Mug shot of Rizzitello in 1983.
March 15, 1929|
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
October 26, 2005 (aged 78)|
Palm Springs, California, US
|Occupation||Caporegime in the Los Angeles crime family|
|Criminal charge||Attempted murder|
|Criminal penalty||33 years in prison|
|Criminal status||Died in custody|
Michael Anthony Rizzitello (March 15, 1929 – October 26, 2005), also known as "Mike Rizzi", was an Italian American mobster in the Los Angeles crime family. Rizzitello's criminal record stretched back to 1947. He was also featured in several biography novels by mobsters-turned-informants Jimmy Fratianno (The Last Mafioso and Vengeance Is Mine), Anthony Fiato (The Animal in Hollywood), and Kenny Gallo (Breakshot).
Mike (Mike Rizzi) Rizzitello was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on March 29, 1927. He later moved to New York City and as an adult became associated with organized crime. He worked for "Crazy Joe" Gallo in the 1950s who was a member of the Profaci crime family (later named the Colombo crime family). When Gallo attempted to take over the Profaci crime family, Rizzitello was one of his key gunmen. In 1956, Mike Rizzitello moved to California. He became associated with criminal elements, including the mob gang ran by Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen.
In 1962, Rizzitello was arrested by the LAPD for a string of armed robberies of restaurants and businesses in the Hollywood area, and after conviction he served nine years in prison. In 1970. Rizzitello met inmate William Carroll in prison at Chino prison. The two men became quick friends. In the mid 80's Carroll would become the manager of the Mustang Club, a well known exotic dance club in Santa Ana that Rizzitello received "protection" money from. Carroll later testified in court the protection amount was $5,000 per week. During his time in Los Angeles, Rizzitello also became associated with the Los Angeles crime family. He became involved in illegal gambling, loan sharking, mail fraud, insurance fraud, and extortion. After working extensively with the L.A. Mob, On June 6, 1976 Rizzitello became a Mafia made man. Instead of the traditional ceremony of induction, Rizzitello became a made man in the back of a car with 3 other L.A. Mafia members present for his induction. These mob members were consigliere Frank Bompensiero, acting boss Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno and co-acting boss Louis Tom Dragna. Rizzitello quickly moved up in the L.A. family and was promoted to caporegime by acting boss Jimmy Fratianno a year later, in 1977.
In late 1976, Rizzitello was arrested and convicted of insurance fraud and was subsequently arrested and acquitted of strong-arming an acquaintance over a gambling debt. In late 1977, he was again arrested in a phony mail-billing scheme and convicted. He was sentenced to three years total for the two convictions.
In 1977 Rizzitello was charged with extortion and filing a false insurance claim. Rizzitello pleaded no contest on May 2, 1977 to one count of insurance fraud. A second grand theft charge was dismissed. On May 22, 1977 he was sentenced to serve 2 to 3 years in state prison, but was allowed to remain free after a $20,000 bond was secured. Rizzitello had quickly became well respected, and was a large cash earner for the L.A. family. In 1977, the Chicago Outfit sent Rizzitello to pressure casino owner Moe Dalitz into giving the Outfit $1,000,000. However, the FBI was tipped off by new informant Jimmy Fratianno, and they intervened in the extortion incident. In 1978 mob boss Dominic Brooklier had tried to get Rizzitello to set up the murder of Jimmy Fratianno. Fratianno later turned state's evidence and testified against many of his fellow mobsters. Rizzitello was later put on trial for conspiring with Fratianno to attempt to kill a government witness for Pennsylvania crime boss Russell Bufalino, but was acquitted.
In 1978 Mike Rizzitello was convicted of racketeering and extortion. He was released on bail pending an appeal. He was eventually sentenced to five years in prison and was paroled in 1986. When was released he went on trial again for charges that he tried to defraud a Montana firm in a fraudulent transfer of stock. Again, Rizzitello was acquitted. In 1987, he was put on trial again; this time charged with trying to market $1 million in stolen bonds. For the third straight time he was acquitted, again using renowned attorney Anthony Brooklier, the son of L.A. Mafia boss Dominic Brooklier, as his attorney. Jimmy Fratianno wrote extensively about his working relationship and friendship with Rizzitello in his best selling book about the Los Angeles mob, The Last Mafioso.
When Rizzitello was released from prison in early 1986, Peter Milano had became the new boss of the Los Angeles crime family. While Milano and Rizzitello had worked together in the 1970s, they now had a distant relationship. Rizzitello then went to the Gambino crime family in New York City to seek permission to start his own crime family in California, but it never came to be. However, he was able to run an independent crew under Milano's family. Rizzitello worked closely with and mob mentored Anthony Fiato in the 1980s, before Fiato secretly decided to cooperate with the FBI. In 1988, Rizzitello was blacklisted from every casino in Las Vegas due to his involvement in crime and specifically illegal gambling in the city. Rizzitello collected markers for Las Vegas casinos, from his base of operation in Beverly Hills.
Attempted Murder conviction
On May 1, 1987, over a extorted money dispute,and after dining with mob associate Joseph Grosso and his old friend William Carroll, Rizzitello shot his old friend and exotic dance club manager at the Mustang Club, William Carroll, in Costa Mesa in a parking structure by the South Coast Plaza. Despite being shot three times in the head, Carroll miraculously survived, although he was permanently blinded from the shooting. In court 19 months later, Carroll testified that after Rizzitello pointed the gun at the back of his head, and he said, "This is for not letting us eat!". Rizzitello then shot Carroll in the head three times. Rizzitello had attempted to kill Carroll for not "sharing enough" on the large cash profits of The Mustang Club, a very successful Santa Ana exotic dance club theater. In court 18 months later, the Mustang Club's new manager testified he had paid Rizzitello $5,000 a week, for his "protection". A month after the Carroll shooting, Rizzitello was back in prison for violating his parole by associating with known criminals. He remained in Los Angeles Terminal Island for nine months. Initially after being shot, William Carroll refused to tell police or the FBI who had shot him. When the FBI offered to dismiss the federal charges against Carroll in October 1988, he then named Rizzitello and another man, Joseph Grosso, as his attackers. Defended by attorney Anthony Brooklier, Rizzitello was later found guilty in 1990 of attempted murder, and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. During his time in prison, he repeatedly refused to cooperate with the authorities to receive a reduced sentence, upholding the Mafia silence code of Omertà. Terminally ill, Rizzitello died of complications of cancer at the age of 78 on October 26, 2005, in Palm Springs, California. He was still in custody at the time of his death. Rizzitello was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. Rizzitello was survived by his six children, fifteen grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. As of April 2018, Joseph Grosso is still serving prison time for the attempted murder of William Carroll.
- Showdown for a Reputed Mobster
- The Last Mafioso, by Ovid Demaris
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- Forest Lawn Burial Site Locator Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.