Rocco Perri uncovered?
Antonio Nicaso is planning a book on the man called
A letter uncovered by renowned crime journalist Antonio Nicaso indicates Rocco Perri was alive and kicking in 1949. And an Italian cousin of the mobster has told the writer that Perri died in 1953 in
Perri had been the intended victim of foul play since 1930, including a shooting in 1930 and two bombings in 1938. In the 1930 incident at his swanky
"Dear cousin," it says. "With this letter, I will tell you I am in good health. Let them know I'm fine if you've heard the news." It is signed Rocco Perri.
The letter is to be part of research Nicaso has compiled for a forthcoming book he is preparing on Perri, titled The Little Gatsby, which refers to the famous novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a young man of humble origins who attempts to buy his way into the social elite during The Roaring 20s.
Other new details Nicaso has uncovered include:
* The existence of a potential suicide note Perri may have left behind in his car, found by
* Perri did his bootlegging business with the famed American Kennedy family.
* Perri and Starkman had a son in 1914, but he died of ill health after two days.
* Perri's actual birthdate is
* Perri's mother died in 1897 and his father remarried within months. Relatives said Perri never accepted his stepmother and it was one of the motivations which made him immigrate to
* Perri had received an education from a priest in his hometown of Plati, in the toe of the Italian mainland, and it made him popular with uneducated immigrants when he came to
The book is scheduled for publication at the end of the year, first in
Perri, who came to
Nicaso, who has written several books on today's crime families, believes another book on Perri is warranted because there's still much more to tell.
One of the best known books on Perri is King of the Mob: Rocco Perri and the Women Who Ran His Rackets. It was written by
"When I read King of the Mob -- which is a great book -- I thought there were still so many unanswered questions," said Nicaso, 39, who works in
Here is what is known about Perri's life. Perri first settled in the
The couple operated a grocery store on
In his prime, he was selling 1,000 cases of 60-proof whisky a day. The couple are said to have made millions. Perri got his nickname from an interview with a reporter in 1924. "While I admit I am king of the bootleggers, I can assure you I had nothing to do with these deaths. I only give men fast cars and I sell only the best liquor, so I don't see why anyone should complain, for no one wants prohibition."
When his beloved Bessie was slain in 1930 outside their 17-room mansion, 10,000 people turned out to see the funeral. It featured a $3,000 silver-trimmed casket, 15 cars of flowers and the sight of a hysterically upset Rocco Perri.
Perri found a second love and partner in crime in Annie Newman. In 1940, he was interned in Petawawa in a general roundup of Italians believed to be sympathetic to Italian fascism. He was released in 1943 but, by that time, his
Nicaso knows some will believe the 1949 letter indicating he faked his disappearance is a fake itself. But, he notes, it was not something willingly given to him and he only got it because he ruffled the pride of an elderly man in Plati, who happened to be one of Perri's cousins.
Nicaso said when he was visiting Plati in 1992 he wasn't planning on writing a book about Perri. But he had an interest in the story and was asking questions of Plati residents to learn what he could.
One day, he was talking to a 79-year-old man who he later learned was Perri's cousin. (He has given the family a promise he won't reveal their name.)
During their talk, the man told Nicaso he remembered when Perri passed away. Nicaso said he was incredulous. "How can you know?" I said. "He disappeared ... . I don't believe your story."
The old man was quite put out and didn't like being challenged. He volunteered that Perri died in 1953 in
"But, it doesn't matter what you believe," the elder added. "It's better to forget these things." Later, Nicaso went to see the man with a friend from the town, and eventually the older man warmed up a bit to Nicaso. That's when he brought out the 1949 letter and five longer letters he said were written by Perri after his supposed disappearance.
He allowed Nicaso to take a photocopy of the 1949 letter, but not the others. "They would have had no interest in playing a joke on me," Nicaso added.
"This is something they decided not to share with anybody. I believe there was a conspiracy of silence in his family and his circle. They said, 'Let people think he was killed."
Nicaso said it might be next to impossible to determine if Perri is buried in the Massena area. He has no idea what he did after 1944, although he's heard stories Perri was seen in
Nicaso said about 90 per cent of his research is complete, but he wants to get more before sending it off to the publisher. He is hoping