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THE SAN FRANCISCO MAFIA

Click. THE SAN FRANCISCO MAFIA by Jay C. Ambler.

Click. Notes From the Waterfront - the San Francisco Mafia Updates.

THE SAN FRANCISCO MAFIA by Jay C. Ambler

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The San Francisco LCN Family was built out of the ashes of bloody bootlegging war that took place from 1928-1932. Previously, during the ill-faded Prohibition era, gangsters worked in criminal harmony to ensure peace and prosperity with their colleagues. This all would end with a series of murders. When the smoke cleared a small but once prosperous crime family would emerge.

On April 28, 1928 bootlegger Jerry Feri, San Francisco’’s leading crime lord, was murdered in his apartment. His suspected murderer, Alfredo Scariso, was an accomplished bootlegger as well and he too was murdered on December 19 of that year. His body was found with multiple gun shot wounds and dumped in the area of Fair Oaks. On December 23 Mario Filippi, a suspect behind the Scariso murder, was found shot to death. Frank Boca, another suspect in Scariso’’s death, was found murdered in his car on July 30, 1929. The next murder was that of the so-called ""Al Capone of the West"", Genaro Broccolo, he was found dead on October 30, 1932. The final murder was of Luigi Malvese. He had made a reputation as a hijacker, bootlegger and gun running racketeer. He was shot down on May 18, 1932 while walking through an Italian neighborhood in the middle of the day.

The bloody onslaught led to the rise of Francesco Lanza. He would organize the La Cosa Nostra syndicated in San Francisco and be seen as the first true crime boss. He derived his income from bootlegging, prostitution, loan sharking, gambling and narcotics. He operated the famous Fisherman’’s Warf of San Francisco with a business partner. His partner, Giuseppe Alioto would also found the International Fish Company. On July 14, 1937 Lanza died of natural causes. His son, Joseph, would later become boss over the San Francisco rackets.

Anthony J. Lima was succeeded as the next crime boss following Lanza’’s death. Lima’’s career is earmarked by the murder of Chicago gangster Nick DeJohn. It was believed that Lima and his underboss, Michael Abati, ordered his murder. Eventually the charges were dismissed. On April 27, 1953 Lima was sentenced to the California State Prison for grand theft. His power faded and his role was replaced by Abati.

Michael Abati would rule as street boss from 1953-1961. While boss he attended the raided mob summit known, as Apalachin in November 1957 along with is underboss Joseph Lanza. Abati was one of many who were picked up by the local police of Apalachin, NY for suspicion. The intense focus from law enforcement and the press resulted in further investigations into his activities. As a result of this he was deported back to Italy on July 8, 1961. He died of natural causes on September 5, 1962.

Joseph ""Jimmy"" Lanza would rise to become the most successful crime boss of San Francisco. His rule, from 1961 through 1989, was unprecedented. He would watch as his small crime family grew to include 15-20 ""made"" members. He was well represented in Las Vegas, NV by close associate William ""Bones’’ Remmer. He was their link to the casino skims. He represented the San Francisco LCN family’’s interest from early 1940s to 1952 before being convicted of failing to report nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes.

Lanza was also very well connected to many other La Cosa Nostra crime family bosses. Most particular were Joe Cerrito of San Jose and Joseph Civello of Dallas. His long time underboss, Gaspare ""Bill"" Sciortino, was the first cousin to the underboss of the Los Angeles LCN Family Samuel Sciortino. In 1976 Lanza was believed to have given permission for the murder of former New England LCN Family associate, turned government witness. Joseph ""The Animal"" Barboza. Lanza paved the way for Los Angeles crime family capo and former Cleveland LCN Family associate Aladena ""Jimmy the Weasel"" Fratianno to open operations based out of the City by the Bay. Later Lanza would make he successfully had him removed due to the attention he had drawn upon the local crime family. This was a good move because later Fratianno would testify in multiple mob-related trials on behalf of the US government. On June 19, 1989 Joseph ""Jimmy"" Lanza died from natural causes at the age of 73.

The current status of the San Francisco LCN Family is unknown and is considered dormant. Law enforcement articles from investigations allege that Frank ""Skinny"" Velotta may the underboss or possible crime boss of San Francisco. He is a former burglar and associate to the previously mentioned Frattiano. A possible key player in the near extinct crime family is Angelo Commito.

Acknowledgements: Scott M. Dietche Scott Liebrauhder Ty Jenkins

Sources: The San Francisco Chronicler newspaper, various articles, 1976-1985. US Permanent Sub-Committee on Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, 1988.


Notes From the Waterfront - the San Francisco Mafia Updates.

1. Note: The Alioto and Lanza early canning operations.

While the actual SF crime family may be "dormant,"as stated in Jay Ambler's article, The San Francisco Mafia, the turf is now part of the combined commission families and the Chicago Outfit. Just which one is dominant would be hard to say, but the San Francisco Bay Area (as an extended theater) obviously has members of the Gambino, Bonanno, Genovese and possibly other families sharing in signficant rackets-- investment banking, law firm covered scams, intellectual property theft, laundering activities, kiddie pornography, etc.

Jay Ambler names Papa Joe Alioto's father (Giuseppi) as a business partner with Lanza, the S. F. family capo, in ownership of Fisherman's Wharf. The International Fish Company was owned by Alioto and Lazio. These were closely-related operations by the mid-1930's, made possible of course by the fruits of criminal activities. An important question is how Alioto obtained those deep sea fishing boats (vs. the early bay-oriented faluccas). "The Wharf" was a fresh fish cleaning, brokering business site and retail outlet for locals and tourists, while the Alioto operations with Lazio were canning-related.

2.  Note on financial impact of fishing operations at the San Francisco wharf. A comment on financial impacts:

1. The deep sea fishermen (who were NOT Sicilians, most were from Genoa and ports of northern Italy) were privileged to the following very lucrative catches:

(a) crab
(b) tuna, albacore
(c) scallops
(d) sardines
(e) anchovie
(f) succulent white meat fish for filets of every description
(g) salmon

2. The Sicilian fishermen of the bay's mainstay was:

(a) herring
(b) some coho, some trout at river mouths
c) minor schooling fishes

What were the financial incentives for the Sicilians to take over the deep-sea fishing boats?

Lazio was fundamentally a fish broker then a canner in Humbolt Bay. The Alioto/Lazio combine was a business front laundering monies for Lanza and the boys. The Fishermen's Wharf activities involved cash transactions for the daily purchase of catches. As their children became attorneys, their conduct and role in laundering money and facilitating property conversion apparently continued. By 1968, may old time Italian families on Union Street in San Francisco, sold their properties and business to brokers for "top dollar" and then saw these properties flipped to Bank of America for triple the top dollar these families had received.  In addition, some of these families were subjected to threats and beatings to scare them out of their neighborhoods.

3. The use of Middle-men flippers to engage in "Redevelopment" during the Mayor Alioto's regime.

It was evident by 1969-70 (when Papa Joe Alioto was mayor) that many of the "newly enriched middle men flippers" were his associates and the "re-development" of Union Street into boutiques was in progress.  Union Street became yet another "quaint" site for tourist dollars handily by the mid 1970's. The conversion was "swift and effective" for many property owners, and many people who occupied apartments above various stores and shops searched desperately for alternative housing. This was a major disruption of a largely central and northern Italian community of merchants and artisans.