On the morning of May 26, 1976, the end was near.
John T. Scalish, the last great don of the Cleveland Mafia, was taking his biggest gamble yet — a long shot. At stake was life. But the odds favored death.
At 63, Scalish was still very much in control of the city's underworld — still its Godfather. In fact, with his wavy silver-gray hair and piercing smile, he looked more like Brando's Don Corleone than Brando himself.
Although ill health had plagued him for nearly 30 years, he suffered stoically, continuing to conduct his routine business affairs after doctors performed a colostomy, showing few signs of the pain that had enveloped his body. But cancer had weakened him and given way to premature hardening of the arteries. Even this once fearless man, who had taken away or spared other men's lives with a mere nod, was helpless to control his own destiny.
His physicians told him that only a bypass — a delicate heart operation — could possibly save him. Without it, he had only weeks to go. Even then, they explained, such surgery was extremely chancy for a man in his ravaged condition.
But once again, he gambled.
Only this time, a more powerful force than John Scalish held the odds.
Scalish could afford the finest medical attention, and he got it. A team of Cleveland's best heart specialists labored for hours in the operating room, injecting tubes into his body, cutting and tying the fragile arteries. But even their skill was not enough. An hour or two after the operation, John Scalish lay in the recovery room and took his last breath. He died as he had lived — quietly, without fanfare. Only his closest family was nearby.
Word of the leader's death, however, swept through the underworld, and he was accorded a funeral befitting his position. Not one, but three priests, said a solemn Requiem mass, and the body of Scalish was followed to Calvary Cemetery by a seemingly endless procession of black Cadillacs.
Even as the last shovels of dirt covered the gold-inlaid casket, the Cleveland underworld was already in turmoil. Perhaps John Scalish was wreaking some kind of revenge on his old enemies, or his weakened condition diverted him from making the one crucial decision a capo
should make. He did not pick a successor — one who could keep peace among warring lieutenants and decide, once and for all, who got what and when.
That sin of omission, if you will, led to the bloodiest and most tumultuous internecine gang wars here since the savage bootleg brawls some 50 years earlier — when Scalish, a teenager, was just getting his start in crime.
The battle for control of gambling, loan sharking, unions and even legitimate businesses, so nicely kept under wraps by Scalish, has made Cleveland the bombing capital of America [see Cleveland Magazine, April 1977]. Certainly, lives have been lost in this power struggle— nothing new in organized crime wars — but more important, the foundations of the Cleveland underworld and its arch-nemesis, the FBI, have been shaken as never before.
Even as federal agents conducted a nationwide investigation into the underworld, the FBI discovered that its lists of informants — the holiest of bureau secrets — had been leaked by one of its own employes to the same criminal figures the agents were pursuing. The theft of such highly classified documents has forced the FBI to reevaluate its security and its relationships with informants.
At the center of this incredible situation — The Mob War and The Leak — was the sloppy and amateurish bombing murder of Daniel John Patrick Greene, a bizarre and megalomaniacal gangster and an FBI informant. Greene defied all the rules of the game and lived on myth and on borrowed time — until last October.
In the subsequent trials of Greene's accused murderers (some convicted, some exonerated), the strange doings of the underworld and, more significantly, Mr. Greene himself have been discussed, ruminated upon and debated endlessly. But after thousands of hours of testimony by hundreds of witnesses, the rationale for the events themselves remains as inexplicable as ever. Only one thing is for certain:
No one man, not the present head of the Cleveland mob family, not even the best Cleveland intelligence cops and federal agents, knows the whole story of what has taken place on the streets of Cleveland over the last two years. Because there were so many characters with so many different motivations, the story does not lend itself to easy interpretations.
After the death of Scalish, the main character in the story, of course, became Danny Greene. At 47, he still saw himself as a tough Irish kid from Collinwood unwilling to cave in to the iron might and discipline of the Italian mob. In turn, his assassins saw him as nothing but a power-hungry, homicidal maniac bent on killing anyone he disliked — and for that reason, he had to be eliminated.
For now, the story of the mob in transition is one with familiar themes — greed, pride, lust, money and power. A full account would be appended by an index of a thousand known and unknown characters, some central but most merely peripheral.
To put the tale in some kind of order — to peer behind two years of screaming headlines, make some sense of the accusations and counter-accusations, and put the various theories in perspective — the story must open with the ascent of John Scalish in local organized crime, for in his life and death are the seeds of all this destruction.
Scalish was born and raised around the corner of East 110th and Kinsman, then an East Side Italian neighborhood that in the Sixties began to turn black. His was one of the last white families to leave. Scalish built a posh ranch-style house on Gates Mills Boulevard in Pepper Pike. In turn, he was followed there by many of his associates, making Gates Mills Boulevard between SOM Center and Brainard a kind of Embassy Row for Cleveland's leading underworld figures.
As a teenager, Scalish was already a burglar and stickup man for the old Murray Hill mob. Records show that he was involved in the burglary of a bank in Mantua in 1931 and in the robbery of a bottling company at East 124th and Union in 1932. Convicted of the robbery two years later, he served only a few months in prison before his sentence was commuted by Governor George White — only minutes before noon on the day in January 1935 when White's term of office ended.
It was the only time in Scalish's life that he ever served time. By 1935, John Scalish, barely 22 years old, the son of poor Sicilian immigrants, was already connected to top underworld figures who had the power and money to help bring about his commutation.
Scalish was tough and respected, and he was also pragmatic. In his youth, he befriended Jewish kids from his old neighborhood, realizing that by joining forces with the Jews, rather than by fighting them, there was a lot of money to be made. This idea of uniting the major Jewish and Italian underworld leaders — an idea put into practice by several of his successors — would be his life's credo.
In 1932, Scalish was arrested with his pals, Maishe (Milton) Rockman and Alex (Shondor) Birns, for the shooting of a minor mobster. Birns would become one of Cleveland's top mob enforcers and underworld figures before he was blown away in 1975 by a bomb placed on his car [see Cleveland Magazine, July 1975
]. Rockman and Scalish would become business partners and in-laws. Rockman — recently described by one local FBI agent as "the Meyer Lansky of Cleveland" — married Scalish's sister. And Scalish married Rockman's sister.
Working hand in hand with his Jewish and Italian (and even some Irish) associates, Scalish graduated from stickups and burglaries to become a polished clerk in various local gambling casinos owned by the Cleveland syndicate.
He also became the lieutenant to Big Al Polizzi, who was given control of the Cleveland mob by Frank Milano when he left for the West Coast and Mexico. (Milano's brother, Anthony, now in his 90s, was at the time designated as the consigliere
or counselor to the Cleveland underworld — a position he still holds today. Anthony Milano, "The Old Man," still hosts weekly dinners at the Italian-American Brotherhood Club in Little Italy. The dinners are attended by many of the city's leading politicians, labor leaders and businessmen.)
Polizzi left Cleveland in the mid-Forties. He had earned upwards of $100 million, maybe even more, through control of gambling clubs and slot machines. He was getting tired of the running the mob's day-to-day street operations. Besides, Polizzi had a craving for respectability. He took his money to Florida, investing it in land deals and construction companies. Before leaving, however, he wisely relinquished his power and "put the shoes" on Scalish — reportedly because Scalish, in the Thirties, had taken the rap for the bottling company robbery and was willing to go to jail, rather than rat on someone else.
Scalish built his own empire in the Forties through investments in local gambling clubs, loan sharking and pinball machines — plus the money the Cleveland mob continued to skim from the Las Vegas casinos it had helped finance. Scalish actually stayed behind in Cleveland in the late Forties when other men of his rank, such as Tommy McGinty and Moe Dalitz, left for Las Vegas.
In the early Fifties, Governor Frank Lausche closed the local gambling casinos. Scalish, ever business minded, took his profits and invested with Rockman in the Buckeye Cigarette Service Company, a vending machine firm. The company grew by muscling routes from its weaker competition.
Rockman still operates the company, along with Frank Embrescia, reportedly a top Mafia figure. Though aging and sickly, Embrescia still attempted to serve as a peacemaker between the independent Greene and the opposing and more unified mob on Murray Hill.
