Denver crime family
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|Founded by||Giuseppe Roma|
|Founding location||Pueblo and Denver, Colorado|
|Territory||Denver and Colorado|
|Ethnicity||Italian, Italian-American, Sicilian and Sicilian-American made men and other ethnicities as "associates"|
|Criminal activities||Racketeering, loansharking, extortion, drugs, bookmaking and gambling|
Pete and Sam Carlino were southern Colorado's most notorious bootleggers. From 1922 to 1931, they controlled most of the bootlegging territories south of Denver. By the late 1920s, the Carlino brothers had moved to Denver and planned on expanding their liquor empire to encompass the entire state of Colorado. On January 25, 1931, Denver bootlegger Giuseppe "Joe" Roma set up a "Bootleggers Convention" to avert an all-out war between the Carlinos and the other bootleggers. Police arrested 29 people at the meeting; all but one of these had prior arrests. Pete Carlino and the others were charged but released; Roma was not at the meeting. District Attorney Carr publicly condemned Mayor Stapleton for not prosecuting the bootleggers.
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 fledgling 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 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 for 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 Canon 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' reign of control of the Colorado bootlegging era.
Guissepi Roma became Joseph Roma. In the prohibition era from 1920 to 1933, the 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.
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 by 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. The Smaldones were questioned but not charged.
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 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, or being behind, 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.
Clarence was born in 1916, he died in 2006, and was considered the underboss of a two-member mob family. In 1991, Clarence was released from a Fort Worth prison hospital after serving eight years for the 1983 loan sharking conviction. The FBI had no one listed as boss at this time.
In November 2006, Denver Boss Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone died. Eugene Smaldone's grandson, also named Eugene Smaldone, is the last surviving member of the Smaldone crime family. 2016 rumors around mountain towns in Colorado about Smaldone family existence proved true.
- 1923–1933- Joe "Little Caesar" Roma
- 1928–1931- Pete Carlino
- 1933–1950- Charles Blanda
- 1950–1969- Vincenzo Colletti
- 1969–1975- Joseph "Scotty" Spinuzzi
- 1975–1992- Eugene "Checkers" Smaldone
- 1992–2006- Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone
- Smalldone, The Untold Story of an American Crime Family, by Dick Kreck