The City of Chicago has always had more than its share of gangsters and racketeers. Notorious underworld characters such as the legendary “Scarface” Al Capone and his sidekick Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, among many others or their ilk, would forever brand the “Windy City” for its gangsterism, making Chicago almost synonymous with gangland killings and mob warfare in the minds of the public.
But although these two men would rise to the very pinnacle of their chosen “profession,” neither of them lasted very long and, in the end, lost it all.
Future underworld leaders such as Paul “The Waiter” DeLucia and Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo learned the lessons of their predecessors well and plied their trade in a much wiser fashion, which allowed both men to accumulate tremendous wealth and power along the way. Yet, even they would become notorious during their long careers.
But despite Chicago’s deadly reputation for notorious mafiosi and hoodlums, there was, in fact, a shadowy contingent of mafiosi who thrived for many decades within the city, while largely remaining under the radar of newsmen and law enforcement authorities – and out of their clutches.
Rosario (Ross Prio) Priolo was one such mafioso!
What follows is his life story and illustrious underworld career…
Rosario Priolo, whose birth name was Rosario Fabricini, was born on May 10, 1900, in Ciminna, Sicily, a small town located approximately 30 miles southeast of Palermo.
It is not known exactly when or why, but when he was still a very young boy, maybe even an infant, his mother left him in a foster home. He was later adopted by the Priolo family.
During the early 1900s, Sicily was a very poor place, and during that period, over one million Sicilians were forced to migrate around the world. It was the first such exodus of biblical proportions, and certainly not the last. So, in June 1909, the Priolo family, including nine-year-old Rosario, sailed off to the new land of opportunities – the United States of America.
After arriving on New York’s Ellis Island, the Priolos traveled to Chicago and settled in a prominently Sicilian area on the near North Side which, as the Sicilian population grew, eventually became known as “Little Sicily.”
The “dark people,” as they were called, had started pushing slowly into the district where industry demanded cheap labor. And so the former, more prosperous European community, such as the Germans and Irish, began moving further north and west of the city center.
With their arrival, the Sicilians had also brought with them their traditions and secret societies such as the Black Hand gangs and the Mafia. Some had already established their criminal operations and managed to absorb their newly arrived cousins and friends into their organizations.
A Little Back History
In 1909, the same year the Priolos arrived in Chicago, the city’s first alleged Mafia boss was murdered.
Many mob historians believe that Mariano Zagone was the man who held that position. Like the Priolos, he had also immigrated from Cimmina, Sicily. Zagone was married to a woman by the name of Biagga Spatafora, a widow with six children by her late husband, both of whom also came from the same small town of Cimmina, Sicily.
Newspapers reported that Spatafora’s late husband was a wealthy Italian from the North Side, but it’s unclear if he was just a successful businessman or a Mafioso in disguise.
In May 1909, Zagone was sitting at a table with his son-in-law, Joe Nicolosi, in their saloon located at 134 Gault Court when another man quietly approached him from behind and shot him in the temple. Somehow, Zagone was able to stand up and stagger outside where he immediately collapsed on the sidewalk (although police believed later he might have been dragged out.)
By the time the police arrived to take him to the hospital, he was already unconscious. And he never recovered, succumbing to his injuries shortly thereafter.
Sources say that Zagone’s successor was a relative of his wife’s named Rosario Dispenza, who may have possibly orchestrated the former boss’ demise. Dispenza’s nickname was “Heartless,” an apropos nickname since he had later ordered the murders of many close associates and also opened the door for many “forbidden” rackets such as kidnapping and prostitution to take place in the city.
Dispenza was a major Mafioso who owned a saloon in Little Sicily which is believed to have become a sort of “school” for future Mafiosi. And just like the Zagones and Priolos, he, too, immigrated from the town of Ciminna.
The Priolos understood the value of knowing or coming from the same place as the big-time Mafioso who controlled the area where they lived. But this was the new land and Dispenza was mostly involved in extorting his own people. So, in 1914, Dizpenza, along with his close associate Tony Puccio, was killed by rival gangs.
