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San Jose, CA.
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By Jay C. Ambler
Organized Crime Research
     San Jose
     The first Italian-American to organize street crimes in the San Jose area was Onofrio Sciortino. The date of his accomplishments was considered to be 1942. It is almost certain that organized crime existed before this date. Sciortino would derive a majority of his profits from loansharking, gambling and prostitution. He was considered the first official La Cosa Nostra crime boss of San Jose until his death from natural causes on September 10, 1959.

     Sciortino’s successor was his underboss Joseph Cerrito. The new boss would be seen as probably the most successful of all crimelords over a very small family. Cerrito came to America from Sicily iduring the 1920s and moved to the San Jose area in the early 1940s. During the November 1957 Appalachin Summit of mob bosses, Cerrito was one of many who was caught by law enforcement and would answer to a grand jury on the matter in 1959. In October of 1964 Cerrito was identified when he was found meeting Bonnano LCN Family former consigliere Frank Garofalo at a hotel in Palermo, Sicily. It was believed that the two were discussing the ensuing war within the Bonnano crime family, which would later be dubbed as the “Banana War”. Cerrito was a well accomplished businessman, with two car dealerships in San Jose and one in Los Gatos. In the late 1960s Cerrito and “made” solder, Pete Misuraca, would be implicated but never brought to trial for an attempted extortion plot against of a Reno based resort. In 1968 LIFE Magazine publicly identified Cerrito as the crime boss over San Jose. He sued for libel but the case was eventually dismissed. He died on September 8, 1978 from natural causes.

     Angelo Marino, a long time capo under the Cerrito reign, was selected as the new boss over the San Jose rackets. Marino was a very well connected individual. He had close ties with San Francisco mayor, from 1968-1974, Joseph Alioto. He was also close with long time San Francisco LCN Family boss James “Jimmy” Lanza, consigliere to the Los Angeles LCN Family and FBI informant Frank “The Bomp” Bompensiero. Marino owned and operated the California Cheese Company. His father, Salvatore, a long time member of the Pittsburgh LCN Family, willed this company to him. His company held dominance, controlling 85% of the cheese distribution in California and 50% west of the Mississippi River.

     In October 1977 Marino was indicted, along with his son, for the murder of father and son, Orlando and Peter Catelli. The reason behind the crime was the previously Peter had attempted to obtain a job with Marino’s company. When Marino denied him a position, he attempted to extort $100,000 from him and Marino ordered his father to kill him. His father refused and both were met with bullets. The father, Orlando, survived and agreed to testify for the prosecution. Marino would use his bad health to avoid going to trial for the next three years. He, however, continued to operate his crime family from a hospital. On October 12, 1980 Marino was convicted of second-degree murder and attempted murder. The conviction was later overturned on appeals and he was released. Marino died of a heart attack in February of 1983.

     Since the death of Marino in 1983 Emmanuel Joseph Figlia has been considered the boss over the remaining San Jose LCN Family. Although the hierarchy of the crime family appears to be have been weathered down, there are several members still around and many eastern crime families have since moved in on the rackets. There has also been an influx of Asian gangs too. In 1998 Salvatore Marino, son of the previously mentioned Angelo, was released after serving four years for gun possession. It is not known if he or even the once tightly controlled crime family is still active.

Special Acknowledgement:

  • Scott M. Dietche
  • Scott Liebraudher

    Sources Used:
    San Jose Mercury News, various articles, 1975-1983.
    US Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Organized Crime: Twenty Five Years After Valachi, 1988.

  • by Jay C. Ambler

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