This article was last modified on June 4, 2017.


Harold Klein: The Milwaukee Mafia’s Fence?

(This is not intended as a thorough, well-researched article. It is just a page to collect all my Klein notes in one place.)

Harold Klein was probably born August 21, 1918 in Milwaukee. Records have given his birth date as anywhere from 1915 to 1920. His parents were Louis Klein and Celia Cohen, both Russian immigrants.

Harold Klein was arrested July 24, 1938 for carrying a concealed weapon. The charges were dropped the next day.

Klein served in the US Army from July 8, 1942 until October 6, 1945, receiving an honorable discharge.

Harold married Lillian Bernhard in Waukegan on June 17, 1950. She was the daughter of Adolph Bernhard and Anna Kaleka. Less than a year later, on April 23, 1951, Lillian filed for divorce and the divorce was finalized on June 5, 1952. Although married only a short time, they did have one child, a son named Randy.

Around July 22, 1952, Milwaukee police investigating a hijacking of a semi load of stolen meat 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 $4,000 in the meat deal. Klein had previously owned the Bull Ring with August Chiaverotti. (On September 25, 1952, an informant told the FBI that Klein had financed the heist; it was possibly the same informant who spoke to the police.)

On September 26, 1952, an informant told the FBI that Harold Klein and August Chiaverotti had recently purchased several diamonds from Jimmy Fazio for $3,000, believing them to be stolen. They later found them to be zircon and worth only $500.

On November 6, 1952, an informant said that Harold Klein was a “mystery man” who had money from an unknown source. He was said to be a co-owner of the Bullring Tap (1250 North 12th) with August Chiaverotti. According to this informant, Chiaverotti was the president of Wisconsin Improvement Company and had been offered the boss role of the Milwaukee Mafia because of his Chicago connections, but turned it down.

On January 19, 1954, Harold Klein, August Maniaci and August Chiaverotti were rumored to be operating a failing horse book at Club Midnight (1900 East North).

Klein Lincoln-Mercury was formed in May 1955, with Harold Klein, Marvin Klein and (redacted – Bernard Klein?) as stockholders. This was a successor company to L. Klein and Sons which had operated since 1936. Klein Lincoln rented a garage at 1051 East Ogden. When they attempted to open a used car lot at Ogden and Humboldt, local residents (including newspaper employees) protested to the city council. They instead put a lot at Santa Monica and Hampton, almost seven miles from the office. The area was low traffic and inconvenient. They moved again to 21st and North, which was near a Sears and had higher traffic.

An informant told the FBI on October 5, 1955 that Harold Klein and Frank Balistrieri were planning to take over the Elms Supper Club on North 12th, but decided against it. An informant talked to the FBI on October 20, 1955 and said he had heard from a man (redacted, black and formerly in prison) that Harold Klein ran a chop shop and was known to fence stolen fur coats.

On November 5, 1955, an informant told the FBI that ex-convict Tommy Fish was selling used cars for Harold Klein.

A Milwaukee furrier was burglarized on November 20, 1956 with $20,000 in furs taken. Those suspected of the crime were Sam DiMaggio and William Patrick Murray. A Milwaukee detective believed the furs were fenced by Harold Klein and Frank Balistrieri.

The FBI and Milwaukee police interviewed Harold Klein at his junk yard (1725 West Canal) on December 21, 1957 concerning the theft from Sheridan Jewelry in Washington, DC. Why they thought he knew anything is unclear, but he told them he had stayed at the Beldon Stratford Hotel in Chicago the night before. On a personal note, he told the agents that he had shut down Klein Lincoln-Mercury about a year earlier because he was losing money and wanted to concentrate on junk, which he was more knowledgeable about. Klein said he was planning a “million dollar” business selling gas incinerators to restaurants and other businesses that would make trash hauling unprofitable. In essence, the cost of the incinerator would cost about the same as two years’ worth of trash hauling fees. The police told the FBI that Harold and his brother Marvin also owned a tavern at 600 Broadway.

Harold Klein was seen bringing a $1700 diamond to Walter Miske Jewelers around December 31, 1957 and having it put in a different setting. Miske did not know the source of the diamond, and the police recalled that a diamond was stolen from Milwaukee Distributing (522 North Water) about a year prior. They were unable to match up the diamond Klein had with the stolen diamond, and Klein was rather upset that he was even considered a suspect.

An informant on January 15, 1958 said that Harold Klein was “useful” to the Mafia, because he would finger burglaries and handle stolen goods. He was especially good at handling metals, and had offered the informant above-market prices on bars used for plating. The informant said that if Klein needed stolen goods brought to Chicago, he delegated this duty to “Tommy Fish”. The informant still further said that Klein operated a tavern, the Corsica, with Frank Balistrieri and Gus Chiaverotti in Hales Corners. Balistrieri was described as a “lieutenant”, and Chiaverotti was said to be not a member because many suspected him of being a “stool pigeon.” Still further, the informant said Klein had fingered the Milwaukee Distributing Company (522 North Water) burglary on October 6, 1956 and paid $3,700 for the stolen jewelry.

On January 15, 1958, an informant said that the Jack Enea murder was ordered by John Alioto, the Milwaukee boss. Ordered to carry out the hit were Vito Aiello, John Aiello, August Maniaci and Walter Brocca. They used a Cadillac belonging to (redacted) and after the fact had it burned at Harold Klein’s scrap yard.

On February 19, 1958, agents Clark Lovrien and Richard Thompson spoke with Frederick LaVaughn Burrell. He told the agents that he used to work as a mechanic for Jack Rizzo at the corner of 2nd and North, and now owned his own body shop. Rizzo used to have Italian friends stop by who were in some sort of “organization”, but Burrell never knew what they were saying. When asked about Harold Klein, Burrell said he was “only slightly acquainted” with Klein through Rizzo.

Special Agent Robert Reid was watching Harold Klein’s scrap yard on February 21, 1958, when he observed Adrian Mathis of Kenosha arrive at 10:20am. Mathis broughr a .30 caliber automatic into Klein’s office. This was radioed in, and two other agents (Lovrien and Thompson) arrived at the scrap yard. Mathis freely admitted the gun was his and said he had two more in his trunk. The agents brought him to the local ATF office, and agents there said the guns were legal because the breach had been welded. Mathis said the guns were a novelty, and explained that he owned a tavern in Chicago where he had welded guns hanging behind the bar as a conversation piece. Mathis said he was in Milwaukee to collect $7,000 from Klein because he had purchased a car that, unknown to him, was already mortgaged out, and was repossessed without his knowledge. Mathis now owed the money for a car he didn’t have. He told the agents he had known Klein “for years” and knew he had shady deals; for example, he said that although the Klein brothers went broke on their car dealership, they couldn’t declare bankruptcy because that would make their fraud known to the government. Agents were careful not to reveal that they had fixed surveillance on Klein, and tried to play off them stopping by as a coincidence.

An informant said on February 27, 1958 that Harold Klein trusted Walter Brocca, Steve DiSalvo and (redacted) when he needed burglaries done.

Harold Klein spoke with the FBI on March 21, 1958. He told them he was aware that the Bureau was running surveillance on about ten people in the Milwaukee area, though he wouldn’t say who. He said the FBI was wasting its time, as all these peopel were broke and amounted to nothing. When asked how he felt about law enforcement, Klein said he wouldn’t bother to call the cops even if he saw a bank robbery. He had his own way to handle such things. As an example, he said that one time in 1957 he had an employee in Chicago buying scrap for him. Klein knew he was being cheated, but didn’t call the police. Instead, he waited until the man was around other people and slapped him across the face. He was not injured, but humiliated, and the problem was resolved.

Harold Klein spoke with the FBI again on March 24, 1958. Although he declined to mention specific names, he did acknowledge he had known the “Italian element” for twenty years, having run gambling in the back room of a Third Ward tavern when he was 20. He told the agents that some Italians sent a “representative” to muscle him and get him to pay a percentagein order to have gambling. He resisted that, and not long after he was drinking at a bar with a short Italian friend (name not given) when five Italians jumped them and beat them. Klein said he had been an amateur boxer and fought back pretty good, though his friend was knocked out. Klein made a point to tell the agents that at that pint, he was 6’3″, 200 pounds and in peak health. The day after the beating, Klein gathered some friends and visited the man who sent the five thugs. They shook hands, and since that time the Italians have respected him and he respected them.

Klein further told the agents about a deal he was involved in around 1946. He had been approached by a “steel man” concerning a construction project in Haiti. The project was to be very profitable because everything would be double-billed and the money would be split with Haitian politician. Klein went to New York to learn more and from there went to Haiti, where he ended up running a gambling house rather than construction. He said his partner in the gambling house had been a former partner of Dutch Schultz, though again he declined to give a name. Klein did name their attorney (though the FBI redacted it), and did say he was with a “rough crowd” who talked about murders in gangland New York. He was eventually “chased out” of Haiti, but wouldn’t elaborate.

On April 1, 1958, a woman told the FBI that Fred Bishop and Marvin Klein operated Continental Heating on East Ogden. Bishop also had Bishop Heating in Highland Park, Illinois. The woman said she did not think the men had very high morals because they had taken their girlfriends to Florida one time.

On May 2, 1958, Adrian Mathis told agents Lovien and Thompson that the first time he met Harold Klein was right after an accident he had with his Cadillac, somewhere around April 1956. He traded in his old Cadillac for a new one, though he was not able to get the title immediately because unbeknownst to him, it had a lien on it. Ashe stated previously, the car was repossessioned and Mathis said he probably has grounds to sue Klein for fraud if he wants to. Also around April 1956, Klein proposed a heating venture with Mathis, so they started Continental Heating (1168 East Ogden) with Mathis as vice-president, Klein as treasurer and Fred Bishop as president. By December 1956, Mathis was sick of the venture and “walked out”, losing $5,000 in the process. Someone (redacted) became a dominating force in the business, which Mathis did not like. As far as Bishop was concerned, Mathis felt he was a legitimate businessman who probably lost money. Through Klein, Mathis got to know Tommy “Fish” Piscitello and Tony Bruno, who worked at the car lot, as well as Nick Gentile, who worked there occasionally. August Maniaci, John Aiello and Walter Brocca hung around the car lot often, but worked for Perma-Stone. Burglar William Patrick Murray was also a frequent visitor. Mathis said he never met August Chiaverotti, but Klein spoke unfavorably of him, presumably because they lost money at their failed restaurant, the Corsica.

On June 12, 1958, the city of Milwaukee assessed Marvin Klein $754.96 for unpaid taxes on 45 jukeboxes and 27 game machines.

On July 1, 1958, the jukeboxes in Marvin Klein’s namewere transferred to (redacted) in city records. The record stated that Frank Balistrieri was the one who stopped in and filled out he transfer form and the city did not know on what authority Balistrieri could transfer Klein’s property.

On July 7, 1958, an informant spoke to the FBI about Harold Klein. He said he did not know anything directly, but heard through William Murray that Murray used to steal cars and bring them to Klein. He would be paid $450 for each car, and Klein would switch the titles with cars that were ready to be destroyed, thus making the stolen car’s title “disappear”. The informant said Murray could possibly be flipped.

On July 8, 1958, the FBI spoke with Lillian Klein in Miami Beach. She told them sh had been divorced from Harold for over seven years, and moved to Miami about six years ago. For the most part, she had no contact with Harold. He did not pay alimony or child support. Around May 1958, Harold was in Miami for a few days and talked with Lillian. He told her he was broke and the IRS “cleaned him out”. Harold said he was no longer hanging out with his old friends, because they deserted him when things went bad. The Kleins worked out a deal where Harold would make support payments for Lillian’s two sons and he could claim them as dependents on his taxes. Lillian said she knew nothing about Harold’s criminal activities, and even if she did, she wouldn’t say anything because it would result in him not sending any more checks.

On July 28, 1958, an informant told the FBI that on July 26, Marvin Klein was complaining about Frank Balistrieri. Klein claimed to have been “fronting” for Balistrieri in the coin machine business and was hit with $1620 in personal property taxes which he felt rightfully belonged to Balistrieri. Klein was further upset that Balistrieri had not been paying him at all, and he was expecting money to help keep his tavern, Phillip’s Cocktail Lounge (631 North Broadway) in operation. He told Balistrieri to get a jukebox out of the lounge, and instead Balistrieri sent two men to pressure Klein. He resisted and the men ended up taking the jukebox with them.

On August 5, 1958, an informant told Agent Lovrien that Marvin Klein was going to convert Phillip’s Cockatil Lounge into the Pink Glove, a bar catering to homosexuals. The informant said that homosexuals in general were “orderly people and usually good spenders.”

On August 18, 1958, an informant said that Frank Balistrieri had a financial interest in Marvin Klein’s tavern, the Pink Glove, which catered to “sex deviates”. He had heard that two homosexual men, an Italian and a Jew, had helped finance the remodeling, but he did not know these men’s names.

Special Agents Fauntleroy and Thompson spoke with Thomas Piscitello on August 20, 1958 at the Doll House (1100 East Kane). He said he had worked for Harold Klein in 1955 as a car salesman, and had not really known him before that. Piscitello said business was good and he actually “made good” as a salesman. The reason it went under, in his opinion, was because customers were paid too much for trade-ins. The Home Savings Bank ended up shutting them down because of outstanding loans. In fact, Piscitello himself was being dued by the bank because he had purchased a car on paper (though not for real) and Home Savings still had a chattel mortgage on it. Piscitello said he was familair with the rumors about Klein being a fence, but as far as he knew, Klein was strictly a legitimate businessman. As for the Doll House, Piscitello said he had acquired the tavern for his nephew (name not given), and the liquor license was in his nephew’s name.

On August 26, 1958, an informant said that Marvin Klein had successful converted his tavern into a gay bar (what the informant called a “fag joint”) and that business was going well. He said that although Klein was the owner, he had two “queers” working there to attract a gay crowd.

On September 3, 1958, an informant told the FBI that Harold Klein was anticipating becoming a distributor for Fox Head beer. Klein had asked the informant if he could move 100 cases each week. Another informant said he had known Klein since they were boys, but these days he likes to keep their conversation to the weather, because Klein was full of “extravagant talk” that never panned out. He was aware of the rumors about Klein being a fence,and had heard that from time to time he has pieces of jewelry that he sells and their origins are unclear. The informant said he heard the Klein brothers were doing good business with the Pink Glove, but it was only a matter of time before the police shut them down.

On September 4, 1958, an informant said that Marvin Klein got into an argument with one of Frank Balistrieri’s men at the Belmont Hotel. No punches ereexchanged, but Klein lifted the man up by his lapels and told him to “crawl back into his hole”.

On September 5, 1958, Harold Klein spoke with agents Robert Fauntleroy and Richard Thompson. He complained that the investigation was hurting his livelihood and ability to conduct his business. He said he was in debt $100,000 to the Home Savings Bank, and the other men being investigated couldn’t “raise a quarter between them”. Klein said he had not been a saint in the past, but was legitimate now. Klein was aware that the FBI had talked with his ex-wife. He further said he would not become a stool pigeon, saying it was not his job to do work on behalf of the police or FBI. He said he had been approached by a “young punk” who told him (Klein) that his friends were getting too old and a newer, younger element was going to take over crime. As usual, he did not mention names. Klein said he had nothing to do with the Majestic burglary and had never been to the home of Walter Miske. Klein said that he felt Miske had acted alone in that burglary. He told the agents that he had given his brother Marvin permission to convert their cocktail lounge into a “fag joint” and hired two men to promote it as such. The opening week was a huge success, though business had been declining somewhat since then.

On September 23, 1958, an informant told the FBI that he beleived Frank Balistrieri had a financial interest in the Klein brothers’ Pink Glove, although he had no evidence to back this up. He pointed out that the name “Pink Glove” was a signal to the gay community because “it is a notorious fact among entertainers that pink is a favorite color of sex deviates.”

Harold Klein spoke with agents Fauntleroy and Thompson on September 25, 1958. He was asked about his interest in Foxhead beer. Klein explained that there was a brewery in Portage called Eulberg that went under, but thebeer itself was still being made by Foxhead. He looked into it, and found he could buy Eulberg and change the name, selling it around $1.90 per case. Upon further thought, he decided not to start distributing beer because he believed off-brand beers would not sell well in Milwaukee.

On October 29, 1958, Special Agents Richard Thompson and Clark Lovrien interviewed Harold Klein about Walter Brocca. Klein referred to Brocca as a “parasite” that hung around Frank Balistrieri. He said that Balistrieri was physically a “small man” with an inferiority complex, and liked to have eight or ten “leeches” hanging around him at night while drinking coffee at the Belmont Hotel. Balistrieri invariably would pick up the tab for everyone. Klein further said he (Klein) suggested that Balistrieri rename the Tradewinds to something Irish to keep the “wops” out of the place. The new name was Gallagher’s. Klein further said he thought Balistrieri would be “at the end of his rope” within six months, because he was constantly borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. He felt the only way Balistrieri could get ahead financially is if the city paid him enough when they bought the Hotel Roosevelt as part of the redevelopment project. Klein said that referring to the group in Milwaukee as a “syndicate” would be a “misnomer” because unlike other syndicates, they had no money to draw from with which to fiannce their ventures.

Klein explained that the Pink Glove came about because he was in Chicago having dinner with the son of a Milwaukee auctioneer (name redacted). The son introduced Klein to a friend who wanted to buy into a Milwaukee tavern but couldn’t because they didn’t have the residency requirement. The friend and another friend were hired on as managers and the bar became immediately profitable. The bar was a success until the police shut it down. Klein said he could have kept the bar open if he paid off the right people. He refused to say who he would have to pay, but pointed out that another “fag joint”, the Riviera, was operating without interference from the city. Klein denied that Frank Balistrieri had any financial interest in the tavern, despite rumors that one of his men would stop in and check the cash register. Klein said he was aware his brother owed about $2,400 in back taxes to the city for jukeboxes, and said it was his (Harold’s) fault that this happened. The agents pointed out that it was obvious from the records that the machines being taxed really belonged to Frank Balistrieri and Marvin was just a front. Harold did not deny this.

Klein said that August Maniaci was a good chef, was good with customers and was therefore very good at running a restaurant. His weakness was that he didn’t know how to handle money. As soon as Maniaci had money, he would gamble it away at the race track or on sporting events. Klein said Thomas Piscitello likes to think of himself as a “tough guy” or “muscle”, but in his opinion was a man “of very little consequence”. Piscitello and a man named Richards somehow had a diamond ring from the Volpano home burglary and offered it to Klein, but he turned it down. There was a rumor going around that the ring had been “planted” by the FBI so that whomever bought it would end up getting arrested.

Around November 11, 1958, the Common Council voted 11-8 to allow Marvin Klein to surrender his license for the Pink Glove rather than have it revoked for catering to homosexuals. Klein was treasurer and agent, with the corporation’s president listed as Harry Lipschutz.

Harold Klein spoke with the FBI on January 9, 1959, and said he had recently visited his ex-wife and son in Florida to advise them he was getting re-married. Upon returning, he did marry (redacted), a mother of three. They took up residence at the Astor Hotel until better housing could be found. Klein thanked the FBI, saying their investigation of him pushed him away from his hoodlum friends and is hoping to start fresh with his new marriage. Unfortunately, his father did not like her because she wasn’t Jewish.

On May 7, 1959, Harold Klein told agents Fauntleroy and Thompson that he had moved into a new house, 2550 North 131st Street in Brookfield’s Mayfair Meadows neighborhood. He said he was no longer associating with the downtown hoodlums. (Other informants questioned verified that they had not seen him.)

Harold and Bernard Klein were arrested November 9, 1961 for receiving stolen property. Specifically, they had purchased three adding machines, a calculator and a Dictaphone from burglar Robert Severson.

On January 25, 1962, notaries public Bernard Klein and Marvin Klein, who happened to be brothers, were fined $500 each and put on two years’ probation for notarizing forged mortgages without the homeowners present. A $2,700 mortgage for John Tesser of Wisconsin Rapids and John J. McDermott of Milwaukee were involved, but neither man was aware that any mortgage had been applied for. Judge Christ Seraphim said the brothers used “very bad judgment”. Attorney Samuel Weitzen said his clients had no prior record, had turned in their notary license, and pointed out it was not uncommon to notarize papers without all signers present. “I admit some do this with minor papers,” said Seraphim, “but I have never heard of a lawyer or notary notarizing papers in a real estate transaction without the signers present.” (These mortgages were part of a wider scam conducted by August Maniaci, John Aiello, Kenneth Weiss and others.)

