This article was last modified on January 31, 2017.

Madison’s Violent Greenbush Years (1904-1944)


The Wisconsin State Journal described the Italian section of Madison on February 13, 1913: “A lot of small, swarthy faced children, many straggly unambitious looking dogs, several muddy streets and rows of tumbled down uncared for houses, forlorn looking — the first view of Madison’s ‘Little Italy’, a section of the poetic sunny European peninsula set to the music of Madison’s municipal housing conditions. It is a colony complete in itself, a miniature town, with its own clubs, and institutions, leaders, and places of business and pleasure. The first aspect of the settlement is far from prepossessing, for the streets are ankle deep in mud, the houses are small and unattractive wooden dwellings, and the yards are dirty and uncared for. The entire district beyond the railroad tracks is low and poorly drained, and in many cases the houses have been built on piles and the ground around filled with ashes and rubbish. But in spite of their handicap, the residents of the settlement appear to be thriving. Milton Street is the State Street and capitol square of the Italian district.”

August 10, 1904: Anthony (or Ignazio) Capo shot by 20-year old Angelo LaBella (or Leabella). Capo survived the shooting, and wound up testifying against his assailant, who eventually received a three year prison sentence. Within months of Leabella’s sentencing, Capo suddenly left Madison, moving to Brooklyn. Rumor surfaced within the Italian community Capo had been driven away by the Black Hand, a rumor which was quickly picked up by the media. But Capo appears to have left Madison voluntary, and had no connection with any Black Hand activity.

The Murder of Andrew Stassi

Giovanni Quartuccio got into a disagreement with one of his boarders at 12 North Murray Street on May 1, 1912. The dispute was apparently over the amount of gasoline being used in the stove. As the fighting continued, Giovanni’s son Nicolo told the boarder to leave. Another boarder, Andrea Stassi, tried to act as peacemaker and Nicolo ordered him to leave, too. He did not, and Nicolo pulled out a revolver and shot Stassi while he sat on the couch.

Quartuccio fled to South Madison, but was apprehended within two hours. He was taken to the hospital and Stassi identified him as the shooter. Stassi died the next day.

Quartuccio told a variety of stories about the shooting — first that Stassi had committed suicide, then that Stassi had the revolver and it went off accidentally during a struggle. Finally he said he shot Stassi while the man (whom he called a “bad dago”) was strangling his father. Quartuccio ended up pleading guilty to second degree murder on May 15 and was sentenced to 25 years in Waupun.

Murder of Calogero Licari

Calogero Licari was shot to death on July 3, 1913, getting hit twice in the back by a shotgun blast while walking under the Park Street viaduct, and his face had been beaten to pulp. (This may be the Calogero Licari who came to New York from San Giuseppe Iato with his father Vito in 1898.) Due to the viciousness of the murder, with Licari’s face being molested after he had been shot, police investigators believed revenge was the most plausible motive. Licari, who had the habit of leaving his family for periods of time on trips to Milwaukee and Chicago, was said to have been connected to a secret Italian society. Investigators alleged that Licari had run into difficulties with this society, and his murder was the result.

Murder of John Longfield

John Longfield, night watchman at the Lorillard tobacco warehouse near the Milwaukee Road’s West Doty depot, was making his rounds at 2:00am on December 22, 1913 when he was murdered by burglars. They were hidden by a safe, and shot Longfield as he entered the room. He staggered down the steps into the street, bleeding, as he yelled for Michael Dempsey, the night flagman at the Main Street crossing. Longfield collapsed, with an open straight razor in his hand (he did not carry a gun). The crime was blamed on Vito Mazzio. Later, this case was linked to a string of murders supposedly committed by an Italian gang.

January 10, 1914: Tony Colichia battles with gangsters to defend his property.

June 30, 1914: Carlo Trena barbershop bombed. Trena had received Black Hand letters on several occassions, each time refusing to give in to the demands. The bombing of his barbershop, which was never solved, was the last he heard from his extortionists.

Murder of Filippo Carissimo

Filippo Carissimo (or Cedesco) of Milton Street was shot to death by shotgun blast on September 22, 1914 while walking home from the Pastime Theater. The murder was attributed to his associating with a “Milwaukee Secret Society”. Paul Corona witnesses the shooting. Police attempted to link the Licari and Cedesco slayings together. Feeding their suspicion was the fact that Licari and Carissimo were known to have been close friends, and were believed to have been relatives. Investigators even located two witnesses. But although both admitted they saw the victim fell, neither was able, or willing, to identify the shooter. Carissimo’s murder remained unsolved, as did Licari’s.

Murder of Salvatore “Sam” Tripolino

Sam Tripolino was shot and killed about 25 feet from his home at 744 Sumner Court on December 15, 1915. Three bullets went into his back and another into his head. There was speculation that Tripolino was targeted because he had ratted out his counterfeiting friends in New York.

Jake Morici Murdered

September 2, 1916: Jake Morici, grocer, slain in doorway of his home. In the attack, his wife and baby were wounded. Morici had been mixed up in Italian gang activities in Chicago some time before his shooting.

Murder of Joseph Bastone

Laborer Joseph Bastone and his brother Frank were walking from their home at 627 Milton along Frances Street to their job at the water department at 4:15am on January 6, 1917. Two men were hidden in the darkness, and one blasted Joseph in the back with a shotgun. Neither brother identified the assailants, and Joseph died in the hospital on January 20. His injuries required his left arm to be amputated, and not even that saved his life.

May 7, 1917: Antonio Navarra, future murder victim, denies there is a Mafia operating in Dane County.

Murder of Grant Dosch

Patrolman Grant James Dosch was shot to death on February 4, 1918 in front of 754 West Washington Avenue, after he tried to halt a robbery at Louis Cohen’s general store. Dosch, 27, had been born in Richland Center, and lived at 926 Emerald Street with his wife and two children. Figuring in this case were brothers Frank, Tony and John Mazzara, Joe DiMartino, Stefano DiMaggio, Tony Matranga and James and Joseph Vitale. Most will figure in bootleg related cases in later years.

April 17, 1919: Tony Mazzara, John Mazzara and Pete Messina discharged of Dosch murder.

