Altamura, Thomas (1913-1967)

Born New York, Nov. 3, 1913.
Killed North Bay Village, FL, Oct. 31, 1967

Altamura, sometimes called "the Enforcer," was a lifelong criminal who became supervisor of Gambino Crime Family loan sharking in the south Florida area. He was murdered as a result of a turf war with Anthony "Big Tony" Esperti, linked with the Bonanno Crime Family.[1]

Altamura was a native of New York City, the second of nine children born to immigrant parents. His father, Vincent, from Taranto in the southern Italian mainland, worked as a tailor. His mother, Rose, was from Sicily. He grew up in the borough of Queens. His formal education ended shortly after he reached high school. He worked for a time at his father's tailor shop and briefly held truck driving and sales jobs as he moved full time into a career on the wrong side of the law.[2]

His criminal record in New York dated back to 1931. As a minor, he was acquitted following an automobile theft arrest and sentenced to probation unlawful entry after the burglary of a Bronx speakeasy. He later served three long terms in Sing Sing Prison.[3]

He was sentenced in Queens County in April 1932 to serve three to six years on a robbery conviction. (Then eighteen, Altamura of Corona, Queens, also known as Thomas Melba, and accomplice Peter Nastasi, nineteen, of the Bronx, were initially charged with first degree robbery, petit larceny and second degree assault after holding up the owner of a Roulston Grocery store in Corona. They pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery.) Soon after his release from that term, he was convicted of a robbery in the Bronx and sentenced to ten to twenty years.[4]

While on parole in the summer of 1944, he was charged with attempted robbery of a tavern in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York.[5] He and two other men entered the tavern on 37th Avenue after hours. During the attempted robbery, the men became frightened and fled. Altamura reportedly dropped his wallet on the way out of the tavern.[6]

In the 1960s, Altamura was involved in Gambino Crime Family loan sharking rackets in south Florida. In this period, authorities noted his ownership of Sonny's Restaurant in Miami Beach and his close working relationship with Tampa-area Mafia boss Santo Trafficante.[7]

At two o'clock in the morning on October 31, 1967, fifty-three-year-old Altamura entered the Harbor Lounge, attached to the Place for Steak restaurant, on the 79th Street Causeway in North Bay Village, Florida. He was immediately struck by bullets. Two .38-caliber slugs hit him in the back of the head and three others penetrated his back and his side as he turned. There were about a half dozen witnesses to the shooting in the well-lit establishment. As Altamura fell to the floor dead, his killer and a woman companion left the lounge. The woman, Audrey Fowler, girlfriend of underworld-connected former boxer Anthony "Big Tony" Esperti, left her purse behind at the bar.[8]

Police found $800 in cash and a $10,000 cashier's check in Altamura's possession. Hours later, thirty-seven-year-old Esperti surrendered to police after hearing that he was wanted for first-degree murder. He claimed to know nothing of the Altamura killing. Esperti, originally from Brownsville, Brooklyn, was at the time free on bond awaiting his appeal of an extortion conviction.[9]

Esperti was indicted in mid-January, 1968, for the Altamura murder.[10] His first trial, in Miami, resulted in a March 1968 hung jury.[11] He once again came to trial in autumn 1971, this time at Bartow, Florida. Esperti was already serving his extortion sentence in Atlanta Federal Prison.

Witnesses stated that they saw Esperti shoot Altamura.[12] A prison cellmate of Esperti, Joseph Delino, testified that Esperti told him about killing Altamura. According to Delino, the two gangsters had quarreled about rackets territories and Altamura warned Esperti to stay away from the 79th Street Causeway, a busy thoroughfare connecting the city of Miami with North Bay Village. (Informant William Dara told the FBI that other Mafiosi attempted to mediate the quarrel between Altamura and Esperti. During this time, Altamura threatened to kill Esperti if he ever saw him at the 79th Street Causeway.) Esperti responded to the warning by murdering Altamura.[13] That second trial resulted in Esperti's conviction.[14]

Discussed in:
"'Willie the Tile Maker' Dara passed Mafia secrets to Feds," by Edmond Valin.

