Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. In this episode of Gangland Wire, we delve into the fascinating story of Giacomo “Blackjack” Tocco, an influential figure in the Detroit Mafia. Tocco, who was born in 1927 and spent his entire life in Detroit, came from a Mafia lineage. His father, William “Black Bill” Tocco, was one of the founding members of the Detroit Mafia, known as the partnership. Tocco’s ascent within the ranks was facilitated by his familial connections, as well as his reputation for violence and intimidation. The partnership controlled various illicit activities, including gambling, loan sharking, and drug trafficking, but their most lucrative venture was their control over Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters Union. We catch a glimpse of Tocco’s appointment as boss through an FBI surveillance squad, who witnessed the event at a hunting farm in rural Michigan. Tocco’s intelligence, leadership abilities, and knack for consolidating power cemented his status as one of Detroit’s most formidable and feared bosses.
Moving on, this part of the podcast focusses on a well-known photograph that has circulated on mob Facebook pages. When Joseph Zerrilli died in 1977, the most senior Mafia member, John Prizola, took the reins. Before Zerrilli died, he had given a blessing to his nephew, “Black Jack” Tocco to be considered as the future boss. When Prizola died two years after Zerrilli, Partnership members honored Zerrilli and named Giacomo “Black Jack” Toco boss. He became one of the most powerful bosses the city had ever seen because of his intelligence and leadership abilities.
In 1979, Black Jack Tocco was appointed as the boss of the Detroit Mafia. In an interesting sidenote to Tocco’s appointment, FBI agent Greg Stejskal and his surveillance squad were watching a rural Michigan farm the day Black Jack Toco was anointed boss. They even trespassed into the back of this farm and grabbed a photo of Black Jack talking with Anthony Corrado and Vito Giacalone immediately after the ceremony. During his tenure as boss, Tocco oversaw the Partnership’s various illegal activities and was responsible for the organization’s continued success.
It is later revealed that “Black Jack” Tocco orchestrated numerous illegal activities and expanded the Mafia’s influence, especially in Las Vegas. Despite his involvement in organized crime, Tocco was also respected within the Detroit Italian-American community for his philanthropic work and involvement in community events.
Tocco’s reign came to an end in 2014, marking the end of an era for the Detroit Mafia. Despite losing their grasp on the Teamsters and facing intense scrutiny from the FBI, Tocco will forever be remembered as a dominating presence in the Detroit Mafia. Additionally, I take this opportunity to remind our listeners to exercise caution on the roads and seek assistance if they are grappling with PTSD or substance abuse. Our friend Anthony Ruggiano, a former member of the Gambino crime family, is now a drug and alcohol counselor in Florida. Make sure to visit his website for valuable resources and treatment options. Lastly, we would greatly appreciate it if you could like, subscribe, and leave a review on podcast platforms. Your support means a lot to us, and we eagerly await your intriguing mob stories in our Facebook group.
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[0:00] Hey, guys. Welcome back here to the studio of Gangland Wire.
Gary Jenkins, retired intelligence unit detective here in Kansas City.
I’m going to bring you a story today about Giacomo Blackjack Tocco.
He was a prominent figure in the Detroit Mafia.
He was well known for his ruthless tactics, but he had a lot of leadership skills.
Born in 1927, in February of 1927 in the suburbs of Detroit.
So he’s a lifelong Detroit resident.
He was a Mafia legacy because his father, of William Black Bill Tocco was a founding member of the Detroit Mafia family, also known as the partnership.
You know, they have never had the outfit in Chicago, then the partnership in Detroit.
Now, Black Bill, the father rose to be boss with his brother in law, Joseph Zarelli. He was the underboss.
Black Bill went to prison and Zarelli took over.
Giacomo Black Jack Toko was rising through the ranks of the Mafia during this time, was a boost up because his dad and uncle were the founders of the mob in Detroit.
He also had a cousin, Anthony Zarelli, that had moved on up in front of him, but he had to prove himself.
