Arizona Wise Guy and La Cosa Nostra History Don Bolles Mafia Sam Gravano


As seen on The Arizona Republic on June 7, 2001 !

When it comes to 'La Cosa Nostra,’ Arizona has had an interesting history dealing with this subject. Most of this information was provided to me by various people I have spoken with, books I have read, newspaper article archives I have looked for on microfilm, and or notes acquired from the Freedom of Information Act. If you are real serious, I recommend you all read the book called “The Arizona Project which you can find on Amazon.com very easily.

I personally thank anyone who has helped me; there are many individuals who I will not name for obvious reasons. I am not saying everything you read on this web site is true, and I will cite sources when I can list them, but according to backtracking and follow ups, a lot of these things seemed to really be facts and check out for themselves.

Various law enforcement officials have told me that many 'wiseguys' consider Arizona and Phoenix a "haven" and virtually untapped, yet have never ever got a strong hold as they may have in other cities. I have been getting A LOT of e-mails from un-named sources and different people that Arizona is also a hot bed for people in the Federal Witness Protection program when it comes to figures dealing with La Cosa Nostra! (Note: In the Law Enforcement world, the word "Mafia" is not used and the term best used is "La Cosa Nostra")

Due to contrary belief that everything west of Chicago, must answer to Chicago, Phoenix and Arizona does not belong to the Chicago Mob, Arizona has been, and still is open territory since the first infiltration of that state in the 1940's.

The 1930s and 1940’s

Many are under the assumption that Joe Bonanno, head of the Bonnano family was the first major Cosa Nostra figure to move into Arizona, but this is false. Joe Bonanno gained most of the media attention for his presence in Tucson because he was one of the members of the so called Commission, and head of the mob family that still bares his name to this day.

Pete Licavoli and Mo Dalitz bought land in Tucson in the late 1930s. Peter Licavoli was one of the first five ruling dons of Detroit. Licavoli purchased the Grace Ranch in 1944 and died there in January of 1984. Grace Ranch existed on Wrightson Road near the Rincon Mountains. According to William Roemer in his book The Enforcer, Pete LiCavoli was a capo régime (Captain of a regime) whose connections went back to Detroit.

Beginning in 1946, Licavoli, the Arizona mob boss, operated an illegal gambling wire service with Kemper Marley Sr., the wealthiest liquor distributor in the state. Later, Marley's United Liquor Co. supplied Emprise dog tracks with 10 percent of their alcoholic beverages. (You will read about Emprise and Marley later in the Don Bolles Section of this page)

Licavoli's Grace Ranch became the meeting spot for the syndicate with high powered figures like Tony Mirabile, Anthony Accardo, Sam Giancana, Paul Ricca, Moe Dalitz, Senator and Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater and a host of Las Vegas movers and shakers visiting at one time or another.

Even the allegedly banished Bonanno was seen on occasion making an appearance there. Licavoli is survived by his sons Michael and Pete Jr. A third son Ted died of Cancer according to an e-mail I received from David LiCavoli.

Pete Jr. was accused at one time of running a massive drug smuggling operation.

Licavoli later sued local newspapers and government officials when they backed out of an indictment. Arizona became the headquarters for Licavoli's expansion efforts which later included rackets in the areas of New Mexico, Nevada, Southwestern Texas, Southern California and Mexico.

The 1950’s

On November 4, 1955, Retiree "William Nelson" who had lived rather quietly in his then-rural East Bethany Home Road neighborhood for six years died. He walked out to his driveway, slipped behind the wheel of his pickup truck and turned the ignition key setting off a bomb that shattered windows three blocks away. Law officers never had any doubts about why "Nelson," who was actually a former Al Capone henchman named WILLIE BIOFF, was murdered. He had been an extortionist and had turned informant 'on the mob colleagues' years earlier to save his skin. Now Gray stucco apartments cover the spot at 1250 E. Bethany Home Road. "He apparently talked about extortion in movieland," said Arizona Newspaper reporter Don Bolles. You will read more about Don Bolles in the 1970's section of this page.

