This article was last modified on December 30, 2018.

The Most Colorful Mobster: Sam Vermiglio

Sebastiano Vermiglio was born on June 8, 1913, at Balestrate, in the Province of Palermo, and was the son of Vincenzo and Grazia (Maria) Marino. Vermiglio would later claim he was born May 13, 1912 in Detroit in order to avoid deportation, but his ruse was eventually discovered.

Maria Marino, 42, arrived in the United States on January 20, 1920, aboard the Steamship Regina D’Italia. The manifest record showed that she and her children, Andrea (14), Lauria (9), Sebastiano (age 6), Pietro (4), and Vincenzo (7 months), had arrived on the same ship. They went to live with Maria’s brother, Francesco Marino at 958 Blessmor in Detroit. Daughter Marianna remained in Italy. (When the children had their names changed from Marino to Vermiglio is unclear.)

may have delivered a telegram to Illinois Governor Len Small in 1925…

arrested in Detroit on March 29, 1929 for grand larceny and sentenced to one year probation.

arrested in Omaha, Nebraska on September 28, 1929 under the alias Samuel Rocco for stealing and receiving a stolen automobile. Was sentenced to 1-3 years in the State Reformatory at Lincoln on February 12, 1930. He was given #1761. (This prison record is in the Nebraska State Historical Society.)

arrested by the Narcotics Bureau on April 14, 1932 and Detroit police August 15, 1932 for violating the Harrison Anti-Narcotics law. On November 12, 1932 he was sentenced to 13 months in Leavenworth as inmate #4330. He was discharged on September 17, 1933 under conditional release.

On December 7, 1933 he was picked up in Detroit for “investigation”.

arrested October 24, 1934 for burglary at night and sentenced to 7-15 years in Jackson State Prison (Michigan), and paroled May 4, 1942. His number there was #36214.

married Marian Imbrunone in Detroit in 1942

discharged from parole May 4, 1944

Martin King of Racine and Sam Vermiglio of Detroit were in Chicago on June 10, 1944. There they purchased counterfeit gasoline ration stamps from Jack Barg for $15,000. Barg soon discovered these bills were also counterfeit. On July 11, 1944, Vermiglio gave James Carter fifteen $20 counterfeit bills and told him to call Sorcey.

Vermiglio, after years of being a fugitive, was finally caught in Detroit on Sunday, January 26, 1947. Police, the OPA and Treasury agents had trailed him for 11 hours and watched him supply sugar to various stores — sugar he had purchased with counterfeit sugar stamps. When asked, he gave his name as Tony LaRosa (one of his Milwaukee friends). On January 31, he chose Detroit as his preferred place to stand trial (he was given the option to face charges in Milwaukee by Federal Judge Arthur F. Lederle, a Roosevelt appointee).

He was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $3,000 by Federal Judge Ernest A. O’Brien on Wednesday, March 19, 1947. He was given two additional years for counterfeiting in Milwaukee, and was sent to the Federal Corrections Institute at Milan, Michigan. His accomplice, Sebastian Marino, 33, pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence. His Milan prison number was #12037.

released from prison July 22, 1949

On July 28, 1952, Joseph C. Guarniere, 37 and Anthony LaRosa, 34, stole a transport truck from Catalano Fruit Company in Milwaukee. Ted Catalano’s semi (which was clearly marked as a Catalano truck) had a refrigerated trailer and Catalano originally told the police that the truck was parked in the lot at T&H Central Dispatch (1001 West Layton Avenue). The keys were said to be in the ignition. Tony Grutzka, dispatch owner, had noticed the truck missing but figured that Catalano had parked in front of his house at 194 North Milwaukee Street as he sometimes did. In fact, Grutzka had been right. Upon a follow-up interview, Catalano admitted that LaRosa and Guarniere had shown up at his home and threatened him. They promised to have the truck back by the 30th, and when they failed to do so, Catalano called the sheriff and made his less than accurate report. On the evening of the 28th, the truck was filled with 105 gallons of gasoline at Patsy and Paul’s Station (VanBuren at Michigan) and LaRosa’s Chevrolet was filled up, too.