April 13, 1920: Frank Mazzara dies in Mendota State Mental Hospital (the asylum).

Joseph Gelosi was arrested for manufacturing alcohol on April 1, 1921, fined $500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

April 13, 1921: Anthony LaMonaco (later figuring in Rockford mob circles) convicted for prohibition law violations.

August 12, 1921: Liquor raids in Madison’s Greenbush area. Among those arrested are Paul Corona, Joe DiMartino and Frank Cangelosi, all prominent in Madison’s bootleg industry.

October 10, 1921: Frank Cangelosi arrested on liquor charges, called the leader of a liquor ring. Cangelosi was the guardian and uncle of Phil Emordino, who would later be involved in the Rockford mob.

October 13, 1921: Four Italians held after attempted escape from police officer trying to halt them. Included is Dominick Justo.

Gelosi’s home at 916 Regent Street was raided on January 31, 1922. Police found three barrels of mash and a barrel of moonshine. He was fined $500.

February 14, 1922: Joe Reda and Joe Gelosi fined for liquor law violations.

Dominick Justo

On March 9, 1922, Dominick Justo and three other men stole a car. The next morning, they robbed the Randall State Bank on Monroe Street of $1200. That afternoon, two Italians were arrested for the crime in Sauk City, but were released when the bank president said they were innocent.

Anthony Bruno was arrested March 13, 1922 and fined $100 for possession of liquor.

June 18, 1922: Frank Genna and Paul Corona nabbed on liquor charges.

June 26, 1922: Dominick Justo held for Randall bank robbery. On July 4, Tony Corona is arrested in the same case. Corona was sentenced to 24 years. Dominick received five years in Waupun. “You were the puppet in the hands of hardened criminals,” the judge told him.

Murder of Ignazio D’Amico

Ignazio D’Amico, 44, was known in Madison’s Liitle Italy as a wealthy grocer, well liked by many. He was shot to death with a sawed off shotgun in front of his store on July (or August?) 31, 1922, a month after his brother Angelo had been slain in an underworld feud in Chicago. Investigators theorized the two deaths were related, although a motive could not be given. Another theory involved D’Amico’s ties to the town of Arena, Wisconsin, were D’Amico had lived prior to coming to Madison (from 1917-1920, maybe longer). He worked as a self-employed farmer alongside wife Angelina and young children Martha, Nicholas, and Joseph. Also with him were his wife’s parents and siblings, the Parlatore family. At the time D’Amico lived there, there were only six Italian families residing in Arena. Interestingly, one of these was the Aiello family, related through marriage to the Guardalabenes, Milwaukee Mafia leaders. In 1921, a farm owned by the Aiellos in Arena was used as the headquarters of a Guardalabene run lottery operation. Perhaps not coincidentally, Angelina D’Amico’s mother’s maiden name was Antonina Aiello.

August 6, 1922: Joe Reda again arrested on liquor charges.

August 29, 1922: Frank Cangelosi again in trouble due to his bootlegging activities.

Marshal W. R. Chellis arrested Anthony Mazzara (16 South Murray) on November 9, 1922 for having nine gallons of alcohol in his possession.

November 15, 1922: Joe Vitale fined for liquor possession.

Police raided Joseph Gelosi’s home again on November 22, 1922, and caught Gelosi pouring a jug of alcohol down a drain.

December 8, 1922: Justo gives police details about Randall robbery.

December 25, 1922: Tony LoMonaco again in trouble over liquor law violations.

Police raided Vincent Tumusa’s home at 919 Desmond Court on December 30, 1922 and found 1200 gallons of mash and fifteen gallons of moonshine. When 827 Regent Street was raided the same day, Mrs. Joseph Quartuccio was found dumping moonshine.

On January 20, 1923, police discovered a still under Joseph Gelosi’s garage linked to his basement by a concrete tunnel, and a galvanized storage tank behind a false wall in a closet.

The Murder of Carl Justo

Carl “Joseph” Justo (born Carl DiGiloromo) was murdered on February 12, 1923, supposedly as retribution for his son Dominick turning in his partners in crime. He was found dying in a snowbank on Murray Street with buckshot in the back of his neck. Justo had lived in Kansas City before coming to Madison in 1913, and he was not from the same section of Italy as many of the Madisonians. Justo left behind his wife, Lena Coronna Justo, who lived until the 1970s.

March 1, 1923: Joe DiMartino denies ownership of still seized at his residence, claiming it belonged to his neighbor, Joe Parisi.

Anthony Mazzara appeared in Superior court on April 19, 1923 for liquor charges from almost a year prior. The jury found him guilty on three counts of selling moonshine. Judge Claude Z. Luse sentenced him to pay a $600 fine and spend six months in the Milwaukee House of Correction. Mazzara was housed in the Douglas County Jail until transferred to Milwaukee on May 1 by Deputy Marshal W. T. Pugh.

April 20, 1923: Article appears in Capital Times about Joseph Caravello supposedly having fled Madison because of fear of the Black Hand.

June 27, 1923: Vito Parisi in court for third liquor law violation.

Around July 29, 1923 (exact date unclear) police raided the Oliva and Mazzara grocery store (717 Milton) and found between 25 and 30 gallons of alcohol, much of it hidden in a bathroom.

August 18, 1923: Frank Vitale charged with running a gambling house. Charges dismissed a few days later.

September 28, 1923: The Mazzara family, at 21 South Murray Street, became ill after eating mushrooms for lunch. Mrs. John Mazzara and her teenage daughter were sent to the hospital, while four other children recovered at home. John Mazzara ran a grocery store attached to the house, and brought the mushrooms home for lunch. Dr. Montgomery declared them victims of food poisoning. John Mazzara and two other children (there were seven children total) did not eat the mushrooms and were healthy.

October 5, 1923: Angelina Parlatore D’Amico, widow of Ignazio D’Amico, found dead from an apparent suicide in Chicago.