For more on Willie Bioff in Arizona, visit his link on the bottom of the section.

On the night of December 2, 1958, mob hit men paid a visit to the Encanto home of Las Vegas crime kingpin and Riviera hotel president GUS GREENBAUM, one time associate of Bugsy Siegel. When Greenbaum's housekeeper reported for work the next morning, she found Greenbaum and his spouse, Bess, dead, their throats slit. Greenbaum's excessive drinking, gambling, womanizing, and drug habits eventually caused him to begin skimming from casino operations. However, his embezzlement was soon discovered by the Chicago. The double murder remains unsolved. The location of this house is located at 1115 West Monte Vista. (The New Times: Phoenix)

The 1960’s

In the late 1960s, in Tucson, there was at least 10 bombings in a span of 12 months that ‘damaged homes and businesses that had some known or suspected link to the Mafia. Extortion, mob warfare and simple revenge all may have figured into the blasts. Police caught two men who admitted carrying out two of the bombings, but their contention that a mastermind put them up to it was never proved and remains a mystery to this day’

’On July 21, 1968, Shortly before 9:30 p.m., a car pulled over near University of Arizona Hospital, just around the corner from the East Elm Street home of Joseph Bonanno Sr. What happens or who was involved no one knows, but a bomb went off at the Bonanno home.

The night before, two dynamite charges at the Grace Ranch on the Northeast Side had damaged several cars and a shed, and knocked out the electrical power. The owner of the ranch on East Wrightstown Road was Peter J. Licavoli Sr., a former mob leader and bootlegger in Detroit.

Then at 10:17 one night, two bombs exploded about 30 seconds apart outside the North Side home of Peter Notaro. He was known to the FBI as a Mafia member and Bonanno bodyguard who had followed Bonanno to Tucson. Notaro's wife and daughter were inside when the dynamite damaged parts of two patio walls, ripped out patio screens and broke windows.

As summer stretched into autumn, bombs hit Metro Auto Plastic Co., 1926 N. Stone Ave. An FBI agent reported that a Metro owner socialized in nightclubs with gangsters and "has been repairing the automobiles for most all of the hoodlums in Tucson for the past several years."

The next blast was at the Wig Salon of Beauty, 2739 E. Speedway, now a strip mall with a juice store and a pharmacy. The salon receptionist was the wife of mobster Charles J. "Batts" Battaglia. That night, someone also blew part of the roof off the home of a man whom FBI reports identified as a mob associate.

The next day, Sept. 17, U.S. Rep. Morris K. Udall asked the FBI director to assign more agents to fight organized crime in Tucson. Udall, a Democrat and former Pima County attorney, quoted Police Chief Bernard L. Garmire, who warned that the Mafia aimed to make Arizona "the future criminal playground of America."’ (Source: The Arizona Star Newspaper)

Note: I have many conflicting reports of who Charles J. "Batts" Battaglia. Some sources have told me he was loyal to ‘Lilo’ who was Carmine Galante I believe, some told me he was one of Joe Bonanno’s most loyal bodyguard, and another source tells me he was a capo from Los Angeles who tried to have Bonanno killed. Charles J. "Batts" Battaglia was involved with in Tucson, but that is a name that you should definitely look up and make your own decision.

In the 1970's

A young lad and big mob enforcer by the name of TONY ‘THE ANT’ SPILOTRO was placed in Las Vegas to watch the gambling interests of The Chicago Mob. Tony Spilotro is best known as the character portrayed by Joe Pesci in Casino as "Nicky Santoro". Representing Las Vegas, also meant representing any thing west of the Mississippi River. At that time, Tony Spilotro placed a solider by the name of Paul/Paulie John “The Indian” Schiro in Scottsdale. He ran the ‘Scotch Mist’ Restaurant, which many people from Chicago and California used as a hangout. Paul Schiro was featured in a 1978 Arizona Republic special report on Mafia figures in the state. He was a business partner to the 73-year-old Emil Vaci, (You will read about him in the 1980s) who once operated a mob-connected business ferrying gamblers to Las Vegas. Both men were members of the "Hole-in-the-Wall Gang," a burglary ring that burrowed into walls of businesses and residences to take jewelry and artwork. Before Paul Schiro, it was JACK TOCCO who ran Chicago's interest in Phoenix.

