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|Detroit|  Joseph Zerilli

Birth: December 30, 1897

Death: October 30, 1977












Joseph Zerilli was one of the founding members of the Detroit Partnership and led the organization from the 1930's until his retirement in the late 1960's. He was cousin to fellow leader Vito Tocco.

Early life
Born to Anthony and Rosalie Zerilli on December 30, 1897, Zerilli immigrated to the United States from his native Terrasina, Sicily at the age of 17. Once arriving in Detroit he teamed up with his former childhood friend Vito Tocco who had arrived in America in 1910. Zerilli started to work as a laborer with the Detroit Gas Company in 1914. While war raged on in 1919 between the Giannola and Vitale gang, he and his cousin Tocco aligned themselves to the Giannola brothers. During this period Zerilli was arrested a few times due to charges of armed robbery, murder and bootlegging. After the murders of most of the Giannola and Vitale leadership, peace returned to the street. Angelo Meli, a partner of Zerilli and Tocco, took control of the former Giannola organization which became known as the EastSide mob. Both Zerilli and Tocco became Meli's most important aides. The EastSide mob allied itself to Salvatore Catalanotte, who led Detroits underwold. In order to restore the peace and to avoid another war Catalanotte had set up an alliance between the Detroit gangs called the "Pascuzzi Combine".

Rise to power
During prohibition the EastSide mob earned millions thanks to bootlegging operations. With the many profits they bought many legal ventures such as the Pheiffer Brewing company, which produced malt products. However, the peace in Detroits criminal life would once again be threatened as one event would sparkle a period of turmoil between the EastSide and WestSide mob. In 1930 Detroit kingpin Salvatore Catalanotte died at a young age due to ill health and the peace once created was about to break. WestSide mobleader Chester LaMare always stayed an enemy to Angelo Meli, Zerilli and their associates by supporting Giovanni Vitale during the Giannola/Vitale war of 1919-1920. LaMare once again opposed against the EastSide mob with Catalanotte's younger brother at his side. This led to the killing of Gaspar Milazzo, a key figure within the EastSide mob. 8 months later they took their revenge by murdering LaMare in February 1931. Both Zerilli and Tocco were arrested in suspicion of the murder, but were released again the next day. By this the Partnership began to take form as the EastSide and WestSide began to unite.

Later Years
During his rise to power he stayed out of the spotlights but kept a strong position within the leadership of the Detroit Outfit. Zerilli was a wealthy man owning up to thousands of dollars worth of real estate in Michigan and Florida. During the late 1940's the Detroit Outfit musceled in on the Hazel Park company which would eventualy came under the control of Zerilli's son Anthony and Jack Tocco, the oldest son of Vito Tocco. Zerilli also set up the Detroit Italian Bakery which was listed as his primary income. In 1957 Zerilli alledgedly went to the Apalachin Meeting, although he was not seen at the ranch after the police invaded the place. It is claimed that Anthony Giacalone, who was driving Zerilli that day, heared about the raid on the radio and turned the car around. Zerilli would also later vouch for Giacalone to become part of the new generation of leaders within the Detroit Partnership after his retirement. During that time the Detroit Outfit had an anual turnover of about $150 million.

In 1963 Joseph Valachi began a serie of hearings about the American Mafia on nationwide television. This put Zerilli on a tough spot when his name appeared a couple of times during the hearings. However, this didn't led to any particular investigation. Later Zerilli was also brought in connection with Jimmy Hoffa, the teamster president who had been working closely together with the Detroit Outfit for years. After Hoffa learned that his wife was cheating on him with a member of the Detroit Outfit, called Tony Cimini, he went to see Zerilli. Later on Tony Cimini was suddenly arrested and convicted for fraud although he had nothing to do with that scheme. This event placed allot of bad blood towards Hoffa who was eventualy kidnapped in 1975 and was never seen again. Anthony Giacalone was believed to be part of the disappearance, by that time Giacalone was the "man on the street" for Zerilli. By the mid 1970's Zerilli moved to Florida until things around the disappearance of Hoffa cooled down again. In his last years he was suffering from bad health and was taken to the hostpital in October 1977 where he died 2 weeks later at the age of 79. After a lavish funeral he was buried at Mt.Olivet Cemetery.


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