Tummy Ache Merchants linked to the Bonanno Mob Family of New York!
This is almost an unbelievable story and enough to turn your stomach! If you've ever had any sympathy for the American Mafia and their way of life, consider this great American meat scandal from the early 60’s.
Wisconsin is home to a huge dairy industry. One of the problems dairy farmers have always had, is what to do with old, sick and sometimes already dead cows, known in the trade as “downers” (because they literally drop down in the fields).
Mink ranchers need a constant supply of low grade meat, as minks are carnivorous and if not kept well fed, will start to eat each other. This is not good for the mink ranchers bottom line, and that meshes perfectly with the dairy farmer’s problem. Wherever there are a large number of dairy farms in an area, there tend to be mink ranches. And with a lot of mink ranches, you have businesses specializing in processing “downers” for mink food.
If you’ve never been to a rendering plant (I have), it’s a nasty place where dead cattle, horses and other animals (as well as mink carcasses after skinning) are processed (stink and stench with millions, if not billions of flies!). These animals can be used in any number of ways, being turned into soap, animal feed or pet food, as well as raw, boned, meat for carnivores like mink or zoo animals. The New York Mob boys back east, with their control and influence over the meat packing industry also found a use for this “stinger” meat. They “arranged” for processors on the east coast to buy it and grind up with good beef to mix in with their sausages, hamburgers and processed meats!
In 1964, a federal meat inspector walked into a meat warehouse in Ohio and almost keeled over from the smell! He opened a box of meat and handled it, later saying that he couldn’t get the smell off his hands for two weeks. The meat was traced to a plant in Wisconsin that was licensed to process animal food for mink ranches and zoos.
Problem was, not only were they selling their product to local mink farmers, but also to Charles Anselmo, who was an associate of one of New York’s notorious Mafia families, the Bonannos. Mr. Anselmo was then re-selling this “product” to mob controlled meat processing companies back east. Anselmo knew - as the Wisconsin processor(s) must have known, that they were feeding people, not minks. The meat was being held over in warehouses en route east, often treated with formaldehyde to get rid of the stench and discoloration, then repackaged for human use. Formaldehyde is the chemical that morticians use to preserve human bodies, also used as an insecticide, fungicide and general disinfectant. Eating can make you sick, but, toxicologists say, it won’t kill you in small doses - unless you have a heart condition, in which case it can kill you! The Mob certainly wouldn't forgo a lucrative business just because a few people have heart conditions.Detectives located one of the Wisconsin dealers by grabbing a truck driver (Joseph Hasenberg of Jim Falls, Wi) who hauled the meat east from Wisconsin. The driver was offered a deal if he would help collect evidence against the mink food supplier, Orland “Buster” Lea of Alma Center, Wi, who had a firm called Lea Brothers and was secretary treasurer of the LaCrosse Rendering Corp. Thomas C. Barr, 49, of Cameron, Wis., owner of the Tom Ban Meat Ranch hauled meat for Lea.
Hasenberg, the trucker, earned his escape from prosecution by steering Lea into several tacit admissions, while wearing a wire. Lea knew that the meat was going to New Jersey and that the deals were handled with haste, surreptition and cash. There were no bills of lading and he knew that higher than standard trucking rates were charged. Lea admitted to having met Charles Anselmo (associate of the New York Bonanno crime family), bringing him sixty animal skins from Wisconsin as a present because Anselmo had said he wanted a fur coat for his wife.
Where's the beef?
The other major supplier for “stinger” meat was Dominick Gerace of Utica, NY, where in a surprise raid at his business turned up horse meat, sub-par beef and counterfeit U.S. Department of Agriculture stamps.
Whatever “dirty” meat came in to New York was mixed in with good meat and sold to not only supermarkets, but other customers including the New York City school system, state hospitals and prisons, the Army, the Air Force, restaurants and hotels. In fact, if you happened to attend the New York World's Fair in 1964 and bought a hamburger or cheeseburger, you just may have sampled their product! What’s really disgusting is that several meat company executives were getting increasingly concerned about getting caught with horse meat in their products. Diseased beef, which might cause serious illness or even kill people, was a nuisance they could handle. But horse meat would capture the public’s attention, and bad publicity could kill the business. Nat Lokietz, an executive of the Merkel Co, overheard in a wiretap, was trying to persuade Charles Anselmo not to send any more horse meat. Anselmo would not be specific to the question of whether the next shipment contained horse. In frustration, Lokietz finally posed the question this way: “Does it moo?” “Well”, said Anselmo, “some of it moos and some of it don’t moo”.
Another disturbing side to this story, due to legal maneuvering, New York corruption and mob influence, most of those convicted in this scandal literally got a slap on the wrist with very minimal sentences and probation. Most of these criminals were right back in the same industry within a year or two. “Buster” Lea and Thomas Barr pleaded guilty with Lea being sentenced to six months, serving five. Barr served one month and both stayed on probation for two years. Both remained in their respective businesses. Three federal meat inspectors were also indicted. Not one of them was convicted, although it sure seems to me, the evidence against them was overwhelming! The book goes into great detail of what evidence was obtained and how the indictments came down.
The kingpin of the operation, Charles Anselmo (Bonanno mob associate) received an 18 month sentence, of which he served four and a half months! Never mind that he risked mass poisoning for profit. He was scarcely out of prison before he had set up a new meat brokerage in the Fourteenth Street market called the Kaylo Trading Company. Ahh, the sweet life of a New York Mobster! What are you going to think about the next time you have a bite of fresh kielbasa? Next in this series, stay tuned: The Mob in the Wisconsin cheese business!
Credit to and recommended read:
Vicious Circles by Jonathan Kwitny A very good book, written in the late 1970’s that goes into much more detail than what is posted here, well researched with a wealth of information, over 400 pages and a very fascinating read.
Other of my related Mafia posts links:
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)