This article was last modified on August 4, 2019.

Raymond James Ramazini (1916-1969) and Jain Syler (1943-)

Note: Despite being a career criminal and of Italian heritage, it does not appear that Raymond Ramazini was ever a part of the Mafia. He is nonetheless an interesting figure.

Also note: This is merely a stub. There may be gaps and incomplete pieces to this story for the foreseeable future.

Raymond James Ramazini was born 1916 in Michigan, most likely Iron County. He was the third child of Bert Ramazini and Henrietta Bartagnoli, following Also and Irma. One more child, Bruno, followed. (Bruno Ramazini appears in my “Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland” as one of the last people to see John DiTrapani before his murder.) While still a child, Raymond’s parents divorced and married others — Bert Ramazini remarried to Mary Bonelli, while Henrietta married John Rizzi. Raymond went to live with his mother and stepfather.

Ramazini was sentenced to two concurrent terms in Waupun prison of three years for assault with intent to armed robbery and larceny of an auto (car theft). He was received at the institution July 29, 1942.

Inside Waupun State Prison, Ramazini became friends with other young crooks. One was Frank Anthony Kopjar, son of an unemployed Croatian, serving 13 years for burglary. He confessed to 41 burglaries in Milwaukee, three in Wauwatosa and eight more in Texas. Only 23 years old, he had previously served time in the Green Bay Reformatory for a different string of 30+ burglaries. Police had given him the nickname “Bigfoot” because of large footprints found outside of burglarized homes. Ironically, when actually caught, Kopjar had only size 8 or 10 feet (accounts vary) and had been wearing large overshoes. Regardless, the name stuck.

Another was Charles Bennett of Hope Springs, North Carolina, who was serving 15 years for kidnapping and armed robbery. Bennett, also an army deserter, was sentenced from Marinette county.

A third was Wendell Fowler of Memphis, Tennessee. He was serving 4 1/2 years as accessory before the fact in the theft of an auto.

On January 29, 1943, the four men (Ramazini, Kopjar, Bennett, Fowler) attempted to escape Waupun prison by climbing the walls. The escape had been planned for a while, with two makeshift ladders hiding in the workshop. When the signal was given, one of the men hit the lights and the others grabbed the ladders. By simply sliding two bolts into place, the two ladders became one, tall enough to reach the top of the 22-foot wall. Unfortunately for the prisoners, wall guards Donald E. Johnson and Harland Jeffers were alert and began firing immediately.

Burglar Frank Kopjar was killed when a guard shot him in the hip and he fell from the wall, landing outside in a snowbank. Kopjar stumbled across Drummond Street, but he was shot in the gut and soon collapsed. Kopjar, the only man killed in the escape attempt, is still in Waupun today: he was buried in the prison cemetery. Kidnapper Charles Bennett was struck by a bullet on the right side of the head, the bullet lodging at the base of the brain. His condition was satisfactory and his sight is impaired.

Wendell Fowler caught a bullet in the leg between the knee and the thigh as he ran across Drummond Street. Despite the wound, Fowler hobbled cross lots to Louis Walker’s barn off Drummond. He crawled into a hole under the barn. There he was spied by Carl Moser, prison guard, who was a member of the posse of guards and policemen that was searching for the escaped prisoners. Fowler was sent to the prison hospital. Moser hailed Deputy Warden W. J. Hinkamp and L. K. Reddell, metal industry foreman, who came over to assist in the taking of Fowler. The prisoner came out of the hole voluntarily after Moser had queried whether Deputy Hinkamp had tear gas bombs with him. Receiving an affirmative reply, Moser said that a little gas would bring him out, whereupon Fowler surrendered.

Ramazini fled over the wall and escaped uninjured, and got the farthest distance from the institution, two blocks. He ran through the yard in back of Chief of Police W. L. Tetzlaff’s residence. Here Ramazini fell in the snow and dropped the hammer that he had used in bolting the sections of the ladder together and probably had retained as a weapon. Ramazini got up again and continued his flight, but dropped the hammer in the snow. He was seen by Mrs. Gerrit Mulder as he fled to the yard of the residence of Harold Manley, prison guard, on duty at the northwest tower on the west wall. Ramazini crept under a car in Manley’s garage and concealed himself there. He was found by Vern Imhoff, who ordered him to come out. A group of men including Deputy Warden Hinkamp, Chief Engineer A. H. Gessell, and others came to the scene immediately and Ramazini, who at first refused to come out, gave himself up.

The next day, deputy warden W. J. Hinkamp spoke to the press, assuring them this was a four person job with no outside help. Frank Klode, director of the state department of public welfare, expressed his pleasure with how the guards reacted. He said “everybody was on the job,” and all prisoners were back in cells within an hour of the jailbreak.