Tuesday, October 30, 1923, eight people were arrested on charges of violating the federal dry laws after being tipped off by two Milwaukee agents. Those arrested were: Peter Gargano, 808 Regent Street; Sam DiMatteo, 701 Milton Street; Frank Mazzara, 701 Milton Street; Frank Marino, 808 Regent Street; Joseph McKeown, 632 West Washington Avenue; Joseph Spencer, 632 West Washington Avenue; Leslie Cooper, 832 Regent Street; and Vito Parisi, 18 North Park. While there were rumors that the Ku Klux Klan was behind the arrests, federal prohibition agent Robert Quick “emphatically denied” this. Anthony Bruno was arrested on October 30, 1923 for having “slot machines of a gambling type” in his pool hall at 734 West Washington Avenue.

The bootleggers were brought before Commissioner Chauncey E. Blake and all pleaded not guilty. Bond was set at $1000, and none of the men were able to free themselves from the county jail. Seven had been charged with selling moonshine, while one — Gargano — was charged with transporting and possessing the booze. The Italians were all represented by attorney Wiliam Spohn with trial dates set for early November.

November 1, 1923: The notorious Belvedere Cabaret is closed temporarily on court’s orders. Owners of the cabaret were Tony LaMonaco and his wife, and Andrew DiSalvo and his wife.

November 9, 1923: Bondsmen for Tony Mazzara, arrested on liquor charges, were notified the $3000 bond would be forfeited if they would not be able to turn Mazzara over to the US Marshals in three days. The bondsmen were Peter LaBruzzo and Mrs. Carmella Oliva. Mazzara had been out on appeal after serving two weeks of a six month sentence. He lost the appeal and was supposed to return to court.

November 21, 1923: Frank Mazzara and Sam DiMartino are arrested on liquor charges and given $1000 bonds.

December 1, 1923: Domenica Mazzara, the one-year old daughter of John, accidentally shoots herself with her father’s gun and dies.

December 7, 1923: Tony LoMonaco fined $1,000 in rum case.

Coal dealer Julius Ucello was shot by a shotgun on January 12, 1924, a few feet from Anthony Bruno’s home at 627 Milton Street. The assailant threw the weapon into Bruno’s backyard. Bruno picked it up just as police arrived and confiscated it.

Russian-born Jewish stableman Louis Lotwin (or Latwin), 49, was shot to death on January 31, 1924 at Death Corner. At 5am he was walking to his stableman’s job at the Sinaiko Brothers Fuel Company (24 North Murray) from his home on Mound Street when a man passed him in the street, then turned and fired four shots. Lotwin died on February 10 from blood poisoning without identifying his assailant.

Pool room proprietor Anthony Bruno was walking home along Milton Street on February 23, 1924 when he was shot with a sawed-off shotgun. Although he carried a .38 revolver in his pocket, he never had time to draw it. Police suspected Bruno knew too much about the Julius Ucello murder.

February 24, 1924: DA asks for closure of Belvedere again, which is now operated by Tony Musso, future Rockford mob boss. A few days later, the cabaret is ordered shut, but opens again under direction of Musso as a soft drink parlor.

The Murder of Tony Navarra

On the evening of March 16, 1924, Antonio “Tony” Navarra was gunned down by a man with a shotgun who fired through the side window of Navarra’s grocery store. Born in Sicily in 1885, immigrating in 1906 and a resident of Madison’s Greenbush neighborhood since 1914 (he previously lived in Houston and Colorado), Navarra presided over the Inner Council of Sicilians and sought to keep peace among the Milton Street and Regent Street factions engaging in illegal alcohol trade during Prohibition. With substantial income earned from his legitimate grocery business at 746 West Washington, he served as bail bondsman for the Regent Street gang. It was suspected that Navarra’s murder was orchestrated by Tony Musso, leader of the rival Milton Street gang. Andrew DiSalvo and Tony LoMonaco may have also been involved.

A moonshine still on the third floor at 825 Regent Street exploded on March 17, 1924. The house was owned by Anton Castagna and Anton DeLorenzo.

March 25, 1924: Tony LoMonaco, missing since his arrest several months ago, returns to city.

April 10, 1924: Search for Andrew DiSalvo, who skipped town with LoMonaco, renewed.

April 11, 1924: Paul Corona ordered to appear in court on liquor charge.

April 12, 1924: Two suspects in Navarra case arrested, namely Ralph Calletto, alleged Milwaukee gangster, and Tony Buscarno. Calletto is charged with the murder some days later.

April 19, 1924: Paul Corona, described as Greenbush leader, sentenced to one year in prison. Others convicted for liquor law violations included Tony LoMonaco and Vito Parisi.

33-year old Rudolph “Rudy” Jessner’s restaurant was bombed on May 24, 1924. He also had a taxi company, the Dalco Cab and Transfer Company, at 148 South Blair. (Not long after this, Jessner ended up in Waupun State Prison for murder of an officer.) Gaetano “Tom” Ucello’s house was bombed on May 25, 1924, blowing the front porch off. Tom Ucello was Julius Ucello’s brother.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on June 26, 1924 that a day’s worth of raids had occurred in the Greenbush neighborhood, but not one drop of alcohol was found. Police suspected the use of an “underground telegraph” to tip off those who were searched. Proprietors raided were: Casper Tantillo, 702 West Washington; Tony Malatto and John DiChristina, 734 West Washington; James Vitale, 732 West Washington; Anton Urso, 738 West Washington; Anton Navarra, 746 West Washington (despite Navarra being deceased?); Frank Oliva, 745 West Washington; Frank Vitale, 757 West Washington; Carmelo Oliva, 832 West Washington; Joe Maissino, 815 Regent Street; and Dorothy Jessner, 111 Lake Street.

August 23, 1924: Tony Musso arrested for having in possession counterfeit rum labels.

Pete Sousa was shot to death on October 15, 1924 at his soft drink stand. Matteo “Mike” Riolo was charged. Riolo had formerly been employed at the stand by Tony Musso, who owned the business before selling to Sousa as recently as September. On November 3, the murder charges against Matteo Riolo were dismissed.

October 19, 1924 was a tragic day for families in Greenbush. While traveling to Milwaukee to visit Tony Lomonaco in the House of Correction, his wife Josephine died in a car accident. Also killed were Lomonaco’s granddaughter Rose Marino, and Gaetano (Thomas) and Calogera (Lillian) Ucello. Three others were injured.

On December 1, 1924, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Tony Lomonaco had “returned to the bullet-sprinkled and rum-infested Greenbush.”

The Murders of Joe Brusca and Herbert Dreger

In the early morning hours of December 1, World War I veteran Giuseppe Brusca was shot ten times in the left side of his body while he was standing on his porch at 919 Desmond Court. The killer had apparently been hiding in Brusca’s bushes. Brusca survived, but only temporarily — he succumbed on December 12. Julius Ucello, who lived behind Brusca, was questioned by police but he said he never heard the shots.

The next day, Elmer “Props” Thomas and Albert “Speedy” Millett went to Greenbush looking for moonshine. As they walked down Desmond Court, they were shot at. Thomas was hit in the shoulder. Upon reaching the hospital, officers were dispatched to the crime scene.

When they arrived, they found Patrolman Herbert Dreger shot and killed within 50 feet of Joe Varesi’s (Parisi?) residence at 22 South Murray, near Milton Street. His body had 50 bullet holes in it, and his lungs were punctured. Every available officer arrived on the scene.

At 1:00am on December 3, Salvatore DiMartino and Frank Vitale walked past the crime scene. The police asked about their presence, and DiMartino was slow to respond. Officers hit him with their clubs. Vitale tossed a pistol from his jacket into the bushes, and both were soon arrested. After being taken to the station, officers found the handguard from a shotgun in the back of the patrol car.

The Wisconsin State Journal received a letter from the Ku Klux Klan on December 4, saying, “if the district attorney will deputize 200 or more members of the Klan in Madison all at once, this organization will guarantee to clean up the vice center of Greenbush.” Earlier that morning, residents had taken the law into their own hands, starting the house at 30 Murray Street on fire at 5:00am.

December 5, 1924: Dreger buried, inquiry into his death continues.

December 19, 1924: Cosmo DiSalvo was arrested for violating liquor laws. The charge was later dismissed.

January 4, 1925: Decision is made to try DeMartino and Vitale in Baraboo court.

Patrolmen Lyman Mason and Taylor Gray were shot at on January 6, 1925.

Sal DiMartino and Frank Vitale were on trial in Sauk County for the murder of Officer Dreger for ten days in January and February 1925. Presiding was Judge Emery William Crosby. By coincidence, the 50-year old Crosby had grown up in a different Greenbush, a small community in Sheboygan County. After testifying that they had been at a party and were walking home when the officers saw them, and when witnesses said they were not the men who shot Dreger, the jury found them not guilty on the morning of February 3 after nine hours of deliberation. (Earlier that morning, an arsonist tried to burn down Vitale’s pool hall, but the flames were caught quickly.)

DiMartino was immediately re-arrested because he testified to shooting rabbits, which was illegal for non-citizens. He was released on bail, failed to show up for his hearing on February 10, and was never seen in Madison again.

Raids were conducted in Greenbush on Saturday, February 7, 1925, under the direction of District Attorney Philip LaFollette. Arrested were: Matteo “Mike” Riolo, second offense, two sales and possession; Antonio Castagna, J. S. Park, sale; George Massimo, 815 Regent, two sales; Dominick Menderino, two sales and possession; Jack and Carl Troia, sale; Lorenzo Fontana, two sales; Sam Savone, sale and transportation; Joe Mazzara, 16 South Murray, possession; and Phillip Corona, 2 South Murray, sale and possession.

On February 18, 1925, a bomb blew the porch off of James Vitale’s home at 114 South Lake Street. James was Frank’s father, and this house had been used as collateral to pay Frank’s legal bills. None of the ten children inside were injured. When James went to the door with a shotgun, two policemen (and alleged members of the KKK) were out front, and Officer Taylor Gray fired two shots at James. James was then arrested for pointing a gun at an officer.

In March 1925, Joseph Gelosi was arrested and sentenced to sixty days in jail.

March 4, 1925: DA Philip LaFollette announces an Italian crime ring operating in Wisconsin has headquarters in Madison.

March 26, 1925: Frank Vitale, recently imprisoned due to liquor law violations, released for medical reasons.

April 17, 1925: Joe Gelosi held responsible for death of drunken driver who got liquor from Gelosi.

August 2, 1925: James Vitale Jr. stabbed by Anthony Elligan.

August 16, 1925: Raids on Italian bootleg establishments net fifteen arrests.

September 26, 1925: Cosmo DiSalvo is arrested for statuary rape. He was given one year probation.

The Murder of Palmer Thompson

Patrolman Palmer Thompson and Patrolman Earl W. Hessling were investigating late-night activity at a Greenbush restaurant (111 South Lake Street) when Thompson was shot by cafe owner Rudolph Jessner on January 4, 1926. The officers had entered the restaurant and were asked to leave by Jessner. As they turned to go, Jessner fired twice, hitting Thompson in the abdomen and right eye. Strangely enough, Hessling had been a patrolman in the Bush for two years and Thompson was new, so it would have been Hessling whom Jessner had more personal problems with. Police Chief Frank Leland Trostle took charge and ordered ten squad cars to swarm the Bush and find the suspect. Jessner voluntarily surrendered to Sheriff Joseph Dagnett after he heard that police were instructed to shoot him on sight. Two pistols were found on Jessner.

The next day, Jessner’s attorney, Fred Wylie, entered a plea of insanity and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for January 12.

February 26, 1926: Jessner denied release.

Jessner pleaded not guilty on March 20, 1926 by reason of insanity. His defense team asked that the “lunacy commission” not be allowed to testify in court, but Judge Hoppmann allowed that they could. The commission was made up of three doctors: W. F. Lorenz and M. K. Green of Madison and Adin Sherman of Oshkosh. Hoppmann ordered a jury pool of 80 and expected the trial to start on Monday, lasting between six days to two weeks. The first juror to be selected was Wayne Doty Bird of Madison, an advertising man. Interestingly, Bird had worked for the Department of Justice before switching careers, and lived just west of the Bush on Jefferson Street.

