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Profile: Rockford crime family mobster Salvatore Galluzzo

By Gangsters Inc. Editors

With his death on May 4, 2016, at the age of 82, mobster Salvatore “Sam” Galluzzo closed the extensive file the FBI had on him relating to his involvement in the Rockford La Cosa Nostra family and possibly the Sicilian Mafia. Many in local law enforcement and at least one newspaper reporter felt that Galluzzo was the undisputed head of what remained of the Rockford crime family.

Galluzzo was born March 6, 1934, in Aragona, Sicily. Although nothing is known about his life in Sicily other than he worked on the family farm, he had moved to Rockford, Illinois, shortly after marrying Giuseppa Piranio in Aragona. Galluzzo’s time in Rockford in the 1960s consisted of raising a family and working at the various Rockford mob-fronted businesses. In February 1968 he attempted to get the city to pay for damages on his car relating to an accident with a loose manhole cover. In 1970 Galluzzo was listed as the owner of the Sta-Von Tap at 1051 W. State Street- this business had been secretly controlled by the Rockford LCN for many years and he was no doubt a “front man” for the business. Before Galluzzo “owned” it, Rockford LCN capo Charles Vince secretly held the liquor license in his wife’s name and transferred it to Galluzzo.

Around this time Rockford underboss Frank Buscemi was bringing many Sicilians into the Rockford area to help strengthen the “family” according to Rockford Police detectives. A later FBI file on Buscemi stated, “BUSCEMI is a long-time ranking LCN figure in the Rockford, Illinois, LCN group. BUSCEMI has personally stated that he has “sponsored” in excess of 20 Sicilian immigrants into the United States and has obvious close involvement with numerous pizza restaurants “owned” and/or operated by recent Sicilian immigrants.” Two of Galluzzo’s brothers, Natale and Michele immigrated to Rockford around 1970 as well as a brother-in-law, Salvatore DiGiacomo. Undoubtedly these men were some of those Sicilian immigrants “sponsored” by Buscemi.

In early 1971 Galluzzo was mentioned briefly in Rockford mob member Sebastian Gulotta’s FBI files. The bureau reported that Galluzzo had bought Gulotta’s house at 403-405 S. 3rd Street in the area near downtown Rockford but that was a rental property for him as he had been noted as living on the east side of Rockford not far from Rockford mob underboss Frank Buscemi later that year.

On December 19, 1971 Galluzzo was arrested for the first time in Rockford on an aggravated assault charge when he threatened Wayne R. Fisher, 23, of 517 West State Street with a gun over back rent. Galluzzo was released on $3,500 bond and was only given a fine in this case.

Galluzzo was arrested once again on August 25, 1972 when he was charged with aggravated battery in the stabbing of Filippo Mendez, 38, of 405 South 3rd Street. While at the Sta-Von Tap, Galluzzo demanded the $15 Mendez owed him. Mendez said he didn’t have it, Galluzzo slapped him and when they went outside, Galluzzo stabbed Mendez with a hook knife, leaving an 8 inch stab wound in his left chest. Galluzzo was held on $3,500 bond and again was only fined in this case.

By December 1976 Galluzzo had changed the name of the Sta-Von Tap to Night & Day Disco in response to the new music/dance craze that was becoming popular but that month the tavern allegedly had a break in. According to Galluzzo $3,708 worth of liquor, electronic equipment and money was stolen when someone took the hinges off a back storage room door.

On February 5, 1979 an arson attempt at the Night & Day Disco was quickly put out by Rockford firefighters; however, another attempt on February 12th destroyed the tavern. Investigators said several plastic containers containing a flammable liquid were found inside the vacant apartments above the tavern but no one was arrested for this. Galluzzo sued the insurance company for $201,778.21 in damages which included a $50,000 policy that he signed on March 30, 1978. It is unclear if the money was paid to Galluzzo but by later 1979 the liquor license was transferred to Frank A. Buscemi, the son of underboss Frank Buscemi. The younger Buscemi then opened up a popular nightspot called Plaza Suite at 640 Hollister Avenue. According to a former employee of the lounge, the elder Buscemi was really the owner and would make regular visits to check on his investment and it was also said that cocaine was being run in and out of the business regularly.