Meanwhile, Detroit hoodlum Sebastian Vermiglio and St. Louis LCN member Tony Lopiparo had stole 23,217 pounds of meat from the National Tea Company in Chicago. A Scott Trucking Company trailer full of the meat was stolen from Chicago on July 27 and found empty by the Racine County Sheriff the next day at Horlick’s Dam. Apparently, the two pairs of hoodlums met up in Racine and moved the “hot meat” from one truck to another. The four men then brought it to St. Louis. After receiving a tip from a citizen, federal agents swooped in and found LaRosa driving the truck, Guarniere as his occupant and Vermiglio following behind in a car. Lopiparo was already a nationally known figure, testifying in front of the Kefauver committee in 1950. He was said to be close to St. Louis’ Joe Costello. In fact, Lopiparo may have been the boss of St. Louis at the time of the hijacking.

Milwaukee police investigating the hijacking received a tip that an attempt was made to sell the meat through Jack Enea’s Vickey’s Tap. Enea denied this. Frank Bruno, owner of Dapper Dan’s Tavern and a friend of Vermiglio and LaRosa, also denied knowledge. So, too, did Jack Sorce of the J&S Fruit Company, a relative of LaRosa. Dominic DaQuisto of Chico’s Bar denied knowing anything. A reliable source said junk dealer Harold Klein lost $4000 in the meat deal. Klein had previously owned the Bull Ring with Gus Chiaverotti.

Vermiglio and Rose Delima Flynn were arrested on March 13, 1953 at Dapper’s Tavern, 2579 North Pierce, for an unknown investigation. They were released without charge by Captain Kraemer the next day.

Vermiglio “married” Rose Visintainer on June 29, 1953 in Bowling Green, Ohio. The marriage was bigamous, and therefore not legal.

Vermiglio was arrested in Chicago on December 10, 1953, under a warrant issued by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service in that city. He was in his apartment at the Commonwealth Hotel, 2757 North Pine Grove Avenue. He posted $5,000 bond and claimed to own the Twin Pines Dairy in Detroit. A hearing on these charges scheduled at Chicago for December 22, 1953, was, at the request of an attorney for Vermiglio, adjourned to January 4, 1954, at which time the hearing was had before a special inquiry officer. The government called Vermiglio as an adverse witness. He swore that his parents were dead; that he had received information about his birth from his mother and other relatives; and that he was born in Detroit, Michigan, on May 13, 1912.

After the hearing on February 5, 1954, Vermiglio’s attorney requested adjournment until March 10, 1954. The request was granted and, upon resumption of the hearing on the last-mentioned date, Vermiglio testified that his attorney, Henry Onrich, had made inquires at various dioceses concerning appellant’s baptismal record. Copies of some of these letters of inquiry were introduced in evidence.

With the knowledge and approval of the Chicago immigration authorities, Vermiglio moved from Chicago to Detroit around March 21, 1954.

The District Director of Immigration brought Vermiglio into the United States District Court at Detroit on July 27, 1954. Further hearing of the cause was set for August 4, 1954, and an adjournment was taken until that date. Through the United States Attorney, the district director, filed, on July 30, 1954, a comprehensive answer and return to the petition for writ of habeas corpus. Attorney Onrich, for Vermiglio, filed on August 3, 1954, a traverse to respondent’s answer wherein it was prayed that writ of habeas corpus be granted and that an order be issued rescinding and suspending the deportation of Vermiglio previously promulgated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

On August 4, 1954, the hearing of the cause was renewed in open court, with Vermiglio present. He was represented by the same three attorneys, and an Assistant United States Attorney appeared as attorney for the District Director of Immigration. Further elaborate colloquy between court and counsel transpired, following which Vermiglio took the stand as a witness in his own behalf. He was examined by his attorney and cross-examined by the Assistant United States Attorney. The government attorney introduced in evidence a complete record of the deportation hearings and all administrative proceedings in relation to Vermiglio which had resulted in the order for his deportation.

At some point in 1954, Vermiglio met (Paramour X), a married mother of three, who worked in a bar called the Family Buffet at the corner of Gratiot and Harper in Detroit. Vermiglio would stop in, as he allegedly owned a restaurant nearby at Gratiot and French. He also claimed to own a car wash at Harper and Conners (it may be he had hidden ownership and his in-laws actually owned them on paper). (Paramour X) soon left her husband and began living in a motel, unaware that Vermiglio was about to be deported.

