The Chicago Syndicate: Danny Greene

Showing posts with label Danny Greene. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Danny Greene. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Explosive Life and Death of Gangster Danny Greene

In the 1970s, Cleveland, Ohio was at war – rival factions fought for control of the city’s organized crime rackets, with deadly results. In 1976, Cleveland was the bombing capital of the United States.

High-profile crime figures were wiped out left and right with car bombs, leaving Cleveland residents shaken. In the center of all the mayhem and bloodshed was an Irish-American crime boss named Danny Greene who went to war with Cleveland’s long-established Italian criminal empire.

Danny Greene was born in Cleveland in 1933 and grew up in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood. As a teenager, he fought frequently with Italian-American kids and developed a dislike for Italians that he carried with him for his entire life. Greene joined the Marines, boxed in the Corps, and became an expert marksman. After his military duty, Greene returned to Cleveland and started working on the waterfront as a longshoreman. In 1962, before he had reached the age of 30, Danny Greene was elected President of the local dock workers’ union.

Greene caused controversy in Cleveland when he organized work stoppages and strikes. In 1964, Greene lost his union job when it came to light that he was allowing corruption to flourish, including kickbacks and having dock workers sign over their paychecks to him.

As he made headlines with the dock workers’ union, Greene caught the eye of a Jewish gangster named Shondor Birns, who had been active since the days of Prohibition. After Greene’s ouster from the union, Birns hired him on as an enforcer. While working for Birns, Greene also branched out on his own, building a criminal empire that included loansharking and gambling operations.

Despite his personal dislike for Italians, Greene also teamed up with a Teamster named John Nardi to expand his criminal activities. There has been speculation that Danny Greene may have been an FBI informant, which might help explain why he was able to avoid scrutiny from law enforcement for so many years.

Greene was a formidable figure, tough and not afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He was also fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, favored the color green, and wore a green crucifix around his neck.

He enjoyed notoriety in his home neighborhood of Collinwood, with many of the residents seeing him as a kind of Robin Hood figure because Greene gave money to the needy and was quick to help out his neighbors.

Greene took a job with the Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild, where he was seen as a skilled negotiator and peacekeeper. But when a trash hauler named “Big Mike” Frato pulled out of the guild, the two immediately went to war with each other. One of Greene’s men, 31-year-old Arthur Sneperger, was killed in 1971 when a bomb he was carrying to plant in Frato’s car exploded. Less than a month later, Greene shot and killed Frato after “Big Mike” tried to shoot him from a passing car. Greene was later acquitted on grounds of self-defense.

Danny Greene ran Shondor Burns’ numbers rackets while the old gangster served time in prison in the early 1970s. This only served to strengthen Greene’s reputation and cemented his power in Cleveland’s underworld. After Birns was released from prison, the relationship between him and Greene took a nosedive. Birns took out a $20,000 contract on Greene’s life, which severed the partnership completely. On March 29, 1975, Shondor Birns was killed by a car bomb, the weapon that would come to define the Cleveland gang war over the next couple years. Danny Greene’s house was bombed in May 1975, shortly after Birns’ assassination.

Greene and his army of men were now at war with other criminal elements in Cleveland, most notably the Italian mafia. Gangsters detonated an incredible 37 bombs in the Cleveland area in 1976. Attempts on Danny Greene’s life were made, but all failed – it seemed that the Irishman couldn’t be taken down. Then, Greene’s associate John Nardi was killed by a bomb in May 1977 outside the Teamsters office. After years of avoiding death, the Irishman’s luck was about to run out.

On October 6, 1977, Greene approach his Lincoln Continental after a visit to his dentist. Like many of Cleveland’s gangsters before him, Greene had reached the end of the road. That day, with newly clean teeth, the 43-year-old Greene was obliterated by a car bomb.

A mob hitman named Ray Ferritto was picked up for Greene’s murder, and he quickly turned informant, agreeing to spill everything he knew about Mafia operations across the United States in exchange for leniency. In the end, the death of Danny Greene and the testimony offered by Ray Ferritto brought down what was left of the Cleveland mob.

Thanks to Matt Gilligan.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Ambition and Disloyalty of Cleveland Mobsters During the 1990's.

For mobsters who've helped the feds, coming home for the holidays can be a dangerous proposition.
It was the night before Thanksgiving, 1994, and Paul waded cautiously into the Cleveland night. He was to meet Mike Roman at the Flat Iron, a corner bar on the east bank of the Flats.

A 26-year-old assistant manager, Roman had arrived at the bar to pick up his check, then drink it away. Paul says Roman was "shitfaced" when he arrived around midnight, and Paul ordered him to drink coffee before driving home.

