Excerpted testimony of Angelo Lonardo, former acting boss of the Cleveland La Cosa Nostra before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs April 4th, 1988.
Opening Statement of Senator Roth
Senator Roth: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
These hearings I believe are exposing the changing face of organized crime. Frankly, that changing face gives me cause for concern. On Monday, we were told that we are facing a new generation of the LCN which differs significantly from its predecessors. They lack respect for tradition and for the family, they have succumbed to the influence of drugs, both as traffickers and as users. As a result, they have become more greedy, selfish, more violent. Many have chosen to forsake omerta, the traditional vow of silence and turn in other family members to save their own skins.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Nunn: Thank you, Senator Roth. Mr. Lonardo, why don't you proceed.
Mr. Lonardo: My name is Angelo Lonardo. I am 77 years old, and I am a member of the La Cosa Nostra. I am the former underboss of the Cleveland organized crime family. I became a member of La Cosa Nostra in the late 1940's, but have been associated with the organization since the late 1920's. When I was "made" or became a member of La Cosa Nostra, I went through an initiation ceremony. I later learned that to be proposed for membership in La Cosa Nostra, you would have to have killed someone and stood up to the pressure of police scrutiny. Today, you do not have to kill to be a member, but just prove yourself worthy by keeping your mouth shut or by being a "stand-up" guy. However, if you are called upon to kill someone, you have to be prepared to do it. In my case, my father was murdered by Salvatore Todaro in 1927. In revenge, my cousin, Dominic Sospirato, and I killed Todaro. This is one of the reasons that I was proposed for membership in La Cosa Nostra.
In the 1930's. my cousin, John Demarco, and I murdered Dr. Romano, the former boss of Cleveland, because Romano had a role in the death of my father, and we believed that he killed our cousin on the operating table. At the time, I was not a member of the LCN, but Demarco was. As a result of the Romano murder, Demarco was condemned to death by the commission for killing a boss without okaying it with the commission. I was excused for my part in the murder, since I was not an LCN member and did not know the rules. Later, I attended a meeting with Al Polizzi, the boss of Cleveland, in Miami, Florida. It turned out that this was a commission meeting and that Polizzi was defending Demarco's murder of Romano. I did not sit in on the meeting, but afterwards Polizzi told me that he had "straightened out" Demarco's problem with the commission.
During the 30's, the commission put a "freeze" on the making of new members. The commission put the freeze on since families, especially in New York, were not making the "right" kind of people. Some individuals were even buying their way into the LCN. I have heard that one businessman paid $50,000 to join the LCN. Because of the decree, I was not made into the Cleveland family until the l940's.
John Scalish became boss of the Cleveland family around 1949. He took over for Al Polizzi, who tired of Cleveland and retired in Florida. In 1949, the Cleveland family had between 50 and 60 members. Scalish did not "make" any new members, so the strength of the Cleveland family diminished as its members aged or died. Scalish just did not want to make any new members. Even though a small organization, the Cleveland family became involved in Las Vegas casinos through their association with the "Jewish Boys," Maurice Kleinman, Moe Dalitz, Sammy Tucker, Tommy McGinney, who is dead, and Lou Rothkopf, also dead. In the late 1940's, Wilbur Clark began building the Desert Inn casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clark was in need of additional capital and eventually went into a partnership with "the Jewish Boys" in order to obtain the necessary funding to complete the construction of the casino. Kleinman, Dalitz, Tucker, McGinney, and Rothkopf were gamblers who owned the Beverly Hills Supper Club, a casino-type gambling operation in Covington, Kentucky.
A few years after the Desert Inn was licensed and operating, "the Jewish Boys" gave Al Polizzi, John King, and Frank Milano a piece of the Desert Inn in exchange for the Cleveland family's protection. During the 1970's, the Cleveland family received money from two sources. The first source was the "skim" money from the Las Vegas casinos, and the second was our piece of the Pittsburgh family's Youngstown, Ohio, rackets. Our family received about $40,000 a month from Vegas and 25 percent of the Youngstown rackets, which would average about $5,000 per month. I did not learn about this arrangement until I became the underboss in 1976. The skim of the Las Vegas casinos started in the early 1970's. Starting in 1974, 1 began receiving about $1,000 to $1,500 a month from the family, through Maishe Rockman. I did not know where the money was coming from, but I suspected that it was from the Las Vegas casinos. I learned this from various conversations that I had with Rockman.
