The Cleveland Family

The Black Hand

Dons (Bosses)

Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo
Joseph Lonardo, a native of Sicily, was first thought to be in the States at the turn of century. Documents support this fact of his arrival. When Prohibition really took effect in 1920, Joe Lonardo didn't move directly into bootlegging and focused on corn sugar. The commodity was a needed material in producing the illegal beverage.

In the spring of 1927 Lonardo set sail for his homeland. He left much of the operations to Salvatore Todaro. What Lonardo and his faithful soldiers didn't know was the Todaro had formed an alliance with other groups. Upon his return Lonardo was gunned down on October 13, 1927 in a local Cleveland barbershop. His faithful brother John wasn't spared either and their murders sparked the Corn Sugar Wars.

Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro
Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro was a vicious Blackhander who once operated as comptroller to the Lonardo rackets. He was believed to have masterminded his former boss's murder and inherited a vast corn sugar racket. He went about consolidating his rackets along with that of the powerful Porrello brothers. Todaro met his end just as he had achieved his status- through murder. This time it wasn't over control or a racket. Todaro had made several mistakes when he had his former boss gunned down. He forgot the Don's son. The son, Angelo Lonardo, didn't and shot him point blank on June 11, 1929.

Joseph Porrello
One of seven brothers, Porrello fought a violent war for control over corn sugar and bootlegging. He and his brothers operated out of a local barbershop. Porrello and brothers maintained control for just over a year. He was gunned down on July 5, 1930 along with his trusted bodyguard Sam Tillocco. They were shot down while attending a meeting at mobster Frank Milano's restaraunt in Cleveland's Little Italy district. Porrello's murder, which was followed by the murder of his brother Jim, concluded two elements. The first was the end of the Black Handers reign and the second being the end of the Porrello brothers' powerbase. Milano and his Mayfield Road Mob would be the new power and the first boss of La Cosa Nostra.

La Cosa Nostra

Frank Milano
A shrewd and cunning individual, he operated out of the Little Italy section of Cleveland. His brother Tony would serve as top enforcer and representative. Frank Milano grab ahold of everything-sports betting, loansharking, fraud and every other possible crime. Milano was recognized as the first La Cosa Nostra boss of Cleveland. He was given a seat on the Commission. In 1935 he slipped into Mexico, fleeing from an income tax indictment, receiving immigration in 1942 and died of natural causes on September 15, 1970 from natural causes at a Los Angeles hospital. He not only led a syndicate of his own but became an influencial element in Los Angeles.

Alfred "The Owl" Polizzi
A shrewd and capable member of Milano's Mayfield Road gang, Alfred Polizzi would fill th seat of the exiled Milano. Between 1935 and 1936 the role as leader may or may not have been filled by local doctor and syndicate member Dr. Joseph Romano. However Polizzi was seen as a more than able leader and may have been the actual power behind the criminal organization. Romano was murdered in July 1936 at the behest of Angelo Lonardo the former boss's son and eventual member. Whatever the circumstances or outcome, the Cleveland syndicate seemed not to mind.

Polizzi forged alliances with Jewish crime czar Moe Dalitz and became his partner in the Las Vegas casino, The Dessert Inn. The Cleveland Syndicate had arrived. His time at the top would be limited. In October 1944 he plead guilty to failing to pay liquor taxes and was sentenced to one year in jail. The following year he moved to Coral Gables, FL. He became a successful owner of commercial real estate properties and construction developer.

John Scalish
John Scalish, in the author's opinion, was probably the best boss of the Cleveland LCN Family. An unbelievable rule for just over thirty years, Scalish entered into the Vegas casinos scene more agressively and held a large amount of influence over the Teamsters Union. He expanded the crime family into Youngstown, OH and was respected from coast to coast.

Not only was he well connected within the La Cosa Nostra syndicate, Scalish's personal family was well connected and inner woven as well. He had Angelo Lonardo, son of the murdered Joe, as a brother in law. Lonardo was proving himself ever since avenging the murder and had risen to the rank of caporegime. His other brother in law was Milton "Maishe" Rockman, a Jewish gangster and close confidant of Teamsters president Jackie Presser. All three benefitted well from Scalish's interest in the Las Vegas based Stardust Hotel and Casino. Monthly money, "skim", was siphoned from slot machines and divided between Cleveland, the Kansas City LCN Family, the syndicates in Milwaukee and Chicago. Scalish shared much of the profits, which were funneled back into Cleveland rackets. John Scalish died in 1976 following complications from surgery.

