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Frank Buscemi (born 1911- died December 7, 1987) was a Sicilian businessman and powerful boss of the Rockford crime family from 1973 until 1987.
Born in 1911, Buscemi like so many other Rockford mobsters, was born in the Aragona region of Sicily. He was originally aligned with the Chicago Outfit before relocating to Rockford in 1959. However two cousins that were involved Antonio Musso's bootlegging war (Angelo and Frank Buscemi) were already considered underworld legends.
One of Buscemi's closest associates was Joseph Aiuppa of the Chicago Syndicate. In 1981 federal agents photographed Joseph Zammuto, Buscemi and Aiuppa attending the wake for longtime Rockford crime family consigliere Joe Zito. Remarkably by the early 1960s Buscemi was often credited with the role of underboss in particular following the departure of mob member Gaspare Calo. Buscemi was more of a businessman than a thug. Shortly after settling in Rockford he set up his vending machine operation (State Line Vending) in the Aragona Social Club. The club had been used by prior boss Joe Zammuto for regular meetings with the Rockford crew. At the time it was thought that the Rockford mob held a secret interest in most of the lounges in the area. This would later be brought to light during a grand jury investigation where Buscemi was called to testify. He provided little information and the investigation fizzled. Many of the jukeboxes, pinball and cigarette machines housed in the taverns were undoubtedly supplied by Buscemi.
Business investments and money laundering Edit
Beginning in the 1960s Buscemi established Rondinella Foods, Inc. that specialized in pizza ingredients to supply to local Italian restaurants. Buscemi was also known to have secretly financed at least three of these restaurants then arrange several cousins from Sicily to operate them on his behalf. These restaurants still exist today and are operated by distant Buscemi relatives. Rondinella would later be loosely connected to an international heroin trafficking case appropriately dubbed The Pizza Connection. In 1981, citing pressure from IRS Buscemi sold Rondinella. However by then the company had made him very wealthy.
Beginning in the 1970s with his burgeoning business interests Buscemi began to sponsor working visas for several cousins from Sicily. One relative in particular was Pietro Alfano. At the time a wave of Sicilian gangsters were already entrenched in New York and surrounding states, all of them running Italian restaurants or pizza shops. What would take authorities a decade to prove and a landmark federal case was that this elaborate scheme involved money laundering of heroin sales. The heroin would be produced in Sicily, having had the poppy ingredients shipped in from Turkey, then the narcotic would be shipped to the United States, Canada and much of Europe. With so much supply the American mafia in New York and Sicilian mafia had a lock on the deadly product. Following it being sold at the wholesale and street levels the profits were then dumped into these restaurants and the funds eventually made their way back across the Atlantic.
The imported Midwest pizza shop operators included Pietro Alfano of Alfano's Pizzeria in Oregon, IL (still in operation today), Emmanuel Palazzolo (Alfano's brother in law) of Milton, WI; Giuseppe Trupiano of Olney, IL and Giuseppe Vitale of Paris, IL. All three were related to one another and considered nephews to Gaetano 'Don Tano' Badalamenti, a top level Cinisi, Sicily mafia boss and lead figure in the Pizza Connection case. Samuel Evola, operating out of Temperance, MI was another cog in this wheel but was considered an associate of the Detroit mob.
Authorities could never directly link Rondinella and Buscemi to the case but it would stand to reason that selling his products to the Illinois Sicilians could have been a tool to wash the illicit funds. His cousin Pietro Alfano was later ambushed and fired upon in Greenwich Village, Manhattan in February 1987 but survived. He would later be sentenced to 15 years (serving 7) in prison and is reportedly retired and living in Sicily.
Frank Buscemi, died of natural causes on December 7, 1987. By 1988 his remaining business interests had been sold.