In 1976, John Scalish died, and at a meeting at Scalish's house, Rockman told me and Jack Licavoli, who is also known as Jack White, that Scalish's wishes were that Licavoli become "boss" of our family. At first, Licavoli did not want the job, but I told him to take it, as those were Scalish's wishes. Later, Licavoli made Leo Moceri his underboss and Tony DelSanter his consigliere. One day, I asked Licavoli if he had gone to New York and introduced himself to Tony Salerno as boss of the family. Licavoli said no, and that he did not know that he had to do this. I told him that it was only right, out of respect, since the Genovese family represents us, Cleveland, on the commission. After this conversation, Licavoli went to New York to introduce himself as boss of our family. Later in 1976, Leo Moceri was murdered. Moceri had been murdered on the orders of John Nardi. I became underboss after Moceri's death. After Licavoli named me underboss, he and I traveled to New York to introduce me to Salerno as underboss of the Cleveland family. I had known Tony Salerno since the 1940's, and out of respect for him and the Genovese family, it was proper to let them know of my appointment.
When I became underboss, Rockman told me the details of the Las Vegas casino skim operation. Rockman told me that the skim started when Allen Glick approached Frank Balistrieri about Glick's obtaining a Teamsters pension fund loan so that Glick could purchase a Las Vegas casino. Balistrieri was the boss of the Milwaukee family. Balistrieri talked to Nick Civella, boss of the Kansas City family, since he controlled Roy D. Williams, who was a high official with the Teamsters. Civella told Balistrieri that he would find someone in Cleveland that could talk to Bill Presser. Civella got a hold of Rockman and asked him to talk to Bill Presser about getting a pension loan for Glick. Glick told Balistrieri that in return for the pension loan, he, Glick, would give the Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Cleveland families a piece of the casinos. Rockman also told me that Glick received the Teamsters pension loan and purchased the Stardust, Fremont, and Desert Inn casinos.
Mr. Lonardo: I do not remember about him purchasing the Desert Inn, though. "Lefty" Rosenthal ran the skim operation in Las Vegas. Kansas City would get the money from Las Vegas and cut it up between themselves, Cleveland and Milwaukee. Rockman would travel to Kansas City or Chicago to obtain Cleveland's share. Rockman controlled the money and would cut it up with Scalish's and later Licavoli's approval. Bill Presser and Roy L. Williams received about $1500 a month for their role in the skim. The Cleveland family received a total of about $40,000 a month from the skim. Later, when a dispute arose in regard to the distribution of the skim between Milwaukee and Kansas City, Chicago settled the dispute and began receiving 25 percent of the skim. Chicago settled the dispute since Milwaukee and Kansas City answer to Chicago, the same way Cleveland answers to New York. To the best of my knowledge, the skim continued until at least 1984.
Since the 1920's, my family has reported to the Genovese family in New York City. We always had a very good relationship write the Genovese family, and that is why they represent us on the cornmission. The Genovese family also represents the Maggadinno and Pittsburgh families. There is a separate commission in Chicago. Chicago has control of all of the Western families, including Detroit. The Chicago commission makes and enforces the rules for those families and settles inter-family "beefs." If there was a beef or problem that included New York families with Chicago on Chicago-controlled families, that dispute would be settled by members of both commissions having a sit-down and working out the dispute.
Senator Nunn: Mr. Lonardo, let me interrupt you right there and ask you just one or two short questions. Is there still a commission, to the best of your knowledge, in Chicago?
Mr. Lonardo: Up to the time I was out, yes.
Senator Nunn: What date was that?
Mr. Lonardo: Well, I knew at the time I was in Lewisburg, and that was in 1984 or 1985.
Senator Nunn: Up until 1984, to your knowledge there still was a commission of organized crime operating in Chicago?
Mr. Lonardo: Yes, there was.
Senator Nunn: I would ask you the same question about New York. Was there still a New York organized crime commission that basically controlled activities of La Cosa Nostra as of 1984-85?
Mr. Lonardo: Yes.
Senator Nunn: Since then, you cannot speak of personal knowledge?
Mr. Lonardo: I do not know.
Senator Nunn: Thank you.
Senator Roth: Could I ask just two questions related to that, Mr. Chairman?
