(Note: This article is growing out of my research into the organized crime history of Milwaukee. While in later years — post-1960 — the Milwaukee gangsters seemed to have some level of control over Kenosha, in the early days I see little or no connection. Until such a connection is found, I will be putting the organized crime stories of Kenosha here…)
Most citizens of Italian descent in Kenosha are from two villages outside of Cosenza: Marano Principato and Marano Marchesato in Calabria, at the tip of the Italian boot (as opposed to Milwaukee’s largely Sicilian population). The earliest crime-affiliated Italians — the Iaquinta and Andreoli families — seem to come not from Marano Principato or Marano Marchesato, but from the town of Roccabernarda, also in Calabria. Others, such as the Butera family, were originally from Platania.
Francesco “Frank” Iaquinta, 18, came from Roccabernarda and arrived in America on June 9, 1905. According to the manifest of the SS Liguria, Iaquinta intended to meet up with his brother Giovanni in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He listed his occupation as “peasant”.
Saloonkeeper Charles Vite was held under $1500 bail on Monday, May 26, 1913 by Federal Commissioner Francis Bloodgood. Vite had sent a threatening “black hand” letter to Albert Comforti demanding $500 or “his brains would hit the sky”. Comforti turned the letter in to federal authorities (as the threat was sent through the postal system). Apparently, Vite had persuaded Charles W. Hackley, a black man, to write the letter and Hackley confessed, implicating Vite.
The Vite trial was not until June 1, 1914. At this time he was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in Leavenworth Prison by Judge Geiger.
John Iaquinta was shot October 8, 1916. Vincenzo Olivero was convicted of attempted murder and served one year.
The body of Frank Fusco was found on September 20, 1917 behind the Nash baseball park with a bullet in his head.
Bruno Andreoli (200 North Newell Street) took Louis Rogliano, Lawrence Vitero, Frank Turk and a girl (possibly named Bentz) out to the country on the morning of Thanksgiving 1917. Andreoli planned to later take Rogliano and the girl to Waukegan to be married, but it never happened.
Bruno Andreoli was at McCarran’s Alleys on Market Street, bowling three games with Leo Romano from 7:30 to 9:30 on Monday, December 4, 1917 in the evening. Louis Rogliano, who had come from the same town in Italy as Andeoli, arrived at 7:45 with a large number of people including Antonio Messino (who lived at 166 Newell Street and was also from the same town in Italy). They were bowling on a different lane. Andreoli left and went alone to the Metropolitan Restaurant on Park Street. He next went to Lamacchia’s saloon where he met up with four friends and had a drink. While there, a man named Tony arrived and Andreoli bought him a drink. Next, Andreoli, Tony LaPorte and another Tony went home to Grand Avenue. Later, Rogliano’s body was found lying face down in the middle of Brockett Street.
Nick Butera was shot and killed in April 1918.
Gusafetta Spera was arrested Monday, March 8, 1920 for counterfeiting. Spera was placed under $3000 bail after a printing outfit and silver coins in a variety of denominations were found in his home. The print was not a press, but a collection of plaster of paris molds. Spera also had files, gold and silver to place in the molds. Treasury Agent Paul Dratzburg said that Spera had been working on the coins for two years and he had become so skilled that the likeness was almost exact. Despite a collection of decent-looking fakes, Spera apparently had not attempted to pass any of the coins. (This info comes from the Milwaukee newspapers — Kenosha papers may have more.)
Shoemaker Pasquale Iaquinta, 28, arrived in America on October 28, 1920. According to the SS Duga D’Aosta’s manifest, he was going to live with his cousin Gaetano Montemurro at 1000 Garden Street in Kenosha. He left his wife, Rosa, behind in Roccabernarda.
Frank Iaquinta was ambushed on Howland Avenue on September 7, 1921 and shot. He survived. Frank Chiappetti was tried for attempted murder but found not guilty.
Frank Iaquinta, Tom Iaquinta, Leonardo Iaquinta and Tony Larossi stood on the corner of Howland and Pearl on November 27, 1921. Frank Chiappetti stood on another corner of the same intersection and was shot — he survived. Frank Iaquinta was found guilty of intent to do great bodily harm on January 23, 1923 and was sentenced to 3 years in Waupun. After that, he was deported.
On November 28, 1922, Frank Iaquinta II (the other Frank Iaquinta’s cousin) was shot and killed in a battle at the intersection of Howland and Garden.
On December 7, 1922, feudists met at the corner of Howland and Pearl — Frank Chiappetti was there and escaped uninjured.
Bruno Andreoli Murdered
World War I veteran Bruno Andreoli, 29, was shot just before 8pm on October 21, 1925 while inside Vito Scolerio’s restaurant and pool hall at 911 Pearl Street in Kenosha. Andreoli was in the back room with Andrew Tenuta. Scolerio was in the front room, and Sam Covelli had just run home to fetch some wine. The killer entered the back room and shot Andreoli six times with a .38 — once in the abdomen and five times in the chest. Some of the bullets actually went through Andreoli, lodging in the floor and wall, and one breaking a window. Once Andreoli dropped, the killer kicked him in the face and fled. Miraculously, he made it to St. Catherine’s hospital before he stopped breathing. He was survived by his wife Maria, father Salvatore Andreoli, and mother Elizabetto Vetire Andreoli.
