Feature Articles

July 2000

The Blade

By Scott M. Deitche

     When the decomposed remains of Johnny Roselli were fished out of Biscayne Bay in 1976, police in Miami began rounding up organized crime figures from across South Florida. On February 28, 1977, an illiterate seventy-one year old resident of North Bay Village answered a subpoena at the Dade County sheriff�s office.

     The old man, with two plastic hips, freely talked to the deputies about his profession while telling them nothing about the Roselli murder. He told them of the casinos he had owned and operated in London, Las Vegas, and Havana. He was also well versed in the current plans to bring legalized gambling to Miami as well his home state of New Jersey. Although he didn�t drive because he had trouble even reading the simple traffic signs, he was a mastermind when it came to gambling.

     His name was Charlie �The Blade� Tourine.

     The Blade was born on March 26, 1906 in Matawan, New Jersey to Frank and Mary Tourine. He had three brothers and four sisters.

     Charlie was identified numerous times as a member of the Genovese crime family. His nickname came from his proficient use of the knife when dealing with recalcitrant debtors and rival gangsters. His long and illustrious rap sheet began in 1933 with an arrest for murder. The charges were dismissed by a grand jury, but Charlie would not be so lucky in the future. He amassed twenty-six arrests on charges ranging from gambling, robbery, kidnapping and murder to obstruction of the judiciary, bribery, tax violations, and escape from prison. He was convicted on eight of the charges and served time in six different federal and state penitentiaries.

     By the late fifties, Charlie was living in a lush pad on Central Park south. He was a legendary ladies man, always seen with a new girl on his arm as he made the rounds of all the nightclubs and gambling joints. The Blade was married six times.

     Charlie�s aptitude at running gambling operations made him a natural to work in the Mafia�s casinos in pre-Castro Havana. He quickly fell under the tutelage of Santo Trafficante Jr. Santo wanted Charlie to manage the Sans Souci. The Sans Souci was Santo�s main casino, although he owned a piece of six more. The Sans used to be operated by the Mannarino brothers from Pittsburgh.

     With Charlie Tourine and his fearsome reputation at his side, Santo made the Sans into the number one hotel in Havana, and Santo himself was the number one mobster in Cuba. That all changed in 1959, when Fidel Castro rode into Havana and kicked out the mob, sending them back to the US.

     The Blade moved back to New York, but also bought a place in Miami. All the Mafia families across the country had representatives in South Florida and Charlie was the Genovese family�s main guy there. He kept up his friendship with Trafficante, and started some gambling operations. He also worked for other connected casino operators in places like Puerto Rico and Antigua. Tourine also traveled extensively. His destinations included France, Italy, Switzerland, and regular trips back to New York City and Washington D.C.

     By the mid seventies, Charlie was considered by Florida law enforcement to be one of the most respected mobsters in South Florida. It is not known exactly what rank he held in the Genovese hierarchy, however. He was most likely a capo. He did have an extensive network of mobbed up associates, and his intimate knowledge of the underworld scene in Miami was one of the reasons police wanted to question him about the Roselli murder. Tourine waxed nostalgic about the old days but offered up nothing on Roselli. He returned to his North Bay Village condo and his extensive gambling operations.

     Charlie Tourine died in May of 1980 at the age of 74.

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