Santo Trafficante, Sr. (born May 28, 1886 in Cianciana, Sicily; died August 11, 1954, in Tampa, Florida) was a Sicilian-American Mafia boss who created a multi-billion dollar criminal empire, and became the first boss of the Trafficante crime family, and he is the father of the powerful mob boss Santo Trafficante, Jr.
At the age of 14, Trafficante settled permanently with his family in the United States after having already spent much time between Florida and his homeland of Sicily; young Santo soon became fluent in both English and Spanish and quickly assimilated into the Gulf Coast culture.
In 1909, Santo began courting Maria Giuseppe Cacciatore, the sister of a reputed Tampa drug kingpin known as "Jo Jo" Cacciatore. The two wed that April, and had five sons; their second son, Santo Trafficante, Jr., followed his father into organized crime and rose high in the ranks of the criminal underworld.
Santo Trafficante, Sr. first gained power as a mobster in Tampa as an associate, and later as a high-ranking member, of the Trafficante crime family, helping run illegal bolita numbers rackets during the 1920s. At the same time, in addition to his criminal work for Ignacio Antinori, he began to invest heavily in his own bolita numbers rackets, beginning in Tampa and expanding throughout Central Florida.
History of bolita
Introduced to Ybor City in the 1880s was bolita (meaning literally, little ball) peddlers like Trafficante, Antinori, and famed Southern mobster Charlie Wall soon trafficked chances in Hyde Park (Tampa), Downtown Tampa, and the Scrub district, with the domain quickly expanding throughout Central Florida, as well as much of the rest of the state and Gulf Coast region.
Ascension in bolita racketeering
During the late 1920s, a fierce and bitter criminal turf war began between Wall and Antinori, who both fought each other as well as Trafficante for control of the illegal numbers rackets in the Tampa, Florida, area. The feud between Wall and Antinori came to a violent head between factions of the Antinori gang and dissatisfied members of the Chicago and St. Louis crime family to whom Antinori was supplying narcotics, and Wall's crew.
On the morning of October 23, 1940, Antinori was gunned down at his home, reputedly by a Chicago Outfit that had become dissatisfied with the narcotics products that Antinori had been supplying to them; many, including the police, speculated that Wall may have had ties to the hit.
From about 1930 until Antinori's death, with both Wall's and Antinori's criminal ranks depleted by the casualties and lives lost by their fighting each other, Trafficante and his son, Santo Jr., were able to seize control of the Antinori's bolita rackets in the Gulf Coast region; after Antinori's death, they were able to gain complete control when Wall retired in 1945 and conceded his power and all his operations to the father–son duo.
Trafficante began to assume control of the Mafia in Tampa, becoming the new boss of the Antinori family in October 1940, and kept control the criminal rackets in the Central Florida area until his death in 1954.
During his reign, Trafficante was a well-respected boss with ties to Lucky Luciano and Tommy Lucchese. He sent his son, Santo, Jr., to New York to learn from other mobsters. Upon his death, Trafficante, Sr. bequeathed his power to his son. This was a respected decision since the New York bosses and Tampa mobsters liked Santo, Jr.