American Mafia History Website

American Mafia Website - Tampa Bosses

The earliest Mafiosi in western Florida appear to have been connected with the underworld of New Orleans, Louisiana. Following the 1891 Mafia lynchings in New Orleans, some of the local Mafiosi were observed in the Tampa area. Tampa crime bosses generally worked closely with Mafiosi of New York and expanded their influence into criminal rackets in Cuba.

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1890s - One of the gunmen involved in the 1891 Mafia lynchings in New Orleans reported that he subsequently spotted a number of New Orleans Mafiosi doing business in Tampa. George Parke did not specifically identify the Mafiosi. However, if they were members of the organization targeted by the 1891 lynchings, they would have been linked with the Matranga family, leaders of a Mafia faction originating in the Monreale-Piana dei Greci area of Sicily and known as "Stopagherra" or "Stuppagghieri." Over time, Tampa became home to greater numbers of Sicilians from the area of Santo Stefano Quisquina, in the Province of Agrigento, and Mafia leaders originally from Santo Stefano and its neighboring communities became prominent


Ignazio Antinori

1900 - Ignazio Antinori (Feb. 17, 1885, to Oct. 23, 1940). Antinori was born in Santo Stefano Quisquina, Sicily, and traveled to the United States late in 1899. He entered the U.S. through New York City and proceeded south to the Tampa area. A core group of Mafia leaders in the Santo Stefano colony formed around Antinori.


Santo Trafficante Sr.

1903 - By this time, Ignazio Italiano (1860 to Aug. 11, 1930) and Santo Trafficante, Sr., (May 28, 1886, to 1954), seen at left, had joined Ignazio Antinori in the Tampa area. Like Antinori, Italiano was from Santo Stefano Quisquina. Trafficante was born in Cianciana, a short distance inland from Santo Stefano in the Province of Agrigento. (Trafficante's wife was born in Santo Stefano.) The three men appeared to share underworld executive power, with Italiano likely serving as chief.


1920s - During U.S. Prohibition, local Mafia leaders became politically connected through regional racketeer Charlie Wall. The leaders also attained importance on a national level for their access to Cuban rum. Santo Trafficante Sr. and aide Antonio Diecidue are known to have made at least one trip to Havana in 1926.


Giuseppe Vaglica

1920s - Thomas Zummo (c1891 to 1956) and Giuseppe Vaglica (June 16, 1893, to July 11, 1937), seen at right, both of Monreale, Sicily, became influential underworld leaders in Tampa, perhaps commanding remnants of the earlier Monreale-based Mafia there. Both men traveled extensively across the U.S. and had many connections. Some believe Zummo became part of the Tampa underworld leadership group.


Ignazio Italiano

1928 - Ignazio Italiano, seen at left, and Giuseppe Vaglica represented Tampa's Mafiosi at a convention held in Cleveland, Ohio. They and more than 20 of their underworld colleagues were arrested on suspicion, photographed and fingerprinted when Cleveland police discovered them at the Statler Hotel on Dec. 5. It was learned that Italiano was closely acquainted with New York Mafia big shot Giuseppe Profaci. Italiano had been acquainted with Profaci's father in Sicily and did business with Profaci's olive oil importing company in the U.S.


1930s - Santo Trafficante Sr. is regarded as the leading figure in the Sicilian underworld of Tampa. Ignazio Italiano died in August 1930 at the age of 70. (Some in the Italiano faction are less than eager to accept Trafficante as leader.) Ignazio Antinori remains influential, and Trafficante and Antinori reside close to each other in Tampa. Additional local power falls into Trafficante's hands when Giuseppe Vaglica is murdered in July 1937. Though Prohibition has ended, Trafficante's income is guaranteed by his dominance in gambling rackets - particularly Tampa's "bolita" numbers-type game - and his connections in Cuba prove valuable to the U.S. Mafia network, as investments are made in Havana-area gambling establishments.


1940s - Salvatore "Red" Italiano and James Lumia become prominent in the Tampa Mafia as Santo Trafficante Sr. seeks to operate from the background. On Oct. 23, 1940, Ignazio Antinori was shot to death, likely as a result of a growing feud with Charlie Wall. Repeatedly targeted for assassination, Wall begins providing information on the Tampa rackets to federal investigators in the mid-1940s.


James Lumia

1950 - James Lumia (Sept. 10, 1903, to June 5, 1950) was a trusted member of the Italiano faction, working closely with Salvatore "Red" Italiano. He may have briefly seized power in the Tampa underworld during the absences of Santo Trafficante Sr. and Salvatore Italiano. Lumia was murdered in 1950.


Santo Trafficante Jr.

1954 - Santo Trafficante, Jr., (Nov. 15, 1914, to March 17, 1987), became Tampa Mafia boss upon the death of his father. The Italiano faction in Tampa found the situation intolerable. Antonio Italiano and Dominic Ferrara reportedly went to New York Mafia bosses with a complaint. The Trafficante connection with New York was strong and lucrative, however. The complaint was ignored and Italiano and Ferrara were never seen again. Santo Jr. was frequently in Havana, Cuba, managing Mafia investments in gambling casinos and other rackets. Those investments were lost when Trafficante was unable to make arrangements with the regime of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro after 1959. For a time, Trafficante and other Mafia leaders worked with American intelligence agencies to plot the overthrow or assassination of Castro. Trafficante is among the underworld bosses regularly named by conspiracy theorists as an organizer of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy - a claim Trafficante vehemently denied. However, statements made by Trafficante during 1963 seemed to predict the assassination. In 1986, Trafficante was unsuccessfully tried by federal prosecutors for racketeering and conspiracy. The following year, he was charged with taking kickbacks from the International Laborers Union dental and eye health care plans. He died, following a bypass operation at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, before he could stand trial.


Frank Diecidue

1987 - Frank Diecidue (Feb. 20, 1915, to Oct. 19, 1994). Diecidue is believed to have been part of a leadership group in the Tampa Mafia from the time of Trafficante's death until his own death seven years later. Some sources indicate that he served as front man for another big shot. During this period, Steve Raffa (Oct. 2, 1941, to Nov. 16, 2000) gained control of the family's wing in the Miami area. Raffa died of an apparent suicide in 2000 while awaiting trial on racketeering, loansharking and gambling charges.