Anthony Brancato (born around 1913 – August 6, 1951) was a Kansas City, Missouri criminal who served as a freelance gunman to various Mafia and syndicate organizations.
Born in Kansas City, Brancato became involved in armed robbery and drug dealing. He later moved to Southern California. Arriving in Los Angeles during the early stages of the feud between Los Angeles crime family boss Jack Dragna and Mickey Cohen, Brancato was immediately able to find freelance work. He soon compiled a criminal record including illegal gambling, narcotics, and bootlegging. He was considered a suspect in many gangland slayings, including that of New York mobster Bugsy Siegel and Cohen lieutenant Harold "Hooky" Rothman. Brancato was also a suspect in the July 1949 assassination attempt on Cohen himself. Fresno, California police questioned Brancato about the drug-related death of Abe Davidson. He was a relative of Cleveland crime family mobster Frank Brancato who served under capo James T. Licavoli in 1972 and later as Underboss to John Scalish until his death in 1973.
The Two Tonys Edit
Brancato frequently teamed up with fellow Kansas City criminal Anthony Trombino. The two men were arrested 46 times in total on charges ranging from robbery and rape to assault.
On May 28, 1951, the "Two Tonys", as they were called, robbed the sports betting operation at the syndicate-controlled Flamingo Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, escaping with $3,500 in cash. Neglecting to wear a mask during the robbery, Brancato was identified and placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list on June 27, 1951. Two days later, with his lawyer present, Brancato surrendered to federal agents in San Francisco. After posting a $10,000 bail, Brancato was rearrested before leaving the building on a Nevada warrant charging him as a fugitive from justice. However, he was now out of money and was unable to post bail.
Brancato's case soon became a minor cause celebre among students of constitutional law, accusing state and federal authorities of violating Brancato's civil rights. Released without bond on a writ of habeas corpus, Brancato traveled south to Los Angeles to rendezvous with Trombino.
Final days Edit
Having identified them as the Flamingo robbers, the mob was soon looking for Brancato and Trombino. Jack Dragna ordered their deaths, and gave Jimmy "the weasel" Fratianno the duty of setting up the hit.
In desperate need of cash for various legal bills, the Two Tonys made their situation worse by cheating gambler Sam Lazes out of $3,000 after posing as collectors for a local syndicate gambler. Brancato and Trombino had been spotted meeting in L.A. meeting with Fratianno who allegedly asked to meet them about a proposed bank robbery in Hollywood. However, the real purpose of the meeting was to kill them. Hours later, Trombino was about to light a cigar in the front seat of his Oldsmobile, with Brancato beside him, when someone in the back blew their brains out. On August 6, 1951, Brancato and Trombino were found shot to death in the front seat of a car just off Hollywood Boulevard. All the people involved in the murder, Fratianno, Nick Licata, Charles Battaglia, Angelo Polizzi, and Leo "Lips" Moceri, plus Fratianno's brother Warren (who had no part in the murder), were arrested for the crime. However, since Licata set up a phony alibi for everyone involved, no one was charged with the murder and it remained unsolved. Although the LAPD still suspected them of the crime, The Two Tonys murder would remain unsolved until Fratianno entered the federal Witness Protection Program over 25 years later and admitted to murdering the duo.
In popular culture Edit
In the 1997 Curtis Hanson film LA Confidential, Tony Brancato and Anthony Trombino are shot to death in a 1951 Oldsmobile coupé parked off Sunset Boulevard. The assailants are reported by Hush-Hush" magazine to be working for unknown forces taking over the Mickey Cohen rackets after he was sent to prison for income tax evasion (great Hush-Hush headline "In The Joint With Micky C").
In James Ellroy's White Jazz, the novel's protagonist, David Klein, kills Tony Brancato and Anthony Trombino.
The title of episode 53 of The Sopranos, "Two Tonys" (2004), refers in part to Tony Brancato and Anthony Trombino.