Was Former Seattle Family Part of Official Mafia?

Frank Colacurcio Sr.
The Seattle Times reports that a vacant building on Aurora Ave.in Shoreline that was "the cornerstone of a criminal enterprise" is now a church some five years after the indictment of its former criminal owners.

"Formerly Sugar’s nightclub, the building was once a strip club, a haven for prostitution and the front of a racketeering operation owned by the notorious Colacurcio family," the report notes.

But this "organized crime" group seems relatively benign, focusing on gambling and strip clubs that offered TLC on the side (prostitution).


Sugar’s closed in 2010 following a joint police and FBI investigation that utilized wiretaps and bugs.

Frank Colacurcio Sr. and his son Frank Jr. and four close associates were indicted in 2009 for conspiring to use their four Western Washington clubs as fronts for prostitution and money laundering.

The government seized the properties, including Sugar’s, in 2010. The Shoreline building was sold at auction in 2011 and has remained vacant.

The indictment in U.S. District Court was described in the Seattle press as "the culmination of several years of high-profile investigations into allegations of rampant prostitution and money-laundering at four strip clubs from Pierce County to Everett. Agents have infiltrated the clubs, offered immunity to dancers who cooperated, and bugged the Colacurcios' offices."

Named as defendants were Colacurcio Sr., his son, Frank Jr., and four longtime associates: Leroy R. Christiansen, David C. Ebert, Steven M. Fueston and John Gilbert "Gil" Conte.

All but Conte are charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to use interstate facilities in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering and mail fraud. Conte is charged with conspiracy to use interstate facilities in aid of racketeering. The charges carry prison terms of up to 20 years, Sullivan said. The government also sought a $25 million judgment against the men and their businesses and started moving to seize all the real estate associated with the four clubs.

Was the Seattle "family" part of America's Cosa Nostra?
Ultimately, Colacurcio Jr. pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge that will cost him $1.3 million and landed him in prison for a year and a day. The associates pleaded guilty to prostitution- and racketeering-related charges As part of plea deals, the Colacurcios' four strip clubs were shuttered, and the government seized the buildings and other property, which were valued at a total of $4.5 million. The final piece of property, Talents West, was forfeited by Colacurcio Jr. under his plea.

As for Frank Sr., the septuagenarian died shortly after the indictments were unsealed in 2010.

The Colacurcio enterprise once spanned 10 states and also included strip clubs Rick's in Seattle; Sugar's in Shoreline; Honey's in Everett; and Fox's in Parkland, Pierce County.

In the summer of 2009, federal agents staged high-profile raids at the clubs and at the Colacurcios' business office in Lake City, an agency that managed the club "talent," called Talents West, along with Colacurcio Sr.'s home and an apartment in Seattle.

The 2010 indictment reiterated the findings of the raids of the prior year: that the clubs were havens of open prostitution and that the club owners encouraged it, profited from it and structured their businesses to disguise those profits.

The indictment did reveal that since about March 2008, agents had been listening to the Colacurcios and cohorts through court-sanctioned bugs planted in the offices of Talents West.

Prosecutors charge that the club owners enriched themselves through a business structure that profited from prostitution. Also the clubs allegedly operate by charging the dancers "rent" to work at the clubs and by charging customers admission fees and inflated prices for soft drinks.

Liquor was not allowed in the clubs (a true act of criminality!). The "rent" for dancers could reach $130 a shift. Dancers who "came up short" accumulated debt, Sullivan said. The management overtly supported prostitution by installing "VIP" rooms where customers could be entertained more privately, the indictment alleged. And the installation of condom machines in each club encouraged prostitution as well.

"All the girls indicated it was almost impossible" to make the "rent" by dancing alone, said one prosecutor. "These men made millions of dollars exploiting these young women in the Seattle and Tacoma areas," he said.

I don't think prosecutors in New York would have bothered with something like this. They would've just closed the clubs like they did to former Decavalcante boss, Vinny "Ocean" Palermo.

Palermo flipped and embraced the strip club business down in the south. On September 14, 2009, the New York Daily News exposed his new life in witness protection as a strip club operator in Houston, Texas.

Palermo had been living under the name "Vincent Cabella". Palermo's new strip clubs were called "The Penthouse Club" and the "All Stars Mens Club" and Houston Police say they are a source of drug dealing and prostitution in the Houston area. No word on where he is now or what he's up to.

The Seattle Godfather
As for Seattle's major Cosa Nostra operation, the indictment further alleged that money was laundered through the clubs via the use of credit and debit cards used to purchase tokens that could be traded for dances or sex acts. The management allegedly would then take a cut when the dancers turned in their tokens for cash at the end of the night.

The mail-fraud allegations state that the club owners for years mailed in false entertainment-tax statements to the city of Seattle misstating the club proceeds.

To bolster their allegations, prosecutors included in the indictment a transcript of graphic conversations recorded by the bugs hidden at Talents West. Prosecutors contend the conversations show the Colacurcios and the others were permissive, if not outright encouraging, of prostitution at the clubs.

Other conversations indicate that dancers were not disciplined when caught committing sex acts.

So I assumed the Colacurcios should've slapped them "bitches" around for hooking on the side? I read the transcripts and they in fact paint a very different picture, in my opinion, which we will get to.

Colacurcio Sr. has long been portrayed by law enforcement — and the media — as one of Seattle's most notorious racketeering figures, if not its own small version of an organized-crime "Godfather."

Gimme a break! And I'm the Turk Sollozzo.

In the 1950s, he was identified as a racketeer before a U.S. Senate committee, and also was accused of using strong-arm tactics to control Seattle's pinball trade.