Leonardo Romano, 31, told police that he heard that Scolerio did it, and then fled to South Bend, Indiana. Scolerio, Sam Covelli and Andrew Tenuta, were called in for questioning. Later, Frank DeFazio would be questioned and released.
Police pursued two angles: first, that Andreoli was caught up in a fierce rivalry (a “grape war”) due to his employment as a California grape salesman. He was selling carloads and speculation mounted that a killer was imported from Chicago to end the competition.
And second, the idea that a jealous husband from Detroit had come to get revenge. Andreoli had come to Kenosha with his family from Detroit in early September 1925. He had lived in Kenosha previously, but left for Michigan in 1922. At the time of his return, a woman came with her two children and took up lodging on Anton Street (Andreoli lived on Racine Street). The connection between Andreoli and the woman was unclear.
Within a week, Scolerio would be arrested for murder and Covelli and Tenuta would be arrested for aiding Scolerio. The three men pleaded not guilty and none of them were ultimately convicted.
Vito Scolerio Murdered
Kenosha gangster Vito Scolerio was enjoying some snuff alone at Art Lamacchia’s barber shop and pool room at 954 Park Street. He was shot 8:10 Thursday evening, September 9, 1926 as he was leaving Lamacchia’s to enter his car. The vehicle, a Ford sedan, was on Park Street between the Northwestern railroad tracks and Newell Street. He died within 30 minutes. Before he died, Scolerio named Frank Chiappetti, 35, as his assailant, and Frank was quickly jailed along with his brother Sam, both found at Sam’s home at 254 North Newell Street. At least two killers were involved, as Scolerio was shot with both a double-barreled shotgun and a Colt special .38 revolver (both found at the scene).
Police went to Scolerio’s house at 156 Brockett Street to inform his wife, Maria. The couple had four children and a fifth on the way. Mrs. Scolerio gave the police Vito’s revolver, which she said was his only weapon. At the Chiappetti house, the police found two shells in Frank’s room. They found no gun in the house that took such shells, but the shells did fit the shotgun found near Scolerio.
Frank Chiappetti was brought to court on September 11 for the charge of murder while his brother was released from custody. The newspaper speculated that the assassins — the Chiappettis or otherwise — may have killed Scolerio to avenge the death of Bruno Andreoli.
Peter Tenuta Robbed
On November 5, 1926, two bandits with masks over their eyes entered Peter Tenuta’s tavern and forced the customers there to empty their pockets. Bartender Carl Scola opened the safe and the bandits made off with approximately $500. Tenuta, 36, followed the bandits out, but was hit with a revolver butt and then shot. He crumbled to the floor.
Luigi Delconte Murdered
At 10:00am on January 8, 1928 Mrs. Frank Diachiara and Agnes Zumpano took the train to Chicago. They spent the day there and returned to Kenosha at 10:25pm where they were met at the station by Frank Diachiara and Luigi Delconte, who had spent the day playing cards. Mrs. Diachiara was dropped off at home, but the other three went to Miss Zumpano’s house (3812 14th Avenue) for a cup of coffee. After this, the two men left.
Painter Luigi Delconte, 46, a native of Rodi, Italy, was shot in the back and killed at 11:08pm on January 8, 1928 at the corner of 18th Avenue and 51st Street. He was behind the wheel of a Ford sedan bearing license number B236-252-W-27. Mrs. Henry Holmes (5016 18th Avenue) called the police while her husband chased a fleeing assailant. The assailant escaped. The gun was found in the lawn; it was a nickel-plated .32 5-shot revolver made by Eastern Arms Company with serial number 140899.
By 11:20pm, officers were dispatched to 5128 18th Avenue where they found Frank Dichiara with the whole side of his face bruised and his eye black and blue as though he had been dragged on his face. The police took him in for questioning and he admitted jumping on the running board of Delconte’s car and shooting him with a revolver. Dichiara said that Delconte “has caused him considerable trouble at his home on account of his wife”. Which wife is unclear, as both men were married.
The coroner searched through Delconte’s pockets and found a .32 automatic revolver, blue steel, with ten shots loaded.
Frank Paparas Murdered
William Covelli came home from work around 6:20pm, February 20, 1928 to his residence at 5424 22nd Avenue. He washed his face while his wife prepared supper and then around 6:35 three drunk men from Racine arrived. Covelli offered them something to eat, but they declined. They did, however, request coffee and waited at the table for Covelli to prepare it. Two of the men, Frank Paparas and Nick Cosentino, started fighting with each other and Frank slapped Nick in the face. Nick threw Frank to the floor. Covelli scolded them and said that was no way to behave in his house. The fighting continued, and the third man, Coaciara, was cut with a knife. Covelli took the knife away from them and when he returned, Frank Paparas was shot four times. Nick Cosentino slipped his gun into his pocket and left.
At some point, there was also a man named Louis Mano there and Nick Cosentino’s son.
(Lookup) On the evening of May 22, 1928, DA Lewis W. Powell’s home was hit by a bomb, which blew a 6-foot hole in his wall. He was shaken from bed, the house’s windows were shattered, and a neighbor’s windows were busted, too. Powell and his four children were startled but not injured, while Mrs. Powell was attending a late night lodge meeting. Witnesses saw two men drive up in a car, run to the home with a package, and then drive off as it exploded. Police believed the culprits were bootleggers, as Powell had personally crusaded for the closure of saloons. A day later, an unidentified woman called the house to say she overheard some “Chicago bootleggers” saying they were going to kill Powell. The call was taken by Miss Hazel Hurley, who boarded with the Powells.
Mike Carbone Murdered
Tony Loccetti, 24, of 5139 18th Avenue, killed Mike Carbone, 45, of 1719 50th Street, on Sunday, July 29, 1928 following a drunken quarrel over a penny box of matches. Loccetti shot Carbone five times with a .38 in the rear of Pete Bruno’s Vogue Sweet Shop at 1718 52nd Street. Also there were Bruno and Joe Greco (5422 22nd Avenue). Immediately after the killing, Loccetti fled.
Preceding this, the four men were in the store and Carbone wished to buy a penny box of matches but had no penny. Loccetti offered him the coin and Carbone accepted. Shortly after this, Loccetti asked Carbone to buy him a malted milk and he did. Loccetti asked Carbone for another drink and Carbone grew upset, saying he didn’t know he had to “buy the whole place” to repay the one cent loan. Bruno and Greco calmed the men down, suggesting a four-handed game of “Three Sevens”.
The game went well, but the argument broke out again with Loccetti calling Carbone a vile name, referring to his “ancestral imperfection”. Then the bullets started flying, and afterwards Loccetti threw Carbone’s body into the back alley and kicked him in the groin. At this point, Pete Bruno began walking the fifteen blocks to the police station. Loccetti stopped at his home, a boarding house at 5139 18th Avenue run by Ralph Muto. He left a few minutes later but went to places unknown.
Carbone had a wife, two daughters and a son in Italy. He had another son, Frank Carbone, who lived with him in Kenosha.
Eugene Russo Murdered
Bootlegger Eugene Russo, 26, 513 40th Place, was supposed to go to a meeting of bootleggers at William Covelli’s saloon on September 17, 1928 at 7pm. He went there and found only Covelli, being told that Frank Cosentino was out of gas on Grand Avenue. Russo drove out there and saw Cosentino with two other men, and thought it looked suspicious so he came back to pick up Frank Scafa. When Russo and Scafa returned, they saw Cosentino and two men from Chicago driving east on Grand Avenue.
Russo went to William “Red” Covelli’s saloon (22nd Avenue) at 5pm on September 21, 1928. Russo was found dead in his car (an Ajax sedan with license number C 135-554) at midnight on Berryville Road east of Green Bay Road by three Racine County youths (Floyd Lewis, Carl Wuster and Mike Wuster) who drove by in a Maxwell Tour and saw Russo slumped over in the car. The boys then went to the police station and brought Deputies Thomas Jester and Clarence Pool to the body.
The car’s license was registered to Harold I. Burdick, 2920 Wright Avenue in Racine. Russo had been shot numerous times from behind his right shoulder by a .38 and a shotgun full of buckshot — his lower right arm was shredded. Police found a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun in nearby bushes. Tire tracks were found from two cars — one with a Racine tire and another with a Fisk. Russo’s body was brought to Mischler’s Morgue.
Officers questioned Russo’s wife, who told them that Eugene had threatened to squeal on bootleggers Herman Cicchini, Frank Cosentino and William Covelli if they did not let him in on their still business. Detective Walter Chase tried to bring in the three men. Covelli told them that Russo was in his place that evening, and Cicchini admitted being there playing cards. Frank Cosentino’s wife said he was out of town in Waukegan since yesterday. The officers also learned that Russo had a girlfriend in Racine named Florence, whose father ran a soft drink place.
(Date unknown) Nine men were arrested for operating a still in the town of Koshkonong in rural Jefferson County (near Ft. Atkinson). They were Frank and Mike Cosentino, Albert Albana, Louis Greco, Tony and Alex Barca, and Leon Cicchini. Charges against Carl Firpo (?) and John Kiouse were dropped. Frank Cosentino was sentenced on January 9, 1929 to serve one year and one day in the house of correction.
Anthony Lanzillotti Murdered
Police found the body of Anthony Lanzillotti, 28, of 6732 Fourteenth Avenue on Sunday February 17, 1929 lying in the street on 22nd Avenue between 54th and 55th streets. Four bullets had entered his back and neck, and a .32 double action Colt revolver was still in his right hand. All six .32 longs had been fired. Nearby homeowner Frank Pingatore told police he had heard shots. No killer was known, and the last person to see Lanzillotti alive was Dominic Matera (2021 53rd Street) who spent the afternoon with him.
The police searched Lanzillotti’s home and found a box with more .32 bullets. They questioned his landlord, John Ruffalo, but he knew nothing about Lanzillotti having enemies. Also found were numerous letters from Kenosha girls of Italian descent and a paper saying he transferred ownership of his Studebaker to another man.
Lanzillotti was supposed to appear in court on Monday, February 18, to gain citizenship so his wife and child in Italy could come to America.
Inspector Rock called in Salvatore Russo, father of murder victim Eugene Russo. Salvatore told Rock that he believed Lanzillotti was one of the five men who killed Eugene. Salvatore further said that he knew Lanzillotti was about to be indicted by the grand jury at Milwaukee for operating a still at Yorkville in Racine County.