In speaking of these commissions, the Chicago commission and the New York commission, neither one was supreme, is that correct? Were they co-equal - did they work together in resolving disputes?
Mr. Lonardo: If there were disputes, they would- if there was a dispute with the West Coast family and an East Coast family, they would get together, yes.
Senator Roth: But one was not paramount or supreme?
Mr. Lonardo: No.
Senator Nunn: They were on the same level?
Mr. Lonardo: The same level.
Senator Roth: The second question, am I correct in understanding that no member can be put to death or should be put to death without the approval of the appropriate commission? In other words, must a family go to his commission to get that approval?
Mr. Lonardo: If it is a young member, they do not have to go to the commission, but if it is a boss from the East, the eastern commission handles that.
Senator Roth: So if a so-called senior member or boss of a family were to be put to death, the family would go to the appropriate commission to get approval?
Mr. Lonardo: The commission, that is right.
Senator Roth: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Nunn: Thank you. Why don't you go ahead and proceed. We will not interrupt you much, but I wanted to ask a question.
Mr. Lonardo: That is okay.
Up to 1983, when I went to jail, I knew that Tony Accardo was head of the Chicago family and, therefore, the head of the Chicago commission. Since the Genovese family represents the Cleveland family on the commission, I have traveled to New York on several occasions to discuss family business. In 1976, after the murder of Moceri, Licavoli and I went to New York to talk to Salerno to obtain his help in murdering Danny Greene and John Nardi. Nardi and Greene had taken a trip to New York to see Paul Castellano about a meat business. Salerno agreed to speak to Castellano and to have Nardi and Greene murdered on their next trip to New York. Nardi and Greene never made a second trip to New York, so New York never helped in their murders.
In 1977, Licavoli and I traveled to New York City to see Salerno and requested permission to "make" 10 new members into the Cleveland family. Salerno granted our request and told us if we needed any more members, just to let him know.
In 1981, Licavoli, Rockman, and I went to Chicago, Illinois, to see Jackie Cerone and Joey Aiuppa about getting them to agree to support Roy L. Williams as President of the International Brotherhood of' Teamsters, since Frank Fitzsimmons was dying. Cerone and Aiuppa agreed on Williams, and we then traveled to New York to see Salerno. We.called John Tronolone in Florida, and had him set up a meeting in New York. We went to New York and saw Salerno, who agreed with the choice of Williams and told us that he would contact his people to line up support for Williams. We supported Williams over Jackie Presser, as Williams was Kansas City's man and had Chicago's backing. In return, Williams promised to make Jackie Presser the head of the Central States Pension Fund. After Williams was elected, he went back on his word and did not name Presser. Maishe Rockman told Presser not to worry about it and not to do any favors for Williams.
When it appeared that Williams, who had been indicted, was likely to be forced to step down from his position, Rockman and I made a second trip to Chicago to get Chicago's support for Jackie Presser as Presidenit of the IBT, because he was Maishe's protege, and it would increase the Cleveland family's prestige and respect.
Cerone and Aiuppa had other candidates for the position and told us that they did not want Presser because he was an informant. Maishe asked Cerone how he knew Presser was an informant, but all he would say is that he "just knew." We left Chicago with the promise from Cerone and Aiuppa that they would think about Presser and let us know in a week or so.
The next day, a Teamsters official named Dominic called Rockman and told him that Presser was “okay” with Aiuppa and Cerone. After obtaining Chicago's support, we went to New York to see Salerno. Salerno asked if Chicago agreed to Presser. We told him that they did, but that they thought Presser was an informant. Rockman swore to Salerno that Presser was not an informant and Salerno agreed to the choice of Presser as IBT President.
Later, an article appeared in the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" which said that Presser was an informant. Presser demanded, but was refused, a retraction by the paper. Rockman and I traveled to New York City and met Salerno at his 116th Street Club. I explained to him about the "Plain Dealer" article and said that the article was not true. I told him Presser had asked Rockman to attempt to get a retraction, and asked if he could do anything about it. Salerno had "'Fish" Cafaro call Roy Cohn. Cohn told Salerno that the owner of the "Plain Dealer" was his client and friend. Salerno made an appointment to see Cohn. We left New York, and a short while later the "Plain Dealer" printed a retraction.