On March 25, defense attorney William Benjamin Rubin of Milwaukee gave his opening statement and said that Rudolph Jessner had been operating a bootlegging operation under the protection of various Madison officers — namely Earl Hessling, Taylor Gray, and Lyman Mason. Jessner had been receiving liquor with the full knowledge of the police, but when his supplier stopped paying protection money, the cops started to “persecute” Jessner. Jessner said from the stand that payoffs were made in the form of money, meals, cigars and drinks. He further said he was scared for his life and had gone so far as to buy a burial plot — he had witnessed his neighbor’s business bombed, shootings in the street and a cross burned in his yard, all allegedly under police protection. Rubin alleged that Officer Hessling was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. When Jessner quit selling liquor, Mason and Gray tried to persuade him to lease his restaurant to a friend of theirs. When Jessner refused, they arrested him for liquor possession, of which he was subsequently freed. Officer Mason returned later and while drunk knocked Jessner’s door down with a sledgehammer, chased Jessner from his bedroom and stole two gold watches. Chief Trostle stated publicly that, “If (the accusations) are proven true, we will take some action, of course. But until that time I will ignore them.” DA LaFollette had a slightly different story, saying when the officers approached the restaurant, Jessner turned down his lights. The police advised him not to turn down the lights when patrons were there. Jessner responded that they were not patrons and he would not turn on the lights for any cops. He then fired as they stood on his front steps.

Court continued on Saturday, March 27. At this time, Jessner claimed that he had seen police officers running from the home of James Vitale moments before a bomb went off there a year ago. He also made the claim he had supernatural powers and had put a “curse” on Officer Morgan Griffiths after she arrested him. He gained these powers from his “persecution” but did not use them on the officers who threatened him because he wanted them to suffer from charges he was going to file. In the court that day was a cross that had been burned on the anniversary on Officer Dreger’s murder and two broken doors that Jessner said were smashed by Officer Mason when he was intoxicated.

On Monday, March 29, 1926, defense attorney Rubin turned over Jessner’s “black ledger” to District Attorney Philip LaFollette. The ledger was said to contain the names of over 1000 customers, maybe even 1500, including members of Madison’s so-called aristocracy. The newspapers said the town was “on edge”, fearing LaFollette would read the names into the record. In court that day, Jessner would only admit to buying alcohol from one man — an Italian named “Bitzio” who lived across the street from him. He said he had three other “wholesalers”, but refused to name them. Rubin also read into the record headlines from three cigar boxes full of newspaper clippings outlining the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Semitism in Madison.

On April 1, Drs. Frank Crombie Studley and Benjamin G. Rowley testified that they believed Jessner was insane at the time of the Thompson shooting. Although Studley had only examined Jessner sporadically over the last week, he believed that Jessner had been insane for more than a year. It could reasonably e seen as self-defense if Jessner felt himself persecuted. A former Madison officer, J. E. Hymers, also testified in support of Jessner and said the police were aware of his alcohol operation and would have drinks there. Hymers denied he had ever been part of the KKK, and Rubin quipped that was why he left the force. Another former officer, Michael Griffin, was asked if there was dissension in the police department over a religious divide, but the judge would not allow Griffin to answer. (Presumably, Rubin was trying to say the KKK forced Griffin out because he was Catholic.)

On Friday, April 2, Officer Lyman Mason admitted he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He denied ever tipping Jessner off to any raids, and said he had raided the place once in 1924, and smashed down the doors then at the direction of Assistant District Attorney Philip Golder Sanborn. The next day, Patrolman Taylor Gray denied that he offered protection for Jessner and said he was in Jessner’s cafe the night before Thompson was shot and Jessner threatened to “get him” (presumably Gray).

On April 3, 1926, a moonshining charge against Joseph Gelosi was dismissed.

The final day of the Jessner trial was April 6, with the three doctors of the lunacy commission appearing: W. F. Lorenz and M. K. Green of Madison and Adin Sherman of Oshkosh. The doctors believed that Jessner was “queer” but still ultimately responsible for his actions.

April 16, 1926: Jessner lawyer demands removal of several police officers from force.

In October 1926, police found 15 gallons of moonshine, several barrels of mash, and a fifty-gallon still in a raid on Gelosi’s residence. He jumped out a window and escaped. Caught a month later, he was fiend $500 and sentenced to three months in the Dane County Jail by Judge Ole Stolen. Stolen granted Gelosi work release privileges, which created an uproar and ultimately lead to Stolen’s disbarment.

January 3, 1928: Cosmo DiSalvo was arrested for disorderly conduct and fined $25.

February 23, 1928: James Vitale charged with sale of liquor.

Farmer Jack Troia, 23, was sentenced to one year and one day in Leavenworth Prison on April 3, 1928 for possessing a still and mash. The prison doctor diagnosed him with gonorrhea on May 4 and ordered him removed from kitchen duty. The disease cleared up in July after treatment. He would correspond every month with his brother, Tony Troia, who lived at 807 Milton Street. Around Christmas, he exchanged letters with two other brothers, Jim of 3321 North Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis, and Carlo of 1410 South West Street, Rockford. With good behavior, he was released on January 27, 1929.

The Murder of Joseph DiMartino

On April 9, 1928, Joseph DiMartino was in the kitchen of Joe Varesi (Parisi?), when a shotgun blast came in through the window. DiMartino was knocked back against a wall, where he fell on an ax and died before police arrived. Also in the kitchen at the time were Varesi, his wife, their son Samuel, and Joseph LaGalbo. Brought in for questioning was Joseph Gelosi of the Regent Street gang.

At the funeral on April 12, Joe Varesi (Parisi?), 35, marched before the casket carrying the black-draped flag of the Societa Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso Bersagliere (where DiMartino was vice president). Nick Quartuccio, chairman of the funeral committee, lead the way from 721 Mound Street to St. Joseph’s Church. Joseph LaGalbo, 49, 21 South Frances Street, was noticeably absent from the funeral procession at first, but joined everyone else when they reached the corner of Park and Milton. He left the procession again when they reached the church.