  1.  Doerner, Fred W. Jr., "La Cosa Nostra Miami Division," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-2110, NARA no. 124-10293-10346, Sept. 11, 1967, p. 21.
  2.  Sing Sing Prison Admission Register, Inmate no. 85935, received April 18, 1932; Sing Sing Prison Admission Register, Inmate no. 92799, received Dec. 11, 1936; New York State Census of 1925, Queens County, Assembly District 3, Election District 33.
  3.  "2 youths given Sing Sing terms on robbery pleas," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 16, 1932, p. 4; "Mobster slain in Miami; suspect surrenders," New York Daily News, Nov. 1, 1967, p. 3.
  4.  Sing Sing Prison Admission Registers; "2 youths given Sing Sing terms on robbery pleas"; "Dropped wallet nets parolee as thief foiled in tavern raid," Brooklyn Eagle, June 19, 1944, p. 11.
  5.  "Tavern stickup suspect is held," New York Daily News, July 2, 1944, p. B3.
  6.  "Dropped wallet nets parolee as thief foiled in tavern raid."
  7.  "High exposes Miami hoods," Miami News, Aug. 7, 1963, p. 1; "Tampa detective describes how Trafficante tied in," Tampa Tribune, Oct. 16, 1963, p. 13.
  8.  Florida Death Index, Dade County, October 1967; U.S. Social Security Death Index, 081-20-1222, October 1967; "Mobster slain in Miami; suspect surrenders"; Roderus, Frank, "Retrial elements bizarre," Tampa Tribune, Sept. 6, 1971, p. B1.
  9.  "Mobster slain in Miami; suspect surrenders."
  10.  "Esperti indicted in killing," Miami News, Jan. 17, 1968, p. 3.
  11.  Sosin, Milt, "Esperti asks murder charge be dismissed," Miami News, Oct. 30, 1970, p. 5.
  12.  "Two testify they saw Altamura gunned down," Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 14, 1971, p. B1.
  13.  "Second Esperti trial will go to jury today," Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 15, 1971, p. B1; SAC Miami, "La Cosa Nostra AR-Conspiracy," FBI Airtel, file no. 92-6054-2178, NARA no. 124-10289-10186, Nov. 14, 1967, p. 2.
  14.  "Esperti attorney seek new trial," Orlando Sentinel, Nov. 9, 1971, p. 6.

Dara, William (1905-1982)

Born Sicily, July, 1905
Died Kenner, LA, July, 9, 1982.

A longtime member of the Bonanno Crime Family, William Dara is believed to have become an informant for the FBI later in his life.

William was born in Sicily in 1905 and arrived in the United States with his mother and two younger brothers about 1910. His father Nicholas traveled to the U.S. several years earlier. The family settled on Pitkin Avenue, near Vermont Street, in the East New York section of Brooklyn, where Nicholas worked as a barber. The Daras changed addresses through the years - to New Jersey Avenue and then to Crescent Street - but always remained within the East New York neighborhood. As a young adult, William began working as a tile setter. He was known from then on as "Willie the Tile Maker."

William and several of his siblings got into trouble with the law. Crime became a second career for William. His arrest record dates back at least to 1931, when he, his brother Michael and teenager John Cimino were arrested for stealing a slot machine from a candy store on Saratoga Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn. (The store owner did not appear for arraignment, and the three were discharged.) William Dara and Anthony Rizzo were captured in December 1934 as they attempted to rob a tire store on Brooklyn's Lafayette Avenue near Ashland Place. Dara appears to have been well known to police by 1940, when he and some Brooklyn associates were arrested for vagrancy.

