This article was last modified on November 30, 2012.


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 Graza (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.

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.

arrested October 24, 1934 for burglary at night and sentenced to 7-15 years in Jackson State Prison (Michigan), and paroled May 4, 1942

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 $3000 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.

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 $5000 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.

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”. While gone, Rose Visintainer received an annulment in Milwaukee in October 1957, citing the marriage as invalid. But he did not stay away, being picked up in a Detroit tavern on January 13, 1960.

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.

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.)

His whereabouts after deportation, and when he died, remain a mystery. In August 1961, rumors started floating around that Vermiglio was back in the United States, or possibly Mexico or Canada. He had disappeared from Palermo, Sicily in July.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
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 family..im 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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