Saturday, August 25, 2012

Milwaukee Gas Station Robbery - The New Normal!
In November of 2011, my wife and I were able to take a few days and fly back to Wisconsin during Thanksgiving week. The most economical airfare had us flying into Milwaukee, which worked out well as we got to spend a couple days with my brother and his wife and then drive up north to Crivitz. Although after being born, raised and spending my first 29 years in Milwaukee, I consider Crivitz my adopted “hometown”, having lived there 12 years, and any trip back to Wisconsin has to include some “actually most” of our time there.
Anyone who has grown up living in Milwaukee would know that the city, itself, has had a troubled past. There have been distinct neighborhoods that were settled by different ethnic groups. For instance, a lot of Polish immigrants settled on the south side, Italians more on the eastern part of the city, etc. There were German, Irish, Jewish neighborhoods, you name it, Milwaukee had it. 
In the 1970’s a federal judge ruled that the Milwaukee public schools were segregated and African American students were not being given equal opportunities to receive a quality education. His “brilliant?” plan of recourse? He ordered that students start being bused all over the city, from north to south, east to west to achieve a “balanced” mix of ethnicity in every school! Students were forced to spend enormous amounts of time riding around in buses all over the city to get to class. So began the “white flight” exodus from the city to the suburbs which has been going on for more than 40 years. Most of the rest of the country outside of Wisconsin would be shocked to know what Milwaukee homeowners pay in property tax, much of which goes to support the failed public school system! Now, most all of the system is in ruins and responsible parents that do not have the means to leave are almost forced into paying for private school educations for their kids. My own brother and his wife felt they had to do this with all three of their daughters (and it was a financial struggle!).
My point in the preceding is that a lot of the city has been in a downward spiral with many areas not safe to be walking around in at night “some, you better stay away even during the day!”.  A lot of crime, violence, drugs and gangs are the newer norm. Gas stations and takeout pizza joints in many neighborhoods have cashiers behind bulletproof glass with a sliding tray to pass items through. Not everything is that bad, some areas of the city have been rebuilt and revitalized, like the downtown area, but much of Milwaukee is not in good shape.
I spent a couple years as a gas station attendant and about 12 years as a franchised gas station operator from the late 60’s to early 80’s in Milwaukee. During that time, I was robbed twice, once with a knife and once with a gun. Two of my employees were held up. I was also involved in a knock down, no holds back street fight with some punk one night at the station (that’s another story). The thing is, it was a big deal back then when you were robbed. Police came from everywhere, business stopped, and you put everything on hold while they investigated.
So from that long winded perspective, I began my day on Sunday, November 20, 2011. My wife and I awoke at my brothers house on Milwaukee’s northwest side that morning. Our plan for the day was to leave for Crivitz (a 3 hour drive) while listening to the Packer game (of course, the Packers won!), go to my buddy’s house and get to Shaffer’s Resort for their amazing chicken that evening. If you’ve ever had Shaffer’s chicken, you know what I’m saying, my mouth waters at the thought. See the link for the John Shaffer story below.
Packing our stuff into the rental car, we decided that we needed to bring a lunch along so that we didn’t need to stop during the game, which started at noon. Just so happens, one of my favorite all time sub shops “Suburpia” from back in the 70’s is still operating with a store at 108th and Bluemound Drive. So, we decided to drive down there, pick up a couple subs to eat on the way north. As, I wasn’t happy with their drink menu (Pepsi), I decided to stop at the Citgo gas station on 104th and Bluemound to get a couple bottles of the “real thing” (Coke) to take with us.
So, I turn into the station and park the car. After asking Mary what she would like to drink, she hesitated and I said to come in and look. We entered the station, chose our drinks and as we turned to go to the cashier station, the door burst open and a uniformed police officer came storming in. The cashier, who looked to be of Indian descent with a strong accent was engaged in a casual conversation on the phone with someone as he was taking payment from a customer. The police officer looked at him and asked if he had just called in a robbery. I couldn’t believe it as he nodded his head yes and waved the officer to the side while he stayed on the phone and continued working the cash register! As the stunned cop stood there, a couple of other squad cars came screaming into the station with tires squealing, looking for suspects. Meanwhile we were standing next to the first cop when he just lost it, loudly stating something to the effect “ Sure! I’ll just stand over here in the corner while you do your business and when you get a minute, we’ll talk!” I was half expecting to hear some racial comments come out, but he refrained from doing that, although I wouldn’t have blamed him! He was kind of muttering something under his breath and I could see the anger in his face. There had just been an armed robbery! The dumb ass cashier just continued taking money and talking on the phone, so I gave him our cash while looking at the cop and shaking my head. The other two cops came storming in and I can only imagine what took place afterwards as we turned and got the heck out of there!
Seeing what those officers went through that day sure gave me more reason to be happy I don’t live there anymore. I left that city in 1981 and have never regretted it! Of course, I have some good memories of good times and there are many good people living there. Having lived in Salt Lake City for the past 19 years, comparing the two cities, the good people of Milwaukee deserve so much better! To really see how bad a city can get, click the link to the Detroit post below. It's an unbelievable scene of desolation and waste!
Link to the Shaffer story:
Tribute to John Shaffer and his Chicken
Link to a post on the city of Detroit:
Detroit - A Dead City!
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
“A Hard-hearted She-wolf who Resembled Elizabeth Taylor on a Bad Day”

