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The Cleveland crime family, also known as the Porrello crime family, or the Licavoli crime family, is an American Mafia (or Cosa Nostra) crime family active in the Cleveland, Ohio and the Greater Cleveland Area.
History[edit | edit source]
The Lonardo and Porrello brothers[edit | edit source]
The Cleveland crime family originated in the early 1900s when the four Lonardo brothers and seven Porrello brothers migrated to the United States from Licata, Sicily. The Londardo and Porrello brothers first established themselves as legitimate businessmen. The two groups dabbled in various criminal activities, such as robbery and extortion, before prohibition, but were not yet considered major organization. At the start of Prohibition, Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo was the Boss of the Cleveland crime family. He was the second oldest of four Lonardo brothers. He and his brothers began by supplying Cleveland's bootleggers with the corn sugar they needed to produce liquor. His top lieutenant was Joseph "Big Joe" Porrello who supervised various bootlegging and other criminal operations throughout the early-to-mid 1920s.
Split factions[edit | edit source]
In 1926, the Porrello brothers (Rosario, Vincenzo, Angelo, Joseph, John, Ottavio, and Raymond) broke away from the Lonardo family forming their own faction. They established their headquarters in the upper Woodland Avenue around E. 110th St. In 1927 hostilities between the Lonardo and Porello families escalated as the Porellos competed with the Lonardo family for both corn sugar business which is a prime ingredient in bootleg liquor.
With violence on the rise, boss Joseph Lonardo left for Sicily in the summer of 1927. He left his brother John and adviser, Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro as acting heads of the Cleveland family. When Lonardo returned a sitdown was scheduled between the Lonardo's and the Porrello's. On October 13, 1927 Joseph Lonardo and his eldest brother John were to meet with Angelo Porrello in a Porello owned barber shop. The Lonardo brothers relaxed playing a game of cards when they were surprised by two gunmen, and assassinated. This allowed Joseph Porello take over as boss of the Cleveland crime family and became the most influential corn sugar barons in the Cleveland area.
The Porrello's[edit | edit source]
Through all of late 1927 and much of 1928 the remaining Lonardo faction loyalists which included an influential, up and coming Mafia group known as the Mayfield Road Mob led by Frank Milano and his Jewish allies within the Cleveland Syndicate continued to rival the Porrello family for the leadership within the Cleveland underworld and for control of the most lucrative rackets outside of the corn sugar business, mainly gambling which was the biggest earner for the American Mafia crime families next to bootlegging.
Porrello needed the support from the top Mafia bosses in New York and in various leading Mafia territories across the United States. On December 5, 1928, a high level American Mafia meeting was held at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland. Joseph Porrello and one of his top lieutenants, Sam Tilocco hosted the event hoping that the top Mafia bosses from across the United States would declare him the official Mafia boss of Cleveland. The attendees in the Cleveland meeting became one of the first known La Cosa Nostra summits in American history. Some of the powerful bosses who attended included Joe Profaci and Vincent Mangano of New York, but the meeting turned into a fiasco as some of the well known attendees were recognized by local law enforcement and arrested along with their associates as the mafiosi continued to arrive from across the country for the Mafia summit.
The Porrello brothers arranged for their associates to be bailed out of jail. Joseph Porrello was declared the boss and recognized nationwide not-with-standing the fiasco which he was supposed to have hosted. On June 11, 1929 Porrello family lieutenant Sam Todaro was murdered. At the end of Prohibition, most of the Porello brothers and their supporters had been killed or had sided with the Mayfield Road Mob.
On July 5, 1930, Joseph Porrello was invited to a sitdwon with Frank Milano at the Milano owned Venetian Restaurant. Gunfire erupted and boss Joseph Porrello and his underling were dead. Vincenzo "Jim" Porrello, succeeded his brother Joseph. Three after his brother's murder, Vincenzo was shot in the back of the head and murdered in a grocery store on East 110th Street and Woodland Avenue in an area considered a Porrello stronghold. Raymond Porrello declared revenge on August 15, 1930, a explosion leveled Raymond's home, but luckily he was not home at the time.
Mayfield Road Mob[edit | edit source]
In the early 1930s, Milano and his "Mayfield Road Mob" a Mafia gang based in Cleveland's Little Italy had replaced the Porrellos as the Cleveland area's premier Mafia group. The Mafia faction was even mentioned by its old name in the movie "The Godfather" as the Lakeview Road Gang, as Lakeview Cemetery borders Mayfield Road Hill which marks the beginning of Little Italy in Cleveland. This area is also referred to as "Murray Hill" by locals. This Mafia family was formed in the late 1920s and was headed by Frank Milano.
