By The Other Guy | March 18, 2020
Although the port City of Baltimore in Maryland is a bustling thriving metropolis with a current population topping 600,000 (in 1950 they had 950,000), and has a greater metropolitan area population of over 2.8-million, it never had a resident Mafia Family per se.
There have been many gangsters and racketeers active on Baltimore’s streets spanning over 70 years, but the majority of those underworld figures were of either Jewish lineage or independent racketeers, devoid of a central command, so to speak.
And although the Italian underworld was very active as well, it was not until the late-1940s that New York’s Anastasia/Gambino Family officially planted their flag and staked a claim to the territory.
It seems that among the first NYC mafiosi to arrive in Baltimore, either choosing to relocate or being “sent” there by the Scalice/Anastasia hierarchy to spearhead new territory, was the Palermo born Luigi (Lou Mora) Morici and several respected associates like Thomas (Reds) Aversa, Vincenzo (Jimmy) Corona and Joseph Gigliotti.
Starting in the early 1900s, many Calabrian Camorra members were very active in cities such as Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh and surrounding towns and cities in Pennsylvania; and the states of Virginia and West Virginia.
Among others, Vito Corbi, born in Catanzaro, Calabria, and his son Pasquale (Patsy), seemed to be leading figures of their group. They operated various legitimate businesses and were active in the Prohibition era’s alcohol bootlegging and “Black Hand” extortion rackets, in tandem with their Calabrese “amici”. The Sicilian Mafia was not known to be active in the above named cities…. it seems Calabrian’s dominated the landscape operating “Black Hand” type extortion gangs.
This was an extremely violent era in which the various mobs – Calabrian and Neopolitan, Sicilians, as well as other ethnic groups such as Irish and Jewish gangs maneuvered for position and power in the fledgling underworld that was to come.
In 1923, Patsy Corbi and several associates were arrested, and later tried and convicted for the murder of a gangster named Frank Naples during this period. His father Vito and associate Vincenzo D’Urso avoided prosecution by having moved, previous to the investigation, to Baltimore and Canada respectively.
There were several other pivotal gangland killings that suggest a mob conflict between Calabrian and Neopolitans in Virginia and Pittsburgh during this same period.
Patsy Corbi was paroled from jail in 1932, after serving a 10-year prison term of a life sentence. He’d had his sentence commuted to 18 years, making him eligible for parole. He relocated back to Baltimore where his father Vito had fled earlier to avoid prosecution. The other Corbi brothers had also settled there. Here, they would reestablish themselves, settling into the city, remaining in Baltimore for the rest of their lives. Vito had died in 1929, so Patsy became head of their group, with his brother Frank as his right-hand man.
The Corbis and their Calabrian followers initially operated independently of any traditional Sicilian mafia borgata. But by the early-1940s into the early-1950s, it is said that New York’s Albert Anastasia Family, upon the order of Albert himself, sent several soldiers there to start a new crew under the direction of the Palermo born underboss Francesco (Frank) Scalice, a Sicilian who would oversee the regime’s formation.
Within a few short years, they had “inducted” a small contingent of local Sicilians and Calabrians, as Anastasia instructed, who was himself of Calabrian heritage. This formal “regime” of New York City-backed, formally “inducted” mafia members would be the only ruling Italian Mafia faction to ever operate in the city.
In 1950, during the traveling Kefauver Hearings on organized crime that held televised public hearings in key states they felt were Mafia influenced, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) provided documentation listing who they felt were members of Baltimore’s Mafia.
From approximately 1951 through the early-1980s this was the regime membership:
• Born 1896 in Palermo, Sicily, often referred to as “the old man”, Luigi Morici was thought to have been the first “capo di decina”. He was sent to Baltimore by the borgata hierarchy to establish them. He was listed by the FBN as a suspected international narcotics trafficker.
Morici was the alleged “bank” behind several numbers and lottery games in Baltimore. He also held ownership in a jukebox-vending machine firm. Considered the head of the mafia in that city, he was known to periodically travel to Sicily. Morici had the reputation of a mild-mannered, gentlemanly mafiosi who was opposed to violence, doing his best to avoid killings and exposure. As the years passed and he fell ill, Frank Corbi is reputed to have replaced him as “Capo”. Morici may have returned to Sicily upon retiring.
• Francesco Fidele Corbi was born in 1904 in Pittsburgh, PA. He was the son and brother of early Calabrian Camorrista “Black Handers”. Frank is suspected of becoming an inducted mafia member in either the late 1940s or early 1950s, and the capo of this regime in approximately 1966. He died in 1990. His death marked the official end of this regime’s presence.