‘A Chinese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and now, again, an Italian eatery, have been serial occupants of the building that housed Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant on North 32nd St., a mob haunt run by the late Joseph F. Tocco, who was brother of Jack.’ (Sources: Roemer, Casino, Arizona Republic, Don Bolles)

On the morning of Feb. 19, 1975. ED LAZAR, an accountant testifying against land-fraud artists, was shot to death in the stairwell of a Central Corridor parking garage, on the underground level of a parking garage on Central Avenue.

The unsolved, gangland-style execution occurred the day before Lazar was scheduled to testify before a Maricopa County grand jury about his dealings with Ned Warren, ‘the godfather of Arizona land fraud.’ The place where he was gunned down was the rear parking garage (second underground level), on 3003 North Central Avenue in Phoenix.

A Tempe man who called himself "Joseph Nardi" started his car on the morning of October 6, 1975, a dynamite explosion ripped through rear axle of his Lincoln Continental, that blew out 75 of his neighbors' windows and hurled portions of his car a quarter of a mile away.

"Nardi" was actually mob informer LOUIS BOMBACINO, 52 at the time, had been living there with his wife and teenaged son under an assumed name provided by the FBI after his 1968 testimony helped send a half-dozen high-level Chicago mobsters to the penitentiary and crack a multimillion dollar gambling racket. The case remains unsolved. This happened at 201 East Hermosa in Tempe. (Source: Time Magazine; The New Times Phoenix)

During his brief stint living in time in Tempe, Bombacino was eventually caught peddling irrigation equipment stolen from the company and profiting from a gambling-prostitution ring.

DON BOLLES

Don Bolles was a reporter with the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. He once wrote a series on organized crime called "The Newcomers" that put over 200 Mafia members or associates in the state.

During the 1974 Arizona gubernatorial race, Marley (You read about him in the 1940s with LiCavoli) was the biggest contributor to Gov. Raul Castro's campaign. After the election, the Castro administration appointed Marley to the state racing commission, but he was forced to resign because of adverse publicity from stories written by Don Bolles.

On June 2nd 1976, A newspaper reporter and Arizona Organized Crime Historian, Don Bolles entered his car at 11:34 A.M. when a remote-control dynamite bomb ripped through his white Datsun as he was preparing to leave the parking lot of the then Hotel Clarendon, 401 W. Clarendon Ave./ (now Les Jardins hotel)located at 3738 North Fourth Avenue in Phoenix.

Don Bolles died 11 days later.

No one could figure it out, but most knew that the LCN was somehow involved. Bolles was able to uncover much of Arizona's underworld figures, or businessmen involved with many people involved with the organized crime. Don Bolles paved the way for many law enforcement officers to get involved with organized crime figures in the state of Arizona... Bolles, in his last statement before lapsing into unconsciousness, he mentioned the Mafia, John Adamson and Emprise Corp., a Buffalo, N.Y. company. Emprise was convicted in 1972 of a federal charge of conspiring to hide Mafia interest in a Las Vegas, Nev., casino. Emprise and the Funk family were partners in six dog-racing tracks in the state of Arizona and the Prescott Downs horse track, and Bolles had ripped their operations in print." (Source: Arizona Business Gazette - January 5, 1990)

I asked my mother about the subject of Don Bolles that fact that I had not been born yet. She replied "I remember it well, I was Pregnant with your older sister and it was real depressing to the community. He was a well respected newspaper journalist. I remember the flags being at half mast."

Bill Roemer

FBI agent William F. Roemer, Jr. was assigned to New York godfather, Joe Bonnano, in Tucson, where it is believed he controlled his New York family from his desert home.

Being assigned, to the New York mob, he also had ran in to many Chicago mob hoods in Arizona. While in Tucson, Roemer was acquitted to an informant from Chicago as Nino. ‘Nino was not so big in Chicago, but he was a big time guy in Tucson.’

