Jack Tocco, Detroit mafia leader, dies at 87

DETROIT (Det. Free Press) -- When Jack Tocco faced sentencing for running Detroit's Mafia for 30 years, he pleaded for mercy, arguing that he and his wife were both in failing health.

"My wife's life and my life has been destroyed," he said in federal court in December 2003. "I would like the privilege of dying at home with my family."

It appears he got his wish.

Tocco, 87, died Monday of undisclosed causes, according to a death notice published on the website of Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in Sterling Heights. Officials there wouldn't comment beyond listing the service arrangements.

According to the FBI, Tocco was running the Detroit Mafia in July 1975 when Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township.

"He knew all the secrets and where the bodies were buried, including Hoffa's," said Dan Moldea, author of "The Hoffa Wars." "Jack Tocco had to check off on this murder. It happened in his jurisdiction."

Whatever secrets he knew about Hoffa's disappearance, Tocco took to his grave.

"He didn't talk on the telephone, he did most of his business face to face," said former federal prosecutor Keith Corbett, who won a conviction of Tocco in 1998 on racketeering and conspiracy charges. "There were very few instances where we were able to get him on a wiretap or a bug."

Corbett said Tocco had plenty of street smarts. He once ditched FBI agents who were tailing him by parking his car at a mall. As the agents watched his car, Tocco walked through the mall to another car parked on the other side, Corbett said.

Tocco's father, William (Black Bill) Tocco, and his uncle, Joseph Zerilli, are credited with creating the Detroit Mafia in the 1930s, but Jack Tocco kept a low profile.

He earned a business degree at the University of Detroit and ran Melrose Linen Supply and other businesses. He and his wife, Toni, raised a large family in Grosse Pointe Park, where he was known to attend Little League games to cheer for his sons.

Before being indicted on racketeering charges in 1996, Tocco's only criminal conviction was in 1965 for attending a cockfight.

"He spent his whole life denying that there was a Mafia, denying that he was a member and threatening anyone who said he was," Corbett said.

Tocco never was charged in connection with Hoffa's disappearance, but in 1998, a federal jury convicted him of racketeering and conspiracy. Prosecutors laid out a case showing the Detroit mob engaged in a 30-year enterprise of extortion and other crimes.

He was convicted of three 20-year felonies, but ultimately served just over two years in prison and that was only after prosecutors appealed a one-year-and-one-day sentence issued by U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara.


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