Joseph Porrello (Jul. 15, 1890- died Jul. 5, 1930) was an early Cleveland, Ohio mobster and the first officially recognized boss of the Cleveland crime family. He was also the leader of the Porrello brothers crime organization.
Joseph was one of the seven Porrello brothers who migrated to the U.S. from Licata, Sicily. The Porrello brothers became partners with the Lonardo brothers and first established themselves as legitimate businessmen. The two groups dabbled in various criminal activities, such as robbery and extortion, before prohibition, but were not yet considered major organization. At the start of Prohibition, "Big Joe" Joseph Lonardo was the Boss of the Cleveland crime family. He was the second oldest of four Lonardo brothers. He and his brothers began by supplying Cleveland's bootleggers with the corn sugar they needed to produce liquor. Joe Porrello was his top lieutenant and supervised various bootlegging and other criminal operations throughout the early to mid-1920s.
In 1926, the Porrello brothers (Rosario, Vincenzo, Angelo, Joseph, John, Ottavio, Raymond, and Jerry) Also they had two half brothers named Michael and Thomas Panzarella. They broke away from the Lonardo family forming their own faction. They established their headquarters in the upper Collinwood Avenue around E. 110th St. In 1927 hostilities between the Lonardo and Porrello families escalated as the Porrellos competed with the Lonardo family for both corn sugar business which is a prime ingredient in bootleg liquor.
With violence on the rise, boss Joseph Lonardo left for Sicily in the summer of 1927. He left his brother John and adviser, "Black Sam" Salvatore Todaro as acting heads of the Cleveland family. When Lonardo returned a sitdown was scheduled between the Lonardo's and the Porrello's. On October 13, 1927 Joseph Lonardo and his eldest brother John were to meet with Angelo Porrello in a Porrello owned barber shop. The Lonardo brothers relaxed playing a game of cards when they were surprised by two gunmen, and assassinated. This allowed Joseph Porrello take over as boss of the Cleveland crime family and to become the most influential corn sugar baron in the Cleveland area.
Cleveland mafia summit
Through all of late 1927 and much of 1928 the remaining Lonardo faction loyalists which included an influential, up and coming Mafia group known as the Mayfield Road Mob led by Frank Milano and his Jewish allies within the Cleveland Syndicate continued to rival the Porrello family for the leadership within the Cleveland underworld and for control of the most lucrative rackets outside of the corn sugar business, mainly gambling which was the biggest earner for the American Mafia crime families next to bootlegging.
Porrello needed the support from the top Mafia bosses in New York and in various leading Mafia territories across the United States. On December 5, 1928, a high level American Mafia meeting was held at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland. Joseph Porrello hosted the event hoping that the top Mafia bosses from across the United States would declare him the official Mafia boss of Cleveland. Some of the powerful bosses who attended included Joseph Profaci and Vincent Mangano of New York, but the meeting turned into a fiasco as some of the well known attendees were recognized by local law enforcement and arrested along with their associates as the mafiosi continued to arrive from across the country for the Mafia summit.
The Porrello brothers arranged for their associates to be bailed out of jail. Joseph Porrello was declared the boss and recognized nationwide not-with-standing the fiasco which he was supposed to have hosted. At the end of Prohibition, most of the Porrello brothers and their supporters had been killed or had sided with the Mayfield Road Mob.
On July 5, 1930, Joseph Porrello was invited to a sitdown with Frank Milano at the Milano owned Venetian Restaurant. Gunfire erupted and boss Joseph Porrello and his bodyguard, Sam Tilocco were killed. His brothers Vincenzo and Raymond Porrello would also be eventually murdered. The rest of the Porrelo brothers laid low or either fled from Cleveland to avoid being killed.