The Assassination of Mobster Danny Greene and How It Led to the Demise of the American Mafia

Ralph DiMatteo

Danny Greene car explosion assassination

The title suggests an interest premise, does it not? Could it be possible that the bombing that ended Cleveland mobster Danny Greene’s “luck of the Irish” streak, as he himself referred to his ability to cheat death, had also been the start of the end of the strong Mafia influence nationwide?

The question came up recently in casual conversation, so I went back and took a second look at an earlier article I had done on Danny Greene’s Cleveland reign as the city's “bomb king” in the explosive '70s. As mentioned above, Greene ultimately met his own explosive end in Lyndhurst in October of '77.

So, could Greene’s violent end have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and ushered in the start of the government’s willingness to take on the mob once and for all? Skeptical as I was, I thought it was at least worth a look.

Taking a second look at the earlier post I had done primarily about Greene, the mention of the government's RICO Act was my starting point.

The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization) Act was enacted by Congress in 1970 as a way of combatting organized crime in the United States through the use of extended penalties for crimes associated with organized crime. The hope was that it would entice mob figures to turn on each in the hope of lighter sentences, penalties, and the possibility of being put into the witness protection program.

So how does this relate to the Danny Greene case? Well, after Greene’s death, the ensuing investigation revealed that the many attempts on Greene’s life were a combined effort of not only Cleveland crime families, but some from New York City and California as well. With the additional penalties and penalties that the RICO Act gave prosecutors to put heat on mob, it led to the turning of both LA crime boss Jimmy Fratianno and one-time Greene ally Ray Ferritto.

This investigation that turned names and figures such as Ferritto and Fratianno energized U.S attorneys to the point that several other investigations of well-known Mafia-connected individuals were launched nationwide.

Greene had maintained a life-long hatred for the Italians, flaunting his Irish heritage at every opportunity. It was tolerated while Greene was useful, but his arrogance and ambition became his undoing. He publicly taunted those who tried to end him in every arm of the Cleveland media that would hear him. Did Greene think himself invincible, or was he just making the most of what he knew to be an inevitable situation? That we may never know.

I have a good friend, whose name I will not use here to protect his privacy, that told me many stories of growing up in Collinwood during Greene’s rule. As a young man, a favorite story of his is delivering Greene’s groceries and him having a good sense of humor - and being a pretty decent tipper as well. The moral of the story is that every book has many chapters, and Greene’s story is no different.

So, can it be said that Greene’s demise led to the end of the Mafia as we knew it back then? I would say, at the very least, it was the match that lit the wick for sure. He was well known, charismatic, and a figure that evoked strong emotions and reactions from the public. It was exactly what the government needed at the time to swing sentiment in their favor because up until his death, the public fascination with organized crime was much like it was during Bonnie and Clyde’s reign - pure adulation.

(Image credit: Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery)

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