On February 8, 1962, Harold and Bernard were at their preliminary hearing for receiving stolen goods. The prosecutor, William McCauley, offered to drop the charges if the brothers passed a lie detector test. Defense attorney John Wessel turned down the offer, saying such machines could not be trusted.

On May 14, 1962, Robert Severson testified that he had burglarized Poblocki and Sons on October 5 and approached Abe Luntz, owner of a tavern at 901 West Bruce, about getting rid of the loot. Luntz allegedly said, “See Klein, he buys that type of machinery.” John Thurlow testified that he was with Severson when the machines were sold, and Harold Klein felt more comfortable about the deal after Thurlow said he had met Louis Fazio in prison. Klein then allegedly said, “If I get busted with these machines, I’ll bury you guys.” When Harold Klein took the stand, he denied any knowledge of these items being stolen, but corroborated the fact he bought from the men because they were referred by his friend Abe Luntz. (Luntz’s wife’s maiden name was Severson; whether this means anything or is a coincidence, I do not know.)

On May 15, 1962, Judge William Gramling ruled that Harold and Bernard were not guilty of receiving stolen property, citing a lack of evidence. The state’s case rested primarily on the testimony of the two thieves — Robert Severson and John Thurlow. Gramling did not find them to be credible witnesses. “When Thurlow testified that he didn’t know the merchandise was stolen, that is incredible,” he said. He also criticized the Kleins, and said they should have known that the items were stolen. He noted that Harold was not as cooperative with police as he should have been, and was “evasive” when questioned at trial. He also found Barbara tell, their bookkeeper, to have a very “unusual” record keeping system. But Gramling’s biggest criticism went to one man that the Klein brothers had used as a character witness, Detective Charles Nowakowski. The judge said, “The appearance here of a retired captain of detectives is indefensible. His appearance says, in effect, ‘I have no confidence in the police department I was associated with for so long. I have no confidence in the prosecutor’s office I formerly worked with.'” Gramling further clarified that he had a “grave suspicion” that the Kleins were guilty, and in his opinion they were probably guilty, but under the strict letter of the law, there was just enough “doubt” that he could only find them not guilty.

Late November 4 or early November 5, 1966, Harold Klein was in an accident on the Expressway heading west out of Milwaukee. He broke his hip and tore his knee cap and needed surgery at St. Mary’s Hospital. An informant saw Klein in a tavern, heavily intoxicated, hours before the crash. Also, he noticed that Klein spoke favorably of Balistrieri, whereas in the past he expressed only dislike.

An informant was contacted on May 22, 1967. He said Walter Brocca had about six weeks left working in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for Harold Klein’s Machinery Exchange.

Frank Balistrieri held a party at his nightclub, The Scene, on March 20, 1968. Between 100 and 150 people were there, including almost all of the Milwaukee LCN. Two people were noticeably absent: Santo Marino and Al Albana. The party was a fundraiser for mob attorney Dominic Frinzi, who was running for Milwaukee County Judge. At this party, Balistrieri told an informant that he would be putting old-timers Sam Ferrara, Vito Aiello and Santo Marino under the leadership of Steve DiSalvo. Ferrara especially resented this decision, believing that DiSalvo did not show him (as a former boss) enough respect. Other old-timers such as Michele Mineo were put under John Alioto. Harry DeAngelo, Benny DiSalvo and an informant were put under Peter Balistrieri. Louis Fazio was collecting donations, looking for $100 per person if possible. Frank Balistrieri paid for the wine and dinner, with other drinks available for purchase. No speeches were made. Vito Seidita, the consiglieri, told the informant (probably August Maniaci) that he would be under Peter Balistrieri now and would no longer be marginalized in Milwaukee. Seidita mentioned that there was at least one member of the Milwaukee Family they knew they could not trust, but he did not say who it was. Non-members present included Frank Ranney, Harold Klein and Dr. Joe Regan. Vito Guardalabene and Phil Valley were also present.

Klein passed away on June 22, 2010 at age 91.

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

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