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|Detroit|  Chester LaMare

Birth: June 6, 1886 - Sicily

Death: February 6, 1931 - Detroit












Chester "Big Chet" LaMare was a Mafia leader in the Detroit underworld. He led the so called West-Side mob during prohibition and was a strong opponent of Angelo Meli and Joseph Zerilli.

Heading for Detroit
Caesar "Chester" LaMare was born Southern Sicily in 1886 inside a large family. In 1902 he arrived at Ellis Island, New York, after a long journey by boat. LaMare settled in Manhattan for a couple of years where he got involved in petty crimes such as theft. In 1910 he left New York and moved to Chicago. While being in Chicago he got in contact with Antonio Lombardo who at the time was an aide of the Unione Siciliane boss Mike Merlo. LaMare was said to be a very loyal and trustworthy man. In 1914 he was sent to New Orleans by Lombardo and Merlo to start a new social club. He only stayed in New Orleans for a few months. LaMare made claims that he enlisted in the military to fight during WWI in Europe. In 1918 he eventually headed for Motor City, Detroit.

The West-Side Mob
During his first years in Detroit he became associated with Salvatore and Antonino Giannola. During this period there were struggles inside the Gianolla gang as Giovanni Vitale broke away from the Giannola brothers and started his own crew. LaMare, with his eye on the future, defected to the new Vitale group. Both gangs found themselves at war within weeks. Now with violence around the corner LaMare was also targeted by the Giannola brothers. At one time he nearly escaped a murder attempt in which the young and upcomming gangster Angelo Meli took part off. However LaMare was at the winning side when both Salvatore and Antonino were murdered in 1919.

The Hamtrack King
Chester LaMare
During prohibition LaMare became a bigshot in Hamtrack, a Detroit neighborhood, with the help of his mentor Giovanni Vitale. He became the undisputed king of the beer and liquor market. However, Vitale was murdered on September 28, 1920, by remaining members of the Giannola faction. With this event LaMare suddenly lost most of his backings so he went to make a deal with Sam Catalanotte, the new head of the Siclian underworld in Detroit. To form the peace alliance LaMare also had to work together with Angelo Meli, whom he never forgave for trying to kill him during the Giannola-Vitale war. However, LaMare knew what would be best for him and his wallet so agreed upon the deal. Now that peace had returned to the streets he started to put all his time and efforts in building social clubs at Hamtrack. One of them was the Venice Cafe which became a highly profitable venture. Next to that he kept on doing what he did best, bootlegging and extortion. He even became known inside the circles of Hamtrack's politicians who were known for being slightly corrupt.

Things were getting so bad that the governor of Michigan, Alex Grossbeck, had to step in to take action. Hamtrack was soon to be cleaned by the police. The Venice Cafe was one of the first ventures which had to close it's doors in 1922. Although the police knew who LaMare was, he kept out of troubles thanks to his cheap talks and large amount of cash in his pocket. In 1928 authorities placed a net worth of $215.000.000 on LaMare's property. By this time he even befriended Harry Bennett, a close associate of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Company which produced the first car in the world.

Death of Sam Catalanotte
In February 1930 Salvatore Catalanotte died of pneumonia. The death of the crime lord caused tensions between the different crime groups. LaMare suddenly found himself opposing the alliance of Angelo Meli, Joe Zerilli, Gaspar Milazzo and William Tocco. LaMare had by his side the younger brother of Catalanotte, Joe. Joe however was a man of violent nature and participated in a couple of high profile murders, including that of a police inspector. The blame however fell on LaMare who was soon targeted for death. LaMare needed a plan to get rid of his rival.

The murder of Gaspar Milazzo
Angelo Meli received the invitation to attend a truce meeting with LaMare. Meli however didn't trust LaMare and feared it was a trap. Therefore he sent over Gaspar Milazzo, who was known for his ability to reason. Milazzo and his bodyguard Sam Parrino went over the Vernor Fish Market, a well known place for mob meetings. They were escorted to a table at the end of the room by the shop owner. While they were eating, 2 men entered the room and shot at the diners. Milazzo was hit in the head and died instantly, Parino was hit as well but survived. Angelo Meli was outrages by the betrayal and wanted LaMare dead. In the following weeks about 15 men who were associated with Joe Catalanotte and LaMare were gunned down in retaliation for the murder of Gaspar Milazzo. LaMare immediately left Detroit and went to New York were he stayed a while under the protection of his powerful ally Joe Masseria. However, the stubborn LaMare returned to Detroit and even bought himself a new house. He surrounded himself with armed men and was seen a couple of times in the company of the two alleged killers of Milazzo.

Betrayal and murder
Both killers of Milazzo, Joe Amico and Elmer Macklin, where in fact prepared to make peace with the powerful Angelo Meli to safe themselves from their death sentence. Meli reached out to them with the proposal that if they would betray LaMare, that their sins would be forgiven. Both Amico and Macklin agreed upon the plan. Joe Catalanotte possibly also gave his blessings to the murder. The night of February 6, 1931, a search warrant was sent out to get Chester LaMare. However, his bodyguards got to him first. While sitting at the kitchen table of his house in company of both Amico and Macklin he was shot in the head and died instantly. Sometime later the police entered the house and was shocked to see the ganglord dead on his kitchen floor. Both Amico and Macklin were later arrested and convicted for the murder.
(Source: Findagrave.com, geocities.com, detnews.com, "Motor City Mafia" by Scott M. Bernstein)


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