Santo Trafficante Biography

Organized Crime (1914–1987)
Santo Trafficante is best known for running casinos in Cuba, prior to Castro's revolution.


Santo Trafficante was born November 15, 1914 in Tampa Bay, Florida. He gained the majority of his position through the consolidation of power his father had done as the boss of Florida and Cuba. Santo was reportedly the most powerful mob boss in Batista era Cuba. During that time he operated multiple casinos, until Castro's revolution at which time his assets were confiscated and he was expelled from the country.


Mob boss. Born November 15, 1914 in Tampa, Florida. The son of Mafia don Santo Trafficante, Sr., Santo Trafficante grew up in the Florida underworld, working his father's gambling rackets and getting experience in the business. The elder Trafficante set up illegal casinos in Cuba in the 1940s, which were sanctioned by Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista who pocketed a hefty profit.

Trafficante married Josephine Marchese in 1938. In 1953, his father sent him to Cuba to look after the casinos, and Trafficante took over the operations after his father's death from stomach cancer in 1954. Trafficante commuted between Florida and Cuba, resulting in his U.S. arrest and conviction for gambling operations. His prison stint was cut short, however, when his conviction was overturned by the Florida State Supreme Court.

Over the years, Trafficante was linked to at least four Mafia slayings, but always escaped lengthy jail terms. In 1957, he and more than 50 other gangsters were arrested when authorities made a sweep during an underworld convention in Appalachian, New York. The charges were later dropped. According to the Treasury Department, Trafficante ran numerous legitimate businesses, including several legal casinos in Cuba, a Havana drive-in movie theater, and shares in restaurants and bars in Tampa.

In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista and shut down Trafficante's Cuban casino operations. He also threw Trafficante in prison before deporting him to the United States. Soon after, Trafficante allegedly entered talks with the Central Intelligence Agency about a plot to murder Fidel Castro. In exchange, Trafficante and his friends were immune from criminal prosecution for offenses committed in the United States. Trafficante was also rumored to be involved in a Mafia plot to kill President John F. Kennedy, though he denied there was any such conspiracy.

In 1981, Trafficante was charged with illegally bribing union officials, ultimately defrauding the International Union of North America for millions of dollars. The trial never made it to court. In 1986, he was charged with racketeering and conspiracy after providing criminal organizations an entree into the Florida casino business in exchange for a share of the profits. A federal judge dismissed the charges, declaring a mistrial.

It is believed that Trafficante continued to work for the CIA until his death on March 19, 1987. He was survived by his wife, Josephine, two daughters and four grandchildren.

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