American Mafia History Website

Underworld boss, FBI informant
Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero

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Frank "Bomp" Bompensiero was a longtime high-ranking southern California Mafioso assassinated in 1977 for providing information to the FBI.

Born in Milwaukee, WI, on Sept. 29, 1905, Bompensiero was an active part of the southern California underworld in the Prohibition Era. He settled in San Diego with his wife Thelma Sanfilippo (Thelma had also been born in Milwaukee). Early in 1931, he was convicted of violating the National Prohibition Act and sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison.

Frank Bompensiero

Frank Bompensiero

Bompensiero was suspected of murder in 1941. The victim was San Diego nightclub waiter Victor Carlino, who disappeared on March 21, 1940. Authorities had possession of Carlino's bloodstained car and had reason to believe that Bompensiero had killed Carlino. However, Carlino's body was never found and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. (The details of this case correspond with a case described in an FBI report using a different date and a different victim name. The FBI said the victim was named James Francis Manganello and that he went missing on Jan. 25, 1945. The report stated that the wife of the missing Manganello was related to Bompensiero's wife, suggesting personal motivation in the case.)

After sixteen months in the Army during World War II, Bompensiero was released from the service and returned to San Diego. He and his wife Thelma resided at 5878 Estelle Avenue in El Cerrito neighborhood of San Diego during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

During that period, Bompensiero became involved in nightclubs. He worked for a time as right-hand man for club owner Tony Mirabile. Bompensiero was suspected of involvement in the 1949 severe beating of Mirabile business partner Antonio Regina. Regina was confined to a mental institution following the beating and died several months later.

Authorities believed Bomp ordered a disciplinary beating administered in 1952 to Hal G. Sherry, who was attempting against Bompensiero's warnings to organize coin-operated machine operators in San Diego. According to an FBI report, Sherry was assaulted at his hotel room by three men. He was severely beaten about the head and lost consciousness. After awakening, he drove to his doctor to have what turned out to be a full-size cucumber removed from his rectum.

Frank Bompensiero

Frank Bompensiero

Bompensiero subsequently operated his own bar called the Gold Rail Tavern. He reportedly partnered in that enterprise with Louis Tom Dragna and Frank Dragna, relatives of regional boss Ignatius "Jack" Dragna. Local police were shocked when the tavern received a liquor license over their strenuous objection. An explanation for the granting of that license and others was provided in state court years later.

In August, 1954, a California grand jury indicted Bompensiero on three counts of liquor license bribery. Also charged were Liquor Control Administrator Charles E. Berry of San Diego, State Assemblyman Charles Lyon of Los Angeles, San Diego City Councilman Al Bennett and several other individuals. Bompensiero was the last of the group to be brought to trial (the others were convicted in 1954). In April 1955, a jury returned a guilty verdict on the bribery charges. Weeks later, Bompensiero was sent off to a long term in state prison. The Gold Rail's liquor license was revoked by the State Liquor Department early the next year.

Just five days after his sentencing, Thelma Bompensiero, 44, suffered a stroke. On June 2, she died. Bompensiero's request to be released from prison to attend her funeral was denied.

Paroled from state prison in 1960, Bompensiero became a bigger player in southern California rackets. He was closely linked with Johnny Roselli, a Chicago Outfit member believed by many to be the real power behind Los Angeles boss Frank DeSimone. Authorities concluded early in 1965 that Bompensiero was a caporegime of the Los Angeles family, overseeing San Diego rackets.

The law caught up with Bompensiero again in 1966, when he and Aladena Fratianno were charged with conspiracy to cheat employees of a Fratianno-run company. Bompensiero, then 60, faced another long prison term if convicted. Bompensiero was apparently receptive when contacted by agent Jack Armstrong about providing information in exchange for retaining his freedom.

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1977

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1977

Boss Frank DeSimone, who Bompensiero was able to manipulate through the use of Johnny Roselli, died in the summer of 1967. DeSimone's successor, Nick Licata, was no stronger, as he was hounded by law enforcement and shaken by encroachment from other crime families.

