John Vitale (mobster)

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John Joseph Vitale
Born (1909-05-17)May 17, 1909
St. Louis, Missouri
Died June 5, 1982(1982-06-05) (aged 73)
St. Louis, Missouri
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri
Residence St. Louis, Missouri
Nationality American
Occupation Organized crime
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Fara Marie Sharamitaro, Mildred Joyce Vitale (NEE: Allen)
Children Joseph John Vitale
Mary Ann Vitale
John L. Vitale
Rosetta Vitale
Mary Michelle Vitale
Parents Joseph Vitale, Sr.
Mary Theresa Bovacanti

John Joseph Vitale (May 17, 1909 – June 5, 1982) was a Sicilian-American boss and underboss[1] of the St. Louis crime family. During his lifetime, Vitale allegedly was the boss of the St. Louis crime family on two separate occasions.[2]

Early life[edit]

John J. Vitale was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1909,[3] the eldest of eight children of Joseph Vitale, Sr. and Mary Theresa Bovacanti.[4] Both of Vitale's parent's were born in Sicily. His father was born in Trapani[4] and his mother was born in Termini Imerese.[5] They immigrated to the United States a few years before John was born.[6] During the Great Depression he worked as an usher at the Ambassador Theater where he met movie actressGinger Rogers and the two became lifelong friends.[3] He married circa 1929, Fara Marie Sharamitaro,[7] probably the daughter of Giuseppe Sharamitaro (also spelled Ciaramitaro) and Rosaria Bommarito.[8][9][10] Together, they had four children.[11]

Vitale's arrest record began circa 1920, though he was rarely convicted.[2] For example, in 1934, Vitale was a suspect in the death of Mike Palazzolo.[12] According to St. Louis investigative reporter John Auble, Palazzolo allegedly had an on-going quarrel with a man named Walter Mushenick. In May 1934, Mushenick assaulted Palazzolo's girlfriend Delphine, slapping her in the face. After Delphine informed Palazzolo of the assault, Palazzolo stated that, "...he was going to get even with Mushenick..."[13] Witnesses stated that when Palazzolo left his parent's house to visit a friend, Vitale arrived and waited for him to return. After returning home, Palazzolo left with Vitale in Vitale's car. That was the last time Palazzolo was seen alive. The coroner determined that Palozzolo was shot twice with a .38 caliber, a single shot through the head and neck, and another in the chest.[12] Though a warrant was issued for his arrest, Vitale was exonerated of the murder.[14]

St. Louis crime family[edit]

Little is known of Vitale's early years in the syndicate, as Vitale was known for keeping a low profile. Vitale's last run in with the law was in 1981 when he was arrested for having US$30,000 in his pocket.[15]

Sonny Liston affair[edit]

The St. Louis crime family held financial interests in the career of Sonny Liston, a professional boxer. According to both FBI and newspaper reports, Vitale, in addition to other underworld crime figures, "...reportedly controlled Liston's contract...",[16] with Vitale owning approximately twelve percent of the boxer's contract.[17] However, when a congressional committee inquired into the matter, Vitale refused to answer any questions.[18]

Other activities[edit]

Vitale was sent to federal prison once on a narcotics charge during the 1950s.[2] In 1958, Vitale was charged with the federal crime of transporting firearms across state lines, which he appealed.[19] In February 1959, he was called to testify regarding mafia-controlled coin machine rackets, but invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution against self-incrimination.[20] In 1977, Vitale was charged with assault and sentenced to the St. Louis City workhouse.[2]

Final days[edit]

Two sources claim that Vitale later became an FBI informant following the death of boss Anthony "Tony G." Giordano.[21][22] However, no evidence has been provided to substantiate this claim. Further, Vitale remained the boss after Giordano's death, dying of natural causes in St. Louis as an elderly man. Vitale died on June 5, 1982[22] and was buried on June 9, 1982 in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.[23] He was preceded in death by his wife Fara, who was buried on July 20, 1973 in Calvary Cemetery.[24]


  1. ^ Walsh, Denny (May 29, 1970). "Investigative Report: A Two-Faced Crime Fight in St. Louis". Life Magazine Pp. 30.
  2. ^ a b c d Associated Press. "John Vitale, Organized Crime Leader in St. Louis, Dies at 73." Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1982, pp. D13
  3. ^ a b Auble, John (2002). A History of St. Louis Gangsters. St. Louis, Missouri: The National Criminal Research Society. Pp. 26.
  4. ^ a b Randazzo, Andy T. "Joseph Vitale Genealogy". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  5. ^ Randazzo, Andy T."Maria Theresa Bovacanti Genealogy". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  6. ^ John Vitale household, 1910 U.S. Census, St. Louis City, Mo., pop sch, Ward 4, ED 68, SD 68, sh. 6B, dw. 111, fl. 117; NA microfilm T624, roll 813.
  7. ^ Randazzo, Andy T."Fara Marie Sharamitaro Genealogy". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  8. ^ Guiseppe Ciramitaro, death certificate no. 24411 (1951). Missouri Department of Health, Jefferson City, Missouri.
  9. ^ Rosaria Ciaramitaro, death certificate no. 14556 (1957). Missouri Department of Health, Jefferson City, Missouri
  10. ^ Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis "Guiseppe and Rosaria Ciaramitaro Burial Records". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  11. ^ St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Joseph John Vitale Obituary". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Mike Palozzolo, death certificate no. 17922 (1934). Missouri Department of Health, Jefferson City, Missouri.
  13. ^ Auble, John (2002). A History of St. Louis Gangsters. St. Louis, Missouri: The National Criminal Research Society. Pp. 29.
  14. ^ Auble, John (2002). A History of St. Louis Gangsters. St. Louis, Missouri: The National Criminal Research Society. Pp. 30.
  15. ^ Auble, John (2002). A History of St. Louis Gangsters. St. Louis, Missouri: The National Criminal Research Society. Pp. 27.
  16. ^ Associated Press. "Probers Search for Underworld Ties with Boxers, undated newspaper clipping. FBI file" Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  17. ^ Picou, Tommy. "The Sonny Liston Story: He Always Had Cop Trouble." Chicago Daily Defender, September 11, 1962, pp. 22
  18. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Charles "Sonny" Liston Memorandum, May 1, 1962.". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  19. ^ Editorial. "Names 4 in Ransom Theft." Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1958, pp. 1; 9.
  20. ^ Moore, William. "Quiz Juke Box Figure about Mafia Links: Illinois Rackets Boss Invokes 5th." Chicago Daily Tribune, February 12, 1959, pp. A4.
  21. ^ Stelzer, C.D. (2009). "The Death of Jesse Stoneking" Survive the Jive blog.
  22. ^ a b Machi, Mario, Allan May, and Charlie Molino. (1999)."St. Louis Family". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis "John J. Vitale Burial Record". Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  24. ^ Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis "Fara Marie Vitale Burial Record". Retrieved July 18, 2011.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
St. Louis crime family

Succeeded by
Joseph Cammarata
Preceded by
Anthony "Tony G." Giordano
as boss
St. Louis crime family
Acting boss

Succeeded by
Matthew M. "Mike" Trupiano, Jr.