Saturday, November 29, 2014

Last of the Milwaukee Mob Bosses - Joseph "Joe Camel" P. Caminiti
Revised 1/29/2015  Thanks to One of my blog contributors reported that Joe was a resident of Menomonie Falls and drove a big Cadillac. I didn't realize that he had died this year. Links provided:

Joseph P. Caminiti (born 1926- died January 30, 2014) also known as "Joe Camel", was the last known reputed boss of the Milwaukee crime family. He was heavily involved in labor unions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Caminiti was married to Mary Alioto, daughter of former Milwaukee family boss John Alioto, with whom he had three children. He came to prominence when he was installed as Frank Balistrieri's Consigliere, a position he allegedly held from 1961 when Balistrieri became boss until the 1990s. In 1993, Frank Balistrieri died and his brother Peter Frank Balistrieri, succeeded him as boss.
When Pete Balistrieri died of natural causes in 1997, longtime family Consigliere Joe Caminiti became the new boss of the Milwaukee crime family and had Joseph Balistrieri, Frank's son, installed as his underboss and made Angelo Alioto, the son of John Alioto his Consigliere (Angelo died on February 3, 2011 of complications of pneumonia at age 87). Caminiti was a former secretary-treasurer of local 257 of the International Brotherhood of Teamster's truck drivers and allied industries Union which was a very influential union in Milwaukee's garbage removal and gasoline transportation and a former secretary treasurer of local 982 of the service station attendants, bulk plant and garage employees union. Under Caminiti's leadership the family was reportedly composed of no more than twenty members and 15-20 associates operating primarily in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. Law enforcement claimed that Caminiti shared much of the power with Frank Balistrieri's son Joseph who died in 2010. In the 2000s, Law enforcement also believed that the Milwaukee LCN Family nearly extinct, with less than 15 "made" members and the most lucrative rackets controlled by the Chicago Outfit.
Caminiti died on January 30, 2014 at the age of 87.

Another point of view follows from a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous:
Somehow the modern Milwaukee Family has some very dubious information floating around the Internet. There are "member lists" that keep getting recycled and include people who are very dead, and some who are just made up. (The name Rico "the Killer" Bono is a common one, and he never existed.)

The story of Joe Camel is another stretch, with people mixing up father and son.

Joseph Caminiti (1904-1995) is the guy with the labor connections. He is the one who was the consigliere. Before coming to Milwaukee, he grew up in Chicago alongside Carlo Caputo and Joe Aiello.

Joseph Caminiti (1926-2014) is his son. This Joe DID marry Mary Alioto, the daughter of John Alioto. But there is little evidence he had any real role in the mob. He was not involved in labor like his father, but sold life insurance.

Both men lived in Menominee Falls.

Joseph Caminiti's Obituary from
Caminiti, Joseph P.  Found Eternal Peace January 30, 2014, at the age of 87. Loving and devoted husband of Mary (nee Alioto) for 64 years. Loving and caring father of Madelynn (Daniel) Woodward and Catherine (Franklin "Rocky") LaDien. Proud and loving nano of Kathryn Woodward (Marco) Nasca, the late Mary Elizabeth Woodward, Daniel Woodward, Joseph and John LaDien. Cherished great-nano of Matthew and John Nasca. Beloved brother of Rosalie (Mike) Enea and the late Bernadine (the late Dominic) Cifaldi. Also survived by nieces, nephews, cousins and many, many good friends. Visitation Monday, February 3 at the HARDER FUNERAL HOME from 3:30 PM to 6:45 PM with a Prayer Vigil Service at 7:00 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, February 4 at OLD ST. MARY'S PARISH, 844 N. Broadway St., Milwaukee at 10:00 AM. Procession to Holy Cross Cemetery for the committal prayers, military honors and entombment to follow. Joe was a proud member of M.S.S. Addolarata Society, Society of San Giuseppe, Pompeii Men's Club, the Italian Community Center and past president of Wisconsin Association of Life Underwriters. The Caminiti family wishes to extend their sincere gratitude to caregivers, Lori Heppe, Shawenee Willis, Karen Sieben, the staff of Franciscan Woods and Elmbrook Hospital and the family friends who graciously loved and supported Joe and our family. - See more at:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mob History and Ghosts at Madison's Wonder Bar Steakhouse

