Reputed Old-Time Mafia Don Santo Trafficante Jr. Dies in Hospital at Age 72
Santo Trafficante Jr., believed to be one of the last of the old-time Mafia dons and a shadowy figure questioned in both the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and a plot on the life of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has died at the age of 72.
Henry Gonzalez of Tampa, a longtime friend and attorney, said Trafficante died late Tuesday) at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, where he had gone for heart surgery.
Trafficante’s Sicilian-born father presided over what federal authorities called Tampa’s “era of blood,” when rival crime families fought for control of Florida gambling from 1937 to 1945. When his father died in 1954, Trafficante took over the family business, according to testimony before a U.S. Senate committee in 1963.
Over the years, the younger Trafficante was linked to at least four gangland slayings and testified about a plot to assassinate Castro, but he escaped lengthy jail terms.
A federal judge last July dismissed racketeering-conspiracy charges against Trafficante in a case that grew out of a $2-million FBI sting undercover gambling investigation. Trafficante was accused of giving permission to underworld organizations in Florida to run gambling operations in return for a share of the profits.
But the judge declared a mistrial after refusing to admit key prosecution evidence.
He was among 57 alleged mobsters arrested when authorities broke up an underworld convention in Apalachin, N.Y., in 1957. Those charges were later dropped.
Also that year, Trafficante was questioned about the death of Albert Anastasia, who headed a group dubbed “Murder Inc.”
In 1978, appearing before a House panel looking into assassinations of political figures, Trafficante said he participated in an alleged CIA assassination plot against Castro because “I thought I was helping the United States government.”
Trafficante also denied that there was any mob plot to kill President Kennedy, despite testimony that Trafficante had once promised that Kennedy would not be reelected. The reputed mob boss supposedly had railed against the crackdown by the Kennedy Administration on organized crime. He was quoted as saying to Jose Aleman, an anti-Castro Cuban refugee, “He’s (Kennedy) going to be hit.”