Next up as the new “Don” was a former priest from Sicily by the name of Anthony D’Andrea. He worked as an extortionist but was also involved in politics. And by 1920, D’Andrea became head of the Unione Siciliana, a fraternal organization in Chicago. He also ended up becoming one of the leading criminal figures on the city’s North and West sides.
D’Andrea was likely the first intelligent and powerful boss of the Chicago Mafia who led the organization through various ventures. The D’Andreas had immigrated from Valledolmo, Sicily, and subsequent leaders of the Chicago Family also appear to have hailed from the same area of that western Palermo province.
Ross Prio Gets His Start
But aside from the big-time criminals, there were also numerous other smaller criminal gangs that operated in the same area.
For example, another smaller Italian gang that operated on the North Side was the infamous Gloriana gang. Its leader was Salvatore “Charles” Gloriana who oversaw a small group of organized thieves and killers, primarily of Italian heritage but a few men of Irish heritage had also joined the gang.
Note: The Gloriana gang may have been looked upon as some type of “farm team” for the overall Italian Mafia organization.
One of the members of the Gloriana gang was a burglar and ruthless assassin known as Dominick Nuccio, who would later become one of the “Three Doms.”
It is not known for sure whether the then-20-year-old Rosario Priolo rose in one of these other smaller gangster groups, but most of the members in the Gloriana gang were around the same age as Priolo, including Dominick Nuccio, who was five years his senior. And records show that at some point, Priolo had a close connection with Nuccio.
By the early 1920s Prohibition era, Little Sicily had become a vibrant Italian neighborhood that more than 20,000 Italians called home. During this time, many Sicilian clans became involved in the lucrative bootlegging business, including future crime boss Joseph Aiello and his four brothers.
The vast money-making opportunities of Prohibition led to shifting alliances which in turn led to the murders of several high-profile gangsters, including Mafia boss Anthony D’Andrea, who was killed in 1921. It’s believed that D’Andrea had been betrayed by some of his own crew members who had made an alliance with the Irish political and criminal machines.
By now, the North and West sides were still ruled by some remnants of the old Irish Mob including mob boss Dean O’Banion whose group included a mix of Irish, Jewish, French, and Italian gangsters. Bugs Moran was a part of O’Banion’s North Side Gang, as it was called, as was Vincent Drucci, who was an extremely colorful Italian gangster.
At the same time, another prominent force was rising in Chicago – the so-called Torrio mob, which was headed by Italian boss Johnny Torrio. During those days, the Torrio crew operated mainly around the South Side. Most members of the Torrio mob had originally immigrated from or had family back in Calabria and Napoli, meaning most of them were so-called “Mainlanders” who arrived from New York to Chicago during the previous years. This means that the Torrio gang had close connections to one of the Mafia clans back in New York.
Legend has it that, at first, Torrio and O’Banion brokered a deal not to interfere in each other’s territories. But, soon, the Torrio mob took control of Chicago’s downtown area known as the Loop as well as much of the South Side. The Torrio mob was also intent on seizing the profitable Gold Coast territory, which drew the ire of O’Banion and caused him to create a lot of problems for a lot of people and turned the City of Chicago into a bootlegging mess.
So, in 1924, some of Torrio’s allies murdered O’Banion at his North Side flower shop. And in 1925, some of O’Banion’s allies attempted to assassinate Torrio in retaliation, but he survived, and decided to retire.
With O’Banion dead and Torrio out of the game, Chicago’s underworld was split into two warring factions – one led by a faction of the Sicilian Mafia who had aligned with O’Banion and the other led by Torrio’s protege, Al Capone.
And now, many of the smaller gangs had to choose which side they wanted to align with. As mentioned previously, O’Banion caused a lot of problems for his remaining “officers” because he quarreled with many smaller North Side gangs such as the Gloriana Gang, the Circus Gang, and the West Side’s Genna Family.
It is quite possible that this was the time period when many members of the so-called Northwest Sicilian Mafia started to see the end of their organization and so some of them began to betray their bosses and allies and began creating new alliances with the opposition.
A Slice of the Pie
While all of this havoc was taking place on the streets of Chicago, Rosario Priolo, who, by 1927, had Americanized his name to Ross Prio, was busy making a fortune for himself in bootlegging and extortion rackets on the North Side and around the Rush Street area, including West Grand Avenue.
He also became associated with Tony Capezio, a ruthless member of the Capone mob, who was a suspect in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929. In fact, because of his association with Capezio and because of the illegal operations he ran in that area, Prio was pulled in for questioning by authorities. But nothing ever came of it.
On June 19, 1929, Prio was arrested along with his old buddy Dominick Nuccio and a bootlegger and member of the Bugs Moran Gang (the same gang who had several of its members slaughtered just a few months prior) named Henry Finkelstein during a raid on a still at 2014 W. Kinzie Street. Authorities said it was one of the largest stills ever found in that area.
The police, of course, took advantage of the opportunity and questioned the three men about numerous recent killings, including that of a detective, as well as kidnappings. The charges were later dropped.
Prio’s arrest with Finkelstein somehow again confirms his connection to the old North Side group. And it also might mean that these guys were involved in the betrayal of some of their non-Italian allies and associates in the Italian Mafia.
And through his newly formed connections, Prio started expanding his illegal operations.
Expanding and “Expanding”
On September 24, 1929, Prio became a naturalized U.S. citizen. In 1930, he married a beautiful, young Italian girl named Marie Teramani. They eventually had two children together, a son they named Ross Jr. and a girl they named Joanne. By this time, Prio had moved his family into a home at 6139 North Campbell Avenue.
It seems that by now the old Sicilian Mafia was in a good relationship – to an extent – with the Capone group mainly because all of the bosses both in Chicago and New York who were against Capone were either killed or fled their cities. But most importantly, back in 1928, Capone had already been brought in as a member and capo for the Chicago Mafia.
In November 1931, Chicago’s last North Side representative on the National Mafia Commission and Prio’s personal boss Salvatore Loverde was killed. That same year, Capone was recognized as the official representative and boss for the Chicago Outfit.
It is possible that during that time, Prio and his remaining bosses like Charles Argento, had to keep quiet and obey every order which was handed down from the new leadership.
Argento allegedly had close connections with Capone’s D’Andrea brothers, Phil and Anthony, in the union business but in August 1932, Argento was murdered in his office. Two of his crew members – Vincenzo DiGiorgio (aka James DeGeorge) and Henry Finkelstein were with him when two hitmen entered the room and pumped several bullets into Argento’s body.
Again, this sounds like another betrayal within the old Chicago Sicilian Mafia, and the internal tensions continued to exist, even though they all represented one family with Capone at the top.
After Outfit boss Al Capone was sent to prison in 1932 and with the end of Prohibition, Prio’s new representative or capo for the North Side group became James DeGeorge, the same guy who might have been involved in the conspiracy against his predecessor, Charles Argento.
DeGeorge, who was similar in appearance to Winston Churchill, was a shrewd businessman, and his main racket was the corruption and infiltration of legitimate enterprises, a venture that rarely stepped on the toes of the leading Capone faction.
He allegedly came to the North Side all the way from the Chicago Heights area, a suburb roughly 32 miles south of the city. This probably occurred during the days when there used to be a second Mafia family in Chicago and the two groups were in close alliance until the Capone mob was formed and most of the former two groups were eliminated.
A Million Bucks a Year
In the 1930s, Prio began investing some of his bootlegging fortune into legitimate businesses. In 1933, he formed a milk-producing company called L&P Milk Company with an old Capone associate by the name of Marcus Lipsky. L&P, by the way, stood for Lipsky and Prio. Lipsky was the frontman.
He had also formed the Uptown Chicago Dairy Company which was originally located on 2236 Fullerton Avenue but had relocated about 11 miles south to 3639 Harrison Street. Prio listed himself as the company president. John Ingraffia was listed as the company’s treasurer and Sol Miller was a salesman for dairy.
In late 1937, right around the time Prio had relocated his company, a newly formed milk company by the name of Belmont Farm Products opened a plant at 2714 Belmont Avenue which was right near where Prio’s old place was.
Some retailers decided to shift their business to Belmont because it was closer and they didn’t want to travel the 11 extra miles to get their supplies. And that didn’t sit very well with Ross Prio.
He sent Ingraffia and Miller to visit Belmont’s president Gustaf Palmer to try and persuade him to stop selling their products to Prio’s former customers, claiming they were alleged communists. Palmer told them he didn’t care who they were as long as they paid for his products.
Miller was having none of it and told him, “You’ll see pretty soon you can’t get away with that.”
Prio, of course, wasn’t happy with that outcome, so he decided to visit one of his former customers himself – a man by the name of Joseph Bart, who was an independent retailer. Prio threatened him with an ax to his head if he didn’t return his business to Prio’s dairy – even if it wasn’t close enough for his liking.
He also sent Miller and another man to follow Bart on his way home just as a little incentive to help him change his mind, but Bart had called the police for protection.
So, a few months later in January 1938, Prio decided to step it up a notch. On January 13, unknown men entered Belmont’s plant through a skylight. They destroyed three pasteurizing machines with axes and hammers and set the plant on fire.
On January 15, Prio, Miller, and Ingraffia were arrested and charged with malicious mischief and intimidation after the victims – both Gustaf Palmer and Joseph Bart decided to report the harassment to the police.
The three men were released on $2,000 bonds each but later, the case was dropped.
Another of Prio’s legitimate businesses at the time was the Willow Laundry Company which was located at 758 Willow Street. His partner in this company was a former Capone member from the North Side by the name of Gaetano “Black Tom” Oneglia – aka Thomas Neglia. Together, they also operated a gas station and purchased a parking lot.
Around this same time, Sam Herdan, who was the owner of the Ace Loan Company in Chicago, contacted Prio to invest $8,000 in his company and later asked Prio to take it over, which he did.
By now, Prio was making upwards of one million dollars a year.
James DeGeorge Moves Up
By the late 1930s, it is believed that James DeGeorge had become a member of the Outfit’s Board of Directors (aka Consiglio.) It seems he had gained the trust of the leading Capone crews and was rewarded by being assigned as the main representative for the entire North Side, including parts of the West Grand Avenue area and the Near West Side.
So, it is possible that his prime lieutenant, Tom Oneglia was elevated to a capo position, overseeing the Lake County, Rogers Park, and Rush Street areas, with DeGeorge as his boss and representative on the Outfit’s round table.
DeGeorge’s North Side group was mainly controlled by Vincent “Don Vincenzo” Benevento and his nephew Nick DeJohn, Gaetano “Black Tom” Oneglia, James DeAngelo, Sam “Snakes” Gervase, Onofrio Vitale, Ross Prio, the so-called “Three Doms” – Dominick Nuccio, Dominick Brancato and Dominick DiBella – and also rising stars such as August Giovenco.
Most of the guys like Benevento, DeJohn, and Oneglia were killers in their own right, but they were mostly involved in legitimate businesses and liked to eliminate their competition “Mafia Style.”
Just Say Cheese
After his milk operations, Prio and his associates ventured into another lucrative legitimate business – the cheese industry.
Prio became partners in the famous Grande Cheese Company together with the company’s manager, a guy by the name of Giovanni Vincenzo DiBella (no relation to Dominick DiBella.)
John DiBella was just another Sicilian immigrant and cheese maker with many Mafia connections, including in New York and Chicago. He might have been brought in by two of Prio’s Sicilian cohorts, Thomas Oneglia and Vincent Benevento, who both were involved in the cheesemaking business around the Grand Avenue area.
