I left my crime family in San Francisco

You rarely hear about organized crime in San Francisco, and many wonder if we have a mafia family.
Chicago mobster Nick DeJohn could have answered the question — but it’s hard to talk when you are lying in the trunk of your car. It’s even more difficult when you’ve been strangled. If DeJohn could have spoken, he might have said: “There is a mafia in San Francisco, and they’re not crazy about outsiders.”
While there had been organized Italian crime for decades in San Francisco, the mafia family, as we know it, was established during prohibition. Competing Italian gangs played a deadly version of what could be called “Whack a Boss.” It began when Frank Boca whacked Alfredo Scarisi, and was followed by Genaro Broccolo whacking Boca, Luigi Malvese whacking Broccolo, and Frank Lanza whacking Malvese.
When the killing ended, the last one standing was Lanza, and his family became San Francisco’s first modern mafia family. His crime family controlled rackets, such as loansharking, gambling, prostitution and narcotics, as well as Fisherman’s Wharf. Lanza died in 1937, and was succeeded by Anthony Lima, who ran the Olive Oil with the Sunland Oil and Cheese Company, a front for black market and other illegal activities.
Still, the San Francisco mafia was small cheese compared to other mafia cities, such as Chicago and New York. The New York and Chicago mobs muscled into the Los Angeles territory, but left San Francisco alone.
Why? Because the San Francisco police were the “toughest gang in town,” according to Kevin Mullen, former deputy police chief and noted crime historian. A gangster squad was created in 1931, by Police Chief William J. Quinn, to keep outside racketeers out of San Francisco. The squad would seize any out-of-town gangsters they found, charge them with vagrancy and send them back on the next boat.
DeJohn was ambitious. In Chicago in the late 1930s, he had been a rising member of the Capone gang, then headed by Frank Nitti. But he was on the losing side in a fight to take over The Continental gambling wire service. By 1946, after five of his partners were murdered, DeJohn decided a different locale might be better for his health. He changed his name to Nick Rossi and moved his family to Santa Rosa.
DeJohn invested in the Sunland Oil Company, becoming partners with Lima, his underboss Michael Abati, and others. DeJohn began spending more time in San Francisco and was planning to buy a house at 60 Alvarado Way in Monterey Heights. He became involved in the black market nylon business, and there were rumors that he was trying to organize the local bookies.
On May 7, 1947, DeJohn had dinner with some associates at the legendary Poodle Dog Restaurant before heading to La Roccas Corner Tavern on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. DeJohn left the bar at 1 a.m. with four men and said he was going to a card game.
That was the last time he was seen alive.
Two days later, DeJohn was found in the trunk of his car on Laguna Street, minus his expensive watch, diamond ring, $1,400 in cash and his life. His body was arranged in a tableau that cannot be described in a family newspaper — the mob was sending a strong message of disapproval.
Leonard Calamia, a Chicago narcotics dealer who had been with DeJohn on May 7, was arrested for murder but released soon after. Police continued their investigation. In late 1948, the case broke open when DeJohn’s watch and ring turned up in a Brooklyn pawn shop. Police arrested Sebastiano Nani, who held the pawn ticket, Michael Abiti and two others for the murder.
Homicide inspector (and future police chief) Frank Ahern was confident that police had enough evidence for a conviction, and the trial began in early 1949 with district attorney (and future governor) Pat Brown leading the prosecution. On Feb. 7, 1949, Brown’s star witness, Anita Venza, testified she overheard the defendants planning to kill DeJohn because he wanted to muscle in on the black market cooking oil racket.
A strong cross-examination from the defense damaged her credibility. The case went to the jury on March 8. The next day, in a surprising development, Brown asked the judge to dismiss the case, saying that Venza’s testimony was untrustworthy. The police were furious, but the judge agreed. The case ended, and the defendants were released.
“Live in New York, but leave before you get too hard. Live in San Francisco, but leave before you get too soft,” says a famous quote.
The ambitious performers move elsewhere to make it big, others stay in San Francisco. This may also hold true of gangsters. The San Francisco mafia stayed small, and all the family bosses died of natural causes. Jimmy “The Hat” Lanza, Frank’s son, who ran the family from 1961 to 1989, died in 2006 at the age of 103.

Paul Drexler is a crime historian and director of Crooks Tour of San Francisco,www.crookstour.com.