The 85-year-old Wonderbar Steakhouse in Madison was a mob
hangout for many years. It was built by Roger "The Terrible"
Touhy and run by his brother Eddie, who disappeared in
the 1950s.
Brian E. Clark
Article thanks to Brian E. ClarkSpecial to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Links provided:
Oct 31, 2014  In the late 1920s, Chicago gangster and Al Capone rival Roger "The Terrible" Touhy was making bucket loads of money from his bootlegging and gambling operations on the northwest side of Chicago. Some sources say he was making an impressive $1 million a year by 1926.
To help out his bartender brother, Eddie, as well as launder illicit earnings and get booze into Wisconsin, the Irish-American mob boss and his sibling built a small, castle-like restaurant — complete with turrets — on a dirt road on the outskirts of Madison.
They dubbed the place on E. Olin Ave. Eddie's Wonder Bar, and it gained a reputation as a gangster hangout that served good meals and drinks. In addition to locals, it also entertained the likes of John Dillinger, Capone, Baby Face Nelson and other gangsters. In the '70s, it was a gathering place for politicians and University of Wisconsin-Madison heavyweights such as football hero and former athletic director Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch.
The Wonder Bar Steakhouse continues to serve patrons today. And while the area has grown up around it, the ivy clad brick building — complete with the original back bar — looks much as it did in the 1930s. Moreover, it serves steaks popular 80 years ago, including porterhouse, sirloin and T-bone cuts. (The latter two sold for $1 and 75 cents respectively, according to a 1934 menu.)
Better still, for those who believe in such things, the restaurant is said to have ghosts.
Shawn Bortz, Wonder Bar chef for the past six years, said the restaurant has had other names in years past, including the Cigar Box, M.O.B. and The Bar Next Door. In the old days, it was often under surveillance by the FBI and had removable sections in the turrets through which the mobsters could poke their Tommy guns. No shootouts were recorded at the place.
"The gangsters came here to escape the 'heat' on their way up north and to stash money," he said. "They also gambled and did other things, both legal and illegal. And while no one was ever said to be killed here, the story is that Eddie, who disappeared in the 1950s, may be buried behind the second-floor fireplace. We also think some nasty stuff might have taken place in the basement — 'corrections' and that sort of thing."
Bortz said the Wonder Bar also had a tunnel that ran toward Lake Monona that was used to smuggle booze and help the racketeers escape from "G-men and other cops who were on their tail." The Touhy brothers were the sons of an honest Chicago cop who had six boys, Bortz said. Many of them became involved in organized crime, and some were killed by Capone hit-men.
The 93-seat restaurant has dark paneling, which manager Rick Shuffle said may be original. A portrait of a voluptuous and scantily clad redhead hangs over the downstairs fireplace, perhaps a niece of the Touhy brothers, Shuffle said.
The painting is 60 years old, and the young woman, who looks to be about 25, is said to haunt the restaurant.
Equally popular is the 1938 police booking photograph of a young Frank Sinatra. It was taken in his hometown of Hoboken, N.J. The ticket shows he was arrested for "seduction," which means he was busted while having an affair with a married woman, Shuffle said.
Bar manager Jason Kiley said the specter of a man wearing a 1930s-era Fedora hat and a trenchcoat has been seen standing at the top of the stairs, as well as a young girl. They're not certain about her connection to the place.
Bortz said he's heard the young girl laugh. And once, when he was alone in the basement, he said, he heard a heavy door slam near him, causing him to flee upstairs.
Bortz said his menu focuses on steaks and seafood. His favorite meal is the cowboy steak, a 23-ounce cut with the bone in it. Another popular dish is the Chilean sea bass with a banana curry served with sweet potato shoestrings. In season, he said, the halibut served with a garlic panko crust is a winner.
Cooking at the Wonder Bar is something of a family affair, too, Bortz said. His mother, Elizabeth Bortz, prepares all of the restaurant's desserts. Bortz said she makes a mean cheesecake, chocolate torte and creme brulee.
Though Eddie disappeared in the mid-1950s, Roger lived until 1959. He was convicted — wrongly, Kiley said — of kidnapping John "Jake the Barber" Factor, a sibling of cosmetics mogul Max Factor. Roger was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1934 but escaped from the Stateville Correctional Center in 1942. He was arrested by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover several months later in Chicago after robbing an armored car of $14,000. He was sentenced to an additional 199 years at Stateville for the escape and robbery.
He was finally released on parole in 1959, 25 years after he was first incarcerated. It's not known if he ever made it back to the Wonder Bar. He was shot and killed 22 days after he got out of prison on the doorstep of his sister's Windy City home.
Though Capone had been dead for 12 years, his "associates" were blamed for the hit. On his way to a hospital, the dying man told a reporter from a Chicago newspaper: "I've been expecting it. The bastards never forget!"
Getting there: The Wonder Bar Steakhouse is at 222 E. Olin Ave. off John Nolen Blvd. near the Alliant Energy Center. Madison is roughly 80 miles west of Milwaukee via Interstate 94 and Highway 12.
More information: Call (608) 256-9430 or see the restaurant website at
For the scoop on other things to see and do in and around the capital city, see the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau at
Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Mobbed Up - Giovanni (John) DiBella and Wisconsin's Grande Cheese

