LOOKING FOR PHIL
By Scott M. Deitche
Phillip Piazza is an enigma to me. Or at least he was for a while. He was a made member of the Trafficante crime family in the 1940's- 1970's, and his face was prominently featured on a chart from the McClellan Commission in 1963, right up there with Santo Trafficante Jr., and Frank Diecidue. Other than that, though there was little known about him. Even the law enforcement people I talked to had little information.
I started my search for Phillip, much the same way I did for the other Tampa guys. I went down to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, with an order for arrest records and mugshots. The staff did not mind providing that material to most people, but my requests were kept in the old files, and it's often time consuming to get the information. The staff cringed when they saw me coming down the hall. It was one more trip to the "vault".
I got my first look at Phillip Piazza, and much to my dismay the three mugshots I had (from 1964, 1969, and the mid 1970's) were not similar to his picture on the McClellan chart. This was later found to be the case when his picture appeared in a 1958 news article about the murder of Joe Pelusa Diaz. There again was another image unlike the mugshots. Well, it looked a little closer to them than the McClellan chart. Yeah, this was the guy.
Phillip Piazza was born in 1903, in Eaton, Italy. Phil's first brush with the law came in September of 1955, when he was arrested for buying and receiving stolen property. He was represented by Frank Ragano, who would later gain fame as council for Santo Trafficante Jr., and James Hoffa. He got off with a small fine and kept his nose clean until 1964 when he was arrested at his bar, the Red Top Bar for beverage violations a.k.a mislabeling liquor bottles. The Red Top Bar was locate din an otherwise dilapidated part of Tampa. It became known as a hangout for mobsters and a top bookie joint as evidenced by Phillip's 1971 arrest for bookmaking at the bar.
I made a family tree for Phillip, based on a few obituaries I came across. His brother, Guisseppe, had a son, John Piazza. John was friends with a Sicilian-born developer, and alleged mobster Joseph DiGerlando. Both John and Joseph took over the reign of the Red Top Bar following Phillip's death, before it closed in 1980.
Phillip Piazza's sister was married into the family of the original Tampa mob boss Salvatore "Red" Italiano. The best, though was yet to come. John , Phillip's nephew was married to Maria LoScalzo, sister of alleged mob boss Vincent LoScalzo, and son of Tampa made guy Angelo "The Hammer" LoScalzo. Phillip Piazza is listed on the McClellan chart as an associate of Angelo LoScalzo.
Phillip's life ended peacefully in January of 1977. I dug up his obituary for old time's sake. I was going to take one last look at a man whom I spent a lot of time finding very little about. There was his dry obituary, with the standard list of pallbearers. Among the group were: Joe DiGerlando, reputed mobster Frank Albano-son-in-law of Santo Trafficante Jr., and Vincent LoScalzo, the current boss of the Tampa family.
Copyright © 1999 PLR International