Rockford Mob

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Rockford Mob

Unread postby icegoodbarbPresident » August 25th, 2009, 6:24 pm

The Rockford Family
Although less than 100 miles west of Chicago, the city of Rockford often mirrored the big city of blues and jazz with their penchant for violence and organized crime. Just as Al Capone and the earliest signs of The Outfit grabbed control of the Windy City rackets under threats of murder, the Rockford crime family would emerge in the same fashion and despite the FBI labeling the crime family 'dormant' or 'extinct'; they are anything but that and remain active to this day.

Like many other cities and especially Chicago, Rockford suddenly became active with bootleggers during the Prohibition era. Two gangsters on opposing sides of the fence would emerge on the scene at the same time and their war would bring about the Rockford crime family.

Paul Giovingo (right) was considered the bootlegger's bootlegger. His rival was Antonio Musso, who had arrived from Madison, WI and had designs for controlling the stills and speakeasies surrounding Rockford. Italian gangsters from Chicago and Milwaukee were also in on the action. One local native Tony Reila, a future New Jersey capo for the Bonanno crime family, would factor heavily during the Prohibition days.

While both factions went back and forth and bullet riddled bodies were common in 1930 and Musso got the biggest blow when Giovingo's brother Joe was murdered in August of that year. Just before Paul Giovingo would have been next a sweeping bootlegging federal (known as the Freeport Liquor Case) case against him and Musso took many of their loyal out of action in what resulted in two year sentence with the convicted housed at the Leavenworth Federal Prison. Most were released in 1932, including Musso and this would be the only time most (including Musso) would ever serve. While Musso and Giovingo were away, a syndicate of stills and transporters that covered the area Springfield, Peoria, southern Wisconsin and Rockford had already been forming. In short Musso was in; Giovingo was out.

Upon his release Paul Giovingo had been warned numerous times to get out of town. He did not take it seriously or was unaware that his army of thugs was dwindling. Many had been murdered, relocated far away or had simply crossed sides realizing that Musso held the power, which surely meant the backing of the Milwaukee and Chicago crime families.

Nearly a year before Giovingo's release one of his loyalist, Jack DeMarco, had returned from a stint in Leavenworth. While in the comforts of his own residence and having a homecoming celebration masked gunmen barged in, ordered his family into another room and shot DeMarco dead.

On February 13, 1933 Giovingo was driving his Chevrolet Coupe through Rockford when he was ambushed and sprayed with multiple shotgun and revolver bullets. He was very much dead and in a final symbol of defiance was found clutching his pistol. The ironic twist was that in March of that year President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Volstead Act effectively ending Prohibition and legalizing the production of alcohol. No one was ever charged for the murders of Joe or Paul Giovingo.

A noteworthy post-Giovingo gangster was Paul 'Peachy' Picchioni, who was a local fixture in the rackets and married into the powerful Capriola family, had sided with the Giovingo brothers. He was considered a powerful ally and when Paul Giovingo was murdered, he quickly switched sides and became Musso's personal driver. Later he would relocate to Dallas and become affiliated with their local crime family paving the way for the likes of Rockford mobsters Sam Ginestra and Anthony Zacharia, who married into the Civello crime family, which enabled Musso to form alliances outside of the midwest and into Texas.

Prior to Volstead Act Musso and company had already began to place gambling under their belt. Numbers peddlers, back alley craps dealers and bookmakers gladly paid their tribute to Musso. Those who didn't were given a warning and if they failed ultimately their life. One bookmaker refused to go along with the program.

Charles Kalb (left) had long been considered Rockford's top guy in bookmaking and horse racing. Strangely enough Kalb operated with independence throughout the bloody era surrounding Prohibition and did not take the rise of the Musso crew seriously. Kalb built a gambling racket that included a good 30-50 mile radius surrounding Rockford.

The Musso crew had been warning Kalb and his associates for some time. Musso thought mob soldier Filippo 'Phil' Caltagerone was better suited to control the gambling action. Caltagerone was an associate to the fast upstart Joe Zammuto, who later became crime boss of Rockford and was making a name for himself. Caltagerone had fought alongside Musso during the Prohibition years. On December 21, 1937 Kalb, his wife and his bodyguard Harry Dunn were blocks away from the Kalb's home when gunmen sprayed Kalb's car. Dunn and Kalb's wife was spared but Kalb himself was dead. No one was ever charged for the murder.

From the multiple bootlegging related murders in particular the Giovingo brothers and the drive-by of Charles Kalb the Rockford crime family was born. Often referred by some as a crew of the Chicago Outfit, this is hardly the case and a clear crime family has been identified by the FBI, although as stated previously their official status is 'extinct'. The Rockford crime family has regularly engaged with the Dallas, Bonnano, Kansas City, Milwaukee and the Chicago syndicates. The Rockford crime family remains nestled between the well known syndicates of Milwaukee and Chicago. This criminal group has never had one of their own offer testimony and cooperate with the federal government. And for a crime family that has since been considered dead the names of their members were written about in midwestern newspapers as recent as 2006 when the federal government charged several in an illegal gambling case. An extinct crime family that supposedly was once a crew for the powerful Chicago Outfit? Hardly.



Antonio "Tony" Musso

Born in 1893 in Partinico, Sicily by the time he was in his early 20s Antonio Musso had traveled across the Atlantic and settled in Madison, Wisc. While in Madison Musso operated a pool hall and was said to be involved in the murder of Madison racketeer Anton Navarra in April 1924. During the early days of Prohibition Musso made a name for himself as the bootlegging king operating out of the 'Bush' section of Madison. By the mid 1920s he had moved in on the territory of Rockford, IL.

Determined to control the most profitable racket-bootlegging, transportation and stills-Musso systematically set about eliminating or controlling the competition. It was said that by the late 1920s he along with Jasper Calo, Tony Riela, Joe Zammuto and others he had fullfilled his goal. With the exception of Giovingo brothers all bootleggers, speakeasy operators and whiskey haulers answered to Musso and company. When the Giovingo refused to comply the first one, Joe, was murdered in 1930.

Zammuto's rise to the top was briefly stalled when he was convicted in a sweeping federal against the gangsters for violating the laws prohibiting the production and sell of alcohol. Zammuto served a brief two year hitch from 1930-1932. This would be the only noticeable time he served behind bars.

Upon his return from prison it was evident that the more established criminal outfits in Milwaukee and Chicago along with the Zito brothers of Springfield, IL and their counterparts in St. Louis had backed Musso to be the crown prince. His final opponent in the bootlegging racket was the last Giovingo brother, Paul, who Musso had murdered in 1933.

After eliminating the Giovingo brothers, Musso had only one more hurdle and that was local bookmaker Charles Kalb. It was said that Kalb was the top gambler and lay off bookie around Rockford. Every vice peddler within the Rockford area by now was paying the Musso crime family with the exception of Kalb. After failing to heed several warnings Kalb was murdered in December 1937. Following this Musso would have a twenty year run at the top and rarely came under the scrutiny of law enforcement.

An item of noteworthy regarding Musso was his ability to pave the way for relocating gangsters. One in particular was Sam Oliveri who was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1895. Oliveri had first relocated to Chicago and became involved with what was called the Calumet City Cheese War. On the lam and looking for a home Musso invited Oliveri to Rockford. When the gangster arrived he quickly decided he wanted to go into the funeral business and proceeded to pressure John Gasparini, a well known and establish funeral parlor operator. When he refused Musso intervened and Gasparini had a new partner. Oliveri would remain an active soldier until his death in 1969. The funeral home would often be used for a meeting spot to iron out differences. The funeral home is still in operation today.

As the 1950s began the Rockford crime family continued to prosper. Now an elder and in poor health Musso did not attend the mob summit held in Apalachin, NY in November 1957. The historic meeting that was raided by local police ended up being a disaster. It was noted that Musso's longtime underboss Gaspare Calo was not in attendance either. Musso had sent capo Joe Zammuto to represent the Rockford regime. Zammuto, along with others, was picked up during the raid. The following year in May, Antonio Musso died.


Gaspare "Jasper" Calo

Gaspare 'Jasper' Calo was born on September 13, 1891 in Casteldaccia, Sicily. Calo left for America in 1923 and eventually found himself in Springfield, IL. While there he teamed up with the Zito brothers. Joe Zito would eventually become a key figure in the Rockford rackets while his brother Frank became the untouchable crime boss of Springfield and an important ally to the Rockford crime family and the Chicago Outfit. Joe Zito would also become Calo's brother in law. While in Springfield Calo was arrested for violating the Prohibition Act and was said to be one of the top bootleggers and engaged in white slavery, which in short means he along with the Zito brothers were pimps.

By the mid 1920s Calo and Zito ventured to Rockford and formed alliances with Tony Musso and Anthony Riela, the latter eventually becoming a legender Bonanno LCN Family capo in New Jersey. The relationship between Riela, Zalo and Zito would endure forty years and into the late 1960s.

During the early days of their tenure Calo and Zito established the Sunlite Dairy, which later became Devon Products, Inc. In 1961 Devon was purchased by Muller-Pinehurst Dairy, Inc. By the time Antonio Musso became boss Calo was already well-established and well-respected. Musso made him his underboss, a spot Calo would enjoy for 20 years.

When Musso passed away in May 1958 Calo assumed the seat as boss. However one of Musso's top capos, Joe Zammuto, thought differently and he had the majority of Rockford's rank and file members supporting him. Calo was well respected and was pressured to step down as boss. Reminicsent of the warning shot fired at Manhattan kingpin Frank Costello in 1957, Calo received similar treatment following Musso's death when his personal residence was fired upon. Calo got the picture and relinquished his throne within months of proclaiming it to Zammuto. It was believed that Tony Riela, evidenced by phone calls placed to Calo and the Zito brothers, had a hand in smoothing out bad feelings and any further acts of violence against his longtime friend.

By now Calo had grown very wealthy through property holdings, which were obviously purchased through illicit funds. Calo had also made a habit of sending monies back to Sicily to be invested on his and his family's behalf. It was believed to be at the urging of his wife that he retire from the Rockford crime family and in October 1961 both returned to Sicily. Gaspare 'Jasper' Calo lived in luxury for over ten years, free from any hassles or cosa nostra politics. He died in July 1973 while residing in Casteldaccia, Sicily.


Joseph Zammuto

Joe Zammuto was born in Aragona, Sicily in 1897; Joe Zammuto had immigrated into the America during the early 1920s and quickly found a home in Chicago and then Rockford. He teamed up and successfully defeated the Giovingo brothers during the violent bootlegging wars working alongside crime boss Tony Musso. Following the aftermath Zammuto was awarded capo status. When it was time for mob leaders to meet at the ill-fated 1957 Apalachin, NY summit it was Zammuto who represented Rockford's illicit interest and was embarrassed with the rest of the gangsters when their bbq was raided by local police.

Following the Apalachin debacle and subsequent death of Musso in 1958 Zammuto convinced Jasper Calo to step down as boss when he employed some friendly fire on his residence. Zammuto would then assume the post as crime boss and hold the position until 1973.

Zammuto enjoyed a carefree run as top rackets boss and was considered a close associate to both Frank Balistrieri of Milwaukee and Joey Aiuppa of the Chicago Outfit, both top national crime bosses. In place was Zammuto as boss, either Charlie Vince or Frank Buscemi as underboss, Joe Zito as consigliere with high ranking members such as Sebastian 'Knobby' Gulotta and Phil Cannella at his side.

