The Land Journal recently sat down with Scott M. Deitche, author of Cigar City Mafia, to talk about the history of organized crime in Tampa.
In the fourth part of our series of interviews, Deitche discussed the possible connections between the Tampa mafia and the event that has drawn the most speculation in modern history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. (See previous installments of this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three)
Since the day that Kennedy died, speculation has run rampant about who was behind the assassination. The Warren Commission officially designated by President Johnson to investigate the assassination came to the conclusion that it was undertaken by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone gunman who was later arrested. Oswald himself was murdered by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963.
One group that has often been theorized about in regards to involvement in the Kennedy assassination is the organized crime syndicates including those that operated in Tampa under the leadership of Santo Trafficante Jr. at the time.
Many believe that Kennedy owed his 1960 election victory in part to the mafia, who had organized on his behalf. Deitche explained how the Kennedy family had deep ties to the mafia going back to the days when Joseph Kennedy Sr. operated as a bootlegger. However, after winning the election, the Kennedy administration went after the mafia. This led to the mafia feeling that it had been double-crossed.
The connections between Trafficante and the assassination are complex. Trafficante had connections within the CIA, the anti-Castro movement, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby. According to Deitche, Trafficante made claims to have been behind the Kennedy assassination, and is said to have toasted the death of Kennedy on the night that Kennedy died.
While Deitche finds the speculation about Trafficante and Kennedy to be fascinating, he states that it is unlikely that we will ever know for certain what exactly happened on that fateful day in November 1963.
Perhaps Trafficante really did play a part in the assassination, or perhaps he was just being a braggart. Either way, what Deitche also finds more fascinating are the proven connections that Trafficante had during this era. It has been reliably proven that members of the CIA met up with Trafficante in order to plan to kill Fidel Castro.
"You have absolute, corroborating, definitive evidence." Deitche said about the CIA-Trafficante meeting, "not too long ago, our government was paying wiseguys to go kill foreign leaders."
Watch the full interview below: