||Detroit| Angelo Meli
The first indication of the rise of Angelo Meli as a power in the Detroit underworld came when he along with partner and ace henchman Black Leo Cellura joined Chester LaMare in the opening of the Venice Cafe in the early '20s. Meli and Cellura were known as two very dangerous individuals from there time spent as gunmen during the Giannola/Vitale gang war. The reputations of Meli and Cellura as partners of the vice king of Hamtramck "as LaMare was known," helped to validate the young men as legitimate underworld figures. Meli's boys "as the gang came to be recognized," excelled at shaking down brothels, gambling houses and forcing their way into local bootleg operations.
With the help of Meli's muscle Chester LaMare came to completly dominate the city of Hamtramck both politically and financially. So complete was the hold of LaMare over the Hamtramck area that it took an all out effort by state investigators "on the recommendation of Michigan Gov. Alex Groesbeck," to finally break the organization up. The Govenor ordered the state police to take over the city government while in a previously unprecedented attack 31 men would be convicted of liquor law violations including Hamtramck's Mayor Peter C. Jezewski.
Meli's Eastside Mob quickly came to an agreement with the River gang in a move which ensured peace in the often turbulent arena of bootlegging. Meli's top aides in the Eastside Mob were Leo Cellura, Black Bill Tocco and Joe Zerilli. As the twenties came to an end the future looked bright for all associated with the Eastside Mob, the group was forced to prove it's resolve when Sam Catalonotte died of pneumonia in Febuary of 1930. Catalonotte had been the voice of reason in the Detroit underworld for nearly ten years and had been instrumental in the establishment of the arranement which brought the Eastside Mob into Partnership with the River Gang as well as several other Jewish groups in the pursuit of a common goal.
Angelo Meli quickly found that if he planned on taking the place of the departed Catalonotte, he would have to first deal with an old friend who was intent on making himself the top dog in Detroit after a long hiatus. Angelo began hearing reports from his soldier's and shop keepers that men claiming allegance to Chester LaMare had begun demanding a tribute payment. LaMare also began raiding Meli controlled speakeasies, blind pigs and liquor storage houses in a move that was a clear declaration of war. Angelo Meli though a hot head in his youth first took diplomatic steps that he had learned from Sam Catalonotte and set up a meeting at the Vernor Fish Market between members of the Catalonotte Gang "Westside Mob," and two peace keepers from the Unione Siciliana Gaspar Sciblia and Sam Parina.
Sciblia and Parina were ambushed as they sat down to begin the negotiations by Joe Amico, Joe Locano and an unidentified man known only as Benny the Ape. This openly hostile act sealed the fate of Chester LaMare as Meli put a contract out on the life of his former business partner which was carried out 9 months after the Vernor Fish Market murders on Febuary 6,1931. Meli had managed to reestablish peace in the underworld and went on to over see the merger of the Licavoli Down River gang with the East and Westside Mobs into a unified organization which became known as the Partnership. Once the Detroit Partnership had been established Angelo Meli settled into the role of consigliere, realizing that his experience would be best utilized as an advisor instead of at the forefront of the operation.
Angelo then set about establishing himself as a major figure in the smuggling of illegal weapons and the settling of labor problems with local businesses. Meli's involvment in labor matters proved to be key in the developement of James R. Hoffa Sr., in his rise through the ranks of the Teamsters union. Angelo Meli also played a large but distant role in the importation of heroin into the country as a part of the french connection. This operation was headed by Meli in conjunction with Papa John Priziola the head of the Partners Partinico faction and a relative by marriage to Angelo Meli. Inspite of his many years as a key figure in the Detroit and National underworld, Angelo Meli would suffer only one conviction on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon
A charge which occurred early in his career. Angelo Meli like many of his counterparts in the Combination had extensive legitimate business holdings but unlike Pietro Licavoli, John Priziola or William Tocco and Joe Zerilli, Angelo preferred to keep his investments close to the Michigan area. Angelo Meli remained a powerful figure in the Partnership untill his death in December of 1969 at the age of 67. At the time of his death Angelo was staying at his home in Fort Lauderdale Florida.
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