Allan May, Crime Historian
Allan May is an organized crime historian, writer and lecturer. He also writes a monthly column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Contact him at AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com.
Anthony Giordano - St. Louis Hot Head
By Allan May
In January 1968, the St. Louis Globe Democrat published an eight part series on the St. Louis Mafia entitled “La Cosa Nostra Exposed.” The first article in the series began:
“This man is real.”
“He is no myth.”
“He is Anthony Giardano. He lives here, works here and heads La Cosa Nostra (“our thing”) here.”
The first article was subtitled “Tony Giardano: The Man of the Mob”
It had been 30 years since his first arrest, but apparently he remained so unobserved in the city up to this point that the newspaper didn’t even know the correct spelling of his name. Even if he had been an unknown, neighbors now would have no problem identifying him as not only was his picture plastered on the front page, so was the home where he and his family resided in Northwoods, along with his address 6901 Roland Blvd. So much for keeping a low profile.
Anthony Giordano was born June 2, 1914 in St. Louis. With a police record beginning in 1938 he compiled more than fifty arrests including charges of carrying concealed weapons, robbery, holdups, income tax evasion, and counterfeiting tax stamps. Giordano was groomed for his rise to the top by his predecessor, Anthony Lopiparo along with Frank Coppola and Ralph “Shorty” Caleca. The latter two were one-time members of a Prohibition Era gang known as the Green Ones.
During the early 1950s, Giordano served as a drug courier for the St. Louis mob. It is not known how many trips he made to Italy, but at least three of them were observed by law enforcement officials. Each time Giordano met with the recently deported Frank Coppola who was competing with Lucky Luciano in the drug trade there. Giordano had been under the surveillance of famed Narcotics Bureau Agent Charles Siragusa. On the first two trips, Giordano and Detroit mobster Paul Cimino were unsuccessful in negotiating a heroin purchase. Cimino went back alone in the spring of 1951 and purchased 20 kilos of heroin, bringing it back in a steamer trunk with a false bottom. To the surprise of both Coppola and the Detroit mob, the heroin had been diluted prior to the sale and Coppola needed to make good. Giordano returned to Coppola’s farm in Anzio to pick up the shipment. Upon arriving, the Italian newspapers broke the story of a major international drug smuggling ring bust in San Diego. Spooked by the turn of events, Giordano returned home empty handed. Years later, Siragusa wrote that Giordano had been under surveillance and had he tried to return with the heroin he would have been arrested and given a long prison term.
Giordano did serve a prison term in 1956 when he and two others were sentenced to four years in prison on income tax charges in connection with a vending machine business.
During his years on the rise, Giordano dressed the part of the big time gangster, wearing wide-brimmed, pearl gray hats, expensive suits, coats, shoes, and rings. In the 1960s, he changed his wardrobe and took on the appearance of a blue-collar worker. During this time he and his wife lived in a conservative home in southwest St. Louis. Giordano could often be seen dressed in work clothes at one of the flats he owned in south St. Louis doing carpentry or plumbing chores.
In addition to re-working his wardrobe, Giordano needed to address a temper that caused him problems on several occasions. One famous incident occurred in May 1965 in a restaurant he owned on North Broadway. The FBI had started their war on organized crime a few years back and St. Louis was no different than many other mob infiltrated cities when it came to agents looking to build a case. When an agent approached Giordano at the counter, the hot headed gangster flew into a rage screaming he wasn’t going to talk to the agent. “Do you have a warrant?” Giordano demanded, as he jumped out of his seat and flailed his arms over his head in anger.
The agent calmly asked him to explain his excitement, to which Giordano replied, “Go ahead, hit me. I have witnesses. I don’t want to talk to you, you filthy dog.”
Giordano did have witnesses, including family members and mob associates who were clearly embarrassed by his outburst. Matthew Trupiano, Jr., his nephew and future successor, pushed his uncle back and tried to calm him down as someone shouted, “He (the agent) is not going to hit you, he has more common sense.” To which Giordano responded by making a fist and threatening to break the agents jaw.
When invited to try, Giordano yelled, “I don’t want to get five years. You’re hiding behind that lousy G-man badge.”
