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Real name Francesco Raffaele Nitto, Alias Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti.
Born in Italy, on his draft registration card his birthdate is listed as January 27,1886, which means his headstone maybe incorrect. He arrives in New York city as an impoverished youngster. Frank Nitto makes his appearance in Chicago after World War 1. He was living at 914 South Halstead upon his arrival with Rose Nitto. Her maiden name was Levy and they were married on October 18,1917 in Texas. Later they will divorce and Nitto will mary Anna Ronga on February 16, 1929. (Valentine massacre alibi)?
Anna will die in 1940. He then will marry Annette Caravetta on May 14, 1942 in St. Louis. Caravetta was also secretary for Edward O'Hare who was killed by the Capone mob in 1939.
He debuts as a part time barber and jewelery fence for the criminal element , but soon rises thereafter with his business and accounting acumen. He is noticed by Capone and becomes his number two. known as "The Enforcer" which only means that the orders entrusted to him by Capone are then in turn related by Nitto to the stable of eager Capone killers with the emphasis of getting the job done right the first time! The Enforcer title was most probably a newspaper made up tag for press effect.
After Capone's reign is over, intersquabble between Humphreys, Nitto, Newberry are qualmed when Nitto is thrust up to the job of gang overlord.
Nitto is known as a mob man who worked out in the field of gangland and knew the ropes well. Besides, Nitto had the job of taking care of business whenever Capone left town. He was already used to it and so the choice was an obvious one as he was also probably chosen by Capone. Once Nitto finishes his sentence in prison, he will take over Al's job as successor.
October 30, 1931, Newspaper headline predicting Nitto to take Capone's place as chief of The Outfit.
Frank Nitto's Chicago mugshot
Nitto is finicky for details and gives his point of view to Al on many hits. Frank Nitto is on the planning for the Hymie Weiss hit in 1926, which shows just how unflawed the murder was. Never one to kill with his own hands, which is ironic given his nickname "Enforcer". During the twenties, Nitto was mostly in charge of directing the liquor and vice enterprises of Capone. In 1930, Frank Nitto was indicted in the federal District court. The charge was that he failed to pay income tax for the years 1925, 26, and 1927 the total of $277,000 of an alleged $743,000.
Frank Nitto then disappears to Italy (probably actually hiding in Florida thru underworld connections) to spend some of his money (Proof). He was trapped by in the U.S by federal agents and sentenced to 18 months of prison. Frank Nitto was known to be clausterphobic beyond belief, which made his prison stays totally unbearable for him. He was let out for good behaviour.
1930 wanted poster for Frank Nitto.
(Courtesy of author Mars Eghigian)
Nitto being booked.
No, those are not bodyguards! Nitto in company of detectives.
On Dec. 19,1932, two chicago detectives named Harry Lang and Harry Miller visited Nitto in his downtown office. Lang shoots Nitti three times in the back and neck. He claims the incident happened when trying to subdue Nitto, who was trying to swallow a piece of paper with evidence on it. When struggling he claimed that Nitto shot him, so then he retaliated in self defense. Nitto was at death's door, but managed to survive the attempted murder. It was revealed during later testimony by his partner detective Miller, that Lang was paid $15,000 to get rid of Nitto. It was claimed that newly elected Mayor Anton Cermak did not like dealing with Nitto and his clan in doing business for the city. He preferred to deal with another faction than Nitto's outfit. Miller and other detectives in the know at the time said that they had heard rumors that Ted Newberry had paid Lang to get rid of Nitto. This was supposedly done in order for Newberry to deal with Mayor Cermak and not Nitto.
After the trial, Lang and Miller were both fired from the force, but not charged.
Mayor Anton Cermak will be assassinated on March 6,1933, by Guiseppe Zangara claiming he was aiming for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Detective Harry Miller
Headline for Dec.20th 1932, Frank Nitto is shot.
(Courtesy Mr. Bill Helmer)
Detective Harry Lang
LaSalle - Wacker building (center) where Frank Nitto was shot on Dec. 20,1932.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Kennedy)
Nitto's office were the struggle and shots rang out hitting Nitto. Note the water tank. Most probably from Ralph Capone's short lived Waukesha Waters company.
(Photo kind courtesy of After Capone author Mars Eghigian)
April 7,1933 truth comes out Nitto is shot at unarmed by Detective in a setup.
(Courtesy Mr. Bill Helmer)
Nitto was thrust in the news and was now what the newsmen needed to fill the crime beat after Al Capone had been sent away. It was assumed that Nitto was now the real power behind the Chicago "Outfit". As a matter of fact in 1937, Frank Nitto and three associates controlled all of Cook County gambling. He also began what was said to be a "purge" of the outfit by eliminating anyone who might cause him or the outfit trouble. (Jack McGurn, Fred Goetz,Gus Winkeler, Jack White etc....). He did manage to branch out into other things besides gambling, especially now that the liquor days were over.
One of Nitto's many court appearances.
In 1941, the Nitto mob had made net profits of $139,000 per month. Vice and unions were also supplying more cash for the outfit. At first, restaurants, hotels, bars, then (their downfall) in the form of extortion from Hollywood studios soon followed suit. Nitto and his co-horts were charged for the $2,500,000 shakedown of four major picture producers. Paul Ricca ,Louis Campagna and others were also charged and faced jail time. In a sitdown with Ricca and company, Nitto was demeaned by Ricca in front of the others and told how" he had let the outfit down" and that since "Nitto being the originator" of this shakedown that he" Nitto should gallantly face the prison time alone", in place of the others who let him be in charge. He was also told that it was he who trusted a stool pigeon by the name of Willie Bioff who turned them all over to the FBI. Nitto was dumbfounded on how they treated him and that they could care less about what good profits he had brought over the years to the outfit. After the meeting, Nitto felt alone and began thinking of the prison time ahead which frightened him. He began to think of a way out. On March 19,1943, Frank Nitto makes sure his wife Antoinette is on her way to Our Lady of Sorrows church to make a novena. Frank went to the liquor cabinet and started to drink up the nerve for what he was about to do. While drinking, he loads a .32 caliber revolver and puts it in his coat pocket. He puts on his brown derby and exits the door. While walking as the effects of alcohol begin to numb, Frank crosses over to the railway yard. Two Trainmen, William F. Sebauer and Lowell M.Barnett notice Frank walking drunkly across the tracks. He walked on the tracks of their oncoming train.They thought he would be killed, but instead see that he is walking over to the next track just then Seebauer yelled "Hey there Buddy!" and then two shots were heard.The train employees thought he was shooting at them, but they quickly realized he was trying to end his life. Frank Nitto sat on the ground along a railway fence and paused. One of the train men suggested charging the suicidal person. The other stated it was too risky for them, being family men, and especially since the person in question was drunk with a loaded weapon. Frank lifted the gun one more time and placed the pistol to his head. A shot rang out just as quickly as the life oozed out of the aging gangster. It was later stated that Frank may have also been suffering from cancer. The fact was his only known ailment had been a serious heart condition. Frank Nitto left behind his third wife Annette and his adopted 9 year old son Joseph adopted with his previous wife Anna. Nitto was also known as a good family man, husband and doting father. On the family monument is the inscription "There is no life except by death""There is no vision but by faith "
Frank Nitto found dead after pumping 3 shots at his head alongside railway fence. Only one shot was fatal.
(Photo Courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
Gun found beside Nitto along with unspent shells and one bullet removed from his head.
(Mario Gomes collection)
Was it suicide? Or murder?
The facts divulged from autopsy reports and witnesses at the crime scene is that Nitto did indeed do himself in. Now, was he pushed to do it by his fellow mobsters, Ricca and company? Most probably. After the fumble with Bioff affair, his credibility took a hit, and so did his standing in the mob. He would now be challenged by others wanting to run things their way, now that Nitto's friend and protector, Al Capone, was no longer head of the mob.
During his autopsy Nitto had a level of blood alcohol registered at 0.23%. This is equivalent to 10 drinks within about a 2hr period.
There were five holes in Nitto's hat, which may lead some to think he was shot by someone else. These are easily explained. He fired a total of three shots. So one bullet misses goes in and out the hat making two holes. Next shot goes in and comes out through his head also making two holes in his hat. The final kill shot leaves only one hole because that bullet goes through the hat, and head but never exits his skull.
Closeup of the kill bullet removed from Nitto's skull.
Frank Nitto's body at the morgue.
(Photo by kind permission Of Mr. Raul Jirik)
Frank Nitto's home in Riverside 712 Selbourne rd. in Riverside, Illinois.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Larry Raeder)
Chicago Tribune headline March 20, 1943.
No.1 is where Nitto commits suicide No. 2 is where Nitto's home is situated
Nitto's simple and somber funeral. Just his wife and a few close friends of the family attended.
No grand gangland funeral of days gone past, and no one in the outfit attended.
Frank Nitto's family plot in Mt.Carmel Cemetery
Frank Nitto's headstone
My special thanks to author and friend Mars Eghigian, for his tremendous help with documnets and research to make this page more than interesting.
For a more indepth complete treatment of Frank Nitto, please get the book "After Capone" by Mr. Mars Eghigian
You can contact the author at Mars2ntto@gmail.com
First Posted September 2003