Retlaw Hotel
Excellent story thanks to Stan Gores and the Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, Story was published Saturday, March 12, 1966. Links provided:
DiBella Lived At Hotel, Headed Grande Cheese Firm, Meetings With Bonanno Kept Him In Spotlight 
Two months before his 18th birthday in 1908, Giovanni "John" Vincenzo DiBella, a native of Montelepre in the Province of Palermo in Sicily, made his first trip to the United States. He apparently liked what he found. There were more than a half dozen journeys after that and, always, he seemed to be doing at least moderately well. Born June 24. 1890, John DiBella came from a family of eight, with four brothers and three sisters, most of whom also settled in this country. They even established a business, called DiBella Bros. Co., Inc., in Brooklyn, N.Y., importing and exporting Italian food products. During his early years in the United States, DiBella listed his occupation as a "peddler." On later occasions, however, he would be classified as an olive oil and cheese broker in Palermo, a grocery and business management representative, a salesman and buyer, a businessman, a factory manager, an executive, and manager of the Grande Cheese Co. -- a firm that had its beginning in Illinois in 1941 but moved its headquarters to 1 S. Main St. in Fond du Lac in 1949. Not many people in Fond du Lac got to know DiBella closely during his years as a resident at the Retlaw Hotel, but those who met him liked his friendly, gentlemanly manner. He was not a big man, standing only 5' 6" and carrying well over 200 pounds. He was full-faced, with ruddy complexion, and his dark brown eyes looked out from under heavy brows and once- black hair now streaked with gray. Most persons didn't notice it, but he had a scar on his right eyebrow. His speech was described as "broken English" by those not fluent in Italian. There was a "mystery" about John DiBella. He was a man whose record showed no arrests, yet he was listed in rather extensive detail in police files across the nation.
 Linked With Bonanno
He had been linked repeatedly with Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, regarded as one of the kingpins in the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra underworld. What's more, Bonanno's wife, Faye, was a minor stockholder in the Grande Cheese Co. Bonanno sometimes came to visit him at the hotel, and on occasions reportedly even used his name. (Dan's Note: As Gay Talese wrote in his book (Honor Thy Father) about the fall of the Bonanno family, Joe's son Bill, needing a car to drive down to Phoenix, just went to Grande Cheese and "borrowed" one.) So what sort of man was John DiBella? Was he the polite, charming naturalized (1951) American citizen many saw him to be? Or was he, as some police investigators claimed, the Cosa Nostra's "cheese man" in Wisconsin? Did he have knowledge of four, or six, former Grande Cheese affiliates who were murdered in brutal gangland style? Or was this all a confusing web of falsehoods in which the amiable DiBella found himself strangely entangled, simply because he knew Bonanno?
Joe Bonanno, allegedly one of the kingpins in the Cosa Nostra underworld organization occasionally visited the late John DiBella in Fond du Lac. Bonanno resided in Arizona , where he owned considerable real estate. Police in New York and throughout the nation have been trying to find him since 1964, the year DiBella died. DiBella wasn't a man who talked much about himself. But on one occasion, Al Olson, manager of the hotel, approached DiBella and asked him, point blank, how it was possible that so many seemed to assume he was "mixed up in that sort of thing." DiBella's answer was short. "They're trying to smear my name," he said. So to understand DiBella, you have to look into records, talk to people who knew him, read what was written about him and then try to put the pieces together. When you do this it's like working on a human jigsaw puzzle. Records reveal that on at least one occasion, long ago, DiBella was listed as having a Fond du Lac address of 2554 Lewis St. There is no such address--but there is a warehouse at 254 Lewis St. So you give DiBella the benefit of the doubt and figure that perhaps the warehouse once served as a storage area for his company or that, through speech difficulties, the street number was recorded erroneously. When he moved into the Hotel Retlaw he didn't have that problem.
Another Of Same Name
You also discover that another DiBella has lived in Fond du Lac. He is Joseph DiBella, John's nephew, according to the records. Joseph has been associated with the Grande Cheese Co. and the Gourmay Cheese Co. of Lomira. There also have been reports that Bonanno has sold cheese for Gourmay. The addresses listed for Joseph are 14 Doty St. and 13 S. Maim St. There is evidence that John DiBella in 1928 had some minor difficulty with immigration authorities. A letter at that time, signed by DiBella, indicates he had married an American woman and they had become parents of a child. There is a later record that refers to a phone call having been made by a "daughter." Yet on other documents DiBella is listed as unmarried, with no children. And on the day he died his obituary said he never married. DiBella's last trip to Italy ended in 1940, when he returned, as a visitor, to the United States. He brought with him 30 cases of cheese, with Detroit, Mich, serving as his port of entry. A study of a state police report reveals that DiBella was believed to have had a primary interest in the Grande Cheese Co. dating to 1941. The next two years, during which time he also appears to have acquired a Fond du Lac address, he was a salesman working on commission for Grande while also keeping busy as a salesman, manager and buyer for DiBella Bros, of Brooklyn. His average weekly wage was about $115.
Firm's Purpose Outlined
Thereafter DiBella seems even more closely identified with Grande. The firm's purpose, according to articles of incorporation filed on Oct. 21, 1944, was to "own, lease and manage dairies, dairy farms and creameries, and to engage in the business of manufacturing, distribution, and shipping cheese, milk, cream, butter and milk products and by-products of all kinds, as well as machinery and equipment used in connection with the foregoing." Capital stock at this time was listed at $50,000, with 1,000 shares offered at $50 each. For a number of years later, however, the annual report of the company showed "the corporation has not held its first meeting" and that no stock had been issued and no officers elected. In 1945. when he reportedly was making about S400 monthly from Grande Cheese. DiBella sought an extension on his temporary permit to remain in the United Stales. He became a naturalized American citizen on Nov. 28, 1951. in Milwaukee. DiBella and Bonanno invested in an Arizona real estate contract on April 1, 1955. The property was said to involve between 175 to 200 acres of undeveloped land in the Tucson area, where Bonanno was living. In the summer of 1959 Bonanno visited Wisconsin. Police said he conferred with DiBella in "both Milwaukee and Fond du Lac." On one occasion, while at the Retlaw Hotel to see DiBella, the well dressed, smiling Bonanno was pointed out to an employe as having been connected with the underworld, "Oh, no," the astonished employee replied, "not Mr. Bonanno!" By 1959, however, DiBella found his relationship with Bonanno and others had brought him sharply into police focus. He reportedly was questioned in a Los Angeles Grand Jury probe on Jan. 23, 1959 and in a Phoenix, Ariz, investigation Jan. 6, 1960. But business for the Grande Cheese Co. was good. In 1959 one source claimed the firm grossed $735,000, of which $68,775 was in Wisconsin. It has been estimated that more than 90 million pounds of Italian cheese were being produced annually in the state, with mozzarella one of the fast movers because of the national pizza craze.
President Of Company