At closing time, they walked out the back door. Paul, who spoke with Scene on condition that his last name not be printed, remembers Roman glowering at a group of men standing around a white car on Center Street. "What the fuck are you looking at?" he asked.

One of the men walked up to Roman. Acting on instinct, Paul took a swing. It staggered the man, but he reached for a gun, squeezing off three shots into Roman's chest. Paul says he tried to grab the gun and it went off -- piercing the wrist of his right arm. Paul says he hobbled away, blood spurting from his arm. A friend drove him to a hospital. Roman was dead.

This was a Mafia hit, says Paul -- only the bullets were meant for him.

His old friends suspected that he was a rat. Paul says it isn't true. But suspicion is all it takes to get yourself killed in this line of work.

Ten years later, he sits at the Flat Iron and rolls up his sleeve to show the scar on his right wrist. He remembers the pain, the temptation to pass out and bleed to death on the sidewalk, then the five surgeries it took to repair the damage. What he got out of the deal was a good story.

The transcript from the murder trial, though, tells a different story: Minutes before he was shot, Roman had been honking and cursing at the four men gathered around a car, telling them to quit lingering near the bar.

According to witnesses, Sam Bulgin, a Lake County drug dealer, was in no mood to take orders. He got his .38. The next time Roman came outside, Bulgin was ready.

The transcript makes no mention of the Mafia. Police say it was nothing more than a booze-fueled clash that escalated into gunfire.

Paul's face drops when he hears this. He had wanted to observe the 10th anniversary of the hit that almost took his life. He insists that Bulgin was a hit man, that the shooting was only supposed to look spontaneous. More likely, Paul is marking the 10th anniversary of the most paranoid time in his life.

There's no doubting Paul's Mafia cred. It's all spelled out in a federal-court file. Few can speak with the same authority on the 1990s version of La Cosa Nostra's Cleveland chapter. In a group whose story has survived through oral tradition, Paul may be the guy who authors the final chapter.

Paul came to the mob by way of Milan -- as in the Milan, Michigan Federal Correctional Institution. There he reunited with two swaggering wise guys, Allie Calabrese and Joe Iacobacci, whom he knew from his Collinwood youth.

During the 1970s, a young Calabrese had run gambling and loan-sharking rackets for the Mafia. Rivals tried to take him out with a car bomb, but Calabrese's neighbor died in the explosion instead. Later, Cleveland underboss-turned-informant Angelo Lonardo testified that Calabrese was involved in the plot to bomb Irish mobster Danny Greene.

Iacobacci went by the nickname "Loose" -- as in "screw loose." He had been trafficking in large quantities of cocaine. Lonardo confirmed to the FBI that Loose was a made man. Paul says Calabrese was too.

It's easy to see what they saw in Paul. He looks like a wise guy -- thick-bodied, muscular to the point of necklessness, Mediterranean skin, and a cocky grin. "Fuck" shows up in nearly every breath. What most endeared Paul to them, however, was his expertise in an unfamiliar area of crime -- the white-collar variety. Paul was in Milan on securities fraud. In the early 1980s, he had duplicated stock certificates and taken out bank loans by offering the phony stock as collateral. He had also sold stock for a phony product: a self-chilling can. Paul and his collaborators held a press conference at the World Trade Center to announce that they had inked deals with PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch. Any sucker who bought the stock saw his investment vanish.

Paul impressed upon Loose and Calabrese that white-collar crime paid better than drugs -- and brought only a fraction of the penalties. "It's a dirty business," Paul says of drugs. "And the kind of time they give out is fucking astronomical. I can do a million dollars in fraud and get three to four years. But if you do a million dollars in coke, you're never going to see daylight." A stockbroker in New York, Paul knew how to create shell companies and move money offshore. "These guys saw my paperwork when I was at Milan," he says. "They fucking loved me!"

They plotted to make their fortune in a racket called the "California swing." Paul would open bank accounts in New Jersey, then deposit bad checks with California routing numbers. At that time, it took 10 days for an East Coast bank to learn that the check was bogus. "In the meantime," says Paul with a satisfied grin, "I'm wiring $4 to $5 million out of the country to an offshore account."

The money would move from islands like the Netherlands Antilles and CuraƧao to accounts in Geneva, then be routed through Chicago banks -- with the consent of the Chicago Mafia, which extracted its own toll.

The neatly laundered loot would be the building block for the new Cleveland Mafia, they all agreed. Loose, a favorite of former boss Jack "White" Licavoli, would be the head of the family. Calabrese would be his captain. "We had a pretty good crew set up," says Paul. "It could have been something."

