‘Junior’ Williams Leveraged Relationships, Got By With Help From His Friends, In Climb Up Pittsburgh Mafia Ladder

The ascension of Pittsburgh mobster Adolpho (Junior) Williams in the Three Rivers region’s gambling rackets was achieved with a lot of help from his gangster friends, a tribute to the loyalty he invoked in others, according to sources and a series of law enforcement and court files that paint a picture of his rise up through ranks of the Steel City underworld. Williams (real name Guglielmo) was the Pittsburgh mafia’s point man in the illegal numbers lottery in the late 1980s, 1990s and first portion of the 2000s. He died last week at 82 of a heart attack having been retired from his life as a Goodfella for the past decade.

“Everyone liked Junior, he knew that a lot of being a successful criminal in Western Pennsylvania is being able to walk in different circles, building bridges, he was always real good at that,” a former FBI agent familiar with Williams said. “He was what we called a mob politician. He was great at telling people what they wanted to hear, getting them to put their faith in him. That’s why he had so many guy loyal to him on the streets, so many people doing his bidding.”

In his heyday atop the city’s policy trade, Williams had people stashed all over town working on his behalf in the illegal gambling trade. Gaining the trust of mafia brass, he rose to be one of the biggest numbers barons Pittsburgh had ever seen. Heading a numbers bank that employed his two brothers and three sisters, Williams was clearing close to three million bucks a year in policy slips alone. Authorities suspected the Williams crew of drug dealing too.

Groomed in local gangland protocol by legendary independent Pittsburgh crime lord, Tony Grosso, the city’s gambling chief in the neighborhoods of the East End, the Hill and McKees Rocks, Williams and his brothers Eugene and Salvatore, became Grosso’s top lieutenants – as young men, they had worked in the steel mills. Junior Williams was Grosso’s go-between with the area’s traditional Italian mafia, guys like soon-to-be boss Michael Genovese and capos Antonio Ripepi and Anthony (Wango) Capizzi. Genovese took over as Godfather of the Pittsburgh mafia in 1985, around the same time Grosso was ensnared in a racketeering indictment that wound up sending him to prison. Grosso’s incarceration opened the door for Williams, backed by Genovese, to take his place as boss of the rackets in the East End, the Hill and McKees Rocks.

While Grosso shared his prolific portfolio of political, judicial and police contacts with the Pittsburgh mafia, he kept his independence by not paying tribute to longtime don and Genovese-predecessor Sebastian (Big John) LaRocca. When Williams assumed the mantle of power he changed things up and came under the Genovese syndicate banner. Reporting to Capizzi and receiving muscle from Genovese-dispatched enforcers Robert (Bobby I) Iannelli and Paul (Paulie No Legs) Hankish – the representative for the Pittsburgh mafia in West Virginia -, Williams solidified his standing by placing his own men in key territories to watch over his affairs.

The Williams crew itself was based out of the East End, stationed in a pair of front businesses, Guglielmo Jewelers and Sugar’s Deli, where they headquartered their robust numbers bank and wrote hundreds of policy bets a day. Junior Williams sent his brother Eugene and an associate named John Deep to hardscrabble McKees Rocks to run the lucrative 900 Club (also known as the McKees Rocks Social Club), a mobbed-up gathering spot and gambling den operating at all hours of the day and night. His man in charge of bookmaking in McKees Rocks was Kenneth (LeRoy) Scotty.

The Hill was a cluster of African-American neighborhoods on Pittsburgh’s Northside. It was a buzzing hot bed of numbers activity. Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the Hill’s main policy czar was Richard (Inky) Albert. Along with his brother Fred (Fatty) Albert, he oversaw a large network of numbers “writers” and sported a long list of arrests for illegal gambling (more than two dozen). The other policy force in the area was the Jewish racketeering tandem of Meyer Sigal and Abe (Piggy) Rabinowitz.

Inky Albert, Sigal and Rabinowitz had close ties to Tony Grosso, Junior Williams and the Pittsburgh mafia dating back to the 1960s. Albert and Wango Capizzi co-owned the Las Vegas Travel Club, a business that ran travel junkets to Vegas. Sigal owned Dailey Juice Company and provided Pittsburgh button men Louie Raucci, Frank Rosa and Henry (Zebo) Zottola “no-show” jobs for their federal tax returns.

Albert’s primary employees on the street were Robert Daniels and Norman Fowler. Sigal and Rabinowitz had Abe (Nutsy) Schwartz to “middle” affairs for them. Per one state police document, Williams held meetings with Albert and Sigal in the weeks after he assumed command of Grosso’s gambling operations in 1986 and hammered out an arrangement with them similar to the one they had with Grosso.

Just like in McKees Rocks, Williams had his own people installed in the Hill looking after his interests, a group of African-American racketeers led by Joe Stotts and James (Shoebox) Jackson. Stotts ran Williams’ policy in the Hill and East End. Shoebox Jackson, mentored by James (The Duke) Giles, Pittsburgh’s biggest Black bookmaker for decades, ran the Williams crew’s sports gambling and dice games in the region.

Besides the Hill, the East End and McKees Rocks, Junior Williams held gambling interests in Penn Hills. These interests were under the stewardship of Larry Russo. Penn Hills was a racket region long belonging to Pittsburgh mob capo Joe Sica, who was winding down his gangland career at the time Williams was staking his claim on Grosso’s empire and being promoted to crew leader. Louie Raucci was Sica’s protégé. Sica was Frank Rosa’s father-in-law.

Williams took his fourth felony gambling conviction in 1991 (on top of his aggravated assault, battery and grand larceny convictions) and maintained control of his policy, dice and bookmaking operations from inside prison walls. He went down again in the early 2000s for more gambling offenses and a parole violation, leading to another stint behind bars. Sprung from incarceration in 2006, Williams is alleged to have hung up his mob spurs. His family (him, his daughter, son-in-law and grandkids) were the stars of the A&E reality television show ‘Godfather of Pittsburgh,’ which was on the air for one season in 2014.

At the time of his death last week, Junior Williams was a suspect in at least three gangland homicides believed to be connected to mob beefs in McKees Rocks: the January 1979 poisoning of Streets Commissioner Jimmy Goodnight, the July 1987 robbery and murder of retired police officer Marty Fitzpatrick and the October 1988 slaying of rival mobster and exposed rat Bobby Mancini.

Michael Genovese died of natural causes in 2006. With Genovese’s death, so passed any real semblance of the crime family he led. If the Pittsburgh mafia exists today, it’s a group of disparate gambling rings.

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