In 1960 John DiBella was president of Grande, with AI J. Caruso, a former Madison resident, serving as vice president. DiBella, Caruso, and Rose DiBella of Brooklyn served on the board of directors. During the same year DiBella headed Cloverdale Dairy of Fair Water, Gourmay JOE VALACHI made the Cosa Nostra a household expression in 1963 when he testified on TV before a Senate investigating committee. His mention of Joe Bonanno touched off news stories in Wisconsin on Bonanno's visits to this state. allegedly said he hadn't anticipated the "sudden termination of hostilities," meaning World War II, and added that he needed time to settle business matters before going back to Sicily. As thing*; developed, he neier went back. He became Cheese of Lomira, and was connected with the Kohlsville Cheese Co. of Kohlsville. It was claimed that Grande also had a connection with Valley Cheese Co. of Los Angeles. On May 22, J862 Leroy Sommers of Fond du Lac, owner of the Full Cream Cheese Co. of Malone, was found dead with the exhaust hose piped into his partly burned car. The death was ruled a suicide, but his wife Amy, with Peter Porath serving as her lawyer, later said she believed he had been murdered. Five weeks after burial, the body of Sommers was removed from its grave at Rienzi Cemetery and a post mortem confirmed carbon monoxide fumes as the cause of death. Mrs. Sommers started legal proceedings to collect on her insurance policy -- an action that meant the difference between $4,476 or payment of more than $190,000. A court ruling was shoved back to 1963. On Jan. 23,1963 former Gov. John Reynolds charged publicly that organized crime had invaded the cheese industry in Wisconsin. Called upon to produce evidence, he cited the gangland slaymgs of four men once associated with Grande. Later two other names were added. The six included: . Tom Neglia: Shot to death Dec. 6, 1943 while being shaved in a barber chair. Back in 1940, according to one informant , he frequently played golf in Fond du Lac and later became affiliated with Grande. James DeAngelo: On March 11, 1944 police found his body stuffed in the luggage compartment of his car. Sam Gervase: Slain in 1944 in his refrigerator repair shop. On the night of the murder, he allegedly had as guests at his home Fred Romano and wife. Romano, a Chicago attorney, was the first president of the Grande Cheese firm. Onofrio Vitale: His trussed body was found in a sewer not far from the home of Vmce Beneiento in Chicago in April of 1945. He reportedly had been a $5,000 a year cheesemaker for Grande. Vince Benevento: He was shot five times in front of his place of business in September of 1946. He was identified as being in the "Chicago cheese ring" and also was said to have been a former partner of Neglia and Angelo i the Grande Co. Nick Dejohn: Murdered gangland style in San Francisco in 1947. His body was found in the trunk of his car. A week after Reynolds had fired his blast, federal narcotics agents, spurred by the Sommers controversy, said they were going to investigate dope shipments reportedly made in Italian cheese coming from the Fond du Lac County area. In less than three days, however, the investigation was dropped, with agents admitting there was no evidence.
Walks To Safety Building
With suspicion beamed at the Grande firm, DiBella maintained his law-abiding image by walking into the Fond du Lac Safety Building on Feb. 1, 1963, announcing he was willing to open the company's records to inspection. All he requested was that an attorney accompany him on the prescribed date. On Feb. 13 he was back again, along with Atty. Dominic Frinzi of Milwaukee (Dan's Note: Frinzi was Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri's attorney and represented many of Milwaukee's mafia figures.) and Caruso. A closed door meeting with Fond du Lac District Atty. Thomas Massey and LeRoy Dalton of the state attorney general's office, plus Fond du Lac law enforcement authorities, was held on the second floor. This meeting, according to some newspaper reports, resulted in the "opening" of the Grande Cheese Co. records. Massey and Dalton both deny that the records were presented for scrutiny. Both also tried to pry information from DiBella on his relationship with Bonanno and the men who had been murdered. DiBella insisted he didn't know the men who had been slain. What's more, he said he was there to discuss the business of Grande Cheese, not his personal relationships. Occasionally, DiBella and Frinzi exchanged comments in Italian. The session was said later was translated. While the meeting received widespread publicity, it accomplished little and no photographs were taken. The public was informed that no evidence of criminal activity could be found involving DiBella or Grande Cheese. It seemed for awhile as though things would calm down. However, on March 22, 1963 Mrs. Sommers accepted a $30,000 settlement from her husband's insurance company while admitting that she had no real proof that he had been murdered. The Sommers case did not implicate anyone, but the publicity it received exerted a steady pressure on Fond du Lac County elements of the Italian cheese industry. It so happened that 1963 also was the year that Joe Valachi, the one time Cosa Nostra member, decided to tell all. Among those he named in October was Bonanno, referring to him as a "godfather" in the underworld organization. This resulted in immediate revival of Bonanno's ties with the Wisconsin cheese industry, and his relationship with DiBella. A narcotics agent charged that Bonanno had used the cheese industry as a front for dope traffic.
'No Evidence'
Fond du Lac law enforcement officials again were called upon to make public statements that "there was nothing" in regard to visits Bonanno made to Fond du Lac. But for aging John DiBella, then 73, the spotlight never dimmed again. One man who knew him, and was aware of the insinuations that surrounded his business career, said he just seemed "like a nice old guy." Another claimed he was "one of the nicest men I've ever met." Former Police Chief James D. Cahill and present Chief Harold Rautenberg both had similar views. "You can't convict a man because of his friends," Chief Rautenberg explained. "A man is innocent until proven guilty." There was no legally acceptable proof that DiBella was anything other than what he appeared to be -- an elderly businessman living at a Fond du Lac hotel and who never did anything for which he could be arrested. But time was running out for DiBella. On Sept. I, 1964 he died, the victim of a heart attack. On the day of his funeral, plainclothesmen from Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, the FBI, federal narcotics bureau, and local law departments were in attendance. Cameras clicked and notes were taken. Ordinarily, a "marching" procession is held at Italian funerals. In DiBella's case that was called off. Instead, a motorized procession was held following services at St. Mary's Church. Then the body was taken to Milwaukee for shipment to New York. From there, DiBella went home -- by ship -- as he had come from his beloved Montelepre as a youth in 1908. In his will he made it clear that he wanted to be buried in Montelepre's Roman Catholic Cemetery. Moreover, he left $3,000 for perpetual care of the DiBella family plot and to "have masses celebrated for the repose of my soul and the souls of the faithful de-parted at least once each month." Yet even in death, DiBella remains tangled in controversy. Because of his residency in Wisconsin, an inheritance tax conflict has erupted, with the state of New York. When he died he was living in Fond du Lac. But his will lists his home at 8715 Chevy Chase St., Jamaica, Queens County, New York.
Claims Filed
One of his brothers, Guiseppe, has filed a claim of $788,497 on DiBella's will. The executrix and chief beneficiary Rose DiBella, has filed a claim for $27,800. It now seems likely that the will -- which also stipulated a total of $2,000 for each of two orphanages in Montelepre -- will be tied up for a considerable time. A man who got to know DiBella quite well told the writer that the late Grande Cheese Co. executive "received undue publicity right up to the time they buried him." He added that newspapers n e v e r said anything "about the good people he knew," always playing up his association with Bonanno. While DiBella admittedly knew Bonanno, the man explained, "he didn't associate with him." Strangely, there is another, added bit of irony. Joe Bonanno has beem missing since Oct. 21, 1964 when, he was hustled into a car on Park Avenue in New York City on the eve of his scheduled appearance before a Federal Grand Jury. His attorney, William P. Maloney, who was with him at the time, said Bonanno was kidnaped. Later he indicated that Bonanno is alive, but still hasn't been found. Federal officials are skeptical. In the meantime, investigation into Bonanno's life, according to the New York Times, has revealed that he "rules over a larger empire of crime than had been previously known." The investigations continue. But John DiBella sleeps fore v e r in the graveyard at Montelepre. --
Other of my related Mob stories:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Mafia's Ties to Wisconsin Cheese