According to FBI files, in February 1980 Rockford mob boss Joe Zammuto had held a series of meetings with the Rockford LCN members at his winter home in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It was at one of these meetings he informed the members that the Rockford family would start trafficking in narcotics. One Rockford member, Joe Maggio, voiced his displeasure at this decision and it was duly noted. According to FBI files, within two days of returning to Rockford, Maggio’s daughter was severely beaten by a Rockford narcotics dealer related to Zammuto. The files noted that Maggio was furious over the beating and openly exchanged threats with the dealer for almost two months. Sensing that Maggio could become a problem, Zammuto dealt with this swiftly. On April 9, 1980 Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies found Maggio’s car on the side of Safford Road near Meridian Road on the western edge of Rockford. Slumped in the backseat was the body of Maggio, who had been shot once in the side of the head with a .25 caliber pistol at close range. FBI files from February 17, 1981 showed that the bureau had a prime suspect in Maggio’s murder but the killer was never brought to justice. Later rumors swirled that perhaps Maggio’s longtime friend and Rockford LCN member Sebastian Gulotta was involved as well as Salvatore Galluzzo in order to cement his initiation in the Rockford mob.

In January 1983 Galluzzo was the owner of record for the lounge Play It Again Sam’s at 1600 S. Bell School Road in Cherry Valley, Illinois and although the name of the business would change over the years, it would be under heavy surveillance by the FBI in regards to Rockford LCN meetings and narcotics distribution.

On March 4, 1984 the Rockford Register Star newspaper landed on people’s front doorsteps with an explosive and lengthy article on the history of the Rockford mob. Murders, extortion, shady business deals and other crimes were played out in the newspaper that caused both intrigue and embarrassment for the Rockford Italian community.

The reporters for the article used FBI files, interviews and detailed Rockford Police reports on the various Rockford mob members to write the story. It was in this article that it was stated according to the police reports Galluzzo was identified as a Rockford “mob soldier.” The article also stated that that underboss Frank Buscemi was involved in the pizza business with Galluzzo and the DiGiacomos- ther family that had come to Rockford from Aragona, Sicily around 1970. Interestingly, soon after the article came out, the Rockford Police reports on the Rockford LCN were destroyed. Even later still in a 2005 interview as to why this was done, Rockford Police Chief Detective Dominic Iasparro admitted he was involved in the destruction of the files but stated it was “part of a national effort to purge documents that were not related to specific people and specific crimes.” The mob file purging, however, was done without the knowledge of then-Rockford Police Chief William Fitzpatrick, who said he would have objected to destroying the files.

As far back as 1983 Rockford underboss Frank Buscemi was being investigated by the FBI for his involvement in a narcotics ring that tied into another investigation in Boston, Massachusetts. As the bureau delved deeper into Buscemi’s involvement in this, it was discovered just how far-reaching this ring was and that it included the Rockford mob’s relatively recent Sicilian immigrants. Numerous calls from Buscemi to Buffalo, Boston, Springfield, Illinois, Sicily, AustraliaMilwaukee and Chicago were all noted by the bureau. Salvatore Galluzzo was mentioned in Buscemi’s April 15, 1986 FBI file as an individual who is “involved in a large-scale heroin trafficking organization, one portion of which is based in Rockford, Illinois, United States of America.”

These Sicilians were importing and distributing heroin and cocaine through various mob-fronted businesses in and around the Rockford area. Others mentioned in this file as being involved besides Buscemi and Galluzzo were Salvatore DiGiacomo, Libertino “Bino” Seminerio and Ray Zammuto. This narcotics ring was ultimately tied into the Iron Tower II case in 1988 which saw more than 200 people arrested in Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, Newark, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Palermo, Bologna and Florence. The lone Rockford arrest was Joe Ocello, a Sicilian who had come to Rockford in 1972 and was the owner of record for the Sicilian Restaurant in Roscoe, Illinois which was also under heavy FBI surveillance. The FBI stated that this case grew out of the previous “Pizza Connection” case.

Additionally, Galluzzo had two brothers-in-law that were living in Belgium and Germany at the time- Alfonso DiGiacomo and Pietro DiGiacomo, whom Galluzzo kept in contact with, as well as his brother Vincenzo Galluzzo who lived in Germany. With Frank Buscemi’s 1980s FBI files, the bureau noted with interest an entry made by the OCIS/Boston Division regarding Antonino DiGiacomo who was murdered in approximately 1977. It stated that prior to his murder, DiGiacomo resided in Aragona, Sicily. The bureau then noted that Frank Buscemi as well as Salvatore DiGiacomo, Salvatore Galluzzo and two other redacted individuals were born in and immigrated from Aragona. Again, it is noteworthy that at the time in Boston there was a capo named Biagio DiGiacomo who had immigrated from Aragona.

