Denver crime family
|Founding location||Denver, Colorado|
|Ethnicity||Italian, Italian-American, Sicilian and Sicilian-American made men and other ethnicities as "associates"|
|Criminal activities||Racketeering, loansharking, extortion, prostitution, drugs, bookmaking and gambling|
The Denver crime family, also called the Smaldone crime family, was a small organized mob family based in Denver, Colorado.
The Denver family was founded by Giuseppe Roma in the 1920s. On the 7th of July 1927, Giuseppe was shot and killed outside his home by the Carlino Brothers Pete and Sam from Colorado, Pete was nicknamed "the Al Capone of southern Colorado." Giuseppe's younger brother Joe Roma took full charge of the Denver Crime Family.
Sparking the first Gang War
By the early 1930s, the brothers felt they were strong enough to expand their bootlegging empire and take control of the Denver area. Joe Roma, the boss of the city, agreed to a sit down with the brothers in an effort to head off a gang war. On January 24, 1931, Roma sponsored a meeting of 30 of Colorado's top bootleggers. The police department was informed of the meeting, which was being held in the city's Italian district, and sent a raiding party. Unfortunately the meeting was interrupted before a compromise was agreed upon, and the police, unwittingly, ignited a gang war.
The Denver Shootings
On February 18, 1931, Joe Roma sent Denver assassins to kill Pete Carlino. The assassins got a heads up by the neighborhood saying Pete was meeting his cousin around the street. The gunmen came out of a huge crowd in the street and started firing bullets at Pete, who was shot two times in the head yet survived. On June 23, 1931, Pete Carlino was arrested on a charge of conspiracy to commit arson.
Pete left Denver and moved in with a cousin in Chicago. On September 9, 1932, Pete returned to Denver and met another cousin in Canon City. Joe shot Pete for approximately two minutes to ensure his death. Joe spared his cousin and told him to never return to the city again.
The three brothers, Eugene "Checkers," Clyde "Flip Flop," and Clarence "Chauncey" owned and operated Gaetano's Italian restaurant, a popular spot in north Denver, for years. The rise of the family began in 1933 after crimeboss bootlegger Joe Roma was found riddled by 7 bullets in the front parlor of his North Denver home. Six of the shots were to Roma's head. His wife, Nettie, found him slumped in his favorite overstuffed chair. The Smaldones were questioned but not charged.
Clyde was born in 1906; his lengthy criminal record began with a burglary charge in 1920. He served 18 months in Leavenworth for bootlegging in 1933. Three years later he served time for the attempted bombing murder of a local man named Leon Barnes. Paroled in 1949, he confessed to paying protection money for his Central City gambling enterprises. In 1953 Clyde and Eugene made headlines after a publicized raid of one of their gambling dens in Brighton, Colorado. Later that year both brothers were found guilty of jury tampering, fined $24,000 each, and sentenced to 60 years in prison. After spending 13 months in jail the brothers received a new trial. Clyde pled guilty to a lesser tampering charge and was sentenced to 12 years and fined $10,000. He was paroled in 1962. In 1967, Clyde and several others, including Eugene's son were arrested on gambling charges and for running a $100,000 a week bookmaking operation. Clyde died at the Cedars Nursing Home at the age of 91, in January 1998. His son told reporters that despite his father's criminal past, he had a soft side and donated to local orphanages, churches and schools.
Eugene was recognized as Northern Colorado's leading crime figure and described as the patriarch of the Denver Crime Family. Although suspected of taking part in, or being behind, several killings, Eugene was never indicted for murder. Eugene's arrest record showed entries for auto theft, bootlegging and income tax evasion. A local law official described Eugene as "the schoolteacher type. He wore glasses. Very polite. Very civil." His final prison sentence was in 1983. The charges were for operating a loan shark business out of Gaetano's. Eugene along with Clarence, and a nephew, Paul Clyde "Fat Paulie" Villano, pled guilty to the charges which also included illegal gun possession. Eugene Smaldone died in March 1992 of a heart attack at the age of 81. After Eugene's funeral, a relative wrote to the Denver newspapers complaining of the pain the media had caused the family and pleaded to be left alone.
Clarence was born on 1916, Clarence died on 2006, and was considered the underboss of a two-member mob family. In 1991, Clarence was released from a Fort Worth prison hospital after serving eight years for the 1983 loan sharking conviction. The FBI had no one listed as boss at this time.
In November 2006, Denver Boss Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone died. Eugene Smaldone's grandson, also named Eugene Smaldone, is the last surviving member of the Smaldone crime family.
- 1923–1933— Joe "Little Caesar" Roma
- 1933–1950- Unknown
- 1950–1969- Vincenzo Colletti
- 1969–1975- Joseph "Scotty" Spinuzzi
- 1975–1992- Eugene "Checkers" Smaldone
- 1992–2006- Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone
- Smalldone, The Untold Story of an American Crime Family, by Dick Kreck
- Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family, by Dick Kreck (Fulcrum, 2009).