The Silent Don: the Criminal Underworld of Santo Trafficante Jr.

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The Silent Don: The Criminal Underworld of Santo Trafficante Jr. Scott M. Deitche
AMH2020 U.S History
Regina Reynolds
June 15, 2010


Santo Trafficante Jr. was a Tampa mafia boss from the 1950s till his death in the 1980s. Being a first generation Italian, he inherited the family business from his father, Santo Trafficante. He was given the nickname “The Silent Don” because he was ruthless, yet well-liked and mannered. He greatly enjoyed reading history and biography novels, was educated and very charming, which won the hearts of many and helped his mafia achieve mob leadership of Tampa, Florida. He organized gambling establishments and, prior to Fidel Castro’s rise in power, he also established crimes in Cuba. Trafficante was arrested many times in his life, but managed to avoid any charges or serious convictions. Santo Trafficante Jr. was the last boss to be an immediate family member of the Trafficante mafia. He died at 72 in 1987 due to natural health related issues and passed the power down to the LoScalzo family.

Santo Trafficante Sr. came to the Americas in 1901 from Cianciana, Italy. Poverty had struck the family immensely because of the rocky economic conditions Italy was in at the time. The family arrived to Ellis Island and then moved to Tampa, Florida which was a new and upcoming city. He started this mob through a cigar business by conducting illegal games of bolita, a popular lottery game among Italian, Black, and Hispanic immigrants.

Trafficante Jr. took his first mobster position during the Second Tampa Mob War against the Italiano mafia in the early-1950s. The Italiano mafia had mob leadership in Tampa, with James Lumia being the mafia boss while Sal “Red” Italiano was in Italy. The purpose of the war was to claim mafia dominance in Tampa. Lumia was shot in 1950 by a Trafficante member. Police made Trafficante Sr. an immediate suspect for the killing, but by the time they went to question him, Trafficante Sr. was hospitalized due to stomach cancer and died in 1954. This is when Santo Trafficante Jr. took the position of mafia boss. Meanwhile in Italy, Sal “Red” Italiano was still calling the shots from Italy even after Lumia’s death. This was hindering the Trafficante family from full mob dominance in Tampa. Trafficante Jr.’s first mafia boss decision was to target Italiano member, Rene Nunez, and Angelo Giglio. Due to these killings, the Italiano mafia began to deteriorate, only just starting the Trafficante family’s mafia leadership in Tampa. Ed Blackburn, an investigator for the Rene Nunez and Angelo Giglio killings, made it his personal goal to take out the Trafficante mafia. Blackburn would make “pick up order[s] for Trafficante” (Dietche, 39) in which he would wait outside Trafficante’s casinos and plan to immediately put him into custody when he stepped outside. However, he was never successful using this tactic. In the mid-1950s, Trafficante got shot after having dinner with his wife and children. He was simply walking outside back to his car when two men shot him and then fled the area. This was the only time in Trafficante’s life when he would reconsider the role as mafia boss. Trafficante had a family and did not want to put them in danger. However, Trafficante spent his whole life being a part of this mafia so it was not long before his mindset changed. Trafficante then made the decision to seek any old Italiano mafia loyalists and kill them. Dominick Ferraro and Joe Antinori were next for Trafficante. Still living in Tampa, these ex-Italiano mobsters were primary targets. Only a month after Trafficante was shot, Ferraro disappeared in New York. With Ferraro out of the picture, Trafficante attempted to kill Joe Antinori twice and by the second time, successfully murdered him. Police made the Trafficante family primary suspects in Antinori’s murder. Both Trafficante and his brother, Fano, were taken into the police station to be questioned. Fano was released after only an hour...
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