The Trafficante crime family also known as the Tampa mob, Tampa Mafia, Tampa Empire, Trafficante Mafia, Trafficante mob, or Trafficante Empire is an Italian-American organized crime syndicate and is the only original Mafia family in the state of Florida. The Trafficante crime family was at its height of power, during the reign of Santo Trafficante, Jr., he made it one of the wealthiest and most powerful criminal organizations in the world, he ruled his vast criminal empire with an iron fist, and turned it into a multi-billion dollar international organized crime empire.
Tampa crime started with Charlie Wall, known as "The Dean of the underworld", who in the 1920s controlled a number of gambling rackets and corrupt government officials. Wall controlled Tampa from the neighborhood known as Ybor City, he employed Italians, Cubans and other races into his organization. Charlie Wall's only competition was Tampa's earliest Italian Mafia boss Ignacio Antinori.
The first Italian gang in the Tampa Bay area was created by Ignacio Antinori in 1925. Antinori a Sicilian-born immigrant became a well-known drug kingpin and the Italian crime boss of Tampa in the late 1920s. A smaller Italian gang in the area was controlled by Santo Trafficante, Sr., who had lived in Tampa since the age of 18. Trafficante had already set up Bolita games throughout the city and was a very powerful man. Antinori took notice of Trafficante and invited him into his organization and together they expanded the Bolita games across the state. By the 1930s Antinori and Wall were involved in a gang war for ten years, which would later be known as "Era of Blood". Wall's closest associate, Evaristo "Tito" Rubio was shot on his porch on March 8, 1938. The war ended in the 1940s with Antinori being shot and killed with a sawn-off shotgun. Both Wall's and Antinori's organizations were weakened leaving Santo Trafficante as one of the last and most powerful bosses in Florida.
Trafficante Sr. era
Santo Trafficante, Sr. had now taken over a majority of the city and started to teach his son Santo Trafficante Jr. how to run the city. In Trafficante Sr.'s adult life he only portrayed himself as a successful Tampa cigar factory owner. Santo was being watched closely by police and made Salvatore "Red" Italiano the acting boss. With the untimely Kefauver hearings and Charlie Wall testifying in 1950, both Trafficantes fled to Cuba. He always wanted to make it big in Cuban casinos and dispatched his son, Santo, Jr., to Havana in 1946 to help operate a mob owned casino. Tampa made a lot of money in Cuba, but never achieved its ambition of making the island part of its own territory. After the hearings ended the Trafficantes returned to Tampa to find out that Italiano had just fled to Mexico leaving James Lumia the biggest mobster in the city. Santo had Lumia killed after finding out he was bad mouthing him while he was in Cuba and he took over again. In 1953 Santo Jr. survived a shooting, the family suspected it was Charlie Wall and they had him killed in 1955. Trafficante remained the boss of Tampa until he died of natural causes in 1954.
Trafficante Jr. era
Santo Trafficante, Jr. succeeded his father as the boss of Tampa and ruled his family and vast criminal empire with an iron fist. Despite numerous stunted ambitions, he was regarded as one of the most powerful and dangerous mob bosses in America. Santo, Jr. was born in the United States on Nov. 15, 1914 and was one of five sons of Mafia boss Santo Trafficante. He maintained close working ties with the Five Families, Chicago Outfit, New Orleans crime family, and the Bufalino crime family. Santo Jr. worked closely with Lucchese family boss Tommy Lucchese, who was a friend of his father, and a man who helped train him in the 1940s.
Santo, Jr. was known to have been deeply involved and allied with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in several assassination attempts on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Under pressure of a court order granting him immunity from prosecution, but threatening him with contempt if he refused to talk, Trafficante, Jr. admitted to a Congressional committee in 1975 that he had in the early 1960s recruited other mobsters to assassinate Castro. "It was like World War II" he told the committee. "They told me to go to the draft board and sign up." In 1978, Trafficante once again testified before a Congressional committee, this time on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This committee was especially interested in a sworn statement made to committee investigators by Cuban exile leader Jose Aleman that months before the Kennedy assassination, Trafficante had told him, "Kennedy's gonna get hit." However, in public testimony, Aleman gave the comment a different interpretation. Another informant insisted to federal investigators that Santo, Jr. predicted the Kennedy assassination six months before it happened. The mob boss was also known to have a connection with mob associate Jack Ruby, who shot and killed JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Santo, Jr. never spent a day in jail. He died of natural causes in 1987.
In 1987, Vincent LoScalzo became the new boss of the Trafficante family and Florida became open territory. The Five Families of New York City could work in any city in the state. LoScalzo's new family was smaller because many of the older mobsters were dead or retired. He had interests in gambling, prostitution, narcotics, union racketeering, hijacking and fencing stolen goods. He controls a few bars, lounges, restaurants, night clubs and liquor stores all over the state of Florida. Loscalzo has ties to California, New Jersey, and New York as well as being connected to the Sicilian Mafia. On July 1, 1989 LoScalzo was indicted on racketeering charges that included grand theft, the charges were later dropped and then reinstated. LoScalzo plead no contest on October 7, 1997 and received three months of probation. In 1992, LoScalzo was arrested at the Tampa International Airport for carrying a loaded .38-caliber pistol in his brief case. The weapon showed up on the x-ray scanner. He was convicted for the charge in 1999 and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
South Florida operations
Santo Jr. started the family's south Florida crew in the early 1980s, he put Steve Raffa in charge. Bruno ran the crew with associates and freelancers after the death of Santo Jr. Raffa maintained a good relationship with Loscalzo, the new boss of the family and Genovese mobster John Mamone. In 2000 nineteen members of the crew were arrested and Raffa committed suicide.
On November 25, 2007 Vincent LoScalzo is now 70 years old a semi-retired mobster and a "regular Joe" said Scott Deitche, author of "Cigar City Mafia." The old family membership has died and the Tampa Mob has fallen in the shadows of the NYC mobs.
Gambinos in Tampa
Recently statements have spread across Florida that John A. "Junior" Gotti, son of the late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, has been running organized crime in Tampa since his release from prison in 2005. Gotti is allegedly a captain in the Gambino family. On August 5, 2008 Gotti was indicted on charges of racketeering, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking. He and five others were indicted by a Florida grand jury.
Historical leadership of the Trafficante crime family
Bosses (official and acting)
1920–1940 — Ignacio Antinori – murdered October 24, 1940
1940–1954 — Santo Trafficante, Sr. – died in August 1954 of a heart attack
1954–1987 — Santo Trafficante, Jr. – died on March 17, 1987
1987–present — Vincent LoScalzo
1920–1940 — Santo Trafficante, Sr. – promoted to boss
1940–1948 — Salvatore Italiano – retired to Italy
1948–1950 — James "Head of the Elks" Lumia – murdered on June 5, 1950
1950–1954 — Santo Trafficante, Jr. – promoted to boss
1954–1987 — Vincent LoScalzo – promoted to boss
1987–1994 — Frank "Daddy Frank" Diecidue – longtime Tampa member; died October 19, 1994.
1994–present — Frank Albano
Frank Ragano – he was an attorney/advisor to Santo Trafficante Jr.
In popular culture
Newell, Mike. Donnie Brasco (1997). A Hollywood film about former FBI agent Joseph Pistone. The actor Val Avery played the part of Santo Trafficante, Jr.
Poulette, Michel. Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999). A made for television film about the rise and fall of the Bonanno crime family. The actor John Burns played the part of Mafia boss Santo Trafficante, Jr.
Guzzo, Pete. Ghost of Ybor (2008). A made for television film about the life of the American gangster Charlie Wall. It shows the Trafficante crime family in the end of the film.