The following listed names were reputed to have been their “soldiers”:
• Vincent (Jimmy Russo) Corona was born in 1904 in Sicily. He originally lived in the Bronx before being sent to Maryland by underboss Frank Scalice. Active in international heroin smuggling as per a FBN report, he had arrests since 1925 for petty larceny, gun possession, gambling, and operating a horse parlor. He was a regular at the Trocadero Democratic Club – a notorious mob hangout.
• Giacomo (Jimmy) Romano of Essex, MD., was alleged to be directly under Corona.
• Francesco (Frank) Gattuso – known to be closely associated with Morici, Corbi and other faction members. No data available
• Gaetano (Tommy) LaFata – born 1898 in Carini, Sicily. An original member and mafioso of this faction.
• Thomas (Wop Jenkins) Aversa – aka “Reds” – born Ragusa, Sicily. A top numbers racketeer, mafioso and one of the heads of the mafia in Baltimore. He owned the popular Chanticleer Nightclub on The Block, a notorious mob hangout, and several other bars. Also active in real estate investments at Mt. Pleasant Beach. He had a long arrest record mostly gambling related.
• Joseph Palazzolo – no data available.
• Pasquale (Patsy) Corbi – born 1895 in Calabria before immigrating to the U.S. and settling in West Virginia, and later Pennsylvania. He was a violent leader under his father Vito in an early “Black Hand” type Camorra group. A suspect in several homicides, he was convicted of murder in 1923 and served 10 years before being paroled. He owned four properties and buildings from #612 to #616 East Baltimore St., that also housed Kathleen’s Musical Bar and Corbi’s Restaurant for years. His son Eddie took over the running of these businesses and also became a bail bondsman, who represented many of the local hoodlum set.
• Joseph Nunzio Corbi – younger brother of Patsy and Frank. He was indicted in a massive illegal lottery ring spanning several states with members of the Buffalo Family from the cities of Utica and Rochester. He was charged by the FBI with the interstate transportation of lottery tickets.
Joe was suspected of running a small horse-book from his shop. He also managed the Villa Nova Nightclub. He would later start a multimillion dollar frozen pizza business, the Baltimore Pizza Crust Inc., with his brother Frank that was operated for decades after his death by his children. Known as a contact of Connecticut soldier Dave Iacovetti when visiting.
• Mario Orazio Anello – born 1905 in Calabria. He ran the very successful M. Anello & Sons Construction Co., of which Morici was a partner. Very close associate of capo Frank Corbi. He was godfather to one of Corbi’s children.
• Frank (Don Cheech) Dabbene – born in 1897 in Reggio, Calabria. He was a financier of bookmaking operations and floating crap games. Suspected by the FBN as a narcotics trafficker. Held hidden ownership of bar and a wholesale/retail soda distributor. He was considered to be an old-time respected mafioso.
• Louis Comi – born in 1906, He was an active bookmaker, “fence” of stolen goods and in the vending-machine rackets. He was arrested in several high-profile cases over the years and served several jail terms. He and his brother John Comi ran the Dodge Cigarette Service, a cigarette machine vending firm and was the hidden owner of the Gay Nineties Tavern.
• Joseph Tamburello – born in 1906, was either a soldier of close associate. He was also a known contact of CT. based soldier Dave Iacovetti when he visited Baltimore. He operated a Italian-style grocery store.
• Angelo Manufo – born in 1927, he was the son-in-law of Benny Trotta and was a bookmaking partner of Julius Salsbury. Manufo was allegedly in charge of overseeing all his father-in-law’s bookmaking and numbers business.
• Joseph (Joe Gigs) Gigliotti – born in 1903 in Calabria, he is thought to have relocated from Pittsburgh where he was an active hoodlum, to Baltimore so as to join his “amici”, the Corbi brothers. He had been in the numbers racket in Pittsburgh and was considered an enforcer for the crew. He owned/operated the Dizzy Klub Tavern in partnership with his brother Chester for years. He operated an active crap game at a private social club in partnership with Dominick DeCarlo. Corbi was said to be a silent partner. They also had a piece of a “barbut” game that ran at another location on the strip.
• Charles Barbera – born in 1904. He was a barber by trade and documented as a regime soldier. No other data available.
• Frank Malvaso – born in 1901. A crew soldier who was a suspect in the murder of hoodlum Antonio (Tony) Messina in 1952. He was the owner of a “pizza shell” company that he sold to the Corbis, and also owned Betty’s Pizza parlor. He was said to retired to Largo, Florida in 1967.
• Benjamin (Benny Trotta) Magliano – he had been active in the gambling rackets and was a top boxing/fight promoter with top boxers such as Holly Mims and Willie Pep in his stable of fighters. Close associate of Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo, who were the most powerful prize-fight racketeers in the nation.
• Magliano eventually lost his boxing license because of these associations. Carbo was actually godfather to Trotta’s son. He was also thought to be a political fixer. He was a suspect in the murder of Sam Zannino, who was another hoodlum partner of his in the fight game. Zannino was said to have been killed at the request of Albert Anastasia.
