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 originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and later 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 Sammy "the Bull" Gravano agreed to testify against the Gambino crime family in 1991.
Born in Naples, Italy, Aladena Fratianno was brought to the United States by his parents four months later. 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". He earned his nickname "Weasel" as a boy from running from the police in the Little Italy section of Cleveland. A witness shouted "look at that weasel run" and the police attached the nickname to his criminal record, falsely believing it was his alias. As a teen, Fratianno boxed under the nickname "Kid Weasel", but otherwise did not like the nickname and was never called "weasel" in person. As a young man, Fratianno became involved in Cleveland's organized criminal syndicate as a gambler and illegal casino robber. After a prison sentence for assault, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was introduced to mobster John Roselli.
West Coast mobster
In 1947, in a large Mafia ceremony, Fratianno became a made man in the Los Angeles crime family under boss Jack Dragna. Fratianno worked rackets often with fellow Los Angeles mobsters Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero, Leo "Lips" Moceri, Dominic Brooklier and Louie Piscopo. Fratianno was also 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 Franie Niccoli and Las Vegan Louie Strauss (Russian Louie) for Las Vegas casino hotel owner Benny Binion 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, Frank DeSimone became the new boss of the Los Angeles crime family. Fratianno soon became dissatisfied with DeSimone's leadership and in 1960, after serving a 61⁄2 year sentence for extortion, Fratianno transferred to the Chicago Outfit. He still lived and remained active in California and Las Vegas, and remained closely associated with Frank Bompensiero. During the 1960s, Fratianno and his wife started their own trucking company. His wife Jewel officially owned the company, even after her separation and divorce from Fratianno. Fratianno still attempted several times to build, own, or obtain a share in a Las Vegas casino,including the Tally Ho Hotel but due to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, those efforts failed each time. During this time period, the FBI was constantly monitoring his movements. After hedging for 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 information was of limited value and never helped convict anyone. In 1976, the Los Angeles family offered Fratianno the opportunity to become their co-acting boss with Louis Tom Dragna, so he rejoined them.
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 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 for Mickey Cohen. Fratianno tried to convince Niccoli to betray Cohen, but Niccoli refused. Fratianno and Matranga 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 someone bring Borgia in a house and they both strangled Borgia with a rope and buried him. (1951)
- Anthony Brancato - Brancato and his associate Trombino were two young mobsters who were performing many audacious robberies without the sanction of the Los Angeles family. Fratianno led a squad of hit men who shot and killed Brancato and Trombino in their car. (August 6, 1951)
- Anthony Trombino - see Anthony Brancato. (August 6, 1951)
- Louis Strauss - Strauss was a mobster trying to extort money from Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion, a friend of Dragna's. Bompensiero and Fratianno strangled Strauss with a rope. (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