In 1931, Milano joined the National Crime Syndicate with many powerful criminals around the country, such as Charlie Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Milano was now the official boss of Cleveland crime family. By 1932, Milano had become one of the top American Mafia bosses in the country and a charter Commission member. On February 25, 1932, Milano made sure the Porrello family and their gang was finished for good as Raymond and Rosario Porrello, along with their bodyguard, Dominic Gueli, were murdered in a smoke shop on East 110th Street and Woodland Ave. in their old territory while they were playing cards. After this, the remaining Porrello brothers backed out of the Cleveland underworld and fled the area.
In 1935, however, Milano fled to Mexico after being indicted for tax evasion. Alfred Polizzi, another leading member of the Mayfield Road mob, seized power and reigned as boss until 1944, when he was convicted of tax evasion.
Collinwood Crew[edit | edit source]
The Collinwood Mob, also known as the Young Turks, based in Cleveland's South Collinwood Neighborhood, was at times integrated with the Mayfield Road Mob and has a Mafia history as old as that of the Mayfield Road Gang. The most notorious of the Collinwood Crew was the late Alfred "Allie Con" Calabrese. Allie Con was feared and respected in both neighborhoods and known as a stand up guy, a true gangster. His crew consisted of Joe "Joey Loose" Iacobacci, the late Butchie Cisternino and others from the streets that stretched from the 152nd street bridge, up Five Points and Ivanhoe Road, down Mandalay across London Road to Wayside and over to Saranac bordering the Collinwood Train Yards.
Scalish era[edit | edit source]
John Scalish was by far the longest reigning Cleveland mob boss. He took control of the family in 1944, and remained the boss for thirty-two years, until his death in 1976. During his time as the crime family's leader, the group developed ties with important crime figures like Shondor Birns, Moe Dalitz, Meyer Lansky, and Tony Accardo. They became allies of the extremely powerful Chicago Outfit and Genovese crime family. The Cleveland mob also expanded its influence to areas throughout the Midwest, as well as California, Florida, and Las Vegas.
In the 1950s, the family reached its peak in size, with about 60 "made" members, and several times as many associates. By the 1970s, however, the family's membership began to decrease, because Scalish didn't induct many new members. Scalish died during open heart surgery in 1976, and failed to name a successor beforehand.
Decline[edit | edit source]
After the Death of John Scalish, it was decided by the family's members that Jack "Jack White" Licavoli would take over as boss. Licavoli, worked for the infamous Purple Gang in Detroit during Prohibition, and then moved to Cleveland, where he gradually rose up the ranks of the city's underworld.
During his reign, an Irish gangster named Danny Greene began competing with the Mafia for control of union rackets. This resulted in a violent mob war between the Mafia and Danny Greene gang (Danny was backed by mob associate and teamster John Nardi), during which there were almost 40 car bombings in Cleveland. Nardi was killed on May 17, 1977 by a car bomb in the parking lot of the Teamster Hall in Cleveland. After eight failed attempts to kill Greene,it became evident that they needed outside help. When they learned Greene planned to visit his dentist, Licavoli and Lonardo contracted Ray Ferritto to assassinate him in 1977.
While Greene was inside the building, Ferritto and Ronald "The Crab" Carabbia planted a box bomb inside a bomb car, and while Greene was inside the dentist, they parked the car next to Greene's. When Greene came out and went to open his door, Carabbia set off the bomb, killing Greene instantly. Ferritto later heard that the Cleveland crime family wanted him dead, so he flipped and made a deal with the authorities. The building in which this all took place is called "Brainard Place" and still stands today. It can be easily seen as you enter/exit the Interstate-271 Exit 32 ramps.
In the aftermath of the conflict, many Cleveland Mafiosi, including the boss, Licavoli, were convicted of a variety of crimes. After Licavoli was sent to prison for the murder of Danny Greene in 1982, Angelo Lonardo, the son of Prohibition mob boss Joseph Lonardo, took control of the Cleveland crime family. He led the family until 1984, when he was convicted of running a drug ring and was sentenced to life in prison. He then became an informant, making him the highest ranking Mafia turncoat up to that time. He informed on powerful Mafiosi from numerous families while in prison, and caused serious damage to the Mafia's infrastructure.