On the afternoon of February 22, police held four men for the shooting of Michael Sitarz, who was wounded — it was believed fatally — in front of William “Red” Covelli’s restaurant. His shoulder was hit and the “dum dum” bullet penetrated his lung. The stories were confusing and police did not know if the shooting was a robbery attempt or an argument about two girls. Arrested first was Frank Buttera, who admitted being involved in the shooting, saying Sitarz took $12 from him at gunpoint. Police found the $12 in Buttera’s pocket, but he insisted it was “planted” there after the shooting.
Brought in later were cab driver Ronald Broesch, 20, Red Covelli, and restaurateur Louis Cairo, 40. Cairo was held without charge, but the other two were booked for statutory rape. Sitarz, from his hospital bed, told the police about Antonia “Babe” Omesa, 16, who was involved with the older men. The newspaper noted this was the same place that Frank Papara was shot by Tony Cosentino (who they called a “Mafia leader” from Racine), and mere blocks from the site of the Lanzillotti killing.
On July 18, the coroner’s jury formally pronounced Lanzillotti dead due to “hands unknown”, making his yet another unsolved case. (The newspaper referred to him as the “Boston Kid” for reasons unclear to me.)
On Tuesday, April 26, 1932 Federal Judge F. A. Geiger dismissed charges against five bootleggers at the request of prosecutor Gilbert E. Vandercook. Frank Butera, Frank Molinaro and John Ludwig did not have enough evidence against them because their co-defendant, Walter Hudgens, could not be found. In another case, Achille “Kelly” Ruffolo and Mike Cosentino had charges against them dropped, also for lack of evidence. In the same case as Ruffolo and Cosentino, farmer Carl Haxhold was fined $250, while Jack Tenuta and Francesco Gervasi were both sentenced to three months in jail.
Robert Wilson Murdered
Realtor Robert A. Wilson was killed August 24, 1932, and buried in a shallow grave. He drove from Kenosha to Madison to Lodi with Frank Tylius, and was to meet with three others at 4:30pm. Wilson met with the men on schedule, who claimed they were looking for farmland on which to put a still. He brought them to the farms of Norwegian immigrant Ener Larson, 72, and Charles H. Knuteson, 63, telling them these men would be their new neighbors. Before the day was out, Wilson was strangled with gauze or cheese cloth and forced to sign two antedated notes with a value of $40,000. Wilson was then hit in the head with a club and his face pushed into the sandy soil. His body was dumped on his own property, near the Larson farm at the intersection of Highway J and Camp Perry Road.
Following his murder, the men drove to back in two vehicles: Wilson’s and William “Red” Covelli’s. Wilson’s car was abandoned near Waukegan. Before leaving Lodi, Tylius got a drink of water at a nearby farm, owned by Herman Frank Gastrow, at 5:45pm. (Son Harold and wife Lena Gastrow later identified Tylius and Victor Dominik as the dirt-covered men who stopped for a drink.)
On August 30, Alfred Larson (one of Ener’s sons) was tending to his cows around dusk. There was no fence between the Larson farm and the Wilson land, so the cows would often graze freely. One cow was on the Wilson land, and Larson was drawn over by the cow’s bell, where he found some unusual mound of earth surrounded by trees. He told his father, and early the next morning Ener and another brother went out with a spade to investigate. They soon found a partially decomposed man in the sand. Deputy Sheriff Andrew Ireland, 62, was notified, and he brought with him Sheriff Alfred E. Gilbert and DA Ross Bennett. When Wilson was found, his face was too decomposed to be identified, so he he was identified by the belt buckle he wore, which had a W on it. Wilson was wearing gray trousers, a light shirt, black oxfords and blue socks. Dr. John E. Bentley was called, and photographs were taken as the body was unearthed. The coroner declared that death came not from the hits on the head, but from suffocating on the sandy ground. Wilson was buried face down with his hands tied behind his back with quarter-inch rope.
Frank Tylius, William Covelli, Frank Infusino and Frank Cosentino were arrested for the torture murder of Wilson and taken by train from Milwaukee to the Portage Jail on Thursday, September 1, 1932. This was due in part to Tylius trying to cash the notes, which (despite being backdated a couple years) were found to have been freshly signed. Tylius said his only role in the plot was to cash the notes, not to kill anyone, but the police believed he was well aware of the intent to kill Wilson, whether he personally did so or not. Police found over $800 in Covelli’s pockets, as well as receipts for his step-daughter’s wedding, showing the purchase of a new car, and rental agreements for a Chicago orchestra worth $1500 and the largest reception hall in Kenosha. Along with sending his two sons to a royal academy in Naples, police were very curious how a modest baker was able to afford such luxury if he was not the “alky king” people said he was.
Frank W. Tylius, 39, was a divorced Lithuanian immigrant, arriving in 1913. Upon coming to Kenosha, he boarded with Josephine Tevogt Roth. His ex-wife, Mary, was able to get a divorce after saying he tried to drown her in a lake while they were fishing.
After confessing and implicating his associates, Tylius was brought from the county jail Portage to the smaller, two-cell Wisconsin Dells jail by Sheriff Alfred E. Gilbert, who thought his fellow prisoners in Portage might harm him if they knew he was a rat. Apparently, Tylius told Gilbert, “They said they would crack my head with handcuffs. They told me they’d finish me.”
The plan did not work; Tylius committed suicide at the small town jail. He hung his neck by his belt and tied his hands behind his back with a handkerchief, and was found dangling around 4:00am by Officer Paul Napoleon Volkey. The officer immediately called Gilbert and District Attorney Ross Bennett, who drove out and saw the prisoner themselves. A coroner’s jury was convened by Justice of the Peace Fogle and a ruling of suicide was quickly determined.