Zammuto invested heavily in an off the books fashions with regards to to restaurants. At one time Zammuto held significant interest in at least three Italian restaurants, several are still in operation today. In comparison to Milwaukee or Chicago the Rockford crime family was much smaller and at their height under Zammuto the FBI could only document 30 made members at best. In 1965 he showed he was as cold as any cosa nostra boss when he approved of the murder of Rockford mobster Charles LaFranka. The murdered mob soldier was found beaten and strangled left in the trunk of his car, which was parked in Elgin, IL. His murder has never been solved and no one has ever been charged. It is quite possible that LaFranka refused to come to one of the regular meetings held at the Aragona Social Club, Zammuto's primary office during the 1960s-70s, which was located on Kent Street in Rockford.

In December 1968 a grand jury convened to question members of the Rockford syndicate regarding their illicit activities. The investigation specifically was interested in the crime family's influence over liquor license violations (at the time most lounges were in some way connected to Zammuto's crime family). Zammuto, Zito, Buscemi and mob soldier Joe Maggio were called. Other members were later called as well but little came from the effort. Later Zammuto would play a critical role in the eventual outcome of Maggio.

The Rockford crime family has always been low key and this was never more apparent than in 1972. In August of that year John Alioto legendary crime figure and father in law to Milwaukee crime boss Frank Balistriei passed away. Rockford mob capo Phil Priola, owner of Towne and Country Motel, placed a call that was probably ordered by Zammuto regarding their attendance at the Alioto funeral. Priola relayed a message to the Milwaukee synidcate that no one from Rockford would be attending the service. This was not an issue of respect but rather based on fear that FBI would have a surveillance team on hand.

In 1973 Zammuto eased out of the boss's seat. The FBI reports that during this year that Buscemi had wrestled control of the Rockford rackets but this wasn't really the case. Zammuto merely preferred spending long winters in Ft. Lauderdale and would assume a role as a dual consigliere alongside Joe Zito. Zammuto would permanently fill this role following the death of Zito in 1981. The Zito funeral is noteworthy because the FBI clearly photographed Buscemi, Zammuto and Joey Aiuppa of the Chicago Outfit in attendance.

Although semi-retired Zammuto was not far from the action nor the politics. In December 1972 Joe Maggio was convicted in a bizarre case involving mail fraud and boat registration. Along with James F. Schwartz of Rockford and William E. Blake of Michigan City, IN, Maggio had attempted to form a scheme under the name United States Merchant Marine that involved boat owners submitting a fee for registration. The case was largely built on an informer's testimony. The informer then provided proof that Maggio somehow was under the belief that a national agency would allow him to access FBI records. Maggio was ultimately convicted of seven counts of mail fraud. This brazen attempt to access secret national records quickly came to the attention of the Rockford crime family.

Beginning in the 1970s Sicilian immigrants started showing up in southern Michigan, Rockford and the surrounding areas. What the authorities would not know until nearly 12 years later and following a marathon federal trial known as the 'Pizza Connection Case' was that a massive heroin pipeline that flowed from Sicily to the northeastern United States and into the midwest starting taking root. The immigrants or 'zips' as they were called laundered the illegal dollars through pizza shops from heroin trafficking and sent them back to Sicily. One zip in particular, Pietro Alfano, operated a pizzeria out of Oregon, IL and was the nephew to Gaetano Badalamenti, mafia boss from Cinisi, Sicily.

Joe Maggio had seen the massive profits that were being funneled back and forth. A theory exists that Maggio began to complain since American cosa nostra were prohibited in dealing in narcotics, a rule that has been proven to be hypocritical. A likely scenario would have been Maggio was jealous and wanted in on the action. There was speculation by the FBI and the Rockford police that Maggio had also begun dealing in large quantities of cocaine. Whatever the case, Zammuto was relaxing in Ft. Lauderdale in the fall and winter of 1979 and the FBI noted several Rockford mobsters began visiting him in February 1980. On April 6, 1980 Winnebago County deputies found Maggio dead in the backseat of his car. He had been executed with one bullet to the head shot at close range. Authorities believe that the Ft. Lauderdale meetings with Zammuto were for his approval to murder Maggio. On an interesting note, deputies found $25,000 on Maggio. It was believed to have been left there on purpose for his grieving widow to claim. To date there has never been a suspect named in the Maggio case.

Zammuto would continue on as consigliere. Later in life he held the position in name only and in May 1990 passed away from natural causes while in living in Rockford.


Frank Buscemi

Born in 1911, Frank Buscemi like so many other Rockford mobsters was born in the Aragona region of Sicily. His entry into the city of Rockford was rather late. He was originally aligned with the Chicago Outfit before relocating to Rockford in 1959. However two cousins that were involved Tony Musso's bootlegging war (Angelo and Frank J. Buscemi) were already considered underworld legends.

One of Buscemi's closest associates was Joey Aiuppa of the Chicago Syndicate. In 1981 federal agents photographed Joe Zammuto, Frank Buscemi and Aiuppa attending the wake for longtime Rockford crime family consigliere Joe Zito. Remarkably by the early 1960s Buscemi was often credited with the role of underboss in particular following the departure of mob member Gaspare Calo. Buscemi was more of a businessman than a thug. Shortly after settling in Rockford he set up his vending machine operation (State Line Vending) in the Aragona Social Club, which was located on Kent Street. The club had been used by prior boss Joe Zammuto for regular meetings with the Rockford crew. At the time it was thought that the Rockford mob held secret interest in most lounges in the area. This would later be brought to light during a grand jury investigation where Buscemi was called to testify. He provide little information and the investigation fizzled. Many of the jukeboxes, pinball and cigarette machines housed in the taverns were undoubtedly supplied by Buscemi.

