Frank Paulo Coppola (born 1899- died April 26, 1982) known as "Tre Dita" or "Frankie Three Fingers", was an Italian-born American mobster who was a major Drug trafficker with strong ties to the Detroit Partnership and the St. Louis crime family. He was also a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa.
Born in the Sicily in 1899, Frank Coppola arrived in Detroit in 1926 and established himself as an invaluable member of the Detroit underworld. Coppola masked his criminal activities by establishing a string of successful legitimate enterprises. A renowned womanizer, Frankie Fingers struck up a relationship with a young attractive member of the Teamsters union clerical staff by the name of Sylvia Pagano. Pagano was friendly with an up and comer in the labor business known as Jimmy Hoffa.
Pagano introduced Hoffa to Coppola who arranged an introduction with Santo Perrone, Angelo Meli and other members of the Detroit mob during the early 1930s. With the help of Perrone "then the foremost strikebreaker in the area," and Coppola, Hoffa was able establish the Teamsters as a powerful labor union on a par with the AFL-CIO. In exchange for their help, Jimmy offered up Detroit's trucking industry to the mob. Coppola was instrumental in Hoffa's rise through the labor ranks offering support once again when the Teamsters made their big push forcing the AFL-CIO out of Detroit in 1941.
He was also closely associated with the St. Louis crime family, particularly Anthony Giordano. During this time leadership of organized crime in St. Louis was sketchy at best during the late 1940s. Believed to be running the family were Anthony Lopiparo, Frank "Three Fingers" Coppola, and Ralph "Shorty Ralph" Caleca. Coppola had been involved in the drug trade in Detroit and New Orleans.
Coppola was groomed for his rise to the top by St. Louis crime boss Anthony Lopiparo along with Anthony Giordano.
Coppola's activities soon led to him being placed on the FBI's list of undesirable criminals and was soon deported back to his birthplace near Partininco, Sicily in 1948. Coppola's departure would provide the Detroit and St. Louis outfit's with a golden opportunity to expand their influence and involvement in the sale and importation of heroin.
Deportation and activities in Italy
After his deportation to Sicily, Coppola became heavily involved in the heroin trade and allegedly competed in this trade with fellow deported American mob boss, Lucky Luciano. Coppola also engaged in the sale, manufacture and exportation of phony currency since his arrival in Italy but managed to slip by every drag net setup to trap him. His operation grew to include at least 4 separate crime families. At one time the drug ring disguised a shipment of narcotics in sardine cans and used couriers to carry out transactions. St. Louis crime boss, Tony Giordano, allegedly made many trips to Italy and met with Coppola on several occasions there.
In the 1950s, Coppola turned himself in to face drug charges, but the charges were dropped shortly thereafter. Eight years would pass before Coppola would make headlines again when he was arrested on August 2, 1965 in the company of several mafia figures such as Giuseppe Genco Russo, Giuseppe Maggadino, Calogero Orlando, Joseph Cerrito, Tom Russo and Gaspare Magaddino. In addition to several individual charges for smuggling, kidnapping, bombing and murder, the group was hit with meeting to commit crime. The charges in this case as with so many others folded shortly thereafter and Coppola continued to operate as openly as before.
Following the death of Lucky Luciano in 1962, Coppola was often called the most powerful mafia figure in Italy and was accused of every major crime committed in the country including plotting the bombing of Angelo Mangano, an Italian investigator who delved into the operations of the mafia. Coppola was arrested in June of 1975 and charged with attempted murder. After a lengthy trial the aging mob leader was acquitted and lived quietly until his death at the age of 83 of lung cancer.