Varesi’s neighbor, Fred Germano, was held overnight by police for questioning on April 13. Germano denied any involvement. His back yard was also Varesi’s backyard, and as the shot came through a rear window, this made Germano a suspect. (A “Fred Germono” lived at 802 Mound and worked in a stone quarry. Is this him?)

May 16, 1928: Natale Troia questioned on still found in a building he owned. Troia claims a Frank Cortino rented the place.

July 8, 1928: Tony Mazzara, of the Dosch case, is killed in St. Paul in what is called a bootlegger’s war. He had lived in that city under the assumed name of Joe Ralle ever since his disappearance from Madison. Mazzara was standing in front of his brother-in-law Peter Messina’s grocery store when person or persons unknown laid a shotgun on a fence and fired one barrel into the back of Tony’s head. (Some reports say the shotgun was double-barreled, some say sawed-off.) Messina and his father Joseph were arrested for questioning but later released. At the time of his death, Tony was leaving for Rockford, Illinois. He had two pistols and over $1400 on him and police found three more pistols in his suitcase.

The Bombing of the Troia Residence

March 13, 1929, the store and home of Natale Troia at 102 South Park Street was bombed. Troia escaped serious injury, and his wife and children luckily were visiting family in Rockford at the time. Authorities determined the bomb was due to a bootleggers’ war.

The Death of Frank Gelosi

Bootleg king Joseph Gelosi (born Giuseppe Geloso), who came to America from Sicily around 1916, was about to enter his home at 916 Regent Street at 8:08 on Sunday, September 22, 1929 when a 12-gauge shotgun blast went off, seriously injuring him (he took seven slugs to the chest) and instantly killing his 3-year old son, Frankie, who was in his father’s arms. Joseph was knocked unconscious by the blast.

Mrs. Rosina Gelosi and the other children were at the movie theater at the time. The shots were heard and reported to police by Joseph Reda, Regent Street grocer (and Mrs. Gelosi’s uncle). Frank Danna, 918 Regent, had also heard the shots. The eyewitness account of 6-year old John Reda (Joe Reda’s son) got two men put in jail for the night: Phil Parino (40 North Park) and Cecil Louiella (42 South Brooks). They were let go the next day when railroad employee Roy McCann vouched for their whereabouts.

Gelosi was taken to Madison General Hospital by his brother-in-law John LaBarra, where Dr. Albert Tormey declared he would live. While there, and in a state of delirium, Gelosi allegedly named Charles Guidera (919 Spring Street) and Vincent Troia (aka Lorenzo Salvato or Frank Ruffino) as the assailants, with Troia found in Rockford and Guidera in Madison. Troia, Rockford sugar merchant (and supplier of bootleggers) refused to be extradited to Wisconsin on the advice of his attorney Harry G. North (a former state’s attorney). Gelosi’s wife denied he talked, saying to the press, “He did not tell them. To say he did is only making this thing worse.” The 12-gauge shotgun was found in a vacant lot behind Gelosi’s home and turned over to chemist J. H. Mathews to check for fingerprints.

While in the hospital, three gangsters visited Rosina Gelosi and told her not to reveal the names of Joseph’s assailants, but it was too late. She also received a phone call saying, “If you go to Rockford you’ll all be in coffins.” Joseph Gelosi recanted his identification, and the two men were released. The threats did not stop, and the gangsters even stomped on the flowers over Frankie’s grave.

Vincent Troia was able to find a strong alibi: Rockford policeman Robert McKay and three Italians claimed to have seen him at the time of the murder. Furthermore, he had Illinois law on his side, as extradition matters could drag on for some time and the courts did not hand over suspects without strong evidence of guilt. He also claimed that Lorenzo Salvatore and Vincent Troia were not the same man, and he was Salvatore but not Troia.

By Tuesday, Professor Mathews said no fingerprints could be found on the shotgun. On Wednesday, Madison’s Captain William McCormick questioned Troia and his “henchmen” and began finding holes and contradictions in his alibi. The policemen who saw Troia said he would not want to testify to it, and Troia’s chauffeur (a man named “Frenchie”) could not keep his story straight on whether he last saw at 2:30 or 7:00 on the night of the murder.

Frankie Gelosi’s funeral was at St. Joseph’s with many children attending. His pallbearers were Jack, Sam and Frank Lomiello, and Frank Cerro. He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.

On September 26, District Attorney Fred Risser dropped the charge against Guidera and Troia (aka Salvatore), saying the evidence was too “flimsy”. Specifically, he cited the lack of fingerprints on the shotgun. Furthermore, because arresting Troia would require extradition, it was a higher standard of evidence needed simply to arrest him. Guidera also had an usher at the Parkway Theater (10 West Mifflin Street) vouch for him that he and his wife were seen in the theater at the time of the shooting.

After the death of his son, Gelosi moved to Elmira, New York. (1930 Census records show Joseph and his wife Rose living in Elmira using the alias Joseph and Rose Aris.)

February 11, 1930: Booze raids netting among others Sam Ucello and John Parisi.

LaGalbo in Madison

Frank LaGalbo was at 730 West Washington Avenue in Madison on Monday, November 3, 1930. As he was preparing to leave, he dropped his pistol and it discharged, shooting him in the leg and shattering his shin. He was rushed to the Madison General Hospital. LaGalbo was not discharged until Sunday, December 7.

November 20, 1930: Gerald Taborsky shot during holdup. Joe Urso arrested.

January 6, 1931: Vice raid nets Mike Emordeno.

January 8, 1931: Frank Genna arrested in vice raid.

February 25, 1931: Raid on “crime nest” nets John LaBarro, Tony Parisi and Vincent Tortorice.

Joseph Urso, 18, was arrested at the Conklin gas station on West Washington Avenue on Friday, March 27, 1931 for carrying a concealed .45 army pistol. Arresting officers were Edward F. Riphon and Calvert J. Sparks. Brothers Frank and Paul LaGalbo were also arrested because they looked “nervous” as they pulled into the gas station. Urso had previously been a suspect in gas station holdups with Myron Stevenson.

April 27, 1931: Natale Troia quizzed about stolen radiators found in his possession.