Every start-up has its complications. While he was still in prison, Paul says, he ran into a man from a Newark, New Jersey crew that operated vending companies and trafficked in drugs. "He says, 'Hey, asshole, I know you,'" Paul recalls. Several years earlier, Paul had screwed the man's crew. "We sold him a vending company that didn't exist," he laughs. "Took his guys for about 150 G's."

Calabrese intervened on Paul's behalf, convincing the Jersey mobster that instead of putting Paul in the ground, he ought to put him on the payroll. As Paul's California swing turned profitable, the Jersey crew could get a fat cut.

Heading the Newark faction was Mike Taccetta, made famous as the model for fictional mobster Tony Soprano. Taccetta signed off on the deal. Paul had extra mouths to feed, but at least he was alive.

He left prison in 1991. From the smile on his face as he reminisces, it's apparent that these were his glory days. Besides the California swing, he was fleecing airlines with a luggage scam. At that time, you didn't need to show an ID to fly. So Paul could book himself on four flights, using a different name for each. He'd check carry-on bags. Upon arriving, he'd pick up the bag and rip off the tags, then report lost luggage containing about $2,000 in valuables. After a month of fruitless searching, the airline would send him a check for $1,250, the maximum rate.

It was so easy, everyone in Paul's crew did it. "We had guys sitting around, filling out forms all day," he laughs. Paul claims they made thousands a week, multiplying their profit every time they added a soldier. Once, he took a pack of 50 friends on a Florida golfing trip. All claimed to lose their luggage, thus vacationing at a profit.

Meanwhile, the California swing was bringing in so much money, Paul had to go to the Caribbean to cash the checks -- he was worried about alerting suspicion in the States. "I was basically a money machine for the fucking mob," he says. He wore $2,500 suits and $800 shoes, and drove a BMW convertible.

As head of the family, Loose was entitled to a cut of everything. He was supposed to send a portion to New Jersey to pay off Paul's debt. But Calabrese told Paul that Loose was keeping the money for himself and telling the New Jersey crew that Paul wasn't earning. Paul was furious, but he could do nothing. Loose called the shots.

The FBI was watching with keen interest. Agents decided Paul was ripe for the picking. In July 1992, he was arrested for a parole violation -- consorting with known felons. The feds knew about the California swing. If he wanted to be saved from prison, he'd have to wear a wire. As an extra inducement, Paul says, agents played a tape of Loose musing over the best method to kill Paul. This, says Paul, combined with the FBI investigation, was enough to make him bolt for Miami.

When the California-swing arrests came down, Paul was listed only as an unindicted co-conspirator. "They didn't have anything on me," he says. Court files say otherwise. The indictment notes that Paul agreed to wear a wire and that he hung around Cleveland long enough to tape roughly 200 meetings with his partners between the time of his arrest and the spring of 1993. [Paul says that he gave agents permission to bug his car, but never wore a wire.]

Paul was also a groomsman at Calabrese's wedding. He admired the older man's toughness, his style. This was "a gangster's gangster," Paul still says today. But his fawning respect also made Paul perfect for his role; Calabrese would never suspect him.

"Mr. Calabrese was clearly commanding a position of authority over him," FBI Agent David Drab testified at the trial. "He realized, in my opinion, that this cooperating witness [Paul] deified him in a sense, that he looked up to him and wanted to be part of the organization."

Paul taped Calabrese boasting about being "the only guy left" who was capable of forming a new Mafia. He recorded Calabrese's resentment of Iacobacci, who liked the money and prestige that came with mob work, but not the physical danger. "I'm the real, original tough motherfucker around here," Calabrese declared on one tape.

Once, at the Feast of the Assumption, Calabrese wanted to eat dinner at Nido Italia in Little Italy. He sat down at a table reserved by a man who had come with his family. When the man objected, Calabrese dragged him outside. He told Paul he "beat the fucker's head in." When the man's daughter kicked Calabrese in the groin, he slugged her too. Stories like these didn't help his case. Calabrese was sentenced to three and a half years. Iacobacci got two and a half. Meanwhile, Paul was in Miami, going to bed at night with a pistol strapped to his ankle.

The subsequent decade has only added more mystery -- and more death. In 1998, a jury convicted Sam Bulgin of killing Roman. Bulgin claims that he wasn't the shooter, that he was set up by a friend who ratted him out in exchange for a reduced sentence on his own drug-trafficking charges.