Two New England men in their 70s are heading to prison after admitting in a federal court to running an extortion scheme for years.
On Monday, Antonio “Spucky” Spagnolo, 73, and Pryce “Stretch” Quintina, 75, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to affect commerce by extortion, MassLive.com reported.
Prosecutors claimed the two elderly, one with a limp and the other with a hearing aid, were members of the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra, with Spagnolo as the acting boss of the New England mafia and Quintana as a “made” man who reported to Spagnolo, according to the Boston Globe.
The men may have appeared to be past their prime, but their indictments charged the two with threatening and intimidating business owners.
One of the victims was the owner of Constitution Vending Co., which sets up illegal video poker machines in bars and restaurants in Revere and East Boston and split the revenue with the bar and restaurant owners. According to court documents, the business owner took over the company in 2004 and continued the decade-long tradition of paying a senior member of the New England Mafia or risk losing his business to another vendor.
Authorities said between October 2005 and October 2012, Spagnolo—a senior member at the time—and Quinta demanded and received at least $50,000 in “protection” payments. But in 2013, one of Constitution’s clients—the Revere Moose Lodge—wanted to a new video poker machine company.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Moran was quoted by the Boston Globe saying the two men “implied the threat of economic harm,” to which Spagnolo explained: “The implied threat was that they couldn’t put their machines in there.” The two men, however, denied they made any threat that they will physically harm the victims.
Spagnolois facing up to 24 months in prison, while Quinta is expected to receive 18 months during the sentencing hearing on March 24, according to the new outlet. The two men have denied any association with the mob.
The name La Cosa Nostra has been in the news quite frequently in the past year, thanks to the shenanigans of its elderly members. Last July, 78-year-old Joseph Graziano was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy.
Graziano was the principal owner of Costa Rica-based Beteagle.com, but authorities believe the online sports betting operation was actually headed by 83-year-old Joseph Lascala, an alleged “capo” of the Genovese Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra operating in northern New Jersey.
Charges against Lascala are still pending.

In their 70s, two New England Mafia members admit extortion, prepare for prison
By Rebecca Everett | reverett@masslive.com
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BOSTON — Two septuagenarians, one with a limp and the other with a hearing aid and both reputed members of the New England Mafia, admitted in federal court that they ran an extortion scheme for years.
Prosecutors alleged that Antonio L. "Spucky" Spagnolo, 73, of Revere is the acting boss of the New England Mafia, also called the New England Family of La Cosa Nostra. His co-defendant, Pryce "Stretch" Quintina, 75, also of Revere, was a "made" man in the mafia who reported to Spagnolo, prosecutors said.
Both men pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston Monday, the Boston Globe reported, to charges of conspiracy to affect commerce by extortion for threatening the owner of the Revere Moose Lodge and another businessman.
If Judge Patti B. Saris approves a plea agreement in the case, Spagnolo will be sentenced to 24 months in prison and Quintana will be sentenced to 18 months, the Globe reported. A sentencing hearing is set for March 24.
While the Globe reported both men in court appeared to be many years past their prime days as physically tough gangsters, the indictments against both men charges them with threatening and intimidating business owners.
According to court documents, one of the victims of the extortion was the owner of Constitution Vending Co., a company that set up illegal video poker machines in bars and restaurants in Revere and East Boston. The company split the proceeds of the illegal machines with the bar and restaurant owners
When the victim took control of Constitution Vending Co. in 2004, he continued the 10-year tradition of paying a senior member the New England Mafia for protection — specifically, to ensure that his machines could remain in the bars and restaurants and would not be replaced by machines from another vendor.
Beginning in October 2005, court documents showed, Spagnolo was the senior member directing Quintana to collect the monthly payments from the owner of Constitution. Between that date and October 2012, the two men demanded and received at least $50,000 in payments.
In 2013, an official at the Revere Moose Lodge and the owner of a new video poker machine company agreed that new poker machines would be placed in the lodge, with the lodge getting a "more favorable" split of the proceeds than Constitution was offering.
When Spagnolo learned of the plan, he and Quintana threatened the Moose Lodge official and said he would not allow the new machines to be used. As a result, the new machines were not installed, according to the indictment.
The men were arrested in October and released with GPS monitoring devices.
In court Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Moran said the two men made "implied" economic threats, the Globe reported.
Spagnolo denied there was any physical threat. "The implied threat was that they couldn't put their machines in there," he said, according to the Globe.
It is believed that Spagnolo took over the New England Mafia after former Patriarca boss Anthony DiNunzio, 55, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges that he shook down strip clubs in Rhode Island.
Both men denied in court that they were members of any organized crime group, the Globe reported.
The Boston Globe reported that Spagnolo, a "made" man, was a capo and reputed drug dealer when Gennaro Angiulo ran the Mafia's Boston operations from 1960s to the early 1980s.
Spagnolo in the 1990s served a nine-year prison sentence for racketeering and drug dealing, while Quintana served more than seven years for racketeering.
Both were rumored to have been present at the October 1989 Mafia induction meeting in Medford that the FBI secretly recorded, the Globe reported. The group has weakened substantially since then, the newspaper wrote, with many leaders being prosecuted.