Buckeye Cigarette Service, it is said, is efficiently and cleanly run. In fact, because the Internal Revenue Service annually checks the company's books, Scalish insisted that not one penny be misappropriated. That still holds today, thanks to a battery of highly paid tax lawyers and accountants.
Scalish, due to his conservative lifestyle, was little known outside the underworld until 1957. In that year, he was arrested with some 50 other Mafia leaders from across the country in the famous police raid on the "national crime conference" at a farmhouse near Apalachin, New York. He had attended the meeting with his chief lieutenant, the late John DeMarco. Scalish was convicted of refusing to testify to the Senate rackets committee about the conference and his own business; he had invoked the Fifth Amendment some 35 times.
He kept tight control of the Cleveland rackets by acting as a decisive boss, dispensing "justice" swiftly and wisely. He was also respected because he allowed his top aides to make money from criminal activities of their own. These included DeMarco, the late Frank Brancato and even Angelo Lonardo (who married Scalish's sister and wound up being charged, then cleared, in the byzantine plot to murder Danny Greene).
Scalish conducted his underworld affairs somewhat informally. Each Sunday morning for years, he would gather such men as Lonardo, Brancato and DeMarco at a barber shop on Kinsman Road. When that area changed, the weekly conferences were switched to a barber shop on Chagrin Boulevard. In Scalish's final days, the Sunday discussions were held at a barber shop on Mayfield Road in Mayfield Heights.
As some associates died off and others grew old, Scalish and his remaining colleagues grew somewhat complacent. They had made their money in everything from bootlegging to gambling casinos and numbers, and by the mid-Seventies, they wanted nothing more than to enjoy the fruits of their early criminal labors and to live out their lives peacefully.
As a consequence, because of attrition, internal warfare and complacency, they failed to groom what might be called a "middle management" to assume control in the future. There was another reason, of course: After the humiliating exposure of the Apalachin conference, membership in the Mafia, the creme de la creme
of the underworld, was closed to all but a select few until recent years.
Thus, with Scalish's death and with no designated successor and no one strongman emerging to seize sole control, the Cleveland mob was in chaos. All the young and middle-aged underlings, shut out of making big money during Scalish's peaceful regime, now wanted to make their moves.
One man who was determined not
to run the outfit here was James Licavoli (alias Jack White), a close associate of Scalish. He had been a wealthy, behind-the-scenes figure on Murray Hill for years. But in 1976, because of his 71 years, his prestige in the local and national underworld, and attrition, Jack White (he is rarely referred to as James Licavoli) reluctantly assumed the role of don. He intended to rule on an interim basis until another strongman, acceptable to all factions, emerged.
Events, however, moved too rapidly and denied him the luxury of an early retirement.
White— his sobriquet is a play on his dark complexion — was born in St. Louis, the scion of the infamous Licavoli family which still controls rackets in St. Louis, Detroit and Toledo. He is a cousin of the late Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli, who served a life sentence in the Ohio Penitentiary for murder, and was the center of mob attempts to bribe public officials for the convict's freedom.
Jack White left school after the fourth grade and for a short time worked at his father's vegetable stand. By the time he left St. Louis for Detroit in 1926, he had been arrested at least 15 times and had been shot and wounded by a policeman while fleeing a crime.
Between 1926 and 1938, as a member of Detroit's Purple Gang, White was arrested another two dozen times in Detroit and Toledo on charges ranging from carrying a concealed weapon to bootlegging. He also was questioned as a suspect in at least one murder.
By 1938, the police pressure on him in Detroit and Toledo was so intense that the Licavoli family received permission from the Cleveland crime syndicate — then among the most prestigious in the nation — to install him here. White temporarily returned to Toledo in 1945, where he was arrested for blackmail. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served a year in prison. But other than a small stretch in Leavenworth for bootlegging in the Twenties and his recent arrest for the murder of Danny Greene, White, whose record and FBI file fills a file cabinet, was a stranger to the penal system.
He was paroled to Cleveland in 1946 through the intercession of a Catholic priest — ironically, an Irish one — and a businessman who owned a construction company with Al Polizzi. White subsequently went to work as a bartender in an East Side restaurant owned by Vincent (Doc) Mangine, who 30 years ago controlled slot machines in northern Ohio. Along the way he invested in novelty companies in Niles and Warren.
But it was his interests in gambling casinos, particularly the Jungle Inn in Warren, that made him a very wealthy man. By the late Forties, when Governor Frank Lausche closed the lavish clubs that catered to affluent society patrons, White was considered a millionaire many times over. In later years, with the casinos shut down, White was content to place his earnings in legitimate securities purchased through front names. He also bankrolled various gambling ventures, from barboutte — a high-stakes Greek dice game — to craps and sports betting. Of course, he also had associates putting some of his money into 6-for-5 loansharking.
Whatever Jack White has done over the last 30 years, he has done it without fanfare. In 1951, the traveling Kefauver Committee sought unsuccessfully to get White to admit his occupation. For refusing to answer, he was cited for contempt, a ruling which was soon overturned by the courts.
His lifestyle has been so unassuming that many lifelong residents of Cleveland's Little Italy are hard-pressed to identify the small, stooped, balding man who can be seen almost any day dressed in a drab gray suit or colorless sports clothes playing cards with other retirees in the Italian clubs on Mayfield Road.
For good reason. Until last year, when the murder of Danny Greene and the fear of his own life preoccupied him, White was known as a man who rarely spoke to anyone outside his most trusted, intimate circle. He rarely used his personal telephone, believing, rightly or wrongly, that it was tapped by law enforcement authorities who have had him under surveillance for years.
He has always sought to call as little attention to himself as possible. A bachelor, White for many years has lived with another bachelor, Paul Ciricillo, also known as Paul Lish, whose sole known occupation is that of carpenter. They occupy a tiny house on Fairview Court, a hilly, brick-paved alley behind the Golden Bowl Restaurant. Garlic strings hang outside the back door, which opens to a small den, built by Lish, where friends are modestly entertained on White's homemade wine. The den is furnished with, among other things, a statue of the Blessed Virgin entwined with a rosary, over which hangs an oil painting of a curvaceous blond woman undressing. Only a few feet away from the Blessed Virgin is an air conditioner where the FBI surreptitiously placed a bug last fall, when agents believed White was planning Greene's murder in the paneled recreation room.
Because of his recurring orthopedic problems, White's living quarters are unique. They include an exercycle, whirlpool and steambath. Aside from playing golf — at Highland Park in Cleveland in the summer, Hot Springs, Arkansas in the winter — he has few hobbies and few habits that would betray his position. When the FBI arrested him last December in the Greene murder, little was uncovered in the house search identifying him as a Mafia don — only $1,800 in cash, a gun and his treasured, hollowed-out cane, the handle of which screws off in an 18-inch gold stiletto-like dagger.
For all his reputed buried-away cash, White is not known to be overly generous. A federal source claims he has actually used stolen credit cards on out-of-town vacations, and not long ago he was tripped up in a Florida nightclub putting slugs in a vending machine. Associates acknowledge he frequently complains about the high cost of grapes for his wine-making. Two years ago, this mob boss suffered an embarrassment as deep as his men's botching of the Greene bombing when he was picked up with two associates for shoplifting a pair of trousers at Higbee's in Severance Center. Higbee's dropped the charges.
Jack White — shoplifter and Cleveland capo
— clearly did not want to wage war, either with opposing underworld factions or the law. But he was ill prepared to put down the fighting that erupted so quickly and savagely after Scalish's death.
Scalish kept peace with the underworld and the law by shying away from grinding all criminal activities under his fist. For years, Cleveland has been a town where gambling, bookmaking, narcotics, loansharking and other ventures are up for grabs, run largely by independents — unlike Chicago or New York, where anyone involved in big street crime pays his tribute to the ruling clique.
