Jack-Dragna

Jack Ignatius Dragna (April 18, 1891 – February 23, 1956) was an American Mafia boss and member of The Black Hand, who was active in both Italy and the United States. He was engaged in bootlegging in California during the Prohibition Era.

In 1931, he succeeded Joseph Ardizzone as the Boss of the Los Angeles crime family after Ardizzone’s mysterious disappearance in 1931.

Both James Ragen and Earl Warren dubbed Dragna the “Capone of Los Angeles”.

In the 1991 film “Bugsy”, which dramatized the life of Bugsy Siegel, Dragna was played by Richard C. Sarafian.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s Hollywood.

Here’s some history:

Dragna’s Early Life

Dragna was born Ignazio Dragna to Francesco Paolo Dragna and Anna Dragna in Corleone, Sicily, on April 18, 1891.

On November 18, 1898, Dragna came to America on the S.S. Alsatia with his mother, older sister Giuseppa, and elder brother Gaetano. They stayed in Brooklyn with Antonio Rizzotti’s family – also from Corleone. It is not known exactly when Dragna’s father arrived in the United States.

Dragna stayed in New York for ten years before returning to Sicily. As a young man, he joined the Italian Army, and later the Sicilian Mafia.

In 1914, Dragna returned to America.

He appears to have had a relationship with Gaetano Reina, who eventually would lead his own crime family in Manhattan and the Bronx. That same year, Dragna was a suspect in the murder of Jewish poultry dealer Barnet Baff.

After the killing, Dragna fled to California, and assumed the name Charles Dragna.

Dragna was extradited to New York, but never went on trial.

In 1915, Dragna was arrested for Black Hand extortion of a Long Beach man, and served three years in prison. At the time of his extortion arrest, Dragna was using the alias Ignazio Rizzoto.

Prohibition

During the Prohibition Era, Dragna and his brother Gaetano (now named Tom) ran extortion and illegal liquor distillation operations.

Ignazio Dragna now became Jack Ignatius Dragna.

In 1922, Dragna married Francesca Rizzotto.

After a brief prison stint, he worked closely with Joseph Ardizzone, a prominent mobster in Los Angeles.

Mafia Don

In 1931, Dragna succeeded Joseph Ardizzone as boss of the Los Angeles crime family. It was rumored that Dragna participated in Ardizzone’s disappearance / death.

His brother Tom became his consigliere, or chief counsel.

Jack also had several more distant relatives working in the crime family, but aside from his brother, his nephew Louis Tom Dragna (Tom’s son) was the only other close relation heavily involved in the business.

As boss, Dragna’s chief source of income came from extorting local bookmakers for “protection” money – although he was also the main illegal gambling operator in the city.

Other businesses including running gambling ships, a heroin smuggling operation, and collecting extortion money.

His close supporters included Girolamo “Momo” Adamo and John Roselli.

Roselli had been a member of the Chicago Outfit, but left for California to work with Dragna in gambling.
In the 1950s, Roselli left California and became the Mafia’s main representative in Las Vegas.

Anthony Cornero – an old bootlegging associate of Dragna’s – ran gambling ships off the coast of California.

Tommy Lucchese, of the Lucchese crime family, was Dragna’s main contact in New York.

Dragna also controlled unions in the laundromat business, and dress importing companies.

Siegel and Cohen

As boss, Dragna often had to do business with representatives from the more powerful Cosa Nostra families in New York.

When Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (an associate of the New York Luciano crime family) relocated to the West Coast during the late 1930s, he started his own rackets, and formed an uneasy relationship with Dragna.

Siegel brought in much more income for the Los Angeles family and generated a great deal of respect, which Dragna resented. Although many sources speak of a rivalry between them, Dragna and Siegel managed to work closely together, especially at organizing a racing wire service on the West Coast.

In June 1947, the East Coast crime families murdered Siegel in Los Angeles, due to his failure to properly manage the new Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Mickey Cohen – who had been serving as Siegel’s bodyguard – immediately took over Siegel’s rackets, and refused to accept Dragna’s authority.

Dragna ordered several murder attempts on Cohen, but he managed to survive them all.

The Heat Rises

On February 14, 1950, the California Commission on Organized Crime singled out Dragna as the head of a crime syndicate that controlled crime in Southern California.

Soon after, several Los Angeles family members were arrested for the bombing of Mickey Cohen’s home.

Dragna fled the state to avoid questioning. He later surrendered to authorities, and was questioned in the U.S. Senate Kefauver hearings, but denied all accusations against him.

Cohen was also questioned in the hearings, and as a result was convicted of federal tax evasion and forced to give up control of his rackets to the Los Angeles family.

Deportation Issues

In 1953, the federal government ordered Dragna to be deported to Sicily.

Back in 1932, Dragna had violated immigration law by illegally entering the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, after a three day stay in Mexico.

However, at the time of his death, Dragna was still living in California, appealing the deportation order.

The Death of Jack Dragna

On February 23, 1956, Dragna died of a heart attack in Los Angeles.

His body was interred at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California.

Dragna was survived by two children.

His son Frank Paul Dragna was a USC graduate and World War II veteran who lost an eye in the war and was nicknamed “One Eye” to distinguish him from his cousin who had the same name.

Dragna also had a daughter named Anna Rosalia Dragna, who later married and changed her surname to Niotta.

That’s it, for this one.

Hope you’ll be here, for our next tale.

Till then.

Peace.

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