Rosario Borgio

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Rosario Giuseppe Borgio (January 18, 1861 – May 22, 1919) was an early Italian-American mobster establishing one of the first organized crime operations in the Midwest during the early 20th century.

Black Hand[edit]

Arriving in Akron, Ohio during the early 1900s, Rosario operated a successful general goods store (a front he used as a legitimate business as he soon began criminal operations in two backrooms of his store). Living above his store, Rosario claimed his home was "police proof", as the property was guarded by an extensive security system including alarms on both the front and back stairs, pits built into the stairs which held foot-long steel spikes, a solid steel door, and a large arsenal of weapons including shotguns, rifles, pistols, and submachine guns.

By the early 1910s, Borgio controlled the Black Hand operations (aimed primarily at the cities growing Italian community) as well as dominating illegal gambling and prostitution. Borgio had extensive political protection, with much of the city's politicians on the payroll; however, Akron's police force remained considerably free of bribery. In early 1918, Akron police began raiding Borgio's gambling dens and brothels, arresting both operations and clientele alike. Borgio responded by holding a meeting in the fall of 1918. With all local Black Hand groups, Borgio decided to declare war on the Akron Police Force, offering a bounty of $250 on all police officers of the city.

The first victim was Patrolman Robert Norris who, while patrolling his beat, was ambushed and killed on December 26, 1918. He was found, shot several times in the back, by a local resident who stumbled over his body several hours later. Within days patrolmen Edward Costigan and Joe Hunt, also on patrol, were shot and killed. Another officer, Gethin Richards, was killed several days after the Costigan-Hunt murder.

Akron police, unaware of Borgio's involvement, were baffled by the killings. The murders occurred in different locations of the city, ruling out the local street gangs as suspects, and as no money was taken from the victims (indicating theft was not a motive), detectives were unable to establish a plausible motive for the crimes. Police had concluded the suspect to be a serial killer, when Chief of Detectives Harry Welsh received an anonymous call from a woman who claimed one of the men involved in the murders had gone to New York and could be identified by a scar on his hand.

Italian Squad[edit]

Calling on Lt. Michael Fiaschetti, the head of the New York Police Department (NYPD) "Italian Squad" following the death of his predecessor Joseph Petrosino by the Black Hand in 1909, for assistance the NYPD agreed to begin an investigation. Despite the vague description, the Italian Squad had long established themselves in New York's Italian-American areas. After several months of contacting informants and maintaining a surveillance of criminal hangouts, Fiaschetti received a tip in January 1919 from one of his leading informants a man fitting the suspects’ description was spotted at his pool hall. Arriving at the pool hall the following night, he found the suspect, Tony Manfredi, with a second man, Pasquale Biondo, playing pool. Observing the two men, Fiaschetti arrested Manfredi and Biondo, as Manfredi put his hand on the pool table revealing a scar on his hand.

Receiving an extradition order for the two mobsters, Fiaschetti escorted Manfredi and Biondo on board a train to Akron. Although the two men remained silent during the trip, Fiaschetti decided to interrogate Manfredi. After serving Manfredi a few drinks in the lounge car, Fiaschetti eventually convinced him that Biondo would kill Manfredi to silence him from testifying at the trial. Admitting to his and Biondo's involvement, Manfredi also gave detailed information on Borgio's organization and the police bounty.

Convictions[edit]

With Manfredi's testimony (for which he received 20 years imprisonment), Borgio was convicted, along with Borgia lieutenant Paul Chiavaro, Vito Mezzano, Pasquale Biondo and his brother Lorenzo Biondo, of the Akron police murders and sentenced to the electric chair later that year. He was electrocuted on May 22, 1919. James Palmeri and Lorenzo Biondo were sentenced to life terms in Ohio penitentiary. Biondo was secretly paroled by Gov. George White on May 25, 1934 and fled to Italy.

Further reading[edit]

  • Borsella, Cristogianni. On Persecution, Identity & Activisim: Aspects of the Italian-American Experience from the Late 19th century to today. Wellesley, Massachusetts: Dante University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-937832-41-3
  • Chiocca, Olindo Romeo. Mobsters and Thugs: Quotes from the Underworld. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2000. ISBN 1-55071-104-0
  • Fiaschetti, Michael. You Gotta Be Rough: The Adventures of Detective Fiaschetti of the Italian Squad. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1930.