Alioto, John (1888-1972)

b. Porticello, Santa Flavia, Sicily, Aug. 25, 1888.
d. Milwaukee, Aug. 27, 1972.

Alioto was the only boss of the Milwaukee Mafia to be installed by forces outside of the crime family. His reign marked the return to power of a faction originating in Santa Flavia, Sicily, after a quarter-century of diminished status.

After reaching Milwaukee in the 1900s, Alioto advanced through the local Outfit and formed alliances within the Santa Flavia faction. He served time in prison in the 1930s, following convictions for forgery and larceny. He and his wife Catherine raised a large family on Van Buren Street.

Two younger Mafiosi married into the Alioto family: Joseph Caminiti (a former Aiello Mafia member in Chicago who fled to Milwaukee following the unsuccessful war with Capone) married his daughter Mary; Frank Peter Balistrieri married his daughter Antonina "Nina."

A pivotal moment for Alioto and the Milwaukee Mafia occurred in 1952, when then-boss Sam Ferrara quarreled with Alioto son-in-law Frank Balistrieri. The cause of the quarrel reportedly was a Ferrara effort to acquire an ownership share in Balistrieri's Ogden Social Club gambling hall. Irritated by Balistrieri's resistance, Ferrara expelled Balistrieri from the Milwaukee Mafia. This briefly fractured the Milwaukee underworld and caused the involvement of Chicago Outfit leaders, responsible for overseeing Milwaukee under the Commission system established in the early 1930s.

A panel of Chicago gangsters - the FBI reported Anthony Accardo, Rocco Fischetti and Sam Giancana took part - ruled that Ferrara had abused his authority. The Chicagoans demoted Ferrara and installed John Alioto as new boss. The decision of Chicago Outfit leaders restored the power of the Milwaukee Mafia's founding Santa Flavia faction.

The Alioto administration included underboss Joe Gumina and lieutenants Mike Mineo, Pasquale Migliaccio, John DiTrapani and Frank Peter Balistrieri (restored to Mafia membership following the removal of Sam Ferrara as boss). During his reign, disputes within the family were resolved by a leadership panel, called "sagia."

Shortly after becoming boss, Alioto was faced with an insurrection. John DiTrapani, relative and godson of ex-boss Sam Ferrara, plotted with Frank LoGalbo and Jack Enea to take control of the crime family. The rebellion was put down with the murders of John DiTrapani and Jack Enea in 1954. Frank LoGalbo avoided a similar fate by quickly transfering out of the Milwaukee crime family and into a Chicago Outfit regime in Chicago Heights. He continued to reside in Milwaukee under Chicago protection.

It appears that Joseph Caminiti became an Alioto lieutenant following the murder of DiTrapani.

Alioto entered retirement around December 1961 or January 1962. Frank Balistrieri succeded him as boss. Alioto died of natural causes in 1972 at the age of 83. Following a funeral Mass at St. Rita's Church, he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.

  • "Balistrieri goes to grave denying being mob boss," Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, Feb. 8, 1993, p. 2.
  • "Death notices," Milwaukee Sentinel, Aug. 28, 1972, p. 14.
  • "Executive clemency denied 74 Badger state prisoners," Green Bay WI Press-Gazette, June 30, 1936, p. 19.
  • Le Grand, Alexander P., "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-640, NARA no. 124-10287-10189, May 28, 1964.
  • Reed, Carlyle N., "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-2105, NARA no. 124-10293-10341, Sept. 11, 1967.
  • Social Security Death Index, 387-40-5134, Aug. 1972.
  • United States Census of 1920, Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, Ward 3, Enumeration District 40.
  • United States Census of 1930, Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, City of Milwaukee, Ward 3, Enumeration District 26.
See also: