Next week we will take a look back in time to the 1980's era in the Los Angeles Mafia. So, this week we’ll prepare for that by learning about Jimmy Frattiano. Frattiano, born in Naples Italy on November 13, 1913 under the name Aladena Frattiano, would later be known as Jimmy. The police and the newspapers would call him The Weasel. This is because he often stole fruit from peddlers in Cleveland's Little Italy (then known as Murray Hill or the Hill). One day a bystander saw Jimmy grab fruit and run, and shouted “Look at that Weasel go!” It stuck, and he would be forever known Jimmy The Weasel. When he boxed he was known as Kid Weasel. Although, I am sure he was never called that to his face.
Jimmy knew a lot of guys in the Mayfield Road Mob (Cleveland’s Little Italy gang) and he was soon working with them as an armed robber and gambler. While Jimmy was in Cleveland he helped the Family there that was at war with Irish Hoodlum Danny Greene. Danny had already killed some Cleveland guys including Jimmys friend Leo Moceri. Jimmy had the family call in his pal Ray Frerrito who would set up a car with a bomb in it and park it next to Danny Greenes car. Ray blew Danny up killing him instantly, Ray would be caught and he would spill the beans on Jimmy. You can learn more about Danny Greene in the book To kill an Irish Man (or the movie of the same name). He was sent to prison for a robbery gone bad, and when he was released he decided to head to California. Through his family connections he was given the names of other connected people to contact on the west coast. One of these men was Johnny Roselli, a high ranking member of the Chicago Outfit. He was in LA to oversee the racing wire and the Unions that dealt with the Movie industry. Roselli was no ordinary hood, he counted many studio bosses as friends. Johnny Roselli's name can still be seen on screen in the credits of some old movies as a producer.
Frattiano set up shop in a hotel as a bookie. Soon he was meeting member's of the Dragna Family around town. Frattiano was sponsored by Johnny Roselli and Jack Dragna for induction into the LA Family. Jimmy was able to make money, he could hustle. Many people think that the Mafia looks for guys who can break legs and do heavy work. That is a plus but not really what the family needs. They want guys who can earn and can think on their feet,guys who will not cause petty beefs. Jimmy Frattiano had all these traits, he was tough and he could kill. Killing in the Mafia is not the same as killing because you are mad or afraid. You do not get paid for killing in the mob. I always laugh when I hear that the Mafia has a 500,000 contract on somebodies head. Its a joke! Lets say you kill whoever, then what? Where do you collect the cash? Why would they pay when they have plenty of young wannabee's who would do it for nothing to earn respect or a position. You kill a stranger or a friend for no other reason than you do it because you were told to do so by the boss. Frattiano was able to kill with ease. Jimmy would admit to five murders and the Government claimed he was responsible for others because they consider you guilty if you know about it or conspire with others.
Jimmy was made in a ceremony that took place in a Los Angeles Winery along with several others. Forget what you see in the Gangster Squad or any other movie written by people who only read about the life depicting the LA Family as weak and lacking power or money. The LA Family was strong at this time and rich! They had wineries, fruit and vegetable wholesaler businesses, garment trades, trucking businesses and Unions in the movie industry. A lot of Italians lived where Chinatown is now located, Lincoln Heights was an Italian neighborhood at that time.
Jimmy went to work in Los Angeles as a bookie and Shylock. Add to that murder and you have a man headed to the top. Jack Dragna made him a Caporegime after he killed the Two Tony's in a car on a Hollywood street. Jimmy had the same flaw that a lot of the guys who could do Heavy work had. He was smart and tough but he just couldn't earn enough. I think this is because guys like Frattiano and many others like him are Gangsters, the guys who make the money and stay free are Racketeers. The smart ones work their way up, get into a legit business, then pay taxes and die wealthy.
Jimmy would go away again for almost 7 years for a phone call where he made a threat. When he returned he transferred to the Chicago Outfit but still lived in California. He was a made guy in the Chicago Outfit and reported to them. He would operate a successful trucking business before going away again. The Law would never give him a break and they found something he did wrong with the trucking firm. He would then be asked to lead the LA Family as acting boss when the whole administration was sent away. Dominic Brooklier asked him personally to take over. It was a setup! They needed Jimmy because they wanted to Kill Frank Bompensiero in San Diego and Jimmy was very close to him. They also had nobody capable of killing him. Jimmy would be a solution to both problems, leadership and killing. Jimmy put off the Bompensiero contract and instead made his own moves. Jimmy had left the family because he felt that it was full of losers and deadbeats now he would try to fix that problem. So once more Jimmy was back in the LA Family.
Once Brooklier was released from Prison he took over and busted Jimmy down to Soldier in the LA Family. They decided Jimmy had to go and they started bad mouthing him to other families around the country. The guys in Cleveland let him in on the fact that he was a dead man.
In 1977 The FBI arrested Jimmy in a small apartment in San Francisco. He was at the end of the line. The outfit had put one of its best killers, Joey Hanson, on him so his days were numbered. He became the second made guy to flip and the highest ranking. Frattiano opened the floodgates to all those (including me) who later flipped. He would be put into WITSEC and he would fight the Mafia from saftey.