"Big Ange" and the Cleveland Mafia Death
In 1983, 72-year-old Angelo Lonardo, the Cleveland boss of the Mafia, became a government informant. He shocked family, friends, law enforcement officers and, in particular, criminal associations with his decision which was taken after he was sentenced to life plus 103 years for drug and missile convictions. The sentence came after a monumental investigation by local, state and federal agencies, although they removed the Cleveland Mafia.
"Big Ange", as it was called, was the highest ranking gangster. He testified in 1985 at the "skimming" trials of the Las Vegas casino in Kansas City and in 1986 at the "steering committee" trials of the New York Mafia. Many of the largest car leaders in the country have been convicted as a result of these trials.
During his testimony, Lonardo told how at 18, he avenged his father's murder by killing the man believed to be responsible. He also testified that after that crime, he was responsible for killing several Porrello brothers, his father's business rivals during Prohibition.
The Cleveland Mafia Birth
During the late eighteen hundred, the four Lonardo brothers and the seven Porrello brothers were childhood friends and collaborators of the sulfur mine in the hometown of Licata, Sicily. They came to America in the early nineteen hundred and eventually settled in the Woodland district of Cleveland. There were close friends. Several of the Porrello and Lonardo brothers worked together in small businesses.
The leader of the Lonardo "Big Joe" clan has become a successful businessman and community leader in the lower area of Woodland Boulevard. During Prohibition, he became successful as a dealer in corn sugar, which was used by bootleggers to make corn liqueur. "Big Joe" provided residues and raw materials to the poor residents of the Italian district. They would make the drink and "Big Joe" would buy it back by giving them a commission. He was respected and feared as "master" or godfather. "Big Joe" became the leader of a strong and vicious gang and was known as the "baron" of corn sugar. Joe Porrello was one of the corporations.
The First Bloody Corner
With the advent of Prohibition, Cleveland, like other big cities, experienced a wave of bootleg-related crimes. The murders of Louis Rosen, Salvatore Vella, August Rini and a few others produced the same suspects, but they were not indictments. These suspects were members of the Lonardo gang. Some of the murders occurred at the corner of E. 25th and Woodland Ave. This intersection became known as the "bloody corner".
By this time, Joe Porrello had left Lonardos's employee to start his own sugar business.
Porrello and his six siblings gathered their money and eventually became successful dealers with corn sugar based in the Woodland Avenue area around E. 110th Street.
With small competitors, sugar dealers and booties, who mysteriously died violent deaths, the Lonardos business flourished as they acquired a near monopoly on the corn sugar business. Their main competitors were their old friends Porrellos.
Raymond Porrello, the youngest of his brothers, was arrested by undercover federal agents for organizing a sale of 100 gallons of whiskey at Porrello's hairdresser at E. 110th and Woodland. He was sentenced to Dayton, Oh. Workhouse.
The Porrello brothers paid the influential "Big Joe" Lonardo $ 5,000 to get Raymond out of jail. "Big Joe"
failed in his attempt, but never returned $ 5,000.
Meanwhile, Ernest Yorkell and Jack Brownstein, self-proclaimed "tough boys," from Philadelphia, came to Cleveland. Yorkell and Brownstein were quake artists, and their intended victims were Cleveland bootleggers, who got a giggle from how the two felt it was necessary to explain that they were harsh. Real boys didn't have to tell people they were strong. After the Cleveland gangsters laughed, Yorkell and Brownstein were taken on a "one-way trip."
Maize sugar and blood
"Big Joe" Lonardo in 1926, now at the height of his wealth and power, left for Sicily to visit his mother and
relatives. He left his closest brother and business partner John.
During his six-month absence of "Big Joe," he lost much of his $ 5,000 per week profits to Porrellos, who took advantage of John Lonardo's lack of business skills and the assistance of an unhappy Lonardo employee. "Big Joe" returned and business talks between Porrellos and Lonardos began.
They "urged" Porrellos to return their lost customers.
On October 13, 1927 "Big Joe" and John Lonardo went to the Porrello hairdressing salon to play books and discuss business with Angelo Porrello as they did last week. When Lonardos entered the back room of the store, two gunmen opened fire. Angelo Porrello went under a table.
The Cleveland underworld lost its first boss while "Big Joe" went down with three bullets in his head. John Lonardo was shot in the chest and groin, but fired his weapon and managed to track down the attackers through the hairdresser. He threw his gun in the shop, but continued to chase the people down the street where one of them turned and, from bullets, hit Lonardo several times in the head with the butt of the gun. John fell unconscious and was bleeding to death.
The Porrello brothers were arrested. Angelo was charged with the crimes of the Lonardo brothers. Subsequently, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Joe Porrello succeeded Lonardos as a "baron" with corn sugar and was later called the "mafia" of the Cleveland Mafia.
The Cleveland meeting
Bootleg bloodlines continued to flow with numerous crimes stemming from the Porrello-Lonardo conflict.
Lawrence Lupo, a former Lonardo bodyguard was killed after announcing he wants to take over the sugar business of Lonardos corn.
