I get asked about the Los Angeles family all the time. Every time I’m asked, I think about how the past will soon be lost forever. The men who took part in the family during its heyday are dying off.
Peter J Milano, the longtime boss who ran the family for 28 years, died in 2012 a free man.
He was an important link to the past for the family. He not only had an uncle who was boss of the Cleveland family, but his father was also under boss for many years. Anthony Milano, his father moved the family to Beverly Hills, California in the late 1930’s. Pete became his own man in Los Angeles. He worked with Mickey Cohen who had spent some time in Cleveland.
Pete was soon working with the Los Angeles family. Hollywood and writers who have no idea what they are talking about like to portray Mickey Cohen as a boss. The guy was a bookie that did a lot of business. You can read Jimmy Fratianno’s book “The Last Mafioso” which is very detailed and accurate because the author used FBI 302’s to set dates and places.
Jimmy Fratianno was only the second made guy to flip, so it is a great look inside the former world.
You can learn a lot about Jack Dragna the boss and his attempts to kill Mickey Cohen. To set the record straight, the LA Family murdered Cohen's men and friends and not one thing happened to any LA family member.
Bugsy Siegel has become another larger than life figure. He was no boss, he was sent out to the west coast to watch over the Trans American racing service. Bugsy was a kind of franchisee who controlled it in California and Nevada. He would later be gunned down in the Beverly Hills home of his girlfriend Virginia Hill.
The fact that Mickey Cohen went to the Roosevelt hotel with pistols looking for Bugsy can tell you a lot. Mickey was not on the inside, he was not in the know. In recent years there has been a few books written by some who claim someone in their family killed Bugsy. It's a fantasy, because once he was dead guys moved right into the Flamingo before it was even on the news. The mafia would have been looking for his killer considering how much Meyer Lansky had at the time.
Jack Dragna was the boss of Los Angeles and he was not crawling for anyone.
The decline of the family began shortly after the death of Jack Dragna when Frank DeSimone became the boss. Johnny Roselli, who had begun as an Chicago Outfit guy, was seen as the logical boss, but he was incarcerated at the time. DeSimone held a vote within the family and he was voted in as boss. The fact that he never got a vote from some of the capos who were locked up didn't matter. DeSimone would be caught at the Apalachin mafia conference in upstate New York along with his underboss. This brought a lot of heat to DeSimone’s life. He was a lawyer who was not known to be a criminal until the arrest.
Desimone’s father, Rosario, had been the boss of Los Angeles and his nephew Tommy DeSimone would become famous as “Tommy Two Guns” in Goodfellas.
Nick Licata would be the next boss. He was very well connected in Detroit and with the other Midwest families.
Louie Gelfuso used to work as a bartender at Licata’s bar and he used to talk about Licata in glowing terms.
Licata owned apartment buildings and bars across Los Angeles. Licata also was a huge bookmaker and loan shark who did business in the black neighborhoods.
Louie Gelfuso was also friendly with another man and his brothers who were a power in Los Angeles. That man was Joe Sica and he ran his criminal empire from the San Fernando Valley.
He controlled the rackets from the Mexican border to Northern California. He would mentor many young up and coming mafioso including “the Cheeseman” Carmen DiNunzio, acting boss of the New England family.
The stories about Joe Sica and his brothers are priceless. There are very few today that even know who he was in the Los Angeles underworld.
We are now back to Dominic Brooklier who I wrote about last week. The death of Anthony Brooklier means we will never get the story.
I wish I knew Pete Milano well enough to hear stories about the old days.
Carmen Milano was a throwback to the past. He was a lawyer who became a gangster who was better suited for working with the big families on intricate money making schemes. I used to see him at the deli in Las Vegas when I was with Steve Cino or Jimmy Caci. He loved to talk about the old days in Cleveland. The sad thing is that when he died, someone from Las Vegas called me and told me that he died. I called a Las Vegas reporter and he did not know anything about it. I called the morgue and they asked if I knew next of kin, I gave them Pete’s name and number.
Jimmy Caci was another story. I was close to Jimmy and he knew so many guys all over it was great. One day he would tell a story of working with a guy from the Purple Gang to blow a safe, the next day a story of driving dynamite to Rochester New York during a vending machine war.
Jimmy was close with mobsters all over the country.
The family is gone except for a few who moved away. It is in the hands of Sicilians and the history here is lost.
For a deeper look at Los Angeles mafia history, I suggest reading Anthony Fiato’s book “The Animal in Hollywood” in order to understand the Los Angeles family after Jimmy Fratianno.
My book Breakshot will fill in a few gaps up into the 2000s.