Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ken Eto

his week’s story begins when Executive Order 9066 was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.  This order gave US Military Commanders the right to order people of Japanese descent out of the so called exclusion zones. The zones included the whole West Coast from Mexico to Canada.  The US Justice Department opened 27 Concentration camps.  Japanese were not the only ones held in these camps there were Chinese, Eskimo's and other Asians also held against their will.  The US also had other countries deport its Japanese residents to these camps from places like Mexico and Peru.

My Father and my family were some of these held in the camps.  My Father was held in the Minidoka War Concentration Center in Idaho along with another Japanese American named Ken Eto.   What does this have to do with the Mafia?  Stay with me and you will find out. Ken Eto was born in Livingston, California on October 19th 1919 and his father had become a minister because he had witnessed the toll that Gambling had taken on the Japanese Railroad workers.  

I’ve read in the past where people have cited a couple of early arrest as proof that Ken was a criminal. The arrests were for being Japanese or breaking Curfew for a Japanese in Tacoma, Washington. He was soon sent to Minidoka until the US decided that the Japanese Americans were not a threat.

Ken Eto was very intelligent and high school bored him, so he dropped out.  He would never attend another day in school and the ministry was not for him.  It was not until the US decided to make criminals out of all the Japanese Americans that Ken learned how to Gamble.  It has been said that he learned how to play craps on a train to the camp and once there he became a skilled poker player.  After he was released from the Camp he drifted to Montana where he was involved in games of chance and he was referred to as Montana Joe.  He soon made his way to Chicago where a lot of relocated Japanese including my father made their new home.  Once in Chicago his gambling skill attracted the attention of the only people who matter in Chicago gambling and that is the Outfit. Chicago has always been on the cutting edge of racial equality, meaning they worked with a number of ethnic groups and leaders.  Murray Humphreys, known as Einstein was Welsh but he was the Outfits Corruption specialist.  Gus Alex, a Greek, help run the Outfit when Joey Doves was away.  Jake Guzik a Jew was the man who could move money. The outfit list of non Italians is huge and that is why they controlled the rackets in Chicago for so long.  Ross Prio the Outfits North Side Boss took an interest in Ken Eto. Ken Eto began to run some small card games and he was bringing in cash.  It would not be until the mid fifties that he would hit his stride.  He began to work with the Outfit to take over the Bolita from Puerto Rican operators.  Bolita is a Spanish game that refers to 100 little balls with numbers placed in a bag and then picking 3 balls at random.  The three numbers are the winning numbers.  In later years the winning number was the handle or amount of money taken in by horse parlors. Bolita is a poor mans lottery, so It is like Numbers in New York or Bolito in Tampa that the Cubans played.  It was a huge money maker for the Mafia that DutchShultz first realised in New York when he took it over from Black Policy Banks.  In 1958 Ken set up a Puerto Rican operator who refused an offer by Fifi Buccieri to join his Outfit run game.  The operator was soon chopped up the Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra and his brother Jimmy "the Lapper"

Ken then began to work with Black Policy Bosses so he could consolidate their numbers games for the Outfit.  He was bringing in so much cash that he was paying the police over 3,000 a week in payoffs to protect his game.  

He also started working with Black Street gang leaders to expand his business, this would prove very lucrative.  During the 1960's he set up three more rivals to the Outfits Bolita games for execution.  That was it and the Outfit would enjoy years of monopoly in the gambling game. Ken was able to bring in between 150 and 200k a week from his numbers game.  He also ran a number of floating games but he did not stop there.  He muscled his way into the food purveying business by taking over a company named Caliendo which had a meat plant. He used threats and intimidation to run the business and when that would not work he used cash to payoff people.  He would be on site in the plant with a white butchers smock but he was no butcher he was the boss or just Joe as he was called by the workers.  The FBI began to target the business because it was illegal for anyone with a felony conviction to run a Federally licensed meat plant. Caliendo also lost money on the books but purchased beef from all over far exceeding its sales.

Ken moved the business and changed its name to Taco Si to keep it going after the FBI investigated.  

Ken had his hands in many criminal enterprises by the 1980's and the FBI had its eyes on him.  He was soon busted on a gambling charge but he kept his mouth shut and reported to his new Boss Vince Solano who took over after Ross Prio passed away.  Ross believed in Ken but Vince did not have much faith in Ken and he knew Ken was there when he strangled a Bolita rival to death in the 50.s.  Vince sought and was given permission to kill Ken after he pled guilty to gambling charges. Vince set up a meeting with Ken at their usual meeting place IHOP.  When Ken parked Vince was already in the parking lot and he asked to take a walk talk.  Vince asked about his plea and then told Ken to appeal it.  He then told Ken that Rush Street crew member Johnny Gattuso wanted to buy a Pizzeria and that he knew Ken's wife had a shuttered cocktail lounge for sale. He told him to charge between 50 and 60 thousand for the lounge and that Jay Campise would be Johnny's partner.  Vince then said something that put Ken on edge he told him not to worry about getting the cash because he would handle it.  Vince had burned him on a nightclub deal in the past by having him sign over a lease and then never paying him.

On February 10 1983 Ken was instructed to meet two members his crew to be taken to a meeting with Vince Solano.  This came after 30 plus years of loyal service to the Outfit and after he had brought in millions from street gambling.    They called him and asked him to meet them at his closed lounge at 8pm, when he arrived he was with a friend so they told him he was late and they would arrange another meeting.  Ken was told to meet Jay Campise and Johnny Gattuso to be taken to dinner with Vince Solano.  Ken smelled a rat right away because in the 30 years of knowing Vince he had never been asked to dinner.  He showered and put on his best suit, he told his wife where his life insurance was located and then he told her this maybe the last dinner I have.  Ken had to go because to not go when sent for was automatic death.  He arrived at the American Legion hall parking lot and he spotted Jay and Johnny waiting for him.  They walked over and got into his car and instructed him to drive to a nearby Italian restaurant near the train tracks.  When they arrived at the place they told him to park near the side of the building and right after he parked, he heard a loud bang followed by a massive blow to the back of his head.  He would hear a couple more and then lose consciousness when he awoke he was a bloody mess when he stumbled into a nearby pharmacy and asked for help.

The two men had made a huge mistake by using sub loads in the plus a silencer,  A sub load is a shell with some of the powder taken out so it is not as load.  The problem is that combined with a silencer which slows the bullet down as gasses escape so the sound is much lower the bullets did have enough velocity to pierce the skull.

Ken would now become a government witness against the Outfit and the two hitters would pay with their lives. They became trunk music and Ken Eto would live a long life with a new name in Georgia.

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