In fact, Benevento was known as the “Cheese King” due to his vast operations in the cheese industry. And since both Prio and Benevento were already heavily involved in the dairy business, DiBella and the Grande Cheese Company were a perfect combination.
So Prio’s obvious and most prominent partners in the company were Benevento, Oneglia, and James DeAngelo since all of these guys were stockholders in the company.
Grande Cheese was located at 134 North La Salle St., and its president was a Prio associate by the name of Fred Romano while Prio acted as general manager.
Romano put two other frontmen in place – Tony Paterno and Gabriel Spataro, who allegedly founded the company – for the purposes of owning, leasing, and managing dairies around the city of Chicago.
Even though Romano was the company’s president with Spataro as the managing director, according to some reports, Prio visited the company on a daily basis to give legitimacy to his title.
In fact, the company had a quite lucrative start, producing its cheese in huge quantities and delivering its products to all food stores and restaurants across the city.
Just imagine how many grocery stores, hotels, and restaurants were owned by the Italian Mob at the time in Chicago, all supplied by the Grande Cheese Company. No doubt, it generated an enormous amount of cash and was the perfect money laundering operation for the Outfit.
But as we’ve seen with other hugely profitable criminal ventures in Chicago, and the competition and greed that surrounds such ventures, it undoubtedly leads to war, murder, and the ultimate demise of many high-profile crime figures.
In 1943, West Side boss and Outfit head Paul Ricca and a few other top hierarchy Outfit members were sent to jail after being convicted at trial for extorting movie producers and major Hollywood film studios out in Los Angeles, California.
Ricca ruled the Outfit with an iron fist and also had a seat on the National Mafia Commission, but since he and a large part of the Outfit were busy fighting the government, Ricca probably knew that some of the remaining capos might try to take over his organization. So, it was up to Charles Fischetti and Tony Accardo to act as the boss and underboss for the whole organization and to keep it in one piece.
But it seems Ricca was right, because Lawrence Mangano, one of his capos from the West Side, together with some high-level members of the North Side group, including Tom Oneglia, Sam Gervase, Vincent Benevento, and James DeAngelo, all plotted against the old and new leadership.
In their minds, the solution was simple. Whoever dominated the rackets, would win the top spot. So, one fought for control and the other side fought against it. There were even rumors that mobsters from Kansas City and St. Louis were also allegedly involved in the conspiracy against the Ricca-Fischetti-Accardo leadership.
Ross Prio found himself in a very precarious predicament because it was his close associates from the North Side who wanted to take over the Outfit’s “throne.” So, he had to weigh his options very carefully.
Prio knew Ricca and Accardo were very shrewd guys who had many killers in their camp. He also knew that Ricca had spies in every crew who kept him abreast of any possible rebellion against the boss.
And since Prio was no dummy, he made the extremely wise decision to abandon his old buddies from the North Side crew and align himself with Fischetti and Accardo. And that’s when “clean-up” began.
Anastasia Before Anastasia
First up was one of Prio’s closest associates and long-time friend and business partner, Thomas “Black Tom” Oneglia.
On December 7, 1943, Oneglia decided to get a shave and haircut at a neighborhood barbershop called Charlie’s Barbershop located at 1608 Sedgwick Street, but while he was enjoying his shave, his face still covered in lather, two hitmen burst in and shot the 50-year-old father of seven to death.
The killers escaped in a waiting automobile and were never seen again. Some investigators later suspected the murder was the work of the “Three Doms” though they were never arrested for it. As a side note, while investigating the murder scene, cops found $1,636 cash on Oneglia, including a $1,000 bill hidden in his watch pocket – in 2023 Oneglia would be carrying around $28,853 in cash.
Later, while searching his safe deposit box for clues, authorities found 83 shares of stock in the Grande Cheese Company (he was a part owner), $5500 in cash, $10,000 worth of diamonds, and a 2-1/2 carat diamond ring.