• August (Nick Trotta) Magliano – the brother of Benny, and an associate of his brother and this regime.
• Angelo Perrera – born in 1912 Hartford, Connecticut. He was considered a strong-arm man and enforcer. He was active in gambling rackets. In 1934, he served 30 days for perjury. In 1944, he was charged with several others in the Newark, N.J. manslaughter of Christopher Cibelli for which he was again convicted and served 2 years. In 1961, he was arrested for the murder of Eddie Castranda, with the charges later dismissed. Partnered with Hitty Wildstein and Frank Corbi in a crap game that operated on the second floor over his bar he named Brooks Tavern. He also owned Angelo’s Italian Restaurant for years.
• Orlando (Londos) Perrera – born in 1925. He was the kid brother of Angelo, and his close associate in racket operations.
• Giacomo (Jimmy) Romano – another named reputed member/associate of this crew.
• Samuel Adornato – alleged in Senate Committee testimony to have been a soldier in the Baltimore regime.
Note: It is possible/probable that several named above were in fact very close “associates” as opposed to formally “inducted soldiers”. But regardless of their official status, all were pivotal players for decades in the Baltimore underworld.
The Morici/Corbi Regime of the Anastasia/Gambino Family numbered no more than possibly 12 to 15 inducted mafiosi at their 1950s-1960s peak. But they had numerous associates that were either directly under their influence, or paid them “protection” to operate.
Note: It is noted that over the years several well known NYC based Gambino members frequented the Baltimore area in association with the Corbi regime:
• Ernest (Cutface) DeVito
• Albert (Terry) Tarantino
• Carmine (The Doctor) Lombardozzi
• James and Peter Sclafani
• Augustus (Gus) Sclafani
• David Iacovetti
… and of course Joseph N. Gallo.
Many independent Jewish hoodlums operated in Baltimore’s “red light” district notoriously known as “The Block”, which was a long strip of nightclubs, bars, topless joints, pornography shops and gambling dens that dotted the main thoroughfare of the 400 Block along East Baltimore Street for decades.
Many skirted recognition and payment of the mob “tax” that is customary to any town the mafia operates in. It shows the lack of total “domination” by the resident Cosa Nostra group – that although they were a presence, the Italian Mafia didn’t exercise an absolute “monopoly”, per se, over Baltimore’s rackets the way they’d been able to do in other major cities.
Those named below were among the most prominent of the mostly Jewish oriented bookmakers and hoodlum set along “The Block”. They included:
• Maximilian (Max) Cohen – well known, old-time bootlegger often called “mayor of the block”. He opened a top cabaret The Music Box, later The Oasis, that was wildly popular. Jailed in 1946 for income-tax evasion. Associate of Frank Corbi.
• Maurice (Moe) Cohen – a gambling racket partner to his older brother Max, and an early mentor to future hood and gambling racket boss Julius Salsbury. He allegedly taught Salsbury the ropes helping him to later establish himself.
• Robert (Fifi) London – one of the biggest bookmakers in Baltimore. He was once arrested for heading a $5,000,000-a-year gambling ring. Close associate of capo Frank Corbi and consigliere Joseph N. Gallo. He operated real estate and bail bond businesses.
• Carroll (Cappy) Goldstein – influential businessman who owned a printing firm. He is said to have had strong political connections to the state Democratic Party that he utilized to insulate himself and the Frank Corbi regime from arrest and prosecution over the years. Cappy was in charge of the “pad”, collecting a monthly envelope from bookmakers and other racket guys on behalf of Corbi and the police department, with the bribery revenue being split between them.
• Philip (Pacey) Silbert – old-time Jewish hoodlum and numbers racketeer. He ran a major lottery and numbers operation for decades since the 1940s. In 1972, he was convicted on policy racket charges and sent to prison for 12 years.
• Louis (Gus Funk) LeFaivre – numbers racketeer, owned a restaurant and race horses, ringleader of a large betting operation in North and East Baltimore raided in the 1970s.
• Berko (Bernie Brown) Braun – formerhoodlum partner of Julius Salsbury, Brown owned three nightclubs and several pornographic book stores. He had ties to Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia, where he had over a dozen arrests for fraud, possession of a gun, income-tax evasion, assault, vagrancy and violation of state and federal liquor laws (bootlegging).
• Julius (The Lord) Salsbury – anotorious hoodlum, he owned the Oasis Nightclub on “The Block”, one of the largest bookmakers and policy racketeers for decades, he was long considered the “kingpin of the city’s gambling rackets”.
He was allegedly connected to Jewish mob boss Meyer Lansky. He reportedly paid “protection” money to NYC capo Joseph N. Gallo through Corbi. Julius was convicted on gambling charges in 1970 and sentenced to 15 years. He walked out the courthouse doors and has never been seen since….never serving one day in prison!
