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. For Part One of this series, click here.
Deitche continued his interview by describing the era of the Tampa Mafia that was defined by Santo Trafficante Jr. Upon the death of his father in 1944, Santo Trafficante Jr. dominated the Tampa crime organization through the 40's and 50's. Internal factions within Tampa's criminal underworld continued to vie for power, and a number of shootings took place. Trafficante Jr. himself was wounded during a shooting in Ybor City in 1953, but survived.
Trafficante Jr. had a number of run-in's with law enforcement, including being arrested while attending a meeting in New York of all of the major heads of organized crime throughout the country. Trafficante Jr. gave a false name, and was not jailed.
Trafficante Jr. was also subpoenaed by the New York District Attorney in connection to the death of a mobster that had met with Trafficante the night before his death. However, later evidence shows that Trafficante most likely had nothing to do with the killing.
Deitche then went on to describe the connection between Fidel Castro and Santo Trafficante Jr. Trafficante Jr. was heavily invested in casinos in Cuba. so when Castro took over, many assumed that he would arrest all of the casino owners and shut down the casinos. Castro had Trafficante briefly put in prison in January of 1959, but eventually Trafficante was released. Years earlier, Castro had come to Tampa to do fundraising. Castro had been receiving supplies and funding through the Trafficantes. By giving to both Batista and Castro, the Trafficantes were hoping to have favor no matter who ended up controlling Cuba.
While Trafficante Jr. was imprisoned in Cuba he was visited by Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner that would go on to kill Lee Harvey Oswald a day after Oswald had assassinated President Kennedy. This has caused speculation among conspiracy theorists that the Kennedy and Oswald shootings were orchestrated by members of the Mafia.
For more information on the life of Trafficante Jr., check out our interview with Scott M. Dietche below.
For more articles on Florida history, click here.