Roemer also had encounters with Tony Spilotro, LiCavoli and Bonanno in Tucson from time to time. You can read more about his encounters in his book The Enforcer, Spilotro: The Chicago Mob's Man Over Las Vegas. By William F. Roemer, Jr.)

The 1980's

Media known mob associate HENRY HILL went to in to Phoenix to testify before entering the Federal Protection Program. ‘The testimony was in connection with the alleged organized crime links of a major liquor wholesaler that had been about to become the largest wine and liquor distributor in the state of Arizona. On the eve of Henry's taking the stand, however, the company withdrew its application for licensing and agreed to withdraw from doing further business in the state. (Source: WiseGuy; Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi) Henry Hill is best known in "Goodfellas" portrayed by actor Ray Liotta.

EMIL "MAL" VACI was 73 years old, but he would not reach to be 74. He had been implicated with Jay Vandermark, the slot skim expert who cheated the Chicago mob by diverting some of the skim to himself. Vaci fled to Phoenix, where he was the maitre d' of Ernesto's Back Street, a well-known restaurant. After being contacted on the telephone there, he told the employees that he had to leave for a while. He was never seen again alive. On June 7, 1986, Vaci's body was found wrapped in a tarp in a drainage ditch canal near 48th Street and Thomas Road (Phoenix) by a couple hiking in the desert.. He had been shot in the back. (Source: The Enforcer-Roemer, The Arizona Republic)

’Well-dressed people still hoist drinks at Durant's Restaurant, 2611 N. Central Ave. (Phoenix) , whose long-time owner Jack Durant survived to die a natural death at the age of 82 in 1987 even though a Bolles card asserts, "Reliable information says Durant crossed the mob on gambling debt in Las Vegas and they've had a long-standing contract out on him." (Source: Don Bolles Cards / Arizona Republic)

The 1990's !!

Mr. Allen Glick, who was used as a puppet (front man) in connection with LCN tied casinos in Las Vegas, in the early 1970's and 1980's, has financial ties with Jerry Simms, the owner of Turf Paradise, here in Arizona. The controversy over the new owner of Turf Paradise racetrack has erupted into a squabble between state agencies, with a Gaming Department investigator ripping the state Department of Racing for shoddy research into the background of Jeremy E. "Jerry" Simms. Gov. Jane Hull, apparently agreeing with that view, fired Jim Higginbottom, the Racing Department director who endorsed Simms' application to run the track.

Brian Callaghan, a gaming investigator, said in a memo to his boss that racing officials overlooked serious problems in Simms' background before licensing him to operate the state's largest non-Indian wagering business. He also has ongoing financial entanglements with Allen Glick, once a powerful Las Vegas casino owner who fronted for organized crime.

In the affidavit, Simms asserts that Glick was a victim of Mafia extortion in the Las Vegas gambling business and ultimately helped the government convict mobsters of skimming profits. As corroboration, Simms pointed out that a former FBI agent has written a letter vouching for Glick.

The 1994 letter from Clark B. Hall, a retired agent who headed the Las Vegas probe, portrays Glick as an American hero who resisted Mafia thugs, provided the FBI with vital information and gave testimony that was critical in sending 16 criminals to prison. Those characterizations contradict other federal government depictions of Glick as a straw man who bought several casinos with Mafia-greased loans, became the "hub of the conspiracy," and then testified under an immunity agreement. In an interview, Hall said Glick unwittingly "got in bed with the mob? (and) made the decision to stay in bed with them." Although that choice was "not commendable," Hall said, Glick proved to be a devastating witness against the Mafia. "I'm a very loyal guy to those who I believe have exerted themselves on behalf of the government," Hall added. Like Glick, Simms helped the FBI win numerous convictions while testifying under an immunity agreement. Simms, a bank founder and financier, says he was naive and stupid but never knowingly broke the law. He says he went to the FBI when he realized his associates were corrupt. Records show Simms did not go to federal authorities until nearly two years after the bribes and extortion attempts. In written responses to Republic questions, Simms also said his friendship with Glick goes back 25 years and includes a series of loans to Glick's company, ALTA Resources. A movie and book was written by Nicholas Pileggi called "Casino" which has Mr. Allen Glick portrayed in the movie by Phillip Green. (Sources- Arizona Republic and The Gambling Magazine; http://www.gamblingmagazine.com/articles/48/48-465.htm)

About 300 guests turned out Saturday night to celebrate the 90th birthday of Joseph 'Joe Bananas' Bonanno, retired boss of New York's Bonanno crime family. He retired to Tucson in 1968. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Gov. Fife Symington sent their regards by telegram." (Source: The Arizona Republic - January 17, 1995)

Gambino Underboss SALVATORE GRAVANO, better known as SAMMY ‘THE BULL’ GRAVANO entered the witness protection program after testifying against Gamino boss, Jon Gotti and more than 30 other former mob confederates in the early 1990s. Sammy took the name Jimmy Moran and entered the swimming pool business in the booming Scottsdale, Ariz., area. But after writing an autobiography detailing his criminal exploits, he left the witness protection program in 1998, saying it was too confining.

Gravano made a conscious decision to return to a life of crime after his son was busted for trying to send a pound of pot to New York. "Gravano decided that he would supervise his son's drug trafficking so as to make it more profitable and less likely to be detected by law enforcement," said a prosecutor.

September 2, 1999 - Some 20 mobsters, brokers and officials of HealthTech International Inc., an Arizona company that ran fitness centers, were charged in the case. In a 12-month, $3 million scam, the mobsters bought securities at rock bottom prices and sold them at huge profits after brokers helped raise the price of the stock artificially high by over pitching it to unsuspecting investors.

So far, 16 defendants have pleaded guilty, two were convicted at trial and charges against two others are pending, said assistant U.S. attorney Celeste Koeleveld.

The gangsters used their usual hardball hoodlum methods to intimidate co-opted brokers and HealthTech executives and make sure they played ball with the mob. And when things didn't go smoothly, when the brokers and company officials caused problems, or when disagreements erupted between mobsters, things were settled at classic gangland sit-downs, some of them pretty crowded affairs, at various Brooklyn restaurants

An e-mail I received before this was sent to me. I have researched some of the names and things do come up extremely sketchy, so I decided to let you research it yourself. The entire email is composed below:

‘Phoenix and Scottsdale are haven for telemarketing scam run by guys from the Buffalo fraction . Mostly stock scams and hedge funds . Buffalo has a lot of guys running book in the Tempe area and a few thugs shaking down restaurants and loan sharking. A few names that you may want to look into are Danny Ivancolangelo, Murray Blake , Tommy and Joey Pellegrino , Moe and Sam Alimo

An informer gave me this information.

On May 24,2002. The FBI went in and shut down the company (whose official name I don't know) that sells the Longitude penis enlargement pills. Michael Cansoli and Vincent Passafiume, members of the NY Bonnano Mafia family were running the business. Many sport's cars such as Lamborghinis and Ferrari’s were seized as well. This company was based in Scottsdale, AZ.

Got information you would like to share with me? Please send it to: Cruzzer2@yahoo.com

People and Links:

Pete Licaoli

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKlicavoli.htm
An Experience with Pete Licavoli and Joesph Bonnano; by Roy Drachman
http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/drachman/0702.html

Joesph Bonanno

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Bonanno

Willie Bioff in Tucson

http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/drachman/0701.html

Gus Greenbuam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gus_Greenbaum
http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/drachman/0702.html

Don Bolles

http://www.azcentral.com/specials/special01/

Sam ‘The Bull’ Gravano

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammy_Gravano
http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/gangsters_outlaws/mob_bosses/gravano/index_1.html

The Tucson Mob Bombings

Day 1: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/8057
Day 2: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/8183
Day 3: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/8270
Day 4: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/8448

A Not So GoodFella: Barry Goldwater links with Organized Crime

http://www.weeklywire.com/ww/06-22-98/tw_curr4.html

Tucson Mob

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tw/1999-07-22/smith.html

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