Jennie Justo

On June 4, 1931, as 20,000 revelers jammed State Street for the celebration of a mammoth new lighting system, Jennie Justo (born Vinzenza DiGilormo) got busted for running her speakeasies. Two previous arrests had led to only fines, but this time the feds pressed for prison, and Jennie was sent to the Milwaukee House of Corrections.

July 13, 1931: Phil Emordeno was arrested on assault and robbery charges. He was released the same day.

July 20, 1931: Building owned by Nick Cuccia burned down. Charles Cuccia, who burned himself, admitted having set fire to the place. Nick was later charged with arson, having set up the fire. He was eventually fined $750.

July 30, 1931: Natale Troia and Victoria Ciulla held on liquor charges.

September 1, 1931: Phil Emordeno was picked up for assault, but the case was dismissed.

September 24, 1931: Phil Emordeno was picked up for disorderly conduct and is then dismissed.

October 6, 1931: Phil Emordeno was picked up for disorderly conduct and given a fine.

November 2, 1931: Leg of John Parisi is amputated after having been shot in a hunting accident, occurring while hunting with Charles Guidera. Charles Cuccia takes him to the hospital.

November 15, 1931: John or Jack Troia arrested on behalf of St. Paul authorities for attempted murder there. He is released on bond awaiting extradition hearing, and disappears. Later he turns himself in, is extradited and given a ninety day term for assault in December 1931. John was a brother of Vincent (and apparently the same person as Jack).

January 14, 1932: Several persons fined for liquor law violations, among them Charles LaBruzzo and Frank Genna.

The Murder of Andrew Presti

Sandria Livingston came to Madison on June 26, 1932, and worked as a waitress for two days at Tom Puccio’s restaurant at Black Bridge (where Bridge Road crosses the Yahara River). On the first night she met two customers, Frank Delmonti and Joe Ross, and Delmonti immediately offered to marry her, saying he was in the slot machine business and could support her. She refused. They came back the next night and Sandria went with them, registering at a local hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Frank Delmonti. Joe Ross also registered there with a girl named Marcella.

On July 5, 1932, Joseph Gelosi hired two Cicero, Illinois men (Frank Maio, alias Frank Delmonti, and Joseph Ross, alias Charley Maw) to lure laborer Andrew Presti, 39, from his home in Madison. They called out to him, “Are you ready to go with us?” Presti handed his wife Frances a saucer of milk he had been feeding his dog and went out to the waiting car and got inside.

Presti mistook Delmonti as a federal agent, and when Delmonti asked him where liquor could be obtained, Presti refused to talk. Delmonti asked a passing boy if the boy thought he was a federal agent. The boy said that Delmonti was a “slot machine man”. This put Presti at ease, who then directed them to the LaMar Cafe on Regent Street and on to a house on Desmond Court where Delmonti bought a milk bottle full of wine.

The men then shot Presti twice in the head, right there in the automobile (splattering blood throughout the car) and brought his body to Janesville for disposal. In Janesville, they picked up a cinder block for the purpose of weighting down the body if they came across a stream. The corpse was ultimately dumped from a car near Belvidere, Illinois on a road known as the “rum runners shortcut”.

During the trial on December 17, the state called witness Sandria Livingston, 21, who said she had been with the slayers at the time of the murder up until the time the body was dumped. She said she did not know that Presti was going to be killed, but after he was shot, Joseph Ross explained that Presti was “a pig” and that he had shot a kid (presumably Frank Gelosi) a few years ago and Ross’ brother fourteen years prior. She said that the killers called Gelosi “the boss” but that she understood little of the conversation, because she did not speak Italian. Darrel D. MacIntyre, chief defense counsel, tried to discredit the girl, saying she had run with a gang since she was 15. Livingston admitted that she was married at age 15, later divorced, and had previously worked at a roadhouse in Milwaukee. The judge denied MacIntyre the chance to ask Livingston about her childhood in Memphis, Tennessee.

For his defense, Gelosi had two policemen from Elmira, New York as alibi witnesses. The cops said that Gelosi had received a traffic ticket from them at the the time of the murder. This defense fell apart, however, when a private investigator overheard the officers saying they had not been paid enough for their services, suggesting they had been bribed to lie.

February 1, 1933: Frank Brunori is arrested in Milwaukee, suspected of being “Joe Ross”, driver of the Presti death car.

February 16, 1933: Tony Marino shot in what is described as an outgrowth of the Presti/Geloso feud. Arrested are Pete Ciulla, Mike Vitale and John DiChristina.

March 22, 1933: Frank Delmonti, alias Frank Maio and Frank DiMaggio, is arrested in Chicago, believed to have been involved in the Presti murder. Sandria Livingston, main witness in the Gelosi trial, claims he is not the man.

Jennie Justo

Just two days after 3.2 beer became legal in April 1933, cops busted Jennie Justo again, seizing gin, beer she wasn’t licensed to sell and a slot machine. State charges were dropped when the man in whose name the place was rented assumed responsibility. But the feds revoked her probation anyway, putting her back in the House of Corrections for another 10 months.

June 3, 1933: Liquor raids net among others Jim Piediscalzi, Patsy Provenzano, Joe Reda and Mike Vitale, all with a history of liquor law violations. Piediscalzi is also known as Jim Corbett.

William Moss, Police Informer

Police informant William Moss was beaten on Friday, June 23, 1933 by a group of bootleggers. To protect his safety, the police quartered Moss and his family in the jail, only to have his home on Nakoma mysteriously burn down over the weekend. John Rano and Frank Genna were arrested and arraigned on July 27 for the beating.

July 17, 1933: Mike Cimino, Nick Bongiovanni and Joe Urso charged with murder of truck driver killed during a home invasion robbery.

Augsut 29, 1933: Tom Rossi seized in Cicero gang killing. Rossi was believed to be the Joe Ross involved in the Presti murder.

1934 (exact date unknown): Salvatore Immordino arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.

May 22, 1934: Cecil Loniello, Mike Cimino and Tony Grignano charged with shooting police officer while fleeing from a robbery.