Counterfeiter Sam Vermiglio and Detroit attorney Henry P. Onrich borrowed $31,000 from Orlando P. Colamatteo on February 21, 1955 in Chicago. Colamatteo was said to be close to certain Chicago gangsters (including Louis Campagna) and was a “tax wizard”. Colamatteo then gave the promissory notes to the Home Savings Bank of Milwaukee, who had great difficulty collecting.

On June 9, 1955, the United States Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision to deport Vermiglio.

Vermiglio was finally deported in January 1956 for being an “unwanted alien”. Within weeks, (Paramour X) boarded the SS Christopher Columbus and moved to Via della Marranella in Rome to live with Vermiglio and his friend. The friend (name redacted) had a wife and son, and worked as a porter at the nearby train station. (Paramour X believed they had been friends since childhood, and the friend was also deported at one point.) After six months, they moved to Sicily where (Paramour X) lived in a house in Spherra Corallo (??) while Vermiglio stayed at Via della Repubblica 22 in Balestrate. She later said he never appeared to have a job and rarely woke up before the afternoon. She was told he had to be in daily contact with Balestrate because the chief of police kept an eye on him there. (Paramour X) was fully aware that Vermiglio had a wife and kids, and he regularly wrote them letters by sending them to someone who lived on Woodlawn in Detroit.

Around June 1956, (Paramour X) briefly flew to Milwaukee from Rome where she took up work at Pepi’s Steak House. Vermiglio sent her there in part because the owner was supposed to pay him a cut of the profits, but checks had stopped coming in. She was paid $200 per week to work the afternoon shift (approximately $1,800 in 2018 dollars). The cash was sent in brown carbon paper air mail back to Italy. After three months, Paramour X) returned to Italy. (The manager of Pepi’s died in 1961 according to the INS file, but his name is still redacted.)

Around Christmas 1956, (Paramour X) flew back to Milwaukee again, this time working at Angelo’s Pizzeria. She later told investigators that she applied for the job through the newspaper, not knowing them and they not knowing her. Though, by coincidence, she found out later the owner also knew Vermiglio. She met a man and decided to break it off with Vermiglio, but he didn’t give up that easy and sent a “punk kid” to harass her at work and at her apartment. Somehow Vermiglio returned to the United States and found (Paramour X), despite her moving and having an unlisted phone number. He tried to get her to come back to Italy with him, but she refused because she was now engaged to another man. Vermiglio then beat her up, right in the middle of a bar at Lafayette and Newhall, where (Paramour X) had a friend waitressing. She was beaten badly enough that two teeth were knocked out.

Within days of the beating, her father died in Detroit, so she flew there for the funeral and called her fiance to tell him she was never going back to Milwaukee. He came to Detroit to get her, brought her to Milwaukee briefly, and she continued on to California, where she lived for eight months while he visited occasionally. At that point, (Paramour X) left California for Chicago and found out her fiance already had a common-law wife. She took a train to Milwaukee one afternoon and confronted the wife, and that was the end of that.

Rose Visintainer received an annulment in Milwaukee in October 1957, citing the marriage as invalid.

By 1959, (Paramour X) connected back up with Vermiglio and they went to live in an apartment on Woodward Heights Boulevard in Hazel Park (Detroit). They lived under a false name, and Vermiglio continued his lifestyle of not working, staying up all night and sleeping all day. He would often meet with his brother and occasionally his wife. Around Christmas 1959, (Paramour X) and Vermiglio were fighting and she told him to go back to his wife and see if she would “put up with his crap” and do things for him like iron his clothes. He did not go back to his wife, but because of the fight suspected (Paramour X) might turn him in to authorities. She later claimed that she never did and his getting caught was a coincidence.