Despite his long sentence and escape attempt, Ramazini was back on the streets by 1953. On October 1 of that year, he burglarized a Milwaukee cleaning shop. With him at the burglary was Leonard Joe Scherado, and they were interrupted by police. Scherado was caught and implicated his friend, who fled into Chicago. On October 16, a warrant was issued for Ramazini charging him with “unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.” He was picked up two days later by the FBI, hiding in a cellar in Chicago. He was held on $10,000 bond. (Scherado was born, raised, died and buried in South Dakota; why he was in Milwaukee or how he knew Ramazini, I don’t know. He passed at age 42 when he fell asleep while driving.)

On June 7, 1956, Ramazini slugged Jerome Leipzig, a union official and Milwaukee Sentinel employee, in his Wauwatosa driveway. The assault was apparently intended as a robbery, but went awry. Ramazini was charged with “armed and masked assault with intent to rob” and was bound over for trial July 6. In August, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison. The newspaper noted that because he also violated parole, he had 22 years from previous offenses that could be held against him.

Despite his long, violent history, Ramazini was not kept in maximum security. On July 5, 1965, Ramazini walked away from the state prison farm at Union Grove. Over a month later he was still not caught, and was believed to be with Delbert Curl, 35, who had recently been paroled from Waupun for theft. On August 30, sheriff’s deputies saw Curl’s car on the Milwaukee/Waukesha border and gave chase. But the men in the car abandoned it and escaped through thick underbrush. Bloodhounds were brought in and tracked the scent for over two miles on some railroad tracks before they had to give up.

Raymond Ramazini was released from Waupun on April 4, 1968 after serving several years for assault and attempted robbery.

Madison Counterfeiting

An associate of Ramazini’s was Jain Elizabeth Syler, also known as Jain Allen (and later Jain Vickerman). She had been born December 18, 1943 as Jain Fiocco in South Holland, and bounced between Chicago, Calumet City, and Madison. She had three children in the 1960s, apparently from three different fathers. How she knew Ramazini is unclear.

On August 19, 1968, Syler was with Arnold Lehtola, Donna Jesse of Shawano and another man when they stopped at a filling station in Madison and Syler paid the attendant with a bogus $20 bill. (The unidentified man was soon killed in a car accident.)

On August 20, Secret Service Agent Thomas Tully executed a complaint before the United States Commissioner in Madison, Wisconsin, alleging that Jain Syler had passed a bogus $20 bill in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on the previous day. Tully stated that the complaint was based on the statement of an attendant at the Clark Oil Company gasoline station in Baraboo that on the evening of August 19, he had received such a counterfeit bill “from a woman riding in the back seat of a 1965 Maroon Pontiac automobile.” Further, that personal investigation and observation of the complainant disclosed that the Syler was the woman who was riding in the back seat of said automobile at the time and place mentioned above.

On the basis of this complaint, at 12:30pm on August 20th, the Commissioner issued a warrant for Syler’s arrest. No search warrant was sought.

About two hours later, Tully learned that utilities were being connected at 113 Craig Avenue in Madison in the name of Ernest Finn, an alias for Arnold Victor Lehtola. Lehtola was born June 14, 1933 in Upper Michigan, where his father worked for the WPA doing road work.

Tully and a fellow officer proceeded to the address and saw there two automobiles registered in the names of Syler and Lehtola. The officers then decided to attempt to execute the warrants for both of their arrests. About a block from the bungalow in question, the officers stopped a serviceman who was on his way to connect the gas there. After learning of his mission, the officers told him to proceed. The inside front door of the house was open, and the serviceman knocked on the outside screen door, shouting “Gas man.” Tully knew that Lehtola had a history of violence and was informed that he was armed. Tully therefore became concerned that the serviceman might inadvertently become involved and be injured, and consequently told him to leave the premises. Tully and two other officers then stationed themselves at the sides of the front door, and Tully called out “Gas man.” As Syler unlatched the outer screen door and began to open it, Tully pulled it open further, entering the house with the other two officers. As he came through the door, he announced that he was a federal officer and that he had a warrant for her arrest. Syler was arrested in the living room and another officer then exerted control of her while Tully and the third officer proceeded in search of Lehtola.

Tully and the other officer entered the bedroom which was located 12 feet away from the point of Syler’s arrest. There they found Lehtola and took him into custody. He was searched, handcuffed and returned to the living room. Both suspects were then seated on a straight chair, the arrest warrants were read to them, and they were advised of their rights.

While Syler was seated in the living room, detective McCarthy of the Madison, Wisconsin, Police Department picked up her purse from a davenport or table in the room and began to examine its contents. Before he found any contraband, Syler requested her purse, ostensibly because she wanted her glasses. The detective gave her the purse, from which she removed her glasses, and then continued his search. On his second inspection he discovered the counterfeit bills. These bills were secreted in a cosmetic case within the purse itself.

On August 23, while under indictment for the counterfeiting, a new charge was added: Syler was accused of faking car trouble at the Holiday Inn Central (1926 West Wisconsin) in Milwaukee a month earlier (July 20). John F. “Jack” Kiefer, president of Rite-Way Leasing, came to help her, and then later went to her hotel room. As he went to the room, he was jumped by Raymond Ramazini. Syler and Ramazini escaped with a diamond ring, a $500 watch and $200 in cash. Syler was tied to the crime because the watch was in her possession when arrested for the counterfeiting. Ramazini had yet to be caught.

On the night of Saturday, March 22, 1969, Raymond J. Ramazini of Milwaukee and Harold L. Simpson of Calumet City, Illinois tried to rob John Nauracy, 79, at his home at 1411 Carroll Street in East Chicago, Indiana. Nauracy and his wife Marie were sprayed in the face with a chemical compound, apparently in order to knock them out while the robbers went to work on the safe next door at the Roxana Supermarket. Joe Scribor, the 14-year old nephew of the Nauracy family, lived nearby and saw the robbers break in. He alerted Nauracy’s son-in-law George Almason, who came to the rescue and shot at the robbers in self-defense with a shotgun. A minor firefight broke out and Almason was hit in the face and hand. Simpson stumbled into Nauracy’s basement and died there. Ramazini fled the scene and his corpse was found the next day by children in Hammond. A third robber escaped by car.

The funeral for Raymond Ramazini was held on March 26, 1969. Attending the funeral were August Maniaci and Alvin H. Schontube.

July 28, 1969: Arnold Lehtola was supposed to appear in court for his counterfeiting trial, but failed to show. His attorney, Patrick Doyle, suggested to the court that the $5,000 bond should not be forfeited until it was determined where Lehtola was. He suggested that if Lehtola was only “passing” counterfeit bills, it was possible those higher up (the printers) feared he would turn informant and try to have him killed. Co-defendant Jain Syler was present and the trial moved forward.

On August 1, 1969, attorney Jack McManus made his closing argument for client Jain Syler. In an interesting twist, McManus referred to Syler as “nothing but a dumb broad who got tied in with this guy Lehtola.” Further, “She liked the easy buck, she liked the big-time spender… Where’s Lehtola? Lehtola is a rat. The government, unable to try him, now is trying to take it out on Mrs. Syler.” McManus also argued that even though Syler had passed a counterfeit bill in Baraboo, the government failed to prove that Syler knew the money was fake. Prosecutor John Clarke said Syler was not “dumb” at all, as she had good grades in high school and the year of college she took. Clarke further said that upon arrest, Syler had said the money was hers and not Lehtola’s, going so far as to tell Secret Service agents that she purchased it in Chicago from a man named Cecil. McManus said this was silly, pointing out that Syler was declared indigent — how could she buy counterfeit money if she was broke? Syler also testified in her own defense, saying she thought the money came as compensation for an injury Lehtola received at a Madison iron works.

Arnold Lehtola’s trial finally began on September 9, 1970. On September 11, after three hours of deliberation, a jury found Lehtola guilty of three counts of possessing and passing counterfeit money. Lehtola’s attorney blamed Jain Syler for the counterfeit bills, saying his client was only guilty by association. The judge reserved sentencing to allow for defense motions, but Lehtola was sentenced to five years in jail for jumping bail — he was supposed to go to trial months earlier.

November 1970: Arnold Lehtola appealed his counterfeiting conviction, but lost his appeal and was sent to Leavenworth Prison.

May 21, 1971: Dane County opened a John Doe probe before Judge William Sachtjen into what was believed to be a massive burglary ring. Approximately ten people testified on the first day. Among those called was Jain Syler Lehtola (exactly when Syler and Lehtola got married is unclear). She was inside for a half hour, and arrested as she left — the newspaper speculated that she refused to talk (John Doe proceedings are confidential). Her attorney, Frederick Rikkers, said, “I consider this some type of harassment toward her, apparently for non-cooperation.” Syler, who was already on federal probation, was charged with two counts of forgery (see below). She was released on $1,500 bond. Rikkers claimed she had previously had similar charges dismissed. Other people who testified on opening day were Thomas S. Wills, Duwayne Pivett and Robert L. nelson.

August 1972: Jain Lehtola was arrested in Chicago for her outstanding charge of passing bad checks (see below). She was also charged with jumping bail.

November 1972: Jain Lehtola pleaded guilty to passing $188 in stolen checks at a liquor store in 1970. The checks were from Bowen Bakery. She was placed on three years probation, with four years in prison if she violated her probation.

On September 17, 1974, Arnold Lehtola was working for Findorff Construction at Oscar Mayer in Madison on a roofing project. The scaffolding gave way, and he fell forty feet on to the concrete. He was unconscious and sent to the ICU at Methodist Hospital with massive head injuries. Ben L. Navis, 21, was also injured in the accident, fracturing his hip when struck by falling boards. James Prey, 18, was on the scaffolding when it collapsed but managed to grab a ledge and pull himself to safety. Lehtola passed two days later, age 41. (Ben Navis, 66, passed away on November 17, 2018.)

As of 2019, Jain Syler-Allen-Lehtola-Miller-Vickerman was running a confidence game as a psychic, which is technically legal.

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

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