Anthony Mirabile (born January 1, 1894 - died December 27, 1958) known as "Papa Tony", was an Italian-American mobster and one time boss of the San Diego faction of the Los Angeles crime family.
Early Life in Detroit
Mirabile was born on the first day of January 1894 in Alcamo, Sicily to Leo and Josephine "nee Rizzo" Mirabile. In addition to Tony, the Mirabile family would grow to include brothers Vincent, Paul and Joe, as well as a sister Katherine Fundaro who would preceed him in death. Tony arrived in the United States settling in Detroit, Michigan where a contingent of uncles and cousins were engaged in a bloody battle with the Gianolla clan. Tony's level of involvement in the skirmish is unclear but he was visible enough to come into contact with up and coming figures like Joseph Zerilli, William Tocco, Angelo Meli and John Priziola. Tony's stay in Detroit ended when he packed up and moved to Tijuana, Mexico.
Activities in Tijuana
In 1927 Mirabile set up a popular nightspot in Tijuana the "Frolics" bar which served as both a headquarters and front for his illegal activities. From Tiajuana, Tony set up a thriving criminal enterprise. Mirabile loaned money at usurious rates, set up a thriving gambling business for American tourists while establishing a pipeline for the importation of narcotics into the US. With business booming, Tony moved across the border into the Southern California town of San Diego. San Diego's close proximity to Mexico made it the ideal place for Mirabile to settle.
Move to San Diego
In San Diego Mirabile set up nigthspots, buying local businesses and continuing his lucrative loansharking business. Tony's appearance in the backyard of the Los Angeles mafia's territory was eased when he and Jack Dragna entered into several business deals together. Impressed with Mirabile's Detroit connections and ability to turn a profit legitimately or criminally, Dragna began spending a good deal of his time in San Diego with the man who became known universally as Papa Tony.
In 1951 Mirabile was allegedly involved in the murder of Frank Borgia. At the request of the men assigned the murder contract, Mirabile brought Borgia to the home of Joseph Adamo. Once inside the front door, Mirabile grabbed Borgia in a bear hug, while Frank Bompensiero and Jimmy "the weasel" Fratianno performed what the Weasel called the "Italian rope trick". That is they looped a rope around the victim’s throat and two men pulled from opposite ends until the person was choked to death.
Papa Tony set a goal of owning a piece of every bar and nightspot in San Diego.
While maintaining a low profile as a successful nightclub proprietor, Mirabile solidified his hold over San Diego nightlife by loaning money to legitimate businessmen at high rates of interest. When these men fell behind on their payments, he happily reduced the amount owed in exchange for a ownership share. Once in debt to Papa Tony, it was a matter of time before he gained complete control of the operation then buying the former owner out or reducing him to mere figure head status. In October 1958, investigators listed at least 9 night spots as under Mirabile's control. That did not include real estate properties, Apartment buildings and other businesses he was involved in both legitimate and illegitimate.
Boss of San Diego
In 1956, after the death of Jack Dragna, Frank DeSimone took over the crime family. He demoted Bompensiero, then San Diego boss, to the rank of soldier and placed Mirable as the new boss of San Diego. Outraged, Bompensiero attempted to transfer to the Chicago Outfit, but was unsuccessful. Bompensiero would later be murdered in 1977 by the L.A. mob for his growing criticism of the family, and for cooperating with the FBI.
The Murder Of Papa Tony
During the early mourning hours of December 27, 1958, Papa Tony opened the door to his apartment and allowed entrance to a blonde woman and a man. The purpose of the pairs visit was never uncovered but many believe the pair was seeking a loan or had appeared before Mirabile to argue a debt. Whatever the case, the discussion quickly escalated and the woman drew and knife and the man a .38 caliber revolver. Phillip Aquaro, Mirabile's nephew was present in the apartment and emerged from his room just in time to see his uncle lunge at the gunman. As the two men struggled to gain possession of the weapon four shots rang out and Mirabile staggered to his bath room and locked himself inside. Aquaro witnessing the early stages of the confrontation had not seen the shooting as the knife wielding blonde spotted him and chased him back into his bedroom. As the shots rang out, Aquaro claimed the woman ran from the bedroom dropping her knife as she fled with Phillip hot on her tail. As Aquaro emerged from the bedroom, he was slugged over the head with the butt of the pistol by the gunman who then fled.
When policeman arrived they removed the bathroom door. Once inside they found Mirabile slumped in a straight backed chair inside the restroom. It was apparent that a weakened Mirabile had attempted to phone for help as the telephone lay in the wash basin of the sink. Mirabile's death is officially listed as 12:53 AM. Investigators found $1,500 in his pocket and immediately surmised that robbery had been the pairs motive after several people offered that Tony never carried less than $10,000 on him.
The Mirabile murder closed with Frank Bompensiero and the Matranga brothers vying for control of the empire Tony had left. While the Matranga's held important connections to the Detroit family, Bompensiro was a well known killer who had been a favorite of Mirabile's friend Jack Dragna. The absence of both men placed the advantage on the side of the Matranga's who picked up where Tony left off as kings of the San Diego nightlife. The Mirabile saga closed with the reading of his will and the announcement that a federal inquiry into his and Leonard Brophy's death (the day before Tony was murdered Brophy a partner of Tony's was found dead of an apparent suicide.) Where the probe turned up little, the will made headlines when the multi-millionaire left several nephews $1.25 apiece. Phillip Aquaro the nephew present when he was murdered was not named in the will.