"James, Jackie White"
A proven member from the Licavolli family and a reluctant boss. "Jack White" was a cousin to Peter and Thomas "Yonnie" Licavolli. The Licavollis made an early destructive path as chief enforcers in St. Louis's "Purple Gang". Both cousins would become prominent fixtures in the Detroit underground scene and operate the Toledo, OH branch for the Zerilli family. Licavolli joined them both before forging alliances with Cleveland's Tony Delsanter and Pittsburgh's James LaRocca. Jack White would become overseer of the Youngstown, OH rackets along with his future underboss and cousin Leo Moceri.

Licavolli maintained control over the crime family's Las Vegas operations, as well as local jukebox and vending machine rackets. Gambling, loansharking, Teamsters union corruption and narcotics trafficking were the mainstays of the Cleveland LCN Family. Although an accomplished hoodlum, Licavolli proved less as a leader and did make attempts to induct new members into his criminal stable.

However former underboss Frank Brancato, overseer of the crime family's garbage hauling shakedowns, introduced Irish hooldum Danny Greene to Cleveland's underground scene. Danny Greene and his Celtic Club, which also brought into the picture local union official John Nardi, would wage a war against the Cleveland Syndicate. After several failed attempts Greene was murdered in 1976 but all was lost. Licavolli would be acquitted of charges for his murder but in 1981 was struck with another charge but this time it involved the serious implications of the R.I.C.O statue. The predicate crimes were gambling, murder and conspiracy. He would be convicted by the testimony of several crime family members. He was sentenced to 17 years and died behind bars in 1985 from a heart atack at the Oxford Correctional Institute at Oxford, WI.

John "Peanuts" Tronolone
In 1981 Jack Licavolli was indicted for R.I.C.O violation and left his underboss Angelo Lonardo in charge as acting boss. Lonardo, who was sentenced to twenty five years for a narcotics conviction, became a federal government witness. With the Cleveland's lights basically out, Licavolli assigned his consigliere as acting boss and was thought to be seen as the official boss after Licavolli's 1985 death while in prison. Cleveland's best days were over from a criminal point of view and something must have reminded Tronolone of his love for sunny South Florida. He had long been living in Miami and consorting with a wide variety of La Cosa Nostra members.

Tronolone, who gained his nickname from selling the roasted snack as a kid growing up in Buffalo, made important contacts with the local crime family led by the feared Stefano Magadino. He was a close pal to both Tony Salerno and Vincent Gigante of Manhattan's Genovese LCN Family. By the 1940s author Rick Porrello claims he was inducted or "made" into the Cleveland LCN Family. He maintained contact with the local powers but prefered to operate in Miami. He eventually opened The Peter Pan Travel Agency, believed to be used as a disguise for his multi million dollar bookmaking racket. He also conspired in the murder of Philadelphia LCN Family capo Johnny Simone in early 1980. As boss he stayed in Florida and allowed Salerno to represent his distant Cleveland interests on the Commission.

In the spring of 1989 the Miami based Tronolone was caught up in a sting operation involving bogus members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Gang and stolen jewelry. He would be convictd in the following months for trafficking in stolen property and loansharking. He died in 1991 from natural causes while awaiting sentencing. The Cleveland LCN Family died with him that year. Key members having been sent to prison or dead, although some members still exist, the FBI maintains that a structured La Cosa Nostra syndicate no longer exists.

sotto capi (Underbosses)

Anthony "The Old Man" Milano
Tony Milano, brother to Frank, was the original operator and overseer of the Italian-American Brotherhood. This organization may have been a disguise for the fraternal organization known as Unione Siciliane. The organization was really a front for the Mafia and the later the La Cosa Nostra syndicate. The organization, which held charters in many large cities, was thought to have acted as a communicator for Mafia syndicates based throughout the country.

Upon his brother's departure, Milano was thought to have scaled back although he remained in contact with the exiled boss. He did conspire with the murder of Dr. Joseph Romano. The surgeon and syndicate member had performed an operation on Licatese faction leader Dominic DeMarco in which he died. DeMarco's brother John thought he had purposely botched the attempts. In addition, DeMarco cousin Angelo Lonardo was also subject to Romano's testimony regarding the murder trial of Sam Todaro. Milano and Pollizzi would later defend their actions at Commission meeting held in Miami the following year.