In fact, Scalish, who had become rich through investments in legitimate businesses, prohibited his lieutenants from involvement in narcotics and prostitution. Scalish also refused to allow his children — two sons and a daughter — to have anything to do with organized crime.
With Scalish gone, all the rules changed. White's youthful and aggressive associates — many of whom would figure in the Greene killing — decided Scalish's departure was a long-awaited opportunity to muscle in on various activities. This pitted them against the likes of Danny Greene, who saw many of those interests as his own domain.
Just how much money was there to be made on the streets? The answer is complicated. If all the top loansharking, bookmaking, narcotics, prostitution, gambling and labor racketeering were organized in Cleveland, the possibilities would be limitless. But times have changed. The leading Cleveland underworld figures years ago put their millions earned from gambling casinos into Las Vegas or legitimate interests. And with the rise of blacks to the top of everything from numbers to narcotics, attempts to organize everything again under one umbrella organization would be futile — and bloody. Still, the belief that some of those enterprises could be organized was one of the motivating factors that led to the conflict between Greene and the criminals tied to Jack White.
Pride and power were the others.
The man who heads any criminal organization can not only demand a piece of various activities, he also can command respect and wield power. No matter how influential he actually is, the very position itself— call it what you will: head of the mob, capo,
boss, Mafia don— can be intimidating to politicians, labor leaders, businessmen and, of course, the lower-level thugs.
Danny Greene believed he, an Irish-American, could control the rackets, but the more organized Italian faction was not about to give way without a fight.
If Jack White, one of only a handful of Clevelanders believed to be in the Mafia, did not want to be the boss, there were those close to him making their moves known even before Scalish's grave had been closed. These moves would force White reluctantly to take the reins.
White's closest ally for years was Leo Moceri, a muscular man called "Lips" because of his ugly, protruding mouth. Although 69 years old in 1976, Lips Moceri was still considered to be one of the most ruthless and violent crime figures in the nation. For a decade he had dominated the rackets in Akron. Originally from Detroit, he and White have been linked in various loansharking and gambling undertakings for many years.
Moceri's criminal record begins before the 1920s and includes arrests for shootings, blackmail, bombings and heatings. He was indicted for three murders alone in Toledo in the Thirties, but escaped conviction on each one. Before World War II, Lips had earned the reputation as one of the underworld's most notorious triggermen. In 1969, listing his occupation as produce dealer, he was acquitted of income tax evasion on the improbable but successful defense that he had made no money in recent years, but had lived on the income from his bootlegging days!
Moceri, it is said, was interested in becoming leader of the Cleveland outfit, or, at least, in frustrating the ambitions of his avowed enemy, John Nardi, who was not masking his desire to be Number One.
Nardi, the 61-year-old secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 410 (vending machine service employes), had lived for years in Scalish's shadow. A nephew of Anthony Milano, Nardi believed he had the backing and muscle to control the mob. But Moceri and others strenuously opposed him, charging that he was greedy, overly ambitious and foolishly involved in various enterprises that called negative attention to his personal life. More worrisome was the fact that he had tied his fortunes to the brawn and cunning of the regular Italian clique's most feared enemy — Danny Greene.
Besides trying to run the Mob, Nardi reportedly was trying to gain control of the labor union movement in Cleveland. Among others aligned with him in this effort was Anthony Liberatore, business agent for Laborers Local 860, who became involved in a separate attempt to kill Greene and take over not only the unions but the underworld as well. According to one federal source, these Italian labor leaders wanted to replace William Presser and his son Jackie, who head the Teamsters Joint Council in Cleveland and Ohio, because, among other things, they are Jews, while the bulk of the Teamster leadership and membership is Italian. The FBI believes that Nardi, Liberatore and others wanted the Teamsters as a source of power to shake down employers with sweetheart contracts and work stoppages.
Jackie Presser, the source continues, had received several death threats, prompting him to employ bodyguards and other security measures to protect his life. (With the rash of bombings and death threats on union officials and underworld figures in the past few years, it is now de rigueur
among the higher echelon in the labor unions and, one might surmise, organized crime to use automatic car starters. Some actually tote around electronic beepers — much like a telephone paging system — that activate when their cars are jostled.)
Preventing Nardi from easily taking over the unions or gang leadership were his own personal problems. A heavy gambler, he was known to be in debt to various Cleveland bookmakers and at least one Las Vegas casino. And in September 1976, at the height of the internal underworld strife in Cleveland, Nardi went on trial in U.S. District Court in Miami on charges of importing marijuana into the country. Had that deal been successful, say government officials, Nardi might have netted himself a quick $100,000. Also indicted were Morton Franklin, a Cleveland insurance man who had been implicated in the bankruptcy of the Northern Ohio Bank, and Mitchell WerBell, an international arms dealer from Powder Springs, Georgia, believed to be a former CIA operative dealing in merchandising weapons to anti-communist regimes in South America.
After a principal witness died mysteriously in a plane crash, the government's case against Nardi and the others fell apart, and they were cleared. Nardi left the Miami courthouse beaming. "The government tried to frame us," he declared to reporters.
But in Cleveland the acquittal changed nothing.
That summer Nardi and Moceri were literally at each other's throats. One afternoon they met at the Teamsters Joint Council Hall on East 22nd Street.
"Keep your hands off the Akron rackets and get rid of Danny Greene," Moceri insisted.
"I'll do what I damn well please!" Nardi shouted back.
"Do you know who I am?" exploded Moceri. "I'm Leo Moceri and no one pushes me around!"
The confrontation ended with Nardi and Moceri spitting in each other's face, the ultimate gesture of disrespect.
Now even Jack White was unsettled. He wanted Nardi and Moceri to make peace. But a close confidant, the late Tony (The Dope) Del Santer, head of the Youngstown rackets, encouraged him to have both Nardi and Greene killed.
As the summer waned and Nardi prepared for his Florida trial, he and Moceri had what was to be their last encounter. During the mid-August Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy, Nardi demanded a cut of the gambling games run by White and Moceri at the huge street festival. Moceri flatly refused.
Moceri was last seen in Little Italy on August 22 of that year at the close of the Feast. Ten days later his car was found in the parking lot of an Akron motel, the trunk soaked with blood. He has not been seen since. Although Nardi denied knowledge of the suspected murder, the national underworld was disturbed that one of their stellar lights had been dispatched without the normal approval given at a "sit down" of local chieftains.
Jack White, once the peacemaker, now wanted revenge. But he needed someone more professional than his ambitious unskilled young soldiers. Even Eugene (The Animal) Ciasullo, believed by the FBI to be a hit man and the brightest if not toughest of White's aides, wanted nothing more to do with the struggle. Two bombing attempts on Ciasullo's life that summer and fall convinced him to move to Florida. (He is now believed back in Cleveland.)
White and his friend Tony Del Santer sought the help of Jimmy (The Weasel) Fratianno, an important West Coast Mafia member and hired killer who had grown up in Cleveland and still has relatives here. Fratianno introduced White and Del Santer to Raymond Ferritto, a hoodlum from Erie, Pennsylvania with whom he had served time in California. Fratianno knew of Ferritto's reputation as a gunman — in 1969, Ferritto had killed Julius Petro, an ex-Cleveland thug, by luring him into a car in Los Angeles and shooting him in the side of the head — and felt that Ferritto, who was close to many Cleveland mobsters, could be trusted. Ferritto was said to be eager for the work, and the Clevelanders were anxious to have him, because he was not known to Greene and Nardi.
Yet Feritto, 49, a sometime bookmaker, nightclub operator and vending machine company employe, hardly fit the stereotyped image of a sophisticated and cool hit man. Tall, thin, with salt-and-pepper hair, Ferritto was known to be highly volatile, flying into rages at the slightest annoyance. Some years back, part of his stomach had been removed because of aggravated ulcers. To ease his nerves, Ferritto ate antacids by the bottleful or smoked marijuana.
Later, after Ferritto was identified by a secret witness at the Greene bombing and arrested, he told the FBI that White had been unsure of how to get at Greene and Nardi, but gave him the go-ahead to kill either. Information regarding their habits was to be provided by Pasquale (Butchy) Cisternino and Ronald Carabbia, the latter being the Youngstown under-boss to Del Santer.
