FBI Files: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s Father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. Was “Constant Companion” Of Notorious Mobster Benjamin Magliano
Nancy Pelosi’s father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. allegedly was a “constant companion” of notorious mobster Benjamin “Benny Trotta” Magliano and other underworld figures during his political years in Baltimore, MD. D’Alesandro was a Congressman for five terms from 1938 to 1947, and Baltimore mayor for three terms from 1947 to 1959. Magliano was identified by the FBI as one of Baltimore’s “top hoodlums,” and he widely was acknowledged as the representative for New York’s Frankie Carbo who made his bones with Murder, Inc. and later became a made guy in the Lucchese family. The allegations are included in D’Alesandro’s recently-released FBI files which Friends of Ours has obtained pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
In 1947 the FBI investigated Magliano for securing a draft exemption from Selective Service for himself and prize fighters he controlled by falsely representing they had essential employment at American Ship Cleaning Company which was operated by John Cataneo. In fact, Magliano and his boxers had no such employment, and they were convicted with Cataneo in federal court for their unpatriotic draft-dodging scam. Peter Galiano, one of the convicted boxers, told the FBI in January 1947 that “Thomas D’Alesandro was a constant companion of John Cataneo; Benjamin Magliano . . . and [redacted]”:
It was reported that these individuals had worked hard for Thomas D’Alesandro’s reelection to Congress and on his campaign at that time to become Mayor of Baltimore. It was stated that John Cataneo and Magliano during the time of this campaign were under Federal indictments for violation of the Selective Service Act and for fraud against the Government and were subsequently convicted in Federal court. Cataneo allegedly admitted giving large sums of money toward the Democratic campaign and stated that he would receive the sanitation contracts for Baltimore if Mr. D’Alesandro was elected mayor.
At that time the FBI never investigated D’Alesandro concerning this or numerous other allegations involving hoodlum associations and public corruption. Of course, while in Congress D’Alesandro sat on the appropriations committee and was a friend of Director J. Edgar Hoover. For example, an FBI memo dated March 27, 1946 from E. G. Fitch to D. M. Ladd provides:
Supervisor Orrin H. Bartlett advised me that while talking to Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. (D., Md.) on March 26, 1946, the Congressman advised Agent Bartlett he was running for Congress again in the fall 1946 election and that in 1947 he was running for the office of Mayor of Baltimore. Congressman D’Alesandro advised Agent Bartlett that since he had been on the Appropriations Committee, he has been back of the Director and the Bureau one hundred percent, and further, that he was vitally interested in and completely satisfied with the results of the Bureau’s work.
Hoover sent warm congratulations to D’Alesandro upon his November 1946 re-election to the House and then his May 1947 election as Baltimore Mayor, and after leaving Congress for City Hall D’Alesandro wrote Hoover by letter dated May 14, 1947:
Thank you very much for message congratulating me on my election as Mayor of the City of Baltimore. I was most pleased to receive your good wishes and assure you that I will do my utmost to give the people of Baltimore an efficient and outstanding administration. I, too, will miss you and many other friends in Washington but I am grateful for the proximity of our two cities which will afford the opportunity for frequent visits when and if time permits. Whenever you are in Baltimore, please make it a point to visit me at City Hall.
Meanwhile, the allegations against D’Alesandro continued to pile up. Finally, in January 1961 President John F. Kennedy requested the G-men to address “allegations of D’Alesando’s involvement with Baltimore hoodlums; with favoritism in awarding city contracts; [and] protection for political contributors and the prosecution of local cases.” President Kennedy wanted to appoint D’Alesandro to the United States Renegotiation Board which was a government watchdog against profit gouging by defense contractors. A February 6, 1961 memo from Hoover to the Baltimore and Washington Field Offices cautiously advises: “The White House has requested that we proceed with a special inquiry investigation but that if substantial derogatory information were developed, we should report this and discontinue any further inquiries because substantiation of any of the allegations would eliminate D’Alesandro.”
The FBI inquiry was a perfunctory exercise with little digging which vainly attempted to address two decades of allegations in less than two months, and of course some witnesses had lost their memories and others had died or otherwise disappeared.
For example, Peter Galiano, the convicted boxer involved with Magliano’s draft-dodging scheme who told Special Agent James V. Sullivan in January 1947 that D’Alesandro was a “constant companion” of both Magliano and Cataneo, more than a decade later when pressed by the FBI said on February 8, 1961 his statement was “only rumor and hearsay,” and “he could not recall who gave him this information or whether or not there was any truth to these allegations.” However, there was independent corroboration for at least some of Galiano’s earlier allegations. The FBI notes that “during the investigation” of the Selective Service fraud case “SA JAMES V. SULLIVAN had occasion to be at the American Shipcleaning Company Offices in Baltimore on a number of occasions and had seen appointee [D’Alesandro] in the company of JOHN CATANEO.” Moreover, Special Agent Sullivan in 1947 had received from another informant “similar information” concerning D’Alesandro’s ties to Cataneo and Magliano, and this informant further advised that “CATANEO also supposedly was well-regarded by D’ALESANDRO because he had control of a large Italian vote in Baltimore.”
