Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Shondor Birns & Danny Green: Cleveland's Killer Celebrities

Mob War

Bombs were exploding across Greater Cleveland.

Most of them, it seemed, were either sent by or aimed at Danny Greene.

On May 26, 1977, two weeks after the bombing of Greene's house, John Scalish, longtime head of the Cleveland Mafia, died during an operation. His body "was followed to Calvary Cemetery by a seemingly endless procession of black Cadillacs," Ned Whelan wrote in Cleveland Magazine.

Scalish's consigliere, Milton "Maishe" Rockman — sometimes called "the Meyer Lansky of Cleveland" — said Scalish had favored James Licavoli as his successor.

James Licavoli
James Licavoli

It was a strange choice. Licavoli was 71 and had not been active in Cleveland operations for years. Rick Porrello wrote in "To Kill the Irishman": "Although he had amassed a fortune from gambling enterprises, he was little more than a stingy old man, satisfied with living as a bachelor in his tiny Little Italy house with the strings of garlic hanging outside the back door."

Licavoli had been called "Blackie" while he was growing up in Collinwood. Now he was known in the Mob as "Jack White," a more ironic reference to his swarthy complexion.

He accepted the don's role reluctantly to keep peace in the family, and named Leo "Lips" Moceri as underboss.

Leo "Lips" Moceri

Licavoli's ascendance did not sit well with John Nardi, a high-ranking Teamsters official who — like many high-ranking Teamsters — was involved with the Mob. He looked around for allies and found an obvious one:

"The Irishman" — Danny Greene.

Next: "The Animal" and "The Weasel"

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