One of the earliest established Mafia Families in the United States was the criminal network that formed down in Tampa, Florida.
By the late 1800s to early 1900s, Italian immigrants from Sicily were drawn to the City of Tampa and a tight-knit “Little Italy”-type community soon developed.
Immigrating right along with these hard-working early Sicilian immigrants came a band of shadowy criminal figures from their homeland.
Among the very first mafiosi to ever “set up shop” in Tampa were members of the Antinori, Italiano, and Scaglione families, who were all mafiosi back in Sicily.
Other “men of honor” considered to be contemporaries included such iconic names as Santo Trafficante Sr., Alfonso Diecidue, and the Lazzara family.
In those early days, there were violent conflicts between Tampa’s competing racketeers as they gained a foothold in America. These were the first seeds laid down by the Sicilian Mafia as they took control of the city.
After a series of gangland murders, the smoke started to clear and a formal Family hierarchy was established.
Through the decades illicit rackets primarily consisted of unlicensed alcohol, narcotics smuggling and wholesale distribution, the Cuban numbers game known as Bolita, slot machines, and other forms of gambling like horse and sports bookmaking.
The Trafficante Family Begins
Despite the fact that they were now the most powerful force in Tampa’s underworld, what became known as the Trafficante Family still worked side and side and sometimes came into conflict with other ethnic criminal groups prominent in the city.
These included a contingent of native-born “redneck” southerners who resented the Sicilians encroaching on their perceived territory, independent Italians, Cubans, other varied Hispanics, Blacks, and White southerners.
The ethnicities of associates mentioned above become clearly evident as you scroll through the membership chart below that reflects “associates” first and last names. It shows many names common to Hispanics, Blacks, and White southerners.
There were, of course, Italian associates as well. But the vast majority of these affiliates were as stated.
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Interpol, the CIA, and the FBI also say Santo Trafficante Jr. was suspected of conducting criminal activities at destinations as far-flung as Haiti, Dominican Republic, Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Vietnam, where he was suspected of setting up drug smuggling routes.
Aside from his rackets and legitimate holdings, during the 1950s Santo Trafficante Jr. lived on and off in Havana, Cuba where he held a controlling interest in several major hotel-casino operations under the Fulgencio Batista regime.
When Fidel Castro and his rogue regime seized power in the late 1950s, Trafficante returned home to the U.S. where he took full control of the Tampa borgata.
A Family Unscathed
Trafficante was an intimate of top Mafia leaders throughout the country, but he numbered among his closest friends and confidantes such iconic Cosa Nostra leaders as Louisiana boss Carlos Marcello, Texas boss Joseph Civello, New York leader Joseph Profaci, and Chicago’s Sam Giancana.
He figured prominently in such important FBI investigations as the 1957 “Apalachin Mafia Meeting” after he was captured with other Mafia leaders in Upstate New York, underworld infiltration of Cuban gambling casinos, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, and his attendance at the 1966 “Little Apalachin Meeting” of Cosa Nostra bigwigs in Queens, New York.
He also figured in the 1975 disappearance and presumed murder of national Teamsters President James R. Hoffa.
Yet, despite decades of intense Federal investigation and scrutiny, the United States Government never laid a single glove on Santo Trafficante. He continued to operate his crime Family unscathed until the day he died.
The Trafficante Family Leadership Chart below depicts all known “inducted” members and their significant criminal associates from approximately 1910 through 2000. A ninety-year period of continuous underworld activity.
Not all names listed below served during the same time period, but all of them played a part at one time or another in the criminal function of this borgata.