Shondor Birns & Danny Green: Cleveland's Killer Celebrities
No member of the Mafia was as respected by his peers as "Big Ange" Lonardo.
He had been born into the Mob in 1911; the Lonardos dominated bootlegging in Cleveland.
When Angelo was 16, his father and an uncle were killed by rival gangsters. When he turned 18, Angelo avenged him, much as the fictional Vito Corleone was to do on film a few decades later. He shot and killed "Black Sam" Todaro.
He was sentenced to life for the murder, but his lawyers somehow won a new trial. This time the witnesses against him had fled to Italy in fear. He was acquitted.
By the time James Licavoli became boss, Lonardo was a grizzled veteran of the rackets. After the disappearance of Noceri, he was an obvious choice for underboss.
And when Licavoli went to prison in 1983, he became the new boss. He was the head of the Cleveland family and ex officio member of the "commission" that coordinated Mafia activities across the nation.
Shortly before going to prison, Licavoli had made a serious slip.
Against the advice of Lonardo, his underboss, he allowed two of his soldiers, Joey Gallo and Sinito, to tie up with a drug-dealing operation that the feds were already closing in on. When they moved in, Lonardo, Gallo and Sinito were all convicted on a RICO charge.
Sitting in Lewisburg Prison, Lonardo thought over his life. When his appeal was rejected in 1983, he made a deal.
Big Ange was a "rat." The news sent a shock through Mafia leaders all over the country.
They realized what Lonardo could tell the Feds about them.
Next: Telling All