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Antics and Exploits The St. Louis Family The trek by Italian criminals in New Orleans to St. Louis began shortly after the end of the Civil War. Black.

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Presentation on theme: "Antics and Exploits The St. Louis Family The trek by Italian criminals in New Orleans to St. Louis began shortly after the end of the Civil War. Black."— Presentation transcript:


2 Antics and Exploits

3 The St. Louis Family The trek by Italian criminals in New Orleans to St. Louis began shortly after the end of the Civil War. Black Hand extortion was reported in the city as early as 1876. However, Italians would not dominate organized crime in the city until after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. By the time Prohibition arrived, there were five gangs of importance in St. Louis: The Sicilian Green Ones, the Pillow Gang, the Egan’s Rats, the Hogan Gang, and the Cuckoos. h t t p : / / w w w. c r i m e l i b r a r y. c o m / g a n g s t e r s _ o u t l a w s / f a m I l y _ e p i c s / l o u i s / 1. h t m l

4 The Green Ones The Green Ones reportedly received their name from the farming communities in Sicily where they originated. The leadership of this group, brothers John and Vito Giannola and Alphonse Palizzola, came from the Stoppagleria faction of the Sicilian mafia. The trio financed their passage to United States with several robberies in 1915. Once they arrived in America the three went their separate ways– John Giannola to Chicago, Vito Giannola to St. Louis, and Palizzola to Springfield, Illinois. A few years later at Vito’s urging they reunited in St. Louis where they imposed a tax on all goods sold in the city’s Italian community. With little resistance, the trio went about establishing a foothold in the rackets. In 1923, Vito moved to take control of the wholesale meat industry. One recalcitrant distributor objected and was brutally murdered as an example to others. His body was found under the Kingshighway viaduct on September 16, 1923.

5 The Green Ones ml?sect=16 Finding bootlegging a more prosperous venture, the trio soon found that the non-Italian gangs dominated the liquor trade in St. Louis. Their first endeavor in this area resulted in the death of Sam Palizzola, a relative of Alphonse, in September 1924. The murder was believed to have been carried out by members of the Egan’s Rats gang. When members of that gang were sent to prison in 1925, the Green Ones found a new adversary in the Cuckoos Gang. The Green Ones struck the first blow in this battle. On September 14, 1925, John and Catherine Gray were murdered after complaining about having to purchase liquor for their Eagle Park resort from the Green Ones. The couple was shot dead in their automobile, which was then set on fire. The Cuckoos retaliated by shooting up a farmhouse hideout of the Green Ones where the gang had an alky-cooking operation. No one was injured.

6 On January 29, 1926, law officers Ohmer Hockett and John Balke attempted to shake down a still operation belonging to the Green Ones. After ignoring an opening offer of $200, the two men waited until “the boss” arrived. The two lawmen were greeted by four members of the gang, who then beat them unconscious. The following day they were taken into the woods and watched as their graves were dug. They were then shot and buried. Pasquale Santino, a member of a rival gang, put the finger on Alphonse Palizzola, as he became the first of the Green Ones’ leadership to be murdered. On September 9, 1927, four gunmen blasted away at Palizzola on Tenth Street. A 10-year- old boy was also killed by one of the ricocheting bullets.

7 More On The Green Ones! Vito Giannola was the next to die. He was shot 37 times while hiding in the house of Augustina Cusumano on December 28, 1927. Giannola had chased away Cusumano’s husband and was living with the woman. Two men claiming to be police officers came to the house and, after finding Giannola hiding in a secret compartment upstairs, murdered him. John Giannola went into hiding after the death of his brother and was never again a factor in St. Louis. He was said to have died peacefully in his sleep in 1955. During the short Giannola and Palizzola leadership, police records show 30 people were murdered and 18 wounded. Among the wounded was James Licavoli, the future boss of the Cleveland mafia. Police shot Licavoli as they attempted to arrest Joseph Bommarito, an associate of the Green Ones. The police killed Bommarito when he resisted arrest. Licavoli

8 No More About The Green Ones! Another associate of Licavoli at this time was Giovanni “John” Mirabella who was arrested at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio in December 1928 during the first known meeting of the national crime cartel. He and Licavoli would eventually work together in Detroit, Toledo and Youngstown. Mirabella was a suspect in the sensational murder of Detroit radio crusader Jerry Buckley in July 1930.

