Mixed Agendas, Militants, and the Mafia

From Left to RIGhT: Chicago Mafia Boss Sam Giancana, CIA Officer and Chief of Staff D William K. Harvey, And the Legendary New York Mafia Leader Meyer Lansky

From Left to RIGhT: Chicago Mafia Boss Sam Giancana, CIA Officer and Chief of Staff D William K. Harvey, And the Legendary New York Mafia Leader Meyer Lansky

Some declare the Mafia's involvement regarding the death of John F. Kennedy is improbable and favor a much larger plot with many officials involved. Yet consider that most high officials were feasibly constrained by fear or wisdom not to risk their entire fate, fortune, and legacy on a plot that easily could go awry. Corporations that comprised the Military Industrial Complex would benefit from the Vietnam War regardless of whoever was President. President Kennedy was reducing the amount of troops in Vietnam, yet a total withdrawal of all forces would have feasibly taken years and the corporations would still profit from Vietnam beyond the first Kennedy term. In my view these corporations do not have a desperate need to act, nor is illegal action without the assurance of success their usual modus operandi. However, a few officials had access to criminals with military training who possessed fanatic loyalty or avarice and no aversion to murder and several officials had some advance knowledge of Oswald's many unbelievable actions. Yet only a few possessed a greater view of the entire field strewn with various competing influences and operations.

While many in the American government focused on the shadows of Communism, the actual shadow of crime expanded. Since nineteen forty-eight, former United States Air Force member Jack Ruby "very carefully cultivated friendships with (Dallas) police officers and other public officials. At the same time, he was, peripherally, if not directly connected with members of the underworld." Commission investigators state a prior narcotics episode in Ruby's past was "representative" and when"...it suited his own purposes, he did not hesitate to call on underworld characters for assistance." Based upon official files Jack Ruby had several active connections to the Mafia.i

Despite claims that Communism is the preeminent threat, the Senate Select (McClellan) Committee on Improper Activities targets the Mafia's feasible Teamster interests in nineteen fifty-seven. Members of the investigating Committee included John and Robert F. Kennedy and these interactions begin a series of increasing public battles between the Kennedys and the Mafia. Unknown to some officials were the Mafia's functioning operations in multiple Cuban businesses in nineteen fifty-nine. Heavy investments by Mafia leadership had tied part of the Mafia's future to Cuba.

The Tropicana was a partial interest of Santo Trafficante the criminal boss of Tampa and Jack Ruby visited the casino in Cuba at the invitation of his friend Lewis McWillie. McWillie is an ambitious but unimportant member of the underworld in Cuba who arranges for an owner of the Tropicana to visit Ruby in the mixture of nightclub and gambling venue. Ruby allegedly visits the Tropicana every night for weeks in Cuba. Former United States marine and Cuban Army captain Frank (Fiorini) Sturgis was stationed at the Tropicana as the "inspector of gambling" in nineteen fifty-nine.ii iii iv Sturgis and other subsequently rabid anti-Castro voices formerly served the Castro regime fighting the Batista dictatorship.

Ruby associate Lewis McWillie became pit boss of the Rivera Casino and McWillie cultivated associations with Mafia notables such as Jake Lansky brother of Meyer Lansky and Santos Trafficante the criminal boss of Tampa, Florida. Fidel Castro's government nationalized the Mafia's businesses and holdings in Cuba using force and this alone reportedly cost Meyer Lansky fourteen million dollars.v Castro disrupted formerly lucrative smuggling operations of illegal contraband and countless hundreds of millions in future profits vanished. Fidel Castro turned against the United States and began to hunt internal dissidents and many criminals and former loyalists abandoned Cuba and fled to exile in America. 

