There came a time around 1970 when both LaRocca and Genovese “pulled him up on the carpet.” They instructed Verilla, in no uncertain terms, that the revenue he was producing for the Family was insufficient and that he had better do whatever he needed to in order to bolster racket revenues to a satisfactory amount. If not, his position as leader in Altoona would be assigned to another hoodlum.
The city of Altoona, within Blair County in Pennsylvania, is an area just shy of 10 square miles situated deep within the Allegheny Mountains. During its first development and expansion in the early decades of the 20th century, it reached an all-time high population of 82,000 residents back in 1930.
By 1960, it still maintained a population of approximately 70,000 people who called it home. After years of steady decline, today it hovers at only around 43,000 residents. Even still, Altoona kept its ranking as the 11th largest city in Pennsylvania.
With its typical All-American persona of apple pies and county fairs, Altoona was a very unlikely place to find the ancient Sicilian phenomenon known the world over as the Mafia.
Although the city was much larger compared to its notorious Pennsylvania neighbor New Kensington in Westmoreland County, or such well-known nearby mob-run gambling meccas as Youngstown in Ohio, the traditional sleepy little city of Altoona never had that kind of nasty underworld reputation.
By and large, it was a quiet, out-of-the-way area that was traditionally 95% white with an Italian population of no more than 12% or so. Black residents accounted for about 3% of its natives, and Hispanics were not even “a thing” at a dismal 1%…it always was, and is, a “white-bred” town to its core.
Not only didn’t Altoona have its own resident Mafia Family, but it couldn’t even boast that it had a formal Mafia “regime” headed by an official “capo di decina” with a recognized crew of formally inducted “soldiers” and its “on record”, traditional “associate member” recruits and other lower-level tiered “associates.”
Sure the area had its common criminals as all towns do, both semi-organized and not, but the Cosa Nostra was not entrenched there.