Nick "Old Man" Licata (February 20, 1897 - October 19, 1974) was an Italian American mobster who was the Boss of the Los Angeles crime family from 1967 until his death in 1974. One newspaper described him as a true Godfather in every respect.
Nicolo Licata was born on February 20, 1897 in the small Italian town of Camporeale in Sicily (although his surname may suggest family origins in Licata). He was the son of Colagero and Vita, and had six brothers and two sisters. According to his records at Ellis Island, he boarded the Sant' Anna in Palermo at age 16 with $25. On December 5, 1913, Licata arrived in the United States and joined his brother Leonardo in Brooklyn. He later legally anglicised his first name to "Nick". During the 1920s Licata became involved in bootlegging in Detroit during the prohibition era. He eventually became a made man in the Detroit crime family known as the Detroit Partnership. He left for Los Angeles after offending its boss, Joe Zerilli. He endeared himself to L.A. Boss Jack Dragna who was able to convince Zerilli to call off a murder contract on Licata. He was accepted as a member of the L.A. family and became close to Dragna's brother, consigliere Tom Dragna. On March 25, 1932 Licata became a naturalized citizen. He resided in Inglewood and owned several apartment buildings, including the one he lived in. Licata owned barrooms and operated as a bookie and loan shark out of a hangout on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood and a club called "Five O'Clock" in Burbank. He was arrested once in 1945 for refilling liquor containers.
Soldier to boss
In 1951, Licata provided an alibi for Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno the night Frantianno gunned down Kansas City mobsters Anthony Brancato and Anthony Trombino, known as "The Two Tonys". Licata held a party at his club and a waitress testified that Fratianno and his associates were at the club the entire night. Fratianno, Licata, "Charley Bats" Charles Battaglia, Angelo Polizzi, and Leo Moceri were all arrested, but none were charged for the crime. It wasn't until Fratianno became a government witness over 25 years later that the belief of the police was confirmed.
In 1952 Dragna prommoted Aladena Fratianno to caporegime (captain). To pacify Licata, who was the more logical candidate, Licata was allowed to work directly under Dragna. Licata made good connections with Mafia families in Detroit, Dallas, Kansas City, and New Orleans. When Dragna died in 1956 Frank DeSimone became the new boss of the family. He named Licata his consigliere, who was a popular choice among the younger family members. When DeSimone's underboss Simone Scozzari was deported to Italy in 1962 for being an illegal immigrant, Licata became DeSimone's underboss.
When DeSimone died of a heart attack Licata became boss with no opposition in 1967 and made Joseph Dippolito his underboss. By this time the Los Angeles family was a lot different from the one Licata first came in to. The L.A.P.D. and F.B.I. was engaged in a tough assault against organized crime in Los Angeles and Mafia families from other cities were stretching their power to the West Coast. Although seen as an improvement over the incompetent DeSimone, Licata wasn't able to do much to help his family.
On July 9, 1969 Licata was taken into custody after refusing to answer questions at a federal grand jury session about L.A.'s crime syndicate structure. Although Licata was under immunity from prosecution, he refused to give Judge Jesse W. Curtis Jr. any information, which would have violated the Mafia's oath of Omertà. He was held in contempt of court and eventually served six months in prison. The court was looking into the murder of Julius Petro (which was committed by Ray Ferritto) and the Apalachin Meeting attended by Licata's predecessor Frank DeSimone. Licata also refused to acknowledge that he succeeded DeSimone as head of the crime family.
Personal life and death
Licata eventually was back in good standing in Detroit. In 1953, his son Carlo Licata married Grace Tocco, the daughter of Detroit caporegieme "Black Bill" William Tocco. Licata attended the wedding in Detroit. Officer Jack O'Mara found the wedding invitations with members of Detroit's and L.A.'s crime families on them while carrying out an arrest warrant on Licata. He illegally took them, showing the police's determination to bring down organized crime in California. Licata's son-in-law Frank Stellino was also active as a made man in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s.
Licata spent his last days at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. After battling illness for some time, Licata died on October 19, 1974, nine months after his underboss died of a heart attack. Licata was survived by his wife Josephine, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was buried in Culver City at the Holy Cross Cemetery. His funeral was attended by 150 people.