In the late 1970s, the Cleveland and Pittsburgh mafia families went to war with each other for the second time in two decades. The war lasted two and a half years, took place on the rugged battleground in Youngstown, Ohio and pitted Cleveland mob boss James (Jack White) Licavoli against the Pittsburgh mob’s capo in the Mahoning Valley, Vincent (Two-Gun Jimmy) Prato and his protégé Joseph (Little Joey) Naples, who lost two of his brothers to previous gangland strife in the region in the early 1960s. Hardscrabble Youngstown had traditionally been racket terrain shared by Cleveland and Pittsburgh syndicate factions. Between the years 1978 and 1981, a dozen bodies dropped chalked up to the violence ignited by Prato and Naples okaying their men to go after Licavoli gambling and extortion territory. Unlike in the 1960s, when the war featured car bombs as the weapon of choice, the late-70s-early-80s version changed to good ole’ fashioned shot guns and high-performance firearms.

December 3, 1978 – Prato and Naples’ lieutenant Charles (Spider) Gresham is shot to death outside his apartment building getting out of his car after a late-night shift bartending at the My Place Lounge by a sniper’s rifle. Gresham and his partner-in-crime James (Peeps) Cononico were empowered by Little Joey Naples to take over mob rackets in working-class Warren, Ohio in the wake of the sudden death of Cleveland mafia consigliere Anthony (Tony Dope) Delsanter, the crime family’s rep in the Mahoning Valley, via a heart attack in August 1977.

January 11, 1979 – Prato and Naples’ lieutenant James (Peeps) Cononico, Little Joey’s bodyguard and Gresham’s running buddy, is shot and killed in parking lot of his halfway house as he returned to check back in for the evening.

April 12, 1979 – Little Joey Naples’ sometimes-driver Bobby Furey is shot while changing a tire in his driveway. Furey was employed by Naples’ Youngstown United Music Co., a local jukebox and vending machine business. Furey was reportedly feuding with multiple Mahoning Valley mob figures around the time of his slaying.

July 25, 1979 – Prato and Naples’ lieutenant John (Black Jack) Tobin is shot-gunned to death walking to his car in the parking lot of his apartment building. Tobin was one of the area’s largest bookies and a local nightclub owner.

January 6, 1980 – Prato and Naples’ lieutenant Johnny Magda, who acted as Tobin’s main collector and was a known professional thief and burglar in Mahoning Valley underworld, is found suffocated to death in a trash dump in Struthers, Ohio.

February 13, 1980 – Licavoli lieutenant Bobby De Cerbo, a foot soldier working under the notorious Carabbia brothers (“Ronnie the Crab,” “Charlie the Crab” & “Orlie the Crab”), Youngstown mobsters connected to Licavoli in Cleveland, is shot-gunned to death through his living room window while watching television with his wife. De Cerbo had previously survived a car bomb attack.

October 2, 1980 – Licavoli lieutenant and Carabbia cousin, Dominic (Junior) Senzarino, is shot-gunned to death as he approached the front door of his house. Pittsburgh mob faction strong arm Bobby Dorler was eventually convicted in the hit.

December 13, 1980 – Legendary Youngstown mafia figure Charles (Charlie the Crab) Carabbia disappears on his way to meeting with Pittsburgh mob faction member Lenny Strollo at the Stardust Motel. Carabbia was left exposed when his brother Ronnie the Crab, the true underworld politician of the three gangster siblings, was imprisoned months earlier on a murder conviction. To this day, Charlie the Crab’s remains have never been unearthed. Strollo rose to become capo of the Pittsburgh crew in “The Valley” before turning witness-for-the-government in the late 1990s.

January 4, 1981 – Cleveland mafia associate David Perrier is found dead in a ditch in Trumbull County, Ohio. Perrier was Cleveland mobster Thomas (Tommy the Chinaman) Sinito’s bodyguard and collector in the Mahoning Valley. Sinito believed he was informing and he angered his superiors when he insulted Licavoli and slapped Licavoli’s driver Steve (Darby) Calcavecchio in a drunken outburst.

February 25, 1981 – Labor-union steward Joe De Rose is shot-gunned to death behind the wheel of his car as he backed out of his driveway, mistaken for his son “Little Joey,” the go-to hit man in the war.

April 18, 1981 – Infamous enforcer Joe (Little Joey D) De Rose, Jr. vanishes on his way to his girlfriend’s house, his car found nearby set ablaze. Pittsburgh mob faction hit man Sam (Skinny Sammy) Fosseseca was eventually convicted of the slaying despite no body ever being found. De Rose, Jr. is alleged to have been the triggerman in the Spider Gresham, Peeps Cononico, Black Jack Tobin, Johnny Magda and Bobby De Cerbo murders.

September 24, 1981 – Little Joey Naples’ numbers lottery lieutenant Pete Cascarelli disappears among rumors of him being an informant. Cascarelli worked at Naples’ Youngstown United Music Co.

*James Licavoli died in prison in 1985. Jimmy Prato lasted until 1988, passing peacefully in his sleep. Little Joey Naples wasn’t so lucky, slain by a sniper’s rifle in 1991 in the midst an internal conflict that raged through the first part of the 1990s in Youngstown’s Pittsburgh mafia crew.

 

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