Gangsters Who Vanished And Were Never Found

When high school guidance counselors discuss possible career paths, "gangster" doesn't usually come up. Getting a job in the underworld, or Mafia, or whatever you want to call it, is always a dangerous prospect. A lot of times, it can be a job for life; as in, you could totally lose your life because of your job. Not many famous gangsters died in their sleep of old age. Usually they go out violently, killed by their enemies, the government, or even their own men.

Then there are the gangsters whose ends are less clear, because they just straight-up disappeared. Usually, it's probably because they too were killed horribly, but no one can be completely sure, since their bodies have never been found. Maybe some of these guys managed to get out of the mob, create a new life, and live happily on a farm somewhere surrounded by grandchildren. Nah, it was probably the violent murder thing.

Chicago wouldn't give up on Tommy O'Connor

While Chicago gangster Thomas O'Connor picked up the sobriquet "Terrible Tommy" somewhere along the way, in 1962, The Lakeland Ledger sniffed that he "wouldn't rate a line alongside the Dillingers and Capones and Baby Face Nelsons." That gives you an idea of his level of gangster cred. However, his vanishing act managed to impress.

In 1921, O'Connor was on death row in the Cook County jail, sentenced to hang for killing a police officer. Four days before the scheduled execution, he escaped by getting ahold of a pistol and threatening a guard. He stole a car (the fourth one he commandeered, after abandoning the first three for some reason) and was never seen again. According to The Washington Post, there were plenty of theories about what happened to O'Connor, including he "returned to his native Ireland to fight the British, fled to Mexico or became a Trappist monk." But there's a grave in Illinois reputed to be his, that claims he died in 1951.

O'Connor's disappearance was a problem for Chicago. Cook County "discontinued hanging" and moved on to the electric chair in 1927. But Terrible Tommy's sentence specified he was to be hanged. That meant if he ever turned back up, they couldn't legally kill him any other way. So, just in case, the gallows gathered dust in a basement until 1977, when the county finally gave up on killing O'Connor, who would have been 96, and sold it.

Anthony Zizzo vanished before eating his last meal

His 5'3 height earned mobster Anthony Zizzo the nickname "Little Tony," although he managed to pack 200 pounds on that small frame, according to ABC 7. He was a member of the Chicago Outfit, the Italian-American mafia in that city. In 2006, a major mob trial was about to begin, but Zizzo "conspicuously wasn't charged." There's a theory this may have made him look like a snitch. He was also in the middle of an intense beef with the powerful gangster Michael Sarno over a video poker machine business. So it wasn't that surprising when he suddenly vanished.

On August 31, Zizzo left his house, telling his wife he had a business meeting. He stopped for gas and went to a restaurant, where he was seen by numerous employees, but "never made it into the restaurant." His car was later found in the parking lot, but Zizzo was gone. There were no signs of foul play. His wife filed a missing person's report, and the FBI eventually offered $10,000 for information.

Many people think he was murdered, either by his own crew for the rumors he'd snitched to the government, or by his nemesis Sarno. One mob expert says he was probably killed and his body "disposed of in a manner that would make it nearly impossible to locate." However, Sarno, who is in prison on unrelated charges, as of this writing, swears he had nothing to do with Zizzo's disappearance. And the FBI thinks it's possible Zizzo went on the run to avoid possible prosecution.

James Squillante magically vanished like garbage on curb

Certain occupations have reputations for being mobbed-up. If the Mafia can get gain a monopoly on something, they acquire more control and lots of money, which is kind of their raison d'être. In mid-20th century New York City, garbage collecting was one of the Cosa Nostra's main rackets. In 1957, a Senate committee revealed a 5'1 fruit-peddler-turned-gangster named Vincent James Squillante was "the absolute czar of the private sanitation industry in Greater New York," according to Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime. But Squillante wasn't just the business side of things. That same year he was alleged to have ordered his goons to kill a guy and cut him up into tiny pieces, as reported by a later Senate committee.

Being investigated by the Senate is never a good sign. It means the law is on to you. In 1960, Squillante was indicted on extortion charges. On September 23, he was seen driving a new Chevy, then he vanished. He may have been murdered by the mob for "personal misconduct," or so he couldn't squeal at trial. While no one knows for sure what happened to him, there is a rather disturbing rumor. Thought Catalog says he was shot in the head and his body loaded into the trunk of a car. The automobile was then smooshed in a crusher, and finally "melted down in an open furnace," with Squillante's body still inside.

You did not want to be friends with Anthony Strollo

Mafia guys get nicknames, and Anthony Strollo's was the fabulous "Tony Bender." He was an important guy, the right-hand man of New York mob boss Vito Genovese for many years, according to The Mafia Encyclopedia. He was well-trusted, even being placed in charge of operations when his boss had to flee to Europe in the 1930s, and he ordered more murders than possibly any other mobster. Being Strollo's friend didn't mean much. In once instance, Genovese made sure Strollo wasn't involved in a hit, since the target was Strollo's best friend, but Strollo "cheerfully volunteered" to help when he found out about the plans. Years later, he tried to kill another friend as well.