9 The Pillow Gang One of the earliest Italian gangs was the Pillow Gang that began operating in the city around 1910. The gang’s name came from its leader Carmelo Fresina, who carried a pillow with him to sit on after he had been shot in the rear end. Years later Senator Estes Kefauver would sum up Fresina’s career, “Eventually Fresina, an extortionist and bootlegger, was dispatched with two bullets in the head and no longer needed his pillow.” According to historian Walter M. Fontane, between 1910 and 1914 there was an ongoing battle between Italian factions in the city that left 10 dead and several survivors deported. “Freelancing became the way of the Mafia” until new leadership came in the name of Dominic Giambrioni in the late teens. After the arrival of the Giannolas, Giambrioni was forced out in 1924. He returned 10 years later and was murdered. In 1922, Fresina arrived and joined the faction headed by Pasquale Santino. After Santino was murdered in 1927, Fresina took over the gang, which became allied with a maverick splinter group of the Green Ones led by Tony Russo. Together they waged a battle with the Green Ones.

10 Really fluffy! Don’t you agree? In January 1929, after the Giannolas had been eliminated, Fresina and two members of his gang attended a meeting at the home of a Russo faction member. It was rumored that Fresina had made peace with remaining members of the Green Ones and the Russo faction felt they had been betrayed. In a wild shooting Fresina was wounded in the buttocks and his two associates killed. The Russo Gang, already depleted due to the deportation of three Russo brothers in 1928, continued to do battle with Fresina and the Green Ones until their faction “disintegrated” around 1932. Pillow gang members then turned and fought the Green Ones again after they blamed them for the death of Fresina, who was killed near Edwardsville, Illinois in 1931.

11 Egan’s Rats… What began as a political organization forged by St. Louis Fifth Ward Democratic Committeeman Thomas Egan and Missouri State Senator Thomas Kinney, was by 1907 known as Egan’s Rats. Early “political activities” included robbery, burglary and theft from railroad boxcars. In April 1919, Thomas Egan died of natural causes and was replaced as Fifth Ward Boss by his brother William T. “Willie” Egan. During the teens, Rats’ lieutenant Max “Big Maxey” Greenberg was imprisoned on federal charges of interstate theft. Willie Egan was able to pull strings, which reached all the way to President Woodrow Wilson, to get Greenberg’s sentence commuted. He served just six months of a five-year sentence. Greenberg then repaid Egan by switching his allegiance to the Hogan Gang.

12 Egan’s Rats (continued) Greenberg fled St. Louis for Detroit where he got involved in smuggling liquor from Canada. Needing better financing he sought out Irving Wexler (Waxey Gordon) in New York, who in turn introduced him to Arnold Rothstein. Wexler and Greenberg established a successful rum running operation before Greenberg returned to St. Louis in early 1921. Upon Greenburg’s return, Egan retaliated. In March 1921, one of his gunmen fired at Greenberg while he was standing with a group of men at Sixth Street and Chester. Greenberg was wounded and political lobbyist John P. Sweeney was killed.

13 This is where you belong! In the fall of 1921 rivals got even with Willie Egan when he was gunned down as he left a saloon at 14th Street and Franklin Avenue. The Rats blamed the murder of their leader on the Hogan Gang, led by Edward J. “Jellyroll” Hogan. Rumors spread that $30,000 was paid for the hit. Egan died in City Hospital refusing to name who shot him. “I’m a good sport,” Egan replied before dying. A week later, Greenberg walked into police headquarters with a Hogan Gang lawyer Jacob H. Mackler and provided an airtight alibi. The alibi didn’t satisfy William P. Colbeck, Willie Egan’s replacement in the Rats. “Dinty” Colbeck, was a husky plumber and a former World War I infantryman. Taking over the gang, Colbeck had surmised that Greenberg had planned Egan’s death; the attorney was the payoff man, and James Hogan was one of the gunmen. Those three, plus Hogan gunmen John Doyle and Luke Kennedy, were marked for death.

14 The first to go was John Doyle in January 1922. Next, Rat gunmen fired on an automobile containing Mackler, Kennedy and James Hogan at Eleventh and Market Streets. No one was injured. Mackler was not as fortunate on February 21 when fifteen shots were fired into his automobile on Twelfth Street killing him instantly. The Hogan Gang responded by murdering Rat member George Kurloff in a restaurant on Franklin Avenue. The Rats retaliated by dispatching the bodies of Joseph Cammarata, Joseph Cipolla, and Everett Summers in ditches along lonely county roads. Those murders were followed by the death of Luke Kennedy, whose car was riddled with bullets in May 1922. Hogan gunmen retaliated a few days later by blasting away at Colbeck’s plumbing store on Washington Avenue. The following day, Egan’s Rats gunmen shot up “Jellyroll” Hogan’s home.

