This article was last modified on March 8, 2019.


Milwaukee boss Giuseppe “Joe” Amato

Practically nothing is known about Giuseppe Amato. Not helping matters, “Joe Amato” is an incredibly common name and multiple people in Milwaukee were named Joseph Amato (or d’Amato).

The traditional history, as told by the FBI in later years, says that Joseph Amato succeeded G. B. Guardalabene as boss of the Milwaukee crime family in 1924. A more likely explanation is that they shared power, as Guardalabene seems to have not been reduced in stature.

Detective Louis Dieden sent a telegram to his chief on February 27, 1926, telling him that “Gina states she was ordered out of Milwaukee by Guardalabene and Joe Amato”, and that there was no New York connection to the murder after all. Gina Portero was the mistress of Alberto Speciale who had recently been slain in Milwaukee; she was nowhere to be found after the killing. Decades later, an informant told the FBI that this murder was personal and not business, and was ordered by mob chieftain Joseph Amato who wanted Speciale “out of the way”. The informant identified the gunmen as Milwaukee mobsters Vito Balestrere and Joseph Gumina.

Amato’s alleged reign lasted a brief three years, as he was said to die prematurely in 1927.

Which Amato is the right man? Let’s examine the evidence.

Suspect #1

Giuseppe Amato was born to Antonino and Giuseppa Pizzo Amato on June 13, 1880 (or 1884). His grave stone says 1884, while his World War I draft card says 1880. They are consistent on the birthday. Giuseppe was the fourth of six sons.

On the 1910 Census, the Amato family lived at 279 Jefferson Street in Milwaukee. The house was full, with not only Antonino’s six sons, but a daughter-in-law, a niece and a nephew. Giuseppe is identified as “Peppino” and is a railroad laborer along with brothers Giacomo (Jacob) and Ignazio.

He married cousin Stephena Pizzo in Milwaukee on September 18, 1910. She was the daughter of Ignatius Pizzo and Rose Amato. Anthony D’Amato and Anthony Machi, neither of whom were big names in the world of organized crime, served as witnesses.

Joseph and Stephena had at least two children: Charles in 1914 and Josephine in 1920.

Amato lived at 236 Huron Street in 1917 and worked at the Milwaukee Steel Foundry at 101 South Water Street.

Couldn’t find 1920 census.

He died at age 41 from double-lobar pneumonia at Mt. Sinai Hospital on March 28, 1927. He left behind his wife, Stephena, along with his parents, Antonio Amato and Giuseppa Pizzo Amato. Amato was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum.

Couldn’t find 1930 census.

In 1940, Stephena and her two adult children lived at 524 Detroit Street. Anthony Sorce (a WPA laborer) is in the same building. On July 27, 1944, Stephena is living at 332 North Jefferson when she is naturalized as an American citizen.

The strongest evidence for this man being the right one is his year of death: 1927, assuming that the “real” Amato died in 1927 as later law enforcement records claimed. But there are also some doubts: this Amato does not appear to have any relatives in organized crime, as would be common. His wife was not the daughter of a mob member, so far as we know. And his witnesses at the wedding were not known mob members, which is generally the case. Lastly, his employment at the foundry is unusual. A more common employment would be as a produce salesman or sanitation.

In Milwaukee Mafia (2015), I identified this Amato as the right one… but was I wrong?

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

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