He proved himself as a valuable member of the partnership because he would do what needed to be done and take care of business, whatever that was.
Rise of Blackjack Tocco: From Capo to Most Feared Man
[1:16] Soon became a capo or a top lieutenant. His reputation for violence and intimidation is what got him the nickname of Blackjack, And he became known as one of the most feared men in Detroit.
The partnership was a criminal organization, aka the mafia, that controlled various illegal activities, the usual ones, gambling, loan sharking, drug trafficking, too.
But most importantly, the biggest cash cow of them all was for the Detroit partnership was Jimmy Hoffa and the powerful Teamsters Union.
Once they got in with Hoffa and once they had some control over Hoffa, then they had access to Teamsters all over the United States.
He had access to trucks and docks where he could set up loads.
He also had access to the Teamsters Pension Fund.
[2:03] Jimmy Hoffa was a the guy. He was the guy early on. Later on, he became some other people when Hoffa went to the penitentiary.
But Hoffa was the guy. If you needed a pension loan, then you went to Hoffa, and then Hoffa gave you the permission to get a loan from the pension fund, and then you kick back to Hoffa. It was a cash cow for everybody.
While Zarelli was boss, Jimmy Hoffa went to prison, and Jimmy Hoffa’s successor was a man named Frank Fitzsimmons.
What Frank Fitzsimmons liked to do, he was not a big worker.
What Frank Fitzsimmons liked to do was play golf out at their nice resort and golf course out in Southern California.
And he kept allowing more and more mob families access to the Teamsters pension fund.
And he was just a guy in place for the mob by that time, and he was no Hoffa.
See, Hoffa would have tightly controlled all that and made them pay and turn them down once in a while.
Vince Simmons, I don’t think he ever turned them down about anything.
Of course, Hoffa gets out of the penitentiary eventually, a kind of a famous deal where the Teamsters sent a million dollars in campaign funds to Richard Nixon, and all of a sudden, he’s got his sentence commuted.
[3:13] But Nixon didn’t quite follow through with what Hoffa wanted, and Frank Fitzsimmons set this up.
Fitzsimmons probably, he wanted to keep that cushy job, so he probably agreed or mentioned to Nixon’s people that, hey, make a condition of this that he can’t go back in and have any union activities.
Hoffa did not like that, and as soon as he got out, he started making moves again, he’s going to get back in control. That was it to Hoffa. That was his union.
That was his pension fund. He developed all that out of scratch, out of nothing.
And he felt like he had ownership of the whole thing.
Now, the Detroit Partnership would assign longtime members brothers Vito and Anthony Giacalone to negotiate with Hoffa.
He had gotten in a conflict with the New Jersey Teamster boss, who was a mob guy, Anthony Provenzano.
And they had a huge conflict. They even got in a physical fight, I think, at one time.
1975 in July, Jimmy Hoffa goes to meet with Anthony Giacalone and Tony Pro or Tony Provenzano at the now famous meeting at the restaurant.
They’re outside of Detroit and he’s never seen again.
The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and Tocco’s appointment as boss
[4:20] The most discussed missing persons in the United States after Judge Crater, and most of you may not even be old enough to remember Judge Crater, but Jimmy Hoffa is the most famous missing person I would say ever in the United States.
[4:34] So, when the boss, Joseph Zirilli, died in 1977, this is two years after Hoffa disappears, the most senior member of the Detroit partnership was a guy named John Prezola at the time.
Now, he should have taken over, but Zirilli gave his blessing to his nephew, Black Jack Tocco, to be considered to be the future boss.
Prezola will die in about two years after Zarelli died.
Partnership members now honor Zarelli, Joseph Zarelli, and they named Giacomo Black Jack Tocco the boss.
He really will consolidate everything and be known as one of the most powerful bosses the city has ever seen because of his intelligence.
And he had a lot of leadership skills and abilities.
And an interesting side note to Black Jack Tocco getting appointed to the mafia was in 1979, there was an FBI agent named Greg Steljas.
