Vincentio James Licavoli

Licavoli Gang


An original member of the infamous Licavoli gang from St.Louis, James was born in Terrasini Italy on August 18, 1904. Brought to the US as an infant along with 3 other siblings, James quickly joined his cousins Thomas and Peter in forging a career in crime through their talent for conducting acts of violence. Inspite of a well established reputation amoung his criminal counterparts, James "also known as Blackie," had his first serious run in with authorities on October 26 of 1926 when he Vincent Spicuzza and Joe Bommarito "a third Joe Bommarito who was not Joe Long or Scarface Joe who were also members of the Licavoli clan," were arrested after a wild chase and subsequent shootout with the police. At the conclusion of the chase and battle which ended with Blackie suffering a leg wound and the death of Bommarito, officers found a cache of revolvers and cartridges inside of the gangsters auto. Released on bond James was arrested one month later in the company of Giovanni Marabella and Ralph Caleco once again transporting an arsenal of automatic weapons, revolvers and shot guns. In both instances, James and his accomplices escaped without any punishment being metted out in a court of law. Following the two close calls in St.Louis Jimmy left home and joined his cousin Yonnie who had moved onto Detroit where he had established himself as one of the most powerful men in that city before continuing on to Toledo and Youngstown Ohio where his gang carved out a lucrative piece of the gambling concessions in each of those thriving markets. James became one of Yonnies most dependable gunmen participating in several important murders on behalf of the Licavoli organization. James joined Yonnie in Ohio after a short sentence for bootlegging earned him a stay in the Federal Correctional Facility at Leavenworth. A 1931 indictment caused some tense moments after he had become one of the prime suspects in the murder of Toledo beer baron Jackie Kennedy which ultimately led to the imprisonment of his cousin Yonnie for more than 35 years. This indictment caused James to flee Toledo for the confines of Pennsylvania where he was housed and protected by Pittsburgh's underworld leader John Sebastian LaRocca. During this time James began to move in closer to the gambling activities of his cousin Peter whose influence within the Detroit underworld had skyrocketed. James formed a close working relationship with Mo Dalitz a Partner and business associate of the Licavoli brothers during prohibition. This association would lead to a partnership between Mo and Blackie in the legendary Kentucky gambling establishment known as Lookout House Casino in Newport. This operation would provide a study income for Licavoi for two decades following it's opening in the '30s. Constantly a man on the move, the wandering life of James Licavoli was temperarilly put on hold by his arrest in 1945 in connection with the death of gambler Nate Weisenberg a slot machine operated in the Ohio Valley. Acquitted of this charge Licavoli was promptly turned over to Toledo authorities who brought fourth yet another murder charge this time for the death of Abe Lubitsky on October 6, 1931. Blackie's success in the court room continued but not for long as he was finally returned to jail on a conviction stemming from a blackmail attempt. Sentenced to serve 1 to 5 years, James was released after serving the minimum 1 year jail term and upon his release took up residence in northern Ohio where he became a close associate of the Milano brothers of the Cleveland organized crime family. Following his triumphant return to the rackets, Blackie became the unseen leader of the Youngstown Ohio rackets along with former Buffalo kingpin Joe DiCarlo. Licavoli would dominate the Youngstown scene for many years to come using his capable crew of killers led by Tony Dope Delsanter to carryout his orders to a terrified community. During his glory years as the undisputed king of Youngstown, blackie opened up the Jungle Inn in an effort to duplicate the success he found in Newport Kentucky with the Lookout House. Licavoli installed local gangsters Mike and John Farrah to front the Jungle Inn which was originally a brothel. During it's run the Jungle Inn was the place to be. Located two miles outside of Youngstown, the Inn was located within an area which was outside of the jurisdiction of the local police. Licavoli managed the club from the shadows from it's opening as a gambling establishment untill it's closing in 1949. Licavoli terminated his working relationship with Mike Farrah as he had so many others, by having him killed on June 10,1961 while he practiced his golf game on his front lawn. The murder of Farrah occured during a battle for control of the Youngstown rackets raged. In the end Licavoli maintained control of his empire but the proceeding heat caused him to spend more time in other areas of of Ohio namely Cleveland. Licavoli had maintained close relations with the Cleveland family under the direction of Big Al Polizzi and later his successor John Scalish. As Scalish and other members in the upper levels of the Cleveland family progressed in age and affluence, they began to reach out to younger, capable men who were able to carry on the rackets that had provided them with their oppulent lifesytles. James Licavoli was one of those chosen to run the Cleveland family. Upon the death of John Scalish, Licavoli whose cousin Peter sat at the top of the Detroit outfit, was chosen as the next boss of the Cleveland family beating out odds on favorite Angelo Lonardo for the honor. It was during Licavoli's reign that the battle with John Nardi and Danny Greene errupted ultimately laying the ground work for the dismantling of the Cleveland family by the FBI. Licavoli in his later years seemed to loose some of the fire that had made him such an awesome force during his younger years. Greene and Nardi heaped the humiliation of killing Blackie's cousin and underboss Leo Morceri in August of 1976. This turned the once respected gunman into something of an underworld pariah by his associates within the underworld who refused to have anything to do with the Cleveland family untill the problem of Nardi and Greene was solved. The killings of Nardi and Greene belatedly restored some of the prestige lost during the embarrishing episode but by this time, former Licavoli pal and underworld hitman Jimmy Fratianno had struck a deal with authorities and began singing a tune that would ultimately lead to the prison sentence of 18 years that Licavoli died while serving.

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