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Joseph Gelosi

Joseph Geloso (deported 1939) was a Sicilian bootlegger and notorious gang boss during the 1920s and 1930s in Madison, Wisconsin.


Giuseppe "Joseph" Joe Geloso was Born April 30, 1898 In San Giuseppe Jato, Palermo, Italy to Salvatore and Anna Maria (Garrasi) Geloso, He came to America Feb 6 1916 from San Giuseppe Jato, Palermo, Italy and went to his brother Iganzio's in Frankfort, Herkimer, New York. Then went to Madison, Wisconsin around 1920-1921 and married Rose Labarro, with whom he had three children Anne Elizabeth Geloso-Powell, Samuel Timothy and Frankie (died in 1929).. He also had a sister Providenza Geloso who first married Anthony Sgroi, and she then married George Marino. for more information on my great grandmother and her brother please contact me at

Geloso started off in the bootlegging business as a member of a gang led by Carl "Joseph Justo" Di Gilorome. On November 22, 1922, police raided Geloso's home and caught him pouring a jug of alcohol down a drain. On January 20, 1923, police discovered a still under Geloso's garage linked to his basement by a concrete tunnel, and a galvanized storage tank behind a false wall in a closet. In March of 1925, Geloso was arrested and sentenced to sixty days in jail. In April of the same year, Geloso was also held responsible for the death of a drunken driver who got liquor from Geloso. On April 3, 1926, a moon-shining charge against Geloso was dismissed. Geloso was also allegedly an associate of Al Capone in nearby Chicago.

His most controversial arrest came in October 1926, when police found 15 gallons of moonshine, several barrels of mash, and a fifty-gallon still in a raid on Geloso's residence. He jumped out a window and escaped. Caught a month later, he was fined $500 and sentenced to three months in the Dane County Jail by Judge Ole Stolen. Stolen granted Gelosio work release privileges, which created an uproar and ultimately lead to Stolen's disbarment.

In 1924, Andrew Lo Presti became the boss of the Madison, Wisconsin rackets and found himself being challenged by a splinter group led by Joe Gelosi. Gelosi was a longtime Regent street bootlegger with ties to organized crime since the early 1920s. Gelosi's gang primarily consisted of his father-in-law Frank Labarro and an assortment of other friends and relatives. Overtime Gelosi formed strong ties to liquor sources in New York and began cutting in on Lo Presti's profits, which deeply angered Lo Presti who in turn ordered Gelosi's murder.

Son's death and move to New York

On September 23, 1929, Geloso was about to enter his home at 916 Regent Street when a 12-gauge shotgun blast went off, seriously injuring him (he took seven slugs to the chest) and instantly killing his 2 year old son Frankie who was in his fathers arms. Geloso allegedly identified two men, Charles Guidera and Vincent Troia, as the assailants and they were detained. Gelosios wife denied he talked, saying to the press, "He did not tell them. To say he did is only making this thing worse". While in the hospital, three gangsters visited Rosina Geloso and told her not to reveal the names of Joseph's assailants, but it was too late. She also received a phone call saying, "If you go to Rockford you'll all be in coffins.” Joe Geloso recanted his identification, and the two men were released. The threats did not stop, and the gangsters even stomped on the flowers over his son Frankie's grave.

A few weeks after his son Frankie was killed, Gelosi suddenly disappeared and Madison Police Chief Frank Trostle stated that Gelosi's absence from Madison would be a strong factor in preventing further trouble in the Sicilian quarter. It was later discovered that Gelosi had gone to New York, presumably to leave the country. His departure was considered the only safe thing for him to do in view of the recent attempts on his life.

It was later revealed however, that Gelosi and his family had moved to Elmira, New York. A 1930 Census record showed that Joseph and his wife Rosina were living in Elmira using the alias Joseph and Rose Aris.

Revenge and Legal issues

On July 5, 1932, Gelosi hired two Cicero, Illinois men Frank Maio, alias Frank Delmonti, and Joseph Ross, alias Charley Maw to murder Lo Presti. The hitmen lured Lo Presti from his home in Madison and into their car, the men then shot Lo Presti twice in the head splattering blood throughout the car and brought his body to Janesville for disposal. The corpse was dumped from a car near Belvidere, Illinois on a road known as the "rum runners shortcut".

Gelosi and the hitmen were later arrested and tried for the murder of Lo Presti based on an eye witnesses testimony who said she had been with the killers at the time of the murder up until the time the body was dumped. She said she did not know that Lo Presti was going to be killed, but after he was shot, Joseph Ross explained that Lo Presti was "a pig" and that he had shot a kid (presumably Frank Gelosi) a few years ago and Ross' brother fourteen years prior. She said that the killers called Gelosi "the boss" but that she understood little of the conversation, because she did not speak Italian.

For his defense, Gelosi had two policemen from Elmira, New York as alibi witnesses. The cops said that Gelosi had received a traffic ticket from them at the the time of the murder. This defense fell apart, however, when a private investigator overheard the officers saying they had not been paid enough for their services, suggesting they had been bribed to lie.

Gelosi was convicted of the Lo Presti murder but later pardoned by Governor LaFollette in December 1937, on the condition that he be sent back to Italy. This did not prove to be so easy.

Gelosi met with the Italian consul, Angelo Cerminara, in Milwaukee on February 17, 1939 in the company of his attorney, Lester Lee, and prison guard William Dusenberry. Cerminara refused to grant Gelosi a visa to return to Palermo. Robert P. Clark, immigration inspector of Milwaukee, also relayed that the Italian embassy in Washington refused to issue a visa unless a full, unconditional pardon was granted. Rumors floated around that Lo Presti's family lived in Gelosi's home village, and Gelosi's return could spark a revenge killing. This rumor was unconfirmed.


After some delay, Gelosi was finally on his way on Saturday, May 20, 1939. He was taken from Waupun to Chicago and put on a deportation train and sailed for Naples on May 27. From there he was scheduled to go to his native home in Palermo. Before deportation, he was be allowed a brief reunion with his wife and two children in Elmira, New York where she operated a beauty parlor. They were expected to join him in Sicily in 1941 or when the children graduated high school. According to one descendant, this never happened — Rose Gelosi divorced Joseph and remained in the United States and remarried in the 1950s.

With Gelosi's deportation, the Italian bootleg Gang-wars in Madison ended, this era became known as Madison's Violent Greenbush Years. As the 1940s came around Organized crime in the Madison area declined, although it was believed by many that in the 1940s Carlo Caputo became the boss of Madison.