God, the pinball trade!!!! Heaven's to Betsy!!!

In the 1960s, he opened Seattle's first topless club, the Firelite Room downtown.

Colacurcio Sr. has served four federal prison terms, primarily for skimming cash to avoid taxes and violating the terms of his probation. His son has served time for tax fraud. Arch criminals here. Murder Inc. had nothing on these guys.

The raids of 2009 came on the heels of Seattle's "Strippergate" scandal in 2003. You have heard of that one, right? The Colacurcios had secretly funneled illegal campaign contributions to the re-election campaigns of several then-City Council members.

The elder Colacurcio and his son pleaded guilty in 2009 to felony and misdemeanor charges and agreed to each pay $75,000 in penalties.

On July 2, 2010 in the Seattle Times Newspaper: "Frank Colacurcio Sr., the strip-club magnate whose organized-crime exploits covered more than half a century and helped define Seattle's history of police corruption and reform, died Friday. He was 93.

Colacurcio had been in declining health for some time, suffering from congestive heart failure.

In keeping with his life story, Colacurcio was under indictment at the time of his death, facing allegations of racketeering and promoting prostitution.

Despite his notoriety, Colacurcio wasn't flashy. He wore golf shirts, played cards and lived in a modest home in the Sheridan Beach neighborhood of Lake Forest Park at the north end of Lake Washington. His one indulgence was a 38-foot boat used for fishing in Alaska.

He benefited in the 1950s and 1960s when police turned their eyes from vice and criminal activity in exchange for payoffs.

Eventually, he became a top target of federal and local law-enforcement officials.

For years, the feds and other investigators picked through his trash, eavesdropped on his conversations and recruited snitches. They finally got him in the 1970s, for racketeering and failing to pay taxes on money skimmed from his businesses.

But their long-held suspicion that Colacurcio was involved in execution-style slayings of several people who had crossed him never resulted in charges. In an interview a few years previous, Colacurcio dismissed the notion that he was involved in old killings or illegal activities. "They have been investigating me since the time I was born," he said.

Once considered Seattle's own connection to the Mafia, he more likely headed a homegrown organized-crime outfit, law-enforcement officials concluded.

"Mafia malarkey," he once complained, saying local investigators needed someone they could label as their own mob figure.

For some detectives, investigating Colacurcio was an obsession. They built dossiers with flow charts and pictures of his known associates. Once, they even rented a room next to his old SeaTac office to eavesdrop through an electrical outlet.

Colacurcio outlasted some investigators, who moved to other jobs or retired. One federal prosecutor who brought charges against him later became his defense attorney.

One additional item worth noting, in a 1971 trial, Colacurcio was convicted of racketeering for bringing illegal bingo cards into the state.

Yes... Illegal bingo cards!!!! God, imagine of Carmine "Lilo" Galante ever moseyed on into that town back then?

Federal prosecutors exposed a bribery scheme in which police were paid to ignore illegal gambling activities at area taverns -- namely, bingo!

Around the same time, State Patrol investigators reported that Mr. Colacurcio had met in Yakima with Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno, the son of the former New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, to discuss a business relationship. 

Colacurcio famously responded to a reporter that he and his family had gone to Yakima to pick hot peppers, "but I didn't pick no bananas."

So was Colacurio connected to the national Mafia or was his a homegrown operation? We'll explore that in more detail in the next post, and we will quote some funny conversations from the indictment that would've made fantastic fodder for David Chase and his Sopranos writing staff.

Part II coming this week...

Comments

  1. How's about the mob taking their deep roots in organized labor and getting the IT people unionized? I just got the boot after 30 years of IT and let me tell you, they really need it, whether they know it or not. There is no glamor in being a person required to have the knowledge of a PHD in mathematics and computer science having the daily threat of your job being outsourced for the shrinking salaries and work load. If you're IT you're on call 24x7, period. Most doctors don't do that any more.

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  2. Not all Italian-American crime is Mafia related.

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  3. Prostitution is not a benign crime it is very lucrative

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  4. My last IT job my supervisor had been arrested for check fraud...and he had access to thousands of credit card information....but the keep him on....

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  5. Clinton CeeRay FussellJun 12, 2014, 12:01:00 PM

    Just another example of law enforcement finding an excuse to harass Italian Americans just to enhance their careers.

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  6. Was a follow up article ever done?

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  7. I've been researching this guy and found nothing on him. Seattle however was an important gateway for the Mafia....

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  8. Benign meaning not truly harmful, in my opinion. The women make money and usually choose those lifestyle. The men pay for a service; the so-called victimless crime. But indeed lucrative.

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  9. Looking forward to the sequel. It is possible (because it still happens in Northeastern Ohio and I'm sure elsewhere) to be Italian and run a criminal enterprise unrelated to that thing... you know... thaaat thing. But it sure as hell won't hurt operations if people assume yer a part of it. Ed, when is your book on the definitive state of US LCN after 2010 coming out?

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  10. I'm a journalist and going through the very same thing! I thing we are seeing a historical economic shift that frankly scares the crap out of me!

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  11. my name is London knight . yes Frank named me that . i ran franks clubs for him. and the whole truth is with in the pages of stiletto diaries... for most they call the family MOB. and yes but truth is that it is a close family, did i help in taking the mob down, yes, i had no chose, you see, i got sick of seeing the woman around me die every day, who knows maybe i finely just had enough,i was there at the time in Alaska when the wild chary was open, i was there when they took down the clubs, and i was there as i say across from Gary the hit man, trust me what one thinks to be only that of a story is indeed much more.

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