Anthony Caruso, a butcher who saw Lonardos' killers escape was shot and killed. He was believed to know the identities of the army and would reveal them to the police.
On December 5, 1928, Joe Porrello and his lieutenant and bodyguard Sam Tilocco hosted the first known important Mafia meeting at the Cleveland Statler Hotel. Many great Mafia leaders from Chicago to New York to Florida were invited. The meeting was attacked before it actually started.
Joe Profaci, the leader of a gangster family in Brooklyn, N.Y., was the best-known of the arrested gangsters. Within hours, to the astonishment of police and court officials, Joe Porrello gathered thirty family members and friends who put up their homes as a guarantee for gangster ties. Profaci was personally saved by Porrello. There was a great deal of controversy regarding the validity of the bonds.
Several theories were presented regarding why the meeting was convened. First, gangsters, the local presidents of the Sicilian Union, an Mafia-infiltrated aid society, were thought to be there to elect a new national president. Their former president, Frankie Yale, was recently killed by the order of the notorious Al Capone in Chicago. Secondly, it was believed that the meeting could have been convened
to organize the highly profitable corn sugar industry. It was also said that the men were there to "confirm" Joe Porrello as a "capo" in Cleveland.
Capone, a non-Sicilian, was reported to Cleveland for the meeting. He left soon after his arrival at
the advice of the associates who said that the Sicilians did not want him there.
The second bloody corner
As the power and wealth of Joe Porrello increased, the heirs and close associates of the Lonardo brothers grew hot for revenge.
Angelo Lonardo, the 18-year-old son of "Big Joe," along with his mother and cousin, drove to corner E. 110 and Woodland, the Porrello fortress. There Angelo sent word that his mother wanted to speak to Salvatore "Sam Sam" Todaro. Todaro, now Lieutenant Porrello, had worked for Angelo's father and was believed to be responsible for his killing. In later years, it was believed that he was actually one of the gunmen.
As Todaro approached to speak to Mrs. Lonardo, whom he respected, Angelo pulled out a gun and emptied it into Black Sam's "left frame." Todaro collapsed on the sidewalk and died.
Angelo and his cousin disappeared for several months, as he hid in Chicago, with the kindness of his friend Lonardo Al Capone. Later, it was believed that Angelo spent time in California with his uncle Dominick, his fourth brother Lonardo, who fled west when charged with a 1921 robbery charge.
Eventually, Angelo and his cousin were arrested and charged with the "Black Sam" murder. For the first time in Cleveland's crime history, crimes have been convicted, as both youths have been convicted and sentenced to life. Justice, although served, would be reduced, as they will be released only a year and a half later after winning a new trial.
Rise of the Mayfield Road Mob
On October 20, 1929, Frank Lonardo, brother of "Big Joe" and John were shot to death while playing cards. Two theories were given for his death; that he was in revenge for the killing of "Black Sam" Todaro and that he was killed for not paying gambling debts. Mrs. Frank Lonardo, when told
Her husband's crime screamed, "I will receive them. I will receive them myself if I have to kill an entire regiment!"
By 1929, Frank Milano, the crime boss, came to power as the leader of his own gang, "Mayfield Road Mob". The Milan group formed part of the remains of the Lonardo gang and was also associated with the powerful "Cleveland Syndicate", Morrie Kleinman, Moe Dalitz, Sam Tucker and Louis Rothkopf. The Cleveland Syndicate was responsible for most of the Canadian beverage imported from Lake Erie. In the following years they entered the casinos business. One of the largest and most profitable businesses was the construction of the Desert Inn / Casino in Las Vegas. Dalitz will become known as the "Las Vegas Godfather."
Joe Porrello admired the political organization in Milan, the East End Bi-Partisan Club and, seeing the value in this influence, wanted to join the group. Milan refused. Later, Porrello was reportedly affiliated with the new Republican Club format of District 21. He hoped to organize voters on Woodland Avenue, as did Milan on Mayfield Road.
More corn and blood sugar
By 1930, Milan had become quite powerful. He had come to ask for a paper from the lucrative Porrello corn sugar business. On July 5, 1930, Porrello received a phone call from Milan, requesting a conference at his Venetian restaurant on Mayfield Road. Sam Tilocco and Joe Porrello's brother Raymond urged him not to go.
Around 2pm, Joe Porrello and Sam Tilocco arrived at the restaurant in Milan and spoke. Porrello, Tilocco and Frank Milano sat in the restaurant and talked about business. A few of the people from Milan settled nearby. The atmosphere was tense, as Porrello refused to accept Milan's demands.
Porrello reached into his pocket for the clock to check the time. Two of Milan's men, probably thinking Porrello was coming for his weapon, opened fire. Porrello died instantly with three bullets in his head. At the same time, a third member of the Milan squad fired at Tilocco, who was hit three times, but managed to clear the door to his new Cadillac. He fell to the ground as the guns pursued him, finishing with six more bullets.
Frank Milano and some of his restaurant employees were arrested, but only accused of suspicious people. Shipowners have never been identified. Only one witness was present in the salon when the shooting began. It was Frank Joiner, a slot machine distributor whose only testimony was that he "thought" he saw Frank Milano in the restaurant during the murders.