Milano's underground portfolio, which was a combined effort of Moe Dalitz and Al Pollizzi, consisted of the Cincinnati's Coney Island Race Track. In addition there was the gambling racket referred to as the Continental Supper Club of Chesapeake, OH. In Covington, KY the trio opened up the Beverly Hills Supper Club with the up and coming Jackie Licavolli.

Upon the rise of John Scalish in 1946, Milano began to spend more time in Los Angeles. Currently his sons, Peter and Carmen, are recognized by law enforcement as the boss and underboss of West Coast LCN Syndicate. Milano would fill the role as retired advisor for years to come before stepping down upon the ascention of Jack Licavolli. He died in 1978 at the age of 90. "The Old Man" had maintained a low profile and had seen very little prison bars.

Calogero "Leo" , "Lips" Moceri
Calogero "Leo" Moceri was a legendary crime figure with a history in Detroit and Los Angeles. Making his bones or committing a murder, Moceri fullfilled this obligation for Los Angeles boss Jack Dragna in the 1930s. He would see the inside of a jail cell only a few times and would serve five years in prison for blackmail.

He was alligned with his cousins-the prominent Licavolli faction of the Detroit LCN Family. The gang oversaw illegal operations based in Toledo, OH. He would later oversee Youngstown, OH rackets along side with Jack Licavolli. Upon his cousin's ascention to the boss's throne Moceri was installed as the underboss. His role would be brief when he was reported missing in the summer of 1976 and his blood stained car found in a suburb of Akron, OH. He hasnt been seen since and was the first victim of the Danny Greene wars.

Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo
Son of the slained Joseph, Angelo would avenge his murder and become a capable member. Brother in law to John Scalish, he was believed to have been the original selection to take over the Cleveland rackets in 1976 but was fooled by Milton Rockman and the promotion of Jack Licavolli occurred.

He would serve as underboss and acting boss until he was given 25 years for his role in a narcotics ring. Having seen very little of a jail cell and the FBI's persistant efforts, Lonardo shocked the underworld when he became a cooperating witness. He would go on to testify in front of the US Senate and before the jury of the 1986 Commission Trial. He is alive and living in the United States.

"John "Peanuts" Tronolone
John Tronolone took over after the embarassment of Angelo Lonardo. He had previously served as consigliere and operated behind the disguise of his Florida based Peter Pan Travel Agency. While not busy booking flights he was collecting an estimated $100,000 a week from his bookmaking racket. When Licavolli died in prison, "Peanuts" was given the top spot but by then little existed and he stayed in Miami.

Consiglieri (Advisors)

John DeMarco
Cousin to the Lonardo family and brother of Dominick, the DeMarco family would lead what was known as the "Licatese" group. They brought in such key players as Frankie Brancato and were also closely alligned with the emerging Licavolli and the Milano brothers. The DeMarcos spared no expense in extracting revenge. Bitter enemies to the previous Sam Todaro and Dr. Joseph Romano, the Licatese faction were a profitable gambling group that alligned themselves early on with the Milanos' Mayfield Road Mob.

John DeMarco was identified as the consigliere to John Scalish when the duo was picked up at the police raided mob summit held at Apalachin, NY in November 1957. John DeMarco was an overseer of a massive loansharking racket and continued this racket until his death from natural causes in 1972.

Frank "Frankie B." Brancato
Frankie Brancato came to Cleveland via the Brooklyn docks. A diminuitive gangster "Frankie B." may have "made his bones" in 1932 with his alleged involvement in the murders of Rosario and Raymond Porrello. He was later dispatched by the Licatese faction, led by Dominick DeMarco, to assist with gambling rackets based in Akron, OH.

He later grabbed influence over Cleveland's Teamsters Local 436 and groomed Irish hoodlum Danny Greene. This relationship also included Babe Triscaro and John Nardi. In 1968 he and New York city native living in Cleveland Joseph Messina were indicted for extorting mobile home dealers in Youngston, OH. Later in that year Messina was gunned down.

What wasn't known was why Messina left New York for the equally bitter winters of Cleveland. He was believed to have been sent out west and was properly introduced by Gambino LCN Family capo James "Jimmy Brown" Fialla. The Gambino capo was the overseer of the crime family's garbage rackets. Messina was replaced with Greene and a mob association of garbage haulers was created.

