Johnny Torrio

Johnny Torrio (mugshot, 1936).jpg
John Torrio (January 20, 1882 – April 16, 1957) also known as "Papa Johnny", "The Fox", and "The Immune", was an Italian-American mobster who helped build a criminal empire, the Chicago Outfit, in the 1920s; it was later inherited by his protégé, Al Capone. He also put forth the idea of the National Crime Syndicate in the 1930s and later became an unofficial adviser to the Genovese crime family.

The US Treasury official Elmer Irey considered him "the biggest gangster in America" and wrote, "He was the smartest and, I dare say, the best of all the hoodlums. 'Best' referring to talent, not morals." Virgil W. Peterson of the Chicago Crime Commission stated that his "talents as an organizational genius were widely respected by the major gang bosses in the New York City area."

Torrio was born in Irsina, Basilicata, in Southern Italy, to Tommaso and Maria Carluccio originally from Altamura, Apulia. When he was two his father, a railway employee, died in a work accident, and Torrio later emigrated to New York City with his widowed mother in 1902, according to Ellis Island records. She later remarried.

His first jobs were as a porter and bouncer in Manhattan. While he was a teenager, he joined a street gang and became its leader; he eventually managed to save enough money and opened a billiards parlor for the group, and from there grew illegal activities such as gambling and loan sharking. Torrio's business acumen caught the eye of Paul Kelly, the leader of the infamous Five Points Gang. Torrio's gang ran legitimate businesses, but its main concern was the numbers game, supplemented by incomes from bookmaking, loan sharking, hijacking, prostitution, and opium trafficking. Al Capone, who worked at Kelly's club, admired Torrio's quick mind and looked to him as his mentor. Torrio, in turn, greatly admired Kelly, who knew much about organized crime culture; Kelly convinced the younger man to dress conservatively, stop swearing, and set up a front as a legitimate entrepreneur. He soon became known as "The Fox" for his cunning and diplomacy.

Capone had belonged to the Junior Forty Thieves, the Bowery Boys and the Brooklyn Rippers; they soon moved up to the Five Points Gang. Torrio eventually hired Capone to bartend at the Harvard Inn, a bar in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn owned by Torrio's business associate, Francesco Ioele (also known as Frankie Yale).

Torrio was the nephew of Victoria Moresco, the wife and business partner of "Big Jim" Colosimo, who had become the owner of more than 100 brothels in Chicago. Colosimo invited Torrio to Chicago to deal with extortion demands from the Black Hand. Torrio eliminated the extortionists and stayed on; he ran Colosimo's operations and organized the criminal muscle needed to deal with threats to them.

This page was last edited on 17 January 2018, at 00:59.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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