Sally Papia, known as  the “Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime” owned and operated Sally’s Steak House, a highly rated restaurant located in the Knickerbocker Hotel in the 1970’s. Her restaurant was a frequent meeting place for politicians and businessmen. Sally could usually be found at the hostess stand, impressively dressed and working her patrons. Years later, at the time of her death, she also managed the Savoy Room, a main floor upscale restaurant at the Shorecrest Hotel, which was owned by Joseph Balistrieri, son of Frank. Frank Balistrieri took power in 1961 as the “Godfather”, leader of the Milwaukee mafia or La Cosa Nostra.
As described by Gary Magnesen in his book Straw Men: “Sally was a raven-haired firecracker of a woman who resembled Elizabeth Tayler on a bad day. She was the girlfriend of a Chicago Outfit member “Big Frank” Buccieri in the ‘70s and had assembled a loyal crew of employees who were mobster wannabes”.
“As the boss of the Milwaukee Mafia, Frank Balistrieri resented Papia’s restaurant’s success and thought she was a threat to his power, as she brought Chicago "Outfit" guys to his town, where they often dined at Sally’s place and never bothered to pay their respects to him. Balistrieri was once heard describing her as “an Outfit wannabe in a friggin’ skirt”. It was rumored that he once considered having her killed, but thought better of it.” Frank had to answer to the Chicago Mafioso and he and Sally had a very tenuous and uncomfortable relationship for many years. Later on, Frank was known to say that Sally was the only regular visitor while he was in prison and kept him informed of the Milwaukee Mob business being run temporarily by Franks’ brother, Peter Balistrieri. There must have been some kind of love, hate thing going on, it was reported that Frank was at Sally's Steak House very late on Christmas Eve, 1968. Frank's wife called Sally and warned her to stay away from Frank.

