Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family

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Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family
Series Title:
Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family
Foster, Mark S.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:09:46 PM] Home Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime FamilySmaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime FamilySubmitted by cowestadmin on 10-22-2009 03:29 PMAuthor: Dick Kreck Publishing: Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2009. xviii +276 pages. Photos, endnotes, bibliography, index. 6 x 9. $24.95 hardcover. Reviewer: Mark S. Foster Reviewer Affiliation: Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado Denver Veteran Denver Post columnist Dick Kreck has published a well-written, fastpaced story of the Smaldones, a remarkable regional crime family that dominated several lucrative enterprises in the middle of the twentieth century. Kreck gained the trust of two of Clyde Smaldones sons, Chuck and Gene, to make this book possible. In exchange for original, never-before-revealed insights into the Smaldones operations, Kreck agreed to write an even-handed account emphasizing genuinely human and even loving sides of the extended clan. Happily, both sides fulfilled their commitments. There was organized crime in Denver before the Smaldones. The Lou Blonger gang dominated local crime in the early part of the twentieth century until shut down by District Attorney Philip Van Cise in 1922. Pete Carlino and Joe Roma then shared control of Prohibition-era booze distribution, gambling, and a few less lucrative sidelines until the early 1930s, when both were gunned down within a few months. Clyde and Eugene Smaldone had been operatives in the Roma camp, and they took over most of the clandestine operations just when Prohibition was ending. Raffaele, patriarch of the Colorado Smaldone clan, was born in Italy in 1882 and immigrated with his parents in 1884. The family moved to Denver in 1889. Raffaele worked for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, earning $30 a week, then moved up to foreman and earned $40 per week before opening a grocery business. He married Mamie Figliolino in 1901. The couple quickly produced eleven children, including two boys, Clyde and Gene (nicknamed Checkers). The boys began their lives of crime stealing bootleg liquor. Soon they were making their own alcohol and running shipments between cities. Following Repeal, the Smaldones concentrated on gambling (mainly slot machines), bookmaking, and loan sharking, although they also branched out into black market consumer goods during World War II. During their heyday in the late 1940s and 1950s, lawmen estimated that the Smaldones were raking in a million dollars annually. The beginning of the end for the family came when two crusading federal attorneys, Charles Vigil and Max Melville, launched a vigorous drive against organized crime. They harassed the Smaldones on every front, and the brothers soon faced long prison sentences. Both eventually received paroles and returned to Denver, but their years of control of local crime were long past. EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWhile on the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776, Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco drew the first map of Colorado.


Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:09:46 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us Kreck covers the lives of less influential family members, including Clarence Chauncey Smaldone and his cousin Fat Paulie Villano. He also documents Clydes claims of close connections to politicians, including Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman but suggests Clyde exaggerated some of them. Kreck also devotes space to the women in the family, some of them nearly saints, others human wrecking balls. Throughout the book, Kreck also portrays the human side of the Smaldone men, describing them as husbands and fathers. Kreck is sure-footed, peppering his treatise with colorful stories. Readers learn about rubber sandwiches, a ploy by which bar owners evaded rules that they must offer food along with drinks. My only criticism is more of a wish list. The book would have been enhanced by details and analysis of how certain Smaldone schemes actually worked. Clyde and Checkers evidently learned their trades as operatives in the Carlino and Roma gang preceding them. After taking over in the 1930s, did they develop a hierarchy of their own, or did they avoid recruiting outsiders and operate strictly within their own extended family? Kreck mentions loan-sharking and various games of chance, but the reader is never placed behind the green eye shades of the dealers and bet takers. This reader wondered if the brothers ever got into numbers or policy rackets, or if they ever considered offering protection and other potentially lucrative sidelines. These are minor criticisms, or more accurately, additional questions to ponder. In every important respect, Kreck succeeds admirably. His book is engaging, and his storytelling is superb. Clydes sons, Gene and Chuck, made a wise decision in telling their story to this talented investigator. Reviewer Info: Mark S. Foster is professor emeritus at the University of Colorado Denver. He has written eleven books, focusing on the automobile culture and city planning, and including several biographies of prominent American entrepreneurs. A secondary interest is regional history and the emergence of baseball in the Rocky Mountain region. Add new comment