15 During the trigger-happy forays that were occurring, several businesses had their windows shot out and once a young boy was hit by an automobile driven by fleeing gunmen. Public anger, caused by the mob shootings, forced police into action and Colbeck moved the gang’s headquarters outside of the city to St. Louis County. The gang converted an 11-room house into the Maxwelton Club, and took over an abandoned horse and motorcycle racetrack near St. Charles Rock Road and Pennsylvania Avenue. Here the Rats raced around the track taking target practice on tin cans and whiskey bottles terrorizing the local residents. Over a two-year period, the death toll in the Egan’s Rats / Hogan Gang War reached 23. After the deaths of Doyle and Kennedy, the Rats turned their attention to Greenberg. Colbeck and William “Red” Smith were arrested while waiting outside police headquarters where Greenberg was once being questioned. The police smuggled Greenberg out a back door and the following day he fled to New York where he worked again with Wexler. In April 1933 Greenberg was murdered in an Elizabeth, New Jersey hotel. The Rats Are Done For!

16 The Cuckoo Gang! The Cuckoos were headed by the three Tipton brothers, Herman, Ray and Roy. The gang earned a reputation for being “fast and willing shooters who would fight anyone, including themselves. Extortion from bootleggers and other gangs, robbery, kidnapping and murder for fun and profit were Cuckoo specialties.”

17 Ah, those CRAZY CUCKOOS! Carl and Earl Shelton

18 It was Roy Tipton who planned the 1923 mail truck robbery that netted its participants $2.4 million and 25 years in prison. The Cuckoos suffered minor losses in manpower from the convictions and continued on. A few months later the losses began to mount. Gang members Oliver Hamilton and Clarence “Dizzy” Daniels were sentenced to life in prison, and August “Gus” Webbe was sentenced to 10 years for the killing of St. Louis Officers Edward Griffin and John Surgant during a robbery. This was followed by Joseph “Mulehead” Simon, Jimmy Michaels, and Ben “Melonhead” Bommarito being arrested for the armed robbery of a jeweler and the attempted robbery of a shoe company payroll. Next came Milford Jones, implicated in a robbery with Carl, Bernie, and Earl Shelton. Bennie Bethel was a suspect in a Pine Lawn bank robbery, while Joseph Costello, Marvin Paul Michaels and Alfred Salvaggi were questioned in the deaths of the aforementioned John and Catherine Gray. More On the Cuckoos!

19 Cuckoo Extravaganza! In 1925, Cuckoo Gang member Tommy Hayes was released from prison after serving time for a mail / payroll robbery in January 1921 in Wood River, Illinois. Hayes was considered an unusual gangster because he came from a respectable family, didn’t drink or smoke, and worked out to stay in shape. Hayes’ police record began in 1913 when he was 15. By the early 1920s, he had become “an efficient killer.” In the mid-1920s the Cuckoos survived a gang war with the Green Ones, in which 13 mobsters were killed. It was rumored that a truce was declared after a three-day peace conference was held between Herman Tipton and Green Ones’ leader Giannola. The agreement ended when Tony “Shorty” Russo, and his brothers led a splinter group away from the Green Ones. The leadership of this renegade group was short lived when Russo and Vincent Spicuzza were found slain outside Chicago, each with a nickel in their hands, the trademark murder signature of Al Capone gunman “Machine Gun Jack” McGurn. Authorities believed the two were trying to collect a $50,000 bounty put on Capone by rival Joe Aiello.

20 The war continued for another two years, during which another dozen plus mobsters were killed. Among them were James Russo and Mike “the Chink” Longo, both murdered by Tommy Hayes. The war came to an end on July 29, 1928 after St. Louis police escorted the surviving Russo brothers – William, Thomas, and Lawrence – to the Union Station so they could get out of town alive.

21 The Cuckoos were soon involved in another gang battle as they lent their guns to Carl Shelton’s East Side Gang to fight the Birger Gang. When the Birger Gang was eliminated in 1930, Shelton ordered the Cuckoos out of the East Side. When Herman Tipton refused to leave because of the sudden bootlegging wealth he was enjoying there, Shelton convinced Hayes to split from the gang and turned on Tipton. Another dozen or so killings took place during this faction war. In February 1931, Hayes led an attack on a roadhouse in which three Shelton men were killed. Shelton, suspecting a double-cross, in turn double-crossed Hayes on April 15, 1932. Hayes was found in Madison, Illinois with 12 slugs in his back. His death effectively ended the Cuckoo gang as a force in the St. Louis underworld, although, as with Egan’s Rats members, many ex-Cuckoos would be around for decades.

22 Cuckoo Gang?

23 Now wasn’t that just refreshing?!

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