Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gangland Los Angeles: Not Like The Movies

If people were only to watch Hollywood movies like LA Confidential, Gangster Squad and Bugsy, they would get the idea that Mickey Cohen was the only real Gangster in Los Angeles.  The writers of these "gangster" movies have no idea how a real Mobster would act or how it works.

One myth I would like to bury is the yelling, threatening crime boss. If you are a boss of a crew  (for example, Mickey Cohen) you are paying guys to be your muscle. Yelling, berating, beating, killing is not done BY the boss.  Also, none of that is done TO the boss.

Why? These men are hardened criminals. Why would they let another man talk down to them?  They lose all credibility on the street if it were to get out.  Cosa Nostra: you have men who want to  be in the organization, men that took an oath.  You never yell or raise your hands.

There were three main groups in LA during the time period of Gangster Squad.  One was the Los Angeles Cosa Nostra Family, headed by Jack Dragna. The Underboss was Momo Adamo and they had 60 plus men.  The FBI likes to estimate that for every Made guy there are 10 associates.  The second was Joe Sica or JS and his brothers.  They ran a vast empire from Mexico to San Francisco from their Valley home base. They  would outlast everyone.  The third was Bookmaker Mickey Cohen. Mickey bought his loyalty and soon many of his men would end up dead at the hands of The Cosa Nostra.

The Most Famous Gangland Murder in Los Angeles

Tony Brancato and Tony Trombino aka the Two Tony's. These two guys were bad.  They were freelance muscle and armed robbers.  They were not killed by Mickey Cohen as portrayed in LA Confidential.  In fact, Mickey was already locked up for tax evasion when they were killed. He had nothing to do with it.

The two Tony's had run into trouble because they dared to rob a bookmaker in Las Vegas. Las Vegas at this time is not the family friendly vacation destination. It was an adult playground founded and owned by the Cosa Nostra. The rules were simple, no crime was to be committed in the town by any criminal.  Even the Cosa Nostra took care of business outside the town. They believed that crime would scare away gamblers and that was bad for business.  The penalty for crime was death and it would be swift.

Setting: Los Angeles, The Five O'Clock Club.   This was Nick Licata's bar in Los Angeles.  Nick Licata was a Capo in the family and he used it as a meeting place for his crew. Jack Dragna pulled Jimmy Frattiano, a newly made soldier in the family, aside, "Jimmy, these two guys. Tony Trombino and Tony Brancato - they are no good. They need to be handled. Take care of it," Jack says.  Jimmy says he'll set something up, "I'll reach out to them today."

Jimmy would then reach out to them through a bookmaker in Los Angeles. They were out on bail for the Las Vegas robbery and they were hiding in Los Angeles.

Jimmy met with them and told them about a high stakes poker game they could rob for fast cash. They needed cash because they were facing time.  Jimmy told them he would drive but could not go in because people would recognize him. They went for it, agreeing to give Jimmy a full cut.

Jimmy set up a meet for later that night.

It would go down like this.  Angelo Polizzi would drive Jimmy and Charley Battaglia to the street where they would meet the two Tony's. He would wait down the street.  Leo Moceri would drive the crash car and be a back up shooter in case anything went wrong.

Jimmy and Charley were waiting on the street just off Hollywood Blvd.  The car pulled up with Tony Trombino driving and Tony Brancato in the passenger seat. Charley went in first and was behind Brancato, Jimmy was behind Trombino.

Time stood still for Jimmy as he opened the rear door for Charley. When he got in and closed the door his heart was pounding, a cold sweat ran from his armpits.  Jimmy took a deep breath, relaxed, pulled out his snub nose 38. cal pistol and placed it to the back of Trombino's head. Boom, Boom. Trombino jerked forward and back from the impact of the slugs. Blood and smoke filled the car. Charley was frozen, so Jimmy turned his pistol on Brancato and fired four times.  Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.  Charley woke up and fired his pistol one time.  Boom! He opened his door and ran out. Jimmy, now bloody with his ears ringing, opened the door and walked to Angelo in the getaway car.

This was how the Cosa Nostra handled problems.  It shows how the families worked together. Las Vegas was still an open city to other Cosa Nostra families but New York and Chicago ran it with an iron fist.    Jack Dragna gave the contract to Jimmy Frattiano, the new guy from Cleveland. This would make Jimmy's reputation in the Cosa Nostra,  Jimmy murdered two tough men in a few seconds and later would be picked up by the LAPD. He would walk on the charges but everyone knew he had done the work. This is one of the things most people do not understand about the Cosa Nostra or Mafia.  You do not get paid to kill, you do not ask why, you just do it.  Every guy connected is there to protect the Organization, to protect its rackets and members and preserve the power.  It is part of the life.


  1. is charlie batts still alive?

  2. Yes he is dead. He went with Bonnano anyway.