This article was last modified on October 16, 2015.

Joseph “The Viper” Guarniere

XX November 1936, Guarniere attended the vice trial of his friend Tony LaRosa. While in court, the 15-year old accuser saw him and pointed him out as another one of her tormentors.

Joseph Guarniere was arrested for larceny and assault and battery on May 22, 1942. He was fined $50 and put on one year’s probation. With him at the time were George Leone, Amadel Valenti and Nicholas Conigliaro.

Police called in Joseph Charles Guarniere and Anthony LaRosa on January 10, 1944 as suspects in a brutal mugging, but they were released without charge the same day. This is not the last we will hear of this pair.

XX July 1945, broke into the apartment of a young woman claiming to be “the cleaner”. While her children were asleep, he assaulted her. The woman’s friend called three times and each time Guarniere answered it by saying “wrong number”. The woman’s husband was overseas fighting in World War II.

Joseph Guarniere was involved in a “plant job” on September 15, 1945.

XX October 1945, was picked up and charged with carrying a concealed weapon and burglary tools. With him were Cono Librizzi, Mike Farina, and John Mandella. The police found guns, a sledgehammer, masks and gloves. The case was dismissed in January when the judge declared the police had no right to search their car.


July 1952 The Great Meat Hijacking

On July 28, 1952, Joseph Charles Guarniere, 37 and Anthony LaRosa, 34, stole a transport truck from the Vincent Catalano Fruit Company in Milwaukee. These men had both been suspects in the Reichman holdup (see last chapter). Guarniere was especially vicious with a history of assault, safe-cracking, rape and abandoning his family. A family member told the author that he “was extremely abusive, and almost killed his wife twice. He would lock his children in an outer porch that had a glass window in it, and they watched him beat her.” Apparently, Guarniere “was a great guy when he was sober, but he was an alcoholic, would black out on his feet and that is where he earned the name Viper, because he had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. He was extremely vicious when drunk. I have a tendency to believe he would have been violent regardless, it’s just that the alcohol gave him the excuse to unleash his fury on whoever was around.”

Salvatore “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 Mafia member Anthony Joseph “Tony the Pip” Lopiparo had stolen a Scott Trucking Company trailer full of 23,000-25,000 pounds of meat from the National Tea Company in Chicago. Lopiparo was already well-known to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Internal Revenue Service and local police. He was a part-owner of the Anthony Novelty Company with hoodlums John Vitale and Anthony Giordano. Nationally he was known for testifying in front of the Kefauver Committee in 1950, and was said to be close to St. Louis’ Joe Costello, the mobster who had been mixed up in the notorious Bobby Greenlease kidnapping.

The meat trailer was found empty by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department the next day. 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 the meat 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 had driven ahead to meet up with the others at their destination.

Milwaukee police investigating the hijacking received a tip that an attempt was made to sell the meat through Jack Enea’s Vickey’s Tap on St. Paul Avenue; Enea denied this. Frank Bruno, owner of Dapper Dan’s Tavern and a friend of Vermiglio and LaRosa, also denied any knowledge of the heist. 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 August Chiaverotti — the same Chiaverotti mentioned above with James Evans and several places elsewhere in this book.

While out on bail, Joseph Guarniere and Thomas “Tommy Fish” Piscitello were arrested September 1, for disorderly conduct and concealed weapons. Charges against Guarniere were dismissed without prejudice when he and LaRosa were sentenced to five years in Terra Haute for their multi-state heist. They were released on March 25, 1954 — less than two years.

Amazingly, at trial, Guarniere and LaRosa told Judge Roy Winfield Harper that they were paid $50 each to transport the truck and “didn’t know it had been stolen.” Harper was not so naive.


Chief Milke interviewed Joseph Guarniere on January 9, 1960 about the murder of Isadore Pogrob. Guarniere lived on Highway 57 (Green Bay Road) “above the laundromat”. He denied ever meeting Isadore Pogrob, though he said his boss, a Mr. Kaiser, knew him well. With Guarniere’s permission, his 1959 Lincoln was searched and dirt samples from the floor were taken. Also found and collected were several “particles of an unknown blue substance” on the front floor boards. The car had no visible sign of violence. Guarniere said he was thinking of buying a tavern in Thiensville, and he was sick at the time of the murder and did not go to work that day; he only left the house to take his stepson Thomas to school. At 9:30pm, Joseph and his wife Wanda went to visit Charles and Rose Senger at 4433 North Oakland Avenue for a party with employees of the Pancake Kitchen. Joseph was sick again the next day and only left to bring Thomas to school. Milke believed that Guarniere was being evasive when asked where his car was at the time of the murder — Guarniere claimed the vehicle had not been seen by anyone because he had driven to Delavan and then later parked the car at his boss’s house on Santa Monica Boulevard in Whitefish Bay. Milke believed this to be a lie. Guarniere did admit to hanging out at Gallagher’s and the Doll House.

Joseph Guarniere was interviewed by the Mequon police yet again on Friday, January 15. He said he had not seen his former partner-in-crime 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 a Maynard Richards, but only as “Joe” Maynard from the Doll House, and never met anyone named Marvin Salzberg. Guarniere said he was acquainted with one Charles Gaurdine, bartender at Camels Tap. He also knew a 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 Lieutenant Joseph Schalla of the Milwaukee Police had “tipped him” that “he was to be worked over after release from prison”.

Joseph Guarniere, by now rumored to be an informant for the police, was fatally injured in an automobile accident in Manitowoc County on August 10, 1964. His suitcase was flung from the car, which contained a Norwegian .45 automatic pistol and clip. Whether or not he was actually informing is unknown to the author.

The state crime lab finally received Guarniere’s gun from the attorney general on May 25, 1965 for a routine weapons check. The Norwegian pistol was brought in with seven unfired Remington-Peters .45 cartridges and a leather belt holster. The bullets were tested against open cases, and no matches were found.

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

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