The Detroit Mafia also referred to as the Tocco-Zerilli crime family or the Detroit Partnership has a long and interesting history dating back to the 1900s.
The mid-west organization was recognized by The Commission and became one of the 24 original Mafia families that comprised Cosa Nostra in America. The mafia in Detroit grew in power and influence over years under the guidance of top mob bosses that included Joe Zerilli and Giacomo “Jack” Tocco. The highly respected mob family maintained a very quiet and low key approach compared to some of the countries other families. That is until the disappearance of former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa in 1975 pushed them into the headlines. Years of investigations would follow many of which included members of the Detroit mafia making them one of the most talked-about American Mafia families outside of New York. But times have definitely changed and now many wonder if the mob in Detroit has become a thing of the past.
The families long-held tradition of marrying off within its ranks has truly made it a family affair. This strategy has allowed the mafia in Detroit to avoid many of the pitfalls that have taken down other mob families across the country. Having so many members within the family related by blood made them extremely hard to penetrate. It has also allowed them to avoid costly internal wars and an infestation of mob rats at least for the most part.
The downside was that it limited the families ability to expand and grow. What was once a large organization consisting of more than 100 made men has reportedly dwindled down to approx 30 or fewer today. Over the past couple of decades, the family has lost the majority of its political influence and wide-ranging power. As we entered the 1990s questions of the families sustainability began to arise.
A large racketeering indictment in 1996 proved the organized crime family was still fully functional and actively controlling some traditional mafia rackets. Sixteen alleged members and associates of the Tocco-Zerilli crime family were indicted including aging boss Jack Tocco and underboss Tony Zerilli. The feds described the case as a stake to the heart of the Motor City Mafia. While that may have been a bit much it was a blow to the already diminishing organization.
A RICO indictment that centered around bookmaking, money laundering, and extortion landed in 2006. The indictment while not directly attributed to the local mafia family included the familiar names of Tocco and Giacalone. Many saw this as a sign that rumors of the mob families demise may have been a bit premature. But it remained clear that the changing times were having a negative effect on the once-mighty crime family as this was one of the last major cases to date involving multiple members of the organization.
Longtime boss Jack Tocco passed away back in 2014 followed by the death of Tony Zerilli in 2015. The family would lose other long term members over the past few years as well. It was time for the next generation to take the reigns of the Detroit Mafia. But many believed that this new generation were more businessmen then they were mobsters intent of moving the family away from their long-held mob rackets and into more legitimate businesses.
The mob family still maintains a functioning hierarchy according to some reports. It including current boss Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone, underboss Anthony (Chicago Tony) La Piana, and street boss Peter (Specs) Tocco. Although some believe these ranks and positions have become more ceremonial than they are functional. Just how active is this new era of the Detroit Mafia when it comes to the families illegal enterprises?
Many mob enthusiasts and insiders point to the lack of indictments and legal cases brought against the organization over the last several years as a sign of the families inactivity. Would the feds have turned their backs on an active and functioning American Mafia family? It could be a clear indicator that the new regime isn’t as involved in illegal rackets as their predecessors were. The feds may no longer consider them as part of the American Mob landscape.
We still see cases at least to some extent being brought against other active mafia families outside of New York including New England, Philadelphia, and Chicago. But not everyone buys into the idea that the Detroit family is all but dead and gone. Many believe the family has adapted its methods of doing business utilizing its close ties to avoid any federal hiccups. They believe the family still maintains sway over the local area and still controls much of its illegal bookmaking, extortion, and loan sharking activities along with some of the drug trafficking.
The organization is clearly a shadow of its former self like many other families around the country but for many that doesn’t mean they are defunct. If the Motor City Mafia family hasn’t met its end just yet it may be trending toward doing so sooner than later. It’s hard to tell exactly where things stand in Detroit today but a real lack of mafia news out of the Motor City in recent years is hard to overlook. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The debate will continue as to whether or not Detroit still has a functioning and established crime family. Even if the guys in Detroit still have a piece of long-running rackets like bookmaking and loansharking is it enough today for them to still be considered a legit and active family? What do you think? Feel free to comment below.