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By Mario Machi
Investigative Journalist
      The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania faction of La Cosa Nostra was founded in 1926 by Stefano Monastero. Monastero was successful in the usual mob rackets like protection money, gambling, and bootlegging. Joseph Siragusa succeeded Monastero in Pittsburgh and was the boss from 1929 until 1931, when he was murdered in a move that was likely due to his close association with New York City mobster Salvatore Maranzano, who had been killed three days earlier. John Bazzano ruled the family for two years, but he was stricken with a very serious illness and died early in 1933. Vincenzo Capizzi was the family's head from 1933 until 1937. Capizzi was the first boss to bring national attention to the Pittsburgh family. At the time, Pittsburgh was one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
     The Italian-American population in Pittsburgh in the 1940 census ranked Pittsburgh third behind Chicago and New York in terms of Italian-American population. Capizzi's successor was Frank Amato. Amato was the boss until 1956, and during his reign, he tried desperately to infiltrate the unions of the steel workers. Amato's efforts were met with little success. Amato's retirement in 1956 brought John LaRocca into the spotlight. LaRocca worked closely establishing gambling rackets with Kansas City boss Nick Civella. LaRocca headed the family until 1984, when he died from a long bout with cancer. LaRocca was succeeded by Michael James Genovese. Genovese is a cousin of Vito Genovese, the famed New York crime boss of the forties and fifties. Genovese brought a little more prestige to the Pittsburgh family during his first few years.
     Genovese is the head of an old organization in Pittsburgh. He was in his seventies when he took over, and his underboss, Joe Pecora, died in 1987 at the age of 68. The LCN commission was only approving replacement members for the Pittsburgh family, so those members who died were replaced, but no new members were made. The FBI has had a few different opinions on the family, though. One FBI report in 1985 said that the Pittsburgh family ranked in the lower echelon of the Mafia families across the country. However, a 1995 FBI report stated that the top families had been sharply hit with prosecutions during the 1990's, including the families in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, and Pittsburgh. This would imply that the Pittsburgh family is still pretty strong. The latest news on the Pittsburgh family is that Genovese is still in control. The family is said to be moving into the Youngstown and Cleveland areas that were vacated by the dissolving of the Cleveland family. This would be the Pittsburgh family's first major move outside of their immediate area.

New Update-12/19/97

      There has been some recent activity among the Pittsburgh family. Earlier this year, some members of the Pittsburgh family were indicted in California for attempting to extort money from a Native American casino near San Diego. Also, federal documents unsealed on December 16 charge that the boss of the Youngstown area put at least $10,000 into the 1996 election campaign of the Mahoning County (OH) sheriff in an effort to protect illegal gambling businesses. The boss, Lenny Strollo, was among 30 people recently indicted on charges of racketeering and gambling. Four of those are charged with the murder of mob rival Ernie Biondillo in 1996. The men indicted and charged with violating the RICO Act are Strollo, Bernard Altshuler of Youngstown, Lawrence P. Garolo of Hubbard, Jeffrey Riddle of Youngstown, Lavance Turnage of Youngstown, Michael Serrecchio of Youngstown, and Joseph Serrecchio of Youngstown. Dante Strollo, of Canfield, is charged with conspiracy to violate the RICO Act. Charged with operating illegal gambling businesses are Peter J. Pacalo, and his son Peter J. Pacalo of Struthers; Raymond J. Hertz, of Poland, OH; William Robb, of Struthers; John Koutsourias of Campbell; Wanda Maldonado of Campbell; Thomas Vigarino of Struthers; Fred Demarco of Austintown. Also charged are Sam Vona of Struthers; Joseph Diorio of Lowellville; Anthony Chearno of Youngstown; and Michael Scarpaci of Youngstown.

by Mario Machi

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