Joseph Gelosi’s Continuing Legal Issues

On January 4, 1935, Gelosi’s attorney O. A. Stolen filed a writ of error asking that the conviction be thrown out on the grounds that the jurors were prejudiced. Stolen insisted that as many as seven of the jurors learned before the trial began that three defense witnesses had been arrested for perjury.

April 29, 1935: Natale Troia held on liquor charges.

October 3, 1935: Pasquale Provenzano arrested in Racine liquor raid. Also arrested were: Ignazio Terrano, Anne Italiano, John Seidita and Michele Oliveri Clemente, Milwaukee LCN member. Provenzano is eventually fined $200.

May 1936: James Piedscalzi sentenced for arson, having torched Frank Genna’s car in April 1932.

July 10, 1936: Matteo Riolo arrested on liquor charges.

October 16, 1936: Pasquale Provenzano and Pete LaBruzzo, among others, arrested for liquor law violations.

October 23, 1936: Phil Emordeno charged with maintaining a gambling place. He is eventually fined $50, as is his partner Jack Newby.

Peter Mazzaro, 22, robbed Emmett A. McCoy of Milwaukee of $37 on the night of January 27, 1937. After almost two years, Mazzaro pleaded guilty on December 31, 1938 and was sentenced to four months in the Dane County Jail by Judge A. C. Hoppman.

March 26, 1937: Phil Emordeno was picked up for vagrancy and released on $1000 bond.

October 11, 1937: Phil Emordeno was picked up for violating Internal Revenue laws (he was transporting 50 gallons of untaxed alcohol). He went on trial in May and was sentenced to 18 months in Leavenworth.

Gelosi was pardoned by Governor LaFollette in December 1937, on the condition that he be sent back to Italy. This did not prove to be so easy.

Gelosi met with the Italian consul, Angelo Cerminara, in Milwaukee on Friday, February 17, 1939 in the company of his attorney, Lester Lee, and prison guard William Dusenberry. Cerminara refused to grant Gelosi a visa to return to Palermo. Robert P. Clark, immigration inspector of Milwaukee, also relayed that the Italian embassy in Washington refused to issue a visa unless a full, unconditional pardon was granted. Rumors floated around that Andrew Presti’s family lived in Gelosi’s home village, and Gelosi’s return could spark a revenge killing. This rumor was unconfirmed. On Monday, March 6, Cerminara passed his report on to the Italian consul general in Chicago.

After some delay, Gelosi was finally on his way Saturday, May 20, 1939. He was taken from Waupun to Chicago and put on a deportation train and sailed for Naples on May 27. From there he was scheduled to go to his native home in Palermo. Before deportation, he will be allowed a brief reunion with his wife and two children in Elmira, New York where she operated a beauty parlor. They were expected to join him in Sicily in 1941 or when the children graduated high school. According to one descendant, this never happened — Rose Gelosi divorced Joseph, remained in the United States and remarried in the 1950s.

May 25, 1939: Augie Maniaci arrested in Chicago on behalf of Madison authorities, being suspected of passing counterfeit money there. He was fined $100.

Further Things

Joseph LaGalbo, 213 South Park Street, was taken to Madison General Hospital for treatment on Saturday, December 27, 1941.

On Friday, January 30, 1942, Frances LaGalbo was a medical patient at Madison General Hospital and was reported to be in “fairly good” condition.

April 16, 1944: Jim Vitale arrested on bootlegging charges.

June 5, 1947: Sam Paul Buscemi forfeits bail on disorderly conduct charge.

November 8, 1962: Carmelo Mazzara and Tony Pullara charged with running football pool. Eventually fined $50 each.

July 13, 1976: Tractor belonging to Filippo Candela stolen from his farm in Lomira.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

9 Responses to “Madison’s Violent Greenbush Years (1904-1944)”

  1. Waste Says:

    “They were expected to join him in Sicily in 1941 or when the children graduated high school.”

    His wife divorced him and stayed in the US along with the children. He also returned to the US at least once after he was deported.

  2. Debbie Gatti Says:

    Joseph Guiseppe Geloso was my Great Great Uncle, His sister Provdenza Was my Great Grandmother who married first Anthony Segro then George Marino. I know that Al Capone Brought Joe over from Italy and that my GG Grandmother ran bootleg moonshine for Al Capone. My Grandfather was not in the Mafia, but was said to have known many of them. My family left Madison and went to San Jose/Santa Clara where Geloso soon followed and was tied to the Crime Families there.

  3. Debbie Gatti Says:

    Joseph also had a Daughter Anne Elizabeth and a Son Samuel T Geloso, Rosa/Rose was the Daughter of Frank LaBarro, These families were from San Giuseppe Jato Italy.

  4. Jim Scott Says:


    Looks like we are related then. We are working on a family tree and any information you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Anne Elizabeth is my grandmother and is still alive. Sam passed away Feb 28 of this year.

  5. Debbie Gatti Says:

    Can You give me a call 425-314-4428 I live in Washington so their will be a time difference. I have school until 830 PM each night but day time is good. Will be home all day friday

  6. Sara L Says:

    Andrew Presti’s wife’s name was Josephine, she was my Grandmother’s oldest sister.

  7. Kerry Gaitan Says:

    I am pretty sure that I am related to you also along with Debbie. Joseph, Providenza,Marianna & Domenica (my Grandmother) Geloso. I am looking for photo’s of them. Your grandmother Anne Elizabeth (Powell ? ) is the daughter of Joseph Geloso & Rose LaBarro am I right? Please contact me through my email address. I met Rose when I was young she came to visit my mom and she taught me her recipe for the famous fig cookies, I still have that recipe.

  8. Roseanne Scott Says:


    I am Jim’s mother, he doesn’t get on this site much anymore. Anne Powell (Geloso) is my mother, is 92 and lives in FL. I don’t see an email address for you so you can email me at or my phone number in Colorado is 303-688-5867. My mother said she also still has the fig cookies recipe.

    Roseanne Scott

  9. Tyvek Eref Says:

    Many homes in the Greenbush neighborhood south of UW-Madison have long been carved into student housing, and some have deteriorated and become harder to rent due to competition from new apartment buildings rising closer to campus.

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