Upon the death of Brancato of natural causes in 1973, Greene retained ownership of their rackets and refused to pay tribute. This sparked a bloody war that basically was a death blow to the Cleveland LCN Family. A once respected "made" man, Brancato was later cursed for introducing Greene into the rackets and slicing the Cleveland crime family into oblivion.

Anthony "Tony Dope" Delsanter
Anthony "Tony Dope" Delsanter served under Licavolli regime as the commander of Warren, OH rackets in the 1970s. Back in the 1940s-1950s Delsanter was working the Jungle Inn with Licavoli and crew in Akron, OH. Delsanter would plant the seeds for the murder of local Irish hoodlum and arch Licavolli enemy Danny Greene. His prompting would start a gangland war that would dismantle the Cleveland LCN Family. "Tony Dope" would die of natural causes in August 1977, serving as consigliere for a brief time.

John "Peanuts" Tronolone
John Tronolone filled the role as a vacant or distant consigliere. He spent most of his time in Florida and cultivating ties with the Genovese LCN Family. Upon Angelo Lonardo's decision to turn government witness, Tronolone became acting boss and later official boss when Licavolli died in 1985.

Capiregime (Captains)

Thomas "Tommy the Chinaman" Sinito
Tommy Sinito was christened capo upon the 1976 promotion of Angelo Lonardo to the spot of underboss. Sinito sought and was given permission by Lonardo and boss Licavolli to operate a drug ring. The drug ring, which brought in marijuana and cocaine from Florida, would eventually grow into a money well. In addition it resulted in the 1980 murder of Cleveland mobster Joe Giaimo and a conspiracy to murder then Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinick. By 1981 it was over for the Cleveland Mob and Sinito would be convicted for the above mentioned crimes. Sinito, who once owned a stake in a Pennsylvania theme park, died in 1997 while behind bars.

Anthony "Tony Lib" Liberatore
Tony Liberatore was a favorite mobster in the Cleveland crew. Highly respected and well thought of, qualification for such recognition was the fact that he served twenty years for a 1938 murder conviction. Upon his release he was active with Laborers Local 860 and in 1972 was given a full pardon by the state of Ohio. In 1975 then Cleveland mayor Ralph Perk appointed "Lib" to a regional governing municipality. He would eventually become the business manager for the same Local.

While proving himself a noble resident he also was cultivating strong ties with the local Cleveland crime family. Jack Licavolli thought so much of him that he "made" him to his crime family and he was quickly elevated to capo status. Liberatore was a part of crew that supplied the backup hit team in the 1976 murder of Danny Greene. In many ways he was seen as a possible future boss for the crime family.

From 1982 to 1990 Liberatore served time for a racketeering conviction. It wasn't long when in 1993 he was convicted of money laundering and handed an eight year sentence. The "last great hope" would die of complications stemming from Alzheimer Disease in 1998 while in prison after having his conviction upheld by the US Supreme Court.

Soldati (Soldiers)

Ronald "Ronnie Crab" Carabbia
Ronnie Carabbia was the Cleveland's LCN Family man in Youngstown, working in tandem with the Pittsburgh LCN Family. He answered directly to Leo Moceri and later Tony Delsanter. Carabbia's rackets were gambling, poker machines and narcotics trafficking. In 1980 he would be sentenced to life for the murder of Irish gangster Danny Greene. His brother "Charlie Crab" would take over. A fallout between the rival families in Youngstown brough about Charlie's murder in late 1980. In 2002 the state of Ohio stated that "Ronnie Crab" would be granted parole. Law enforcement and mob watchers will be watching to see if Carabbia makes a move to take back Youngstown which has been dominated by Pittsburgh for some time.

Pasquale "Butchie" Cisternino
Pasquale "Butchie" Cisternino became a soldier under the years of Jack Licavolli. Cisterino operated gambling rackets in Cleveland's Little Italy and quickly came to the attention of the elder mafioso as an "earner" and capable gangster. A close pal to the respected and feared Cleveland "non made" associate Eugene Ciasullo, the duo combined their efforts to form a Collinwood, OH crew of burglars known as "TheYoung Turks". This same crew also consisted of such Cleveland underworld notables as Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci and Alfred Calabrese.