Hearing of Tylius’ death, Covelli remarked, “That’s a good thing.” Cosentino said, “He was crazy anyhow.” And Infusino smiled. Police were also looking for Victor Dominic of Racine, who was currently under arrest in Sacramento, California.
By September 3, Josephine Roth claimed Tylius’ body for burial. He had no bank account or property, but she felt he deserved a proper burial.
On September 8, after seeing Tylius’ photo in the newspaper, the Gastrow family contacted the police. Harold Gastrow was flown to Sacramento with the sheriff and Lena Gastrow took a train with the district attorney. Both positively identified Victor Dominik as the man they saw with Tylius.
On Friday, September 16, just in time for Covelli’s step-daughter’s marriage, he was released along with Cosentino and Infusino. District Attorney Ross Bennett decided that without Tylius, there was not enough evidence to hold the men, and Justice of the Peace Frank Gruner agreed. The three men returned home to cheering friends and relatives. They were paraded in by a caravan of well-wishers and were met by more friends along with Covelli’s wife Adeline when they reached Covelli’s house.
Louis Greco Married
William Covelli’s business associate Louis Greco, 28, married Covelli’s stepdaughter Rosa Busco, 18, on Saturday, September 17, 1932. Hundreds of out-of-town guests were in attendance. The couple left Sunday morning to honeymoon in Cicero and Chicago.
Wilson Murder, Cont’d
Around September 24, 1932, Josephine Roth was arrested and held on $2500 bond for her part in the murder of Robert Wilson. If newspaper accounts are to be believed, she professed her innocence, denied being Tylius’ “sweetheart” and commented that since the dawn of time women have been blamed for man’s troubles.
On October 4, 1932, Justice of the Peace Frank Gruner was looking over briefs and deciding whether or not to charge Josephine Roth with being an accessory to Wilson’s murder. DA Ross Bennett was pushing for the indictment, while defense attorney John J. O’Keefe fought back. Handwriting expert John F. Tyrell alleged that it was Roth who had written one of the two promissory notes signed by Wilson. He said the note, written to Tylius’ uncle Boles Arv, had ink only about two weeks old, not the two years the date claimed. In fact, Tyrell believed that the signature was obtained first and the note written over the top of it. DA Bennett also claimed that Tylius and another man visited Roth in Beloit after the murder and changed their dirty clothes there. One state witness, John Martson, claimed that he visited the Beloit “beer flat” in July and Roth said business was bad but they were expecting $18,000 or $20,000 soon. (Personally, I think this sounds silly.)
Roth went on trial, with jury selection on December 19. Interestingly, she chatted in court with Mary Tylius, the widow of her friend and alleged sweetheart Frank Tylius. Ultimately, she was sentenced to six months in jail.
The preliminary hearing for Victor Dominic of Racine was held on December 30, 1932. He was charged with being part of the Wilson murder plot, but he claimed to have an alibi with his wife. Defense attorneys Carl Hill and William Rosamuff claimed Dominic was 100s of miles from Lodi at the time of the murder. The defense had more than 20 affidavits saying Dominic was in California, and was visiting his brother Thomas in the Sacramento jail. His ticket was indeed purchased August 16, and he was still in California when he was arrested September 1, meaning he would have had to travel back and forth to be at the murder site. He signed in to the jail the 19th and 20th, and signed a hotel register in Sacramento the 25th. He had also spent a night at a hotel in Los Angeles with his brother Salvatore. The DA questioned Dominik on whether his hotel was brick or frame, how tall it was, and whether it had a bathroom. He could not recall any of those details. He did admit to knowing Tylius and having been in the liquor business with him in 1929-1930. (Victor Dominick or Dominik or Dominick was born in Piana del Greci, Sicily, making him closer related to the Madison Italians than the Racine / Kenosha Italians.) The trial was continued to January 11.
Judge E. W. Crosby ordered Dominik released on January 11, saying he did not find there to be enough evidence to hold him over for trial. In part, this was due to the hotel register handwriting being declared identical to Dominik’s samples.
On April 16, 1933, a guard escorted Frank Cosentino from Waupun to visit his mother in Racine, who was 80 and dying of throat cancer. The one-hour meeting took place at the home of restaurant proprietor Albert Cosentino, Frank’s brother. The privilege was granted thanks to James Greco, a nephew of Mrs. Cosentino who used to be a deputy sheriff. (Frank was sentenced to prison a year prior for slashing his wife with a razor… are there two Frank Cosentinos?)
Mike Cosentino Arrested for Murder
In the early hours of November 19, 1933, Mike Cosentino had fifteen to twenty drinks at the Hurry Inn roadhouse south of Kenosha and was in a “quarrelsome mood”. He took out his gun and lined up the guests and employees, ordering them to have a drink on him. Walter O’Bryan, 26, of Kenosha and Vance Tennant of Chicago came in and were ordered to drink. They refused, so Cosentino approached them with his gun. Tennant raised a bar stool and another man knocked it from his hands. Cosentino then shot O’Bryan in the stomach, and died of the wound nine days later. Cosentino, who was originally jailed on assault charges, was then facing first-degree murder. The district attorney, Morris Barnett, agreed to let Cosentino plead guilty to second-degree murder in order to save taxpayers a lengthy trial. Cosentino was sentenced to 14-15 years in Waupun State Prison by Judge E. B. Belden on January 22, 1934.
A Liquor Bust
Federal agents arrested Fred Covelli, Aldo Nudi and Charles Cosentino on December 26, 1935 for intent to manufacture untaxed spirits. They were caught removing three vats and two boilers from a farm. On January 2, Commissioner Floyd Jenkins dropped all charges against the men, saying that removal of equipment was not evidence of bootlegging.
Raymond Matera, 16, was arrested for burglary in the night on January 30, 1937. He was arrested again for petty larceny on April 30, 1937.
Richard Covelli was convicted of 4th degree manslaughter on March 14, 1938 and Judge S. E. Smalley sentenced him to two years in the state reformatory.
Mike Principe was convicted of grand larceny on October 4, 1938. Judge Edw. J. Ruetz sentenced him to two years in the state reformatory.
Mike Cosentino was released from Waupun on parole December 9, 1939.
During the evening of August 22, 1940, government agents seized the still and 282 gallons of non-taxpaid alcohol on the Yanke farm in Walworth County. Shortly after the seizure, a Plymouth sedan drove into the Yanke farm, and the occupants, Cucunato and Gottlieb, were placed under arrest. For the purpose of determining if any other individual desired to contact this car, Huntley, a government agent, drove it from the Yanke farm, followed by other officers in a Government automobile. When Huntley reached a point 300 feet from the Yanke driveway, he saw the lights of a Ford automobile parked off the road, and as he approached the Ford, it pulled out onto the highway and proceeded ahead of the Plymouth. The Ford was driven by Infusino, and when some distance from the Yanke farm, it stopped. Emil Richio alighted from the Ford, approached the Plymouth, and there Huntley informed Richio he was under arrest. Richio, however, fled to the woods, followed by Huntley. In the meantime, Infusino drove away in the Ford. Infusino admitted driving the Ford, but denied he was present at the time in question, and claimed an alibi.
Raymond Matera was arrested for gambling with dice on October 25, 1940.
Frank Cosentino Murdered
Frank Cosentino’s brother Mike was arrested July 3, 1941 for mayhem and carrying a loaded revolver. His parole was revoked and he was sent back to Waupun for five years.
Frank Cosentino, 40, was found shot to death in the yard of his Twin Lakes riding stables on July 8, 1941. That morning, he was working with his assistants, Paul J. and Richard A. Luxem. Around 2pm, 16-year old James Murray stopped by looking for a job. Neighbors (the Lindstrom family) had heard shots in the afternoon, but did not see any vehicles leave the area. Around 6pm, Chicago attorney Philip Sheehan stopped by the stable to rent some horses for his daughters, and found Cosentino dead. Police initially suspected a woman whose arm was broken May 8 in a Milwaukee night club by Cosentino may have been involved, but this was quickly dismissed. Two .38 bullets were found in his head, and powder burns indicated it was a very close range shot. He still had cash and a diamond ring on him, so robbery was also ruled out.
The Cosentino funeral was July 12. Brother Mike Cosentino was allowed out of prison for the funeral and was questioned by DA John McEvoy (though obviously Mike was in prison when the murder happened). The newspaper reported that “hundreds” of people and “huge throngs” filled the home at 5525 23rd Avenue, complete with giant floral arrangements that required a transport truck to move them from the funeral to the cemetery.
Tarrallo employed investigator Irzyk, and on July 18, 1941, Tarrallo directed him to drive a Dodge car from Chicago to Fossland’s Gas Station near the Wisconsin-Illinois line. There Irzyk met Tarrallo, and sometime later, defendants Nudi, Capponi, and Emil and Arthur Richio drove up to the gas station in a Plymouth car. Tarrallo directed Irzyk to give the key to the Dodge to Capponi and Nudi, and told Capponi he had to load 60 5-gallon cans of alcohol. Capponi and Nudi drove away in the Dodge, Tarrallo and Emil and Arthur Richio drove north in the Plymouth, and Irzyk remained at the gas station. Later, Tarrallo returned with the Dodge, loaded with 42 5-gallon cans of alcohol which bore no revenue stamps, and directed Irzyk to drive the Dodge to Chicago.
On July 23, 1941, Irzyk drove Tarrallo to Cy’s Gas Station near the Wisconsin-Illinois line. There they were joined by Infusino and Emil Richio. Tarrallo, Richio and Infusino engaged in a conversation, in which, in the presence of Infusino, Irzyk told Tarrallo that he (Irzyk) was worried about being there, to which Tarrallo replied: “Don’t worry. We are going to work for the right people. These people up here are right people, and Frank is a pretty big boss.” Emil Richio and Irzyk then drove in Tarrallo’s car to a garage in Kenosha, followed by Infusino and Tarrallo in Infusino’s car. At the garage, Tarrallo, in the presence of Infusino, said to Irzyk: “How do you like the crate Frank has given me to replace the one the Feds knocked off on the Lake Geneva job?”