In March of 1980, after a two year investigation, the Pennsylvania Crime Commission released a Report of the Study of Organized Crime’s Infiltration of the Pizza and Cheese Industry. Wisconsin’s Grande Cheese Co of Fond du Lac was referenced several times.

Grande Cheese Co., mentioned in the body of the report in reference to Joseph Bonanno, Roma Foods and the Falcone Brothers, was born out of a Chicago gang war in 1939. During the first few years of its operation, at least five men, including the owner, were killed. Chicago crime boss Ross Prio eventually gained control of the company. Over the years Grande has been owned by or associated with numerous organized crime figures.

In the 1950's the ownership of Grande Cheese passed from Ross Prio to the DiBella family, John and his sister, Rose. John DiBella became corporate President in 1959. John had ties
to Milwaukee crime boss John Alioto, who was Frank Balistrieri’s father-in-law. John Alioto was the Milwaukee mob boss from 1952 until 1961 when he handed over control to his son-in-law, Frank Balistrieri. DiBella’s sister Rose took over her brother's stock after his death in 1964, and later sold her interest to the Candela and Gaglio families. The Gaglio family owned Ontario Importing, founded by the family patriarch, Vito Gaglio, in the mid-1960's.

The actual control of the cheese and pizza business began with no less a figure than Joseph Bonanno, Sr. Bonanno, living at that time in Tucson, Arizona, was regarded as one of the most powerful leaders of Organized Crime in America. Bonanno initiated a conspiracy to control the specialty cheese business in the United States in the early 1940's and even in 1980, he and his associates controlled the activities of some of the largest and most prosperous specialty cheese companies. Bonanno had direct ties to Grande Cheese of Wisconsin; through it to Grande's exclusive distributor in the Pennsylvania area, Roma Foods of South Plainfield, New Jersey; and through the distributor to hundreds of retail pizza shops which were financed and controlled by the organization in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The Falcone brothers of Brooklyn, New York--formerly associated with Bonanno-tied Grande Cheese and partners with a Grande officer in other Wisconsin cheese companies--built and operated for a decade a network of fraudulent "paper companies" designed to produce millions of dollars for the Falcones only to collapse financially when challenged by claims of their legitimate business victims.

The Pennsylvania Crime Commission investigation had determined that the Falcones and Thomas Gambino drove another company into bankruptcy in 1976. In December of 1975, the
Falcones and Gambino bought 70% of the stock of the previously family-owned Badger State' Cheese Company in Luxemburg, Wisconsin. Eight months later, Badger State Cheese collapsed in disarray with $1.3-million in debts. The Falcones and Gambino had taken over Badger and arranged that Capitol Cheese of Brooklyn, New York be the major customer and distributor for Badger. Capitol Cheese of Brooklyn was operated by Joseph and Thomas Gambino. Joseph Gambino was a leader in the Carlo Gambino crime organization.
Capitol Cheese directed delivery of Badger State cheese to Capitol's customers, collected payment from the customers, and then the cash disappeared. When Capitol Cheese owed Badger State Cheese $560,000, Badger State closed down and the Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture placed the company in trusteeship. Capitol Cheese, the Gambino business in Brooklyn, afterward, went out of business.

Also involved in the Crime Commission Investigation:
F & A CHEESE of Grand Rapids, Michigan, owned by Francesco and Angelo Terranova. The Company was started with a loan from the uncle of the Terranovas, John DiBella of Grande Cheese. F & A Cheese had another office in Upland, California. Raffael Quasarano, a
member of the Joseph Zerilli criminal organization of Detroit, and Peter Vitale were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit in November, 1979 for allegedly extorting $270,000 from the Terranovas. They were also charged with mail fraud, tax fraud and racketeering. According to the indictment Quasarano and Vitale used "fear of economic loss" and threats of "force and violence" to gain control of an F & A subsidiary, Rogersville Cheese Factory, Inc. in Wisconsin.

According to a report printed in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Aug. 7, 1980, the owner of a Wisconsin cheese factory (Rodgersville Cheese Factory) allegedly taken over by organized crime bosses from Detroit was told by either Quasarano or Vitale in 1974, “The big fish is swallowing the little fish, and you're lucky your legs aren't broken, according to Federal Court testimony that day. Both eventually pled guilty and were sentenced to prison terms of four years each in 1981.,1039249

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wisconsin Shootout with the Dillinger Gang

Little Bohemia Lodge as it looked at the time of
Dillinger's escape  
Each September my wife and I go back to Wisconsin for vacation. While there, we attend a motorcycle rally in Tomahawk, Wisconsin and have a great time. About 60 miles north of Tomahawk is Manitowish Waters, where the Little Bohemia Lodge is located. 