After Lonardo became an informant, the Cleveland crime family's boss was John "Peanuts" Tronolone. Peanuts was a long time Miami Beach resident who prior to becoming boss, was a South Florida point man for the New York based Genovese crime family and other mobsters. He was also closely associated with Meyer Lansky. In 1989 he became the only Mafia boss to have the distinction of being arrested in a hand-to-hand undercover transaction by local law enforcement. He accepted jewelry from Dave Green, an undercover Broward County deputy in exchange for bookmaking and loan sharking debts. He died before he could start his nine year state prison sentence.
In 1978, Cleveland police warned then-mayor Dennis Kucinich that local Mafia members had put out a hit on him because of some of his mayoral initiatives were hindering money-making opportunities. Police told Kucinich that a hitman was planning on shooting the mayor while he marched in a parade in October 1978. Kucinich missed the parade for health reasons, but took the threat seriously enough to begin keeping a gun in his home for protection.
The Cleveland family was ravaged by the FBI and other law enforcers to the point where it was thought to have no living members outside of prison by the early 1990s. It was declared inactive by the FBI and was even labeled extinct by some law enforcers. However, Russel Papalardo is rumored to currently be running the day to day activities of the Cleveland crime family and rebuilding the organization.
Current membership[edit | edit source]
- Boss - Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci
- Acting Boss - Russell "R.J." Papalardo
Historical leadership[edit | edit source]
Boss (official and acting)[edit | edit source]
- 1919–1927 — Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo – murdered
- Acting 1927— Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro
- 1927–1930 — Joseph "Big Joe" Porello – murdered
- 1930–1935 — Frank "Don Ciccio" Milano – imprisoned
- 1935—1936 — Giuseppe "Dr. Joe" Romano – murdered
- 1936–1945 — Alfred "Al the Owl" Polizzi – retired
- Acting 1944–1945 — John "Johnny" Scalish
- 1945–1976 — John "Johnny" Scalish – died
- 1976–1985 — James "Jack White" Licavoli – imprisoned
- 1985–1991 — John "Peanuts" Tronolone – died
- 1991–1993 — Anthony "Tony Lib" Liberatore – imprisoned
- 1993–2005 — Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci Jr. – semi-retired
- Acting 2005–present — Russel "R.J." Papalardo
Underboss[edit | edit source]
- 1919–1927 — John Lonardo ( –1927) (murdered along with brother Joe by the Porello family.)
- 1927–1929 — Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro ( –1929) (Todaro, the former Lonardo advisor or #3 man in the crime family was rewarded by his new benefactors in the Porello family and named the #2 man or underboss, but his position as second-in-command would be short-lived as he was later murdered in revenge for the killing of boss Joe Lonardo)
- 1929–1930 — Raymond Porello ( –1932) (deposed by the new Milano regime, murdered 1932.)
- 1930–1976 — Anthony "the Old Man" Milano ( –1978) (Tony Milano was a top Cleveland Mafia power throughout his criminal career. His family has an immense amount of underworld power and influence in Cleveland and on the west coast, particularly in Los Angeles where Tony's sons Peter and Carmen became Mafia powers themselves and led the Los Angeles crime family. As the Scalish regime came to power in 1946 Tony Milano began spending more time in Los Angeles where his family had an underworld faction operating while his brother and former Cleveland Mafia boss Frank Milano was based out of Mexico and held power on the west coast. He began to take on more of an advisory role, while other influential crime family members based in Cleveland such as Frank Brancato served as acting underbosses for Scalish. "The Old Man" still held considerable power and influence in Cleveland and apparently never relinquished the title of underboss until he retired in 1976 and died two years later at the age of 90.)
- 1956–1972 — Frank "Frankie B." Brancato ( –1973) - Acting Underboss (he became acting underboss for the Scalish regime by the mid-1950s. Throughout the 1950s and '60s Brancato derived much of his illegal earnings from gambling and loansharking, but by the mid-1960s he was making a move to become a power within the garbage hauling industry. He was allegedly promoted to consigliere in 1972 and died a year later of natural causes in 1973.)
- 1973–1976 — - With the death of Brancato in 1973 it is not positively know just who replaced him as underboss. With his brother Frank having died in 1970 and his sons, Peter and Carmen becoming powers in the Los Angeles crime family, Tony Milano came back to Cleveland to live in semi-retirement and watch over what remaining interests he maintained. There have been rumors that Milano served as underboss in the last years of the Scalish regime and that once the new Licavoli regime came to power in 1976 new boss James Licavoli asked Milano to step down and retire so that Leo Morceri could be promoted. Milano gladly retired and died two years later in 1978 at the age of 90. Others believe that unofficially James Licavoli and Ange Lonardo actively ran the day to day operations of the Cleveland crime family as acting underbosses during the last years of the Scalish regime until Licavoli came to power.
