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Tag: Vito Giacalone

Detroit’s Reputed Godfather Jack Tocco Dead at 87

Featured_jack_tocco_13369Jack Tocco

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Giacomo “Black Jack” Tocco, the reputed head of the Detroit Mafia for more than three decades, who kept a relatively low profile — more so than infamous mob brothers Vito and Anthony Giacalone —  died Monday night at age 87, mob expert Scott Burnstein of the Oakland Press reported.

Tocco, who was long suspected of having ties to the 1975 disappearance of James Hoffa, died of natural causes according to Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in Sterling Heights. The funeral will be Friday.

Raised in the upscale Windmill Pointe section of Grosse Pointe Park, Tocco earned a finance degree from the University of Detroit In 1949, according to an entry in Wikipedia.

He went on to own businesses around the state and built an impressive real estate portfolio, all while managing to maintain a fairly low profile, particularly when it came to media attention. The Giacalone brothers, who were capos, and underlings of Tocco,  had far more recognizable names in Metro Detroit.

“Jack was very low-profile, highly intelligent and business savvy and really the opposite of what people would view as a typical gangster, the kind you see in movies and on television,” retired FBI agent Mike Carone told the Oakland Press.  “I think that’s why he was able to stay under the radar for such a long time and avoid a lot of the pitfalls of being a mob boss, such as violence and long prison sentences. He was one of the last of a dying era.”

Tocco’s only felony conviction came in 1998 in a major racketeering case, which sent him off to federal prison for two years. Before that, his only previous conviction was for attending an illegal cock fight, according to a history of the Detroit mob on the FBI’s website.

Burnstein writes that Tocco owned the Hazel Park Raceway for more than four decades. Last summer, FBI agents searched former property he owned in northern Oakland County, looking for Hoffa’s body. The search set off a circus-like atmosphere — replete with an army of FBI agents, the media and curious neighbors. The feds came up empty.

The tip came from the former second in command of the Detroit mob, Anthony “Tony Z” Zerilli, a now elderly man who was Tocco’s first cousin. Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told the feds that he was informed of what happen to Hoffa after he left prison. He fell out of favor with the mob. 

Burnstein wrote:

Prior to his passing, Tocco was considered the most-tenured mob don in the United States, having taken power in 1979 at a ceremony the FBI photographed. He ruled unchallenged until his death, said Eric Straus, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in the United States Department of Justice. Straus spent two decades investigating Tocco.

Retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal, in an interview with Deadline Detroit Tuesday night, recalled that June 11, 1979, was the very day that it was officially announced to made-members of the Detroit Mafia that Tocco was taking over as boss, replacing Tony Zerilli, who had lost his juice in the organization.

Stejskal said he was part of an FBI surveillance team that followed some mobsters, including Tocco and Vito Giacalone, to a barber shop on Gratiot in northern Macomb County.

FBI surveillance photo at in 1979 at game farm with Tocco in the middle.

The men exited the shop and  got into a van. Stejskal and his fellow agents followed the van to a game farm north of Chelsea.

The agents saw it was a big gathering, and Stejskal recalls thinking:

 “Whatever it is, it’s a big deal. The only people there were all made guys.”

He said he and another agent quietly went behind an archery target on the property that was owned at the time by reputed mobsters Antonio and Luigi Ruggirello.

“I had my camera with a 300 mm lense and I started taking pictures,” Stejskal said.

Eventually, from intelligence, the agents learned that the gathering officially marked the start of Tocco’s long reign as Detroit’s reputed Godfather. 

Also read story:

A Detroit Mob Photo by the FBI Surveillance Squad Captures History

 

FBI Files: A Peek Into Mobster Vito Giacalone’s Cat-And-Mouse Game With the Feds

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Like old Tiger Stadium and the Vernors plant, Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone was a fixture in Detroit, one of the city’s best known mobsters — a Tony Soprano type whose mug occasionally graced the 6 p.m. news.

He was a suspect in the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance. He was known as a street boss who helped run sports betting operations.

And he wasn’t shy about collecting debts.

After he died last year at  88, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, which indicated it had about 20,000 documents on Giacalone.

I became interested in Giacalone as a Detroit News reporter in the early 1990s. He had just pleaded guilty to some IRS charges and was walking out of a federal courtroom downtown.

“Mr. Giacalone, would you care to comment?” I asked.  He ignored me, and with an icy stare, straight ahead, he proceeded to the elevator.

Before he went off to prison, I wrote a rather lengthy profile on him. I called his attorney David DuMouchel to request an interview. Dumouchel called Giacalone, then called me back to say that he not only didn’t want to talk, but:  “He’s not happy” that I was doing the story.

While Giacalone was alive, we got very little information on his private goings on, even though there was always a thirst for news about the Mafia.  I thought the FBI files could shed some light. 

FBI Finally Releases Some Documents

A week ago, I got the first installment from the FBI, a measly 120-plus pages or so, focusing on the mid-1980s. Many were redacted, chock full of whited out spaces to hide names and certain information , and more than 250  were reviewed and withheld. The FBI said it is working on processing the rest of the documents, determining what it can release.

The pages I received provide a glimpse of the ongoing cat-and-mouse game Giacalone played with the FBI and U.S. Strike Force attorneys, who often relied on snitches, wiretaps and surveillances to keep tabs on his life.

And keep tabs they did.

FBI documents talk about  seeing him play golf around town, including on the Wolverine Golf Course in Mt. Clemens; chatting with certain people on the course; people picked him up by car;  a dentist appointment for some gum problems; his winter stays in North Miami Beach and a desire to influence Teamsters elections.

The FBI also got word that Giacalone could be one wily guy.

Could Listen to Phone Conversations

A 1986 document mentions a source saying that Giacalone “has the capability to monitor telephone conversations. Source advised that he/she does not know how Giacalone does this, but he/she has heard on several occasions that Giacalone has this capability. Source added that Giacalone carries binoculars around in his automobile and that he used to spot surveillance vehicles.”

To read more click here. 

 

The FBI Files: A Peek Into Detroit Mobster Vito Giacalone’s Cat-And-Mouse Game With the Feds

The late Detroit mobster Vito "Billy Jack" Giacalone

 
By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Like old Tiger Stadium and the Vernors plant, Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone was a fixture in Detroit, one of the city’s best known mobsters — a Tony Soprano type whose mug occasionally graced the 6 p.m. news.

He was a suspect in the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance. He was known as a street boss who helped run sports betting operations.

And he wasn’t shy about collecting debts.

After he died last year at 88, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, which indicated it had about 20,000 documents on Giacalone.

I became interested in Giacalone when I was a reporter at the Detroit News in the early 1990s. He had just pleaded guilty to some IRS charges and was walking out of a federal courtroom downtown.

“Mr. Giacalone, would you care to comment?” I asked. He ignored me, and with an icy stare, straight ahead, he proceeded to the elevator.

Before he went off to prison, I wrote a rather lengthy profile on him. I called his attorney David DuMouchel to request an interview. Dumouchel called Giacalone, then called me back to say that he not only didn’t want to talk, but: “He’s not happy” that I was doing the story.

While Giacalone was alive, we got very little information on his private goings on, even though there was always a thirst for news about the Mafia. I thought the FBI files could shed some light.

FBI Finally Releases Some Documents

A week ago, I got the first installment from the FBI, a measly 120-plus pages or so, focusing on the mid-1980s. Many were redacted, chock full of whited out spaces to hide names and certain information , and more than 250 were reviewed and withheld. The FBI said it is working on processing the rest of the documents, determining what it can release.

To read full story click here.

 

Weekend Series on Crime: The Detroit Mob

FBI History: The Surveillance Squad Took a 1979 Photo of the Detroit Mob Worth Thousands of Words

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He is a columnist for ticklethewire.com.

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

Jack Tocco With Fellow Mobsters in 1979

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I joined the Detroit FBI surveillance squad in 1977. Two years later, on June 11, 1979 , we witnessed an event- its historical significance and ramifications would not be clear until many years later.

But before I get to that, a little history. In the early 1970s, the FBI’s Detroit Field Office established the FBI’s 1st full-time surveillance squad. At that time, organized crime was one of the priorities of the FBI.

Neil Welch, the then Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), decided it was a good idea to have a squad dedicated to primarily following members of the Detroit family of the La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, and learning about their activities. It should be noted that the Detroit family was one of the oldest and most successful LCN families in the country.

Although a surveillance squad was not a new concept, it was for the FBI. And FBI headquarters would have to be persuaded it was worthwhile, and that meant the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, had to agree. He did, and the Detroit surveillance squad was born.

The squad was unique not just in its function, but in its entire nature. As its primary target was a sophisticated organization, that would be surveillance wary, the squad had to be equal to the task.

Read more »