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I thought it might be worth discussing the connection between Santo Trafficante and the assassination of JFK.

Trafficante was born in Tampa, Florida, on 15th November, 1914. His father, Santo Trafficante Senior, was a leading figure in the Mafia. In the 1940s he joined up with Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky to set up gambling operations in Cuba. The dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, received a large cut of the profits.

In 1953 he was sent to Cuba to manage some Mafia controlled casinos. Trafficante took full control of these operations when his father died of stomach cancer in August, 1954.

Trafficante also spent time in Florida. This resulted in his arrest and conviction for gambling offences. He was released from prison in January 1957 after his conviction was overturned by Florida's State Supreme Court. It is believed that soon afterwards Trafficante arranged for Albert Anastasia, his Mafia rival, to be murdered.

According to Joe Trento (The Secret History of the CIA): “In the years of guerrilla warfare against Batista, Castro received guns from Trafficante. In return, Castro promised Trafficante control of gambling in Cuba once the revolution succeeded. Trafficante also allowed Castro’s supporters to bring heroin into Miami and sell it on his turf to help finance the revolution.” (page 199)

He does not give his sources for this statement. On the next page he quotes Ricardo Canete, a Cuban-American, working for William Harvey’s anti-Castro operation and became embroiled in Trafficante’s criminal activity. He described how it worked: “Fidel needed money, and he needed information. A man out of the Cuban Mission to the UN named Fernandez ran the Cuban DGI (in the United States). He took orders from Trafficante. It was clear by the late 1960s that drugs and protection being run through Little Havana were far more profitable than anything the mob had done in Cuba.”

Ricardo Canete was probably Trento’s source? If so, is he trustworthy? Could he been part of a campaign to undermine Castro’s moral and political credibility. For example, one of the things that is clear is that after he established himself in power, Castro destroyed the Mafia’s business interests (gambling, drugs, prostitution, etc.) in Cuba. When I interviewed people in Cuba about Castro, many mentioned this as being one of the reasons why he was so popular with the population.

After gaining power Castro ordered the arrest of Trafficante. In January, 1959, Trafficante spent time in prison before being deported to the United States.

In September 1960 Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana, took part in talks with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), about the possibility of murdering Fidel Castro. In 1961 Roselli persuaded Trafficante to join the conspiracy. Meyer Lansky also became involved in this plot and was reportedly offering a million-dollar reward for the Cuban leader's murder.

Trafficante also worked closely with the CIA agent, William Harvey, in this operation. By 1962, Trafficante and his friends became convinced that the Cuban revolution could not be reversed by simply killing Castro. However, they continued to play along with this CIA plot in order to prevent them being prosecuted for criminal offences committed in the United States.

It is also believed that Trafficante became involved in Mafia plots to kill President John F. Kennedy. He told a friend, Jose Aleman: "Mark my word, this man Kennedy is in trouble, and he will get what is coming to him. Kennedy's got going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit."

Just before Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, Jack Ruby made contact with Trafficante, and another Mafia leader, Carlos Marcello, about a problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). However, the Warren Commission failed to find any direct link between Trafficante and Ruby.

Trafficante continued to work for the CIA and was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Trafficante died on the 19th March, 1987.

On 14th January, 1992, the New York Post claimed that Trafficante, Jimmy Hoffa and Carlos Marcello had all been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963 Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the president." He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.

In their book, Fatal Hour: The Assassination of President Kennedy by Organized Crime (1993) G. Robert Blakey and Dick Billings, argued that Marcello and Trafficante were involved in the assassination of JFK.

In his autobiography, Mob Lawyer (1994) (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab) Frank Ragano added that in July, 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Hoffa to meet Trafficante and Carlos Marcello concerning plans to kill JFK. When Kennedy was killed Hoffa apparently said to Ragano: "I told you could do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santos did for me." He added: "This means Bobby is out as Attorney General". Marcello later told Ragano: "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKtrafficante.htm

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John, as you may know, I believe Trafficante may have been central to the assassination and he certainly does deserve a thread of his own.

Let me add a few comments here.

You are correct that Trafficante was considered a prime subject in the murder of Albert Anastasia. This was the famous "barbershop murder" because Anastasia was gunned down by two riflemen while he was sitting in a barbershop in downtown Manhattan.

