Zerilli is one of several Detroit mob leaders who emigrated from Terrasini, Sicily, a town on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Castellammare.
In the 1960s, Zerilli was named as one of five ruling members of the motor city Mafia. The other members of the ruling council were said to be Pete Licavoli, William Tocco, Angelo Meli and John Priziola. Licavoli and Tocco also trace their roots back to Terrasini. Licavoli and Zerilla were related through marriage.
Zerilli was an active bootlegger during Prohibition. He, Meli and Licavoli managed to outmuscle the primarily Jewish Purple Gang (FBI Files) in the later 1920s.
As the Castellammarese War opened in the nation's Italian-Sicilian underworld, Cesare "Chester" Lamare eliminated Gaspar Milazzo. Milazzo had been the leader of the Castellammarese faction in Brooklyn before moving to Detroit. Some believe the murder of Milazzo was coordinated with New York's Joe Masseria.
Zerilli is credited with avenging Milazzo's death by setting up Lamare's murder. Chester was killed - apparently by some of his own bodyguards - in February of 1931.
© 2007 T.Hunt
The American "Mafia"