Following a Danny Greene led shooting against Ciasullo in 1976, Cisterino led a crew of explosive happy hitman and would eventually murder the Irishman in 1977. In 1980, after being found guilty of multiple racketeering charges stemming from the Greene murder, Cisternino would be sentenced to life. In 1990 he died from pancreatic cancer while incarcerated.

Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci
Joe Iacobacci had long ties to the Cleveland LCN Family, former underboss turned government witness Angelo Lonardo verified his past relations with local motorcycle gangs. A part of the Collinwood burglarly crew, "Joe Loose" would avoid much of the trials and convictions stemming from the Danny Greene mob wars of the 1970s. In 1996 he was sentenced to thrity months to prison for attempting to defraud New Jersey banks out of an estimated $3 million. His previous rap sheet consists of narcotics and gambling convictions.

Today law enforcement claims that a structured crime syndicate, what we call La Cosa Nostra or the Mafia, no longer exists in Cleveland.

Eugene "The Animal" Ciasullo
Eugene "The Animal" Ciasullo was born in 1931; Ciasullo has long been one of the Cleveland LCN's most feared enforcers. Today, however, he lives in retirement in McKeesport, Pa. (near Pittsburgh) recovering from cancer and is on probation for his reputed role in a drug ring that included several LCN figures (Phil Christopher, Ron Lucarelli, Ray Triscaro and Robert Walsh), plus 20 others. He was convicted of assault in 1981 and was the target in 1976 of a bombing campaign by mobster Danny Greene who sought to take over Northeast Ohio rackets. He ran Ciasullo & Sons Inc. until 1988 when his son Eugene M. Ciasullo took over until the business closed in 1989. It was possibly renamed or reorganized as Sullo’s Inc. in 1992, which continues operating today.

Samuel G. Lucarelli
Born Feb. 29, 1944; He is one of the most important and powerful organized crime figures in Cleveland. There are conflicting reports as to whether he is a made LCN member. Lucarelli ran the Hotel Sterling operation, which included gambling, loansharking and prostitution. He was convicted for this role in 1989 along with William Denova, Michael Panzarella and others. Minute Man was founded by his father, Sam Lucarelli Sr., which has employed in senior positions convicted felons William DeNova, Dennis Francis, Michael Panzerella, Glen Pauley and Benny Bonanno. He also has property interests in cities throughout the country. Lucarelli's cousin, Ronald Lucarelli Jr., is reportedly an LCN member.

Russell J. Papalardo
Born July 4, 1941; Elocution by federal witness Angelo Lonardo says Papalardo was inducted into LCN in 1983 by interim boss Lonardo at the same time as Joseph Iacobacci. He pleaded guilty in November 1986 to a federal RICO-narcotics charge and spent seven years in prison. That is his only known criminal record. Papalardo is a very quiet operator but reportedly is involved in insurance and labor union schemes. His son Sylvester recently worked for insurance guru Tom Patton.


Alfred "Allie" Calabrese
Allie Calabrese was an associate and close pal to Bucthie Cisternino. A member of his burglary crew, Calabrese was another key figure and stake out man for a hit team determined to murder Irish mobster Danny Greene. Calabrese survived a car bombing in 1976. Prior to this he had been associated with the Cleveland syndicate since the late 1960s. He had served time in the past for burglary and bank robbery convictions. In 1995 he and gangland pal Joe Iacobacci were convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to three years in prison. It was believed he served most of the sentence and then was convicted of a probation violation.While in prison, Calabrese, suffering from diabates, became involved with a fight with another inmate. After a blow to the head he suffered a stroke and died in early August 1999.

Thomas Patton
This grandson of Prohibition-era Irish gangster James "Shimmy" Patton was accused of insurance fraud for double-billing the city of Lorain in the 1990s and ordered to repay about $157,000 according to a state audit of his now-closed firm, Diversified Benefit Plans Inc. Patton's Ohio insurance license was revoked but later restored by a ruling from visiting judge Thomas D. White of Holmes County Common Pleas Court. Today, Patton runs Commerce Benefits Group and other insurance companies with reputed links to convicted felon Sam Lucarelli and reputed mobster John Oliverio. However, the latest word is that Patton sold his interest in the Lucarelli-linked operation to a firm in suburban Warrensville Heights.

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