DNA at site of Kyoto restaurant owner’s murder linked to Kyushu yakuza •

KYOTO – Investigators probing the December 2013 murder of Ohsho gyoza (dumpling) restaurant chain president in Kyoto found that DNA detected from articles left behind at the site belonged to a man who is a member of a yakuza syndicate based in Kyushu, investigative sources said Saturday.
However, they have not yet confirmed any relationship or trouble between the man and Takayuki Ohigashi, the head of Ohsho Food Services who was gunned down in a parking lot in front of the firm’s headquarters in Kyoto’s Yamashina Ward, according to the sources.
On the morning of Dec. 19, 2013, an employee found Ohigashi lying face down and bleeding from several gunshot wounds.
The sources said security camera footage taken near Ohsho Food’s headquarters in October of the same year showed a motorcycle stolen in Joyo, Kyoto Prefecture, driving alongside a car with a Kyushu number plate. Investigators are checking whether the owner of the car has any connections to the case.
Investigators have also discovered traces of gunpowder residue on the handlebars of another motorcycle, also stolen in Joyo, found at a bicycle parking space in Yamashina Ward, about 2 km northeast of Ohsho’s headquarters, in the spring of 2014.
Police said Ohigashi’s belongings, including more than ¥1 million left in his car, were not stolen.

Investigators said the crime may have been committed out of malice for either Ohigashi or the company.

Italian Mafia Election 2015: Organized Crime Ring Votes For New Mob Boss


Italian police released information to the public this weekend of the election process for a new boss of one of the top families of the Sicilian Mafia, the Local reported. The information was released following a lengthy investigation into the Santa Maria di Gesu family, one of the most powerful clans in Sicily.
The report revealed that members of the organization chose their bosses by popular vote, with candidates campaigning in the runup, much as in government elections. Many of the contenders for leadership talked about the race in barbershops, with the conversations caught on tape by police wiretaps.
Several members of the family and its allies were arrested following the investigation. The lead prosecutor for the case, Francesco Lo Voi, described the material as "extraordinary, in that the Mafiosi are caught on tape talking about their rules, the organization and its history."
Italian Mafia families have seen something of a renaissance in the past several years, infiltrating many agencies of government in Rome and growing more open about their existence. The tapes recorded several people using the term "Cosa Nostra" (Our Thing), an old mob name for itself. Prosecutors said this was the first time the term had been used in decades and signaled a growing boldness, the Local reported.
The organized crime ring has made headlines in the past several weeks both in Italy and abroad for its pledges to defend against the terror group known as the Islamic State group, ISIS or Daesh. An ex-agent for Italian intelligence services said the Mafia could serve as a useful ally in protecting the nation from the heightened terror threat following the massacre claimed by ISIS Nov. 13 in Paris. "The presence of the criminal organizations, which control the territory, will not allow terrorists to permeate their zones," said the agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Attorney: Associate of DeCavalcante Crime Family Pleads Guilty To Selling Cocaine

December 15, 2015 3:42 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — James Feeney, an associate of the DeCavalcante organized crime family, has pleaded guilty to distributing more than 500 grams of cocaine.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Heeney, 36 of Elizabeth, pleaded guilty to selling the cocaine to an undercover FBI agent between August 2012 and March 2013.
Feeney was arrested in March alongside other members and associates of the DeCavalcante organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra, which has long been thought to be the real-life inspiration for HBO’s “The Sopranos.”
Those arrested face a variety of charges, including prostitution and plotting to commit murder.
Alongside Feeney, three other New Jersey men — 34-year-old John Capozzi, 23-year-old Mario Galli and 37-year-old Nicholas Degidio –were also charged with cocaine distribution.
The criminal complaint issued in March alleges the DeCavalcante family operates under the direction of New York’s Gambino crime family.
Heeney faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.

FBI offering reward for longtime fugitive with mob ties

FBI offering reward for longtime fugitive with mob ties
By Diana Pinzon

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information that leads to the whereabouts of one of the longest tenured fugitives on its “Ten Most Wanted” list.
Donald Eugene Webb is accused of murdering Pennsylvania Police Chief Gregory Adams in 1980.
Friday, December 4, 2015 marked the 35th anniversary of the deadly shooting. Webb would now be 84 years old.
Age-enhanced photograph of Donald Eugene Webb provided by the FBI
Gregory Adams was the chief of the Saxonburg Borough Police Department when he was beaten and shot to death after a routine traffic stop. Investigators say Adams pulled Webb over around three o’clock that afternoon.
At the time, Webb was a 50-year-old career criminal, known to specialize in jewelry store burglaries. He was believed to have been in the area to case a possible burglary target.
Webb was also a federal fugitive wanted for a jewelry store burglary in the Albany, New York area and was known to reside under an alias in hotels in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Police say Webb was likely wounded in the confrontation with Chief Adams. A white Mercury Cougar allegedly used by Webb as a getaway vehicle was found on December 21, 1980, at a Howard Johnson’s parking lot in Warwick.
Webb lived in New Bedford; investigators believe he returned to Southern New England after the murder. Blood evidence linked in type to Webb was recovered from the Mercury.
Webb was also known to associate with people from Fall River and Taunton who were connected to members of the Patriarca Crime Family.
The reward that the FBI is offering is payable, not only to any person who can help agents arrest Webb, but also to any person who can take them to a location of Webb’s remains.

Anyone who may have information regarding the whereabouts of Donald Eugene Webb, dead or alive, is asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).