Santo Trafficante, Jr. (November 15, 1914 – March 17, 1987) was one of the last of the old-time Mafia bosses in the United States.

He allegedly controlled organized criminal operations in Florida and Cuba, which had previously been consolidated from several rival gangs by his father, Santo Trafficante, Sr.

Reputedly the most powerful Mafioso in Batista-era Cuba, he never served time in a United States prison.

The 1997 film “Donnie Brasco” is based on the true story of an FBI undercover agent (Joseph D. “Donnie Brasco” Pistone; played by Johnny Depp) who infiltrates the mob and finds himself identifying with the Mafia life at the expense of his regular one. In the movie, Santo Trafficante is played by Val Avery.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

And here’s some documentary footage of the man, himself:

That’s a slice of his reel life.

Here’s what history has to tell us, about his real one:

Trafficante’s Early Life

Trafficante was born in Tampa, Florida to Sicilian parents Santo Trafficante, Sr. and his wife Maria Giuseppa Cacciatore, in 1914.

Power Bases

He maintained several houses in Tampa and Miami, and also frequented Havana, Cuba (while Fulgencio Batista was in power), and New York City.

Trafficante maintained links to the Bonanno family, in New York City, but was more closely allied with Sam Giancana, in Chicago.

While generally recognized as the most powerful organized crime figure in Florida throughout much of the 20th century, Trafficante was not believed to have total control over Miami, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, or Palm Beach.

The east coast of Florida was a loosely knit conglomerate of New York family interests with obvious links to Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Angelo Bruno, Carlos Marcello, Leo Stein and Frank Ragano.

Even today, control of Florida organized crime likely continues to be divided between New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, and international interests.

Business Ventures

U.S. Treasury Department documents indicate that law enforcement believed Trafficante’s legitimate business interests to include several legal casinos in Cuba, a Havana drive-in movie theater, and shares in the Columbia Restaurant and several other restaurants and bars in Tampa. He was rumored to be part of a Mafia syndicate which owned many other Cuban hotels and casinos.

As one of the most powerful mobsters in the U.S., Trafficante was invited to the Havana Conference in December, 1946.

Trafficante was arrested frequently throughout the 1950s on various charges of bribery and of running illegal bolita lotteries in Tampa’s Ybor City district. He escaped conviction all but once, receiving a five-year sentence, in 1954, for bribery – but his conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court before he entered prison.


During the rule of Cuban dictator General Fulgencio Batista, Trafficante openly operated the Sans Souci and the Casino International gambling establishments in Havana.

As a leading member of the syndicate, it was suspected that he also had behind-the-scenes interests in other syndicate-owned Cuban gambling casinos, namely, the Hotel Habana Riviera, the Tropicana Club, the Sevilla-Biltmore, the Capri Hotel Casino, the Commodoro, the Deauville, and the Havana Hilton.

Nightly, Batista’s “bagman” would collect 10 percent of the profits at Trafficante’s casinos.

Apalachin Fall-out

Trafficante was arrested in 1957, along with 56 other mobsters, at an apparent underworld convention – the Apalachin Meeting in New York. Charges were later dropped, though authorities believe the meeting was set up, among other things, to fill the power vacuum created by the recent assassination of Murder, Inc. head Albert Anastasia.

In January 1958, Trafficante was questioned by the Cuban National police regarding the Apalachin meeting.

A full report was made by the Cuban police (dated January 23, 1958) that includes transcripts of long distance telephone calls made from the Sans Souci during the period August–December 1957. This report was given to the District Attorney’s office.

In addition, “on January 23, 1958 the Cuban Department of Investigation, Havana, Cuba notified the Bureau of Narcotics that Santo Trafficante was registered in their Alien Office under No. 93461.”

Plots Against Castro

After Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government seized the assets of Trafficante’s Cuban businesses and expelled him from the country as an “undesirable alien,” Trafficante came into contact with various U.S. intelligence operatives, and was involved in several unsuccessful plans to assassinate Castro.

Allusions to these historic connections were confirmed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s 2007 declassification of the “Family Jewels” documents.

Kennedy Conspiracy?

Suspicions that Trafficante, along with Carlos Marcello (mob boss of New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s), Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa, and Chicago boss Sam Giancana, were involved in some way with the John F. Kennedy assassination have been alleged repeatedly, but have not been proven.

Donnie Brasco

Trafficante was summoned to court in 1986 and questioned about his involvement with the King’s Court nightclub operated by members of the Bonanno family from New York – including undercover FBI agent Joseph D. “Joe” Pistone, alias, “Donnie Brasco”.

Trafficante again escaped conviction.

Trafficante’s Later Years

Trafficante’s health declined in his later years.

He died on March 17, 1987 at the age of 72.

And that’s it, for this one.

I hope you’ll join me, for our next story.

Till then.