Greek Mob Profited as Mafia's Silent Partner

Nick Christophers, a top editor at Mob Candy, writes about the Greek Mafia for us. And, this is only the first of several articles. Thanks, Nick!

The American Mafia, among its various other roles, is the gatekeeper to the much coveted and very lucrative American underworld.

Guest columnist
Nick Christophers

Other ethnic crime groups have sought to carve out their own piece of the action. Many of these groups often find that it's easier and more profitable in the long term to partner with America’s Cosa Nostra.


One such organization, the Greek Mafia, became practically an extension of the traditional Mafia in America. At the same time, the Greeks confined themselves to operating in the Mafia's shadow. In fact the group has kept such a low profile that little has been written about it.

As well, no "rats" or defectors have offered information on the Greek Mafia, either. The Greek mob lacks a hierarchy and is viewed by authorities as a loose knit clan that works under the protection of the Italians. This was especially evident in Philadelphia, back when Angelo Bruno was boss.

Nicky Scarfo

The Philadelphia don, who prefered to negotiate at the table rather than put shooters on the streets, offered protection to two Greek mob leaders, Steve Booras and Harry Peetros, who of whom operated gambling and loan sharking rings and controlled the sale of Angel Dust, or PCP, in the Philly area.

Then, following a wave of violence sparked by the brutal shotgun killing of Bruno, Nicky Scarfo took over as boss—and the violence only intensified, causing the dramatic long-term duress for which Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi received credit for cooling down.

Scarfo, for one thing, levied a heavier street tax on everyone working with the mob.

This is did not fly well for Peetros, who refused to submit. Hence, Scarfo gave the order and the Greek mobster was eliminated with help from hit man Ray Martorano.

Booras was assassinated not to long after that. His murder was never solved. Some say rival Greeks from the Peetros clan were behind the deed; others are sure it was Scarfo.

The Rise of Velentzas, a Luchese Ally
The Greeks and Italians have also worked together in other cities, including New York and Chicago. In New York the alleged leader of the Greeks was Spiro Velentzas, who operated under the strong grip of the Lucheses.

Spiro Velentzas
Actually his predecessor Peter Kourakos had first sealed a deal with street boss Christopher “Christy Tick” Furnari to operate freely under his watchful eye. After he passed on Spiro assumed his position. At this point Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso was the new "babysitter" for the Greeks. Gaspipe opted to give Pete "Fat Pete" Chiodo the responsibility.

Chiodo was a big earner and an even bigger individual at 300 lbs. He was not the most trustworthy partner as Spiro would learn later. Chiodo went on to become rat—and implicated not only his crew but Spiro as well on a murder that Chiodo himself had contracted out.

Pete, to save his own ass, testified that Spiro ordered the hit, when in essence Chiodo himself wanted the mark, Sammy "the Arab" Nalo, eliminated for his own gain.

Spiro ran the predominantly Greek enclave of Astoria, Queens from the late ‘70s till his lifelong incarceration in 1992.  His partners included Peter Drakoulis, Teddy the General, Mike "The Italian" Grillo and Jimmy Velentzas. Together, they ran gambling dens and horse parlors in Astoria and Brooklyn. According the court records they also loaned money to gamblers who lost but wanted to keep playing.

Spiro vehemently admitted that he loaned money—but added that he never sought to profit from it by imposing the hefty interest rates for which common long sharks have long been known.

Chiodo and other rats told a different tale involving violent beatings for those late to pay and so on. Spiro for the past 25-plus years has been behind bars and has lost touch with the streets he once ruled. Astoria as of late has become the stomping grounds for the ruthless and unforgiving Albanians.

Donald Frankos

Besides Spiro, the Mafia also worked with another Greek; he also was connected mainly to the Luchese family, but Donald “Tony” Frankos also did contract hits for the four other crime families.

In 1974, Frankos murdered Luchese associate Richard Bilello.

Frankos even claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa—a statement yet to be confirmed.

Around the same time that Frankos was notching hits on his belt, another Greek mobster actually worked alongside the Italians. Pete “the Greek” Diapoulos was none other than Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo’s bodyguard.

Little was written about Diapoulos until he was shot while firing on the mob assassins who eliminated Joey on April 7, 1972. Pete was a bulky bruiser, a fairly low-key guy in the mob world who was considered a rebel based on his association with the Gallo crew. He would later pen a book about his life with the Gallo’s called “The Sixth Family,” co-written by Steve Linakis.

In Capone's Chicago
In Chicago we go back to the final days of Al Capone whose partner, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, welcomed the help of political fixer Gus "Slim" Alex. Gussie Alex ran a section of Chicago called the Loop. He had what the fictional character Virgil "The Turk" Solozzo called "all the Judges and politicians in your pocket like so many nickels and dimes." Gus was able to fix many cases for the boys in the Outfit.  His bulky frame and intimidating looks made his job even easier.
Gus Alex

He took over after Jake passed on and kept his position as political fixer into the 80's. Gus remained in power through the reign of Sam Giancana and Joe Aiuppa. After Aiuppa went to prison Gus became second in command to Sam "Wings" Carlisi. Gus would die in prison of a heart attack on July 24, 1998.

Even before Gus Alex fully came on the scene there was a Mike "The Greek" Potson, partner to Jim “Big Jim” Colosimo in a restaurant. Mike was a gambler and a bookie and ran his operation through Jim’s restaurant after Jim passed on.

During the reign of Al Capone, Al had a close friend by the name of Theodore Anton who ran the Hawthorne Hotel. Theodore was known as “Teddy the Greek” when he was a boxer, which is how he met Capone. Teddy had one issue: he didn't know when to back down.

One night in 1926 he disappeared; it was later rumored Northside gangsters eliminated him for his brash words to them.

In later years the popular Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa employed the likes of Gus Alex's friend and fellow bruiser Gus Zapas.

Hoffa was having trouble with a union official and need to make a point, so he brought along muscle in the form of Gus Zapas, a Chicago syndicate bruiser who moved to Indiana and went on the payroll of Teamsters Local 135, one of the largest in the Midwest.

He was later alleged to have attempted to deal in stolen diamonds and set up one Matthew F. Kane, who survived a gem deal that had quickly soured.


Comments

  1. Hey Ed. I've been following your blog for a few months now and can finally post with your new format seeing as how I use my phone. Anyways, I'm a huge fan of this site. I was curious to know if you've read or heard of Allen May's book Crimetown USA, which covers OC in my hometown of Youngstown, Oh. The first volume covers 33 to 63 and there's two more eventually coming. Its an informative and easy read. Anyhow, great writing and great stories here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks deacon! No, I haven't read May but I certainly will look into him. Appreciate the comment and hope you continue reading!

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  3. 99% chance nicodemo is going to cooperate. If I was joey merlino, I would leave florida and go somewhere nice that does not have an extradition treaty with the usa. Unfortunately for him, Italy does have an extradition treaty with the usa. Case in point, Emilio Fusco.

    ReplyDelete
  4. He cant hurt joey but he sure can hurt the rest of themEspecially UJ. Boy George Borgesi Stevie mazzone Johnny chang Mikey lancelotti can hurt joey if they talk so goes the pecking order. Also theres more to this mistrial something with somebody getting a jurors address over heard talking
    rumor has it.

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  5. By sequestered you mean all of the jurors are going to be held up in a hotel guarded by the us Marshall's service? Then logistically it's impossible to reach a juror then.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Take Teddy Roosevelt's advice, "walk softly and carry a big stick"....

    ReplyDelete

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