Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The St. Louis Family


In January 1971, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that the Missouri Task Force on Organized Crime had released the results of a yearlong study on organized crime in the state. The 15-member task force claimed that organized crime in St. Louis was "engaged in labor racketeering, gambling, infiltration of legitimate businesses, loan sharking, and narcotics traffic." Three factions were identified as cooperating in illegal activities. The first group was "headed by Anthony Giordano, with John Vitale second in command," and maintained strong ties with the Detroit syndicate." Aging, former Cuckoo gangster Jimmy Michaels headed the second group; and the last group was identified as "remnants of the East Side gang that was once headed by the late Frank "Buster" Wortman."

The report went on to state that the Giordano faction was heavily dependent on gambling, from operations in the north and northwest areas of St. Louis, as its main source of income. It also claimed that in addition to gambling, the group was into disposal of stolen property and had infiltrated legitimate businesses, including the Banana Distributing Company owned by Giordano, a produce trucking company, and the aforementioned Metropolitan Towing Company. The Task Force's findings accused the Giordano led faction of using the Metropolitan Towing Company to launder illegal income and provide an outlet to market stolen auto parts.

What concerned the committee was that all three factions had infiltrated organized labor. Authorities estimated that at least 30 mobsters were working as business agents for the unions, including relatives of both Giordano and Jimmy Michaels.

In conclusion to the committee's findings, it is interesting to note that in 1997, a former police official stated, "it behooved police to puff up the local organized crime situation because by doing so, the department became eligible for mob-fighting grants from the Nixon administration."

During the mid-1970s, Giordano was indicted after he attempted to gain hidden ownership in the Frontier casino in Las Vegas. Convicted with him were Detroit mobsters Michael Polizzi and Anthony Zerilli. Giordano was sent to prison in 1975 and released in December 1977. Giordano was nominated for Nevada's infamous Black Book on March 4, 1975, but because he had been sent to prison for the infraction, he was removed in April of the following year.

Another tie between St. Louis and Las Vegas was through Morris Shenker. Described as veteran defense attorney from St. Louis, Shenker represented Teamsters' President James R. Hoffa beginning in the mid-1960s and quickly made his way up the ranks of the "Teamsters' Bar Association." He also represented leading racketeers in St. Louis and was active in Democratic politics. His client list of organized crime figures not withstanding, Shenker was appointed by St. Louis Mayor A. J. Cervantes to serve as chairman of the city's new Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement. He resigned amid allegations that money from a $20 million dollar federal grant to fight crime was going unauthorized to the commission.

Former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ronald J. Lawrence said of Shenker:

"There is a tendency to dismiss as inconsequential the tremendous influence and power wielded inside and outside the underworld by Morris Shenker, a functionary for the St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and other families. This largely was because most local law enforcement officers were unable to comprehend the complexity of the man and his operations."

"Shenker, a lawyer who once represented Jimmy Hoffa, was a mover and shaker and a financial genius of the caliber of Lansky. It was Shenker who tapped the Teamster Union's Central States Pension Fund to finance much of the mob's penetration of Las Vegas casinos and other ventures. Shenker's influence extended far beyond the underworld and he was able to get two of his own federal indictments killed."

"St. Louis underworld interests controlled two Las Vegas casinos the Dunes, owned by Shenker, and the Aladdin."

As early as November 1974, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was reporting that Vincenzo "Jimmy" Giammanco and Matthew M. Trupiano Jr. (both sons of Giordano's sisters) were in line to replace Giordano before he was sent away to prison. The paper also discussed the possibilities of a mob war between the mafia and the Syrians, led by Jimmy Michaels, for control of several labor unions.

On February 12, 1979, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story that Giordano was directing organized crime activity in Colorado. The paper quoted an unnamed source as stating, "Giordano is not just an errand boy. He is overlord for Colorado and he is the commission's representative here. Territories and geographical boundaries are not important. Relationships between people are paramount, and Giordano provides that relationship with the top of the mob."

The article went on to say that Giordano, working with the Smaldone Family Eugene "Checkers," Clyde "Flip Flop," and Clarence "Chauncey" oversees gambling, loan sharking, major fencing and investments into legitimate businesses. Giordano's dealings with the Smaldones began in 1973. Authorities believe it was through this relationship that "organized crime attempted to gain control of the Pueblo, Colorado Police Department in 1977 through the selection of two St. Louisans as candidate for chief of police."

The article also revealed that influences in Colorado by the St. Louis mob went back to the mid-1960s when St. Louis gangster Sam Shanks went there to help the Smaldones re-establish control of the gambling interests after they were released from a long prison term for jury tampering. During this time, Shanks murdered a gambler turned informant. Later Shanks retired to St. Louis and was a confidant of Giordano.

On August 29, 1980, Giordano died from cancer at his South St. Louis home. He was 67. Ten days before his death, a meeting was held at the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge at Interstate 44 and Hampton Avenue. The meeting, with members of the Colorado underworld present, was called to choose a successor. Giordano's choice was said to be his nephew, Jimmy Giammanco. However, some family members balked at the decision and instead supported Joseph Cammarata, an ex-convict who had been keeping a low profile. Reports stated Giammanco threatened Cammarato when the decision was made to promote him. When neither candidate seemed to emerge, Anthony M. "Nino" Parrino, an officer of Teamster's Local 682, was considered.

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