The American Mafia

Crime Bosses
of Cleveland



1919 - Joe Lonardo (Oct. 20, 1884, to Oct. 13, 1927). A close ally of Brooklyn-based boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila, Lonardo founded a Mafia family in Cleveland. Lonardo ran a lucrative corn sugar business during Prohibition.


1927 - Joe Porrello (July 15, 1889, to July 5, 1930). "Big Joe" Lonardo was killed in the Porrello Brothers barber shop on Oct. 13, 1927. Former Lonardo ally Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro could have been responsible, but Lonardo's death could also have been the result of a nationwide struggle between the Mafia boss of bosses D'Aquila and insurgent elements. Porrello declared himself boss of Cleveland and leader of the local branch of the Unione Siciliana.

1928 - Porrello hosted a national convention of the Unione Siciliana at Cleveland's Hotel Statler. The convention turned out to be a disaster as police raided it and arrested 23 attendees as "suspicious" men. Mafiosi from New York and Chicago were among those arrested. The police might have been tipped off to the meeting by Mayfield Gang chief Francesco Milano. Porrello plans to move into Buffalo to gain access to Canadian whiskey were thwarted.


1930 - Francesco Milano (? to ?). Milano became the most powerful of Cleveland's gangsters. It appears that his strength was recognized through selection to the first Mafia Commission in 1931. Milano would quickly lose his prestige.

1935 - Giuseppe Romano (May 7, 1877, to June 10, 1936). Milano's precipitous fall concluded with a quiet exile to Mexico. Romano succeeded Milano, but his reign lasted only a year.

1936 - Alfred Polizzi (c.1901 to May 26, 1975). Polizzi advanced in the Cleveland underworld with help from Albert Polizzi, also known as Chuck.

1946 - John Scalish (Sept. 18, 1912, to May 26, 1976). Scalish (Scalise) succeeded Polizzi, who retired to Florida, and brought Cleveland a lengthy period of stability. Under Scalish, the Cleveland organization moved aggressively westward into Las Vegas and California.


1976 - Vincenzo Licavoli (Aug. 18, 1904, to Nov. 1985). John Scalish died in 1976. "Jack White" Licavoli was selected to be his successor. Licavoli first selected his relative Leo "Lips" Moceri as underboss. Moceri was abducted and presumed murdered a few months later (he vanished Aug. 22), and Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo was moved into the underboss slot.

1985 - John Tronolone (Dec. 12, 1910, to May 29, 1991).