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Cleveland Mafia boss Angelo Lonardo swore an oath of loyalty to La Cosa Nostra, ultimately broke it

By Gary Jenkins for Gangsters Inc. via Gangland Wire

Cleveland Mafia boss Angelo Lonardo (photo above) was the highest-ranking mob member to ever break the code of Omerta. Lonardo was born in 1911 in Cleveland to Joseph and Concetta Lonardo. His father, Joseph Lonardo was the first mob boss of the Cleveland family. Joseph Lonardo was murdered in 1929.

At the time the 18-year-old Angelo Lonardo swore revenge and murdered the suspected killer, Salvatore Todaro. The young Lonardo was tried and sentenced to life in prison. Within a few years, his lawyer was able to get a second trial and he was released.

Angelo or “Big Ange” Lonardo worked his way up to underboss in 1976. He was promoted to boss after the 1980s mob war between Danny Greene and the Cleveland La Cosa Nostra family. Shortly after, Lonardo was convicted in a drug conspiracy and he had enough. He became a government informant and testified against his former colleagues and several mob figures throughout the US.

He eventually went into the federal witness protection program, but left it to return to Cleveland. Lonardo died in his sleep on April 1, 2006, aged 95. He was buried in Calvary cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Lonardo’s induction into La Cosa Nostra

Below I have copied his depiction of the scene he remembered when he was inducted into the Cleveland family.

“I was invited into a room at the Statler Hotel in Cleveland and asked if I knew what I was doing there. You naturally say, “No.” Present were John Scalish, the acting boss; Tony Milano, the underboss; John Demarco, a capo; and Frank Brancato. They explained to me that I had been proposed to be made a member of La Cosa Nostra and defined the rules and regulations of the organization. They told me that you cannot fool around with narcotics; you cannot own a house of prostitution or have prostitutes working for you; you cannot fool around with a woman that’s married to a member of La Cosa Nostra; and that whatever illegal activity you engage in, you have to report to the boss and receive permission to engage in that activity: After I was told the rules, I was asked if I still wanted to join the organization.

“One can still leave at that time, but the person usually accepts. In my case, I joined and became a member of La Cosa Nostra.

“Once you accept the rules of membership, they lift a cloth off a table; underneath is a gun and a dagger. You are told that you now live and die with the dagger and the gun. You die that way, and you live that way. You are then given a card with a picture of a saint on it. This card is placed in the palms of your hands and lit. You shake the burning card back and forth until it is burned down to ashes. They then pinch your finger to draw blood, and then everyone gives you a kiss on the cheek and says, “You are now a member.” I later learned that to be invited to be a member you must have killed somebody and stood up to police pressure.”

About the author:

Gary Jenkins retired from the Kansas City Police Department in 1996 after a 25-year career. Gary attended the UMKC School of Law and graduated in 2000. He was admitted to the Missouri Bar, and he continues to practice law today. He is a Board member of the Kansas City Police Pension System and The Jackson County Historical Society. During the past ten years, Gary produced three documentary films. The first two were Negroes To Hire: Slave Life in Antebellum Missouri and Freedom Seekers: Stories From the Western Underground Railroad.

Gangland Wire is Gary's third documentary film. During Gary's KCPD career, he was assigned to the KCPD Intelligence Unit, investigating organized crime. In the 1970s, a grassroots development in the City Market area became known as the River Quay.  A Mafia dispute over parking rights and strip clubs would destroy the area. The resulting investigation will allow F.B.I. Agents to convict La Cosa Nostra leaders in Kansas City, Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee. Filmmaker Gary Jenkins takes the viewer on an insider’s journey into the heart of the Kansas City crime family, using excerpts from wiretaps and interviews with participants. 

Additionally, Gary created a Smartphone app titled Kansas City Mob Tour. This app utilizing maps, text, photos, and video conducts the user on a tour of famous Kansas City mob sites.

Gary produces and co-hosts a podcast titled Gangland Wire Crime Stories. Using the audio podcast format, Gary tells true crime stories from his experience and obtains guests who have either committed crimes, investigated crimes or reported on criminals.  

Gary's most recent project is his book documenting the investigation into Las Vegas skimming activities. Gary uses actual wiretap transcripts to tell the story of this investigation. The book is titled Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How the F.B.I. Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos.

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