“Sally saw herself as a big shot but was in reality, a hard-hearted she-wolf.” After paying for the advanced schooling of one of her chefs, the chef decided to leave Sally’s and start up his own restaurant called the Northridge Inn. Sally was livid about it and in retaliation, had the place burned down. “But Sally, ever vindictive, wasn’t satisfied with torching the restaurant. She also ordered the crushing of the cook’s hands”. A confidential informant tipped off the FBI and they notified the Milwaukee Police. “Two detectives were on their way to interview the victim that evening when they spotted a car cruising slowly in the area of the chef’s residence. The cops pulled the suspicious vehicle over and began questioning the two occupants, when they spotted two baseball bats partially hidden under the front seat of the car. The men were immediately arrested for having concealed weapons and for suspicion of attempted assault.” One of the men, Jack Schlecter decided to cooperate with police and started wearing a wire. Indictments were returned on September 24, 1975. Sally, along with five of her employees were arrested and a trial ensued. "The trial of the Queen Bee and her co-conspirators was covered by all the Milwaukee media outlets, and Sally's name and face were flashed on television screens and in newspapers day after day." Sally ended up being represented by Frank Balistrieri’s lawyer son, Joseph! She and her crew were all found guilty and sent to prison for extortion and conspiracy.

Sally’s long time maitre d’ and convicted felon, Max J. Adonnis was found murdered in 1989.
In 1990, a grand jury hearing led to another indictment against Sally. She was tried for making illegal payments to Local 122 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders Union in an effort to keep employees from becoming union members. She was sentenced and did eight months in a federal prison in Kentucky in 1991.
On a January day in 2005, Sally, age 75, was a passenger in a car with her daughter Candy driving. Candy, age 51, drove off a slippery road head on into a tree killing her instantly. Sally died a few days later from her injuries. One of Milwaukee’s most colorful figures had died. She had dated a high-profile lawyer, a Chicago mobster, a cop, a banker and was friends with Senator Herb Kohl and numerous judges. Headline from Bill Janz, longtime columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in his his 2005 piece, “Papia’s Life Revolved Around Restaurants and Mobsters”. He did a very interesting column on her after her death, you can read it at the following link.,3180851
Link to Gary Magnesen's book "Straw Men" is below.

Related Posts:
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaukee's most dangerous mobster

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit! caption
From a very well written book by former FBI agent Gary Magnesen called “Straw Men” He recounts how the FBI crushed the Mob in Las Vegas and Milwaukee. His book is available in paperback at Amazon and a link is provided below.

It’s been well documented in the 1970’s that Frank Balistrieri “Milwaukee Mafia leader” and the Maniaci brothers, August and Vincent, were at war. In September of 1975, August Maniaci was gunned down after backing his car out of his garage in the morning. It was widely believed that Balistrieri got permission from the Chicago “Outfit” to kill him over a beef they were having. The ongoing feud with younger brother Vincent continued. Almost two years later, as recounted by Gary Magnesen in his book “Straw Men”, the FBI had Vince under surveillance. 
As Gary writes, “Steve DiSalvo and another unknown man were observed in the vicinity of Vince’s home.” DiSalvo was the right hand man and enforcer for Frank Balistieri. “The next day,Chuck Nicoletti was observed in Vince’s neighborhood driving a car rented by John Balistrieri.” Nicoletti was a hit man from the Chicago Outfit and John was Frank’s lawyer son. “We knew something was up and expected Vince to be the subject of the next vindictive murder ordered by Frank Balistrieri, but we couldn’t be sure. We assumed, wrongly, that if a hit were to come, it would be similar to Auggie’s killing - by way of a shooter in the morning when he left for work. The next morning we were watching as Vince got in his car and drove off on his way to work as a cook at Alioto’s Restaurant. Vince realized something was wrong when he pushed down on the accelerator because the car wouldn’t go faster than 20 miles an hour. We watched him pull over and open the hood of his white Oldsmobile to check for the problem, but what he saw shocked him. He jumped back from his car, quickly walked some distance away, went directly to a pay phone, and, realizing he had no options, called the police. When he had peered under the hood, he had seen the ultimate death package. A bundle of twenty sticks of dynamite, wrapped together in electrical tape, had been placed at the rear of the engine block and wired to the ignition by alligator clips.” One of Frank Balistrieri’s nicknames was Mad Bomber. “Vince had pumped the accelerator two times, as was his custom, before starting the car and, luckily, the accelerator rod had pushed against the bomb, thereby impeding the speed of the car. It had also loosened one of the clips wired to the ignition, thereby inactivating the bomb.”
The Milwaukee Police Department bomb squad responded and the dynamite was dismantled. It was determined that the red arrow brand of dynamite was stolen from a mine site in West Virginia. It was later determined that the man seen with Steve DiSalvo that day was Nicholas George Montos from the Chicago Outfit and was known in the underworld as a "mechanic", a bomb making expert.
Good thing for old Vince that his car was not fuel injected. Two pumps of the gas pedal that day saved his life!

