Bartolo Ballerino

Bartolo Ballerino (date of birth and death unknown) was an early Los Angeles vice boss who preceded the Matranga gang and the Los Angeles crime family as L.A.'s preeminent crime boss.


Ballerino arrived to Los Angeles via Chile in the late 1850s, when Los Angeles averaged one murder per day and was considered the wildest town west of the Rockies. Ballerino opened the Los Angeles vice district shortly after his arrival to California, which consisted of opium dens and raucous gambling houses. Ballerino also owned a restaurant and a saloon, with which he got his start in creating the vice district. His complete dominance of the area known as the crib district (an empire based on the sex trade) made him a legend. The crib district consisted of several blocks of old housing which Ballerino converted into an open brothel, in which he was partners with former San Francisco Democratic Party boss, Chris Buckley. It was located just a few blocks from the center of the Italian community. During this time, prostitution was tolerated in Los Angeles as long as it remained confined to the Red light district. By 1896, Ballerino held vast land holdings, including a ranch in the Hollywood Hills and rental properties. Ballerino was perhaps Los Angele's Little Italy's most infamous pioneer and operated with impunity until Los Angele's first reform movement shut his operations down in 1904. In the same year, Ballerino was prosecuted for renting properties for immoral purposes and thereafter disappeared from public notoriety.

His date of death is unknown.

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