On July 27, 1941, Irzyk loaded chunks of broken concrete, 1½ to 2 feet long, a foot wide, and weighing up to 100 pounds, into the Dodge and drove it, at Tarrallo’s direction, to a place outside Kenosha where he met Infusino, Tarrallo, Emil, Arthur and Roy Richio seated in Infusino’s car. Irzyk, having been directed by Tarrallo in the hearing of Infusino to give the keys to the Dodge car to Roy, gave them to him, and Roy drove away in the Dodge. After a while Roy Richio returned, and in the presence of Infusino said to Tarrallo: “I could only get 26-28… we are having trouble at the pot. Can’t get the proof.” Tarrallo got angry and started to argue with Roy, whereupon Infusino said: “If he has got trouble, he has got trouble.” Upon Tarrallo’s instructions, Irzyk then drove the Dodge car to Chicago. It was filled with cans of non-taxpaid alcohol, and the concrete had been removed.
On July 29, 1941, government agents found a tile discharging mash into an open ditch and traced the tile across the field into the Krupenski farm. They entered the farm on August 6 and found a 700-gallon dismantled still in the barn, some mash in a receptacle, and chunks of broken concrete of the size and description testified to by Irzyk, but no sign, Registered Distillery. On August 6, after the still had been seized, Tarrallo tried, without success, on four occasions to reach Infusino by telephone, and cruised the park in Kenosha, the usual meeting place for Tarrallo and Infusino, looking for Infusino’s car. August 7, the Government agents, while approaching the Covelli Gas Station in Kenosha, saw Infusino in his car, talking to Arthur Richio; as the officers approached, Richio ran away and Infusino drove off at a high speed. Infusino denied he knew or had ever seen Irzyk or Tarrallo.
Big Liquor Bust
On January 20, 1942, 20 of 23 defendants pleaded not guilty to being involved in a multi-state liquor ring that allegedly deprived the government of more than $1,000,000 in taxes. Alphonse R. Caruso, a “cooker” from Rockford, failed to appear for arraignment and forfeited his $500 bond. Arraignment was delayed for Charles Cosentino (accused of owning a still) and Bryant Roberts of Burlington (accused of selling a car used in transporting alcohol). Pleading not guilty were Frank Infusino (accused of being the ringleader), William Covelli (still owner), Roy, Arthur and Emil Richio (each accused of being drivers), Walter Schlager (retailer), Frank Cucunato (cooker), Joseph Lescaukis and Ben Kalb (garage owners), Tony Capponi and Aldo Nudi (cookers). Others charged were driver Sam Gottlieb of Chicago, still owner Ben Krackover of Chicago, cooker Eugene Presta of Chicago, cooker Harry Papavasiliu of Milwaukee, farmer Henry Schmunck of Franksville, farmer Herman R. Yanke of Lake Geneva, truck driver Kenneth Jensen of Kaukauna, farmers George Schulz and Walter Steffen of Burlington. The government said there were six stills in southern Wisconsin operating over several years and supplying all surrounding states. They noted that much of the liquor was being sent to Cicero, a Capone stronghold.
On January 30, 1942, a report was released showing people who had paid a “slot machine tax” to the IRS. The tax was a bit of a Catch-22 for slot machine owners: if paid, their names would be public and they could be prosecuted for gambling. If not paid, they could be prosecuted for tax evasion. In Kenosha, making the list were Peter Barca and Achille Ruffolo, who operated the Maywood restaurant at 516-518 58th Street.
On Tuesday, February 10, 1942, a federal trial began on charges of tax evasion for a still that ran from 1936 to 1941 and allegedly failed to pay the government $1,000,000 in taxes.
On February 18, 1942, Judge Duffy released Burlington auto dealer Bryan Roberts and Kenosha grocer Ben Kalb from the bootleg ring trial. The prosecution had presented their case, and the defense noted that neither Roberts or Kalb came up in the prosecution’s arguments. Duffy agreed. 1,300 gallons of alcohol were seized from Kalb’s garage, but he had it rented out at the time. Roberts had sold a car to Emil Richio, but there was no way to know what it would be used for. Tavern keeper Walter Schlaeger tried to be removed, arguing entrapment. Agent Thomas Bailey came to know what he called “the mob” through Schlaeger, and Schlaeger argued that Bailey pushed him to do illegal things. Duffy didn’t accept that.
On February 24, 1942, after over 16 hours of deliberation, the jury found 13 of 17 men guilty in the bootlegging conspiracy. Sentencing was set for March 7. The four men acquitted were: Walter Schlager, Joseph Lescouskis, Charles Cosentino, and William Covelli. (Interestingly, Covelli’s address was given as Aurora, Illinois.)
On Saturday, March 7, 1942, several Italians were sentenced for operating large stills in Southeastern Wisconsin. Frank “Fuzzy” Infusino, 33, of Kenosha was sentenced to 5 years. Roy Richio, 30, of Kenosha received 4 years. Tony Capponi, 27, of Kenosha received 6 months. Frank Cucunato, 46, of Kenosha received one year. Aldo Nudi, 27, of Kenosha received two and a half years. Arthur P. Richio, 32, of Kenosha received 21 months. Emil Richio, 26, of Kenosha received two years. Charles Cosentino and William Covelli were freed. Alphonse R. Caruso, 52, of Rockford got 30 days.
Who was Alphonse Caruso and why was he in Kenosha? Caruso was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on June 3, 1891 and by the early 1920s he was living in Rockford. He had some run-ins with the law in the 1920s including bootlegging. Apparently he was one of those who sided with Paul Giovingo during the Musso-Giovingo war and switched sides after Giovingo’s murder. In January 1953 he was arrested in a South Main Street social club and charged with being the keeper of a gambling house. Sixteen other men were also arrested in this raid. Caruso died in Rockford August 3, 1968.