MAFIA Leader SAntos Trafficante

MAFIA Leader SAntos Trafficante

The Mafia is also subject to increased legal proceedings and investigations in the United States and the Kennedy Justice Department became a dire enemy. Yet the interests of some officials and the Mafia became similar because Communism and Castro were a common threat. The Mafia soon possessed expanded access to military methods and additional fanatic elements provided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Castro assassination plots. Agency officer Richard Bissell discussed the use of criminals for a project that required "gangster-type action" with Sheffield Edwards in nineteen sixty.vi CIA operative Robert Maheu had prior informal associations with Mafia fixer Johnny Roselli in Las Vegas. The Kennedy White House is aware of ongoing plots to eliminate Castro, yet not the lengths the Agency would pursue to succeed.

Allen Dulles authorizes the Castro plots using the Mafia, only a small number within the Agency were aware.vii High officials in government continued to support assassination to remove adversarial world leaders and related officials did not immediately consider their plots could be turned against them. Phase I was the codename of the early Agency and Mafia collaborations. During nineteen sixty repeated meetings occur with Agency operative Robert Maheu, Johnny Roselli, Santo Trafficante, and Sam Giancana the criminal boss of Chicago and each underworld leader possessed connections the Agency did not within Cuba.

Giancana associate Richard Cain prior served in the military and the Chicago Police, Cain expanded his connections among Cuban exile groups and later fails to sneak into Cuba. Cain associates with the intelligence wing of the "DRF" (Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front aka the FRD or Frente Revolucionario Democratico) in Miami led by Sergio Arcacha Smith. Cain informs the FBI of Soviet equipment locations from intelligence gathered by the FRD.viii ix He also makes an unannounced appearance at the CIA Mexico City Station in 1962 to the chagrin of Agency employees. Cain further has offered multiple reports to the FBI, CIA, and he associates with Cuban exile groups while serving the Mafia.x  

The same year Agency officer William Harvey heads Phase II and Project ZRRIFLE; these are codenames for two separate assassination plots. Harvey unlike most has no compunctions about the means to complete operational goals and CIA officer John Scelso recounts Harvey is a thug who hired "assassins" for criminal purposes under the instruction of Deputy Director of Projects Richard Helms. "The very thought of Helms entrusting Harvey to hire a criminal to have the capacity to kill somebody violates every operational precept, every bit of operational experience, every ethical consideration. And the fact that he chose Harvey -- Harvey could keep a secret, you see. Harvey could keep a secret. This was one way to make sure that nobody found out about it."xi William Harvey begins a long and illegal association with gangster Johnny Roselli for years and collaborates with Roselli and Cuban exile groups to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In nineteen sixty-three, Richard Cain states he attended a meeting of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in Chicago and one asserted topic discussed was President Kennedy's assassination.xii In New Orleans Lee Harvey Oswald claims to be the Secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), a group he creates a fake chapter for and commits repeated actions to incite others against the group asserted by Cain to be complicit. Oswald has a public altercation with Carlos Bringuier who represents the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), the Directorate is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied with FRD.xiii Yet the President's (Warren) Commission finds no "plausible", nor substantial "evidence" indicating the FPCC or any far left group had motive, means, and opportunity.xiv However, subsequent investigating officials found two related Mafia leaders did and the investigation of Cuban militant groups was deficient.xv xvi Yet the Mafia still possessed extensive influence within and without Cuba.



Jack Ruby expanded his business in Dallas to include multiple nightclubs and useful associates. Jack Ruby's associate Barney Barker was a "Chicago hoodlum who was reputedly a muscle man for Jimmy Hoffa and had been released from prison in June 1963".xvii Ruby enlisted Barker in his cause against a troublesome workers union to settle his problems with performers. Joe Campisi alleged racketeer and later personal associate of Carlos Marcello was another of Ruby's prior associates.xviii xix In New Orleans, Carlos Marcello is found innocent of all charges the Kennedy administration levied to deport him and the same day in Dallas President Kennedy is assassinated. Joe Campisi's brother Sam pays Jack Ruby a friendly visit in jail days following his murder of Oswald.

