Feature Articles

June 2000

June 5, 2000
A Round Up Of The Usual Suspects

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy

CALIFORNIA: A grand jury investigation into card rooms in San Jose reveals 
that gangsters have taken a grip on the industry. Some 55 person have been 
indicted on a variety of crimes, including loan-sharking, drug-dealing and 
check fraud. 
    The owner of one club was indicted on charges of assault, extortion and 
witness intimidation. A number of witnesses told the grand jury that 
loan-sharking was rampant at the clubs. 
Many witnesses described a closed world where gamblers, club employees and 
loan sharks all know each other from spending many of their waking hours at 
the Bay area cardrooms.
    One man told the grand jury that he ended up owing $25,000 on a $7,000 
loan that his girlfriend, a former club dealer, had obtained from a loan 

CALIFORNIA: Gangster Bugsy Siegel's 1940s safe, buried for decades in the 
floor of a Hollywood resturant was opened for the first time on live 
television this month, but, once opened, contained nothing. 
     A psychic had said the safe contained deeds to two properties in Nevada, 
a ruby ring, and possibly the names of Hollywood moguls who used the 
prostitution services of Siegel. 
     A locksmith drilled through several inches of solid steel to find a 
second safe deep inside the first. 
     The safe had languished forgotten for years in the Formosa Cafe, which, 
say its owners, once housed a secret back office used by Siegel to run a 
prostitution racket while the glamorous mobster mingled out front with movie 
stars. The safe was found during a recent renovation of the Formosa, which 
featured in the movie "L.A. Confidential" 
     In 1986, a vault that was supposed to belong to Al Capone that was found 
in the foundations of the Lexington Hotel in Chicago was opened on live 
television. It contained nothing but empty gin bottles. 

CHICAGO: Are the Chicago and New York mobs working together in the sex trade 
business?  And, if they are, does it explain the recent fascination that the 
mobs have shown for the strip club industry?  Is the Chicago outfit returning 
to White Slavery, its original source of income from 1880 through 1925 in 
conjunction with the New York Outfits, just like it did under Johnny Torrio? 
     The recent arrest of alleged Bonanno solider Vincent R. Amarante AKA 
Elmo, of New York, by Chicago police at a suburban Strip Club outside the 
Windy City may provide some intriguing new clues to the puzzle.
     Amarante, who was released from prison in 1987 on a weapons charge, was 
charged with keeping a house of prostitution, anther words, pimping, 
following a raid at Arnie's, a strip club in Chicago. Amarante is said to 
work for Bonanno Capo Louis "Louie Attaboy" Attanasio. More then twenty women 
and one other New York, Allan Grossman, was also arrested during the raids.
     If Amarante, who has a record dating back to 1967 for narcotic and 
gambling, is working as an independent in Chicago, something that most police 
officials scoff at, then he's be required to pay a street tax, or "rent" as 
its called in Chicago, to the Boys on top of the Organization before a penny 
is sent back east.
     From 1880 until about 1925, the Chicago outfit under Big Jim Colosimo, 
Johnny Torrio and Al Capone ran a massive white slavery ring in conjunction 
with a series of New York criminals including Frankie Yale and Lucky Luciano. 
     From 1932 until 1944, the New York and Chicago mobs controlled several 
enormous Hollywood labor unions, and in the late 1950s and early 1960, they 
shared joint ownership in several Cuban, Jamaican and Nevada casino's.   
    In the past the New York and Chicago mobs have traded prostitutes that 
were employed in their brothels and strip clubs. Although the practice more 
or less died out in the early 1920s, it brought back to life in early 1950s 
with the emergence of "B girls", a Tony Accardo invention.   

CHICAGO: A woman arrested by US Customs officials has admitted to smuggling 
heroin and cocaine in infant formula cans and said she twice used babies as 
props to lessen suspicions of customs inspectors. She was smuggling heroin 
from Panama. The women said that she "rented" the infant from the child's 

CHICAGO: Items belonging to Al Capone, John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd 
are being auctioned at Butterfields auction gallery in Chicago in June. 
   The items for sale include Al Capone's ivory cigarette holder, photographs 
of his brother Ralph with their mother, Capone's christening medal inscribed 
"Baby," a pair of green plastic dice.  All of the Capone items were once the 
property of Madeline Capone, Ralph widow.
    Also on the block is a blue Dunrite bulletproof vest that John Dillinger 
and his gang stole from the Peru, Ind., police station in October 1933, as 
well as submachine guns, sawed-off shotguns, ammo and police badges also 
netted in the heist. Pretty Boy Floyd items will also be displayed.
   Included in the sale is Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, 
handwritten poetry. A shirt Clyde Barrow wore was sold for $85,000. Last 
year, a handwritten sheet of song lyrics penned by Capone while serving time 
at Alcatraz sold for more than $10,000. 

CHICAGO: The Jackson Elementary School recently invited disbarred lawyers 
Alphonse Gonzales and City Hall power broker Oscar D'Angelo to be "Principles 
of the day" D'Angelo and Gonzales were disbarred as a result of the Operation 
Greylord investigation of corruption among judges and lawyers by organized 

ENGLAND: Britain's Health Minister John Hutton, unveiled new guidelines under 
which those who exploit child prostitutes will face prosecution. Organized 
criminals control large parts of the child prostitution market.
   The guidelines call for prosecutions against people who sexually exploit 
and abuse young people and treatment for their victims. 
   Although there are no accurate figures for child prostitution, a 1998 
survey of 48 drop-in facilities and residential homes around Britain showed 
754 young people were selling themselves for sex. More than 40 percent of 
them were under 16. 