Related Posts:
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaukee's most dangerous mobster
Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggerio-The real story of the "wise guy"
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef - Part 1
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef Processors - Part II

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Chicago 1981: The Beginning & the Scam

Can there be any wonder of how difficult the war on organized crime has been with all the corruption in the major cities, especially Chicago? When the police force is so corrupted to begin with, it allows the mob families the freedom to thieve, rob and kill. This is a guest post of a true Chicago-land story. I've also experienced pay-offs of a different sort myself in the old days, 90 miles north. There is a link at the end to the story I did on the Milwaukee Mob of the 1970’s. Dan

This guest post thanks to Links provided here and in my sidebar:
Chicago 1981: I was twenty-one years old, and had just gotten out of the Army. I was married and had two kids already, so I needed to make some good money. I got a job at Majestic Towing- they had two tow trucks and an auto body shop. It was here that I’d learn how to be a chaser.
Day one: George Mawson was sitting behind a beat-up desk piled high with a mess of papers, and barely room for his ashtray. “Come on in Ken, welcome to tow truck hustling. I’m gonna show you your new boss.”
In walked Gary Basso. He was a big fat guy with glasses. He stepped behind another cluttered desk, sat down and put his feet on the corner that had enough room. He took a drag off a cigar, looked at it, and asked in a strong Chicago accent, “Do you know how to hustle?”
The eager student, I responded, “Yeah, I’ll work hard.”
He looked me up and down, and said, “All right, let’s go.”
He walked out of the office and I followed. He got into the driver seat of truck one. I jumped in the passenger door, and he turned on the police scanner. “Always have your scanner on, and listen to it closely, so you won’t miss it when there’s an accident.” And he cranked it up a little.
He elaborated on my job description. “While you listen to the scanner, you drive around on the expressway, up and down, all day, looking for a broken-down car. Whenever you find one, you pull over and, help them.” With a little emphasis on the word help, he smiled, raised his eyebrows and rubbed his fingers together, to indicate money.
“Make sure you stay within the boundary’s of the police district you’re listening to. In this case, 16th and 17th districts are on one channel. That goes up and down the Kennedy from about Belmont to Harlem. If you stay in that area, you’ll be close enough to an accident that you can get there quickly, when there is one.”
He took off and didn’t get six blocks when the scanner barked, “1732…” A second passed and an officer answered, “1732, go ahead.
“1732, take the auto accident, 4532 N. Central Park, auto accident with injuries, fire’s on the way.” And 1732 respond. “Ten-four.”
Gary’s mind raced for the best way there, then he quickly turned right on Montrose. “We’re only a mile away. We should get there before the cops.” And raced to the scene.
We did arrive before the cops and heard the ambulance coming as we parked. “Hurry up,” Gary said. He jumped out and walked as fast as he could over to the smashed cars, people still in them. I kept up with him, and we approached the nicest of the two cars. “Always go to the nicest car first. We want the job for the body-work, so we go to the car worth the most money first, the one with the most damage, that would cost the most to fix.”
He looked at both cars quickly, saw one was a young man in a beat up car, who was standing next to his car, apparently not hurt. The other car wasn’t so lucky. He smiled like a concerned citizen at the driver, an old lady with blood on her forehead. “Are you alright ma’am?” He asked. “Is there anything we can do to help?”
She looked at him in a daze. “I don’t know… I can’t feel my legs… And I can’t move.” She looked like she was about to cry, but the old gal had some fortitude.
Gary offered, “Would you like me to call somebody for you? A relative? A doctor? A lawyer? A tow-truck?”
