Charles McKay "Charlie" Wall
(born March 10, 1880 in Tampa, Florida - died April 18, 1955, in Tampa, Florida)
was an American businessman and organized crime figure who was a rival of reputed mobsters Santo Trafficante, Sr, and Santo Trafficante, Jr. The son of distinguished physician and civic leader John P. Wall, young Charlie, who later became known as "The Dean of the underworld", seemed destined for either a brilliant political or legal career. However, a volatile youth and a family tragedy sidetracked him, which resulted in the shooting of his stepmother and his expulsion from military school as a teen for visiting a brothel.
Wall spent his formative years frequenting the gambling tables of Ybor City and West Tampa. A mathematical wizard, Wall would rapidly gain status within the criminal underworld from his early endeavors in the operation of several gambling, prostitution and illegal numbers rackets. In 1912, a crusading Jacksonville newspaper profiled Wall's power base. "Tampa is reeking in crime, and gamblers operate openly. Tampa is the most wicked city in the U.S."
Bolita and other rackets
Beginning in the early 20th century, Wall seized control of the Cigar City's most profitable enterprise: Bolita
Bolita , is a type of lottery which was popular in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries in Cuba and among Florida's working class Hispanic, Italian, and black population. In the basic bolita game, 100 small numbered balls are placed into a bag and mixed thoroughly, and bets are taken on which...
, controlling Tampa from the neighborhood of Ybor City, employing whites, Italians, Cubans et al
in his organization. Wall's only competition was Tampa's earliest Italian mafia boss, Ignacio Antinori
Ignacio Antinori was a Italy-born Florida mobster who built one of the earlier narcotics trafficking networks in that state...
, though he would remain in control of the racket for nearly 25 years. Widespread corruption and Mafia-related murder were rampant in the Tampa area because of bolita's profits. To assure the continuation of his rackets, Wall would often bestow lavish gifts upon elected officials. In the process he became a political enigma—wheeling and dealing, garnering votes for and hobnobbing with local politicians.
Introduced to Ybor City in the 1880s, bolita peddlers soon began operating in Hyde Park, downtown Tampa, and the Scrub district, with the domain quickly expanding throughout Central Florida, as well as much of the rest of the state and Gulf Coast region.
During the late 1920s, a turf war began between Wall and Antinori, who both fought each other, as well as the Trafficantes for control of the numbers rackets in the Tampa area. The feud between Wall and Antinore came to a head between factions of Antinori Gang, dissatisfied members of Chicago and St. Louis criminal outfits to whom Antinori was supplying narcotics, and Wall's crew. On the morning of October 23, 1940, Antinori was gunned down at a local resturaunt by two gunmen while sipping morning coffee. Wall himself had seen an attempt on his life go awry earlier that spring, possibly by some members of Antinori's outfit, or even by some in Antinori's ties to St. Louis mobster Thomas Buffa and/or Kansas City mobsters Nicolo Impostato, James DeSimone
During the fourteen years that G.I. Joe had not existed as a 12 inch action figure, James DeSimone had been touring different toy shows all over the United States buying and selling G.I. Joe action figures. In the mid-1980s, DeSimone created the G.I. Joe Collectors Club, which was a...
and Joseph Deluca
Joseph DeLuca was an Italian-American mobster who controlled the smuggling and distribution of narcotics with his brother Frank Deluca in Kansas City, Missouri for almost four decades....
1938 state, 1950 Kefauver Hearings testimonies
Wall testified before a 1938 Florida state grand jury that the devil took care of him
. His numerous deals with prominent law officials often protected him from rival bids: On three occasions, he thwarted assassination attempts.
Wall became addicted to morphine, only to conquer his weakness after harrowing dry outs. In the late 1930s, Wall began to back away from much of the criminal rackets he had been involved with for years. By 1945, however, possibly due to the death of Antinori, and Santo Trafficante Sr.'s growing stature in the bolita racketeering in Florida, Wall would relinquish much of his power to the Trafficantes.
In 1950, before a televised national audience, Wall, then 70, would once more emerge from retirement to testify at the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime conducted by Tennessee State Senator Estes Kefauver
Carey Estes Kefauver July 26, 1903 – August 10, 1963) was an American politician from Tennessee. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in the U.S...
. Described as "the elder statesman of bolita," he would graphically describe Tampa's criminal network.
Wall's death, possible murder suspects, and legacy
On April 18, 1955, Wall would fall victim to assassins as his wife was returning to their Tampa home from a visit to relatives in South Florida, with one or more reportedly brutalizing the retired mobster, bludgeoning his head with a baseball bat and slitting his throat. While the murder was never solved, many, including the police, suspected that Santo Trafficante Jr. may have been linked to the crime as retaliation for the death of Antinore, under whom Trafficante, Sr. was once an understudy.
The Ghosts of Ybor City: Charlie Wall film
The account and rise and fall of Wall was depicted in the 2008 documentary film The Ghosts of Ybor: Charlie Wall
which starred actors John A. Schakel as Wall, Gene Siudut as Joe Bedami, Chirs Pardal as Johnny "Scarface" Rivera, and Rod Grant as the lead detective in the Wall murder investigation.