Vermiglio was picked up in a Detroit tavern on January 13, 1960. INS confiscated a notebook from his person. According to newspaper reports, the notebook contained names and phone numbers of known hoodlums throughout the Midwest and Mexico. There were said to be 150 entries in all, with as many as 50 connected to Milwaukee, Waukesha and Thiensville. Some notations suggested his involvement in the cigarette smuggling racket. Assistant district attorney Francis Croak and Detective John Lavin went to Detroit where they received a copy of the notebook. Regarding the Milwaukee names, Croak told the papers, “They’ll have some explaining to do.” Croak was given a chance in Detroit to question Vermiglio; the mobster said he had spent most of his time in Detroit, where his family is, but traveled to Milwaukee frequently because he was planning on taking an active role in the Grande Cheese Company of Fond du Lac.

Joseph “the Viper” Guarniere was interviewed by the Mequon police on Friday, January 15, 1960. He said he had not seen Sebastian Vermiglio since 1952, and had not seen Tony LaRosa since 1958 despite their plans to go into business providing Italian sausage for pizza houses. They had a falling out over how to split the profits. He said Vermiglio would be the last person to contact him due to “past hard feelings”, and he was happy that Vermiglio was arrested again. Vermiglio had told him the hijacked truck contained cabbage and gave him a bill of lading to verify that, leading to his capture. Guarniere said he knew Maynard Richards, but only as “Joe” Maynard from the Doll House, and never met Marvin Salzberg. Guarniere said he was acquainted with Charles Gaurdine, bartender at Camels Tap. He also knew Tom Carlson, August Maniaci, Frank Sansone, Santo Curro and frequented Frank Balistrieri’s establishments. He denied knowing Nick DaQuisto, but was familiar with the Fazio Brothers. Guarniere claimed that Lt. Joseph Schalla of the Milwaukee Police had “tipped him” that “he was to be worked over after release from prison”.

Vermiglio, who had been deported but came back through New Orleans, refused to talk to Milwaukee police on Friday, January 15, 1960 when asked about his whereabouts during the Isadore Pogrob murder. He was questioned by Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Francis Croak and Sgt. John Lavin. Vermiglio did admit that although his home was Detroit, and his wife and kids lived there, he had been spending much of his time in Milwaukee lately. He further admitted that he knew both John DiTrapani and Jack Enea and their murders were “too bad… They were nice guys.” He said he would not talk without his attorney, Sydney M. Eisenberg, being present.

According to FBI reports, a Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney went to Detroit to speak with Vermiglio on January 16. This is most likely Francis Croak, as just mentioned. On the morning of January 17, the Assistant DA spoke with an agent of the Milwaukee FBI. He said, in his personal opinion, Vermiglio had no connection to the Pogrob murder and wasn’t involved in liquor or cigarette hijacking, though he had no doubt there were illegal activities going on that Vermiglio knew about. The ADA said that Vermiglio told him he was a “broker” for a cheese company 300 miles north of Milwaukee, but Vermiglio refused to give the company name. (The FBI noted in its report that the company was probably Grande Cheese in Fond du Lac, even though this was more like 90 miles rather than 300.)

On Monday morning, January 18, Milwaukee District Attorney William J. McCauley met with his staff and police to discuss a notebook that had been found in Vermiglio’s car at the time of his arrest. He then spoke to the press saying the book contained entries that were “obvious contacts of various people involved in the wholesale distribution of stolen meat, whiskey and cigarettes.” The book contained almost 200 names, including 50 from Milwaukee. There were also names from Mexico, South America, Italy and Canada. One entry was a Fond du Lac phone number connected to Joseph Bonanno (presumably John DiBella).

Facing deportation back to Sicily again, Sam Vermiglio waived extradition to be brought from Detroit to Milwaukee on Thursday, January 28, 1960. He was wanted there for the minor crime of signing an automobile title with a false name. The Milwaukee police were hoping to use this to get more answers out of Vermiglio about the Pogrob murder, and Vermiglio was willing to talk in exchange for delaying his deportation to Palermo. After arriving in Milwaukee, he did everything in his power to shield his face from reporters’ cameras, but did answer a few questions from Captain Leo Woelfel. The answers were mostly “I dunno”, and he jokingly claimed his real name was Joe Doakes (what we would now call “Joe Blow”).

