Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca was born Felice DeLucia in Naples, Italy,
in 1897. He was first in trouble with the authorities in 1915 when, at
the tender age of 19, he murdered his sisters exboyfriend Emilio Perillo.
Perillo's family disapproved of the DeLucia's and ordered Emilio to stop
seeing Amelia, Felice's sister. Emilio was taught a final lesson
not to disrespect the DeLucia family.
Felice confessed to the murder and was sentenced to 2 years in
prison. When he was eventually released, Felice found and killed Vincenzo
Capasso, the lone eyewitness to the Perillo murder. Felice then went on
the run from the law. He fled to Apricena, ninety miles north of
Naples, and took on the alias of Paul Maglio. From there, he journeyed
to France and boarded the boat to the United States. Felice DeLuca, under
the alias of Paul Maglio, stepped off the boat in New York on August 10th,
1920, just five days after the real Paul Maglio. Felice took the name Paul
Ricca and headed for Chicago where he began working for 'Diamond' Joe Esposito
as a waiter.
Esposito was a political boss involved in numerous mob rackets
and mobsters were known to dine at his restaurants. Ricca got to
know a few well placed mobsters and soon left his waiter job to run the
Dante Theater in 'Little Italy' and the World Playhouse, a club run by
Capone and Ricca were to become firm friends. Capone was Ricca's
best man at his wedding in 1927.
In 1928, Ricca was given American Citizenship under the name Paul
DeLucia. His mob friends continued to call him Ricca or, a nickname from
his humble beginnings in the U.S., 'The Waiter'.
Ricca was seen as a promising up and coming mobster by many in
Chicago and the East Coast. He was sent east to help pacify the warring
factions in the Castellammarese War. The crews of Salvatore Maranzano and
Joe Masseria, regarded as a 'Mustache Pete' by many. Ricca was Al Capone's
emissary on the East Coast.
In this role, he earned a lot of respect from his fellow mobsters.
By the mid thirties, Ricca was more and more involved with the
running of the Mob in Chicago and he made more and more trips back east
to consult with the Commission ( the Mobs board of directors ) without
Frank Nitti's knowledge, then the current Mob boss in Chicago. He eventually
became a member of that board.
In the 1940's Ricca was involved in 'The Hollywood Extortion Case'.
Frank Nitti, Ricca
and others muscled into Hollywood and threatened to bring down the big
movie studios with strike action from the Projectionists Union, which was
wholly controlled by the Mob. Warner Brothers stumped up $100,000, Balaban
& Katz paid up $60,000 and RKO forked out $87,000. MGM and Twentieth
Century Fox, then run by the Schenck brothers, Nick and Joe, also paid
up. But things began to turn sour on the deal when two major players on
the scam were arrested and charged with extortion. Not one's for hard time,
the two of them ratted on their coconspirators and indictments began to
flow forth. March 18th 1943 saw indictments for Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca,
'Little New York' Campagna, Ralph Pierce, Johnny Roselli, Nick Circella
They would all have to stand trial later that year in New York
for the extortion case.
Most of those indicted were unhappy about the way Frank Nitti had
handled the case. Nitti was responsible for the men who had started the
landslide of indictments, George Brown and William Bioff, and they should
not have been allowed to testify. After the arraignment in New York, a
meeting was held at Nitti's Riverside home. Ricca argued with Nitti about
the handling of the affair, about the weakness of Brown and Bioff and in
no uncertain terms put the blame for the whole mess squarely on his shoulders.
Nitti was told to be a 'stand up guy' and take the rap for extortion case.
Nitti, who had previously done 18 months in jail, had no wish to go back
to prison and told Ricca that he was just as responsible as anyone else
and told Ricca, Campagna, Pierce and the others to leave. This effectively
broke the Mob's code of honor. The next day, at 2 p.m., March 19th, 1943,
Frank Nitti took his own life by shooting himself in the head.