As another side note, Oneglia lived at 6118 N. Campbell which was only doors down from where Prio used to live back in the 1930s before he moved to another home at 7710 N Eastlake Terrace.
A Backed-Up Sewer
On February 25, 1944, 42-year-old James DeAngelo and 50-year-old Onofrio Vitale were called to a meeting and were never seen again.
On March 11, ten days after he disappeared, DeAngelo’s battered and bound corpse was found in the trunk of his wife’s car on a busy street on the North Side of Chicago. It had been discovered after a man phoned the cops at 4 a.m. claiming he saw four men stuffing a body into the trunk. But police believed DeAngelo had been in the trunk the entire time because when they found him, his body was frozen stiff.
He also had a rope knotted around his neck, his body was bent over double at the waist and covered with an overcoat, and he had been trussed with nearly 50 feet of clothesline.
The autopsy report stated that DeAngelo had been tortured for several days prior to arriving at his final resting place. Apparently, his skull had been crushed by numerous heavy blows with a small, sharp instrument, and several of his ribs were broken from someone kicking them in. His body was identified by his 16-year-old son Emanuel.
Vitale hadn’t been reported missing until March 4. His daughter told police that she had received a call from an unidentified caller on February 25, telling her “Your father and his friend are locked up and you’ll have to get a bondsman.” She thought her dad would eventually come home…but, of course, he didn’t.
The DeAngelos and Vitales had been close. Onofrio was a godfather to James’ daughter. After the two men went missing, DeAngelo’s wife Sara went to stay with Vitale’s expectant wife in south suburban Calumet City where the Vitales lived. Newspapers reported that Mrs. Vitale gave birth around the same time James D’Angelo’s body was being pulled out of the trunk of his wife’s car.
Onofrio Vitale was discovered about a year later in April 1945 by a city employee who had gone to investigate complaints of a sewer backing up at Ohio and Union Streets. It seems that Vitale’s body had been trussed up and stuffed into that very sewer. Police believed he had been tortured and killed on the same day as DeAngelo since Vitale had suffered similar skull fractures as well as broken ribs.
Ross Prio was called in for questioning after the bodies were discovered but said he knew nothing of Vitale other than he was a good cheese curer and an excellent salesman. And as far as DeAngelo, Prio told authorities he only knew him casually.
The Fall of a King
On March 2, 1944, 39-year-old Sam (Snakes) Gervase was found shot to death at his refrigerator repair shop on West Division Street. His body was found crumpled in the rear of the store, riddled with bullets to the head and chest. He apparently tried to fend off his killers. Police discovered a .38 caliber revolver near his right hand – all six bullets had been spent. They also found another empty gun near the front door of the shop.
On August 3, 1944, “The West Side King” Lawrence Mangano was shot by three hitmen while driving on the West Side. Mangano, his bodyguard Mike Pontillo, and a female companion by the name of Rita Reyes had just left a club when they noticed someone following them.
Mangano stopped the car and got out waiting for the other car to approach which it did, pulling right up alongside Mangano and spraying him with bullets. Pontillo got out of the car to try to help Mangano but the hit mobile came back and sprayed more bullets, this time at Pontillo. Both men later died at the hospital. Their companion was shaken up but unharmed.
Some sources claim that his hit was another notch in the belt of the “Three Doms” but others claim that Lenny Patrick, Dave Yaras, and William Block were behind the murders.
A Cabin in the Woods
Next on the hit list was “Don Vincenzo” Benevento. On December 28, 1945, Benevento was working in one of his cheese stores, located at 1057 Grand Avenue, when three gunmen entered and ordered him to raise his hands. When he failed to do as ordered, one of the gunmen fired four times from an automatic pistol hitting him in the neck, stomach, and arm before taking off.
Miraculously, he survived the attack. When cops came to question him in the hospital, he stayed true to the gangster code of omerta by refusing to identify the shooters, telling cops it was nothing more than a simple robbery.