A year earlier, Bulgin's brother, Peter, was found shot to death in his East Cleveland home. Police never knew whether it was self-inflicted, but Paul believes it was payback for Roman's slaying. "He got whacked," Paul shrugs. He says he knows who did it, but he isn't telling. He only insists he wasn't the one.

In 1999, while doing time at a federal prison in Georgia, Calabrese was clubbed with a metal pipe. He slipped into a coma and died. The attacker was caught, but no one seems to know his identity -- only that he happened to be from Cleveland. Paul thinks Loose arranged the hit.

Loose himself has kept a low profile. There are rumors that he became an informant. Some say he's gone straight. But nobody seems to peddle the theory that he'll make another run at establishing La Cosa Nostra in Cleveland.

Paul claims to be enjoying straight living. He left Cleveland, though he won't say where his permanent address is. He regrets getting into the fast life. Friends from college stayed on Wall Street, earning Fifth Avenue condos.

He has no regrets about cooperating with the feds in taking down the Cleveland Mafia. "There's a difference between being a rat and self-preservation," says Paul. "My ass was against the wall. What was I going to do? Get clipped?"

Thanks to Thomas Francis.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Kill the Irishman" Hits Theatres on St. Patrick's Day Weekend

Cleveland is in for a special celebration this St. Patrick's Day weekend with the Anchor Bay Films re-release of the action-packed story, Kill the Irishman, about the rise and fall of real-life Irish-American mobster, Danny Greene. The film stars Ray Stevenson (g.i. joe:Retaliation)(g.i. joe:Thor)(g.i. joe:"Rome"), Val Kilmer (Heat) and Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can). Written by Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) and Jeremy Walters, directed by Hensleigh, and inspired by Rick Porello's true crime account "To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia," Kill The Irishman also stars Vincent D'Onofrio ("law & order:Criminal Intent"), Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain) and Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas).

Kill The Irishman is "an effortless crowd-pleaser... one of the year's best films!" wrote Omar Moore of Examiner.com. People magazine's Alynda Wheat added Kill The Irishman is "a gripping criminal enterprise," while the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick La Salle said "Ray Stevenson has enough testosterone to power a city block."

Over the summer of 1976, thirty-six bombs detonate in the heart of Cleveland while a turf war raged between Irish mobster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) and the Italian mafia. Based on a true story, Kill the Irishman chronicles Greene's heroic rise from a tough Cleveland neighborhood to become an enforcer in the local mob. Turning the tables on loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and allying himself with gangster John Nardi (Vincent D'Onofrio), Greene stops taking orders from the mafia and pursues his own power. Surviving countless assassination attempts from the mob and killing off anyone who went after him in retaliation, Danny Greene's infamous invincibility and notorious fearlessness eventually led to the collapse of mafia syndicates across the U.S. and also earned him the status of the man the mob couldn't kill.

WHEN: Thursday, March 15th to Sunday, March 18th Check theatre for showtimes

WHERE: Cinemark at Valley View and XD 6001 Canal Road Cleveland, OH 44125

Monday, October 11, 2010

"To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia" Motivation for 2 Movies on Irish Gangster Danny Greene

Embezzlement, racketeering, mob enforcer, suspected killer … it’s no wonder Irish-American mobster Danny Greene was blown to bits by a car bomb on Oct. 6, 1977. But with gangsters from Chicago to New York making headlines for decades, the vast criminal enterprises in Ohio, in which Greene was instrumental until his death, have garnered few national headlines over the years.

As a student at Ohio State University, Manhattan Beach resident Tommy Reid, who grew up in north New Jersey, had heard stories about the nearly mythic figure of Greene from his friend who grew up in Cleveland. Back in 1995, when the Internet wasn’t a dominant source for research, Reid found little information about Greene. After he graduated and moved to L.A., he heard Greene was going to be a subject of a book. He hunted down its author, Rick Porrello, and eventually optioned the book, “To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia,” in 1997.

After a long and winding road, two films that Reid produced about Greene will be released early next year. One is a documentary, “Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman,” and the other a feature film, “Kill the Irishman,” starring Ray Stevenson (HBO’s “Rome”), Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Paul Sorvino and Linda Cardellini. Anchor Bay, a division of Starz Media, is planning to release the film in North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand in early 2011.

While struggling to come up with funds for the feature film for 10 years, Reid said he became so specialized in his life history during his research that he tackled the documentary. He already had a screenplay that he had hired a writer (Jeremy Walters) to adapt the book into a feature, but the documentary seemed the best option in the hopes of bringing to light his aspirations in making a feature film.