Cleveland's aggressive and widespread safety director, Edwin Barry, frustrated by the ever-increasing number of bootleg killings, ordered all known sugar stores to be locked. He ordered a policeman to be detailed to each to ensure that no sugar was brought or removed.
In the meantime, the six Porrello brothers wore black silk shirts and ties and buried their most successful brother. The spectacular double gangster burial was one of Cleveland's biggest. Two lanes and thirty-three cars overloaded with flowers led the procession of the killed man and his bodyguard. There followed more than two hundred and fifty cars containing family and friends. Thousands of mourners and onlookers with gazes on the sidewalks.
The undercover world of Cleveland was teeming with imminent rumors of war. Porrello's brother, Vincente-James, spoke openly about erasing all those responsible for killing his brother.
Three weeks after his brother was killed, Jim Porrello was still wearing a black shirt as he entered the food and meat market on E. 110th Street and Woodland. As he removed the lamb chops to the meat counter, a Ford passenger car, with the curtains pulled tight, slowly passed the shop. Several firearms were removed and two were fired, one through the front window of the store and one through the front screen door.
The gun lovers were lucky. Two pellets found the back of Porrello's head and entered his brain. He was rushed to the hospital.
"I think maybe they'll kill us all Porrellos"
"I think maybe they'll kill us all Porrellos. I think maybe they'll kill us all, except for Rosario. I can't
kill him – he's in prison. Thus, Ottavio Porrello calmly but calmly predicted the likely fate of himself and his brothers while waiting outside Jim's hospital room. Jim Porrello died at 5:55 p.m.
Two local gangsters were arrested and charged with murder. One was discharged through a directed verdict, and the other was acquitted. Like almost all crimes related to the Cleveland muzzle, the killers have never seen justice.
Around this time, it was rumored that the Porrello brothers were marked for extermination. The one who survives
the brothers hid. Raymond, known for his flirtatious attitude and hot temper, spoke of how his brother James had sought revenge. However, Raymond was smarter, took active steps to protect himself.
On August 15, 1930, three weeks after the assassination of James Porrello, Raymond Porrello's house was leveled in a violent explosion. He has not been home at the time, since he took his family and left his house pending the attack.
Four days later, Frank Alessi, the witness to the murder of Big Joe's brother Big Lonardo, was shot. From his deathbed, he identified Frank Brancato as his aggressor. Brancato was mainly known as Lonardo's supporter and suspect in several crimes. Brancato was acquitted of Alessi's murder.
In March 1931, Rosario Porrello was sentenced to the London Prison Farm, where he served one year for carrying a weapon in his car.
In mid-1931, "Capo di tutti capi" (the national mafia of all the chiefs) was killed Salvatore Maranzano. His crime set in motion the formation of the first national mafia governing commission, created to stop the many crimes caused by conflicts between and within the mafia families and to promote the application of modern business practices to crime.
Charles "Lucky" Luciano was the main developer of the commission and was appointed chairman. Al Capone Commission in Chicago, Joe Profaci in Brooklyn and Frank Milano in Cleveland were also named.
In December 1931, Angelo Lonardo and his cousin, Dominic Suspirato, were released from prison after being acquitted of the murder of "Black Sam" Todaro during a second trial. Because he avenged his father's death and (largely) escaped it, he became a respected member of Frank Milano's Mayfield Road Mob.
The thirst for revenge had not been satisfied for the members of the Lonardo family. It was generally believed
that "Black Sam" Todaro instigated and maybe took part in the crimes of "Big Joe" and John Lonardo. However, members of the Lonardo family believed that the remaining Porrello brothers, especially the volatile John and Raymond and older brother Rosario, are still a threat because of
the crimes of Joe and James Porrello.
On February 25, 1932, Raymond Porrello, his brother Rosario and their bodyguard Dominic Gulino (also known by many aliases) played cards near E. 110 and Woodland Avenue. The front door opened and, in a hail of bullets, the Porrello brothers, the bodyguard and a passenger descended. Porrellos died on the spot. Gulino died a few hours later. The fisherman has finally recovered
A few hours after the murders, Frank Brancato, with a bullet in his stomach, crawled into St. John from the west side of Cleveland. He claimed he was shot in a street fight on the west side. Several days later, tests on the bullet taken from Brancato revealed that it came from a weapon found at the Porrello brothers' crime scene. Although he was never convicted of any crime, Brancato was convicted of perjury for lying a Grand Jury about where he was at the time of the crime. He served four years after a one-to-ten-year sentence was commuted by Governor Martin L. Davey.
In 1933, the ban was repealed. Bootleg Christmases stopped especially as organized crime moved to other businesses. Angelo Lonardo continued his criminal career as a respected member of the Cleveland family, eventually rising to the ranks to run missiles in northeastern Ohio in 1980.
In early 1933, in the aftermath of the great Porrello family tragedy, Rosario's son, Angelo, 21, was killed in a fight for a Buffalo game. It was said that he and his uncle John were there trying to get involved in the corn liquor business.