LOOSE KNIT ETHNIC CRIME GROUP THAT LIVED UNDER THE RADAR

by Nick Christophers

Many have become accustomed to hearing about the Italian mob for many years. Yet within those years other ethnic organizations began to sprout. One such organization was used as an extension of the traditional mob. They came from a country that happened to be a neighbor of Italy namely, Greece. But the Greeks have managed to stay in the shadows of the serpent.

The fact that they have stayed low key there is very little written or documented about their inner-workings. There never has been a “rat” or anyone who defected to offer information on how the Greek mafia works. Since there never has been a hierarchy or a Family tree known to authorities they have been viewed as a loose knit clan that works under the protection of the Italians. This was evident in Philadelphia under then boss Angelo Bruno. Angelo offered protection to the two Greek mob leaders Steve Booras and Harry Peetros. They ran the gambling, loansharking and had control of the PCP trade in the Philly area.

But when Nicky Scarfo took over he issued a heavier street tax on everyone. This is did not fly well for Harry Peetros who was not willing to submit. Hence, Nicky had him eliminated with help from hitman Ray Martorano. Steve Booras was assassinated not to long after that. His murder was never solved as to who was responsible. Some say rival Greeks from the Peetros clan others are sure it was Scarfo.

This connection between the Greeks and Italians was evident in many other cities like New York and Chicago. In New York the alleged leader of the Greeks was Spiro Velentzas who was under the strong grip of the Lucheses. Actually his predecessor Peter Kourakos sealed a deal with street boss Christy Tick Furnari to operate freely under his watchful eye. But after he passed on Spiro assumed his position. At this point Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso was the new “babysitter” for the Greeks. Gaspipe was not interested to lose too much time with them and Pete “Fat Pete” Chiodo took on the responsibility.

Chiodo was a big earner and an even bigger individual at 300 lbs. He was not the most trustworthy partner as Spiro would learn later on. Chiodo went on and became “rat” and implicated not only his crew but Spiro as well on a murder he himself contracted out. Pete to save his own ass testified that Spiro ordered the hit when in essence he wanted the mark, Sammy “the Arab” Nalo eliminated for his own gain. Spiro ran the predominantly Greek enclave of Astoria, Queens from the late 70’s till his lifelong incarceration in 1992. His partners like Peter Drakoulis, Teddy “the General” Politsiadis, Mike “The Italian” Grillo and Jimmy Velentzas ran gambling dens and horse parlors in Astoria and Brooklyn. According the court records they also lended out monies to gamblers who wanted to keep playing. Then when they could not pay they were reprimanded accordingly.

Spiro has vehemently admitted that he lended money and never requested for any in return. But Chiodo and other rats contradicted that and told a different tale of beat downs and so on. Spiro for the past 25 plus years has been behind bars and has lost touch with the streets he once ruled. Astoria as of late has become the stomping grounds for the ruthless and unforgiving Albanians.
Besides Spiro there was another associate of Greek decent that was connected to the Luchese Family. He was Donald “Tony” Frankos who became a contract killer for all five families. But he mostly worked with the Genovese’s. In 1974, Frankos murdered Luchese crime family associate Richard Bilello. He even claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa a statement which was yet to be confirmed.

Around the same time that Frankos was notching hits on his belt another Greek mobster actually worked alongside the Italians. Pete “the Greek” Diapoulos was none other than the bodyguard for Joe “Crazy Joe” Gallo. There was not much written about him until he was shot trying to fire back at the assassins who eliminated Joey on April 7, 1972. Pete was a bulky bruiser who was fairly low-key in the mob world and was considered a rebel since being associated with the Gallo crew. He would later pen a book about his life with the Gallo’s called “The Sixth Family” co-written by Steve Linakis.

In Chicago we can go back to the final days of Al Capone when his partner Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik welcomed the help of political fixer Gus “Slim” Alex. Gussie Alex ran a section of Chicago which was called the Loop . He had what the fictional character Solozzo called “all the Judges and politicians in your pocket like so many nickels and dimes.” Gus was able to fix many cases for the boys in the Outfit. His bulky frame and intimidating looks made his job even easier.

He took over after Jake passed on and kept his position as political fixer into the 80’s. Gus remained in power through the reign of Sam Giancana and Joe Aiuppa. After Aiuppa went to prison Gus became second in command to Sam “Wings” Carlisi. Gus would die in prison of a heart attack on July 24, 1998. Even before Gus Alex fully came on the scene there was a Mike “The Greek” Potson who was partner with Jim “Big Jim” Colosimo in his restaurant. Mike was a gambler and a bookie and ran his operation through Jim’s restaurant after Jim passed on.

During the reign of Al Capone, Al had a close friend by the name of Theodore Anton who ran the Hawthorne Hotel. Theodore was known as “Teddy the Greek” when he was a boxer, which is the way he met Capone. Yet Teddy had one issue he was not afraid to back off from anyone. This fact may have been why he landed in a deep grave. One night in 1926 he disappeared it was later rumored that some Northside gangsters eliminated him for his brash words to many of them.

In later years the popular union leader Jimmy Hoffa employed the likes of friend and fellow bruiser of Gus Alex, Gus Zapas. Jimmy was having trouble with some union official and need to make a point and brought along some muscle in the form of Gus Zapas, a Chicago syndicate bruiser who moved to Indiana and went on the payroll of Teamsters Local 135, one of the largest in the Midwest. He was later alleged to have attempted to deal in stolen diamonds and set up a Matthew F. Kane who made it out alive after a gem deal. There are many others we can mention from New York to Australia which you can actually find in my book “Mafia Ties – The Greek Syndicates”.

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