Beginning in the 1960s Buscemi established Rondinella Foods, Inc. that specalized in pizza ingredients to supply to local Italian restaurants. Buscemi was also known to have secretly financed at least three of these restaurants then arrange several cousins from Sicily to operate them on his behalf. These restuarants still exist today and are operated by distant Buscemi relatives. Rondinella would later be loosely connected to an internation heroin trafficking case appropriately dubbed The Pizza Connection. In 1981 citing pressure from IRS Buscemi sold Rondinella. However by then the company had made him very wealthy.

Beginning in the 1970s with his burgeoning business interests Buscemi began to sponsor working visas for several cousins from Sicily. One relative in particular was Pietro Alfano. At the time a wave of Sicilian gangsters were already entrenched in New York and surrounding states, all of them running Italian restaurants or pizza shops. What would take authorities a decade to prove and a landmark federal case was that this elaborate scheme involved money laundering of heroin sales. The heroin would be produced in Sicily, having had the poppy ingredients shipped in from Turkey, then the narcotic would be shipped to the United States, Canada and much of Europe. With so much supply the American cosa nostra of New York and Sicilian mafia had a lock on the deadly product. Following it being sold at the wholesale and street levels the profits were then dumped into these restuarants and the funds eventually made their way back across the Atlantic.

The imported midwest pizza shop operators included Pietro Alfano of Alfano's Pizzeria in Oregon, IL (still in operation today), Emmanuel Palazzolo (Alfano's brother in law) of Milton, WI; Giuseppe Trupiano of Olney, IL and Giuseppe Vitale of Paris, IL. All three were related to one another and considered nephews to Gaetano 'Don Tano' Badalamenti, a top level Cinisi, Sicily mafia boss and lead figure in the Pizza Connection case. Samuel Evola, operating out of Temperance, MI was another cog in this wheel but was considered an associate of the Detroit mob.

Authorities could never directly link Rondinella and Buscemi to the case but it would stand to reason that selling his products to the Illinois Sicilians could have been a tool to wash the illicit funds. His cousin Pietro Alfano was later ambushed and fired upon in Greenwich Village, Manhattan in February 1987 but survived. He would later be sentenced to 15 years (serving 7) in prison and is reportedly retired and living in Sicily.

Frank Buscemi, yet another untouchable Rockford crime boss, died of natural causes on December 7, 1987. By 1988 his remaining business interests had been sold.


Charles "Vinci" Vince

Charlie Vince was born in New Orleans in 1907. His exact move to Rockford is unknown but in September 1932 his name made the papers. Vince, along with Frank Giardono and Anthony Calcione were arrested for a string of robberies and burglaries in northern Illinois. By all accounts Vince and the others served very little time.

During the 1950s Vince was thought to have been promoted over the Rockford syndicate's gambling interest. A position he would share with fellow mobster Phil Emordeno. Also Frank Giardono would pass away and his widow would marry Vince who would also become a stepfather to Frank Giardono, Jr. Vince's stepson is considered a present day active made member of the Rockford crime family.

In 1966 Vince, Emordeno and Sebastian Gulotta were arrested for running a policy wheel. That same year all three were again arrested for running a high stakes card game out of a social club that was reported to have existed well over a year and grossing $25,000 a month. The card game was also linked to several high ranking Chicago Outfit members.

Beginning in the mid 1970s the FBI had placed Agent Joe Pistone in the undercover role of 'Donnie Brasco'. Pistone had used his street smarts and under the image of a jewel thief had begun to build a case against the Bonanno crime family of Brooklyn. In 1977 the FBI had also placed undercover Agent Gail Cobb under the alias Tony Conte in Milwaukee in attempt to infiltrate the insular mob boss Frank Balistrieri. Cobb was using the image as a vending machine operator in attempt to gain a better understanding of Balistrieri's influence in the city's rackets. Cobb's attempts begin to falter and Pistone was called in to assist.

Authorities would find out that Bonanno New Jersey capo and longtime associate to the Rockford crime family Tony Riela called Charles Vince to arrange a meeting between the crime families. Vince was a known close associate to Balistrieri. So on July 28, 1978 Bonanno members Benny Ruggiero (one of the mobsters that Pistone had been focusing on), Ruggiero's capo Mike Sabella, Frank Balistrieri, his two sons, Vince, Emordeno and Rockford's longtime elder consigliere Joe Zito had a sitdown with undercover agent. Additionally there appears to have been bad blood between Emodeno and Balistrieri and the Chicago Outfit thought that the two could work out their difference from a decades old beef. Balistrieri later suspected Cobb (Conte) was an agent and called off the arrangements. It did not matter because he along with the Bonanno gangsters would be indicted for extortion. The Rockford trio were labeled as 'unindicted conspirators' but never charged. This would be the closest the FBI would ever get to catching Charlie Vince.

Both Buscemi and Vince as well as future Rockford kingpins would get a big boost during the mid 1980s when interim police chief Dominic Isaparro, who previously headed the city's narcotics investigation unit, purged many records on the Rockford crime family and destroyed them. His role was merely apart of a nationwide effort going on at the time. This act would stifle future efforts against the gangsters.

Charlie Vince passed away while residing in Rockford in January 1994.


Sebastian "Knobby" Gulotta

Sebastian 'Knobby' Gulotta was a Rockford native born in 1930. He first gained attention in 1959 when he was called to testify before a grand jury. The jury pool was investigating the Rockford crime family's interest in illegal gambling. The court was also interested in finding out suspect(s) behind the double murders of Rockford gamblers Joe Greco and Donald Burton. Gulotta kept quiet and the investigation dried up. During the 1960s Gulotta along with Charlie Vince found themselves in several gambling raids but little in the way of prosecution came from the effort. Also in 1967 Gulotta was labeled a 'made' soldier in the Rockford crime family by the FBI.

By the 1970s Gulotta was thought to have been co-managing much of Charlie Vince's gambling interest. By 1981, with the death of mob soldier Phil Emordeno, Gulotta took over most of the syndicate's gambling racket and was promoted to capo status. It was only logical that he later served as underboss to Vince and like so many Rockford gangsters operated well below the radar. In 1984 the local Rockford newspaper, The Rockford Register, briefly ran a piece on the town's criminal history and labeled Gulotta as an important member.