He became an inducted member of the Bonanno Crime Family about 1950, serving for a time under his cousin, capodecina Mike Sabella. Dara later relocated to the Miami, Florida, area, where he ran a night club and conducted gambling rackets that were coordinated with Michael Coppola's Genovese Crime Family crew in South Florida.

In the 1960s, Dara appears to have provided information to the FBI on Tampa-based Mafia boss Santo Trafficante, Jr., other members of the Trafficante organization, and members of New York-based and Chicago-based mobs with operations in South Florida. Some of the FBI's information on the "Banana War" struggle within the Bonanno Family seems to have come from Dara.

Dara died in a plane crash at Kenner, Louisiana, a few days before his seventy-seventh birthday. He and his wife were taking a commercial Pan American flight to Las Vegas. All 145 people on the Boeing 727 and eight people on the ground were killed.

Read more:
"'Willie the Tile Maker' Dara passed Mafia secrets to Feds," by Edmond Valin,

Other sources:
  • New York State Census of 1925, Kings County, Assembly District 22, Ward 15, Election District 29, no. 2125 Pitkin Avenue.
  • United States Census of 1920, New York State, Kings County, Enumeration District 1416, no. 2125 Pitkin Avenue.
  • United States Census of 1930, NeW York State, Kings County, Enumeration District 24-492, no. 321 New Jersey Avenue. 
  • United States Census of 1940, New York State, Kings County, Enumeration District 24-2677, no. 584 Crescent Street.
  • "3 hold-up suspects freed when victim dodges court," New York Daily News, Oct. 14, 1931, Brooklyn section, p. 14.
  • "Thugs escape with $1,300 in bold robbery," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 17, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Three men were arrested...," New York Times, April 14, 1940, p. 24.
  • "149 killed in Orleans crash," Shreveport LA Times, July 10, 1982, p. 1.

Alex, Gus (1916-1998)

Born Chicago, IL, April 1, 1916.
Died Lexington, KY, July 24, 1998.

Gus Alex, the son of Greek immigrants, became a key figure in the Italian-dominated Chicago Outfit. He was a longtime gambling rackets boss for the Outfit and became a part of a 1970s Outfit leadership panel that included Anthony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa.

In his youth, Alex became familiar with Chicago crime figures. His father's restaurant at 26th Street and Wentworth Avenue was reportedly popular with bosses Al Capone and Frank Nitti. Early in Alex's underworld career, he is believed to have served as an Outfit hit man. He became a trusted aide to Accardo during the 1940s.

He was once arrested in connection with the murder of a gambler shotgunned to death in 1947. Though the victim's deathbed statement indicated Alex was his killer, Alex was no convicted of the murder.

Alex worked closely with underworld financial wizard Jake Guzik and political "fixer" Murray Humphries. In the 1950s, he rose to command rackets within Chicago's Loop. He became the Outfit's top "fixer" after Humphreys' death in 1965, commanding the "connection guys," who established and maintained underworld connections to legislators and judges.

He reluctantly joined the mob's leadership group for several years in the 1970s, before retreating back to less visible roles.

He was charged in December 1991 with sanctioning violent extortion schemes against legitimate business enterprises. With the assistance of turncoat racketeer Lenny Patrick, an Alex underling and supervisor of a North Side street crew, federal prosecutors won a conviction against Alex in October 1992. He was sentenced in February 1993 to fifteen years and eight months in prison and $823,000 in fines and restitution.

Alex died July 24, 1998, while held in federal prison medical center at Lexington, Kentucky.

O'Connor, Matt, "Old 'pals' face off in mob case," Chicago Tribune, Sept. 8, 1992,
O'Connor, Matt, "Gus Alex faces prison, big fines for extortion," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 20, 1993, p. 5.
O'Connor, Matt, "Patrick back in hot water," Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1993, Sec. 2, p. 4.
O'Brien, John, "Gus Alex, 82, syndicate boss for nearly 50 years," Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1998, Sec. 2, p. 9,
"Deaths last week," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2, 1998, Sec. 4, p. 8.