We took a ride up there a couple weeks ago. The lodge is most famous as scene of a gunfight between John Dillinger and his gang, and Melvin Purvis and the FBI in 1934Little Bohemia remains operational today as a restaurant and gathering place. The Lodge is open year round, seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

A historic display of artifacts and memorabilia from the Dillinger gun battle is available for public viewing along with recent memorabilia and autographs from the filming of Public Enemies. For $5 per person you can take a self guided tour of the upstairs bedrooms where the Dillinger gang were at the start of the gun battle. Numerous bullet holes are still in the walls and ceilings from the FBI firing what must have been machine guns from the outside. Bullets actually fractured part of the bathroom sink which fell off onto the floor. It was pretty neat. In the summer of 2008, some scenes from the Michael Mann film Public Enemies were filmed on location at Little Bohemia. The movie starred Johnny Depp and Christian Bale and is still widely available. They also have a great menu with good food, as a few people we were with decided to try out the restaurant.
Bullet holes through walls in bedroom.

The following account is from Wikipedia, links provided:
Little Bohemia Lodge is a small lodge located in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. The Lodge was built in 1927, suffered a fire in 1928, and was rebuilt in 1930. The historic Lodge remains as it was at the time of the FBI siege in 1934 and has a collection of memorabilia and damage from the gun fight, including the original bullet holes in the walls and windows. The Lodge is located on US Highway 51 in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin on Little Star Lake, on the Manitowish Chain O Lakes.
Bathroom sink fractured from bullets.

On April 20, 1934, John Dillinger's gang, consisting of Dillinger, Baby Face NelsonHomer Van MeterTommy Carroll, and John "Red" Hamilton, settled at Little Bohemia Lodge, then owned by Emil Wanatka. The gang assured the owners that they would give no trouble, but the gang monitored the owners whenever they left or spoke on the phone. Emil's wife Nan and her brother managed to evade Baby Face Nelson, who was tailing them, and mailed a letter of warning to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago, which later contacted the FBI. Days later, a score of FBI agents led by Hugh Clegg and Melvin Purvis approached the lodge in the early morning hours of April 23. Two barking watchdogs announced their arrival, but the gang was so used to Nan Wanatka's dogs that they did not bother to inspect the disturbance. It was only when the FBI mistakenly shot a local resident, John Hoffman, and two innocent Civilian Conservation Corps workers, John Morris and Eugene Boisneau, as they drove away that the gang was alerted. (Hoffman was wounded, and Boisneau was killed.) The gangsters inside grabbed their weapons and prepared to jump from a second floor window in the back. A group of agents led by Inspector William Rorer rounded that side and opened fire, but were forced to take cover when Dillinger fired on them.
Bullet holes still in balcony.
As the agents ducked to avoid return fire, Dillinger, Van Meter, Carroll and Hamilton each jumped one at a time from the second floor onto a frozen mound of snow behind the lodge. They then ran down some wooden steps to the beach and ran west along Little Star Lake, unnoticed by Inspector Rorer, who could not see them because of an eight foot incline that obstructed his view. In the woods, Carroll became separated from the rest of the group. He made his way to Manitowish Waters and stole a car, and made it to St. Paul uneventfully. Van Meter attempted to flag down a car driven by Nan Wanatka's brother George LaPorte, who was following an ambulance from the work camp to Little Bohemia, but did not stop. They spotted another lodge a short distance away, Mitchell's Rest Lake Resort. The owner, Edward Mitchell, was tending to his sick wife when Dillinger, Van Meter and Hamilton walked in. Hamilton yanked the phone off the hook after asking for a glass of water, while Dillinger put a blanket over Mitchell's wife and asked for a car. The three ended up taking a car driven by Mitchell's carpenter.
Meanwhile, Nelson, who had been packing in the cottage, had fired at Purvis and fled southeast along Little Star Lodge. He took a couple, the Langes, hostage and made them drive him. He then took local switchboard operator Alvin Koerner hostage. Emil Wanatka, who had stopped by, was also taken hostage. At that point, three federal agents, W. Carter Baum, Jay Newman, and Constable Carl Christiansen, arrived from Little Bohemia, acting on a tip about the car that Carroll had stolen in town. Nelson surprised the agents and shot them. First to be shot was Baum, who was shot three times in the neck and killed instantly. Newman was hit once in the head, but was only dazed. Christiansen was critically wounded, shot five times in the midsection. After shooting at Wanatka, Nelson stole the FBI car and escaped as Newman fired at him.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mafia Don Eaten Alive By Pigs In Revenge Murder

The mob is still going strong in Italy! Gabrielle Bluestone at Links provided:
11/30/2013  In a plot stolen straight out of "Hannibal", Italian police are saying that Calabrian mobsters recently murdered a mafia don by beating the man with a spade and then throwing him into a sty, where he was eaten alive by pigs.
Francesco Raccosta, the don of the ‘Ndrangheta crime family in Calabria, disappeared last year amidst whispers that he had been responsible for the murder of a rival mob boss, Domenico Bonarrigo, of the Mazzagatti family.
Bonarrigo was shot and killed while driving his car. Eleven days later, Raccosta disappeared without a trace.
Italian police sent in an undercover officer to investigate and made the gory results public this month.
According to their investigation — codenamed “Operazione Erinni," after the Greek goddess of vengeance — 24-year-old boss Simone Pepe took responsibility for Raccosta's murder in wire-tapped phone calls.
"It was so satisfying hearing him scream ... mamma mia, he could scream!” he said, adding that there wasn't "a thing left" after the feeding frenzy.
"People say sometimes they [the pigs] leave something," he added.
"In the end there was nothing left...those pigs could certainly eat."

According to Italian police, the feud between the families has been going since the 1950s.
A spokesperson said that Pepe's methodology was designed as a message: “By feeding his victim to pigs he thought he would earn the respect of rivals as well as his own clan.”
In recent years, the warring Calabrian families have economically surpassed the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, thanks in large part to their prolific distribution of cocaine through Italy and other parts of Europe.
[image via Shutterstock]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects crime boss' son John Balistrieri bid to practice law

Frank P. Balistrieri (center) walks with his sons, John (left) and Joseph,
in the Milwaukee County Courthouse in 1975. (Sentinel Files)
Article thanks to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Links provided:

8/12/2014 The bid by
John J. Balistrieri, a felon and the son of Milwaukee's onetime organized crime boss, to get his law license back was shot down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

The rejection comes two years after Balistrieri applied to practice law for the second time since his 1989 release from federal prison. The court has had the matter before it since 2012 after Richard Ninneman, the attorney appointed to review the case, recommended that Balistrieri be allowed to practice law again. The court’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, however, opposed his reinstatement.

