This article was last modified on May 31, 2020.

Milwaukee Informant: The Augie Maniaci Story

(This is a collection of my notes on August Maniaci and is not an attempt to write a coherent narrative. I have also included his parents, but am not including his brothers — Vincent Maniaci, in particular, had his own adventures unrelated to Augie’s story.)

Nunzio Maniaci arrived on December 19, 1902 entering the port of New York from Palermo. He would later be naturalized with Tony Bellante and Joseph Giulii as witnesses. In Milwaukee, Nunzio married the sister of a Republican Party official with Giovanni Battista Guardalabene (son of the Family boss at the time) as his best man.

Nunzio Maniaci of 501 East Detroit was called in on May 30 (1931?) and spoke with Sergeant Dieden, Captain Ridenour and Adolph Kraemer about the recent Aiello murder. Maniaci said Frank Aiello was a “fine boy” and was not involved in the liquor business and owed no debts. He said he knew the Aiello, Guardalabene and LaMantia families quite well. He knew both Angelo and Pete LaMantia. Maniaci believed that Pete was actually Angelo’s cousin, and not his brother as had been reported.

Nunzio Maniaci’s 21-year old son August of 149 Detroit Street was questioned, as well. The younger Maniaci said he was a presser for a tailoring business at 340 North Jefferson. He drove an Oakland Coupe with a turtle-back, and acknowledged that he ran liquor that he kept in the turtle-back, saying it came from “different parties” in the Third Ward, and sometimes Vito Aiello or Angelo LaMantia — never from Frank Aiello. He admitted that Jack Enea was in the alcohol business, too, and both of them had gone to school together at the Detroit Street school.

In 1934, August Maniaci married Mary Guttilla in Rockford. Mary’s father was Joe Guttilla, a made member in Rockford. This was almost certainly an arranged marriage. (I would like to know who the witnesses were, as this is often very telling.)

For the years 1935-1940, Augie Maniaci and wife were living at 1800 Montague Street and 1115 Morgan Street in Rockford. During this period Augie was listed as a salesman for the Forest City Macaroni Company. Interestingly, the manager for this company was George Saladino, who was an early made member in the Rockford Family. Later FBI files detailed how in 1937 Charles Vince and Sam Lazzio were part of a hijack gang and that the manager of a macaroni company was directing their actions and that the company was possibly a “clearing house” for the hijacked goods. Maniaci may have been part of this as well.

August Maniaci was arrested by Rockford police and handed off to the US Marshals in Madison, then sent to the Secret Service in Chicago on May 25, 1939 for conspiracy to possess and pass counterfeit money. He was fined a mere $100.

Mussolini fell on July 25, 1943. Nunzio Maniaci said, “I hope Italy now makes peace with this country. The people don’t like Mussolini but they like the king. The house of Savoy, that’s famous. Italians will fight with the Allies.” His son Vincent had received a medical discharge and said, “It’s good news for us; it’s good news for them, too.” Italy surrendered on September 8, 1943, causing a great rejoicing in the Third Ward, as the Italians would no longer have to fight their cousins. Nunzio Maniaci, 501 East Detroit Street, had four sons in the service and said, “We were sorry — for our boys and theirs. We wanted America to win. And now we’re happy that we do not have to fight our own people anymore.”

Vincent Mercurio (Augie’s maternal uncle) was arrested at the Schroeder Hotel in Room 2026 on July 25, 1943. Mercurio, who had just been discharged from the military two months earlier, was found in the room with an 18-year old woman wearing only a slip. He was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. He denied any sexual relationship and the charges were dropped. (Why the police care what two adults do in a hotel room is unclear to me. A piece of the story may be missing.)

August Maniaci was arrested for receiving stolen property on September 17, 1943 but the charge was dropped.

The Milwaukee FBI office received an anonymous letter dated March 28, 1952 claiming that the following men were members of the Mafia: Michele Mineo, Joseph Gumina, Vito Aiello, Santo Marino, Sam Ferrara, August Maniaci, Michael Albano, Pasquale Migliaccio, Nick Fucarino, Jack Enea, Charles Zarcone, Frank LaGalbo and John DiTrapani. The letter further named Ferrara as the leader and said that he was close with John DiTrapani. The FBI later agreed with the letter’s assessment. The letter listed known Mafia hangouts as the Tick Tock Club, Zarcone’s butcher shop at 1439 North Jackson, Dicky’s (Vickie’s?) Tavern at 1932 West St. Paul Avenue, and Chico’s Bar on North Farwell.

Bartender Victor (Vito) Aiello, 3262 North Cambridge Avenue, applied for a license to run the Town House at 2575 North Downer Avenue in August 1952. Aiello worked at the Club Midnight at 1902 East North Avenue (owned by August Maniaci). At the time, the Town House was owned by Dennis Holland and the two men were in negotiations. Aiello dropped his bid for the license on Thursday, October 30 after the city council delayed its decision, citing concerns over his source of financial income, believing that Aiello had not fully disclosed his sources.

August Maniaci, now 44, was questioned by Lieutenant Schalla on March 20 (1954?) at 1:45pm concernign the recent murder of John DiTrapani. He said he had been employed by the Club Midnight for the past twelve years. Maniaci said he knew DiTrapani all his life, having grown up across the street — although he said his younger brothers knew him better. Maniaci knew DiTrapani was in an oil deal with Jerry O’Rourke, but knew little about the details. Maniaci said that Johnny ate lunch at his restaurant the day before he was killed, and was willing to cooperate with the department, but when Schalla mentioned the Mafia, Maniaci said, “I don’t know anything.”