Ricca was elevated to the top spot in the Chicago Mob.
Ricca's spot at the top was short lived, however. Later that same
year, he was found guilty in the extortion case and sentenced to ten years
at Leaven worth Penitentiary. His shoes were filled by Tony Accardo who
would often consult with Ricca in prison, either by messenger or in person
by pretending to be one of Ricca's lawyers.
One of Accardo's primary missions as the new head of the Chicago
to get Ricca and the others out of jail as soon as possible.
The first obstacle in getting Ricca out was to pay off the tax
debt that he owed to Uncle Sam. A prisoner cannot be paroled in the U.S.
if he has another case pending. Ricca had a tax evasion case pending to
the tune of $160,000. This was accomplished by one of the Mobs tax layers.
He went to the judge with the $160,000 and said that people had come into
his office, thrown bundles of cash on his desk and said "This is for Paulie"
or "Give this to Paul". When asked just who these mysterious men had been,
the lawyer, Gene Bernstein, said he had no idea and "You don't ask men
like that their business".
The debt was paid and hurdle one was out of the way.
Hurdle two involved the dismissing of an indictment for mail fraud.
This was overcome by promising the Attorney General of the United States,
Tom Clark, the next appointment to the Supreme Court.
Clark accepted the deal and Ricca's indictment for mail fraud in
New York was vacated.
This just goes to show how deeply the Mob's tendrils were embedded
in the justice system.
Now the way was open for Ricca to be paroled. The next step was
to influence the parole board. The minutes of the parole hearing for Paul
Ricca and those others imprisoned for the Hollywood Extortion Case were
never made public knowledge. Even the Congress of the United States or
the press under subpoena could not get them. No one, to this day, has seen
these minutes. And so it was that on August 13th, 1947, on the first day
they became eligible for parole, Ricca and the others were set free after
just 3 years and 4 months of a ten year sentence.
Two years later, a seat on the Supreme Court opened up and Harry
Truman nominated Tom Clark for the position. On October 3rd, 1949, Tom
Clark became the newest Supreme Court Justice.
Paul Ricca resumed a position in the Mob as a confidant and advisor
to Tony Accardo.
Consorting with known mobsters would be a parole violation and so he was
never again an active member of the Outfit. Accardo often discussed Mob
business with him behind closed doors though.
Ricca was once again attacked by the authorities in the 50's when
the Immigration and Naturalization Services, acting on an anonymous tip
off nine years earlier, investigated Ricca's entrance into the U.S. For
two years Robert Ticken, U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, built a case
against him. The real Paul Maglio was found living in New York and Ricca's
path to the U.S. was traced back to Apricena where he first took the Maglio
alias. The sister of Ricca's first murder victim, Emillio Perillo, was
found in New York also. She identified Ricca as Felice DeLucia, the murderer
of her brother in Naples, and agreed to testify. The Mob convinced her
otherwise by threatening violence. Still, Ticken and his assistant prosecutor
John Bickley pushed on with the case. It finally came to trial in April
1957. Ticken and Bickley presented over 200 pieces of evidence to show
that Paul Ricca had entered the U.S. illegally after being convicted of
murder in absentia in Italy.
Ricca's citizenship was revoked and an order for his deportation
to Italy was drawn up.
Ricca fought the deportation order. He even sent the Italian government
newspaper clippings of his involvement in the Chicago Mob, in the hope
that it would dissuade them from accepting him back in Italy. The deportation
order was eventually dropped but the authorities nailed Ricca on an income
tax evasion charge in 1959. He went back to prison for 27 months. Ricca
was again hit for income tax evasion in 1965. In 1963, Ricca had claimed
an income of $80,159 all of it from winnings at the race track. Ricca
testified in court that he had placed some 86 bets on 37 or so races. Each
time, his horse had come in first. The jury found that the court could
not produce sufficient evidence for a conviction and so Ricca was acquitted.
Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca died of natural causes on October 11th,