Atty Frank Ragano
New Year’s Eve, 1959, Havana, Fidel Castro is about to converge on the city where for years the mob had its way with gambling.
The mob was paying off Castro’s corrupt predecessor, President Batista.
Although all of the mob leaders fled Cuba during the Castro takeover, one mobster, Santo Trafficante, remained in Havana. Castro began executing hundreds of people aligned with the old regime. And, he targeted allies of Batista.
Trafficante was charged with participating in illegal activities under the old Batista regime
Frank Ragano, represented Trafficante (which in Spanish means one who traffics).
Ragano’s Sicilian father ran a small store in Tampa. Won a Bronz Star for valor in Germany. The First Italian American to clerk for the Florida Supreme Court.
Sen. Estes Kefauver was using new subpoena powers to crack down ont he mob. One of his first targets was the Trafficante Crime Organization. Anti-Gambling Campaign targeted and run by a Tampa Sheriff Ed Blackburn. In 1954, Traficante and 34 others were charged in the gambling sweep.
Ragano was offered the job of representing Trafficante. Trafficante was originally convicted, but was released on a technicality. Ragano later admitted he “overlooked” a lot of activities of the Trafficante Crime Organization.
Ragano was one of the first attorneys to tell his mob clients to not hide their face in public, and to walk proudly in front of the media, projecting an image of innocence. Hiding your face projected an image of guilt as perceived by the public.
Nov. 1957, stumbled across a meeting of mob bosses in Appalachia, months after Albert Anastasia had been murdered by Carlo Gambino. Trafficante was among those who participated.
Ragano hid behind the words of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who lied to the public telling them there was no such thing as the Mafia.
In 1961, Ragano represented Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa, who was working with Trafficante to rape the Teamster Pension Fund.
Ragano was asked by Hoffa to convey a message to trafficante concerning John F. Kennedy that some believe involved a possible conspiracy to murder the President.
Although Hoover pretended the mob did not exist, President Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, targeted the mob and their illegal activities involving drugs and gambling. Before Kennedy became president, Kennedy had accused Hoffa of allowing communists into their union.
Ragano also represented Louisiana Crime Boss Carlo Marcello, a close Trafficante associate. In 1961, Robert Kennedy deported Marcello to Guatemala, without advance notice.
Ragano conveyed messages between Hoffa and the mobsters. In July, 1963, Hoffa told Ragano to tell Trafficante that something has to be done about the Kennedys. Ragano insists Hoffa said “Something has to be done right away. They’ve got to kill John Kennedy.”
Ragano told Trafficante the message the next day in a New Orleans coffee shop.
Trafficante joined Ragano to celebrate the murder on November 23, 1963 the assassination of President Kennedy.
In 1963, the Federal Government targeted Ragano as being a member of the mob, and not just their attorney.
In 1971, Ragano was finally indicted of tax evasion. One of his partners was a Lucchese Crime Family member Sam Rizzo who testified against Ragano. Trafficante refused to help. He waas convicted, given 3 years probation and stripped of his law license.
In 1981, Ragano’s tax conviction was overturned and his law license was reinstated.
Although trafficante had refused to help Ragano, in 1986, Trafficante was targeted in a new federal crackdown and he convinced Ragano to help.
Trafficante died in 1987 after telling Ragano that they had made a mistake in Killing John Kennedy, they should have killed Robert Kennedy.
In August 1990, Ragano was again convicted of tax evasion, and sentenced in 1993 to 10 months in a federal health center.