• Andrew Blondheim – old-time bootlegger and gambling rackets figure. In 1931, he was arrested for assaulting a federal agent. In 1949, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. In 1961, he was murdered in his liquor store. He was allegedly politically connected.
• Isaac (Ike) Saperstein – jukebox racketeer and gambler. An original member of the “Belair Market Gang” along with Luigi Morici, Angelo Perrera, Frank Corbi and Mario Anello, which was a number-lottery operation during to the 1930s prohibition era. Saperstein was said to be a close friend of Jewish mob boss Nig Rosen of Philadelphia and New York.
• Willis (Buzz) King – an early Baltimore racketeer, Buzz was a member of the “Four Dueces” syndicate. The Kefauver Committee named him as active in gambling and police bribery. He was reputed to have provided interest free loans to the head of the Baltimore vice squad.
• Samuel (Sam Yorker) Horowitz – owned the Gayety Theatre, a porno movie house and prostitution front. An associate of Frank Corbi, he was jailed twice on tax evasion and obscenity charges.
• Julius (Blinky) Fink – was a well-known bookmaker and lottery game racketeer in Baltimore. He refused to testify before the 1950 Senate Rackets Committee citing his 5th amendment rights against self incrimination.
• Benjamin (Hitty) Wildstein – known hoodlum and gambler. Close Corbi faction associate. Along with soldiers Orlando and Angelo Perrera, he was charged in the murder of Edward Castranda. The charges were later dropped against all defendants. He was also known to be close to Gambino soldier David Iacovetti – aka “Davy Crockett” – a Connecticut-based mob member. In 1960, Iacovetti was arrested in Baltimore on charges of assaulting bookmakers to make them fall in line in paying a “mob tax”.
• William (Little Willie) Adams – a prominent wealthy businessman and numbers racketeer who financially backed many ventures.
….. there were many others, but the above were the most notorious.
That was said to have all changed with capo Joseph N. Gallo taking over supervision of the Baltimore crew in the late-1950s from the murdered Frank Scalice, who previously had dominion over them. He soon instructed Morici and Corbi to induct several more associates to beef up the ranks and instructed them to impose a mandatory “tribute tax” payment from the various bookmakers, crap game operators, bars and other independent street hoodlums not “kicking in”.
It’s alleged that Frank Corbi partnered up with some of these “independents” by offering police “protection” from arrests on gambling, prostitution, pornography and other rackets. He offered them immunity at a price – a monthly “kickback” of profits made. Corbi was said to be able to offer this police protection because of his close connection with Carroll (Cappy) Goldstein, who was reputed to have strong connections in state Democratic circles.
This did somewhat help fill the mob’s coffers, but this was Baltimore, after all was said and done. And try as they might, the Italian Mafia was but a small piece of the overall underworld mosaic. They just didn’t have the manpower and muscle, technique or apparent desire to “rock the boat” as it were.
Capodecina Frank Corbi was comfortable financially. He had a legitimate interest in several bars and nightclubs including the Miami Bar and Frolic’s Lounge, a cigarette-jukebox vending machine business, bail bond business interest through his nephew Eddie Corbi, and a few restaurants over the years.
He also kept a profitable hand in a lively floating crap game, barbut game, varied card games and horse-bookmaking business that operated for years. He also operated as the shylock “bank” for other members of his regime, who allegedly used Alfred (Poncho) Kato as a loan collector.
His regime soldiers and key associates also held varied gambling interests in partnership with Jewish associates who were the dominant powers in Baltimore. A few were involved in counterfeiting in early decades.
They were also well-known on the boxing-prize fight circuit, backing several top contenders at different weight classes over the years.
But as I stated earlier, although Baltimore was a bustling city, it never offered the wide variety of rackets commonly found in other cities, or didn’t have the leadership to conduct such rackets. Truck hijacking, stock thefts and frauds, labor-union racketeering, garment rackets, organized heist or burglary rings, credit-card fraud, large scale narcotics (heroin) trafficking, or any number of other traditional mob rackets were not activities found there.
Baltimore mostly concentrated on various gambling and nightclub operations, with a little porno thrown in for good measure…. I guess Frank Corbi did not encourage such activities. And with an aging membership devoid of young blood, they just “aged out”, happy to run whatever limited rackets they had readily available to them and the legitimate business ventures they’d developed over time.
By the mid-1980s, any traditional Mafia presence that had been, was no more. More of the membership had either died or long ago retired. And they had not encouraged, or didn’t have enough young willing associates to promote, to take their place!
Today, the Mafia is but a folklore in the city of Baltimore….
Looking around, it’s hard to tell they ever really existed there…..
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