"White told me not to worry," Ferritto told the FBI, "that I would be taken care of ... that they could either pay me one lump sum or, if the work was done, he could 'make me' in 'our thing.' " "Our thing" translates "Mafia."
Ferritto had left his meeting with White believing he would hear from Cisternino or Carabbia. For a long while he didn't. Then, one September night, Nardi, still exultant over his acquittal in Florida, was leaving the Italian-American Brotherhood Club when bullets pierced the windshield of his car. He escaped, but believed Jack White's underlings — Butchy Cisternino, Joe Iacobacci, Glenn Pauley, Allie Calabrese and Joseph Bonariggo — were responsible for the assassination attempt.
"These efforts," Ferritto later said, "made me begin to believe that the deal made with me no longer was a deal."
A few days after the assassination attempt on Nardi, a bomb was placed in Calabrese's 1975 Lincoln Continental, which was parked across the street from his house in a neighbor's driveway. When the neighbor, Frank Pircio, tried to move Calabrese's car, the bomb exploded. He was the first innocent victim of the gangland struggle.
By the spring of 1977, after various bombings and shootings attributed to both sides, it became clear that Jack White did not care who hit Greene and Nardi, as long as they were eliminated. Indeed, White was so overwhelmed by the task that he brought into his confidence several longtime associates to debate and analyze the situation. Among these men, according to Ferritto, was John Calandra, the mild-tempered, 68-year-old owner of a Collinwood tool and die shop whom the FBI had investigated a few years before for loansharking.
"Calandra told me there were a lot of people all over the country concerned over the killing of Leo Moceri and something had to be done to get this thing over with," Ferritto explained to the FBI. "He told me people wanted to know what was being done and asked that if help was needed they would send any help to take care of it. Calandra told me that White had refused this help because he felt it was his problem, and to 'save face' he had to take care of it himself as it would be embarrassing to be the boss of Cleveland and have to ask for outside help."
By the spring of 1977, Ferritto still had not received the requisite back-up support or the advance money he had been promised. He made occasional trips from Erie to Cleveland so Cisternino could show him Greene's green Lincoln and other cars, his home, and his favorite restaurants. But because Greene's habits were so erratic, he was difficult to pin down. Other attempts on Greene's life were unproductive. According to information provided the FBI by an informant, Calabrese and Iacobacci followed Greene to Texas in early 1977, where he was putting together a deal to purchase a cattle feeding lot and processing plant. But they could not find him there.
A month later, in March, Calabrese and Cisternino learned that Greene and Nardi were traveling to New York City together. They hooked a bomb to Nardi's car, parked at Cleveland-Hopkins Airport, and then rented a room at the airport motel, waiting for Greene and Nardi's return. But the bomb, which was activated by an electronic garage door opener, was not connected properly. As Nardi and Greene departed safely, Cisternino and Calabrese reportedly ran through the motel lobby, electronic activator in hand, pushing the starter button repeatedly.
By May 1977, Greene had learned through a street source that Jack White was planning Nardi's murder. He sent his aides, Brian O'Donnell, an electrician for the Curry Music Company, and Keith Ritson, an ex-Golden Gloves boxer, to warn the Teamster official. But Nardi told Greene's emissaries:
"Don't worry, Jack White is my friend. I've known him all my life."
Nardi would normally leave his car at a gas station on Carnegie Avenue while at the nearby Teamster offices. On the afternoon of May 17 — the same day Greene's emissaries visited him — he inexplicably broke with his routine and parked in the regular Teamster lot.
While he was inside, someone parked a car loaded with a bomb next to his Cadillac. Nardi left the Teamster hall for the last time at 3 p.m. and got into his car just as the bomb in the adjacent car was electronically detonated. He was killed instantly.
The FBI suspected the fine hand of Jack White in the murder, but when Ferritto asked Ronnie Carabbia specifically if Cisternino was involved, the Youngstown hoodlum replied: "No, his is the gang that couldn't shoot straight."
Despite their previous bungled attempts, "the gang that couldn't shoot straight" was now more determined than ever to kill their last remaining enemy. But Danny Greene was not an easy target — for anyone. He had encouraged Nardi to attempt taking over the street rackets and become the number one man on Murray Hill. Greene had killed people and instructed his associates to kill others. He was cunning, brutal and fearless. He knew he was going to be killed but did not seem to care. He refused to compromise with his enemies.
And no other man scared them more. Cisternino and some associates actually sequestered themselves in a Collinwood apartment hideout after the Nardi murder — "going to the mattresses," in mob parlance — because they believed that Greene was stalking them.
No Cleveland hoodlum ever lived on headlines and myth like Danny Greene. He loved publicity and relished the very thought that though his enemies had tried to shoot and bomb and maim him, he still came out on top. And no one hoodlum, with the exception of the late Shondor Birns (who helped bring Greene along, then was reportedly killed by him), has quite caught the city's interest like Danny Greene.
Psychiatrists would probably say Greene had a martyr complex and a death wish. After Nardi was blown away, Greene sat bare-chested outside his dumpy office trailer on Waterloo Road in Collinwood beneath an Irish green, white and gold flag and told newspaper reporters: "If they want me, they know where to find me."
Just who was this brazen man? A homicidal maniac? An FBI informant? A shrewd businessman? A Robin Hood?
Greene's origins are somewhat murky. "It is too painful to talk about," he would often say about his childhood. This much is known:
He was born in 1929 of Irish-American parents. His mother's maiden name is Fallon, an alias he frequently used. His father left or died when he was a child and Danny was placed in Parmadale, a Catholic orphanage. He attended Collinwood High School, where he had his first of many encounters with tough neighborhood Italian kids, spawning a lifelong hatred of Italians.
Oddly enough, while privately disparaging Italians, he cooperated with a good many of them — when it was in his own interest. He believed, for example, that Tony Liberatore was his friend, even while Liberatore was conspiring behind his back to have him murdered.
After leaving Collinwood, Greene joined the Marines, where he boxed and became an expert marksman — a talent that would spur his criminal career.
By the early Sixties, Danny was working on the Cleveland docks and before long had taken over the leadership of the then-somnolent local of the International Longshoreman's Union. Greene forced the stevedore companies to allow the ILA to control the hiring of dock workers. As a prerequisite for a regular job, many workers were forced to unload grain boats on a temporary basis and turn their checks over to Greene. The money ostensibly was for a union building fund, but most of it wound up in Greene's pockets.
"He read On the Waterfront," recalls one ILA member who helped Greene take over the union. "He imagined himself a tough dock boss. But he was 30 years too late. He used workers to beat up union members who did not come in line, but he was never seen fighting himself. He was a spellbinding speaker and a good organizer."
So effective a leader was Greene that he often lay in the sun while his men worked or — incredibly — actually coated him with suntan oil. When the weather was bad, he would practice target shooting in the union hall. At 5 feet, 10 inches, with curly blond hair, Greene was handsome but extremely self-conscious about his physical appearance. Not only did he lift weights and jog, but in later years he gave up drinking and smoking as well, underwent a hair transplant, and applied himself to a rigid diet of fish, vegetables and vitamins.
Solely to demonstrate his authority on the docks to company owners, he would call nonsensical, periodic work stoppages — often as many as 25 a day. Greene's aim was to shake down his employers for payoffs — but most refused. He even went as far as threatening to kill the children of one company owner, whose house had to be put under FBI protection and whose children were escorted by armed guard to school.
Reporter Sam Marshall gathered affidavits from dock workers charging Greene with taking their paychecks for a lengthy Plain Dealer
expose. Greene was forced out of the union and convicted in federal court of embezzlement — a conviction which was overturned on appeal. Rather than face a second trial Greene pleaded guilty to a lesser crime of falsifying union records, and was fined $10,000 and given a suspended sentence. He neither paid the fine nor ever went to prison for any of his activities.