Following the purge and destroy mechanism employed by the Rockford police department regarding criminal records of organized crime figures many investigations were grounded and any future investigations would have little to go on. Between this and the average Rockford gangster appearing to be Joe Citizen, Gulotta and others operated freely. When Charlie Vince passed away in 1994 the only remaining relevant mid-west crime family associated with the Rockford organization was the Chicago Outfit. They hardly batted an eye when Gulotta assumed the rank of boss. He would serve in such capacity until his death on March 15, 2000.


Frank "Gumba" Saladino

Frank 'Gumba' Saladino was born in Rockford in December 1945 and would be raised in the crime family. His father was Giorgio Saladino, a made member of the Rockford crime family and rumored to have been behind the hit that ended the life of bookmaker Charles Kalb. Frank Saladino's brother in law was Rockford crew leader Phil Cannella who was suspected of firing the 'warning' shots that informed Jasper Calo to give up his boss's seat to Joe Zammuto in 1958.

Saladino received his first arrest for a charge of rape in 1964. Alongside him Joe Saladino (no relation) was also charged. Following a two year prison sentence for the crime Saladino began working full time for the Rockford crime family as an enforcer and was also listed on Frank Buscemi's payroll while employed at Rondinella Foods, Inc. By the early 1970s law enforcement intelligence had confirmed he was a 'made member'. Then Saladino took untraditional route when he began to spend more time in Chicago.

Beginning in the late 1970s Saladino became affiliated with the Southside/26th Street and Northside crews of the Chicago Outfit. In 1981 he was arrested for his part in a burglarly ring that involved several Outfit members and associates. He would serve three years. Upon his release he was seen more frequently in Rockford and often in the company of mob boss Frank Buscemi and Buscemi's cousin Salvatore Galluzzo. Along with the same 1984 article published by the Rockford Register Star newspaper that identified Sebastian Gullota as a capo it also pointed out Saladino as a mob soldier. Additionally rumors have circulated that Saladino may have been behind the 1980 murder of Rockford mob soldier Joe Maggio.

When Saladino took over as boss of a crime family that the FBI by then had referred to as 'extinct', illegal gambling and loansharking was pouring money into the gangsters' coffers. Joe Saladino and John 'Tiger' Frisella were raking in $100,000s from a myriad of wire rooms later raided by federal authorities that were scattered throughout Rockford. No doubt much of it made it's way to Saladino's pockets who was by now regularly cutting in Chicago due to the partnership between the two crime families. The mob boss was also invested in several of the strip clubs in and around Rockford. By now Saladino was already showing his girth and tipping his scales at over 300 lbs.

On April 24, 2005 federal authorities levied a crushing blow against the powerful Chicago Outfit. The case known as 'Family Secrets' would rock the city's top gangsters as such notables as Joey Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello were indicted and eventually handed life sentences. The RICO case focused on illegal gambling but specifically on 18 unsolved murders dating back to the early 1970s. Frank Saladino was suspected of participating in five of them and was on the list to face the music. Prior to the indictment Saladino, who had long made it a habit to have several addresses, had taken refuge at a Motel 6 in Hampshire, IL. The staff described his room to be a pig pen and he would reside their for several weeks prior to the indictment. As federal agents entered his room they found Frank Saladino dead from natural causes. Most likely his weight factored into his early demise. Agents found close to $100,000 between checks and cash on him. From a legal standpoint due to his death the Rockford syndicate and their connection to the Chicago Outfit was severed from the Secrets trial.




Joseph Zito

Joe Zito was born in 1906 in San Giuseppe, Sicily and by the early 1920s had made his home in nearby Springfield, IL. Along with his brother Frank and Jasper Calo, Joe Zito set about organizing the Springfield rackets. The trio engaged in bootlegging, illegal gambling and prostitution rings. In 1930 Zito along with Calo, who was now the latter's brother in law, relocated to Rockford. Brother Joe stayed behind and became the untouchable cosa nostra boss for Springfield.

When Calo and Zito arrived in Rockford mobster Tony Musso was already tried to gain complete control of the rackets especially bootlegging. The duo sided with Musso. Musso was engaged in a long running violent war with the two Giovingo brothers. In August 1930 the first Giovingo went down from a gunshot. In broad daylight while on South Main Street Joe Giovingo was riddled from gunfire. Zito was picked up and endured a lengthy questioning by police. No charges were ever filed.

From the 1930s-40s Zito and Calo would operate out of the Sunlite Dairy, Inc. Prior to establishing the business Zito claimed employment with Blatz Brewery as a salesman. Blatz Brewery later was purchased by Pabst Brewery. Joe Zito was thought to have been appointed consigliere in the 1950s and was certainly holding the position when Joe Zammuto became top crime boss in 1958.

While illegal gambling and jukeboxe rackets were longtime cash cows for the Rockford mob, Zito's role was to be the grease on the political machine. Beginning in the late 1960s the City of Rockford garbage hauling went through contract changes. Previously garbage was disposed at the municipality owned People Avenue landfill. In 1972 garbage disposal was routed to the privately owned Pagel Pit. Zito was suspected having a secret but significant interest. Additionally the previously garbage hauler contracted by the city, Rockford Disposal Service Co., was owned by Zito. The Rockford consigliere was able to use his influence and possibly bribery with the Rockford city council in order to obtain these lucrative contracts.

The last foray for Zito was in the late 1970s when he along with Charles Vince and Phil Emordeno became entangled with an attempted FBI sting involving Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri and the Bonanno crime family. Balistrieri and the Bonanno mobsters would eventually be convicted of extortion; the three Rockford gangsters would be labeled as 'unindicted conspirators'. Zito by now was long in the tooth and was sharing the consigliere role with semi retired Rockford mob boss Joe Zammuto.

