|Occupation:||criminal underworld figure, racketeer, money launderer, mafia associate|
|Birth name:||Charles McKay Wall|
|Date of birth:||March 10, 1880|
|Died:||April 18, 1955(aged 75)|
|Parent(s):||John P. Wall (father)|
|Criminal record (If any):|
|Criminal Affliation(s):||Partnership with Ignacio Antinori in the illegal bolita rackets in the 1920's|
|Convicted of:||N/A - Murdered, beaten and bludgeoned to death|
|Known for:||Bitter blood feud with the Trafficante crime family|
Charles McKay "Charlie" Wall (March 10, 1880 - April 18, 1955) known as "The Dean of the underworld", was an American racketeer, businessman, and organized crime figure in Tampa, Florida. He was a rival of the powerful Mafia bosses Santo Trafficante, Sr. and Santo Trafficante, Jr. whom he was killed by. After his death, Trafficante, Jr. took control of his criminal empire and all of his profitable criminal operations.
Wall was born in Tampa, Florida where he would live out the most part of his life. He was the son of distinguished physician and civic leader Dr. John P. Wall. In 1873, Wall's father became the first American doctor to conclude that yellow fever was carried by mosquitoes and later founded the first hospital focusing solely on serving yellow fever patients. A young Charlie, seemed destined for either a brilliant political or legal career. However, a volatile youth and his father's death sidetracked him, which resulted in the shooting of his stepmother (Wall hated her and at the age of 12 shot her with a .22 rifle, wounding her resulting in him being sent to Military school) and his expulsion from military school as a teen for visiting a brothel. Wall spent his formative years frequenting the gambling tables of Ybor City and West Tampa, where criminals who were regulars at these establishments of ill-repute grew fond of the scrappy young kid who hung around the adults. They began teaching him their trades, and, with that, Charlie Wall's life in crime began. A mathematical wizard, Wall would rapidly gain status within the criminal underworld from his early endeavors in the operation of several gambling, prostitution and numbers rackets. In 1912, a crusading Jacksonville newspaper profiled Wall's power base. "Tampa is reeking in crime, and gamblers operate openly. Tampa is the most wicked city in the U.S."
Beginning in the early 20th century, Wall seized control of the Cigar City's most profitable enterprise: Bolita, controlling Tampa from the neighborhood of Ybor City, employing whites, Italians and Cubans in his organization. Wall was nicknamed "The White Shadow" by Tampa's Latin immigrant population, he was also referred to in the media as the "Black Sheep" for how he spurned his brilliant potential to instead pursue a twisted way. His only competition was Tampa's earliest Italian mafia boss, Ignacio Antinori, though he would remain in control of the racket for nearly 25 years. Widespread corruption and Mafia-related murder were rampant in the Tampa area because of bolita's profits. To assure the continuation of his rackets, Wall would often bestow lavish gifts upon elected officials. In the process he became a political enigma—wheeling and dealing, garnering votes for and hobnobbing with local politicians. Wall also dabbled in bankrolling bootleg liquor operations.
Introduced to Ybor City in the 1880s, bolita peddlers soon began operating in Hyde Park, downtown Tampa, and the Scrub district, with the domain quickly expanding throughout Central Florida, as well as much of the rest of the state and Gulf Coast region. To add to his riches, Wall would have bolita games fixed to ensure a highly wagered-upon number wouldn’t win. Bolita dealers would fill balls with lead so they would sink to the bottom or freeze a ball so it would be easy to find in the bag.
During the late 1920s, a turf war began between Wall and Antinori, who both fought each other, as well as the Trafficante's for control of the numbers rackets in the Tampa area. The feud between Wall and Antinori came to a head between factions of Antinori Gang, dissatisfied members of Chicago and St. Louis crime family's to whom Antinori was supplying narcotics, and Wall's crew. On the morning of October 23, 1940, Antinori was gunned down at a local restaurant by two gunmen while sipping morning coffee. Wall himself had seen an attempt on his life go awry earlier that spring, possibly by some members of Antinori's outfit, or even by some in Antinori's ties to St. Louis mobster Thomas Buffa and/or Kansas City mobsters Nicolo Impostato, James DeSimone and Joseph Deluca.
1938 state, 1950 Kefauver Hearings testimonies
Wall testified before a 1938 Florida state grand jury that the devil took care of him. His numerous deals with prominent law officials often protected him from rival bids: On three occasions, he thwarted assassination attempts.
Wall became addicted to morphine, only to conquer his weakness after harrowing dry outs. In the late 1930s, Wall began to back away from much of the criminal rackets he had been involved with for years. By 1945, however, possibly due to Santo Trafficante, Sr.'s growing stature in the bolita racket in Florida, Wall would relinquish much of his power to the Trafficante crime family.
In 1950, before a televised national audience, Wall, then 70, would once more emerge from retirement to testify at the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime conducted by Tennessee State Senator Estes Kefauver. Described as "the elder statesman of bolita," he would graphically describe Tampa's criminal network.
On April 18, 1955, Wall would fall victim to assassins as his wife was returning to their Tampa home from a visit to relatives in South Florida, with one or more reportedly brutalizing the retired mobster, bludgeoning his head with a baseball bat and slitting his throat. Police discovered a curious relic resting on Wall's bed stand: Crime in America by Estes Kefauver. At the time of his death, Wall was two decades removed from Tampa's organized crime scene, by that time, the Italian mafia had taken over. Some say Wall was murdered because he was bad-mouthing the Italian mafia. Others claim it was because he had grown bored in retirement and was trying to take back what was once his. While the murder was never solved, many, including the police, suspected that Santo Trafficante, Jr. may have been linked to the crime as retaliation for the death of Antinori, who was once the boss and mentor of his father, Trafficante, Sr. Trafficante, Jr. to his own admission, ordered the murder of Wall for killing his mentor, and because he wanted to take over his lucrative criminal operations.
In Popular Culture
The account and rise and fall of Wall was depicted in the 2008 documentary film The Ghosts of Ybor: Charlie Wall which starred actors John A. Schakel as Wall, Gene Siudut as Joe Bedami, Chirs Pardal as Johnny "Scarface" Rivera, and Rod Grant as the lead detective in the Wall murder investigation.
Another Documentary entitled "Tales From the Underworld: Charlie Wall", was also later released.
|This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).|