Jack Tocco Funeral: Detroit Mob Boss Tocco Laid To Rest

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The Undertaker was eventually taken under though himself in September 1937, shot-gunned to death as he entered his house on the city’s Eastside, after feuding with Tocco, out on an appeal bond from his recently incurred tax evasion conviction. Before Tocco headed to federal prison for a six-year stint, he was questioned, but never charged with arranging Bagnasco’s murder.

In the years following the Bagnasco slaying, his sons, Salvatore (Sammy B) Bagnasco and Anthony (Tony B) Bagnasco, took over the business and like their dad before them, became reputed “made” members of the Detroit mob. Sammy B was able to look past the fact that Black Bill Tocco had ordered his father’s execution and became his son-in-law, marrying his daughter. The Bagnasco brothers died in the 1990s. Bill Bagnasco, Sammy B’s son and Jack Tocco’s nephew, runs the funeral home now.

One person noticeably absent from Black Jack’s wake and funeral was his first-cousin and former underboss, Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli (Joe Uno’s son) and Tony Z’s wife, Rosalie, the daughter of one-time New York mega don, Joe Profaci. Tocco and Zerilli had a bitter falling out in the wake of the expansive Operation GameTax bust of 1996 and their respective convictions and federal prison sentences, resulting in Black Jack pulling his cousin’s stripes and demoting him from the No. 2 spot in the Family after he was released from behind bars in 2009.

Black Jack’s brother and primary advisor Tony Tocco was married to Joe Profaci’s other daughter, Carmela, making both Tony T and Tony Z brother-in-laws to Colombo Crime Family capo Salvatore (Jersey Sal) Provenzano currently in semi-retirement down in Florida.

According to sources close to the situation, the main issues at the center of the dispute were Tocco blaming Zerilli for the court case, since it was his crew that provided the bulk of the evidence at trial, and a purported four million dollars of missing money Tony Z believes he was shorted from by Tocco in the sale of the racetrack the two co-owned together, but were forced to unload once they were convicted in the Gametax bust.

“It’s a great day, one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” the 86-year old Zerilli said from Florida upon hearing the news of his adversary’s passing.

The pair of mob princes were raised side-by-side in their families’ Grosse Pointe Park’s “compound,” attending college together at the University of Detroit-Mercy and making their bones in tandem with the 1947 strangulation of Greek wiseguy Gus Andromulous (per U.S. Senatorial hearing testimony). Besides being given the Hazel Park Raceway to run as a college graduation gift in 1949 from their fathers, the young Tocco and Zerilli each held ownership interests in car dealerships, real estate, restaurants and various other business endeavors, both legitimate and illegitimate.

Although Tony Z made a habit of getting pinched (starting with his 1967 arrest and subsequent conviction for stealing six million dollars from and maintaining a hidden ownership in the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which led to his imprisonment and removal in favor of Black Jack as his father’s heir apparent), Tocco proved elusive to law enforcement efforts to lock him up. That was until Gametax came down and he was convicted at trial in 1998. It was the first felony of his underworld career, dating back literally 50 years. He had taken pride in dodging the attempts to saddle him with the mobster label. Sentenced to a suspicious two years in prison in the case (originally one year if not for a prosecutor’s appeal), Tocco had been out of prison since 2002. Zerilli’s been free since 2009.

Fancying himself a new generation “board room gangster,” and benevolent community leader, instead of reveling in his mob power Tocco bristled at the notion that he was perceived in the public as a mafia boss – he filed close to a dozen slander and defamation law suits against members of the press and law enforcement between the 1970s and his 1996 arrest, adamantly denying his gangland ties.

“Jack always wanted it both ways, he wanted the people that needed to know he was the boss to know and bow to him and he wanted the rest of the world to view him as this patronized saint, a humanitarian that is a victim of ethnic stereotypes,” commented his former nemesis on the other side of the law, retied U.S. Prosecutor Keith Corbett, lead attorney in the Gametax investigation and prosecution. “He was a racketeer though, a very adept racketeer at that and despite what he wanted, that’s what he’s going to be remembered for when it’s all said and done.”

The lengths he went to clear his name were the inspiration for an Academy Award-nominated screenplay by Detroit movie screenwriter Kurt Luedke, 1981’s Absence of Malice, starring Paul Newman, as the son of a former mobster, unjustly accused of being a Mafiosi and a suspect in a high-profile labor union boss’ disappearance and murder.

Tocco died a top suspect in the famed Jimmy Hoffa slaying. Hoffa, the mob ally-turned enemy and dethroned Teamsters President hell-bent on reclaiming his post against the mafia’s wishes, vanished from a Metro Detroit restaurant parking lot on the afternoon of July 30, 1975.

