Monday, March 18, 2013

Gangland Los Angeles the 1960's and more

Gambling and Other Rackets in Los Angeles 1960’s

I was driving in Los Angeles the other day and I ended up on Santa Monica Boulevard right in front of the Formosa Cafe. The Cafe was the headquarters of Joe Sica and his brothers (Freddy, Angelo, Frank).

Mickey Cohen was no longer a force in LA Organized Crime, but the Sica brothers were still going strong.

The Cosa Nostra Families from the East had all moved into Las Vegas for the big casino skimming money.  

Nevada had just introduced its new Black Book featuring those not allowed in a casino.  Joe Sica along with Louis Tom Dragna were some of the original inductees.

In the Early 1960's, Frankie Carbo, Blinky Palermo, Joe Sica, and Louis Tom Dragna were sentenced to jail terms for extortion.  They had muscled in on the National Boxing Association’s Welterweight Champion Don Jordan's contract. They had gone to his manager and threatened them both so that they could take over his contract.  They were caught, and as a result Carbo received 25 years, Sica 20 years, Palermo 15 years, and Dragna 5 years. The sentences were imposed by Judge George Boldt, who also fined the four men $10,000 each.

They would all later appeal and their sentences would be reduced or dropped.

Louis Tom Dragna, who was a Capo in the LA Family, went into the garment trade industry.  By the end of the 1960's he was worth millions.

Joe Sica and his brothers would continue their gambling business and narcotics sales in LA and Northern California. Joe became a gambling kingpin who would meet his men from Northern California at the Pine Lake Lodge in Fresno.

Freddy Sica would run the brothers gambling enterprises from the Savoy Shirt Company on Melrose Avenue.  They also had a gas station in downtown where they took action.  They paid young party girls to use phone lines installed in their apartments so their guys could take action on them.

Joe, Freddy, Angelo and Frank Sica also had a new racket that was pretty lucrative.  They took over a company called ActiveAire in Los Angeles that provided air hand dryers for bathrooms in restaurants and other places. They would go around and lease these to businesses for their locations at a premium. This would become a large source of revenue for the Sica Brothers.

Gambling was and still is today the life blood of the Cosa Nostra.

During the 1960's in Los Angeles the big bookmakers took huge action on horse racing from all over.  There were other sports bets but racing was the big money.  

In Los Angeles there were many Sub-Bookies.  These included barber shops, shoe shiners, local bars, gas stations, many convenient places where people could place their bets.  These Subs would get a percentage.  This was before cell phones and the Internet that streamlined the process with 800 numbers and offshore locations.

It was a lot harder to set up a phone room in those early days.  The phones were all hardwired into places and if you needed a lot of lines, there was only one phone company.  

Phone rooms were manned by guys who took the action and gave the slips to a Pit Boss.
A Bookmaker is much like an insurance actuary worker.  A good bookie does not make his money from the actual bets but rather the vig or vigorish that he charges.  The Vig is 10% added onto the bet (a transaction fee).  So as long as they balance the books, the bookmaker is making cash.

If you have too many bets on one team then you have to lay some off to a bigger bookie or a bank.  

Gambling is accepted in America today - just look in a newspaper, they list the lines for games.

Monday night football!  

A good bookie always pays off the winners no questions asked. He also regulates what a player can play.  You cannot give a waiter a ten thousand dollar credit line, he has no way to pay it. You have to have them post (deposit) cash with you for larger bets. Its important for local bookies to know their customers.

Back to the 60’s.  Frank DeSimone died and his Under Boss Nick Licata took over.  Nicks first act was to make Joseph Dipolitto his underboss.  Nick had power with the Detroit LCN Family because his son Carlo married Grace Tocco in 1953.  Grace was the daughter of Detroit caporegieme William "Black Bill" Tocco. Carlo was a made guy in the LA Family and had taken part in the killing of Mickey Cohen’s lawyer.  Nick had a place on La Brea where he took action and he also had his 5 O'clock club in Burbank.  Nick owned a couple of apartment buildings around LA.  

A side note: Louie Gelfuso who one day I would know as a Capo in the LA Family, worked for Nick as a bartender during this time.

This is also the time when other important people came into LA.

Anthony Milano, alias Tony Milano, purchased a Hollywood, Calif., home for $56,000 . He has been connected with Jack I. Dragna. It is claimed that Anthony Milano and Frank Milano are members of the Mayfield Road gang in Cleveland.   Tony's two sons would join the LA Family.  Pete would be a long time member of the LA Family and he would be the boss.  Carmen would go to Law School and practice in Cleveland until his brother became boss and he would be our underboss until his death.

Then you had the Scorentino's who had trucking firms. All these guys would be among the smartest guys in the LA Family.  They would do what they did and their offspring would never have to be in the life.

Nick Licata had some trouble 1969 when a criminal named Julius Petro was killed at LAX. It was not an LA Family killing but it had a lot of connections with the family.  

Jimmy Frattiano, who was made in LA but had transferred to the Chicago Outfit, had been around Julius Petro and the guys who killed him.  

Getting rid of Julius and the mess it causes the LA family

Skinny Velotta, Bob Walch and Ray Ferrito were around Jimmy at the time.  Ray Ferrito hated Julius but when Julius started to shake down bookmaker Sparky Monica, Sparky ran to Ray for help and promises Ray half of his gambling operation. This was funny because Sparky was at that exact moment with a Gambino named Tony Plate who should have been the one he ran to for help.  

So, Ray gets some dynamite and has Skinny drive him over to Julius’s car.  On the way over, a blasting cap explodes and hurts Ray.  So Ray goes to plan B.  He books a flight out of LAX and has Julius and another guy drop him off. Julius is seated in the passenger seat when they pull into a lot to park.  A plane is taking off just as Ray starts to open the door.  Instead Ray places a pistol to the back of Julius head and fires a single shot.  There is no need to fire another so they both leave.

Ray gets out of the car and catches his flight, his buddy ditches the pistol and goes home.

Nick and the LA Family just can't get a break. Nick is called before a Grand Jury in Los Angeles and they give him immunity. They want to know about the Julius Petro murder and the LA Family. Nick takes his Cosa Nostra Oath seriously so he sticks to Omerta and gets locked up. Jimmy Frattiano and Ray Feritto are never questioned about the murder.  It will remain unsolved until Ray blows up Cleveland Mobster Danny Greene and is busted.

Meanwhile, his underboss Joe Dippolito is indicted on January 31, 1969 on three counts of perjury for lying during a liquor license inquiry on May 16, 1968. He was released on $10,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned. On May 17, 1969, he was convicted on two of the three perjury charges. Then, to make matters worse, on June 10, 1969, he was sentenced to five years for each count. That will mean he has to do ten years unless he wins on appeal.


  1. Ken:
    if u had to grade pete milano on a scale of 1 to 10 on his effectiveness as boss what would u give him? do u think he was cut out to be a boss ? how was your relationship with him? did u get along with him? did u like him as a boss?

  2. sam s,the la underboss,had good connections up north,i believe he had a uncle or close reletive who was the under boss of the lanza crime family in sf,i wish there was more info on the guy,jimmy really hates on the guy in his book,but that could be sour grapes too.he must have been doing something right to work himself up to underboss.

  3. What else do you know about Louie Dragna or their family?

  4. Joe Sica is my, or was my Pampa...He is my Aunts Father. I loved that man to death. Very sweet man behind close doors