On April 23, 1943, a tax lien of $62,327 was filed against the defendants in this case by George Reisimer, deputy collector of internal revenue. Frank Infusino faced $12,000. Roy Richio faced $16,000. Emil Richio faced $11,000. Aldo Nudi faced $7000. And Charles Cosentino faced $4800.
Murder of Floyd Ventura
Floyd Ventura, 30, of 2016 57th Street in Kenosha was killed in his car on Deep Lake Road near Antioch, Illinois (2 miles south of the state line) on January 24, 1945. Ventura was the operator of Kenosha’s Esquire Grill (5721 Sixth Avenue) and was shot four times through the right temple. His body was found at 9am by Robert Scott, a local farmer. The motive of robbery was ruled out, as Ventura still had $206 in his pocket and a large diamond ring on his finger. Lake County Chief Deputy Thomas Kennedy speculated that because of the angle of the wounds the killer was in the back seat, and because of the distance from any nearby town he likely fled in a second car. Ventura, who had been born October 27, 1914 in Arcadia, Florida, left behind his parents Annibale Ventura and Angeline Roscioli Ventura.
Murder of Red Covelli
William “Red” Covelli was shot with several 12-gauge shotgun blasts as he entered his car in front of his home (2222 55th Street) on at 11:38pm on June 10, 1945. He had stopped at home to pick up some meat and tomatoes. One of the shots hit him in the head, killing him instantly. He was on his way to a tavern he owned (Club 42) south of Kenosha on Sheridan Road. His son, Fred Covelli, was at the tavern (out on bail) and quickly rushed home. He was there with Dominic Principe as the body was hauled away to the office of Coroner James A. Crossin. Captain Matthew Kirsch assisted Crossin with his investigation. Nine slugs were found in Covelli, all of them above his shoulders.
By sheer coincidence, a squad car passed the home seconds after the shots. Officers Don Mattiolf (Dom Mattioli?) and Albert Molinaro were taking Officer Glida Packard to work and just happened to be going through that intersection. One of the officers (name redacted) told the FBI in 1963 that if they had shifted into reverse, they might have been able to see the assailant, but instead they went around the block and by the time they returned, the killer was gone.
Frank Infusino was released from Leavenworth on May 12, 1946 and was back in Kenosha around 10:30pm that same day.
William “Weezer” Covelli and Eleanor Virginia Venci (daughter of Antonio Venci and Angeline Principe) were married August 9, 1946 at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church by Fredrick A. Brossler. Witnesses were Edward Joseph Conley and Louise Orrico. Conley was Covelli’s cousin through his mother’s (Cosentino) side, and the family was involved in farming.
Two More Liquor Busts
Federal agents arrested Charles Cosentino, 41, Nello Cecchini, 32, and Frank Cecchini, 28, on Saturday, April 12, 1947 for operating a still on Clayton Wicks’ Kenosha County farm (sometimes identified as Clayton Dicks of Fox River Station). Alcohol tax unit agent Elmer Ward had smelled a “perceptible odor of fermenting mash fir for distillation”. A special compartment was found under the house. A preliminary hearing before Commissioner Floyd Jenkins on April 17 was adjourned indefinitely.
Michael M. Cosentino and Edward Mason were arraigned on June 15, 1948 for operating an 1100-gallon still in the basement of the farmhouse of Floyd Damon near Racine. Later in May 1949, Charles Cosentino, 43, and Frank C. Cicchini, 32, were also charged.
Raymond Matera was arrested for being an inmate of a gambling house on March 12, 1949. He was arrested for gambling again on March 13, 1953.
Fred Covelli was picked up May 30, 1949 for malicious destruction. He was not charged.
A “bookie joint” run by Bartley O’Mara was raided on November 7, 1949 and 38 people were arrested. Joseph Fasulo and Angelo Germinaro were named as employees with Louis Molinaro named an inmate. The remaining people caught were from Milwaukee, West Allis, Racine, Kenosha and two cities in Illinois. Officers seized horse betting equipment.
John Rizzo, 809 Kingston Avenue in Racine, employee of the Tic Toc Club in Milwaukee, was arrested in Kenosha on December 12, 1953 for being an inmate of a gambling house. He was fined $25. Arrested for running the game were Jeff Covelli, 32, and Anthony Conti, 36. The gambling operation was in a “cigar store” that contained empty shelves and only one cigarette machine, but plenty of cards and poker tables. Seven other men were charged with being inmates.
Fred Covelli worked at a cigar store (2209 56th Street) from 1952-1956. It may have been his own store. In 1955, he was also employed at J&W Vending Machine Company, his brother’s business.
Fred Covelli worked at Skinny’s Tavern in Zion from 1957-1960.
Aldo Covelli, 5420 22nd Avenue, was convicted of attempting to commit a felony on December 23, 1958. He was sentenced to one year in the state reformatory by Judge Urban J. Zievers.
Harry Siegel was arrested on October 20, 1959 for gambling with cards at Kenosha Billiards at 520 58th Street. He was fined $10.
Richard Michael Covelli, 30, was convicted of three counts of sexual perversion with a child on September 2, 1960. Judge Urban J. Zievers sentenced him to an indeterminate time in Waupun State Prison (he was paroled in ’61 and discharged in ’64).