Jose Miguel Battle, Sr. (September 14, 1929 – August 4, 2007) was the nominal leader and founder of "The Corporation," which is otherwise known as the "Cuban Mafia."
Battle was born in Havana, Cuba in 1929 and was a former policeman in Fulgencio Batista's Cuba, Battle assisted the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1960s in training Cuban exiles and personally volunteering as a soldier in the Cuban liberation effort of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961. The invasion, although it killed beyond a thousand Castro supporters per less than 200 exiled loses, resulted disastrous after President John F. Kennedy aborted American air support just five minutes before the armed Cubans reached Cuban soil. Subsequently Jose, along the other surviving expatriate soldiers, was captured after three days of arduous battle and imprisoned for nearly two years in a Cuban prison. Allegedly Castro stopped executing the prisoners of war and used the remaining surviving exiled soldiers as bargaining chips in exchange for $52 million worth of American goods.
Rise to fame
After being released from what many saw as the result of a betrayal from JFK, Battle settled in Union City, New Jersey, and began establishing a presence as the leader of a family of Cuban-American criminals involved in organized crime activities from loansharking and gambling to drug trafficking and murder. He allegedly established good working relationships with the Italian Mafia in the New York City area, but at other times the Corporation is known to have had violent turf wars with various Italian mafia families. He made the bulk of his wealth from an illegal lottery racket known as bolita (little ball), which was popular among expatriate Italians, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. It is estimated that his network was making up to $45 million a year in the 1970s from bolita in New Jersey, New York and Florida. Battles' reputation was such that he was known among the Cuban American community as El Padrino, or the Godfather. Battle was convicted in 1977 and sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection with the death of Ernestico Torres, an alleged hit man for Battle's organization. An appeals court overturned the conviction, but Battle later pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy in exchange for a sentence of time served - two years.
By the 1980s Battle had built up an empire of crime and began investing heavily in legitimate businesses throughout the New York area. In the Spanish Harlem area of the city Battle had the Torres brothers Pancho, Enrique and Henry who ran all the numbers and Bolita for him in the uptown part of the city. The Torres brothers had a family affair using Pancho Torres son in law Jose Castro and also his son Kiko Jr. to run the Bolita operation thru out the bodegas in the Harlem and South Bronx sections of the city. In the late 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's Select Committee on Organized Crime investigated the Corporation and estimated its membership, direct or loosely associated, at 2,500 members. Soon afterwards, Battle expanded to Miami, Florida, where there was a large population of Cuban immigrants and began to operate his East Coast empire from the Little Havana area of the city. In 1987 Battle was listed as one of Dade County's wealthiest men with a net worth of $175 million.
In the early 1990s Battle Sr. was worried again when several of his associates were indicted. So he fled to Lima, Peru where he built a hotel and casino complex. But when the smoke settled he moved back to his $1.5 million Florida ranch. The Corporation was making hundreds of millions from gambling, racketeering, illegal lottery and loan sharking, and operated in the US, Central- and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
Arrest and conviction
In 2004 Battle Sr, his son Jr., and 21 other key aid members and associates were indicted and charged with five murders, four arson attacks resulting in eight deaths, and more than $1.5 billion collected from drug trafficking, bookmaking, and numbers rackets. Of the 21, four were arrested in the New York and Union City, N.J. areas. One was in Puerto Rico and another in Spain; the rest were in the Miami area, including Battle's son. He was housed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Miami on more charges of racketeering. Battle Jr and associate Julio Acuña attempted to appeal the decision but failed, with Battle Jr sentenced to more than 15 years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $642 million and Acuña sentenced to life and a $1.4 billion judgment.
The Corporation is considered to be not as strong or lucrative as it was in the 1980s, or even the 1990s, after the take down of Battle and his top organized crime associates. It is known that Battle had an operative outside of jail, presumably the head of the New Jersey faction, who made decisions for him.
Today, little is yet known about how the Corporation is actually structured or the total membership despite approximately 30 years of existence. There are rumors that they have a strong presence in Northern New Jersey and the South Florida area with even some influence in eastern Pennsylvania in areas around the Lehigh County. Jose Miguel Battle Sr. is considered the original "godfather" of the Cuban Mafia.
On May 6, 2006, Battle pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges due to his health. On January 15, 2007, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On August 6, 2007 he died from various ailments in South Carolina while in Federal Custody awaiting transfer to another prison.