Feature Articles

Danny Greene

The Most Influential Mobster You've Never Heard Of

By Rick Porrello - Host of

Note: The story of Danny Greene is the subject of To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia (1998), a regional best seller by Rick Porrello, available through the       online bookshop.

     He was fearless and cunning - loved by his neighbors and hated by his business competitors - the members of the Cleveland Mafia. Fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, he was a Celtic warrior at heart, obsessed with the color green - green car, green jackets, green ink pens. Through the 1970s, the ruggedly handsome Danny Greene (that's right, Danny Greene), had been boldly encroaching on mob territory. Their threats didn't worry him.

     "Since I'm Irish Catholic, I've got the best guardian angel there is. Besides, it's the man upstairs who pulls the strings." Danny was a proud Catholic. He was also a killer.

     Danny got his start in racketeering as president of the local International Association of Longshoremen. He could have been a highly successful businessman, but it wasn't the life for him. After a shocking expose by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he was ousted from the docks and fined $10,000 for embezzling union funds. Danny had been forcing longshoremen to unload filthy grain boats and "donate" their paychecks to a union hall "renovation fund." The hall had already been renovated - painted green when Danny took office.

     Later Danny worked for as an enforcer for local mobsters including Alex "Shondor" Birns, well-known Jewish racketeer. After a dispute over a $60,000 Greene refused to repay, Birns had a bomb planted in his car. It was the first in a series of botched attempts on the brash Irishman's life. Danny found the bomb.

     "Luck of the Irish," he would often say. "I'll return this to the old bastard who sent it to me," Greene promised.

     Sure enough, a few weeks later Birns was blown out the roof of his car, in two pieces. It was an excellent hit and Danny was proud.

     Danny's big mistake was the 1976 murder of Leo "Lips" Moceri, the respected and feared new underboss of the Cleveland Mafia, and the bombing of enforcer Eugene "The Animal" Ciasullo. Aging mob boss James Licavoli ordered his henchman to "get rid of the Irishman," but the inexperienced soldiers had no luck. The attempts by the self-proclaimed tough guys were almost comical. Then west coast wise guy Jimmy 'the Weasel" Fratianno recommended a hired killer from Erie.

     In the end, Danny went out the way he predicted. "When you live by the bomb, you die by the bomb." The Irishman was dead.

     But the Mafia's celebration was cut short. There was much sloppy work, a few observant witnesses (one of whom was a sketch artist!) and extraordinary investigations by federal, state and local officials. The aftermath of Greene's assassination brought about a mob murder plot against Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich and charges against Mahoning County Sheriff James Traficant for accepting Mafia bribe money. Traficant was acquitted and is now a United States Congressman.

     As a direct result of Danny's murder, Jimmy "Weasel" Fratianno defected and co-authored The Last Mafioso and Vengeance is Mine. His courtroom testimony and that of Angelo Lonardo, called "the highest ranking mobster ever to testify for the government" helped put away mob bosses Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno of New York's Genovese Mafia family, Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo of the Luchesse clan and Carmine Persico of the Colombo family. Federal investigators trace these major mob convictions right back to the murder of Greene. Danny would have been proud.

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