ISRAEL: Amnesty International says that Israel does not protect the rights of 
women and girls who are brought to that country from Russia to work in 
Israel's sex industry. 
   The report says that hundreds of women a year are kidnapped or lured into 
Israel's sex industry. Once there the women are bought and sold, auctioned, 
held in debt bondage, imprisoned by their "owners," deprived of their travel 
documents, raped and tortured.  Many of the women, the report claims, are 
rounded up in police raids on brothels and massage parlors and are then 
forcibly deported. 
Police in Israel say they are powerless to stop the flow of trafficked women 
until the laws change, but women's groups say authorities rarely bother 
prosecuting crimes such as abduction, rape and battery which are associated 
with trade in women. 

JAPAN: Experts from the Group of Eight (G-8) major nations will meet this 
month in Kyoto to devise ways to combat international organized crime.

LIECHTENSTEIN: In an effort to boasts its sagging international reputation, 
the Liechtenstein government approved legislation tightening up existing 
measures to fight money laundering. 
   Under new legislation, people and institutions handling assets must 
establish their origin and report suspicions of money laundering more 
   Allegations still exist that the country is a haven for Russian Mafia and 
Colombian cocaine cartels, which allegedly laundered money through this 
nation of 32,000.

NEW JERSEY: A reputed Genovese crime family was charged with running a crew 
that deals in bookmaking, loan-sharking, and dope dealing out of a Mobil gas 
station in suburban Englewood Cliffs.  Joseph "Joe Black" DeSimone and his, 
Ralph, and eight other men were charged. Also charged was Joseph Cariddi, a 
former Fort Lee fire chief who is the elder DeSimone's son-in-law. 
   The indictment says the crew used violence and threats to collect money 
from bettors and that they dealt in marijuana after receiving it by overnight 
mail from California.
   The prosecutors say they have 800 conversations recorded by wiretap. 
   Joseph DeSimone's brother, Ralph "Cousin" DeSimone, Jr. a heroin dealer 
and longtime Genovese associate, was shot to death and hog-tied in the trunk 
of his car at La Guardia Airport in 1991. The Genovese suspected him of being 
a government informant.
    James "Little Jimmy" Ida, the third-ranking member of the Genovese 
family, was convicted of racketeering charges, including conspiring to murder 
Ralph DeSimone, Jr. 

NEW YORK: Reputed Gambino gangster Charlie Marino, a childhood friend of John 
Gotti's son in law, Carmine Agnello, was arrested for running a $2.5 stolen 
car ring out of Queens. The ring was busted because it chopped up stolen cars 
that belonged to a New York Police Department sting operation called 
operation Vanish. 

NEW YORK: Federal authorities are investigating possible role of the Gambino 
crime family in the now-defunct Englewood stock brokerage which is accused of 
defrauding investors out of more than $1.6 million. The firm was run by 
Arnold "Bo" Squitieri, son of Arnold "Animal" Squitieri, a reputed soldier 
with the Gambino's.

PARAGUAY: The Paraguayan military almost took control of this tiny country 
again and threatened to rebel again unless the current government takes 
action to end the political instability that has made the nation South 
America's most active smuggling center and a major transshipment country for 
Bolivian cocaine headed for Europe and the United States and, recently, 
international money laundering. Paraguay was rated the second-most corrupt 
nation in the world by German-based watchdog Transparency International in 
1998. It improved to No. 8 in 1999. 

PHILADELPHIA: Investigators have found the corpse of a man buried for at 
least 25 years beneath the basement of a building where reputed mob associate 
Pete "The Crumb" Caprio once ran a social club. 
     Caprio, who is now cooperating with the Feds since being charged in two 
gangland murders, told the police where the bodies were buried.
     The dead man is known only as "Butch," and Caprio has
implicated two mob figures in that killing. Both mob bosses who were 
implicated are dead.
     Caprio is expected to provide the investigators an idea of the 
Philadelphia family's hierarchy and the influence of the Philadelphia mob 
over northern New Jersey's gambling and loan-sharking rackets.
     Caprio was indicted on charges that he participated in the 1996 murder 
of reputed Bruno organized crime family captain Joseph Sodano and the 1994 
death of William "Crazy Willie" Gantz. Gantz was Sodano's right-hand man. 
    The theory is that Sodano was killed after he refused to give Natale and 
Merlino a bigger cut of profits from illegal gambling and loan-sharking 
operations in New Jersey. 

TENNESSEE: Lloyd Jowers, the former Memphis bar owner who claimed he hired 
someone other than James Earl Ray to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr died 
this month at age 73.
    Jowers ran Jim's Grill, a bar room on the ground floor of a rooming house 
from which prosecutors say the shot that killed King was fired on April 4, 
1968. He said that organized crime members plotted and executed the actual 
    In 1993, Jowers told ABC-TV that he was paid $100,000 from a Memphis 
merchant named Frank Liberto to arrange King's murder. 
    James Earl Ray confessed to the killing but recanted and spent the rest 
of his life trying to prove his innocence. He died in prison in 1998. 
    This past December, Jowers and "unknown conspirators" were found liable 
in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Jowers by the Martin Luther Kings 
family. The jury awarded the Kings
$100 in damages, the token amount the family requested because they wanted 
the jury to find evidence of a conspiracy to lend support to their call for a 
new investigation into the killing. 
     In Tennessee, it was largely agreed that Jowers was a disreputable 
character who hoped to make money off of his claims through a book and movie 

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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