In 1969, sixty-three-year-old Bompensiero married sixty-one-year-old Maria Rose Caldarello. The new Mrs. Bompensiero had previously been Mrs. Patrick Emmett Gavin and Mrs. Girolamo "Momo" Adamo. The marriage with Adamo, a southern California Mafioso, ended in 1956 after Momo discovered that she had been unfaithful with regional underworld boss Frank DeSimone. On June 19, 1956, Adamo shot and seriously wounded Maria Rose and then shot and killed himself.

In the mid-1970s, the Mafia in the United States discovered the identities of a number of its members who had been cooperating with law enforcement agencies. Mafia assassins began eliminating the violators of omerta. At the same time, Bompensiero began getting on the nerves of other underworld leaders in southern California. He appeared to be jockeying for position following the 1974 death of boss Nick Licata. Dominic Brooklier (a.k.a. Brucceleri, Regace) succeeded in winning the top spot in the crime family.

On Feb. 10, 1977, Bompensiero was returning from his regular nightly visit to a public telephone booth - he was convinced that his home telephone line was bugged - when he was shot four times in the head. No one heard the shots. Police found Bompensiero in a pool of blood on the sidewalk at 8:30 p.m. He was dead on arrival at Mission Bay General Hospital. There was immediate speculation that Bomp had been killed for betraying Mafia secrets to law enforcement agencies.

The theories were confirmed in federal court several years later, when another turncoat Mafioso, Aladena Fratianno, testified that Dominic Brooklier, Samuel Sciortino and Louis Dragna decided that Bompensiero had been an informant and needed to be killed. Fratianno admitted that he helped to set up the killing of his old business partner.

 

Sources

  • Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem Death file, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Callister, T. Hyrum, "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report no. 92-6054-676, July 14, 1964, p. 3.
  • California Death Index.
  • California Marriage Index, registrar no. 13-2468, state file no. 57219.
  • Dodge, Harold F., "John Roselli," FBI report no. 92-3267-693, NARA record no. 124-10291-10057, Feb. 23, 1966.
  • Moe, John C., "Mafia," FBI report no. 100-42303-522, NARA record no. 124-10283-10099, April 9, 1959.
  • Polk's San Diego City Directory, 1953-54, Los Angeles: R.L. Polk & Co., 1954, p. 88.
  • Records of Prisoners Received, McNeil Island U.S. Penitentiary.
  • SAC San Diego, "La Cosa Nostra," FBI memorandum, file no. 92-6054-541, NARA record no. 124-10212-10429, Dec. 6, 1963.
  • SAC San Diego, "La Cosa Nostra," FBI airtel no. 92-6054-914, Jan. 25, 1965.
  • San Diego City Directory, 1947-1948, San Diego: San Diego Directory Co., 1948, p. 126.
  • Social Security Death Index, 546-34-3760.
  • United States Census of 1920, California, San Diego County, Precinct 68, Enumeration District 312.
  • United States Census of 1930, California, San Diego County, Enumeration District 37-0148.
  • Wisconsin Birth Index.
  • World War II Army Enlistment Records.
  • "Missing man's auto found near San Diego," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1940, p. 10.
  • "San Diego bar owner jailed in bribery case," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2, 1954, p. 17.
  • "Tavern owner convicted in San Diego bribe case," Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1955, p. 44.
  • "Convict refused plea to attend wife's rites," Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1955, p. 9.
  • "Bar's license revoked in San Diego scandal," San Bernardino County Sun, Dec. 30, 1955, p. 30.
  • Belcher, Jerry, and Bill Hazlett, "Mafia chief Bompensiero slain in San Diego alley," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1977, p. 1.
  • "State Mafia leader slain," Santa Cruz Sentinel, Feb. 11, 1977, p. 1.
  • "San Diego gangland figure shot," Arizona Daily Star, Feb. 12, 1977, p. 34.
  • Gage, Nicholas, "Has mob infiltrated the FBI?" Chicago Tribune, Oct. 2, 1977, p. 1.
  • "'I helped set up the death of Frank Bompensiero,'" Arizona Republic, Oct. 17, 1980, p. 18.
  • "Fratianno defends himself in lawsuit," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1982, p. II-8.