I interviewed him, so you have to go back and try to find that, but he was part of the surveillance squad to the Detroit.
[5:36] Organized crime squad. Every organized crime squad in every major city will have a surveillance squad available to them.
They’ll use them for a lot of other things in the whole office, but the mob squad or the organized crime squad will mainly use the surveillance squad.
So they saw some funny activities at one of the meeting points of the Detroit guys, and so they started following Blackjack that day.
They followed him out to a rural Michigan farm, like a hunting farm where he’d go out and I think lease land, land leased, and would take people on hunting.
There’s a hunting camp out there.
And they found out later that Blackjack Toco was appointed boss that day.
It’s kind of an interesting story.
[6:18] You know, these guys saying they got a famous picture. Have you ever seen the picture? If you’re on any of the mob Facebook pages, you’ll probably have seen this famous picture.
You can barely see them, but there’s a couple a guy standing out talking.
And that was a Greg Steljas and his partner snuck back in on the back of the farm, trespassed on somebody else’s land and got up close enough to the house that they took a picture to a blackjack talking with a guy named Anthony Corrado and Vito Giacalone immediately after the ceremony.
They find out a few years later during his tenure as boss over the next several years, Toco will oversee partnerships, various illegal activities, and he’s really responsible for their continued success.
And the partnership will really expand its influence these later years.
They had started before because of Hoffa, but they expand their influence.
And they had a big piece out in Las Vegas.
They had some of the casinos out there that they were getting skimmed from, just like Chicago and Kansas City had.
[7:14] And he also, on the other hand, I always like the flip side of these guys.
Black Jack Tocco was a respected member of the Detroit Italian -American community, all these big cities that…
That have a mob or a mafia family will have a big Italian -American community that will have a Unico and they will have, you know, some kind of other meeting hall and they will, a lot of successful businessmen that have nothing to do with the mob.
[7:44] And Toccoo was able to fit in with those guys because he would give a lot of money to various charitable causes and attend community events and celebrations, he didn’t like sit back as the shadowy mafia boss as far as Detroit was concerned.
He’ll pass away at the age of 87 in 2014, but it kind of like that’s the end of an era with the Detroit mafia.
He was the last of the old school guys and the last of the iconic figures.
They’d already lost all their influence over the teamsters and the pension fund money.
[8:16] And I tell you what, after the FBI went through them with a fine tooth comb after a half of died and they lost a lot because of that, had a lot of attention put on him.
Black Jack Tocco will always be a formidable figure in the Detroit Mafia.
He’ll always be known for his ruthlessness, his leadership skills, but also his community involvement.
He’s probably the most prominent boss of all the bosses in the Detroit Mafia.
Some of y ‘all may argue with that, may think somebody else was, but he was pretty important, but really the last major boss.
So his impact on organized crime in the city of Detroit will not be forgot.
Thanks a lot, guys. You know I like to ride motorcycles, so watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there.
If you have a problem with PTSD, been in the service, go to the VA website and get that hotline number.
If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, which usually goes hand in hand with PTSD, D.
Anthony Ruggiano: From Crime Family to Drug Counselor
[9:12] Our friend Anthony Ruggiano is a drug and alcohol counselor down at Florida.
Now, he’s a was formerly a main member of the Gambino crime family.
So you can go on his website. I don’t remember looking at you, Anthony Ruggiano.
He’s got a YouTube page, Reform Gangsters dot com. Maybe look him up.
He’s got a hotline number and you can go down to Florida and go through treatment with Anthony Ruggiano.
Be sure to let me know if you ever do that. So don’t forget to like and subscribe, give me a review on the podcast apps if you want to.
And, you know, we’re always, always looking for support, support in any way we can.
Mob stories, anything you got for us, get on the Facebook group.
I’m on there a lot, I’ll correspond with different people and, and most importantly, just keep coming back.
Weekly Episodes: Keep Coming Back for More
[9:59] I put out a couple every week. Thanks guys.