- 1976— Calogero "Leo Lips" Moceri (–1976) (what is known for sure is that Morceri was promoted as part of the new Licavoli regime and named underboss in 1976. His reign was short lived as he soon disappeared during Cleveland's underworld war and was presumed murdered.)
- 1976–1983 — Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo (1911–2006) (a longtime Cleveland Mafia power Lonardo was promoted to underboss after Morceri disappeared. He was promoted to acting boss in 1981 when Licavoli was indicted and jailed, but still held the official underboss title when he was imprisoned in January 1983 and defected October 1983.)
- 1983–1985 — John "Peanuts" Tronolone (1910–1991) (had been consigliere when he was promoted to underboss in 1983, then he ascened to the leadership when Licavoli died in prison in 1985.)
- 1985–1991 — Anthony "Tony Lib" Liberatore ( –1998) (promoted to the # spot when Tronolone was promoted first to underboss. Liberatore found himself the highest ranking crime family member left on the streets in 1991 and he was supposedly promoted once more, apparently he was seen as the boss according to some. Convicted in 1993 and sentenced to 8 years, he died while in prison in 1998.)
- 1991–1993 — Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci, Jr. ( – ) (another crime family member who found himself on the streets in the early 1990s and was seen as underboss to Liberatore. Iacobacci apparently took over the crime family in 1993.)
- 1993–1995 — Alfred "Allie" Calabrese ( –1999) - Acting Underboss (close associate of Iacobacci who assumed the role of acting underboss. He was imprisoned in 1995 on a 3 year sentence and alter convicted of a parole violation, he died in prison of a stoke in August 1999)
- 1995–Present — Russel "R.J." Papalardo (–) (He apparently served as underboss for the Iacobacci regime from the mid-1990s up to the present day, but has allegedly been promoted in the last couple of years and is running the day to day activities of the crime family and may be boss ?)
Consigliere[edit | edit source]
- 1919–1927 — Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro (Todaro was the #3 man in the Lonardo regime and the top financial advisor for the crime family. Knowing the financial in and outs of the crime family Todaro was promoted to acting head in early 1927 when boss Joe Lonardo left for Sicily. Todaro used this time to plan his betrayal of Lonardo, which landed him the #2 spot or underboss position in the new Porello regime in late 1927, but he was later murdered in 1929 by Lonardo family members.)
- 1927–1930 — Rosario Porello (?-?) (eldest Porello brother Rosario held the title of advisor to his younger brother and boss Joe. When the Porello regime came to power Rosario allegedly held the #2 position in the crime family and lost it once his brother Joe was murdered and their faction was removed from power in 1930.)
- ? - ?
- 1944–1972 — John DeMarco (–1972) (a longtime crime family member who rose through the ranks in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Recognized boss of the "Licatese faction", he served as top advisor for the Scalish regime. He died of natural causes on October 25, 1972.)
- ? - ? - Rumor has it that Frankie B. Brancato never held the official title of underboss and after DeMarco died in 1972 Brancato was named official consigliere the final year of his life as he died in 1973.
- 1976–1977 — Anthony "Tony" Sasso ( –1977) (boss of the Warren, Ohio rackets, he was promoted to the #3 spot in the new Licavoli regime, but died a year later of natural causes in August if 1977.)
- 1977–1983 — John "Peanuts" Tronolone (1910–1991) (a longtime member of the crime family who was eventually based in Miami, Florida and was promoted to the 3 spot in the Licavoli regime after the death of Sasso. He found himself being promoted in the mid-1980s and making his way to the leadership.)
- ? - ? - present consigliere
- Milton "Mashie" Rockman - was a Jewish mobster officially affiliated with Cleveland's Mayfield Road Mob. Rockman was the brother-in-law of Cleveland crime family bosses John "Johnny" Scalish and Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo and was a top Cleveland crime family associate involved in labor racketeering and the Las Vegas casino interests of the Cleveland Mafia. Rockman was recognized as an advisor to Johnny Scalish, Ange Lonardo and James "Blackie" Licavoli during the reign of these Cleveland Mafia leaders.
References[edit | edit source]
- Porrello, Rick. The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland crime family: Corn Sugar and Blood. Barricade Books, 1995. ISBN 1-56980-058-8
- Porrello, Rick. To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia. Novelty, Ohio: Next Hat Press, 2004. ISBN 0-9662508-9-3
- DeVico, Peter J. (2007). The Mafia Made Easy: The Anatomy and Culture of La Cosa Nostra. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60247-254-9.