Rockman was the Cleveland family's contact with the Teamsters Union. The family would use the Teamsters to obtain pension loans and to do people favors. One time, Salerno had asked Rockman to see if he could obtain a union charter for a friend of Salerno's, and a second time he had Rockman obtain information about a vending company in Cleveland that a friend of Salerno’s wanted to buy. As I stated earlier, we also used the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund to obtain a loan for Glick so that we could skim the profits from their casinos.
As I stated previously, the Genovese family looks out for the Eastern families-aside from the other four the other four New York City - and Chicago takes care of the Western families. I knew that Anthony Scotto and Tony Anastasio used to run the waterfront for the Gambino family
In the early 1980's, I knew Salerno to be the boss of the Genovese family and also knew that Vincent Gigante (The Chin) was the consigliere and was being groomed to be the boss. I know that Salerno had a great deal of respect for Benny "Squint" Lombardo and frequently sought his counsel on family matters.
Mr. Chairman, I have been in the Mafia most of my adult life. I have been aware of it ever since I was a child in Cleveland. It has changed since I first joined in the 1940's, especially in the last few years with the growth of narcotics. Greed is causing younger members to go into narcotics without the knowledge of the families. These younger members lack the discipline and respect that made "This Thing” it as strong as it once was.
At the same time, the Government has successfully convicted many members, including most of the Cleveland family. However, this does not mean that La Cosa Nostra is finished in Cleveland or elsewhere. Many of the made "members", such as Anthony Liberatore, Tommy Sinito, and others, will be released in the next few years. In addition, there are many young men who are still in Cleveland who would have been "made” if we had had the time to do so before we were incarcerated.
Senator Nunn: Thank you, Mr. Lonardo.
Let me ask you just the definition of a term or two here. You used the term "made." Would you tell us what being "made" means?
Mr. Lonardo: Well, when you join the LCN.
Senator Nunn: When you are officially made a member?
Mr. Lonardo: That is right.
Senator Nunn: Being "straightened out" means the same thing.?
Mr. Lonardo: Yes.
Senator Nunn: You used the term "straightened out." When you "straighten someone out,” that means you have made him a member?
Mr. Lonardo: Yes.
Senator Nunn: Where did that term originate? They always use these two interchangeably?
Mr. Lonardo: They always said it that way, yes.
Senator Nunn: Mr. Lonardo, you have broken with La Cosa Nostra's code of silence.
Mr. Lonardo: Yes.
Senator Nunn: You have cooperated with the Federal Government.
Mr. Lonardo: Yes, I did.
Senator Nunn: Tell us why, why did you break the code of silence?
Mr. Lonardo: I was convicted and got life with no parole, plus 103 years. I know I will never get out of there alive and I miss my family very, very much.
Senator Nunn: How much of your sentence did you serve in prison?
Mr. Lonardo: Well, I was in altogether about 18-19 months.
Senator Nunn: Had you served any other time prior to this in the penitentiary?
Mr. Lonardo: Yes, I did.
Senator Nunn: How much time?
Mr. Lonardo: Twenty-three months.
Senator Nunn: When was that?
Mr. Lonardo: In 1942.
Senator Nunn: You mentioned in your statement at the end that organized crime now is different from what it was in the 1940's. You mentioned that now there are so many La Cosa Nostra members going into narcotics. When did that start changing?
Mr. Lonardo: I really cannot answer you when, but it must have been the late sixties or seventies.
Senator Nunn: The late sixties or seventies.
Mr. Lonardo: Before that, the higher-ups had told all the members that they could not handle any sort of dope.
Senator Nunn: Now, was that a breakdown from the bottom up? Did the soldiers start getting into narcotics, or did the commission itself, the top bosses, decide that narcotics were okay?
Mr. Lonardo: It was not the bosses. It was the younger ones.
Senator Nunn: You were the boss in Cleveland, is that right?
Mr. Lonardo: I was.
Senator Nunn: Did you ever give permission for people in the organization to be involved in narcotics?
Mr. Lonardo: We told them they could not do it.
Senator Nunn: You were convicted, though, of narcotics, right?
Mr. Lonardo: I was, but I was an innocent victim. I was an innocent man. I was thrown into that trap.
Senator Nunn: You were not guilty of that, the crime of which you were convicted?
Mr. Lonardo: I was not…
END excerpted testimony
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