Pat Ungaro, the man who ushered in the anti-mafia era in the Mahoning Valley and the longest-ever serving mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, died of natural causes last week. Ungaro, 78, was Youngstown’s mayor from 1984 through 1997 and was laid to rest later this week.
His administration rid the notoriously mobbed up town of organized crime influence. He battled cancer in the last years of his life.
While in office, Ungaro built a reputation for being incorruptible, unlike many of his predecessors and eagerly pursued breaking the city’s firmly entrenched cycle of corruption. The Youngstown underworld was ripped apart by violence in the 1960s and 1970s, as warring mob factions from Cleveland and Pittsburgh duked it out for control of the local rackets.
The car bomb became a mafia enforcement calling card in the Mahoning Valley back in those days. In gangland circles outside of the area, the term “Youngstown tune-up” soon translated into parlance for a car-bomb attack. Cleveland mafia’s Youngstown crew chief Charles (Cadillac Charlie) Cavallaro and his young son were famously killed in a 1962 car bombing on Thanksgiving.
By the time Ungaro took office in the mid 1980s, the Pittsburgh mob’s LaRocca crime family had seized power in the local rackets, but violence continued. The Cleveland mob’s influence in the region waned due to the Scalish crime family being crippled by indictments and defections. One of the first things Ungaro did as mayor, was to travel to Washington D.C. and Capital Hill fo testify before a Senate committee on organized crime affairs and request an increase in federal funding to combat the mob’s grip over the Mahoning Valley.
Lenny Strollo emerged as the de facto don of Youngstown in the 1990s and instantly became Public Enemy No. 1 for the Unagaro administration. Strollo was busted in 1997, the same year Ungaro left the mayor’s office after 13 years turning the city around and dismantling the mob in Youngstown. Facing life in prison, Strollo cut a cooperation deal with the government, the final nail in the coffin of the Mahoning Valley mafia.
Following his more than a decade as mayor, Ungaro had jobs as a high school football coach, elementary school vice principal and Liberty Township Administrator.
This article was originally posted here