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..
As we continued our interview with Deitche, he went on to describe the post-prohibition crime landscape of Tampa. Deitche compared the funds made by crime groups through bootlegging to "venture capital" raised by an upstart business today.
"That was the venture capital that these organizations needed to expand their operations, control larger territories, and to pay off police, judges, and politicians. That was as true in Tampa as it was in Chicago or New York during that time period."
Deitche then went on to discuss a very fascinating figure in Tampa history, the first major crime boss of the city. Deitche stated that he "wasn't an Italian mafioso. He was actually a local home-grown guy named Charlie Wall."
Deitche gave a short biographical sketch of Wall, and noted that he dominated organized crime following the end of prohibition while fighting a rising organized Sicilian crime family. During the 1930s and 1940s a sort of "war" broke out between Wall and the Sicilians that marked those decades as the "era of blood."
"There's these gangland killings in Ybor and Tampa. Some people go missing. There's a lot of attempted shootings. It's open warfare. It's nicknamed Little Chicago. Although, unlike Chicago where you have that archetypal trenchcoat-wearing tommygun-wielding twenties gangster, the weapon of choice here in Tampa was the sawed-off double barrel shotgun."
As Charlie Wall's power began to decline, a Sicilian mafioso named Santo Trafficante usurped him in his role as the leader of organized crime in Tampa.
To learn more about this era of blood, watch the interview below. For part one of this series, click here.