The cops weren’t too thrilled with his evasiveness and decided to search his apartment where they found a huge arsenal of weapons, including a Thompson submachine gun, eight shotguns, six rifles, eight revolvers, two pistols, and a basket full of ammunition. All of the weapons were loaded and well-oiled.
When questioned about what they found in his apartment, Benevento told authorities he owned all those weapons because he loved to hunt. But clearly, he had been making preparations to defend himself from the wrath of the Outfit.
A few months later, on March 1, 1946, Benevento decided to hit the road and told his wife that he was heading south. He fled Chicago and traveled the country, never staying in one place for very long.
On September 20th of that year, he called his wife Jane and told her to meet him at the Johnson Cabins, about three miles south of Lake Zurich, a northwest suburb of Chicago. She happily joined her husband.
In the early hours of the next morning, September 21, Benevento and his wife were sleeping when two cars slowly rolled up and parked in front of their cabin.
Three hitmen stepped out of the car and burst through the cabin door, firing shotguns and pistols at Benevento. He might’ve gotten lucky the last time, but this time his luck had run out. Benevento was dead in a matter of seconds. Surprisingly, although his wife was lying right next to him as bullets ripped through his body and tore up the mattress and walls behind the bed, she was unharmed.
He Left His Heart in San Francisco
After the murder of his uncle, Nick DeJohn also decided to get out of town and hightailed it to San Francisco, where he lived under the alias Vincent Rossi.
On May 9, 1947, DeJohn was seen that afternoon driving around San Francisco, shopping with another Outfit member by the name of Leonard Calamia.
Calamia suggested they should meet up with some friends at a bar named LaRocca’s Tavern, a known Mafia hangout in the North Beach section of the city. DeJohn didn’t suspect a thing.
Joining the two men at LaRocca’s were Outfit member Frank Tornabene as well as Sebastian Nani of the Profaci Family in Brooklyn and Tony Lima, Michael Abati, and Frank Scappatura from the San Francisco Crime Family.
After the meeting, DeJohn had been strangled to death with a heavy, braided fishing line, his dead body stuffed into the trunk of his car and left to rot on the side of the road until he was discovered two days later. Calamia was allegedly the killer.
In the eyes of the police, the only thing that connected many of these victims together was that they were all stockholders in the Grande Cheese Co.
DeJohn’s death signaled the end of the old-time North Side crew and the coming of the “new blood” headed by Ross Prio himself.
The Cream Always Rises to the Top
After the murders, John DiBella, one of the owners of the Grande Cheese Company contacted Prio to ask for his help in moving the company somewhere else.
So, in 1949, Grande Cheese Company found a new home at 1 S. Main St. in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was at this time that none other than New York mafia boss Joe Bonanno became one of the company’s main shareholders.
DiBella had a long-time friendship with Bonanno, but the Milwaukee group was brought in by Prio and the Chicago Outfit. So, Prio never lost his interest in the company. Every holiday, up until his death, he was known for always sending huge packages of high-quality cheese as gifts to the Outfit’s top administration.
During all of this friction, James DeGeorge was still the main guy on the North Side, but his time was up. The outfit punished him for his failure to fulfill his obligations to the organization by demoting him as boss of the North Side and shipping him to Wisconsin.
As a reward for his loyalty, Ross Prio was handed the vast network of bookmaking parlors and brothels in Rogers Park, along Rush Street, and the entire Near North Side.
And Prio’s power and influence as well as his money-making empire just kept growing and growing.
During the late 1940s, the Outfit’s coin machine king Edward Vogel expanded his operations to Dallas, Texas. His representative there was Sam Yaras, the brother of big-time Jewish hoodlum Dave Yaras. Ross Prio also played a major role in this expansion by sending along one of his associates from the milk business, Marcus Lipsky.
According to federal and Texas authorities, Lipsky masterminded the Outfit’s takeover of the Dallas rackets after planning the murders of four established Dallas gambling operators as a Machiavellian show of strength.
Ross Prio’s story to be continued…