This article was last modified on May 8, 2015.

Frank Carchidi, Milwaukee’s Mysterious Informer

Born October 9, 1881 in Gasperina, the province of Catanzaro, in the Calabria region of southern Italy to Domenico Carchidi and Margaretha Spoda Carchidi. As of 2010, Gasperina remains a relatively small town with a population around 2200.

immigrated around June 1901, living in New York and Chicago before coming to Milwaukee

Alice Carchidi

August 19, 1905, married Alice M. Sadd, the daughter of C. W. Sadd and Emma Brotherhood. Alice was a Milwaukee native. They would have two sons: Franklin, born June 17, 1907, and Alfred, born September 8, 1908.

1910: the Census lists Carchidi as a tailor and musician, living at 6th Street and Chambers Avenue.

naturalized on July 8, 1912 at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee. His witnesses were William Brotherhood (a relative of his wife) and Bernhard Muehrcke.

1917: lived at 504 Fourth Avenue, Wauwautosa.

In November 1917, the Milwaukee Police Department was bombed. Although the target was an accident, the perpetrators seemed clear: the bomb had come from the Italian community. Carchidi, who Dean Strang describes as “a sometime ambulance chaser and hustler for local lawyers” was called in. Carchidi, despite being an Italian immigrant, referred to other Italians as “dagoes” and would often assist the police. He would be a translator in court, or sometimes even thrown in a jail cell to listen to recently-arrested Italian crooks chatter. How this relationship came about is unknown, though Strang notes that the Carchidi family at one time briefly lived on 49th Street near Story Park, only a few houses from District Attorney Winfred Zabel.

1917-1921: general agent at Wisconsin Life Insurance inside the First Wisconsin National Bank.

Although the exact date is unclear (it seems to be between 1920 and 1921), Carchidi later testified under oath that he had met with DA Winfred Zabel and theater owner Charles J. Fox at the Gayety Theater burlesque house. Zabel allegedly told Carchidi he would drop a pending case against him if he pledged his $5000 bail to stock in the Theatrical Curtain Advertising Company, a business owned by Fox, Zabel and Oscar Adler. Carchidi was only able to raise $1500 and the deal never happened.

1921-1922: lived at 425 East Water Street

late 1921 or early 1922: purchased a $10,000 two-story home in Shorewood, designed by architect R. B. Williamson

Frank Carchidi c1922

On January 16, 1922, Carchidi left on a trip for Italy to settle his parents’ affairs there. After he departed, the district attorney’s office issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had committed larceny and embezzlement, stealing money from his clients. His ship, the SS Arabia, was expected to return on March 5, but when New York detectives and the Carchidi family went to the docks, Frank was nowhere to be found. DA Zabel suspected that the man was fleeing the law, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding: the ship docked the next day, and detectives put him under arrest. They gave him the courtesy of embracing his family before sending him by train back to Milwaukee.

On Saturday, April 8, 1922, Carchidi had the third case against him dismissed, with four remaining. This third one had Frank Racsek of West Allis saying Carchidi had stolen from his during the purchase of a building. The local savings and loan opened their books and showed that Racsek’s figures were wrong — he had not actually lost any money.

Following the spring primary of 1922, Carchidi got a break from his long line of criminal cases to testify at a grand jury proceeding investigating allegations of graft and corruption in Winfred Zabel’s office. Carchidi said, “One day I was in the Strand Theater and heard somebody talking of the Supreme Court case of these anarchists and one of them said if Mr. Zabel carry his agreement they will be out tomorrow.” Carchidi is referring to a group of Bay View anarchists arrested in 1917 and who had the misfortune to go on trial after another group of anarchists was indirectly tied to the bombing of the Milwaukee police station. Carchidi continued, “I went and saw (assistant DA Frederick F.) Groelle and told him I heard this conversation and said is it true. He said yes, I went to Chicago with Zabel the same day these bombs were placed and he made a settlement with (Clarence) Darrow, some attorney down in Chicago, that if those anarchists would let him alone, that they wouldn’t molest him any more, that he will see to it that when the Supreme Court will take up this case that they be let out.” Zabel had been a target of an alleged anarchist group, and there was rumor he made a deal with Darrow to fudge the appeal to guarantee the higher court would free the original anarchist group. Although such a deal is not proven to have taken place, Groelle himself largely supported Carchidi’s testimony.

Carchidi again went to trial on October 12. He was accused by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Raesch of acting as their agent to purchase land in Waukesha County from Emma Koelsch. However, he instead converted the deed to his own use.

He was again on trial in May 1923 for falsely obtaining $3000 from Mrs. Barbara Pautz, which he then used to buy stock in a theatrical advertising agency. At court, his attorney (W. B. Rubin) attempted to have his testimony before a grand jury read in open court, in order to show that Carchidi had previously been working with the district attorney’s office to expose “an organized band of crooks” that was bilking Milwaukee citizens. On June 2, he was convicted and placed on probation.

Following the Pautz case, he appealed (Carchidi v. State) and said he could not be convicted for that case because he testified before a grand jury about it under immunity. In this case, the court determined on June 22, 1925 that the immunity granted by statutes is coextensive with the individual’s fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination. The case became an important defense for those who would be put on trial after testifying before a grand jury. In Milwaukee, the case was cited by mobster John Rizzo in the 1970s, as well as by Joseph Maniaci and Jennie Alioto, employees of mob boss Frank Balistrieri. Unfortunately for Carchidi, although the court recognized the immunity claims, his testimony did not protect him regarding that particular situation and they affirmed his earlier conviction. (This is not worded very clearly.)

Carchidi filed for bankruptcy on May 10, 1926, giving his assets as $29,725 and his liabilities as $44,520.


By 1942, Frank moved his family to Hayward, Alameda County, California and took up employment at the Moore Clothing Company of San Francisco / Oakland.

He died June 12, 1964 in Fresno, with wife Alice following on February 14, 1966. Son Franklin passed January 7, 1972 in Sacramento, and Alfred (who served in the Navy during World War II) died on October 21, 1977.

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

Leave a Reply