The American Mafia

Crime Bosses
of Los Angeles

Los Angeles

("Mickey Mouse Mafia")

1900s - Vito DiGiorgio (c.1875 to ). Like the Matranga Family, DiGiorgio appears to have expanded into southern California from an earlier base of operations in New Orleans. However, DiGiorgio seems not to have been affiliated with the Matranga Stuppagghieri underworld faction born in Monreale, Sicily. By about 1920, the Los Angeles-based DiGiorgio was the dominant figure in California's Sicilian underworld.

1920s - Joseph Ardizzone (c.1885 to ?). Ardizzone is widely regarded as the first Mafia boss in Los Angeles. In fact, the L.A. underworld was a chaotic jumble of competing families from the 1890s until nearly the end of the Prohibition Era. (One of the competitors, a Matranga family apparently linked to the New Orleans Matrangas, appears to have moved into San Diego.)

Jack Dragna

1930 - Jack Dragna (April 18, 1891, to Feb. 23, 1956). With support from some allies in the East and Midwest, Dragna brought order to the small Mafia clans in southern California. Dragna was not a trailblazer by any means. He was content to earn money through traditional rackets. After Prohibition, his organization ran off-shore gambling ships. The Mafia commission, after checking out the alternatives (and ordering the death of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel), finally endorsed Dragna as L.A. crime czar.

1950 - Dragna appointed Frank Bompensiero to run underworld affairs in San Diego. That turned out to be a costly move, as "Bomp" became a federal informant. Dragna is best remembered for his failures. He failed to eliminate competitor Mickey Cohen (who died of natural causes in 1976), and he failed to stake a claim in nearby Las Vegas.

Frank DeSimone

1956 - Frank DeSimone (1909 to Aug. 4, 1967). Attorney DeSimone became the Los Angeles Mafia boss after the 1956 death of Jack Dragna. DeSimone was noted as an attendee at the 1957 Apalachin, NY, underworld conference. Some confuse Frank DiSimone with Simone Scozzari, an aging underworld leader from the same time and place.

Nick Licata

1967 - Nicolo Licata (Feb. 20, 1897, to Oct. 19, 1974). DeSimone died on Aug. 4, 1967, of natural causes. Burbank cafe manager Nick Licata, who had been a suspect in the 1951 assassinations of two Kansas City mobsters (Tony Brancato and Tony Trombino) on a Hollywood street and served as a front man for Jack Dragna, stepped up as boss. Licata's underboss was Joseph Dippolito. Licata, under siege from law enforcement authorities and threatened by the westward expansion of Cleveland mobsters, had a troubled reign. He controlled the L.A. Mafia for about seven years until his own death. Some believe that Jack Dragna's son took over elements of the family from around 1968 until 1974.

Dominic Brooklier

1974 - Dominic Brucceleri (1914? to 1984). Also known as Dominic Brooklier and as Jimmy Regace. Brucceleri joined the Dragna mob around 1947 after moving west with a fellow Midwest gangster. His California career began badly, as it seems he was responsible for some of the botched attempts on the life of Mickey Cohen. Brucceleri took over the boss role after the death of Nick Licata.

Frank Bompensiero

1977 - Frank Bompensiero of San Diego is murdered on Feb. 10, 1977. L.A. gunman Thomas Ricciardi is believed to have performed the hit.

1979 - Brucceleri surrendered much of the day-to-day administrative responsibilities when he and underboss Mike Rizzitello (a New York transplant) were prosecuted.

1984 - Brucceleri died in federal prison.