TAMPA CRIME BOSS SANTO TRAFFICANTE JR PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE IN THRILLER ‘MAFIA SPIES’

TAMPA CRIME BOSS SANTO TRAFFICANTE JR PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE IN THRILLER ‘MAFIA SPIES’
Tampa organized crime boss Santo Trafficante Jr. is pictured at the Sans Souci nightsclub in Havana, Cuba. [Skyhorse Publishing/Library of Congress]

THOMAS MAIER’S DETAIL-PACKED BUT ENTERTAINING BOOK RECOUNTS THE CIA’s PLOT TO KILL CASTRO WITH THE HELP OF MAFIA BOSSES.

We’re awash in conspiracy theories these days, and most of them are laughable. But one reason we might tend to believe them is that every once in a while a conspiracy theory turns out to be true.

The conspiracy recounted in Thomas Maier’s new nonfiction book, Mafia Spies: The Inside Story of the CIA, Gangsters, JFK, and Castro, is a humdinger.

Its cast of characters includes Allen Dulles and J. Edgar Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes, Marilyn Monroe and the Maguire Sisters, and a real-life Murderers’ Row of gangsters, headlined by Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli and, in a central role, Tampa crime boss Santo Trafficante Jr. All of them crossed paths at some point in a secret, multiyear effort in the 1960s to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. And yes, those tales about exploding cigars are true.

Maier notes that for many years the plot remained a secret. Rumors about it seemed so outlandish they were dismissed. But two sources, the 2007 CIA internal report known as the “Family Jewels” and the 2017 release from the National Archives of thousands of files about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, allowed Maier to bring the dark, complex story together.

At the center of the book is the relationship between two powerful criminals. In the ’60s, Sam Giancana was the Mafia boss of Chicago, a position he won with a combination of careful strategy and ruthless violence. His longtime friend and colleague Johnny Roselli ran many of the mob’s operations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Of the handsome, charming Roselli, Maier writes, “Murder never looked so good.”

​The two, Maier notes, “at the height of their careers, controlled a multi-million-dollar Mafia empire unprecedented in the annals of American crime–arguably bigger than the five families of New York’s La Cosa Nostra combined.”

So how did they get involved in a harebrained scheme to assassinate the charismatic Cuban dictator? CONTINUE READING AT THE TAMPA BAY TIMES

TAMPA CRIME BOSS SANTO TRAFFICANTE JR PLAYS A CENTRAL ROLE IN THRILLER ‘MAFIA SPIES’
Cuban leader Fidel Castro appears with a cigar in 1959. (Miami Herald/MCT)