There is another event that happened next that deserves comment. That is the famous Mafia conference that was held in Appalachin New York in mid-November of 1957. The police raided the conference and over fifty Mafioso were arrested.Giancana was at the conference but he managed to escape through the woods. Trafficante was arrested and he gave "Santos" as his last name. Somehow he was released and he returned to Cuba. He had a practice of leaving the United States when the heat was turned on him. When the Church Committee was in operation, for instance, he left the US for his estate in Costa Rica.

Here is a link to an encyclopedia article on the Appalachin crime meeting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apalachin_Meeting

In Cuba, Trafficante ran the luxurious Sans Souci nightclub which had a huge open-air ballroom with elaborate stage shows. Information on the Sans Souci is available at the cuban-american exile website.

Trafficante was imprisoned in Cuba in 1959 but I do not believe it was as early as January of 1959. The name of the prison was Trescornia, and I understand it was more like a country club. It has also been reported that one of Trafficante's cell-mates was none other than Loran Hall.

Under heavy guard, Trafficante was released from the prison to attend his daughter's wedidng. It has been reported that Rolando Cubela was instrumental in securing his release for the wedding.

Shortly after the assassination, a journalist named Hudson if I recall correctly advised the FBI in London that he had also been in Trescornia with Trafficante in 1959 and he was reasonably certain that Trafficante had been visited by Jack Ruby. The journalist asked for photos of Ruby to confirm the identification but the FBI HQ in Washington wired the London office and told them to drop the matter because "we already know Ruby had been in Cuba."

I believe Trafficante was extremely intelligent. He never spent overnight in an American prison and was never convicted of any crimes. And, unlike his colleagues Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, he died of natural causes.

There is a lot more to say about Trafficante but I will try to post some links in the next post.

Edited by Tim Gratz
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An interesting subject is the Havana Mafia conference that was held in the mid-forties. Trafficante attended the conference. The conference was held at the beautiful Hotel Nacional in Havana. The conference was organized in an effort to allow Lucky Luciano to regain control of the American criminal empire, after Luciana had been expelled from the United States. It was at this conference that the Mafia endorsed the murder of Bugsy Siegel that happened several months later (June of 1946 as I recall). Frank Sinatra entertained the Mafia chieftans and their wives and it is reported that he carried a briefcase with substantial cash to give to Luciana. Sinatra's presence at the Havana conference is discussed in Anthony Summers' recent biography of Sinatra. The movie "Bugsy" with Warren Beatty has a brief scene showing the conference in Havana. (The movie does not mention Sinatra's presence.) To be clear here, there is no evidence that Sinatra participated in the business meetings in Havana or that he was aware that the agenda of his friends included the authorization of a murder.

Here is a link to an encyclopedia article on "the Havana conference":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havana_Conference

Here is a list of attendees at the Havana Conference. Santo Trafficante, Jr. was indeed in attendance as was Carlos Marcello. Apparently Giancana was not. (I do not think he had assumed control of "the Outfit" by this time.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Havan...erence_invitees

Edited by Tim Gratz
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In agree that Santo Trafficante was indeed involved in the assasination - probably in some financial capacity but most likely unknown to him at the time.

It would also be prudent to recognize the roles his brothers played in his business ventures. They seemed to get lost in the shuffle but I submit they are highly significant.

FWIW.

James

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According to Joe Trento (The Secret History of the CIA): “In the years of guerrilla warfare against Batista, Castro received guns from Trafficante. In return, Castro promised Trafficante control of gambling in Cuba once the revolution succeeded. Trafficante also allowed Castro’s supporters to bring heroin into Miami and sell it on his turf to help finance the revolution.” (page 199)

He does not give his sources for this statement. On the next page he quotes Ricardo Canete, a Cuban-American, working for William Harvey’s anti-Castro operation and became embroiled in Trafficante’s criminal activity. He described how it worked: “Fidel needed money, and he needed information. A man out of the Cuban Mission to the UN named Fernandez ran the Cuban DGI (in the United States). He took orders from Trafficante. It was clear by the late 1960s that drugs and protection being run through Little Havana were far more profitable than anything the mob had done in Cuba.”

Ricardo Canete was probably Trento’s source? If so, is he trustworthy? Could he been part of a campaign to undermine Castro’s moral and political credibility. For example, one of the things that is clear is that after he established himself in power, Castro destroyed the Mafia’s business interests (gambling, drugs, prostitution, etc.) in Cuba.