While on the docks, Greene was befriended by Babe Triscaro, the late Teamster boss who owned a day-laborer employment service. Once when Jimmy Hoffa, the former national Teamster president, came to Cleveland, Triscaro hauled Greene down to Burke Lakefront Airport to meet the legendary union leader. Hoffa apparently was not impressed by Greene's wild talk. "Stay away from that guy," he cautioned Triscaro, "there's something wrong with him."
Through Triscaro's introductions, Greene came into contact with various local organized crime figures, including the late Frank Brancato, under-boss to John Scalish. At one point, Greene chauffeured Brancato around town to pick up his loansharking tabs.
Greene also worked with Shondor Birns, helping him enforce peace in the numbers business. When Birns needed a timely bomb placed under some renegade operator, Greene was most obliging. But in 1968, the rising Irish hoodlum almost killed himself when throwing a bomb at an East Side numbers drop. A short-fused stick of dynamite blew back in his car, demolishing the vehicle and shattering Greene's right ear drum. He was hard of hearing for the rest of his life.
Greene eventually started his own business, Emerald Industrial Relations. His modus operandi
was simple. Some union friends would stall or cause trouble on a construction site. Greene would then step in and guarantee labor peace — for a price. Many companies paid rather than suffer costly delays. Greene was investigated for his labor shakedowns on, among other projects, the Central National Bank Building and the Justice Center.
Under the protective wing of Frank Brancato and Tony Liberatore — himself a rising star in labor and organized crime — Greene was asked to organize the many local private rubbish haulers into the Cleveland Trade Solid Waste Guild. He bombed, burned and poured acid on equipment of haulers who were uncooperative, but was forced to abandon the guild when newspapers exposed his tactics.
Greene had many flaws, but perhaps the most serious was his noisy boasting. It was not unusual for Greene, during an otherwise pleasant conversation, to blurt out his intentions — sometimes in earnest, sometimes in jest. "That son of a bitch is going to get dumped if he's not careful," he would say.
Greene was, in fact, not above "dumping" anyone — even friends — if he believed they had crossed him. In October 1971, Greene dispatched his muscleman, Arthur Sneperger, to Cleveland Heights to fix a bomb on the car of Mike Frato, an independent rubbish hauler who once was so close to Greene that he named a son after the mobster. Sneperger wired the bomb while Greene, holding the electronic detonator, reportedly stayed a block away. Police believe he pushed the button early, killing Sneperger. Why? Just weeks earlier Greene had learned that Sneperger made a detailed account of Greene's criminal activities to the intelligence unit of the Cleveland Police Department.
How Greene found out is open to conjecture. But according to testimony in the recent trials of those accused of killing him, Greene himself was a productive FBI informant. He even went so far as to adopt a nickname for himself, the early code name of his FBI contact — "Mr. Patrick."
But Greene's relationship with the bureau, which the FBI refuses to discuss, did not cause him to mend his ways. Consider: Some years ago, Greene borrowed $75,000 from Shondor Birns in order to open an East Side after-hours spot. When he did not make good the loan — he claimed that he was not responsible for repayment since the money had gone to a black numbers figure, Billy Cox — Birns unsuccessfully tried to have him killed. When a bomb was found on the axle of Greene's car, he announced, "I'll return this to the old bastard who sent it."
Shondor Birns left Christie's Lounge, a near-West Side go-go spot, early on Holy Saturday evening in 1975 and opened the door to his Mark IV. A bomb, triggered electronically, cut his body in two.
Police believe today that Greene was responsible for the murder.
Less than two months later, Greene himself escaped yet another attempt on his life when his apartment was bombed, and he walked away from the rubble.
The stories of Greene's fearlessness and seeming indestructibility grew with each telling.
There was the time, supposedly, when he called the bluff of a Collinwood motorcycle gang by holding a stick of lighted dynamite on one of the bikers' front porch until the gang came out and met him. Or the time he saw someone with a machine gun driving by his house, and chased after the car on foot — unarmed.
Along with the tales of his derring-do, Greene encouraged the indoctrination of his small organization — primarily Kevin McTaggart, his young cousin; his son, Danny, Jr.; Keith Ritson and Brian O'Donnell — in Irish history. Greene, who considered the Irish a superior race, was so well read in British and Celtic history that he probably could have taught the subjects on a post-graduate level. He was so imbued with a sense of his ancestry that he wore green clothes, drove a green car, handed out green pens and had his apartment decorated in green. Even in his final hectic days, he asked an aunt to prepare him a family tree.
Greene may have been a killer, but he had another side. Imagining himself as a feudal baron, he supported a number of destitute Collinwood families, paid tuition to Catholic schools for various children and, like the gangsters of the Twenties, actually had turkeys delivered to needy households on holidays.
A year before his death, one of his young admirers tried to put Danny's legend into a crude poem:
The Ballad Of Danny Greene
Among the Crow, the story says, a man was judged by fiercest foe.
Many scalps a brave Chief took, who fought his way to fame,
Often he outwitted Death, ere history priced his name.
A modern warrior known as Greene was very quick and smart, and mean,
He scrambled hard and fought like hell, and led a charmed existence.
They shot him down and blew him up, with most regular persistence.
Through guile and luck and skill, Danny Greene is with us still.
He does his job, as he must do, with zeal, finesse and pride.
It's hard to keep a good man down, with St. Patrick at his side.
Some day he'll die, as all we must, some will laugh, but most will cry.
His legend will live on for years, to bring his friends mixed pleasure,
For he has done both bad and good, and lived his life full measure.
Full measure, indeed.
Even after the murder of John Nardi, when Greene believed half the Cleveland mob was actively involved in the attempt to kill him, he still entertained the fantasy of being able to pull off the one big score that would elevate him from the nickel-and-dime activity of the streets into the heady realm of high finance.
He was joined in this venture by several persons whom investigative agencies have linked to questionable white-collar schemes across the country. Among them was lawyer Harvey Rieger, 45, who was disbarred after pleading guilty to fraud charges in the Northern Ohio Bank bankruptcy case in 1977. Out of jail pending sentence, Rieger had left Cleveland but returned under the alias of Tony Collins.
After involving Greene in oil lease speculation and coal deals in the South, Rieger, working through a Las Vegas connection, interested him in an imaginative plan to take over a bankrupt cattle range, feeder lot and slaughter plant complex in Eagle Pass, Texas, a one-horse town along the Rio Grande. Greene became preoccupied with the idea, and began to search for the necessary capital — he would need $5 to $20 million — for the investment.
The cattle business, Maverick Meat Processing, Inc., was owned by Richman Harper, a rancher who in 1972 was indicted (but not convicted) in a plot to smuggle high explosives to Cuba. Harper had legal help in the business from Ben Barnes, the ex-lieutenant governor of Texas and a one-time protege of Lyndon B. Johnson. Apparently Barnes planned to help in its transfer as well — Greene had Barnes' business card with him the day he was killed.
Maverick Meat had fallen into financial trouble when beef prices dropped several years ago. The business' closing contributed to the downfall of at least two small Texas banks, which held sizable Maverick loans. When Houston and Chicago banks also began foreclosing procedures against the operation, Harper desperately searched the country for partners willing to rescue him — like Rieger and Greene.
In the deal's formative stages, Greene had also involved Teamster leader Nardi. They reportedly met with Paul Castellano, a ranking New York City mob member who owns an East Coast meat distributorship. With the help of Castellano and Nardi, Greene planned to raise and slaughter cattle, and then sell the beef at wholesale outlets across the country. The distributorship was to be organized as a co-op — the same type unions use to provide low-cost eyeglasses — with members able to purchase meat at prices considerably lower than retail cost.
Greene even went so far as to have a Columbus lawyer, Donald Eacret, draw up a prospectus for the deal and put together an umbrella corporation. He called it Micuarata Corporation — in Gaelic, Greene maintained, "mountain in which my treasures are stored."
Greene, however, never found the mountain. Eacret, who says he was not paid for his legal work (Greene rarely paid lawyers, claiming that the publicity they received doing work for him was sufficient fee), now says the deal was impossible because of Harper's reputation. "Greene and Harper projected annual sales of $6 million over a five-year period," says Eacret, "but it would have taken $7 million just to refurbish the feeder lot and plant — and that does not include buying new cattle." Greene had also convinced a local union official to pledge upwards of $3 million from a local pension fund as collateral for a bank loan. (The union leader later denied any involvement in the deal.) The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Unit of The Treasury Department investigated the meat deal for more than six months, but will not comment on its findings, other than to say they have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Despite these setbacks, Greene continued to invest his own money in the deal, and on trips to San Antonio even tried to learn to speak Spanish. On the afternoon he was murdered, Greene had intended to meet with a Cincinnati money finder to continue his attempts to raise capital.
When word of the meat deal spread through the Cleveland mob, they became convinced that Greene's obsession with the cattle business would make him less vigilant than usual. Greene's enemies had learned of the meat deal, according to Ray Ferritto's statements to the FBI, through a tap on his apartment telephone.
Ferritto, however, also told agents Tom Kimmel and Bob Friedrick that by late summer he was disgusted with his contract to hit Greene. He was not getting any help from the Cleveland group in scouting his target — not even the mug shot of Greene promised. For identification, he used a picture of Greene that appeared in the April 1977 Cleveland Magazine story on bombings. (More than a dozen copies of that issue were later seized by the FBI in searches of other mob hideouts and homes.)
By fall, Ferritto had only had one opportunity to complete his job. One day he placed a bomb in a box in front of Greene's apartment house. But he subsequently decided against rigging it, fearing that some of the many elderly people living in the building might get hurt. In early October, Ferritto says he was called to a meeting on a boat in Mosquito Lake near Warren with Carabbia, John Calandra, Jack White, Angelo Lonardo and Butchy Cisternino. They listened to a tape recording of a call made by Greene's girlfriend, Denise Schmidt, scheduling a dental appointment for Greene at Brainard Place in Lyndhurst on October 6, two days hence. "It was decided I would give it one more try and that if Greene did not keep his appointment, we would led it ride awhile," Ferritto told the FBI. "Everyone agreed and the meeting ended."
While Ferritto was firming up the details of the murder plot, another man whose life had been a study in violence was engineering his own plans to murder the hated Irishman: Tony Liberatore, whose role in the murder and concomitant attempts to seize control of organized crime in Cleveland would not only put him on the FBI's Most Wanted list, but place him in jeopardy with the mob as well.
Liberatore, 58, had been convicted of participating in the killing of two Cleveland policemen in 1938 during a gas station holdup. He was only 16 years old at the time, but because of his past record of robberies and burglaries, was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1957, Lt. Governor John Brown, filling an 11-day vacancy in the governor's chair, commuted his sentence.
Shortly after he was paroled, Liberatore returned to Cleveland — officially as a common laborer, unofficially as a bomber and muscleman for leading underworld figures. He eventually gained control of Local 860 of the laborers union, maintaining his power through bombings of his opponents, and even teaming up with Danny Greene in the formation of the Cleveland Trade Solid Waste Guild. In 1972, shortly after Governor John Gilligan was pressured to give Liberatore a full pardon, Liberatore was implicated in the fencing of $1 million in bonds stolen in a California bank robbery.
Despite his shady ventures, Liberatore craved respectability and often insisted, at lectures he gave on penal reform, that he had paid his debt to society and was now a useful citizen. Indeed, in 1975 Cleveland Mayor Ralph Perk, eschewing a police investigation and apparently unconcerned about adverse publicity, appointed Liberatore to the board of the newly created Regional Sewer District. (Liberatore was only one of many organized crime figures who would surface at City Hall during the Perk years.)
But Liberatore's outward respectability was only a cover for his burning commitment to take over the mob leadership. Liberatore maneuvered to strengthen his influence in the unions and high underworld circles with the help of Tommy Lanci, a lifelong friend whom he called his nephew. Lanci, 35, a high roller with an interest in a travel agency (specializing in gambling junkets) and Diamond's Men's Stores, had no criminal record and was not even a footnote in intelligence files. But he had befriended a variety of mob figures, both black and white, and he and Liberatore were inseparable, rarely making the slightest move without consulting each other. Their role in the Greene murder, however, would not surface until long after those originally arrested in the plot were jailed and awaiting trial. It was only when ex-convicts Louis (Little Tony) Aratari and Ronald (Vie Guiles) Guilliani were arrested this past winter that the spellbinding story that linked Lanci and Liberatore to Greene's demise was unraveled.
Aratari, a Canton resident who looks and talks like the Fonz but has served nine years for armed robbery, provided the most enlightening information — both to the FBI and later to juries in the two Greene murder trials. He claimed that Liberatore, who wanted to help out Jack White in order to position himself solidly with the mob, recruited him from union ranks to kill Greene. Aratari, who brought in his friend from the pen, Vie Guiles, to help, claimed Liberatore offered him $5,000 for the job and put them in touch with John Calandra. According to Aratari, Calandra (who has denied any involvement in the intricate plot) introduced the two accomplices to Ferritto, Carabbia and Cisternino at a Greene murder planning session. And a day before Greene's dental appointment at Brainard Place in Lyndhurst, Aratari said, Lanci sent him to Kenneth Ciarcia, a salesman at Crossroads Lincoln-Mercury in Independence, to pick up a safe car for the job.
While Lanci and Ciarcia both still claim they were not involved, Aratari maintained that Lanci, Ciarcia and even Liberatore knew that he and Guiles were to serve as a backup to Ferritto and Carabbia, with instructions to shoot Greene if bombing him was not feasible. They showed up at Brainard Place with a .357 magnum and 30-06 scoped rifle obtained, according to Aratari, through a gun collector known to Lanci.
"What do you guys want to do, blow him up or shoot him?" Ferritto asked Aratari on the scene.
But before a decision could be made, Guiles began to worry that Greene's bodyguards were casing the parking lot. "Guiles told Ronnie he wanted to leave," Aratari told the FBI, "and Ronnie asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I would stay and shoot Greene in the dentist chair if necessary. But Ronnie said go ahead and leave and that they would stick around."
Aratari and Guiles left.
They later met with Tony Liberatore, who handed Aratari $5,000 for the Greene murder and told him: "Hit those Irish kids next, and we got the whole town." Aratari took him seriously. In late fall, he tossed a hand grenade at Keith Ritson and Brian O'Donnell. But his aim was poor, and Greene's aides were not injured.
Then late at night on February 28 of this year, Aratari and Frank Pircio, the son of the Collinwood man who had been inadvertently bombed, were arrested in Middleburg Heights while staking out a bar owned by O'Donnell. The two men were cruising-along Pearl Road in a car with stolen plates, carrying a .357 Colt Python, a long-barreled shotgun and a sawed-off shotgun. Police traced the weapons to Lanci and the car to Ciarcia.
Convinced that Ferritto had already fingered him, and that Ciarcia had made him vulnerable by giving him a car with stolen plates, Aratari decided to talk to FBI agents Tony Riggio and Tom Kirk. He (and later Guiles, who also confessed) became protected government witnesses.
The FBI was by now certain that Liberatore was also part of the Greene plot — but there was one more role of the ambitious labor leader that had yet to be discovered. Last summer, when FBI agents learned that Jack White was planning to murder Greene, they were also told that the mob had a source in the Cleveland FBI office. At first unconcerned — false rumors about FBI leaks arise periodically — agents panicked when their informant identified specific documents said to be in the hands of Jack White.
Pat Foran, head of the Cleveland FBI organized crime unit, and Joseph Griffin, assistant agent in charge of the office, instructed agent Mike Kahoe to find out if a clerk, a secretary or possibly even an agent was leaking information.
According to a confidential source, the FBI pursued one astonishing lead. Agents one winter afternoon trailed a car driven by Paul Lish, Jack White's roommate, to the federal courthouse. Lish dropped off a young woman who turned out to be a secretary to U.S. District Judge Thomas Lambros. The woman admitted seeing Lish, but, according to the source, denied giving out any information that came across her desk. A polygraph test cleared her.