After a five decade run as a top crime boss of Rockford, Joe Zito died in June 1981. The funeral for the longtime Balistrieri ally was attended by many midwest gangland racketeers, most notably Joey Aiuppa of the Chicago Outfit.




Peter Schifo
(1940s-1969) Born in 1904, Peter Schifo was considered a bit of a political fixer in the Rockford area. His expertise appear to be loansharking and representing the Rockford crime family's criminal interest in lounges. Schifo would only see himself in court for a serious crime once in his life. In 1956 he was indicted for bribery involving an attempt to obtain a liquor license for a store he held a secret interest in. Very little came in the way of punishment and Schifo died of natural causes in 1969.



Phillip "Philly" Canella
(1950s-1971) Born in Rockford in 1914, Phil Cannella first came to the attention of Rockford authorities in 1937 when he was arrested for bootlegging along with Salvatore 'John Alto' DiBenedetto. The duo garnered less than a year behind bars. By the time Tony Musso was in the twilight of his career as mob boss Cannella was already an established capo. When Gaspare Calo refused to step down as boss following Musso's death it was thought that Cannella fired shots at Calo's residence, which was located at 1308 Victoria Avenue. Calo got the message and relinquished his attempts, eventually retiring back to Sicily. In an ironic twist Calo sold his home to Cannella. Phil Cannella was married to Connie Saladino, daughter of Rockford mob soldier Giorgio Saladino and half sister to Frank 'Gumba' Saladino. By the time he was a teenager Saladino's mentor was Cannella. The mob capo would pass away from natural causes in 1971 and leave his interest to his brother in law.


Frank Giardano
(1980s-Present) Born in 1936 , Frank Giardono is the son of deceased mob soldier Frank Sr. and stepson to prior boss Charlie Vince. He is assumed to have been promoted to capo status with the rise of Vince as Rockford's rackets boss. In 1989 he was arrested for illegal gambling. In 1994 Giardono along with his brother Sam, John “Tiger” Frisella, Louis Labella, Frank Vargas and Azmi Radwan were arrested for possessing gaming supplies (craps table, dice, card table, etc). Authorities also found $2400 on Frank Giardono. He and others received little in the way of sentencing and mainly paid fines.

In February 2006 Giardono along with John “Tiger” Frisella, Joe “Pep” Fiorenza, John “Johnny Finooch” Salamone, Rick Fiorenza, Nick Fiorenza, Joe Saladino, Charles Purin and Nick Provenzano were arrested for running a large scale bookmaking operation. The racket had gone back as far as the early 1980s and at times generated daily profits of $2000. The operation was managed out of several locations and multiple phone lines were tied to it. All of those indicted, with the exception of Saladino, received fines and probation. Currently Giardono is considered one of the top players in the Rockford syndicate.


Joseph Saladino
(1990s-Present) Joseph Saladino, no relation to Frank Saladino, is considered one of the top players currently operating in the Rockford underground. In February 1997 Illinois State Police stopped Saladino for speeding a found a trunk filled with several handguns. Additionally the officers found two books on how to make silencers, a book on machine lathes, a billy club, two ‘slim jims,’ two bolt cutters, a tree trimming saw, one butcher knife, a pipe wrench, a stocking cap, and two face masks. Previous arrests had been in 1983 for battery on law enforcement and rape in 1964 where he was the codefendent with Frank Saladino. In 2003 Saladino worked out a plea agreement that called for 27 months. It is noteworthy to mention that the Rockford Assistant Attorney was Michael Iasparro, son of former police chief Dominic Iasparro. Saladino was in prison during the February 2006 gambling that resulted in several Rockford mob members to received probation and fines. Saladino was given an additional 3 months to his sentence and was released in 2007.




Angelo Buscemi
(1934) Born in Aragona, Sicily in 1912 and reared in Rockford, Angelo Buscemi was the cousin to future Rockford crime boss Frank Buscemi. Angelo Buscemi was considered an enforcer under mob boss Tony Musso and was thought to have 'convinced' tavern owners to sell Musso's booze. In 1934 he was pressing bar owner Louis DalCollo to sell the syndicate's product. Gunfire was exchanged and both DalCollo and Buscemi were slain. Following his death the surname Buscemi would forever be etched into the Rockford mob's fabric.


Frank J. Buscemi
(1930s-1977) Older brother to Angelo Buscemi, Frank J. Buscemi was born in Aragona, Sicily in 1904. He was consider a sleeper and little is known about him other than authorities labeled him as 'being involved in all illegal activities'. His only time behind bars stemmed from a 1930 bootlegging case that took many Rockford gangsters off the streets for 12-18 months. However with the arrival of his cousin who shared his name, the lesser known Frank J. Buscemi's profile was raised. By the early 1970s he had retired and died in 1977 while living in Delray Beach, FL.


Lorenzo "Larry" Buttice
(1920s-1967) Larry Buttice was considered a legend in Rockford mob circles with a four decade criminal career. He had plenty of arrests for bootlegging during the 1920s. He served 366 days at the Leavenworth federal prison following a conviction for bootlegging in 1930. The same case would send an estimated 40-45 Rockford gangsters away for terms of 12-18 months. In 1938 Buttice was arrested again for failure to provide valid alcohol stamps. By now Buttice was considered the overseer for the crime family's booze and lounge operations. During the mid 1940s he was thought to have been promoted to the rank of caporegime and oversaw many of the syndicate's gambling rackets. Buttice was further underground then most Rockford mobsters, all of them operating well below any radar, when his name was misspelled as "Lawrence Buttita" when the FBI attempted to create a chart on the crime family in 1967. The FBI could only state that Buttice was a member of the Aragona Social Club in Rockford and was 75 years old. He died in October 1967.