By Saturday, January 30, Vermiglio became more talkative — but about the wrong subjects. He told police that Italian beef is not tender, that prices in Palermo were too high, and that the Algerian people are a tough lot. He said the charge against him was a joke, and pointed out that using a fake name was not uncommon — Cary Grant’s real name was Archie Leach, for example. His attorney, Sydney M. Eisenberg, said that Vermiglio would not answer questions about the auto title but would submit to a lie detector test about the Pogrob murder. Eisenberg said that Vermiglio was not a hoodlum, and that, “I don’t know why he should be tested on every crime that was ever committed in Milwaukee.” Special assistant District Attorney Hugh O’Connell responded, “I never said that he was (a hoodlum). I don’t know how many swallows it takes to make a summer.”

Vermiglio, 48, was given a lie detector test regarding three gangland murders on Friday, February 12, 1960. Although he provided some “deceptive answers”, according to Hugh O’Connell, he passed the five-hour test in Madison, provided some valuable information and was released. O’Connell also dropped the title fraud charge. O’Connell released a statement saying “Vermiglio is very anxious to return to Italy… Out of deference to the request of federal immigration authorities, we believe the best interests of justice will be served and taxpayers’ money saved if he is returned to Italy.” Vermiglio was soon deported on February 15, for a second time, to Italy.

Mequon Police Department, checking Vermiglio’s address book, found two numbers with a Thiensville Exchange: Richard Simpson, living at Route 4 Box 678, and Jack Sorcey, at Route 1, Box 75 (second house on Sunnyvale east of Viga, on the north side). Sorcey’s number was unlisted, but it is not a surprise that Vermiglio had it. (The only Richard Simpson I could find was later convicted for his involvement as an enforcer in a Madison brothel. I have no evidence to suggest this was the same man.)

Two weeks after Vermiglio was deported in February 1960, (Paramour X) once again joined him in Italy. She later claimed that she did not want to go, but was pressured into it because he had left $2,000 behind at the time he was arrested. This time they lived in Balestrate in a large house owned by Vermiglio’s cousin, who was somehow involved with wine production. For six months (Paramour X) was not allowed to leave the house, and she believed that not even the neighbors knew she was there. She left on only one occasion, when Vermiglio’s wife came to visit for two weeks unannounced. She was smuggled out of the house by a man from Cinisi and put in an apartment over the top of an American restaurant in Palermo.

Phone records indicated that at some point in 1960, Vermiglio was in contact with Walter Brocca, formerly of Milwaukee, who now operated Nina’s Famous Pizzeria at 2304 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, California.

(Paramour X) left Sicily for Detroit again on November 13, 1960. Because she was an American citizen, she had to have her passport stamped every three months, and she decided not to pursue this after the second time. From November 1960 until may 1961, (Paramour X) lived with her mother in Detroit, and remained unemployed. Vermiglio and her corresponded, but at no time did he alert her that he would try to get back into the United States.

According to (Paramour X) in a later interview, Vermiglio was able to get back in to the United States through New Orleans around April or May 1961 by acting as a stowaway on a ship. He called (Paramour X) at her mother’s house in Detroit and wired her a money order to purchase a plane ticket. She purchased the ticket and flew to New Orleans, where they lived roughly one month in a modest apartment. From there, Vermiglio and (Paramour X) took a train north to Chicago and on to New York where they lived on Long Island for two months. Specifically, at a house in Farmingdale. (Paramour X) later told INS that this house had a telephone and Vermiglio would use it, but she was not permitted to use it and was not allowed to venture into town for fear that she would talk to authorities. From there, they were driven by another Italian man and his Mexican wife across the Vermont-Canadian border and set up in an apartment in Montreal.

In August 1961, rumors started floating around that Vermiglio was back in the United States, or possibly Mexico or Canada.

Just prior to Christmas 1961, Vermiglio and (Paramour X) stayed for a few days at the Statler Hotel on Dougall Avenue in Windsor, Ontario. While there, Vermiglio’s brother visited one day for a few hours. From December 1961 through January 1962, Vermiglio and (Paramour X) lived with a friend on Bathurst Street in Toronto. The friend worked for “Universal Sales Company”, which had something to do with providing films to drive-in theaters. They then briefly lived at a “Chinese motel” (possibly called Victor Lim’s) in Toronto for three weeks.

