Feature Articles


By Scott M. Deitche

     Joe Castellano had a lot of friends in the Tampa area. He was a popular produce dealer. But Joe also had friends in the Tampa underworld. One night he went for a nice quiet ride into the country with three of them. He barely made it back.

     At midnight, March 19, 1953 Castellano met with Joe Mistretta, Salvatore Scaglione, and Angelo LoScalzo at the Italian Club, a center of social activities for the Italian community in Ybor City. The three men told Castellano that they had come into a load of whiskey and wanted to discuss a distribution deal. Castellano saw great opportunity to make a few extra dollars. Besides these guys were fiends of his, and would surely give him a good deal.

     Joe Mistretta, then 58, was a bodyguard at the time for Augustine "Primo" Lazzara, a major force in the mob's bolita rackets. Salvatore Scalgione, 61, was a grocer who had been active in the Tampa family for years. He had a son, Stefano, who was also a made member in the Tampa family. Angelo LoScalzo, 45, was a recent immigrant from Sicily, who spoke poor English. He was also the father of future Tampa boss, Vincent LoScalzo

     The four men piled into a car and drove out of the Tampa city limits into the rural countryside of Hillsborough County. The car pulled off the road at West Hillsborough Ave. near Sweetwater Creek. Castellano then found himself under attack. The three men wielded claw hammers and began pounding Castellano's head in. He fought back, managing to grab one of the hammers and swung it wildly. He broke away, but not before receiving two broken arms, and eight, deep scalp gashes.

     Castellano stumbled to the nearest house, where the owner, who never game his name under fear of reprisal began driving Castellano back into Tampa to a hospital. Before reaching medical services, Castellano insisted to be brought to the home of Constable Clarence Prevatt. Prevatt came out to the car and talked with Castellano for a few minutes before continuing to Tampa Hospital. Castellano named his three attackers, but he couldn't believe they would harm him. He kept saying,"They are my friends."

     On the evening of March 21, shortly after 8 pm, Joe Mistretta, Sal Scaglione, and Angelo LoScalzo walked into the sheriff's office, with their lawyers, to surrender. Although as an exchange for their surrender they were promised no mug shots would be taken, the men found themselves having pictures taken anyway, which were prominently featured in the next day's newspaper. Each man was released under $2500 bond. The three men were charged with assault to murder, but by the time the case wound its way through the courts, none of the men received any more than a slap on the wrist.

     Joe Mistretta and Salvatore Scaglione would be named in 1963 as elders in the Trafficante organization. Angelo LoScalzo would remain on the periphery of the Tampa mob for years to come, being named in the both 1963 and 1978 as a made member., although he did die in 1977. Joe Castellano kept a low profile, faded from the underworld scene, and never found himself in this situation again.

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