But the appearance of such a potential security leak alarmed the FBI, especially because of the sensitive nature of federal documents with which a federal district judge and his employees come in contact.
Lambros insists that the meetings between the woman (a divorcee who has lived in Little Italy all her life and knows many of the area's residents) and Paul Lish were "casual." He says he also made his own "exhaustive investigation" of the relationship between the girl and the roommate of the mob boss and concluded there was no breach of security.
"I don't have the slightest question that anything was wrong," says Lambors, "but I have cautioned her and others who work for me to be vigilant about who they associate with."
In the meantime, the FBI's internal probe centered on a number of low-level staff personnel. But one who was not seriously suspected was Geraldine Rabinowitz, a clerk for the bank robbery squad and a trusted FBI employee for nine years.
Geraldine Linhart — as she was known to most employees in the FBI office — was in love with Jeffrey Rabinowitz, a Cleveland Heights High School dropout who had drifted from job to job until becoming a car salesman at Crossroads Lincoln-Mercury. There, Rabinowitz became friends with Kenneth Ciarcia, one of the agency's most successful salesmen (largely because of business sent to him by Tony Liberatore and other ranking union officials).
Geraldine and Jeff planned to marry and build a "dream home" in Brunswick, but were being held back by an unsettled land contract case on their Maple Heights home filed in Garfield Heights municipal court.
Jeff, who had met Liberatore through Ciarcia, decided to appeal to him for help, believing that his underworld influence could break the suburban court log jam.
Liberatore and Ciarcia assured the couple that the case could be "fixed," but added that, because the FBI has so many informants, they did not know whom to trust to fix it. "See if you can find out who is talking to the FBI about me, Tony Liberatore and Jack White," Ciarcia reportedly told Geraldine.
At first Geraldine was aghast at the thought of stealing any documents; later, when she weighed her moral qualms against her obsession with breaking the land contract, she decided she could do it. There was another reason for Geraldine's betrayal of trust: Her husband-to-be had always been a loser in life, and by producing secret FBI documents, she hoped he might gain the respect of men he admired — Ciarcia, Lanci and Liberatore.
In early April of 1977, she went to the closed FBI intelligence files on the 30th floor of the Federal Building on the pretext of needing the spelling of a name. While there, she casually picked up a 30-page report on Jack White. Later, she and Jeff proudly delivered a Xerox copy of the report to Ciarcia at his house. And two months later, she produced another report.
But Ciarcia and Liberatore were not satisfied. They wanted the names of the FBI's informants, which were disguised by code numbers on the intelligence reports. So a short time later, Geraldine went to an FBI security room where informants' names were matched in a complicated filing system with their code number, and copied the 14 names Liberatore had sought.
Liberatore picked up the list at Crossroads and copied down the names on a separate sheet of paper. He then set a match to her list. (The FBI speculates that he then fed a phony list to Jack White, perhaps adding the names of those men who stood in the way of his rise to mob power.) Liberatore also gave Geraldine $1,000, which she needed as earnest money on the new home.
Once FBI agents realized that the names of informants were on the street, they doctored their files, eliminating some names and adding others. So when Geraldine again went to the FBI files in August to copy the names of another 52 informants, she unknowingly gave a salted list to Ciarcia and Liberatore. (As a result, most mob figures in Cleveland today simply do not know who the FBI's real informants are, and are suspicious of one another.)
One month later, Geraldine stole another report on Jack White, the most current one in FBI files. But both she and Jeffrey became frightened when they suddenly lost their court battle to break the land contract. Legally committed to a construction company for the building of a new house in Brunswick and financially hard-pressed, the couple went to Liberatore, who promised them $15,000 but asked for some indication he would be repaid.
In early October, with Jeff and Geraldine planning to be married the following month, they again pressured Liberatore for money. He met them at the home of Ciarcia's girlfriend, Noreen Orlowe, in Richmond Heights, where he instructed Jeff to go to his car and bring in an envelope. "This is a loan," Liberatore said, handing Noreen the cash. The following day, October 14 (after Ciarcia reportedly lifted $100 from the envelope), Noreen Orlowe took the cash to a branch of Shaker Savings, where she turned it into a cashier's check. The $14,900 check was turned over to Jeff Rabinowitz, who deposited it in his own bank.
By early March of this year, with the Rabinowitz couple living comfortably but nervously in their new home, the FBI was ready to make its move. After the confessions of Aratari and Guiles, agents on March 3 arrested Ciarcia and Lanci for murder. (Liberatore left his South Euclid house only 30 minutes before agents arrived to arrest him and has been missing since.)
Five days later, Harry Lum, the owner of Crossroads, was cleaning a conference room adjacent to Ciarcia's office when he found a suspicious black cardboard box on the floor behind a desk. Inside was a newspaper wrapped around a Fruit Loops cereal box; in the cereal box was a clear plastic wrapper covering a manila folder. And inside the folder were some strange papers.
Lum immediately called the FBI. "I think I got some papers belonging to you," he told agent George Grotz. "I want to give them back to you — now!" The two mean agreed to meet at 12:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn on Lakeside Avenue downtown.
Somewhat suspicious at first, Grotz asked Foran and Kahoe to conceal themselves in a car nearby and watch the transaction. But when Grotz got into Lum's car, Lum simply handed him the box. "Here they are," he said. "I don't want to know anything about them."
"I was so happy," Grotz told other agents the next day, "I could have kissed him."
When the three agents unwrapped the package on the desk of Stanley Czarnecki, head of the Cleveland FBI office, what saw confirmed their worst fears. Intelligence files on White, reports on FBI car license numbers, an affidavit on a wiretap of a Teamsters Union official, a memo on another Teamster leader involved in a shooting, and the precious salted informant list were all inside.
"We were dumbfounded," confesses Kahoe, "at the sheer amount of the documents."
But Kahoe recognized the handwriting on the informant list and hurriedly pulled Geraldine Rabinowitz's personnel file. It contained matching handwriting and also a notation that her new husband, Jeff, had been a car salesman at Crossroads.
"At that moment, we had mixed emotions," says Kahoe. "We were elated that we had uncovered the biggest lode of documents stolen in FBI history, but our joy was tempered with disgust." The disgust of course, was for Geraldine Rabinowitz, whom they had trusted for so long. When confronted by Czarnecki, she broke down sobbing. She had realized that after the arrest of Ciarcia and Lanci she might get caught, and had resigned a week earlier. On her second-last day at work, she told Czarnecki, "I'm glad it's over. I knew it was only a matter of time before you would get me. I knew you would not let this rest until you did."
"You know," she added later, "Tony said no one would get hurt from this. He said he only wanted the information to find out who was telling the FBI all those nasty lies about him and his friends. He said he would tell those people that what they're saying is not true.
"I guess I believed him."
Among the fingerprints lifted from the documents were those of Lanci, Liberatore and Ciarcia.
The agents had been lucky in their successful attempts to plug the biggest leak to the mob in FBI history. But there was yet another chance incident that, had it not occurred, might have left the entire case — both the murder of Danny Greene and the FBI infiltration — still a mystery.
Fate was to have it otherwise.
Ray Ferritto, sure after months of stalking Danny Greene that his chance had finally come, arrived in Cleveland on October 5, the day before the planned bombing. He stayed overnight in a Willoughby Hills apartment.
On the morning of the anticipated killing, Cisternino laid out the bomb parts on the kitchen table in the apartment: a nine-volt battery, blasting caps, clips, several sticks of dynamite, and the triggering device — a battery-powered black box with an antenna, the kind normally used for flying model airplanes.
Ferritto then drove to Brainard Place in the getaway car, a blue Plymouth, with the neatly packaged bomb on the seat next to him. Ronald Carabbia followed in the bomb car, a maroon Chevy Nova with a space hollowed out in its passenger door. They arrived shortly before 2 p.m. and sent away the nervous back-up pair, Louis Aratari and Vic Guiles.
Ferritto calmly set to work.
"I put the bomb in the Nova door," he told FBI agents, "activated it, threw a green blanket over it and got in the Plymouth."
