and inside the pot was a remote-control bomb packed with concrete nails to act as shrapnel. Watching nearby in a car, his assassin pushed the button of the remote control device which detonated the bomb. Against all odds, Ciasullo survived.
Next up on Danny Greene's hit list was "Lips" Moceri, doomed to die in a plot between Greene and John Nardi, a high-ranking member of the Teamster's Union. Moceri then disappeared, his bloodstained car found abandoned in Akron. His body has never been found.
Danny Greene and his crew next targeted Allie Calabrese, planting a bomb in his Lincoln Continental. However, a neighbor, Frank Pircio, shared a driveway with Calabrese, and it was he who went to move that car to get his own out of the driveway. Pircio's body, along with the car, was destroyed.
Next to die was a former member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang named Enis Crnic. Crnic died in April, 1977 while attempting to plant a bomb on the car of Mob associate John Delzoppo. It was never determined if Crnic accidentally set off the bomb or if his accomplice in the car seen driving away from the bombing had himself pushed the remote control button. Crnic and Greene were believed to have been behind the bombing of Eugene Ciasullo's house.
That year there were 37 bombings in the Cleveland area, prompting a local newspaper to label the city "bombing capital of America." (11)
These murders, most notably that of Lips Moceri were a stunning personal blow to Licavoli and a serious challenge not only to his authority as Godfather but to the very existence of the long-established Cleveland Family. The Italians finally struck back in May, 1977, when John Nardi was blown to pieces by a car bomb in the parking lot at his Teamster's office. Only the murder of Danny Greene remained for the Cleveland Family's revenge.
Frustrated by the failed previous attempts on Greene's life, the Cleveland Mob hired an outside professional hit man, Raymond Ferritto, who met with Licavoli and Big Ange on a boat on Ohio's Mosquito Lake on October 4, 1977. At that meeting, the wiseguys listened to a tape recording made by a private investigator who had tapped the telephone line of one of Greene's girlfriends. On the tape Greene casually complained that he had a dentist's appointment in 2 days time, and how he dreaded going to the dentist.
Finally, the Italians saw their chance. Greene showed up for his dentist appointment as planned, after which Ronnie Carabbia, head of the rackets around Youngstown, pulled up in his own car, parking next to Greene's. Once again, the march of science and technology was providing the Mob with more efficient and sophisticated bombs. In this case, Danny Greene would not be taken out by a "car bomb," but rather a "bomb car." The car parked next to Greene's itself was a bomb, which could be detonated by a remote control device. Carabbia casually stepped away from that car and slipped into a car driven by Ferritto and later, when they covertly observed Greene open the door to his car, Carabbia pushed the button of the remote control bomb that blew the adjacent car - and Greene's body - into pieces.
At long last, the Italian Mafia in Cleveland had succeeded in their determined effort to kill the Irishman.
IX. The Fall of the Cleveland and Youngstown Mafia
The murder of Danny Greene was not the end of the troubles for the Cleveland Family, but rather the beginning of the end of their decades-long reign. As Fate would have it, the sound of the explosion of the bomb that killed Greene attracted the attention of a woman driving by in her car. It just so happened that she was an artist, and she drew a sketch of Ferritto and his license plate. She gave this to her father, who happened to be a cop, and the two murderers, along with Jack White, Big Ange, and 15 other members of the Cleveland Family were indicted. Ferritto "flipped" and turned State's witness, but only Carabbia and his associate Pasquale "Butchie" Cisternino were convicted. The fight for control of the Ohio rackets, however, was not over; with these convictions, responsibility for providing for Carabbia's family fell to his younger brother Charlie "The Crab" who ran Youngstown's portion of the Cleveland Mob's gambling operations, the remainder being run by Joey Naples and Lenny Strollo of the rival Pittsburgh Family.
In 1980 James Traficant saw his chance and declared his candidacy for County Sheriff of Youngstown. Charlie the Crab, who had known Traficant for years, saw this as his opportunity and approached Traficant with the offer of $163,000 in bribe money to finance his campaign. Part of this money came from Carabbia's Cleveland Family and the rival Pittsburgh Family contributed the rest. As both had lucrative gambling interests in Youngstown it was necessary for both to bribe the man who might be next elected Sheriff so that those rackets could be protected. Traficant accepted the Mob's, money, agreed to protect their gambling rackets, and was elected Sheriff. Then, on the afternoon of December 13, 1980, just weeks after Traficant's election, Charlie the Crab got a phone call. 24 hours later Charlie's car was found abandoned in Cleveland, the keys in the ignition. Charlie the Crab has not been seen since.
During it's investigation into the missing Carabbia, the FBI would make a stunning discovery; Charlie the Crab had secretly tape recorded conversations between himself and Traficant which detailed their illegal activities together. The tapes were eventually recovered and they reveal Charlie the Crab's concern that Traficant had long been aligned with the Pittsburgh Family. Traficant and The Crab also talk about how Traficant laundered $10,000 of the Mob's money through Ed Flask, a partner in the Youngstown law firm of Flask & Policy. When Traficant expresses his concerns about Flask, Charlie the Crab tells Traficant not to worry, as he has in his possession "prejudicial, compromising photographs of Flask which would ensure his silence." "Do you know what kind of pictures I'm talking about?" The Crab asks Traficant. Carabbia does not elaborate as to the contents of the photographs, but it is clear to Traficant at that point in the conversation that Charlie, in addition to being a briber, gambler and racketeer, is also a blackmailer.
On August 9, 1982, Sheriff Traficant was indicted by the U. S. Attorney's office for accepting bribes from organized crime figures. At his trial in the Federal Courthouse in Cleveland, Traficant, acting as his own attorney, told the jury that he had joined neither Mob faction by accepting their money, but rather was conducting his own "undercover sting operation" against the Mob so that he would know whom to arrest for corruption once elected Sheriff. The jury bought it, and Traficant returned to Youngstown a folk hero and was elected to Congress in the elections of 1984. While in Congress, Traficant repeatedly introduced legislation to place tariffs on steel imported into America subsidized by those countries, notably Japan. Traficant would not succeed with such legislation, but it played very well with his constituents back home.
A few months after Traficant's acquittal, Cleveland Underboss "Big Ange" Lonardo, who along with Godfather Licavoli had been convicted in Federal Court on racketeering charges, quietly 'flipped' and became a co-operating witness for the United States government. Pre-shadowing the later flipping of Gambino Family Underboss Sammy the Bull Gravano, it was the highest-ranking defection amongst the Mob up until that time. Big Ange would not disappoint the government, helping convict many Mobsters, including "Fat Tony" Salerno, Godfather of New York's Genovese Family, and Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Godfather of the Colombo Family.
While Lonardo gave the FBI information about the murder of Charlie Carabbia, no one was ever charged with that crime. In 1987 Congressman Traficant was hauled into Federal Tax Court, where he was convicted of not paying income taxes on the bribery money he accepted from Charlie Carabbia.
The beginning of the end for Traficant came in 1996, when a shocking event occurred in Youngstown that would force members of law enforcement to scrutinize every public figure in that city. It started when an honest cop, Paul Gains, ran for District Attorney. To the surprise of many, Gains was elected. The local Mafia, as represented by Lenny Strollo, decided Gains had to be murdered, and it was decided to kill him on Christmas Eve, when he was likely to let his guard down.
Thus, the assassin was waiting for the unsuspecting Gains as he entered his home that night. The Mafia hitman aimed his gun at Gains and pulled the trigger. The gun fired and the bullet hit its target. Gaines collapsed, helpless. The assassin again pulled the trigger, but missed. The assassin once again pulled the trigger to finish Gains off.
The gun jammed.
The hitman pulled his trigger twice more, with no results, and then fled the District Attorney's home. Gains spent Christmas Day in the hospital, recovering from his gunshot wound.
This shocking crime so outraged the residents of Youngstown that finally, after decades of turning a blind eye to the Mob, they demanded action. They got it. An army of FBI agents marched into Youngstown in an unprecedented sweep. Soon, over 70 Youngstown officials - Judges, members of law enforcement, and Mobsters, were all indicted and convicted. The last to go down would be James Traficant, convicted in 2002 on several counts of bribery for which he served 8 years in prison.
The attempted murder of Paul Gains resulted in a crippling blow to organized crime in Youngstown. Likewise, the sensational murder of Danny Greene, and the co-operation of Mobster Angelo Lonardo, dealt a crippling blow to organized crime in Cleveland.
Greene's life is chronicled in books, among them TO KILL THE IRISHMAN, and in the motion picture version, KILL THE IRISHMAN, and in the oral histories that follow, often embellished as they are when passed from one generation to another.
In his declining years, "Big Ange" Lonardo left the Witness Protection Program to return to the only home he had ever known, Ohio. There was no danger in his return - there was no longer anyone left in Ohio who wanted to kill him. The days of bombs and the Mob in Ohio were now distant memories.
Memories were all Angelo Lonardo had during his final years. Those memories included the stories he was told by his father about the "old country," where once, 11 sons of two families dared to dream of a better life than the sulphur mines of Sicily had to offer them; a better life that surely awaited them in a land far away, called America.
Related Features by this author:
Bombs and the Mob! Part One: Chicago, Illinois
Christmas in Murdertown: The Mafia Conspiracy that Stunned America
One Degree of Separation:
The author, J. R. de Szigethy, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless otherwise noted, source material on Danny Greene and the history of the Mafia in Ohio, is culled from the following two books:
A. "The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar & Blood," by Rick Porrello. Barricade Books, 1995.
B. "To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia," by Rick Porrello. Next Hat Press, 1998.
1. Philip H. Bagenal, "The American Irish and their Influence on Irish Politics," London, 1882.
2. "History of the Orange Riots in New York," New York Times, July 12, 1871.
3. "Turtle I"
4. "The Confederacy's Bomb Brothers, by Peggy Robbins,
5. "History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850: 1877-1896," by James Ford Rhodes Macmillan, 1919.
6. "Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties," by Michael Lesy. Norton, 2007.
7. "Defining moment in local labor history occurred 70 years ago," by Marie Shellock.
8. "Ministry in the Rust Belt: A Bishop's Perspective," by Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J., Bishop of Youngstown. April 19, 2009.
9. Adelman, William J. (1986) . "Haymarket Revisited" (2nd ed.) Chicago: Illinois Labor History Society.
10. "The Mobster Was a Mole for the F.B.I.; Tangled Life of a Mafia Figure Who Died of AIDS Is Exposed," by Selwyn Raab, New York Times, November 20, 1994.
11. "Paddywhacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster," by T. J. English, Harper Collins, 2005.
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