Joseph Capriola
(1930s-1992) Born in Rockford in 1905, Joseph Capriola came from a family well entrenched in Rockford. It was through marriage and the Capriola surname that many early Rockford gangsters shared ties. During the Prohibition Era Capriola was considered a top transporter of illegal booze. After serving a brief hitch in the early 1930s for bootlegging Capriola set back and managed many legitament assets. Other Rockford mob soldiers married into his family include John Domino and Paul Picchiono. Capriola died in 1992.


Giacamo "Jack" Demarco
(1920s-1932) Jack DeMarco was considered an early blackhander and top bootlegger in Rockford. He is seen as a fence straddler in the war that pitted Tony Musso against the Giovingo brothers for control of the illegal stills and speakeasies. Following an 18 month hitch at Leavenworth for his role in a major crackdown of Rockford bootleggers, DeMarco was at home enjoying his release from prison. On February 13, 1933, less than 24 hours after his release, three mobsters bursted into his home and rounded his family in one room. Following this they promptly shot DeMarco multiple times. The motivation may have stemmed from DeMarco apparently being 'too talkative' to prison officials while he was away or a cold message for Paul Giovingo.


John J. Domino
(1920s-1977) Born in New Orleans in 1899, John Domino was already a major player in the bootlegging rackets around Rockford by the late 1920s. He was known to operate multiple illegal stills in southern Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and surrounding areas close to Rockford. Domino also was a capable hijacker and used this criminal talent to seize trucks hauling the important ingredient of sugar in order to produce his own whiskey. Domino's wife was a Capriola, an early Rockford blackhand family with political ties. Besides his wife Domino's brother in laws consisted of men from the Ginestra, Ingrassia and Cuccia families, all well connected in the Rockford criminal underground. He was well retired from the action when he passed away in 1977 while residing in Tucson, AZ.


Phillip "The Tailor" Emordeno
(1920s-1974) Philip 'The Tailor' Emordeno was born in April 1911 in Frankfort, NY. By the early 1930s the Emordeno family had relocated to Madison. In April 1934 he was arrested along with his father Sam for burglarly. The duo was also suspected of running at least two whiskey stills near Milwaukee at the time. Phil Emordeno was again arrested in October 1936 for running a gambling racket in Madison. By the late 1930s Emordeno was crisscrossing between Madison and Milwaukee operating several more gambling rackets and it was then he was thought to have crossed paths with furture mob heavyweight Frank Balistrieri. It was then that the two began a decades long feud where Balistrieri would claim that he was ripped off by Emordeno.

By 1944 Emordeno was clearly residing in Rockford and overseeing an extensive gambling racket, quite possibly some of the remnants acquired by the Rockford syndicate following the murder of Charles Kalb. By the early 1960s he was thought to managing all of the Rockford gambling action in dual role with Charlie Vince. In 1967 the FBI identified him as a made member possibly holding caporegime status. During the 1960s he along with Vince and Sebastian Gulotta were picked up several times following gambling raids. Little came in the way of prosecution's effort.

Emordeno then is found in the middle of an FBI attempt that had undercover agents Gail Cobb and Joe Pistone attempting to bring the Milwaukee and Bonanno crime families together in order to secure rights over jukeboxe and vending machine rackets in 1978. When the undercover operation was wrapped up Emordeno, Joe Zito and Vince were labeled as an unindicted conspirators. Oddly enough Emordeno's role was thought to be at the urging of the Chicago Outfit and Rockford syndicate bosses in attempt to patch up the grudge between him and then Milwaukee crime boss Frank Balistrieri. For his part Balistieri was handed a decade long sentence. However by the time Balistrieri and the Bonanno gangsters were arrested Emordeno had died. He passed away on May 6, 1981 while still living in Rockford.


John "Tiger" Frisella
(1900s-Present) John 'Tiger' Frisella is considered one of the most active members of the Rockford crime family. Authorities believe he is in regular contact with the syndicate's Chicago Outfit counterparts. In 1984 the city's newspaper, The Rockford Register, identified him as a 'made' member. In 1994 Frisella was arrested with Frank Giardono and others for conspiracy to operate an illegal casino and possessing items such as a craps and blackjack table. In 2006 Frisella and a host of Rockford gangsters were charged with running a wide scale bookmaking operation. Frisella and Joe Saladino were charged as being the ringleaders in the racket. Frisella received probation and fines. Despite his criminal status Frisella remains an active member of the Rockford community. He is currently serving as president of the Saint Ambriogo Society, a local civic organization affiliated with the Saint Anthony of Padua Church.


Natale Galluzzo
(1970s-Present) Natale Galluzzo and his brother Sam are the first cousins to former Rockford mob boss Frank Buscemi. He is currently the owner of Gerry's Pizza in Rockford. In 1982 Galluzzo was charged with arson. Investigators believed he set fire to his home in order to collect insurance proceeds. A year later the Winnebago County State's Attorney office tossed out the charges.

By 2004 local investigators claimed that Galluzzo and his brother Sam were the leaders in high stake card games. They referred to the racket as the 'soccer club'. The soccer club was thought to have existed since the mid 1980s. One of their associates was Vaughn 'Curly' Fitzgerald. In October 2007 Fitzgerald, an 80 year old World War II veteran, was hosting one of the games at Mike's Motorcycle Shop in Rockford. Sometime in the evening the game was robbed and shots were fired prompting local police to convene on the crime. In the midst of it all the police accidentally shot and killed Fitzgerald. It was alleged but never proven that several high ranking police officers were also attending the game. Currently there are two suspects awaiting trial.

Along with his brother Sam, Natale Galluzzo is suspected of having strong ties to the Chicago Outfit.


Salvatore "Sam" Galluzzo
(1970s-Present) Identified as a 'made' member of the Rockford crime family by a local newspaper article, Sam Galluzzo was considered the right hand man to Frank Saladino, eventual leader of the syndicate. Since the late 1980s the FBI gathered evidence linking the two with the Chicago Outfit. Following the death of Saladino authorities believe Galluzzo is the primary contact with the larger crime family located in the Windy City. He also may hold the rank of capo and is seen as a possible successor to the deceased Saladino.


