Detroit’s Mafia Made Jack Tocco Boss As Feds Watched On In ’79 Inauguration Ceremony

The upper crust of the Detroit mob gathered at a plush hunting lodge near Ann Arbor 40 years ago this week to officially anoint Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco the new boss of the Tocco-Zerilli crime family. The FBI was on hand to snap photos. It was the first and only mafia boss’ inauguration ever witnessed and documented first-hand by the federal government. On the afternoon of June 11, 1979 at the Timberland Game Ranch in Dexter, Michigan, just outside Ann Arbor, several powerful captains or “capos” in the Detroit mafia came together to select a don for the first time in more than four decades. The dark-skinned, business-savvy Tocco was the obvious choice. He had been acting boss for the past five years. His bloodline was pure mob royalty, being the nephew of longtime Godfather Joe Zerilli and the son of the crime family’s founding father, Vito (Black Bill) Tocco. Black Bill Tocco died of natural causes in 1972. Zerilli followed him peacefully to the grave in 1977, having never served a night behind bars in his more than half-century ruling underworld affairs out of his tiny bakery on the eastside of Detroit and naming his nephew Black Jack Tocco his successor. The FBI had an ace in the hole though, a leg up on Tocco in a race that hadn’t even started yet. Wait, we’ll get to that in a minute. College educated and fully diversified into the legitimate business world, the younger Tocco represented the white collar wing of the crime family, while the notoriously-lethal Giacalone brothers (“Tony Jack” and “Billy Jack”) and his underboss and first cousin Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli handled blue-collar duties. Tony Zerilli had once been the heir apparent to his father “Joe Uno’s” throne, but was passed over in favor of his cousin Black Jack when he got busted by the feds and sent to prison for stealing six million bucks from The Frontier casino and hotel in Las Vegas. Tocco began running the Detroit mob on an acting basis in around late 1973 or early 1974. Lucky for the FBI, they had a mole feeding them intelligence from the inside: Anthony (Fat Tony) Zito, Tocco’s cousin, driver and bodyguard. Zito was developed as a confidential informant in the 1960s. In the summer of 1979, Zito told the feds that something “big was in the works” in regards to Tocco, but didn’t specify what that was. So when FBI surveillance units began noticing unusual activity on the morning of June 11, they knew something important was up. That morning, FBI agents Greg Stejskal and Keith Cordes were assigned to monitor the Detroit mafia’s consigliere’s Raffaele (Jimmy Q) Quasarano, a dapper, silver-haired drug trafficker and reputed hit man who headquartered out of Motor City Barber Supply in Roseville, Michigan. They watched as Billy Giacalone and Giacalone’s right-hand man Frank (Frankie the Bomb) Bommarito arrived to meet Quasarano at his office and then Bommarito leave and return with the crime family’s “CFO” Michael (Big Mike) Polizzi and soldier Tony (Champ) Abate. The five-pack of mobsters didn’t hang around Motor City Barber Supply for long. Stejskal and Cordes, flanked by the Giacalone surveillance team, followed them close to an hour’s drive west to Dexter, Michigan and the Timberland Game Ranch hunting lodge owned by the Ruggirello family. The Ruggirello brothers, “Tony Cigars,” “Toto,” and “Louie the Bulldog,” ran a crew that covered the rackets in Washtenaw and Genesee Counties. When the FBI surveillance teams arrived at the ranch, they were met by the units responsible for tracking the Corrado and Tocco brothers. All of their targets were in the same place. More than a dozen of Detroit’s most powerful mafiosi were gathering in the main clubhouse on the Timberland property, visible from the public road bordering the ranch, and the feds watched on practically salivating at what they had stumbled upon. They hit the jackpot – the coronation of a new mob king. All of the crime family’s top powers had traveled to Timberland Game Ranch to elect their next leader. Stejskal grabbed his camera and snuck into the backyard of the clubhouse to snap a historic photo. Tocco was being greeted and congratulated one by one by his subjects on the back porch. On one side of him was Billy Giacalone, on the other side was Dominic (Detroit Fats) Corrado, a capo and childhood confidant of Tocco’s in charge of the numbers business and prostitution. Detroit’s primary entertainment district. The landmark image was kept under wraps for the next 17 years. As the caravan of mobsters left the hunting lodge and headed back to Detroit, the FBI had the Michigan State Police conduct traffic stops to identify the ceremony’s participants. Tocco was being chauffeured by Detroit Fats’s not-so-little brother Anthony (Tony the Bull) Corrado, the head of a syndicate collection and enforcement crew. Detroit Fats Corrado drove behind in another car carrying Tocco’s brother-in-law, mob soldier Carlo Licata, Greektown capo Peter (Bozzy) Vitale and old-school hoodlum Salvatore (Monkey Sam) Misuraca, who had been overseeing rackets in Canada for the crime family and had ties to the Chicago Outfit. Tocco’s brother, mob capo Anthony (Tony T) Tocco, had left earlier in the afternoon, the first one to depart the ceremony. Billy Giacalone, Jimmy Quasarano, Mike Polizzi and Tony Abate left in Frank the Bomb’s van. FBI informants would later place capos Vincent (Little Vince) Meli, Salvatore (Sammy Lou) Lucido and Salvatore (Little Sammy) Finazzo at the ceremony as well. Tony Zerilli skipped the festivities, still smarting from losing his chance at the crown years earlier. Fat Tony Zito confirmed the purpose of the ceremony to the feds in the days that followed. Besides being absent for Tocco’s Timberland Game Ranch inauguration, Zerilli also turned down an invitation to his 25th wedding anniversary party, though relations between the pair would soon thaw and Tony Z went on to accept the underboss position in Tocco’s administration as a conciliatory gesture. Tocco and Zerilli were the lead co-defendants in the groundbreaking 1996 Operation Game Tax indictment and both were convicted at trial. The visual centerpiece of the case’s evidence trove was the photo of Tocco, Billy Giacalone and Tony Corrado taken by FBI agent Greg Stejskal back in the summer of 1979 at the Timberland Game Ranch. Giacalone and Corrado were brought down in the bust too. Almost everyone present at Tocco’s coronation as don is dead and gone. The lone remaining participants on the mob side of things are the hosts, Tony and Toto Ruggirello. The 85-year old “Tony Cigars” Ruggirello is believed to be the Detroit mafia’s consigliere today. Tocco died of heart disease in 2014, having served 35 years as boss of the crime family bearing his name. Zerilli died of dementia less than a year later in 2015.

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