As the President's Commission investigation proceeds, Allen Dulles fails to mention repeated collaboration with the Mafia that was ongoing. This in my view does not mean the entire CIA was complicit but that some officers wished to hide assassin operations with feasible illegal connections to the Kennedy assassination. That one or more government officials were complicit in the Kennedy assassination is the enduring reasonable suspicion and some officials clearly had contrary agendas. Feasibly at least one powerful official, a handful in the Agency, leaders of the Mafia, and multiple anti-Castro groups had similar ideas. A few undertook similar operations and repeatedly associated in some cases while contriving the death of a world leader for years. So is it possible a handful would seek to eliminate a different perceived threat?

Yet not all these men and groups could be involved in the Kennedy assassination in my view. A small group with the motive, means, and opportunity to kill a President of the United States is more probable. A highly limited conspiracy might accomplish what a lone man could not and remain concealed without expansive planning or membership. Various peripheral officials eager to conceal their own misdeeds might possibly have wiped away the traces of a separate plot. Influential criminals and at least one powerful official may have used this confusion to deadly advantage and perhaps the final affront to reason is that some of these rabid groups still exist in various forms.xx
C.A.A. Savastano
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i. House Select Committee on Assassinations. Segregated CIA files, Jack L. Ruby, ADA Jack Leon Ruby, Jack Rubenstein or Jacob Rubenstein, Box 51, File 281, February 27, 1964, p. 5, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 1993.07.27.16:10:43:090630
ii. Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Volume IX, Part 5, Cuba, pp. 160-163
iii. HSCA, Segregated CIA file, Frank Anthony Sturgis, Box 2, File No. 268, June 19, 1972, NARA ID: 104-10048-10259
iv. HSCA Report, , Vol. IX , pp. 160-163
v. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, (October 17, 1991), Books of The Times, A Life of Meyer Lanksy says he died Hard Up, New York Times Archives, nytimes.com
vi. HSCA, Segregated Central Intelligence Agency Files, Roselli, Johnny; Summary of Activities in Cuba, December 9, 1970, Box 1, File 948, p. 1, NARA ID: 1993.06.28.18:21:05:560310
vii. HSCA, Segregated CIA Files, Roselli, John, Box 1, File 943, February 15, 1972, p. 2, 3, NARA ID: 1993.07.01.10:13:43:620800
viii. HSCA, Segregated CIA Files, Richard Cain S43131, Box 46, File 426, December 12, 1960, p. 1, NARA ID: 104-10130-10129
ix. HSCA Report, Appendix Volume X, Part IV. Cuban Revolutionary Council: A Concise History, p. 57
x. HSCA, Segregated CIA Files, MEMO RE RICHARD S. CAIN 272 141, Box 8, File 319, October 9, 1967, p. 2, NARA ID: 104-10059-10047
xi. HSCA, Security Classified Testimony of John Scelso, May 16, 1978, p. 146

xii. HSCA, Segregated CIA Files, Memo Re Richard S. Cain 272 141, Box 8, File Number 319, p. 1
xiii. HSCA, Segregated CIA Files, Additional Information on Carlos Bringuier, Box 1, File No. 15, 1967, p. 1, NARA ID: 1993.06.28.15:55:39:460280
xiv. Report of the President's Commission, Chapter V, Detention and Death of Oswald, p. 289
xv. Report of the House Select Comm. on Assassinations, Appendix Vol. IX, Carlos Marcello, p. 61
xvi. Ibid
xvii. HSCA, Segregated CIA files, Jack L. Ruby, ADA Jack Leon Ruby, Jack Rubenstein or Jacob Rubenstein, p. 6

xviii. HSCA, FBI Subject Files, C-D section, Subject File: Joe Campisi, No Title, File 72, May 22, 1959, p. 3, 5
xix. HSCA FBI Subject Files, C-D, Subject File: Joe Campisi, No Title, File 28, April 11, 1968
xx. Tristram Korten and Kirk Nielsen, (January 14, 2008), The coddled "terrorists" of South Florida, Salon, salon.com

Edited: December 2017

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