Theodore "Teddy" Ingrassia
(1920s-1974) Teddy Ingrassia served as an important cog in Tony Musso's control over bootlegging in Rockford. Ingrassia was born in New Orleans in 1901 and by the late 1920s was seen as the middle man routing liquour trucks to stills and back to speakeasies for a thirsty public. He would serve time following a crackdown by federal prosecutors for bootlegging in 1930s. His wife was related to the powerful Civello crime family of Dallas. He died in Rockford in 1974.


Joseph Maggio
(1960s-1980s) Born in 1936, Joe Maggio came to the attention of the Rockford syndicate by the time he graduated high school. Maggio was known to frequent dice games and gambling dens. He became an associate to two Rockford gamblers-Joe Greco and Donald Burton. When both of them ended up murdered Maggio was called before a grand jury in 1959 to testify. He gave little and their murders remain a mystery.

In February 1965, at the age of 28, Maggio was inducted as a made member of the Rockford crime family. The next year he was called before a grand jury to testify about the crime family's influence over liquour licensing and secret ownership in various lounges. The investigation fizzled. Then in 1972 Maggio was indicted on several counts of mail fraud involving a bizarre scam focused around boat registration (see Zammuto bio). By the late 1970s the Rockford crime family was playing a behind the scenes role in an international heroin trafficking racket that would be dubbed 'The Pizza Connection' case. Maggio was also suspected in dealing in large quanities of cocaine. It was suspected that Maggio voiced opposition to being shut out of the heroin ring and law enforcement were heavily investigating Maggio for cocaine dealing. On April 9, 1980 Maggio was found dead in the backseat of his car, which was located on the westside of Rockford. He had been shot at close range. Allegedly deputies located $25,000 on him and it was thought to be left there intentionally for his widow to claim and probably for her to keep quiet. His murder remains unsolved.


Salvaroe "Sam"Mera
(1920s-1964) Born in Siculiana, Sicily in 1881, Sam Mera was considered a top enforcer and hijacker for the Musso bootlegging syndicate. Like so many from his timeframe he too would serve a brief hitch at Leavenworth federal prison alongside Musso for bootlegging following a federal crackdown. Mera was well placed in the Rockford crime family tree when his son Pasquale married then boss Joe Zammuto's niece. He died in Rockford in 1964.


Paul "Peachy" Picchioni
(1920s-1974) Paul 'Peachy' Picchioni was originally alligned with the Giovingo during a bootlegging war that gripped Rockford during the early 1930s. The Giovingo may have been with Thomas 'Tommy Abbot' Abbate of the Chicago Outfit but the upstart rebellion led by Tony Musso had a much larger backing from Wisconsin and several other Outfit players that outweighed Abbate. In August 1930 Picchioni was an eyewitness of the shooting death of Joe Giovingo. He quickly jumped sides and eventually became a driver for Musso. Married into the Capriola family, Picchioni later relocated to Dallas and forged ties with the local Civello crime family. He died of natural causes in 1974.


Nicholas "Nick" Provenzano
(1980s-Present) Nick Provenzano has been identified as associating with the Rockford syndicate since the 1980s. On February 1, 2006 he was arrested along with John 'Tiger”'Frisella, Frank Giardono, John 'Johnny Finooch' Salamone, Joseph 'Joe Pep' Fiorenza, Nick Fiorenza, Rick Fiorenza and Charles Purin for operating a large-scale bookmaking operation that had existed since the early 1980s. Like the others Provenzano received fines and probation. This was his first known arrest. He is considered an active member of the Rockford crime family.


Frank Rumore
(1920s-1954) Born in Contessa Entellina, Sicily in 1898 Frank Rumore chaulked up plenty of arrests for bootlegging and hijacking during the 1920s. A well respected member of the Musso's syndicate his resolve was tested twice. The first being when he along with many of the top players were convicted for producing alcohol during Prohibition in 1930. He quietly served just over a year at Leavenworth. Then in 1936 when his cousin Tommy Rumore was murdered by Musso's henchmen after falling out of favor. Rumore died in 1954 from natural causes.


Peter Sanfilippo
(1920s-1940s) Born in 1882, Peter Sanfilippo like most in the Rockford syndicate was an active bootlegger. However he chaulked a few incidences involving kidnapping, which would be his claim to criminal infamy. In October 1927 Sanfilippo along with several others kidnapped bootlegger Ezra Duffy, a bootlegger from Sterling, IL. Duffy had failed to paid the Rockford crime family. Oddly enough it was in a Dixon, IL speakeasy that gangsters were holding Duffy when the local sheriff happened to visit the illegal establishment. The sheriff quickly recognized Duffy and arrested Sanfilippo's conspirators Giuseppe Stassi and Anthony 'Tony Carlino' Catalano. In the late 1920s Sanfilippo was questioned for his role in the kidnapping a figure only known as a 'wealthy businessman residing Spring Valley, IL'. No charges were ever filed. By the 1940s Sanfilippo had relocated to San Diego. He was thought to have joined Catalano who had been recently released from prison. Peter Sanfilippo died in January 1963.


Ignatzio "Iggy" Seminerio
(1960s-2001) When Rockford mob boss Frank Buscemi became a real estate investor he began sponsoring several cousins to work in his Rockford business establishment. One of those was Ignazio Seminero, who was born in Aragona, Sicily in 1941 and relocated to the United States in 1966. Seminero was thought to have been christened a made member shortly after his arrival and oversaw Buscemi's loansharking interests. In 1979 Buscemi supplied $80,000 in financing for Seminerio to purchase Little Italy Restaurant in Rockford. Seminerio operated the establishment well and became wealthy. He died of natural causes in 1961.

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