After seeking numerous mediators to help smooth out the bad blood between him and his cousin and former boss, including Bill Bagnasco, Tony Z threw down the gauntlet in December 2012 and went to the FBI, pointing the Feds to property once owned by Tocco and where he was told Hoffa was taken to, killed and buried 39 years ago this month in maybe the most recognized unsolved murder in American history. Last summer, the FBI dug up the desolate parcel of farmland to no avail.

Tony Z was in prison for the Frontier case at the time Hoffa was murdered. At trial in their GameTax case, Zerilli and Tocco were both convicted of holding past hidden ownership in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and The Edgewater Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.

Named a capo in the 1960s, Black Jack married the daughter of Detroit underboss Angelo (The Chairmen) Meli and headquartered his crew out of Melrose Linen Service on the city’s Northeast side.

Retired FBI agent Sam Ruffino recalls staking out Melrose late one July evening in 1985, hours after veteran area mob soldier Peter (Fast Pete) Cavataio was killed for his subversive behavior and running around with imprisoned gangsters wives and girlfriends.

“We’re watching the place real close the night Pete Cavataio got whacked and Jack and his brother Tony T and Billy Giacalone and Tony “The Bull” Corrado (both capos in the Family then) pull up and out comes with them Fast Pete’s kid,” Ruffino said. “They take’em up to the office and we got a bug in there, so we can hear what they’re saying, and Jack says, ‘It’s over, there’s no beef, keep quiet if anybody comes around asking questions keep your mouth shut. And oh, by the way, where’s his stash.’ Everyone knew Cavataio was sitting on like a million large in cash but nobody knew where it was.’ We thought the kid might have even been forced to set the old man up. Either way, that says it all, ya know, ‘your dad’s dead, now where is all his money?’

Cavataio, Tony the Bull Corrado’s brother-in-law, was kidnapped in broad daylight outside a BBQ restaurant he owned in Southfield, discovered the next day, tortured and shot in the back of the head in an abandoned garage in Southwest Detroit. His murder has never been solved.

Ruffino remembers one more thing about that night back in ’85.

“When Jack and the boys are leaving, he spots us sitting at the edge of the road by Melrose and gives us the finger,” the former G-man remembered with a chuckle.

FBI wiretaps from the Gametax case reveal Jack’s and his brother’s reputation for trying to avoid attention from law enforcement at all costs.

“Jack and Tawn (another nickname for Tony Tocco) are triple fucking cautious,” opined a solider and relative of theirs. “They keep their heads down more than anyone. That used to be the big fucking joke when they were all coming up back in the day. Ya know, if you wanted to get them off a score or to get them off your back, you’d just say, ‘I’m feeling a lot of heat lately’ and the Toccos would go running for the hills.”

The consummate mob politician and statesmen, Black Jack forged close ties with mafia bosses from other regions, such as Chicago’s John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo, L.A’s Peter (Shakes) Milano, Buffalo’s Joseph (Lead Pipe Joe) Todaro, New Jersey’s John (The Eagle) Riggi and Pittsburgh’s Mike Genovese, to further solidify his power. Tocco, Chicago-born Tony La Piana, and No Nose Di Fronzo were known to attend the Kentucky Derby every spring together.

An FBI surveillance unit followed Tocco on an Eastcoast mob meet-and-greet in the months after he took over from his uncle Joe Zerilli as don of Detroit, breaking bread with soon-to-be slain Philly Godfather Angelo Bruno in Pennsylvania and Five Family bosses Paul Castellano, Anthony (Tony Ducks) Corrallo, Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno and Carmine (The Snake) Persico in New York.

“Jack Tocco’s passing represents the end of an era and a time where the mafia still had its swagger,” Corbett said. “The Detroit Family is still pretty fearsome, they remain violent and active, but they don’t have that aura anymore like they did when Jack was coming up and on top at first and really until Gametax, where that whole façade was kind of shattered. And like they say with Humpty Dumpty, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” you know, it will just never be the same.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I lived in the greatest era of my life. I remember when my dad & his brothers were bootleg’an
    They would bring tractor load of booze to mu uncle’s farm & I would set atop of the barn as look out. Then when AL Capone call my dad that he was sending 2 guy’s down to take care of a hit so my dad said send them down. So when they came they gave my dad a diamond ring, my dad said who is it & they said licovole so my dad called & said I’m sending 2 guys they have a hit on you. well that was the end of the 2 guys.

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