Strollo's loyalty was just as flexible as his friendships. He tended to align himself with whomever had the most power at the time. In 1958, he switched families and set up his old boss Genovese in a drug bust. The mob boss went to jail, where he realized Strollo had betrayed him.

On April 8, 1962, Strollo left his home, telling his wife he would only be gone a few minutes. He was never seen again. There are rumors he's under the West Side Highway, or that his body was dumped in a cement mixer and became part of a skyscraper. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia reports that when asked why Strollo's vanished, Genovese vaguely alluded to ordering his murder, saying it had been a kindness, since Strollo wouldn't have been able to handle prison.

Danny Walsh's kidnappers didn't deliver

An Irish-American guy from small-town Rhode Island doesn't sound like your stereotypical gangster. But Prohibition had a way of turning even regular people into criminals. According to the New England Historical Society, Danny Walsh was making $5 a day when alcohol was outlawed in America. He decided this rum-running racket would be a better way to get rich, especially since there was little chance of getting in trouble for it in a state that was against Prohibition and never approved the 18th Amendment.

Walsh became one of the biggest bootleggers in the US. He only had one small brush with the law over unpaid taxes, however, his new job required he get close to organized crime bosses, including "King" Charles Solomon and associates of Al Capone. This put him in danger, especially as the liquor business became more violent.

In 1933, Walsh had a dinner with friends, later dubbed his "death supper." Then he vanished. Walsh's brother received a ransom note demanding $40,000. The money was handed over to an anonymous guy in Boston who "[slipped] his hand through a hotel room door." Despite the kidnappers' promise, Walsh wasn't returned, dead or alive.

Court TV's Crime Library reports an inquiry held after Walsh's disappearance failed to figure out what happened. One rumor was that he'd been buried on his own farm, another said his body was "stuffed into a barrel of cement," and dumped in the ocean. For decades, any suspicious corpse was compared to Walsh's dental records, but they never matched.

Frederick Tenuto wasn't good enough at killing people

By the time he was 16, Fredrick Tenuto already had a criminal record, according to The Mafia Encyclopedia. But his continuous trips to prison weren't that big a deal to him, because Tenuto was extremely good at breaking out. A history of Eastern State Penitentiary records shows he managed two escapes, one from there, and one from another prison no one had ever broken out of before.

While he wasn't an important mobster, Tenuto got the nickname "Angel of Death" because he was a go-to guy if you wanted a hit done. He was even added to the FBI's Most Wanted list in 1950. But his carelessness would be his downfall.

Albert Anastasia was a mafia don and properly insane. His answer to everything was violence and murder. When a man named Arnold Schuster did his civic duty and turned in a bank robber in 1952, American Mafia says Anastasia announced he hated squealers, and ordered Schuster killed. The job fell to Tenuto. The Angel of Death did the deed in the open on a New York Street, and there was at least one witness. When Anastasia heard his triggerman had been seen, he panicked. Tenuto could be connected to him, so he ordered his hit man killed to clean up the messy situation.

Tenuto vanished, almost certainly because he'd been murdered, but his body was never found. Some police informants said he'd been given a "double-decker funeral," (per The Mafia Encyclopedia) which is when a body is placed in a false bottom underneath a different corpse.

Abraham Weinberg probably pioneered cement shoes

"Bo" Weinberg entered the world of organized crime as a young man, and by the time Prohibition rolled around, he was working for major New York bootlegger Dutch Schultz. Weinberg rose to be his right hand man, personally killing many of Schultz's competitors, and running his empire when Schultz went on the run to avoid tax evasion charges, according to Hollywood Most Wanted.

But the book Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York reports the feds were getting close, and this concerned Weinberg. He liked his money and power, and if his boss fell, he risked losing it all. So Weinberg conspired with rival Lucky Luciano, giving the other mob boss tips on how to bring down his current don in exchange for "a healthy cut of any future action." But before Luciano could move in and take over, Schultz found out about Weinberg's betrayal.

On September 9, 1935, Weinberg left a friend's house, got in a car, and was never seen again. While one story says Schultz killed his Judas "with his bare hands," it's the more common tale of his murder that went down in history. After being beaten almost senseless, Weinberg's feet were encased in cement and he was dumped in the East River while still alive. Vice says that this was where the Mafia stereotypes of "cement shoes" and "sleeping with the fishes" originates from, and it may very well have happened to Weinberg, even if they never did it again.

Rocco Perri vanished after getting a headache

America wasn't the only place that banned alcohol for awhile. Ontario also got in on the not-fun with the Temperance Act of 1916, which was pretty much a blanket ban against booze. That meant you got (assumedly very polite) northern gangsters involved in bootlegging. And the "Al Capone of Canada" was Rocco Perri, according to the Hamilton Spectator.

The Star reports that one night in 1923, Perri, the "patriarch of the mob," was on the scene as more than 2,500 bottles of whiskey were unloaded from a boat. The cops busted him, but Perri swore he was just in the area and had nothing to do with it. The charges were eventually dropped. A year later, he wasn't so shy about his work. In 1924, Perri confessed his illegal activities to a reporter, and his wife called him the "king of the bootleggers." But he couldn't be charged with anything just for bragging.

On April 23, 1944, Perri got a headache while visiting a cousin. He went for a walk to try and shake it, saying he'd be back by lunch. He never returned. There's a theory that he was murdered by underworld rivals for control of his territory and dumped in Hamilton Harbour, but there is some evidence he might have learned about a plot to kill him and fled. Perri's biographer claims to have proof he lived in Massena, N.Y. under the name "Giuseppe Portolesi" until he died of natural causes in 1953.

Paolo Renda had trouble with impolite Canadian gangsters

Canada has a surprisingly active and violent underworld, and Paolo Renda was right in the middle of it. In the 1970s, Nicolo Rizzuto took over the Mafia in Montreal by killing another don, according to the CBC. Renda married Rizzuto's daughter and got heavily involved in the family business, including handling the finances.

Renda had numerous run-ins with the law. The Globe and Mail reports that in 1972 he was convicted of arson, 2006 saw him arrested in a huge mob raid, and in 2008, he pleaded guilty to "two counts of possessing profits from organized crime." Things also started to go south for his mob family in general. A rival gang began fighting them for power, sending messages that included kidnapping Rizzuto's gangsters, who would later reappear safe and sound.

That wasn't the case for Renda. On May 20, 2010, while he was on conditional release from jail, construction workers saw a black car with a removable siren on top pulled the gangster over. Two men posing as plainclothes police officers bundled him into their car. His wife discovered Renda's SUV abandoned with the keys still in the ignition. He was never seen again. The real police thought the hit might have been part of a vendetta dating back to the 1970s.

Normally it takes seven years to declare someone dead when they vanish, but Global News says Renda's wife tried to get closure in 2013. The judge rejected her petition, saying there wasn't enough proof he'd been killed.

Joseph Ardizzone wreaked havoc on LA before he vanished

Joseph Ardizzone was a man of many faces. He was an immigrant fruit peddler, just trying to make a living in turn of the century LA, according to Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles. He was also a civic leader in the Italian community, according to The Los Angeles Sugar Ring: Inside the World of Old Money, Bootleggers & Gambling Barons.   

But there was another, more murderous side to Ardizzone. Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles says two gangs emerged in LA, with Ardizzone heading one. The Black Hand started killing people in their rival mob (drive-by shootings were done on bicycles at the time), and by 1906, Ardizzone had to go on the lam. But soon he was back in LA, and back to his old habits. When Prohibition rolled around, he got involved in bootlegging like all gangsters. And he kept killing people, although the law never got any murder charges to stick. He once bragged he'd killed 30 men.

But the violence of the liquor business caught up to Ardizzone. He wanted to muscle in on other gang's bootlegging operations, and they wanted to take over his. He was shot in a drive-by in February 1931, and barely survived. Then in October, he went for a drive to go pick up a cousin but never arrived. No one ever found out what happened to him. His wife had to wait years until he was officially declared dead.

Did Vincent Mangano vanish thanks to his crazy henchman?

While not as famous these days as mob bosses like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, in the 1920s and 30s, Vincent Mangano commanded just as much respect as head of his crime family. An immigrant from Sicily, by 1931, he was in charge of the Brooklyn Mafia, with his brother Philip serving as his second in command.

National Crime Syndicate reports that Mangano, while known as "The Executioner," believed in doing things the old way. He "followed the rules of honor, tradition, respect, and dignity," even when that meant killing people. One of his underlings agreed, saying in A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno that Mangano thought it was his responsibility to guide his "sons" in the correct way of doing things, so the mob didn't lose its traditions.

Unfortunately for Mangano, one of his underlings was Albert Anastasia, who was, as previously mentioned, completely insane. Anastasia also wanted to be in charge. According to Mafia Summit: J. Edgar Hoover, the Kennedy Brothers, and the Meeting That Unmasked the Mob, Mangano and Anastasia often had "heated arguments" in public. Sometimes it turned physical. In 1951, Anastasia was overheard plotting against his boss. On April 19, second-in-command Philip Mangano was found murdered in a swamp. When police came to question his brother about the death, Vincent Mangano was nowhere to be found. While Anastasia denied involvement, it's believed he had both brothers killed on the same day. Anastasia got what he wanted and took over the family.