By The Other Guy | April 25. 2020
Joseph (Joe) Sica – was born May 10, 1908, at Jeannette, in Westmoreland County, PA. He remained a lifelong resident of Western Pennsylvania, residing in a beautiful English stone Tudor-style home located at 1003 Lincoln Highway, in the town of East McKeesport.
It is thought that around 1913 or 1914, he went to Italy with his family where he resided with them for a few years until returning to Americaby himself.
FBI # 1129597, AllghyPD # 5179, PA-SP # A-3781
He married Esterina (nee’ Cerrati), whose father was Raffaele (Ralph) Cerrati, a well known muscleman and area hoodlum reputed to have had nationwide Italian criminal connections, who operated under the auspices of Joe Rosa.Their one daughter Josephine, married Frank J. Rosa, son of Giuseppe (Joe) Rosa. Both men were mafiosi also affiliated with the Pittsburgh Family of Cosa Nostra.
It is said that Sica threw a lavish wedding which cost $9,000 (a large sum back in 1956), that as the father of the bride, Sica completely paid for at the Holiday House Nightclub. In attendance, that evening were most top members and important associates of the Pittsburgh borgata.
Side Note: New York Lucchese capo/acting boss Alphonse (Little Al) D’Arco, was a much younger generation blood cousin of Sica. As a young struggling, fledgling hoodlum in the 1950s, Sica offered to absorb D’Arco into the Pittsburgh borgata, fast-tracking his career. But as a “dyed in the wool” NY’er, D’Arco politely declined his cousin’s offer…judging from the future trajectory and result of Al’s mob career, he most certainly should have accepted. His life and those of his wife and children would have been so much better off.
Side Note: He was also the grandfather of convicted drug dealer Joseph Rosa, who later became an informant, and in 1990, testified against “then” Family underboss Charles (Chuckie) Porter and eight others in a federal racketeering trial. Rosa was given a new identity and relocated under the WITSEC program.
Joe Sica stood 5-foot, 7- inches tall and kept at a slim-trim 145 pounds. He had black hair and brown eyes.
Joe was said to have been a sharp dresser. He was also fond of driving late-model Cadillacs as his preferred mode of transportation and typically always had a new, light green or grey 4-door model parked in his driveway.
By 1955, Sica had been firmly identified by the FBI as a decades-long inducted member of the Mafia, serving as a soldier in the Louis Volpe Regime. He would eventually rise to either a “capo” or “acting capo” status as Volpe’s top aide and trusted righthand man.
He was closely partnered in the rackets with the Volpe brothers: Louis and Joseph, who controlled the Wilmerding area. The three of them were former bootleggers who operated several vending machine firms:
– J. & L. Cigarette Service, of Wilmerding. One of the largest vending machine firms in the area, doing a recorded volume of over $250,000 a year.
– Tri-Boro Vending Machine Co., of Turtle Creek.
– Turtle Creek Valley Distributors
– Versailles Amusement Corp., of White Oak which owned the property under the Rainbow Gardens (in 1957 the property was conservatively valued at $425,000).
– The Rainbow Gardens Amusement Park, near McKeesport. In 1962, this business claimed a volume of over $500,000 a year (again, a huge sum for that time period). The firm was valued at over $750,000.
– Valley Beer Distributing Co., of Wilmerding. A wholesale/retail beverage outlet.
Joe Sica was also heavily into the buying, selling and developing of various lots and parcels of real estate throughout the surrounding areas through the years, with at least seven properties having been recorded in county records.
Note: It was duly noted by the FBI during a probe of Sica in 1974, that he and other mob figures held a shareholders interest in a corporation that ran the Underhill Motel in Irwin, in partnership with Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp’s “patronage chief” Samuel H. Begler, who denied any knowledge of Sica’s involvement.
Additional, known Pittsburgh “top hoodlum” associates of Sica included:
• Frank Amato
• Giuseppe (Joe) Rosa
• Frank J. Rosa
• Samuel Mannarino
• Gabriel (Kelly) Mannarino
• Michael Genovese
• Frank Valenti
• William (Sarge) Botti
• Louis Raucci
• Antonio (Tony) Ripepi
• Fritz Kohl
• John Bazzano Jr.