D’Alesandro also was accused by highly-credible police officers of providing protection to Baltimore hoodlums. For example, “in 1945, Captain JOHN R. ROLLMAN, Western District, Baltimore Police Department, Baltimore, Maryland, furnished information to the Baltimore Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning one CHARLES F. CAMMARATA, who until a short time previously had operated a tavern at 641 West Baltimore Street.” According to Captain Rollman “CAMMARATA had gotten away with all sorts of criminal activities in the Western District due to the protection of Maryland United States Representative THOMAS D’ALESANDRO,” and “CAMMARATA was alleged to be gambling in various crap and card games in Baltimore.” Once again, the FBI never did anything about these allegations at the time they were made, and in 1961 when the G-men finally got around to taking a look into them Captain Rollman since had died and “CAMMARATA’s current whereabouts are unknown.” A March 15, 1961 FBI memo reports that Cammarata may have been last seen in Havana, Cuba in the mid-1950s where he allegedly “had some connection with Clark’s Tropicana Night Club,” and may now be residing in Miami, FL where he “reportedly owned apartment houses”; however, perhaps content to let sleeping dogs lie, the FBI never followed up on these tips in an attempt to reach Cammarata about the alleged protection he received from D’Alesandro while operating in Baltimore in the 1940s.
Another serious allegation against D’Alesandro was that he had received kickbacks from building developer Dominic Piracci on city contracts. Piracci’s account ledger included several payments totaling $11,000 to D’Alesandro which he later erased to keep the information from investigators. The developer later explained that the payments were legitimate loans to Mrs. D’Alesandro to finance her cosmetics business which since had been fully repaid, and he doctored the documents only “to save” the D’Alesandro family “from embarrassment and from further trouble” given a criminal investigation into his business practices. In April 1954 Piracci “was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the city of $42,996 in connection with the construction of an off-street parking garage in Baltimore,” and also found guilty for “obstruction of justice in that he submitted to a Baltimore City Grand Jury a ‘completely phony’ ledger to conceal $35,000 in weekly payments to the Peoples Holding Corporation” whose officers “were also charged with conspiracy to defraud Baltimore City in an off-street parking garage contract.” Mrs. D’Alesandro testified on Piracci’s behalf at his criminal trial, and although she insisted the “loans” from Piracci were repaid there was no documentary evidence to corroborate that testimony. The supposed repayments were made in cash rather than by check. Mrs. D’Alesandro’s testimony may have saved her husband’s sorry ass from criminal liability but could not save his then-bid to become Maryland’s governor. The D’Alesandro’s son Thomas III later married Piracci’s daughter Margaret.
The Piracci trial at which Mrs. D’Alesandro testified immediately was followed by a child gang rape trial against the Mayor’s 20-yearold son Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro. The FBI describes the ugly case in a January 30, 1961 memo as follows:
During the summer of 1953, Mayor D’Alesandro’s son, Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro, aged twenty, was one of fourteen youths charged with having committed rape or perverted practices on two girls, aged eleven and thirteen, during July of that year. It was reported that Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro was the only one of twelve of those tried at that time who was successful in obtaining an acquittal. Following this acquittal, a Baltimore, Maryland, Grand Jury indicted Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro on charges of having committed perjury in that he had lied during the afore-mentioned trial on charges of rape. In addition, James H. Pollack, Baltimore City political boss, was reportedly also indicted on the charge of obstruction of justice in that he had attempted to influence testimony of several of the youthful defendants who had been tried with Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro. It was reported that Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro was tried on the above charge of perjury at Salisbury, Maryland, during 1954, following a change of venue, and was found not guilty.
A Feb 27, 1961 FBI memo states that according to one informant “the consensus of opinion among persons connected with law enforcement that appointee’s [D’Alesandro’s] son acquitted of rape because of brilliant fashion case handled by defense attorney.” Franklin Roosevelt D’Alesandro was represented by Joseph Sherbow who managed to sever his client from the other defendants and ensured his trial went first so any convictions against the others would not prejudice him. Apparently D’Alesandro believed that his son was guilty of the charge, and prior to trial urged him to plead guilty and “take his medicine.”
The corruption charges and his son’s rape trial all had become more than Mayor D’Alesandro could bear, and he suffered a nervous breakdown. D’Alesandro was admitted to the Bon Secours Hospital in Maryland where he rested from March 10 through July 12, 1954. During this period according to an FBI memo “the Balitimore City Police Department had two men assigned to protect the appointee [D’Alesandro] and also had two men guarding his home” at 245 Albemarle Street for unknown reasons and “a local paper carried a picture of him in his hospital room seated in front of a television set, dressed in a dressing gown.”
Most of the FBI’s “special inquiry” into D’Alesandro involved brief interviews with his political cronies, personal friends and family members who insisted the Mayor was a swell guy. The allegations against D’Alesandro involving public graft and hoodlum associations were conveniently ignored or gratuitously explained away, and on March 28, 1961 he was sworn in as a member of the United States Renegotiation Board by President Kennedy. D’Alesandro’s wife and their 21-year-old daughter Nancy were by his side.
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Further reading that may be of interest: