The West Coast Families

California was not quite the immigrant bastions that states back East were. Consequently the Mafia presence in cities like Los Angeles and San Jose were comprised mainly of transplants from New York and Chicago. But while the mobsters that made up the bulk of these small-time gangs were from some of the biggest crime families in the country, their exploits out West were decidedly minor league.

Los Angeles, California

The mob in Los Angeles never got much respect, even though they oversaw gambling, loansharking, and pornography. Founded by Joseph Ardizzone, the most influential Los Angeles Mafioso was Jack Dragna. He oversaw a small family of mostly East Coast transplants, nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse Mafia” by the Los Angeles Police Department. Dragna was involved with Hollywood unions and bookmaking. Dragna died in 1956 and was replaced by Frank DiSimone, followed by Nick Licata and then Dominic Brooklier. After Brooklier died, the family fell under the control of Peter Milano. The continually down on its luck family was plagued by informers, constant law enforcement surveillance, and a complete lack of respect on the streets. Though they should have faded away long ago, Milano still leads the now long-in-the-jaw Mickey Mouse Mafia.

San Francisco, California

Concentrated in the heavily Italian North Beach neighborhood, the Bay Area crime family remained a small, local criminal organization, never achieving much power outside their territory. The first don was named Frank Lanza, and he was the boss during Prohibition. Two other dons followed before Lanza's son James took over in the 1960s. He was not a grandiose hood who loved the limelight. The family received some notoriety after Jimmy Frattiano became a government witness, but faded into obscurity after Lanza's death.

Did a mobster ever sue the press for libel?

Joseph Cerrito of San Jose, California, sued Life magazine when the periodical identified him as the head of the San Jose crime family. The case was eventually dismissed.

San Jose, California

Onofrio Sciortino was the lyrically named founder of this low-key California family. He was replaced by Joseph Cerrito, a Sicilian native who operated a successful auto dealership in Los Gatos. Cerrito died in 1978 of a heart attack and the San Jose Mafia family died with him.

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