Sica’s criminal file in the Allegheny County Detective File seems to have been destroyed. When the FBI requested it from local authorities in October of 1962, it was discovered that no index card under his police # 5179 could be found. Nonetheless, his federal ID record listed:
1932 – breaking and entering, larceny
1936 – gambling
Side Note: It was thought that with his deep connections into the local police department, he was able to have any previous arrest record purged and destroyed.
Sica oversaw all racket operations for the Family in the Penn Hills, Turtle Creek and Wilmerding sections of Western Pennsylvania.
Along with other Family members, Sica held interests over the years in various illegal gambling casino operations that the Pittsburgh crew was known to specialize in. These casinos offered: roulette, crap games, blackjack, poker, slot machines, and other type casino-style gaming. Named as locations where this was offered was the Valley Sportsmen’s Club – a known gambling establishment. Another was the American Legion Lodge.
In tandem with soldier Lou Raucci, they controlled the borgata’s hold over Local # 211, headed by noted union leader Theodore (Teddy) Cozza Jr.
Although he would largely live his life in the shadows, on occasion he would be outed as a top mobster.
One of the most high profile instances of this was in 1969 when he indicted along with important members of New York’s Genovese Family, Detroit’s Zerilli mob, several union officials and private business people in defrauding the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund in the awarding of million-dollar plus loans to private companies.
The co-conspirators demanded and received kickbacks of from 2-5% of the face value of the mortgage loan requested. It generated profits of from $20,000 to over $70,000 per granted loan application, which was split among the mobsters and crooked businessmen.
Within a year, a deep federal probe was begun by the FBI. It soon revealed rampant improprieties and conspiracy in regards to Teamster Pension loan applications. The initial fraud was uncovered after the FBI started investigating and digging into Lucchese top mafioso Vincent (Jimmy Doyle) Lucchese, and notorious Genovese soldier Salvatore (Sally Burns) Granello’s shenanigans in operating previous loan-kickback schemes.
Subsequently, the La Rocca Family was pulled into the investigation. In a huge front-page series of indictments, a gaggle of defendants were later charged:
• John La Rocca – Pittsburgh Mafia Boss
• Gabriel Mannarino – Pittsburgh top Capo
• Joseph Sica and Frank Rosa – listed as top mob figures
• Salvatore Celembrino – a Genovese “sleeper” Capo, ILA official and important waterfront hoodlum
• Peter DeFeo – another veteran Genovese capo who controlled parts of the Manhattan’s Lower West Side
• Ernest Lanzieri – Genovese soldier and waterfront hoodlum
• Vincent Plumeri – Lucchese capo and top garment racketeer for decades
• Salvatore Granello – Genovese soldier and strong-arm
• David Wenger
Side Note: In a weird and rare reversal of fortunes, all the mob figures were acquitted and the so-called businessmen convicted, after a lengthy trial.
By 1975, in a separate unrelated case, Sica was indicted for extortion along with his son-in-law Frank J. Rosa and Vincent F. Mannella, a prominent municipal engineer.
In 1978, after exhausting all appeals, Sica finally began serving the 5-year prison term imposed after having being convicted back in that 1975 case. But he luckily ended up serving only 11 months in jail anyway before being released on parole.
Unfortunately, Joe had the dubious honor of being the first high-ranking La Rocca Family member to ever be prosecuted and convicted on major federal charges in the Pittsburgh region.
By the mid-1980s, Joe Sica was widely viewed as the wise elder statesman of the Pittsburgh Mafia. He had pretty much seen and done it all, in an active underworld career that spanned nearly 60 years.
According to a report filed by the Pennsylvania Crime Commission in 1990, the La Rocca Family hierarchy (Mike Genovese and Jojo Pecora), had earlier appointed him to serve as their senior consigliere. It was a position that Joe held until shortly before his death of natural causes in July of 1991.
Joseph Sica passed peacefully at the age of 83, surrounded by his loving family.
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