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Colorado crime family

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Colorado crime family
Foundedc. 1920s
  • Carlino Brothers (BH)
  • Giuseppe Roma (LCN)
Founding locationDenver and Pueblo, Colorado, United States
Years activec. 1920s–2000s
TerritoryPrimarily the Denver metropolitan area and Pueblo County, with additional territory throughout Colorado, as well as Las Vegas
EthnicityItalians as "made men" and other ethnicities as associates
ActivitiesRacketeering, bootlegging, loansharking, extortion, drug trafficking, and illegal gambling[1]
RivalsVarious gangs in Colorado

The Colorado crime family, also known as the Smaldone crime family, the Denver crime family, the Denver Mafia or the Mountain Mafia, was an Italian-American Mafia crime family based in Pueblo and Denver, Colorado. The family originated as a bootlegging organization headed by the brothers Pete and Sam Carlino, which was later taken over by Giuseppe "Little Caesar" Roma. Roma's organization evolved into the Denver branch of La Cosa Nostra, which became known as the Smaldone crime family. Roma expanded the family's criminal operations into extortion, loan sharking, drugs, bookmaking, and other rackets. It is believed by federal authorities that the Denver Mafia went defunct in the 2000s after the death of Clarence Smaldone.


Carlino brothers[edit]

Pete and Sam Carlino were prominent figures in southern Colorado's bootlegging scene during the early 20th century. Operating from 1922 to 1931, the Carlino brothers established a significant presence in the bootlegging territories south of Denver. As their influence grew, they expanded their operations to Denver, with ambitions to control the entire liquor trade in Colorado.

In an attempt to prevent an escalation of conflicts among various bootlegging factions, Giuseppe "Joe" Roma, a Denver bootlegger, organized a "Bootleggers Convention" on January 25, 1931. This gathering aimed to find a resolution and prevent a full-scale war between the Carlino brothers and other bootleggers. However, the convention was interrupted by law enforcement, resulting in the arrest of 29 attendees, most of whom had prior criminal records.

While Pete Carlino and others were taken into custody, they were eventually released. Notably, Giuseppe Roma, a key figure in organizing the convention, was not present at the meeting. This event drew attention to District Attorney Carr, who faced public criticism for his perceived lack of action in prosecuting the bootleggers, a sentiment that was further exacerbated by Mayor Stapleton's response to the situation.

On March 17, 1931, Pete Carlino's opulent home at 3357 Federal Boulevard exploded. Initially, police suspected it was members of rival gangs who had set the blast. Federal undercover agent Lawrence Baldesareli informed police that it had been Pete Carlino himself who had planned the arson, in order to collect the insurance money for the blast. His empire was flagging and he was quickly running out of money. Joe Petralia, Chris Murkuri, and Carlino's cousin Dan Colletti were convicted for setting the blast.

On May 8, 1931, Sam Carlino was killed in his home by Bruno Mauro. Carlino's cousin James Colletti was wounded in the attack but survived. Sam Carlino's wife and Colletti initially informed police that Mauro was the shooter. When the trial approached, Colletti had fled the area and Mrs. Carlino refused to testify in court against Mauro for fear of her family's lives.

After his brother's assassination, Pete Carlino went into hiding. According to police testimony on an unrelated matter, Lucille Crupi claimed that she met Carlino while in Milwaukee in early June 1931. She claimed that he was dropping off a shipment of booze and was picking up another load to return to Colorado. On June 19, 1931, Carlino was captured hiding in his cousin's farmhouse outside Pueblo. On June 25, 1931. Joe Roma posted Pete Carlino's $5,000 bond, using his house as collateral. Contrary to popular belief, Roma and Carlino were not enemies; rather, they had a working relationship that spanned over eight years.

On September 10, 1931, Pete Carlino was killed, shot twice in the back and once in the head at close range. He was on his way to visit Joe Petralia at the prison in Cañon City. Carlino's body was placed under the Siloam Road bridge just outside Pueblo. After two days, the body had not been discovered, so the killers returned and dragged it onto the road. An anonymous phone call made to Carlino's wife informed her where the body could be found. This ended the Carlinos's reign of control of the Colorado bootlegging era.

Joseph Roma[edit]

Giuseppe Roma became Joseph Roma. In the prohibition era from 1920 to 1933, crime families formed all over the country to profit from bootlegging. Operating from his grocery store as a front business, Roma became the de facto boss of criminal activity in Denver.

Smaldone Brothers[edit]

The three brothers, Eugene, Clyde, and Clarence owned and operated Gaetano's Italian restaurant, a popular spot in North Denver, for years. The rise of the family began in 1933 after crime boss bootlegger, Joe Roma, was found riddled with seven 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.[2] The Smaldone's were questioned but not charged.

Clyde Smaldone[edit]

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 pleaded 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 Smaldone[edit]

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 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, pleaded 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.

Beginning in 1973 or earlier, the Colorado family partnered with the St. Louis crime family in skimming profits from the Riviera hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Anthony Giordano, the boss of the St. Louis family, held ultimate control over the Colorado family.[3]

Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone[edit]

Clarence Smaldone was considered the underboss of a two-member mob family. On August 10, 1971, he was acquitted of federal loansharking charges.[4] Clarence served eight years in a Fort Worth prison hospital for the 1983 loan sharking conviction. He was released in 1991.

By 1990, the Colorado family consisted of a single "made" member, according to the FBI.[5]

Clarence Smaldone died of natural causes on October 16, 2006, at the age of 82.[6]

Current status[edit]

Following the death of Clarence Smaldone, the last surviving Smaldone brother, in 2006, Dick Kreck of The Denver Post reported that his passing "closes the book on the Smaldone crime family", writing: "After 60 years and the death of Chauncey Smaldone, the Smaldone family is no longer organized crime".[6]

Historical leadership[edit]


  • 1928–1931 – Pete Carlino
  • 1923–1933 – Joe "Little Caesar" Roma
  • 1933–1950 – Charles Blanda
  • 1950–1969 – Vincenzo Colletti
  • 1969–1975 – Joseph "Scotty" Spinuzzi
  • 1975–1992 – Eugene "Checkers" Smaldone
  • 1992–2006 – Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone


  1. ^ "Smaldone, Denver's Mob Family".
  2. ^ Smaldone, The Untold Story of an American Crime Family, by Dick Kreck
  3. ^ FBI Says Denver, St. Louis Mobs Share In Illegal Casino Deal Ronald J. Lawrence, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (December 14, 1981) Archived May 14, 2024, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Jury Finds Smalldone Is Innocent of Loansharking Casper Star-Tribune (August 12, 1971) Archived May 13, 2024, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ A Battered and Ailing Mafia Is Losing Its Grip on America Selwyn Raab, The New York Times (October 22, 1990) Archived April 22, 2024, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Denver's Brother Hoods Dick Kreck, The Denver Post (November 3, 2006) Archived January 17, 2023, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]