Greene arrived at 2:20 p.m., 20 minutes late for his dental appointment, and parked in the middle of the lot. Moments after he entered the office building, Ferritto parked the Nova next to Greene's 1976 brown Lincoln Continental. (The Lincoln had been leased by Keith Ritson, but he and Greene periodically changed cars to confuse their enemies.)
Greene checked in with the receptionist in the third-floor office of Dr. Alfonso Rossi. Before sitting in the dentist's chair, he walked to a first-floor phone booth and called his son, Danny Jr., with instructions to bring his reading glasses to the Flame Restaurant in Euclid. He told Danny he would be late — he was always late for appointments — but that he needed the glasses to sign papers related to the big meat deal.
Dr. Rossi worked on Greene for 25 minutes, repairing a loose filling.
A few minutes after 3 p.m., Greene said goodbye to Katherine Grubbs, the dentist's secretary. "Have a nice day," she said. He smiled back.
Once in the parking lot, Greene walked with some purpose in his step, as if he were preoccupied, toward his car. Carabbia, meanwhile, was watching from a telephone booth at the edge of the parking lot. He got in the back seat of the Plymouth with Ferritto and drove slowly north on Brainard toward the freeway. They watched Greene unlock his car, ignoring his normal precaution of looking under the hood for a bomb.
The moment so long anticipated by Greene's enemies was at hand. Or was it? They had tried to intimidate, shoot, bomb and maim him for years. He seemed almost indestructible. Would something go wrong now?
Nervously clutching the airplane transmitter, Carabbia watched Greene enter his car. Ferritto continued his slow cruise toward the freeway. Carabbia took a deep breath. Greene was only 50 feet away when he squeezed the button.
The explosion was thunderous. It sent a red ball of fire into the air, a blinding cloud of flame that for an instant bathed the already sunlit parking lot in a terrifying white light.
The bomb tore Greene's back apart. It ripped off all his clothing, except for his brown zip-up boots and black socks. It blew off his left arm, throwing it 100 feet away, the gold ring with five green stones still firmly on a finger. The gold bracelet with the raised letters "DJPG" stayed on Greene's right wrist. And a gold ring with a large green stone remained on a right finger. But the blast tore off the Celtic cross he so proudly wore on his neck, embedding it in the asphalt.
The blue Adidas duffle bag he was carrying was almost untouched. Inside, the FBI found his 9-mm pistol, two clips of bullets, papers on his Texas meat deal, a notebook with jottings on assignments for his lieutenants, a Wall Street Journal
article on the availability of terrorist weapons, a list of license plates of cars driven by enemies, and a Mother of Perpetual Help holy card.
That night at a restaurant in Little Italy there was a celebration. One man who loathed Greene danced about in a drunken stupor. He pulled out a .38 and shot it wildly into the ceiling. "The Irishman is dead!" he screamed. "The Irishman is dead! The Irishman is dead! The Irishman . . . ."
Greg and Debbie Spoth, a young Cleveland Heights couple, had never heard of the Irishman Danny Greene before the bombing. On the afternoon of October 6, the couple was driving to an art gallery they own in Mentor, heading east along Cedar Road in Lyndhurst, and turning north on Brainard in front of the Brainard Place office building. As they approached the I-271 entrance ramp, Debbie, who was driving, allowed a blue Plymouth to turn in front of her. She and the Plymouth's driver momentarily stared at each other.
The Plymouth slowed down and Debbie passed it, noticing a man in the back seat gazing at the office building parking lot.
"It looked strange," she later said, "that there was one man in the front seat and one in the back seat."
Suddenly there was an explosion, and debris — a piece of a car— was flying toward the Spoths.
"It looks like an atom bomb!" she shouted.
"Get the hell out of here!" her husband yelled.
The Spoths were racing north on the interstate when they noticed the blue Plymouth move in front of them.
"I asked Debbie to catch up with it," Greg said later. The Spoths made notes of the driver, the car and the license plate. That night Debbie telephoned her father, Art Volpe, a Berea police detective. Without revealing the Spoths' identity, Voipe gave the description of the driver to Lt. Andy Vanyo, head of the Cleveland police intelligence unit. Vanyo immediately pulled Ferritto's picture from his files.
The Spoths later identified the picture as that of the driver, and the picture of Carabbia as the man in the back seat.
The identification triggered a chain reaction that brought on one of the largest organized crime investigations in modern times. The Lyndhurst police alone, in work coordinated by Chief Roger Smythe and Lt. Joseph Wegas, interviewed 600 persons.
The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Unit, responsible for probing bombings and firearms violations, marshaled its agents nationwide in tracing not only the origins of the weaponry used in the killing, but also the activities of those who supposedly were involved in the planning.
And the FBI, brought into the case because of several federal infractions, made what is perhaps its deepest and most successful penetration into the lives of any American city's organized crime family.
Indicted for murder were Ronald Carabbia, Jack White, Angelo Lonardo, Ray Ferritto, James Fratianno, Allie Calabrese, Butchy Cisternino, Thomas Sinito, John Calandra, Tony Liberatore, Louis Aratari, Vic Guiles, Thomas Lanci, Kenneth Ciarcia and Carmen Marconi.
Because Lanci and Ciarcia were arrested just as the first trial was to start, and John Calandra was in the hospital undergoing heart surgery, a second trial was scheduled for them.
Liberatore and Marconi never appeared on trial because they skipped town.
Ferritto, Aratari, Guiles and Fratianno became protected government witnesses.
So only White, Lonardo, Carabbia, Cisternino, Sinito and Calabrese went on trial in the first legal round.
From the very beginning, the case was overwhelming for both the prosecution and defense. It stretched out for months — from a drawn-out jury selection process in February and March through a final verdict in late May.
Prosecutors Carmen Marino and Edward Walsh called on more than 100 witnesses, presenting a staggering amount of raw, uncoordinated information to the jury of eight men and four women.
None of the defendants took the stand, but their lawyers, including James Willis, Jerry Milano, Carmen Policy, Leonard Yelsky, Ralph Sperli and Elmer Guiliani, were able to tear apart the testimony of many government witnesses. Although Ferritto was unbending, there was too much conflicting testimony to make every detail of his story seem believable.
Even after the prosecution presented its case, Common Pleas Judge James J. Carroll agreed with a motion filed by Jerry Milano and dismissed charges against Calabrese, noting that Ferritto was the only one to implicate him and that Calabrese was in jail at the time of the bombing.
The jury then cleared White, Lonardo and Sinito, perhaps because only Ray Ferritto could identify them as being involved in the conspiracy to kill Greene. Cisternino and Carabbia — implicated directly by corroborating witnesses — were found guilty.
There will be another chapter in the story, however. The U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force is reportedly ready to seek indictments against everyone involved in the Greene murder conspiracy on separate federal organized crime statutes.
And the FBI still has its case pending against Ciarcia, Lanci and Liberatore for stealing bureau documents.
As for the mob ... for the first time in years the public has been afforded a glimpse of its brutal activities and associations. The purges will continue, but the gang — the gang that couldn't shoot straight— is temporarily weakened. In national underworld circles, the Cleveland mob has become another Cleveland joke.
Will an outside crime family from Chicago or Detroit muscle in on the Cleveland group? It is a possibility that could lead to further bloodshed.
But for now, things are quiet. Jack White is back on the Hill playing cards; though still under federal surveillance, he meets regularly with his friends.
And Kevin McTaggart, the tall, good-looking 23-year-old protege of Danny Greene, is also still very much with us. He hands out green and white business cards identifying him as a representative of the Celtic Club. He even wears Danny's gold bracelet. He also wears the Celtic cross, the sacred symbol of what Jack White called "the Irish bunch."
Kevin drives a big green limousine like Danny, and sits out in front of Danny's old business trailer on Waterloo Road beneath the Irish flag, just like Danny did. He tells people he doesn't want any more trouble.
But just recently, he smiled knowingly at a visiting reporter.
"The Irish are still here," he said. Danny would be proud.