William Tocco

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William "Black Bill" Tocco (February 12, 1897 – May 28, 1972) was an Italian-American mobster from Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan and a founding member of the Detroit Partnership of La Cosa Nostra.

Early years[edit]

William Tocco was born Guglielmo Vito Tocco in Terrasini, Sicily on February 13, 1897. He was one of seven children born to Giacomo Tocco and Nicolina Moceri. In 1910 the Tocco family immigrated to Detroit, Michigan, and William became a naturalized citizen after serving in the United States Army during World War I.

Criminal career[edit]

After returning to Detroit, Tocco joined his cousin Giuseppe Zerilli and Angelo Meli in backing the Giannola Brothers' bootlegging operations. On August 11, 1920, he was arrested for the murder of Antonio Badalamenti, a Vitale Gang leader killed in retaliation for an attack on Giuseppe Manzello and Angelo Polizzi. The charges were dropped two days later. With Manzello dead, Meli took over the Giannola Gang, renaming it the Eastside Mob, and appointing Tocco and Zerilli as his top aides.

After Giovanni Vitale's death on October 2, 1920, Salvatore Catalanotte dominated the Sicilian crime syndicate and organized the Pascuzzi Combine - a liquor syndicate consisting of the remaining gangs. With profits made by Tocco and Zerilli's in the Pascuzzi Combine, they purchased the Pheiffer Brewing Co. Pheiffer's assets were then taken over by States Products Co.[1] The company continued producing malt products and did well for around five years, then it was changed to the Pheiffer Products Co. On February 5, 1932, Tocco was arrested for conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act. Eight days after the raid, a federal injunction closed Pheiffer Products and Meyer Products for alleged wort production. Not long after this Zerilli and Tocco were barred from participating in the legal beer business by the Michigan State Liquor Control Commission and ordered to sell their interest in the Pheiffer Brewing.

Family life[edit]

In 1928, Tocco married Rosalia Zerilli and purchased land in Grosse Pointe Park where they raised their seven children. Tocco's success earned him respect from Mafia families nationwide. He was a major factor in aligning the Partnership with several crime families, including the Profaci crime family in New York. In 1952, his son Anthony Tocco married Carmella Profaci, daughter of Joe Profaci. In 1953, Tocco’s daughter married Carlo Licata the son of Nick Licata a former mobster who was ousted by the Detroit Family and was adopted by the Los Angeles crime family headed by Jack Dragna. Nick Licata attended the wedding in Detroit and was back in good standing with the Partnership.

The Hazel Park Race Track[edit]

The Outfit's involvement with Hazel Park began in 1948 following the visit of a local auto dealer, Waldo Andrews to the law office of James Bellanca. Andrews had secured a 30-day option letter to purchase the Hazel Park Stadium Company (HPSC). Andrews then went on to fill Bellanca in with the details of the company plans, which centered around the proposed construction of an automobile or harness racing track in Hazel Park, Michigan. Bellanca started soliciting for investors, who happened to be Tocco and Joe Zerilli, through this they formed a second corporation, named Hazel Park Racing Association. The track was finished after Bellanca attained money from the syndicate leaders. Hazel Parks success led to a dispute between HPSC's original incorporators and Bellanca's Hazel Park Racing Association. Tocco, Zerilli and Bellanca expanded their interest in horse racing on June 27, 1957, by purchasing the Wheeling Downs Race Track in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Death[edit]

Tocco spent most of the last nine years of his life in Miami, Florida. On May 28, 1972, he died in Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. He was 75 years old and he left behind his wife Rosalia, seven children, and 28 grand children. The funeral was held in the Church of the Holy Family in Detroit, Michigan. His body was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The incorporators were listed as; Guglielmo Vito Tocco, Giuseppe Zerilli Alfred Epstein, Herman Weil and Anthony Lambrecht.

Bon Secours Hospital was in Grosse Pointe City, not Grosse Pointe Park, and is now called Beaumont Hospital.

See also[edit]