Almost two dozen businesses were under heavy FBI surveillance during this time and in addition to Rockford area vending businesses the bureau also wanted to determine ownership and corporate officers for the following Rockford restaurants; Cimino Pizza & Restaurant at 5435 N. 2nd Street, Sam’s Pizza at 2134 Charles Street, Sam’s Pizza at 1031 Harlem Road and Little Italy at 501 E. State Street. Regarding the Sam’s Pizza at 1031 Harlem Road, the Rockford mob openly bared its teeth on December 18, 1983. Just a couple days before, a Little Caesar’s Pizza store had opened up about a half mile from Sam’s Pizza. In the early morning hours of the 18th two bombs which were thrown through the front window exploded and did extensive damage. An April 23, 1991 FBI file on Rockford LCN member Sebastian Gulotta stated a “source advised it was rumored that GULOTTA and/or his associates…. used the same type of bomb that GULOTTA had used to bomb the Little Caesar’s (Pizza) Restaurant in Loves Park, Illinois in the mid-to-early 1980’s to eliminate them as competition from Sam’s Pizza.” The March 1984 Rockford Register Star article had Gulotta pegged as the Rockford LCN’s lieutenant at the time. The owners of Sam’s Pizza on Harlem Road at the time were listed as brothers Alfonso and Salvatore DiGiacomo and Michele Galluzzo, Salvatore Galluzzo’s brother.

On December 7, 1987 Rockford underboss Frank Buscemi died at the age of 75. Before Buscemi passed away, 1980s FBI files still noted that Joe Zammuto was the absolute boss of the Rockford LCN and that Buscemi held the number two spot. However when Buscemi died, Zammuto was already 91 years old. It seemed a turnover in the Rockford mob leadership was happening.

FBI files made note that “GALLUZZO is a close associate of BUSCEMI, as well as other Sicilian immigrants involved in suspected illegal activities. GALLUZZO has extensive real estate holdings, primarily pizza restaurants, throughout northern Illinois.” While earlier FBI files noted the possibility that younger mob members were “hungry” and preparing to take over, this may not have been the case as a January 14, 1994 FBI file entry on Gulotta points out. Entries in Gulotta’s files made a statement which read in part: “For the information of Legats (Legal attaches/FBI offices), Bonn, Brussels, Ottawa and Rome, captioned subject (Gulotta) is a suspected member/enforcer of the Sicilian mafia faction in Rockford. Recent investigation centers around the discovery of a newly established meeting site, a location frequented by most of the individuals suspected of being Sicilian mafia members in the Rockford area. Activities consistent with gambling/bookmaking, but additional details recently obtained point to these individuals’ involvement in narcotics activity.” Further, a March 1987 FBI file regarding Galluzzo stated, “Title III coverage to date has confirmed that Salvatore Galluzzo is a Sicilian mafia member.” The bureau never made clear if Rockford was under the umbrella of the Chicago Outfit or was part of a Sicilian mafia cell at this time.

Regarding this “Sicilian connection” that Galluzzo and others seemed to be a part of, the FBI stated in one of their February 1986 files, “For the information of Legat Canberra (Australia), this investigation was predicated on reliable informant information which indicates that numerous Sicilian immigrants residing in northern Illinois with ties to established Sicilian Mafia families in Sicily are involved in the importation and distribution of white heroin into the United States. The majority of these individuals are recent immigrants from Aragona, Agrigento Province, Sicily, and have been naturalized as United States citizens or are currently in the United States in a permanent registered alien status. During the course of this investigation, numerous toll records have been pulled for residential and business telephones subscribed to by suspected members of this Sicilian Mafia organization operating from Rockford.”

Sebastian “Knobby” Gulotta, who was identified as a lieutenant in the Rockford Register Star’s March 1984 article, also had the responsibility of collecting gambling proceeds and street tax money on behalf of the Rockford mob. He was also listed as a close associate of Salvatore Galluzzo and was the prime suspect in the bombing of David Hall’s house on April 11, 1991. Hall had been hosting high stakes cards games and Gulotta had told Hall, “the boys want a piece of the action,” to which Hall refused. The night of the bombing, Hall was hosting another card party when a bomb blew up the front porch and seriously injured gambler Stefanos “Steve” Christidis.

As agents were digging deeper into Gulotta’s activities, a November 17, 1992 entry stated, “Source advised [REDACTED] Gulotta had informed [REDACTED] that he “represented a strong organization” that he (Gulotta) was “now a partner” (in the illicit gambling business) and that he wanted “30% of the proceeds” from the gambling business. Source advised he suspected Gulotta was a member of the mafia. Gulotta is a long-established and currently active member in the Rockford LCN and has historically been socially and professionally linked to Rockford LCN figures in relation to his extensive gambling activities and as a “collector” of monies for the Rockford LCN. Since the inception of this investigation, two additional individuals and an attorney representing a third individual have identified Gulotta, and/or close associates of Gulotta, as extorting money from hosts of numerous local “high stakes” poker games. One of those individuals has characterized the bombing of [DAVID HALL’S] residence as a message to individuals who are hosting and/or participating in gambling games that were not “approved”, i.e. money having not been paid (to individuals) who were in control of the gambling in the Rockford, Illinois area. The third individual was approached by three close associates of Gulotta about receiving a “cut” from a poker game that he hosted.

Around this time it seemed that Galluzzo and others were also running organized gambling in Rockford. Many of these high stakes games took place in pizzerias, hotel rooms and businesses such as a tax service place and a soccer sports store that Galluzzo owned.

Around this time as well and coincident with a joint investigation with the Illinois State Police, Division of Criminal Investigation (ISP-DCI) of Rockford LCN figures, the following sub-files were created:

  • Sam’s Pizza, 2134 Charles St., Rockford, Illinois (owned by brothers Salvatore and Alfonso DiGiacomo)
  • Sam’s Pizza 130 N. Blackhawk Rd., Rockton, Illinois (owned by Alfonso DiGiacomo)
  • Sam’s Pizza 1031 Harlem Rd., Machesney Park, Illinois (owned by the DiGiacomo brothers and Mike Galluzzo.)
  • Sam’s Pizza 138 N. State St., Belvidere, Illinois (owned by the Alfano family)
  • Pino’s Pizza 2216 N. Main St., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Antonino Pipitone)
  • Perrecone’s Pino’s Pizza 5851 Forest Hills Rd., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Paul and Marie Perrecone)
  • Villa Di Roma 1620 Harrison Ave., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Antonio Buscemi)
  • Villa Di Roma 3457 Merchandise Dr., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Antonio Buscemi)
  • John’s Pizza 2914 11th St., Rockford, Illinois, (owned by Giovanni F. Frisella)
  • Vince’s Pizza 1112 Madison Rd., Beloit, Wisconsin (owned by the Gabriele family)
  • Domenico Pizza 534 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, Wisconsin (owned by the Gabriele family)
  • Sam’s Pizza 1313 Milton Ave., Janesville, Wisconsin (unknown owner)
  • De Ja Oo Club 1600 S. Bell School Rd., Cherry Valley, Illinois (owned by Salvatore “Sam” Galluzzo)
  • Bino’s Restaurant 6935 11th St., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Libertino “Bino” Seminerio)
  • Ross’ Restaurant 807-809 E. State St., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Phil DiGiovanni)
  • The Pizza Joint Restaurant 2815 11th St., Rockford, Illinois (owned by Bill Spears)

Another person that Galluzzo was also closely associated with at this time was Frank “Gumba” Saladino. Saladino was a Rockford native who worked on the fringes of the Rockford mob but had moonlighted for the Chicago Outfit starting in 1976 as an enforcer and hit man. Saladino was hooked up with the 26th Street/Chinatown Crew of the Outfit but still kept his ties to Rockford. Though Saladino was known as “Gumba” to his Chicago associates, in Rockford he was simply known as “Fat Frank” due to his 300-plus pound frame, though no one called him that to his face. Saladino was also involved in various land deals with Galluzzo and others and apparently was part owner in Worldwide General Contracting along with Galluzzo, Aldino DiGiuseppi, Frank P. Vella, Jr. and Jay S. Trost.

One place that was under FBI surveillance around 1992 was The Cherry Lounge; formerly Play It Again Sam’s which was owned by Galluzzo. The FBI noted that the lounge was being used as a monthly meeting site for the Rockford mob.

In April 2005 when the federal government unleashed their indictments in the Chicago Family Secrets case, one of those included was Frank Saladino. When FBI agents came calling for Saladino at the hotel he was staying at in Hampshire, Illinois they were surprised to find that he had passed away a few hours before of natural causes. Saladino had been collecting gambling debts and working as an enforcer alternately for the Rockford mob and the Outfit when he was found dead. During the Family Secrets trial Winnebago County Chief of Detectives Dominic Iasparro was called in to identify a series of photographs relating to Rockford’s involvement with the Outfit in a gambling operation. In addition to identifying photos of Rockford natives Joseph W. Saladino and Frank Geraci, Iasparro identified three surveillance photos of Frank Saladino with Salvatore Galluzzo. The photos were taken outside a restaurant on April 20, 1989 and shows Saladino walking a few steps behind Galluzzo seemingly in deference to him. Even though Salvatore Galluzzo, Joe Saladino and Frank Geraci were mentioned at the Family Secrets trial, they were not charged in the case. When the Rock River Times asked about his possible role in the Family Secrets investigation, Iasparro refused to provide any details.

Hoping that his name would stay out of the newspapers, Galluzzo was probably more than a little dismayed when Rockford police officers responded to an armed robbery in progress at a business at 3307 Kishwaukee Street on the night of October 16, 2007. When the officers arrived they witnessed two gunmen attempting to flee the scene. While one gunman got away, the other, Byron Starks, was ordered to the ground by police. As Starks was about to comply, 80 year old Vaughn “Curly” Fitzgerald appeared from a doorway and fired two shots at Starks, striking him once. Officers ordered Fitzgerald, who was hard of hearing, to drop his weapon several times before the officers shot and killed him as Fitzgerald raised his weapon on them.

As more officers and detectives arrived on the scene, it became apparent that the gunmen had robbed a “high stakes executive card game” being hosted by Fitzgerald. After a short time, Rockford regional FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent G.B. Jones was summoned to the scene but would say nothing about any possible federal involvement. When asked why the FBI had been called in, Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson responded, “Well, the gambling did take place, and some of the names of the individuals who were there rose some attention. There has been some investigations in the past.”

Fitzgerald, who had a long history of gambling going back to the 1960s, was known to rig his properties with security cameras and have gamblers be buzzed in through a door before they could participate in the card games. The other gunman, Dustin Frint, was later captured and both he and Byron Starks were sentenced to lengthy prison terms while no gamblers were prosecuted. Although not made public, rumors on the “take” from the attempted robbery were $14,000-$20,000. Fitzgerald had been mentioned in Gulotta’s 1980s and 1990s FBI files as someone who was paying the “street tax” to Gulotta in order to host his card games.

During a 2004 gambling case against Fitzgerald, court records showed that Rockford Police Detective Jeffrey Stovall indicated the illegal card games were part of a gambling operation known as “The Soccer Club.” Stovall’s affidavit also reported a confidential source identified brothers Salvatore and Natale Galluzzo to be running the Soccer Club. The October 2007 gambling party was also said to be part of the Soccer Club as well. The Soccer Club gambling operation took its name from the Soccer Club store where gambling was said to occur as far back as 1994 according to the FBI and was also owned by the Galluzzo brothers. According to FBI files, just one of many floating card games would occur here and was described as such, “The source stated that [REDACTED] run a $40.00 limit poker game out of the SOCCER CLUB, and host games several days a week. The source believes that most of the major gamblers in Rockford attend games at the SOCCER CLUB. The source stated that the soccer club is located on East State Street, behind a 7-11 or a STOP-N-GO next to LUIGI’S RESTAURANT.” And to tie this all in even further, Luigi’s Restaurant was owned by the Angelo DiSciacca family. Angelo’s wife was a Morreale and her sister had married Michele “Mike” Galluzzo, a brother to Salvatore and Natale. Describing the “20-40” game that occurred at the Soccer Club, the source stated “that some of the players at this game dropped $5,000 to $6,000 per session.” Additionally, the source stated that bookmaking occurred at these locations and described that business as such- “The source stated that some bookies in Rockford, Illinois, handle as little as a few thousand dollars a week, while others handle as much as $70,000 to $80,000 a week.”

Natale Galluzzo had come to Rockford around 1970 and has operated Gerry’s Pizza since 1978. Natale had his own run-ins with the law as well- a July 1975 arrest for firing a .38 caliber pistol during a disturbance at the Inn Crowd Tavern he owned brought only a modest fine. An August 1982 charge on torching a house he owned was dropped the following year. Natale was also observed often during FBI surveillance being in the company of his brother Salvatore as well as Frank Saladino. In fact during one particular surveillance, the FBI referred to Salvatore in the files as “one of the two Italian brothers that look and dress alike.”

While it is unknown if Galluzzo took the reins on what remained of the Rockford LCN, what is clear is his leadership role in illegal organized gambling in the Rockford area, his involvement in heroin and cocaine distribution in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin and his extensive business and land holdings - All of which made him a very wealthy man, yet he continued to live in the same modest brick ranch house for over 40 years.

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Comment by james hicks on May 24, 2016 at 8:40pm

great article

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