On January 29, 1962, an investigator with the Milwaukee Police Department told the FBI that one of his informants gave him the whereabouts of Vermiglio. He was alleged to be living at 759 DuPont Street in Toronto and using the alias “Sam DeVillo”.

Vermiglio and (Paramour X) split up in January or February 1962 and she returned to Detroit, her younger brother picking her up. With money she took from Vermiglio, she rented an apartment on Mound Road and stayed there for a few months without working. On May 19, 1962, she married a different boyfriend. Vermiglio begged her one last time to return to Italy with him, but it was too late.

(Paramour X) was interviewed extensively by the INS on April 16, 1963.

An FBI report on April 20, 1963 alleged that Vermiglio had again come back and was living illegally in Canada.

On May 3, 1963, the INS initiated a “mail cover” on two addresses in Detroit, believing that Vermiglio was forwarding his mail through these people.

On May 13, 1963 a man checked in to the Pritchard Hotel in Huntington, West Virginia and while there met with the owners of Mayflower Distributing Company. Two state auditors were in town to check on Mayflower and later told authorities they had seen Vermiglio.

On May 21, 1963, a reliable source (someone with the Ohio tax department) contacted the INS and said that Vermiglio had recently been at the Downtown Supper Club in Charleston, West Virginia.

On March 20, 1964, the INS contacted Detroit Special Agent Moore and told him that Vermiglio had been seen in Defiance, Ohio that very morning. He was said to be a representative of the Maumee Vending Company and driving a new blue Cadillac with license plate #2688C.

Around April 29, 1966, the FBI had received news from an informant that Vermiglio had been murdered in New York.

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

7 Responses to “The Most Colorful Mobster: Sam Vermiglio”

  1. rachel vermiglio Says:

    sabastiano Vermiglio was my grandfather who disappeared when my father was 7 i was really excited to see all the info u had found on him considering my father wont talk about him and my aunt lives so far..apparently i look just like him..i would love to get even more info on him if i could and maybe even give u some more that i have gathered through very interested in my grandfather and my family still has no idea what happened to him..he disappeared into a car and was never seen again

  2. Sarah Vermiglio Says:

    Wow you certainly have done your honework! Any information that can be gathered about his second family would be greatly appreciated. My grandfather’s past is a mystery and being able to connect the dots would be monumental for our family.

    Thank you,

    Sarah Vermiglio.

  3. rachel vermiglio Says:

    yes it really would..Sarah is my sister. yes i told the whole family and shared the pic u sent me. The Vermiglio side has always had a lot of secrets and mystery. My godfather was actually my grandfathers bodyguards son but he has also disappeared out of my life when i was really young..i have a lot more info for u that ive gathered I will email u soon..and seriously any pics u have please send me..i don’t even care of the quality. I look so much like him that it just means a lot to me. talk to u soon :)

  4. Jim Says:

    Sebastiano Vermiglio was my Great Uncle. I’ve spoken with my Father, James. My father knew his Uncle Sebastiano very well when he was a small boy. Sebastiano was not heard since in 1961 or 1962. I know Sebastinao and his siblings came to Detroit in 1920. Interesting story.

  5. Denise Consiglio Says:

    Marino was their mothers maiden name. She was a widow when she came here from Italy. It must have been the custom to travel under her given name. And Laria isn’t correct. I believe on the first page of the ships
    manifest it refers to Josephine but on the second entry it’s corrected to Grazie (Grace) which was my grandmother. They were detained on Ellis Island because they feared the baby was sick with diphtheria. The young men were separated and lived in the mens section while my grandmother stayed with her mother and the baby. She thought it was about a month. They stayed there until the uncle got their release. The US didn’t grant entry to ill people.

  6. mary beth foglia Says:

    Greetings! My 89 year old father’s cousin visited over the holidays. She is the daughter of August Chiaverotti. She regaled us with many stories – most of which I was unfamiliar with. “Uncle Gus” gave me a rubber duck as a child. Thank you for your research. I would love to learn more. mb

  7. gavin Says:

    Those would be some incredible stories… someone ought to write them down!

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