Patrolman Hammes received word from an informant on April 21 that a man named “Gus Cappas” or “Kappas” from Chicago occasionally visited Milwaukee and was an intimate friend of mobster August Maniaci. The man was apparently a “big time” hood and gambler, who gambled heavily in Las Vegas and was involved in “highly profitable undertakings of various illegal deals”. Lieutenant Joseph Morris of the Special Assignment Unit did a lookup on a “Gus Cappas” or “Kappas”. Nothing was found, but Morris suggested they might be looking for Gus Zapas, whom he described as “a small time hood and burglar”.

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).

The Milwaukee FBI office received an anonymous letter on March 28, 1956 claiming that Sam Ferrara was the boss of the Mafia. The letter further identified the following men as being associated with Ferrara: John DiTrapani, Jack Enea, Frank LaGalbo, Charles Zarcone, Nick Fucarino, Mike Mineo, Joseph Gumina, Vito Aiello, August Maniaci, Santo Marino and Nick Albano.

By December 1957, based on information from an incarcerated informant, the FBI began to believe that the Mafia operated in Milwaukee “under direct orders of” Tony Accardo in Chicago. The informant also identified Frank Balistrieri as John Alioto’s “lieutenant” and said another member was August Maniaci. An informant (possibly the same one) spoke to the FBI again on January 10, calling John Alioto the “big wheel” of the Milwaukee “syndicate”.

An informant told the FBI on January 31, 1958 that John Alioto was the leader of the Mafia, Frank Balistrieri was second-in-command, and August Maniaci was next in line after Balistrieri.

On February 19, 1958, Walter Brocca was seen entering the home of August Maniaci at 2121 North Newhall Street.

August Maniaci filed for bankruptcy on May 26, 1958 in Milwaukee. His business, Club Midnight, was taken over by his father, Nunzio “Pops” Maniaci, who formerly operated the Canadian Club Cocktail Lounge on the southeast corner of Jefferson and Detroit.

A meeting between several known gamblers and hoodlums took place at March 2, 1959 at 4:30pm at Gallagher’s Steak House. One such person there was August Maniaci. Maniaci and known gamblers were there again on March 4.

An informant told the FBI on June 12, 1959 that the top men in Milwaukee were Frank Balistrieri, John Alioto and Frank LaGalbo. Moving up in the hierarchy was Tony “Petrolle” Machi. This is the same informant who previously considered August Maniaci high-ranking — did Maniaci lose favor between 1958 and 1959?

An informant told the FBI on February 10, 1961 that Sam Cefalu and Sam Librizzi were operating floating poker and dice games on the East Side. They were also running a craps game at August Maniaci’s tavern on Michigan Avenue for the purpose of raising money to bribe the State Parole Board to get two brothers (redacted) out of Waupun State Prison.

August Maniaci was interviewed by the FBI on March 9, 1961. He was asked if the Milwaukee hierarchy was John Alioto, Frank Balistrieri and then himself under Balistrieri. He nodded in agreement, and then said, “Remember, you said that.”

Detective Knueppel questioned August Maniaci, 52, on Wednesday, July 19, 1961 at 9:45am concerning the murder of Isadore Pogrob. Maniaci was employed by John Aiello at the Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders Company (1440 West Vliet Street). Maniaci had nothing to offer on the murders. At the same time, Knueppel spoke with Aiello, 46, 2761 South Herman Street. He said he no longer went to taverns as he had developed a kidney ailment and had to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester twice in the past year.

In the summer of 1961, Frank LaGalbo tried to take over leadership of the Milwaukee family. Some informants believed he might try to kill John Alioto. LaGalbo was supported by his two enforcers, August Maniaci and John Aiello. This brought the heat down on Maniaci and LaGalbo (though apparently not Aielllo) and LaGalbo left for a couple weeks (probably to Peshtigo) while things cooled down. LaGalbo was powerful among the younger Italians and had strong connections to Felix Alderisio and Tony Accardo in Chicago. He had fallen out of favor with Milwaukee after the murder of John DiTrapani in the early 1950s, which he may have committed.

An informant told the FBI on September 24, 1961 that Milwaukee had three cliques, because many were not happy with Frank Balistrieri’s leadership. One clique had Balistrieri, Buster Balestrere, Steve DiSalvo and John Rizzo. Another had Mike Albano, Joe Gagliano, Walter Brocca, August Maniaci and Harry D’Angelo. The third was Frank LaGalbo and unknown others. LaGalbo had recently been forced out of the Milwaukee Family and was now under the protection of the Chicago Heights crew.

An informant told the FBI on October 7, 1961 that Frank LaGalbo and August Maniaci desired to take over the Milwaukee Family from John Alioto and Frank Balistrieri. Further, that relatives of Alioto — brothers in the grocery business at Jackson and Juneau — were being pushed to run for public office by the mob.

August Maniaci and another hoodlum (Joseph Angeli?) set up a $45,000 jewel theft from Earle J. Parisey on Wednesday, June 27, 1962. Parisey, a salesman for Kor-Rect Jewelry Manufacturing Company of Green Bay had the jewels in his car, which was stolen around 12:30pm from South 7th Street. The men who pulled the job were Thomas Sterger from Toledo, Ohio and Louis Klein from Columbus, Ohio and not close associates of Maniaci. The two men were arrested the following day in Detroit while checking their car into the airport. Somehow during the course of this investigation, Joseph Angeli, 28, was arrested on Thursday morning for being in possession of a gambling device (a slot machine hidden in a clothes hamper). Angeli had rented the car the Ohio men used and a witness to the theft wrote down the license number — this came back to Angeli. The two Ohio hoodlums who stole the $45,000 worth of jewels were in contact with August Chiaverotti on July 31, 1962 and it was one informant’s belief that Chiaverotti was hiding the jewels inside the warehouse of the Para Corporation on the corner of 6th Street and Florida.

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

Leave a Reply