Dragna, Jack (1891-1956)

Born Corleone, Sicily, April 18, 1891.

Died Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 23, 1956.

Jack Ignatius Dragna was the leader of the Sicilian Mafia in southern California from the mid 1930s until the 1950s.

He was born in Corleone, Sicily, in 1891 and came to the United States with his family early in life. The family returned to Sicily in 1908, and Dragna sailed back to the U.S. for good in 1914.

He was convicted of attempted extortion in 1915. He was freed from San Quentin Prison on appeal. After Prohibition, the L.A. Mafia was slow to take advantage of legal gambling in Las Vegas, allowing eastern Mafiosi to stake claims there. The L.A. mob was happy to operate gambling ships off the California coast instead - a practice that continued from the 1920s until summer of 1939.

While Dragna maintained control over Mafia matters within his territory, he had a great deal of trouble expanding his interests. His forces proved inept at eliminating gambling competitor Mickey Cohen in the late 1940s and early 1950s (the tax man got rid of Cohen in 1951). Las Vegas - located practically in Dragna's backyard - was gobbled up by others.

A 1932 vacation in Mexico became a problem for Dragna two decades later. In 1951, immigration authorities noted that upon reentering the U.S. Dragna falsely claimed he was an American citizen. He fought deportation efforts for some time. He was being held at the Terminal Island detention center when his wife Frances died on July 23, 1953. A subsequent appeal resulted in Dragna's release on bail.

He moved into a home at 4757 Kensington Drive in San Diego and spent some of his remaining time visiting his relatives.

Dragna was found dead Feb. 23, 1956, in the Saharan Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. He checked into the hotel on Feb. 10. His death left uncertain leadership in Los Angeles. Some say Frank DeSimone immediately stepped into the boss's job. Others insist that Simone Scozzari (also known in some circles as "DeSimone") held the position.

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