She stumbled for a coherent thought. “I guess, you can call my husband, Bob.” She gave him a name and number and he sent me to the truck. It had a phone in it.
This was 1981, so it was one of the first mobile phones. It had a huge box in the trunk which transmitted the signal to an operator. I jumped in and picked up the receiver. After a ring, an operator answered, “number please.” I gave her the number, and after explaining to the husband, he said he’d be on his way.
The ambulance and the cop showed up almost simultaneously. I ran back to Gary, still trying to console the old gal. “What happened?” He asked her.” She smiled and said, “I must have blown the stop sign, but he was speeding.”
Gary saw the cop walking over, so he acted quickly. “Ma’am, why don’t you let me tow your car for you. We have a tow truck right here, and we won’t charge you anything. We’ll just bill your insurance company. So you won’t have to worry about where your car is.”
She agreed, and Gary was writing down her name and number when the officer approached. I offered a brief to the cop. “This lady needs an ambulance. She can’t feel her legs. The other guy is OK.”
The cop looked at the other car. It was an old beater that looked like it could still drive, and the driver was sitting on the hood. He asked the old lady, “Do you need an ambulance?” She nodded. The cop looked at the approaching paramedic, and pointed at her, to indicate this is where he’s needed.
While the paramedics were tending the old gal, we went back to the truck to wait. The cop walked up to Gary’s window and asked, “Did you guys get the tow?” Gary answered, “Yes, and we’ll take care of you.” The cop nodded, and walked away to do his work.
Gary took out a 50-dollar bill and folded it twice. “Whenever you get a car, make sure you slip the cop 50-bucks. Don’t worry, George will give you your money back in the morning.”
The ambulance left with their customer, and we hooked up the car. When the cop was done with his paperwork, he pulled up next to us, close enough that no one would hear him except Gary and me. “Just walk over and put your two hands on my door, and just let it fall into the car.”
Gary agreed and nonchalantly walked over to the cop car and rested his hands on the door. The windows were rolled down, so Gary let the fifty slip down inside the police car. This was my first involvement in bribing a cop, but a lot more of that would come. They all took the money, expected it, in fact, demanded it. Except maybe for the old one out of ten, who was about to retire.
The next morning, I arrived just as George and Gary were opening up the door. Gary explained, “George, we got a car. An old lady with a brand new car and State Farm insurance.”
George smiled, “Great. Let’s make some calls.”
Then, the real scam began. They showed my exactly how they would trick the insurance company and the old lady into letting us fix the car.
George called the old lady, posing as the insurance company. “Hi Mrs. So-and-so? This is George at State Farm. Are you OK?” After a moment of concern, he added, “We have your car at one of our authorized body shops, so we’re going to go ahead and fix your car right away.”
That made her happy. No doubt, she went back to resting her aching legs.
Then he called State Farm. And with his best impersonation of an old lady, he said, “Hi, this is Mrs. So-and-so. I’ve had an accident. The car is at my body shop, and I want you to let them fix it.” They agreed, and said they’d send an adjuster to write the estimate.
George and Gary shook hands and congratulated each other. George gave Gary his $50 back, plus $175 for getting the job. Gary reminded him of the tow, and George gave him another $25 for the tow.
Gary turned toward me, split the $200 in half and gave me $100. “Here’s your half. Just think when you start getting cars by yourself, the whole $200 will be yours. And there will be days when you get three, four cars.”
He was correct, I’d soon find out. And I spent the next three years or so chasing, raking in the money- I was bringing home $400 to $1600 a week, at a time when most working men made around $150 a week.
Article about Frank Balistrieri and the Milwaukee Mob:
Link to above piece:

Related Posts:
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime