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Mugshot of Jimmy Fratianno
|Born||November 14, 1913|
|Died||June 30, 1993 (aged 79)|
Aladena "Jimmy" Fratianno (November 14, 1913 – June 30, 1993) was an Italian-born American mobster who was acting head of the Los Angeles crime family before becoming a US government witness. Fratianno was the most powerful mobster to become a federal witness until Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti agreed to testify against the Philadelphia crime family in 1989.
Born in Naples, Italy, Aladena Fratianno was brought to the United States by his parents four months later. His family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Fratianno was smart but disliked school. He began stealing from fruit stands as a child. Fratianno went by the name "Jimmy" because he believed as a boy that "Aladena" sounded like "a broad's name". Fratianno earned his nickname "Weasel" as a boy when from running from the police in the Little Italy section of Cleveland. A chase witness shouted "Look at that Weasel run!" and the police quickly attached the nickname to his criminal record, falsely believing it was his alias. As a teen, Fratianno boxed under the ring nickname "Kid Weasel", but otherwise did not like the nickname and was rarely called The Weasel in person. As a young man, Fratianno became involved in Cleveland's organized criminal syndicate as a gambler, and illegal casino robber. He married his wife Jewel (Switzer) just before he was sent to prison in Ohio. After he was paroled, he learned Jewel had divorced him while he was serving time-but he later reconciled with her, and they remarried in Ohio. After serving his prison sentence for assault, he helped rob a few businesses to build up cash. He and Jewel (unknown to her) then had a nest egg in their car trunk. Fratianno later said he had about $100,000 when they moved to California. After the Fratiannos moved to Los Angeles, he was introduced to Los Angeles mobsters Jack Dragna and Mickey Cohen. After one year in Los Angeles Fratianno would also meet John Roselli, who headed mob interests in the movie industry.
West Coast mobster
After proving his value as a mob earner in Los Angeles, in 1947, in a large secret Mafia ceremony, Fratianno became a made man in the Los Angeles crime family under Mafia boss Jack Dragna. Fratianno worked the various rackets often with fellow Los Angeles mobsters Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero, Leo "Lips" Moceri, Dominic Brooklier and Louie Piscopo. Fratianno was also heavily involved in several mob murders, including the famed 1951 murders of the "Two Tonys", Tony Broncato and Tony Trombino on Ogden Street in Hollywood. Fratianno also helped execute both Mickey Cohen's enforcer Frankie Niccoli and Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe casino owner Louie Strauss (Russian Louie) for Las Vegas casino hotel owner Benny Binion. Strauss was attempting to extort money from Binion, so Binion had the Los Angeles crime family kill Strauss. In 1952, after these murders, and because he was earning money for the mob, Jack Dragna promoted Fratianno to caporegime. After Dragna's death in 1956, attorney and mob capo Frank DeSimone became the new boss of the Los Angeles crime family. Fratianno quickly became dissatisfied with DeSimone's leadership and in 1960, after serving a 61⁄2 year sentence for extortion, Fratianno transferred to the Chicago Outfit. This transfer to Chicago was authorized by John Roselli and Chicago boss Sam Giancana. Fratianno still lived in California, and remained active in mob circles in California, Las Vegas, and Reno, He remained closely associated with mobster Frank(Bomp) Bompensiero. During the 1960s, while still on parole, Fratianno and his wife Jewel started their own successful trucking company. Jewel officially owned the company, while Fratianno was the actual manager. Fratianno Trucking business did well for several years, until the Fratiannos ran afoul of PUC regulations while building a freeway in El Centro, California in 1966. In San Francisco, Fratianno also met famed attorney Joseph Alioto and his trucking business later obtained several loans from the bank Alioto had founded. Fratianno also attempted several times to build, own, or obtain a share in a Las Vegas casino, including the Tally Ho Hotel-which later became the Aladdin. Due to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, those casino efforts failed each time. During this time period, the FBI was constantly monitoring his and Frank Bompensiero's movements. After hedging for many months, Fratianno started providing inside information on organized crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In exchange for this information, Fratianno received less scrutiny from law enforcement along with a small amount of money, a total of $16,000. Fratianno's early FBI information was of limited value and never helped convict anyone. In 1976, when L.A. mob boss Dominic Brooklier was sent to prison, the Los Angeles family offered Fratianno the opportunity to become the co-acting boss with Louis Tom Dragna, so he rejoined the L.A. mob, transferring from the Chicago Outfit.
Fratianno was known to have global connections. One such connection was with Australian organised crime figures. In 1976, Australian criminal Murray Riley met with Fratianno in San Francisco, allegedly, to organize drug shipments. The same year, Sydney businessman Bela Csidei also met with Fratianno in San Francisco. The FBI took photographs of this meeting.
Fratianno also associated with Australian/Hungarian transport magnate and managing director of Thomas Nationwide Transport (better known as TNT) Peter Abeles. Through Fratianno's connections with Teamsters and Longshoremen's unions, particularly with Rudy Tham, a San Francisco Teamsters leader, Abeles was able to use his company to smuggle drugs in and out of the USA, as well as reduce industrial tensions on the waterfront.
In 1975 the boss of the Los Angeles family, Dominic Brooklier, was headed to prison for 20 months and Louis Tom Dragna was made Acting Boss. He accepted the position on the condition that he run the family together with Fratianno. Fratianno accepted the proposal with the understanding that he would carry the majority of the responsibility. Fratianno also saw the opportunity as a way to become the permanent boss of the family. Fratianno was hoping that by making the family stronger and boosting its reputation, that he'd earn support to take over the family even when Brooklier was released from prison.
Soon after, he was approached by Dragna in regards to having Frank Bompensiero murdered. Bompensiero (a soldier in the L.A family) was one of the few made men that Fratianno trusted, as they were old friends, and he was infuriated that the L.A family would give him such a 'contract'. At this point Fratianno felt that he was tricked into becoming Acting Boss, a position which required him to be transferred from the Chicago family back to the L.A family. Because of his close relationship with Bompensiero, it was assumed that Fratianno could easily lay a trap and murder him. Fratianno stalled until the contract was given to other mob associates.
Brooklier returned from prison in October 1976 after serving 16 months. After a transition period he called Fratianno to a meeting some time before February 11, 1977 and announced he was ready to resume his position as Boss. Fratianno was once again a soldier.
Last stages of Mafia career
Some time between February 11 and May 16, 1977, Brooklier summoned Fratianno to a meeting and confronted him about a rumor that Fratianno was running a separate 'crew' in the Los Angeles territory and saying, "Jimmy, you've got a bad mouth, like [Bompensiero]..." In June 1977, Fratianno learned that Brooklier had started a rumor that he had never made Fratianno Acting Boss and that Fratianno was misrepresenting himself. Fratianno began to suspect that Brooklier was trying to poison his reputation within the Mafia thus laying the groundwork for a sanctioned hit, or execution, of himself. Then at the wake for Tony Delsanter, Fratianno learned that the Cleveland family had a connection in the FBI, a clerk, that was feeding them documents about Mafia informants. James Licavoli told him that the Cleveland family had the code numbers for two informants and that the FBI clerk was working on getting their names.
Fratianno, concerned he would be revealed as an informant, communicated this information to his contact at the FBI and began working with Jim Ahearn, (Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office) in an effort to plug the leak. At this point Fratianno felt the pressure mounting and considered three options to extricate himself from his predicament. He could enter the Witness Protection Program, flee the country, or kill his enemies within the Mafia organization. He actively pursued all three options.
On October 6, 1977 Danny Greene was killed by a car bomb, and Ray Ferritto was arrested for the murder. Ferritto implicated Fratianno in the planning of the murder and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Ahearn arrested Fratianno, who, at this point, was looking at life in prison or death by Brooklier's order. Fratianno agreed to become a government witness against the Mafia. Unlike Genovese crime family informant Joe Valachi, a low-level "soldier" limited to knowledge within and about New York City, Fratianno was privy to information on the detailed hierarchy of organized syndicate operations across the United States. Fratianno also knew about Florida crime boss Santo Trafficante, Jr.'s 1960s plans to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro as part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Cuban Project Operation Mongoose. Some conspiracy theorists (such as the people behind the Gemstone File) named Fratianno as one of the three assassins of U.S President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
In 1981, after testifying for the government, Fratianno entered the federal Witness Protection Program. However, the government dropped him from the program after he published two biographies, The Last Mafioso with author Ovid Demaris and Vengeance is Mine with author Michael J. Zuckerman. The FBI determined that Fratianno could support himself; they didn't want the public to think that the Witness Protection Program was a retirement plan for former mobsters. Fratianno enjoyed his years as a criminal celebrity with appearances on the CBS 60 Minutes television news program and various television documentaries.
A list of the confirmed murders that Fratianno committed.
- Frank Niccoli - Niccoli was a bodyguard and collector for mob boss Mickey Cohen. Following Jack Dragna's orders, Fratianno tried to convince Niccoli to leave Cohen and join Dragn'a mob, but Niccoli refused. In a few minutes, Fratianno and Joseph Dippolito strangled Niccoli to death. (1949)
- Frank Borgia - Borgia was a Los Angeles winemaker/former bootlegger and was a member of the Los Angeles crime family, according to Fratianno. Borgia was resisting an extortion attempt from Gaspare Matranga and Dragna. Bompensiero and Fratianno had a friend of Borgia's bring Borgiato to a house. Then Fratianno and Bompensiero strangled Borgia with a rope and other mobsters buried him. (1951)
- Anthony Brancato - Brancato and his criminal associate Tony Trombino were two young mobsters who were performing robberies in Los Angeles and Las Vegas without the sanction of the Los Angeles family. Jack Dragna told Jimmy Fratianno they needed to be "clipped", and asked Jimmy to set "something up". Within a few days, Fratianno set up the Two Tonys and killed them in their car. (August 6, 1951)
- Anthony Trombino - see Anthony Brancato. (August 6, 1951)
- Louis Strauss - Louis (Russian Louie) Strauss was a former casino owner in Lake Tahoe, and a mob connected man who was trying to extort money from Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion, a friend of Dragna's. Fratianno set Strauss up by befriending him in Las Vegas, and telling Louis he had $10,000 cash in Los Angesles he would loan him. After driving to Los Angeles with Fratianno, Strauss then walked into a house, where Bompensiero and Fratianno surprised him with a rope, and strangled him to death. (1953)
- Bob Bottom (1984). Without Fear or Favour (pp. 74–75). Victoria, Australia: Sun Books.
- "Evan Whitton: Can of Worms II - 6. Biographies".
- Bob Bottom (1984). Without Fear or Favour (p.75). Victoria, Australia: Sun Books.
- Bob Bottom (1984). Without Fear or Favour (pics at pp. 58–59). Victoria, Australia: Sun Books.
- Tony Reeves (2007). Mr Sin: The Abe Saffron Dossier (pp. 83–85). NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
- John Pilger (1992). A Secret Country (pp. 256–257). NSW, Australia: Vintage.
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.284
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.295
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.298
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.361
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.375
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.391
- Demaris, Ovid. The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno." Bantam Books, 1981, p.395
- "Jimmy Fratianno" Videosurf
- "Frank Bompensiero" Crime Magazine
- "Winemaker's Fate Mystery" Los Angeles Times December 27, 1951
- "The Two Tonys" Archived 2010-01-03 at the Wayback Machine. Allan May Crime Magazine
- "Frank Bompensiero: San Diego Hitman, Boss & FBI Informant (Part One)" Allan May Crime Magazine
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0
- Demaris, Ovid. ''The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno. Bantam Books, 1981. ISBN 0-553-27091-5
- The Sydney Morning Herald (16 September 1979). "Evidence Mafia already has a toehold in Australia". Includes photographs of James Fratianno meeting Bela Csidei.
- Lewis, Brad. Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster. The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen. New York: Enigma Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-929631-65-0
- Moldea, Dan E. Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN 0-14-010478-X
- Neff, James. Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia, and the FBI. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87113-344-X
- Pizzo, Stephen; Fricker, Mary; and Muolo, Paul. Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989. ISBN 0-07-050230-7