Giovanni T. (John Scalish) Scalici – aka Giovanni Scalisi, Giovanni Scalice, Giovanni Scalise, John Scalise, John Scalitch, and better known to the underworld and law enforcement as “John Scalish,” was born to Sicilian immigrant parents Francesco and Margherita (nee’ Fito) Scalici on September 25, 1913, in Cleveland, Ohio.
He had two brothers named Frank and Salvatore.
FBI #348011, Cleveland-PD #37141
Scalici stood 5-feet 11-inches tall and had a lean-medium build at 185 pounds. He had dark brown eyes and sported a full head of jet-black hair that turned salt-n-pepper by the time he was in his late forties.
John also had the reputation as a very ‘dapper’ dresser who wore expensive suits and clothes.
He was born and bred on the gritty streets of Cleveland’s Mayfield Road section which in those days was largely composed of Southern Italian and Sicilian immigrants. The Mayfield Road section was considered Cleveland’s version of Little Italy and was a known breeding ground for the Mafia.
By the time he reached adulthood, Giovanni Scalici was calling himself by the more American-sounding name of “John Scalish.”
On most future official papers and government documents, he would always write his name as John Scalish.
He got married young to a local Jewish girl named Matilda Rockman. Her brother later became a top Cleveland hoodlum named Milton (Maishe) Rockman.
John and Matilda would raise a family of four children; two girls they named Margherita and Francine (after John’s parents), and two boys Frank and John (again, named after their grandfather and father, as is the Italian custom.)
John and Matilda soon bought a private one-family home at 11706 Farrington Avenue in Cleveland. This is where they’d raised their children and where the Scalish family resided for decades to come.
John Scalish – Fledgling Criminal
As a teenager, John quickly gravitated to the streets and became a fledgling criminal.
His police record started back in 1930 at the tender age of only sixteen years old when he was first arrested for burglary. Over the years, he added to his anti-social register with additional arrests for such criminal offenses as armed robbery, vagrancy, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
He grew up with and became closely allied to such future top Cleveland racketeers as brothers John (Johnny King) and George (Georgie King) Angersola; Alfred (Big Al) Polizzi; Scalish’s brother-in-law Maishe Rockman; narcotics kingpin Salvatore (Sammy Polo) Poliafico; Samuel (Sammy Pap) Pappalardo; Francesco (Captain Frank) Visconti; and the notorious Meyer (Mickey) Cohen of California.
After successfully operating as an underworld leader for many years in the shadows, the otherwise low-key John Scalish was later exposed as a Mafia boss on November 14, 1957, when he and his family’s underboss John DeMarco were among sixty-two top Mafia figures from across the United States who were detained and later arrested for their attendance at the infamous “Apalachin Mafia Meeting” barbecue held in Upstate New York.
In 1960, Scalish was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct government justice and sentenced to serve five years in Federal Prison and fined $10,000 relative to his attendance at Apalachin and his refusal to answer questions before a Federal Grand Jury. (But this conviction was later overturned on appeal, as were all similar convictions of his mafiosi brethren.)
Not Good for Business
But the tremendous public exposure and adverse media publicity following Apalachin caused by these Federal investigations exposed Scalish once and for all for what he truly was…He was finally recognized and named by the U.S. Justice Department as the boss, or “Representante” of Cleveland’s Mafia Family.
The subsequent FBI investigations into his affairs revealed that he was a very wealthy man who had ownership interests and investments in a wide swath of businesses including the Buckeye Cigarette Vending Machine Company and hidden interests in nightclubs and undeclared “points” in several hotels and gambling casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Newport, Kentucky.
It was also revealed that Scalish controlled numerous illicit-gambling operations in the Cities of Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, and held tremendous power in local labor unions, shylocking, narcotics, and various other racket schemes.
Until next time…”The Other Guy”