The page 199 stuff came from John Sherwood, Bob Crowley and several others I still cannot name publicly.

Canete was one of my sources and I found him trustworthy on these matters. Actually Castro did not shut all ALL Mafia activities down. His actions regarding Tafficante baffled US law enforcement. By the way much of this ran counter to what the CIA and Justice Department expected.

The import of all this is that Trafficante had JM WAVE fully penetrated acording to Sherwood and others.

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  • 2 months later...

James-

You did a great job transforming those pictures, especially the one of Sam. It was an original from the Tampa Police archives- most of the mob material was "purged" by a corrupt detective who was in charge of criminal intelligence - that's Tampa!

The one of Fano is a scan from the book "Friend of the Family". I think I gave the credit on the webpage- if not that's where its from.

The one of Henry- one of my favorite mugshots- is from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office.

It should be noted though that by the time of Santo's death in March of 1987, his relations with his brothers had soured. It may be because he picked Vincent LoScalzo, instead of Sam or Henry , to be the new boss in Tampa. I heard that the bad blood between Henry and Santo had gone back even further.

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Hi Scott,

Welcome to the forum. It's nice to see a Tampa Mob expert posting. Your information and opinions will be valuable indeed.

I hope you don't mind me posing a couple of questions.

What's your view on Frank Diecidue and his place within the structure of Trafficante's organization? Do you know if Diecidue had anything to do with the Havana casino operations before Castro took power? Also regarding those days in Cuba, did you ever come across anything regarding supposed Trafficante bodyguard, Herminio Diaz Garcia?

Cheers,

James

Edited by James Richards
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Hi Scott,

Welcome to the forum. It's nice to see a Tampa Mob expert posting. Your information and opinions will be valuable indeed.

I hope you don't mind me posing a couple of questions.

What's your view on Frank Diecidue and his place within the structure of Trafficante's organization? Do you know if Diecidue had anything to do with the Havana casino operations before Castro took power? Also regarding those days in Cuba, did you ever come across anything regarding supposed Trafficante bodyguard, Herminio Diaz Garcia?

Cheers,

James

I've heard Garcia's name before- but nothing substantial. I know some people who used to work for Trafficante at the Sans Souci- I'll dig a little deeper.

Diecidue wasn't involved at all in the casinos, as far as I know. It was mainly Trafficante's guys- people like Sam Mondello, James Longo, and John Demmi. I believe that during that time there was bad blood between the Diecidues and Trafficantes. Evidence points to Salvatore Scaglione as the underboss during the 1950's. In fact, he was acting boss in Tampa while Santo Jr. was in Cuba.

It wasn't until the late 60's early 70's that Diecude became underboss. I would guess 1964- the year of Sal Scaglione's death. In any event by the mid 1970's Diecidue was number 2 man.

But again things shifted and when LoScalzo was appointed boss in 1987, Diecidue was given kinda his own "crew" to placate him. I think he was too old by that point to be boss, but he worked closely with LoScalzo and some of the newer generation of Tampa mafioso.

Diecidue and his brothers "made" some SOuth Florida guys into the family prior to his death in 1994.

Frank was a curmedgeon. He was overheard on wiretap wishing for Santo to die so he could become boss.

Part of the probelm with Tampa, of course, is that they never had a turncoat. There was no Gravano or Valachi to tell the inner decisions of the family- so it's left to look at the available evidence- which is sometimes scant. But from the FBI files I"ve read on Daddy Frank, it 's prety clear he was a "man of respect" for many years.

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  • 1 year later...
In Harlot's Ghost (a good read, by the way) Mailer refers to Trafficante as "the Saint". There is a reason for that I suspect.

Does "Santo" mean "Saint" in Spanish?

Yes, Tim.

Living as close as you do to Fidel, I would think you'd have a bit more familiarity with Spanish than that. Surely you've encountered an immigrant or dos from Fidel's "island paradise" in your neck of the woods...perhaps in the housekeeping part of the hotel industry, or perhaps as business owners themselves?

I live way out here in the midwest US, and I'm not so insulated from immigrants that I don't know a few operative terms in Spanish. [A good phrase to know in a pinch is, "Donde esta el bano?", with the "~" over the "n" in the last word.]

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