Balistrieri, 65, his older brother, Joseph, and their father, Frank, were convicted of attempted extortion in 1984 after an FBI sting and federal trial that focused on the role of organized crime in the Milwaukee vending machine business. Frank Balistrieri died in 1993 and
Joseph died in 2010.

The Balistrieri brothers were each sentenced to eight years in prison, a term that was slashed to five years after they blamed their father for their wrongdoing.

In its
unsigned opinion, the court wrote that it was “not averse to providing a second chance” to disbarred lawyers if they show they have changed their ways.

But, the court added: “The record in this instance, however, does not demonstrate that Attorney Balistrieri has clearly and convincingly proven that he has the required moral character to practice law, that he has a proper attitude toward society's laws and the standards imposed on members of bar, and that he is fit to represent clients and to aid in the administration of justice as a member of this state's bar.”

In fact, the court wrote that “the record reveals a pattern of a lack of acceptance of responsibility over the years that have passed since Attorney Balistrieri's conviction.”

The court noted that when Balistrieri first tried to get his license back, the court’s policing arm in 1995 recommended against allowing him to practice. Balistrieri responded by lashing out at the agency saying it “was biased against him because of his Italian heritage," the court noted Tuesday. “He attacked the integrity of the reinstatement process with a completely unsupported charge of ethnic bias.”

Justice Patience Roggensack did not participate in the decision and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote a dissent arguing that Balistrieri should be allowed to practice law.

Other of my related Mob posts:
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaulee'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)
Milwaukee Mob Attorney - Tale of a Double Life
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef - Part 1
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef Processors - Part II
Sally Papia - A life lived on the edge
The Milwakee Mob Hit on Anthony Biernat
The Milwaukee Mob Hit on August Palimisano
New York's "Joe Bananas" meets Milwaukee's Frank "Mad Bomber" Balistrieri
The Life and Times of a Chicago Mafia Hit Man
From Balistrieri's Bag Man to Investigative Reporter
Louis Fazio - Milwaukee Mob Hit or Robbery?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Loius Fazio - Milwaukee Mob Hit or Robbery?
As published in the following archive of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, most of the local police officials immediately dismissed the idea that the motive for murder may have been a mob hit, and were certain that it was a “simple” robbery-murder.

But, as mentioned in several accounts, Frank Balistrieri, Milwaukee’s mob boss, and Louis Fazio were enemies.

On Feb 2, 1973, Milwaukee Journal reporters Alex Dobish and Thomas Lubenow reported in the Journal that back in 1968 there were rumors that Fazio was going to be offered the post of Mafia don in Milwaukee. That would not have set well with "The Mad Bomber" Balistrieri, who had been in command since 1961. (The Chicago Outfit had the ultimate control of Milwaukee and it was well within their power to depose and appoint a Milwaukee don.)

Joseph Pistone, an undercover FBI agent, and “Lefty Guns” Ruggerio (New York mobster) were guests in Frank Balistrieri’s Milwaukee home for dinner one Saturday evening in 1978. Joe wrote in his book, “Donnie Brasco”, that Frank wanted to go to an ethnic Italian civic dinner event the next evening that Fazio had been a previous chairman of. He had not attended the event for several years. Frank made the statement that evening about Fazio, “He’s dead, Five times thirty-eight.” Of course, thirty-eight referred to 38 caliber. The next evening, Frank and his entourage walked in unannounced, to “have some fun”, disrupting everyone as the staff scrambled to accommodate them and Balistrieri played the “godfather” to the hilt! The event took place in none other than the Grand Ballroom of the Marc Plaza hotel!

Ned Day, a former bagman and bartender for Balistrieri turned investigative reporter in Las Vegas, wrote years later:
“I remember Louie Fazio got blasted. Frankie Bal didn't like him. I remember when Augie Maniaci took two bullets in the skull. Frankie Bal didn't like him, either.”

As I remember, back in those years, Milwaukee County District Attorney Hugh O’Connell and long time Police Chief Harold Breier were persistent in their public statements that there was no evidence of organized crime in Milwaukee or Wisconsin! Did the power from the top command the bottom to “look the other way”? Other federal and state agencies didn't see it the same way.

In an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel on N0v 3, 1975, Milwaukee Dist. Atty. E. Michael McCann was quoted as saying the deaths of Louis Fazio and August Maniaci were "reflective of an interior struggle" within the organized crime element in Milwaukee.

Here’s the original story, thanks to the Journal Sentinel Archives. No reporter was credited by the Sentinel. Links provided:

Louis Fazio Shot Dead in Parking Lot of Home

Sept. 27, 1972 Louis Fazio, a member of a prominent Milwaukee restaurant family who served nearly a dozen years in prison for his part in a 1948 gangland slaying, was found shot to death outside his home Wednesday morning.

Fazio, 58 of 2805 N. Humbolt Ave., was found in a parking area behind his home at about 6:45 a.m. by a neighbor.

County medical examiner’s investigators X-rayed the body first, without removing Fazio’s clothing. By noon they had located two slugs still in the body, one in the head, with what appeared to be an entrance wound at the right rear side of the head and another in the neck, apparently fired as Fazio was falling or lying on his side.. That slug tore through the shoulder of his coat, leading detectives to believe he had a shoulder wound, officials said.

There was a third bullet wound in Fazio’s abdomen, but that slug had not been located by X-ray. An autopsy was to be held.

A copy of The Milwaukee Sentinel was found on the ground beside the body. Two more copies of the paper were found inside the car.

Joseph La Monte, deputy county medical examiner and a friend of the Fazio family since childhood, said it had been Fazio’s practice to bring a newspaper home with him after closing the Iron Horse restaurant, 100 W. Wells St., one of the family enterprises, which he managed. La Monte said said it was a practice of one of the regular late night customers to buy the papers and hand them out just before it’s 2 a.m. closing.

Detective Inspector Leo Woelfel said that as far as police could determine the motive was robbery.

He said Fazio was known to carry two or three wallets and that “he was a guy known to carry a bundle of cash.” After closing the restaurant, said Woelfel, Fazio was probably carrying much of the day’s receipts.

However, when the body was searched at the county medical examiner's office, a total of $448 was found in his pockets, more than $400 of it in a money clip.

The other wallets to which Woelfel referred were not found.

“Apparently, he put up a fight”, said Woelfel, “his knuckles were bruised.”

Woelfel discounted the possibility that Fazio was a victim of a Milwaukee gangland struggle. He said there was no evidence to point to anything but robbery as a motive.

Found in Parking Lot
However, federal authorities and agents of state Atty. Gen. Robert W. Warren’s organized crime strike force were known to be interested in the slaying investigation.
The body was found on a three stall concrete parking area behind the four-family apartment house in which he and his wife, Josephine, lived.
Fazio had parked his car in the middle space, as was his custom. The body was found at the rear of the car.
Fazio’s keys were found behind the left rear wheel of the auto, a 1972 Chevrolet.
Mrs. Fazio said that when she awoke: “I heard voices outside. I pulled up the shade and there they all were.” She was referring to police.
Mrs. Fazio said it was her husband’s practice to arrive home between 2 and 3 a.m. and take their dog out for a walk. She said she looked out a rear window about 2:30 a.m., saw the car and expected Fazio inside at any minute. The Fazios had been married 37 years.
Ray Suminski, Fazio’s nephew and a bartender at the Iron Horse, said that Fazio left the restaurant at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
According to the county medical examiner’s report, neighbors heard arguing about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday and then heard two or three shots.
Although police were officially listing robbery as the motive, detectives and other Safety Building and Courthouse officials were speculating that there might be other motives - possibly revenge.
Fazio had a police record dating back to 1933, when he was arrested on a charge of carrying concealed weapons.

First Prison Term
He received his first prison term - 10 years - in 1942, when he was sent to the State Prison at Waupun for pandering and carnal knowledge and abuse.
At the trial Fazio was accused of being a leader of a white slave ring, in which, among other things, he allegedly bought for $150 another man’s interest in a 15 year old girl whom the other man had placed in a house of prostitution in Sheboygan county.
That sentence was commuted by Gov. Julius Heil and Fazio was released from prison May 18, 1945. Heil’s action brought protest from then Dist. Atty. Herbert J. Steffes, now a Circuit Judge, who had prosecuted Fazio, and from Milwaukee women’s groups.
Slightly more than a year later - June 24th, 1948 - Fazio was returned to the state prison for his part in the slaying of Mike Farina and the attempted murder of Farina’s brother, Joseph, on Hwy 43 in Kenosha county that year.
Also convicted in that killing were John Mandella, his brother Jerome, and Dominic Lampone, all associates of Fazio.

Revenge Considered
Authorities believed the slaying was in revenge for the burglary of John Mandella’s home. Loot from the burglary was taken to Kenosha and it was on the way back that the Farina’s truck was stopped on the highway by a car following them. Inside were the four defendants.
Joseph Farina lived to testify in court and pointed to Fazio as the trigger man.
“The four punched us around,” Farina testified, “and then Fazio made me get in the back of the truck. He sat on a box and I sat on the floor. Lampone was in the driver’s seat. Then Fazio got out and went away, but he came back. I saw sparks coming toward me and felt my head twisting around. I knew I was shot when I felt blood. I was shot twice in the head and three times in the left hand. “Then I heard fighting outside the truck and Mike started in the back end. Mike said ‘Are you hurt Joe? What’s the matter?’  

More Shots
“Then there were more shots behind Mike. He grunted, and fell on me. I saw Fazio at the door of the truck. More shots were fired, so I fell down and played dead.”
Fazio was sentenced to life for the murder and to 30 years to run concurrently, for the assault on Joseph Farina.
Former Waupun Warden John C. Burke said Wednesday that he recalled Fazio as a good prisoner, one whose conduct enabled him to have some of the more privileged jobs in the prison.
While it may have been his good conduct that brought him special treatment in the state prison, it was his political influence that brought him special favors in the State Legislature. It also brought the end of the political career of Mark Catlin, then one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Catlin, an attorney and speaker of the Assembly, was named in a complaint by Board of State Bar Commissioners with unethical conduct in trying to obtain clemency for state prisoners - among them, Fazio.
Frank Fazio, Louis’ brother and now operator of a Fort Lauderdale restaurant, testified that he paid Catlin  $5,000 in an effort to get Louis released from prison.
The attempt failed, but Catlin lost his bar license for six months - it has long since been reinstated - along with his political influence.
At the time Catlin had been considered as the choice of the state Republican organization to replace Alexander Wiley on the ballot for US senator.

Gets Parole
Fazio was paroled Dec, 2, 1957, after serving about the minimum sentence.
Within two years he was returned to prison for violating his parole. Police found 80,000 ballpoint pens and jewelry taken in a burglary of a downtown Milwaukee jewelry store in his car.
Fazio was returned to prison for a year and was paroled on Oct. 10, 1960.
He went back to work in the family restaurant on N. 5th St. and on Dec. 12, 1966, his prison sentence was commuted by former Gov. Warren P. Knowles.
Because he was serving a life sentence Fazio would have been on parole for the rest of his life and as a parolee Fazio could not have held a City of Milwaukee bartender’s license.
However, the commutation changed that and he was granted a bartender’s license on 1968.,4135604