Three weeks after the outburst, “Shorty” Caleca explained the incident away stating, “He just gets that way sometimes. He can’t help it.”
Giordano had ties with the Metropolitan Towing Company, which had a contract with the police department to remove vehicles from crash sites and to tow stolen or illegally parked automobiles. On November 30, 1970 three members of the St. Teresa of Avila Church drove onto the lot in a van to retrieve a stolen church vehicle. Apparently the lot had a rule that allowed only two people to come in at one time. Giordano, who was in the office, ordered the van off the lot. Words were exchanged. When one of the men identified himself as a priest, Giordano grabbed him by the shirt and told him, “I’m Catholic too. You run your church and I’ll run my business.” He then threatened to blow their heads off with a sawed off shotgun. All of this took place in front of a uniformed police officer who ignored the incident. Warrants were soon issued for Giordano’s arrest.
In January 1971, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that the Missouri Task Force on Organized Crime had released the results of a yearlong study on organized crime in the state. The fifteen-member task force claimed that organized crime in St. Louis was “engaged in labor racketeering, gambling, infiltration of legitimate businesses, loan sharking, and narcotics traffic.” Giordano was identified as heading one of three factions that were cooperating in illegal activities. The report stated that John Vitale was second in command, and that St. Louis maintained strong ties with the Detroit syndicate. The report went on to state that the Giordano faction was heavily dependent on gambling, from operations in the north and northwest areas of St. Louis, as its main source of income. It also claimed that in addition to gambling, the group was into disposal of stolen property and had infiltrated legitimate businesses, including the Banana Distributing Company owned by Giordano, a produce trucking company, and the aforementioned Metropolitan Towing Company. The Task Force’s findings accused the Giordano led faction of using the Metropolitan Towing Company to launder illegal income and provide an outlet to market stolen auto parts.
What concerned the committee was that all three factions had infiltrated organized labor. Authorities estimated that at least 30 mobsters were working as business agents for the unions including relatives of both Giordano and Jimmy Michaels.
During the mid-1970s, Giordano was indicted after he attempted to gain hidden ownership in the Frontier casino in Las Vegas. Convicted with him were Detroit mobsters Michael Polizzi and Anthony Zerilli. Giordano was sent to prison in 1975 and released in December 1977. Giordano was nominated for Nevada’s Black Book on March 4, 1975, but because he had been sent to prison for the infraction, he was removed in April the following year.
On February 12, 1979 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story that Giordano was directing organized crime activity in Colorado. The paper quoted an unnamed source as stating, “Giordano is not just an errand boy. He is overlord for Colorado and he is the commission’s representative here. Territories and geographical boundaries are not important. Relationships between people are paramount, and Giordano provides that relationship with the top of the mob.”
Giordano, working with Denver’s Smaldone Crime Family, oversaw gambling, loansharking, major fencing and investments into legitimate businesses. Giordano’s dealings with the Smaldones began in 1973. Authorities believe it was through this relationship that “organized crime attempted to gain control of the Pueblo, Colorado Police Department in 1977 through the selection of two St Louisans as candidate for chief of police.”
Also revealed in the article was that influences in Colorado by the St. Louis mob went back to the mid-1960s when St. Louis gangster Sam Shanks went there to help the Smaldones re-establish control of the gambling interests after they were released from a long prison term for jury tampering. During this time, Shanks murdered a gambler turned informant. Later Shanks retired to St. Louis and was a confidant of Giordano.
Another family Giordano was close to was the Michaels Family. Giordano had known Jimmy Michaels, head of a large and successful Syrian gang in St. Louis, for many years. The two had worked closely together in directing their criminal activities so not to infringe on each other’s operations. It was reported that the two met almost daily to discuss solutions to mutual problems. In the late 1970s when Michaels came under attack by union rivals sanctioned by mob leaders in Chicago, Giordano was able to guarantee Michaels safety. However, when Giordano died, Michaels’ safety net was gone and so was Michaels in less than three weeks.
Giordano was suffering from cancer when he was sent away to prison in the mid-1970s. He fought it off though until August 29, 1980, when he died in his bed at the age of 67 at his South St. Louis home.
Copyright A. R. May 1999