The 1970s in the Cleveland underworld was a rough-and-tumble affair, as the city’s traditional Italian mafia had its hold on the region’s rackets challenged by an upstart Irish gangster and labor organizer named Danny Greene. By late in the decade, Cleveland was deeply imbedded in a chaotic bombing war, pitting the Italians on the eastside against the stubborn and fearless Greene and his Irish mob on the westside. Greene teamed with local Italian racketeer and labor-union power John Nardi in his war versus the mafia, sending the Italians scrambling and looking out of state for help in combatting its increasingly bothersome problems with the wily “Irishman”.

The Cleveland mafia’s war with the formidable Danny Greene and his so-called “Celtic Club,” got the Hollywood treatment in 2011 with the film Kill The Irishman starring Ray Stevenson, Val Kilmer, Paul Sorvino and Christopher Walken.


October 31, 1971Art Snepeger, Danny Greene’s gopher and overall right-hand man, is blown up in a car bomb he was attaching to the Cadillac of Greene’s friend-turned-rival in the trash-hauling industry, Michael (Big Mike) Fratto.

November 26, 1971Michael (Big Mike) Fratto is killed in a shootout with Danny Greene which broke out when a car carrying Fratto approached a jogging Greene at Cleveland’s White City Beach Park. Greene is let off on self-defense grounds.

March 29, 1975 – Notorious Cleveland Jewish mobster and numbers boss Alex (Shondor) Birns is blown up in a car bomb behind Christy’s Lounge on Detroit Street after a falling out with Greene, a former protégé of his.

September 19, 1975 — Cleveland mob figure John Conte disappears on his way to a meeting with Greene to discuss business in the local vending machine racket. He is later discovered beaten to death in suburban Austintown. Conte was a close friend and lieutenant of Buckeye State mafia capo Joe Gallo.

May 26, 1976 – Longtime Cleveland mafia Godfather John Scalish dies on the operating table in a risky medical procedure on his ailing heart. The heavily-respected 64-year old Scalish had led the Ohio crime family since the 1940s and reportedly tapped capo James (Jack White) Licavoli before he died. Scalish’s passing sends the city’s underworld into a freefall it would never recover from, starting with Greene and his buddy John Nardi, the nephew of Scalish’s consigliere, Anthony (Tony the Old Man) Milano, making a play for the crown themselves.

July 21, 1976 – Infamous Cleveland mob enforcer Eugene (The Animal) Ciasullo is nearly murdered in a porch bomb planted under his house. Ciasullo survives the blast, but the explosion blew apart his stomach and he was in the hospital recovering for weeks before voluntarily bowing from the hostilities.

August 22, 1976 — Cleveland mob associate and labor union strong arm Joe Kovach is shot to death in front of his home.

August 23, 1976 – Cleveland mafia underboss Calogero (Leo Lips) Moceri disappears, his blood-soaked Mercedes the only evidence of his slaying. Moceri was don Jack Licavoli’s cousin and best friend. Earlier that month, Moceri had gotten into a public verbal spat with John Nardi at the annual Feast of the Assumption.

September 24, 1976 – Innocent civilian Frank Pircio, the 50-year old neighbor of Cleveland mob soldier Alfred (Allie Con) Calabrese, is killed in a car bomb attached to Calabrese’s brand-new Lincoln Continental. Pircio was attempting to move Calabrese’s vehicle which was obstructing his own.

April 5, 1977 – Hells Angel biker Enis (Eagle) Crnic is killed while attempting to attach a car bomb to a vehicle belonging to eastside Italian mob associate John (Johnny Del) Delzoppo. Despite the Hells Angels working relationship with the mafia, Crnic was hired by Greene for the job, greatly angering Licavoli and his administration.

May 17, 1977 – Aspiring Buckeye State mafia overlord and labor union boss John Nardi is killed in a car bomb outside his labor union hall.

June, 23 1977 – Cleveland mob associate and explosive expert Henry (Boom Boom) Grecco, a member of the hit team that planned and carried out the Nardi bombing, vanishes, presumably in “clean-up” from the Nardi job.

October 6, 1977 – Cagey Cleveland Irish mob boss Danny (The Irishman) Greene is killed in a car bomb in the parking lot of a suburban Lyndhurst, Ohio dentist’s office. Licavoli brought in Erie, Pennsylvania mob figure and known hit man Ray Ferritto to head the effort to finally do away with the 43-year old Irishman forever. Ferritto did just that but eventually flipped.

November 17, 1977 — Irish mob lieutenant Elmer Brittain is shot to death inside his office located on Cleveland’s Westside. Brittain was closely aligned with Greene

Summer of 1978 – The year after Greene’s murder, his former Westside Irish mob, known amongst themselves as the “Celtic Club,” was merged into Licavoli’s Eastside Italian mafia. A peace meeting in late June 1978 between both factions was brokered by rising Cleveland mafia lieutenant Tommy (The Chinaman) Sinito.

July 6, 1978 – Cleveland mobster Joe (Joey Bugs) Bonarrigo is murdered in a beef with the Hells Angels.

November 16, 1978 – Irish mob strong arm Keith (The Enforcer) Ritson, who acted as Danny Greene’s main muscle and top hit man, is shot to death by Hans (The Surgeon) Graewe, a German-born Cleveland mafia associate and deranged assassin, on orders of the Licavoli group after word of Ritson’s intent on settling old scores with the Italians began surfacing in the weeks following the successful peace conference.

*James Licavoli was the first mob boss convicted under the soon-to-be-commonplace RICO law in 1982 and died three years later of heart failure at 81.

Danny Greene (left) outside a Cleveland courthouse in the 1970s

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