“I had over 18 hours of interviews from all of these prominent figures that have had relationships with Danny Greene, his wife, a cop who went against him, the attorney who represented the mafia, a hitman who went after him, I had access to all of these guys and they were aging. Even since I made the documentary, a couple of the people have already passed away from natural causes. So Danny Greene was becoming an urban legend will in Cleveland.”

But the script began circulating and “got to the top shelf of Hollywood.” A “bankable” director, lead and supporting cast were attracted and Reid partnered with Code Entertainment. “Kill the Irishman” was filmed last year in Detroit, doubling for Cleveland, in an effort to get 40 percent in tax incentives.

Reid was still shooting his documentary when “Kill the Irishman” started filming in Detroit last year. The main challenge was raising money for post-production in order to get the highest quality facility to reach his vision. By putting production costs on a credit card and with the help of family money and a couple of private investors, one being Hermosa Beach resident William Fletcher, that project was finished. He said there are three different perspectives in the documentary - the Irish, Italian and the government side of the story. The other challenge was creating a compelling narrative so audiences would sit through an hour documentary on the life of a little-known figure. But Reid feels that Greene’s life story is compelling enough for two films.

According to Reid, “Kill the Irishman” chronicles the rise and fall of Greene, who muscled in on the Italian mob in 1970s Cleveland and set off a turf war that ravaged the streets of Cleveland and led to the collapse of the Mafia in a number of U.S. cities, including Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Greene, a former Marine, rose to prominence in the early 1960s in the International Longshoreman’s Association. Kicked out for embezzling union funds, he soon became a henchman for mobsters like Alex “Shondor” Birns, who had his own rap sheet of extortion, murder and more. After a money dispute, Birns reportedly put a hit on Greene and had a bomb planted in his car, but he discovered it before it took his life. Soon after, Greene, who survived numerous assassination attempts, was suspected of planting a bomb in Birns’ car, killing him. A few years later, Teamster official John Nardi, an associate of Greene’s, was blown up, followed a few months later by Greene, after a dentist appointment in Lyndhurst, Ohio. The Cleveland Mafia, who had conflicts for many years with Greene, was reportedly responsible for the deaths.

“When you hear something about Ohio and Cleveland … why would they have the mafia there?” Reid said. “You find out that Cleveland is such a big hub for the boats coming out of the Great Lakes, down through the distribution centers of the Mississippi and all the way through all the other distribution and out to the west from Ohio … there’s lot of cargo coming off these big ships.”

Reid added, “It’s not just Cleveland. It’s Youngstown, Toledo, which leads you into Detroit. Those four cities, that’s a wide area of mafia. That’s equivalent of what you would think of the New York crime families, all the families that had their hands into organized crime. Cleveland was an area that never really got as much exposure as the eastern cities did, Boston and New York.”

With his vast criminal past, Reid said one thing he was surprised about when it came to the contradictory life of Greene was this almost Robin Hood-type figure and how much he “would extract just to give back.”

“He would take the money he would make ... and he would give it out to his neighborhood,” Reid said. “He would pay for kid’s braces that needed dental work. He would buy groceries for struggling families that couldn’t put food on the table.”

Thanks to Michael Hixon

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer Join Cast of Big Screen Adaption of "To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia"

Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer will play the leads in "The Irishman," a crime story that Jonathan Hensleigh will direct.

Code Entertainment is producing the action movie, which is based on the real story of mobster Danny Greene (Stevenson). Hensleigh and Jeremy Walters ("Dali") wrote the script, inspired by the book "To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia" by Rick Porrello.

Greene was a violent Irish-American gangster who competed with the Italian mob in 1970s Cleveland and ended up provoking a countrywide turf war that crippled the mafia. Walken will play the loan shark and nightclub owner Shondor Birns, and Kilmer is a Cleveland police detective who befriends Greene.

Code's Al Corley, Bart Rosenblatt and Eugene Musso are producing, along with Dundee Entertainment's Tommy Reid and Tara Reid, who brought the property to Code. Jonathan Dana, Peter Miller and Porrello are exec producers, with George Perez serving as co-producer.

The production has also hired cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub, production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein and editor Douglas Crise. Principal photography begins May 19 in Detroit.

Lightning Entertainment will shop the project to international buyers at Cannes, while ICM and Dana handle domestic sales.

The ICM-repped Hensleigh co-wrote and directed "The Punisher." The writer or co-writer of "Die Hard With a Vengeance" and "Jumanji" has the crime story "Nine Lives" in development with Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

Walken and Kilmer are repped by ICM and Affirmative Entertainment. Stevenson is repped by Endeavor.

Code last produced "You Kill Me" and "Spring Breakdown.

thanks to Jay A. Fernandez

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