Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Born Fillipo Sacco in Esperia, Italy, Johnny Roselli was an influential member of the Mafia until his death in 1976. He, like Ben “Don’t Call Me Bugsy” Siegel, had designs on Hollywood fame as well. In 1922, he fled to Chicago after committing a murder and began working for the Chicago Outfit under Al Capone. He then changed his name to Johnny Roselli.
In 1925, Johnny Roselli jumped bail after a federal narcotics arrest and was ordered to Los Angeles by Capone and was taken under the wing of mobster Jack Dragna. He soon became friends with producer Bryan Foy and was also credited with being a producer on many low budget gangster films. However, in 1943, Johnny Roselli was convicted of racketeering charges along with members of the Outfit when they extorted money from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees along with the union president George Brown. They received ten years in prison but only served about three and a half years. When released from prison, “Handsome” Johnny Roselli moved to Los Angeles to work in the movies with Bryan Foy. In 1948, “Tough” Tony Accardo told Roselli to use his influence over Columbia Pictures president, Harry Cohn, to give a young starlet a break into the motion pictures. That starlet was Marilyn Monroe.
In 1959, Castro forcibly took control of Cuba and shut down all of the casinos on the island. After this happened, people like Johnny Roselli, Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante were not opposed to the idea of the assassination of Fidel Castro in order to get their gambling interests back in Cuba. The CIA recruited former FBI agent Robert Maheu to act as a go-between, between them and the mob. Maheu met with Roselli and Roselli introduced Maheu to two men who were using assumed names. Those men turned out to be Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante. Both of the Kennedys, John and Robert, continued the failed efforts of trying to remove Castro until the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. Robert Kennedy was not fond of using his Mafia targets for this, but because his brother was so adamant about Castro’s removal, the younger Kennedy went along with it.
In 1975, Johnny Roselli was called to testify before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence led by Idaho Senator Frank Church about Operation Mongoose, which was the name of the operation, given by the CIA, to assassinate Castro. Shortly before Roselli could testify, Sam Giancana was murdered in his home and Roselli fled to Miami to start a new life. When Giancana died, so did Roselli’s clout and power with the mob. In 1976, Roselli was called before the same Senate committee, but Roselli would never appear as he was killed, legs sawed off, and stuffed into an oil drum. He was found floating in Dumbfounding Bay near Miami and is assumed was killed by Trafficante because he was afraid that Roselli already had said too much before the committee about the Castro assassination attempt and the Kennedy assassination and didn’t want him saying anymore.