October 2, 2000|
The Little Guys
By Scott M. Deitche
Florida has always been a haven for the mob. Over the years some of the best-known mobsters in the country have made their home in the Sunshine State. Along with all the big names, though, a lot of lesser-known mobsters with ties to all major crime families made their move down south and began to set up operations. The first big influx was in the 1940’s, but the late 50’s, early 60’s saw a rise in the number of northern gangsters to the area. Almost all were unknowns, but a few would rise to bigger and arguably better things.
The New York families contributed the most number of gangsters to Florida. Many of the big names, James Plumieri, Frankie Dio, Joe Indelicato, Morris Levy made major inroads into the local economy. But beneath the glitz and glamour were some hard-working soldiers and associates who kept the coffers full.
They were people like Michael Angelo Spinella, who was aligned with Gambino members Augie and Vincent Amato, both of whom were relatively unknown outside Miami. Spinella, who died in September of 1971, was deported to Italy, but snuck back into the US through Florida, and stayed to further his criminal career.
Another New York guy, this one residing in Tampa, was Colombo capo Harry Fontana. Fontana was a Red Hook resident who was peripherally involved in the Gallo-Profaci War before moving to Tampa where he worked at the Southport Stevedore Company. He was associated with Metro Stevedore president and Tampa mobster Ciro Bedami. Fontana lived in Tampa until his death in March of 1979.
Giovanni Misuraca was a reputed capo in the Colombo family who lived in St. Petersburg. He died in February of 1986. Anthony “Pee-Wee” Lanza, and Santo Idone, a Genovese and Philadelphia capo respectively, also lived in St. Petersburg. Both now reside behind bars.
Other New Yorkers, operating with relative anonymity through the years include Genovese soldier George Smurra (died January 1981), Luchesse capo Joe Larato (died March 11, 1989), Genovese soldier Gaetano Somma (died November 1, 1992), and Luchesse soldier Salvatore Loproto (died April 1971).
Gambino family associate Joseph “Chicky” Chierico was born in Canton, Ohio. He moved to the Miami area and opened Sonny’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, a hangout for Italian and Cuban mobsters. Chierico’s forte was gambling although his rap sheet, which dates back to 1939, included some assault and battery charges. Chierico was associated with Santo Trafficante in Cuban gambling casinos, as well as the Luchesse and Cleveland families.
Ohio had a number of representatives in South Florida, but few more active than John “Peanuts” Tronolone. He ran the Peter Pan Travel Agency and became one of the larger bookmakers and loansharks in the Miami area. Tronolone associated with almost every major gangster in Florida and made regular appearances in police surveillance files. When he ascended to the throne of boss of the Cleveland family, he never even visited the city, instead ruling the roost from down south.
Leo “Lips” Moceri, victim of the Cleveland mob wars of the 70’s, made a seasonal home in Miami Beach, starting in the spring of 1960. He owned a condo in the Winter Garden Apts. On Collins Avenue. The avenue became home to many well-known mobsters including Sam DeCavalcante.
Although he lived in Ohio, via Massachusetts, Romeo James Civetti was an associate “for hire”. He was reputedly the brother-in-law of Detroit mobster Joe Massei, and was in the gambling racket with mobsters from St. Louis, Tampa, New York, and Cleveland. Civetti worked in numerous lunges throughout Miami, including the Tahiti Bar and Grand Hotel.
Stefano Anthony Randazzo was a soldier in the Cleveland crime family who operated in Miami Beach. He operated Randazzo’s Italian Restaurant in Miami. He was also active in the vending machine industry. Randazzo, who died at age 80 in June of 1981, raised some eyebrows when he apparently switched allegiances to the Trafficante family in the early 1960’s. Randazzo became Santo Trafficante Jr.’s driver around Miami and went with the mob boss to Tampa on a number of occasions where he was seen meeting with Tampa underboss Frank Diecidue.
Pittsburgh also had some operatives in the area. In addition to seasonal resident and boss of the family, John Larocca, Joseph “Little Joe” Regino resided in the area as well. Reggino was a soldier in the crime family and lived down the street from Larocca in a swank section of Pompano Beach. Reggino was a figure in South Florida organized crime until his death in June of 1985.
To be sure, an accurate list of mobsters in South Florida would contain over a thousand names, peppered with hundreds of lesser known men like David Yaras, Joe Merola, John Biele, John Angersola, and Tony Damiano. To completely list all the names, records, and exploits would be a daunting task, and goes to show, when it comes to the mob, Florida is second only to New York in sheer numbers.
Copyright © 2000 PLR International