Cleveland’s Wars of the Waste
By Kenneth J. Prendergast
Garbage, of course, smells bad. When it comes to the shenanigans involving Metro Cleveland’s garbage hauling
contracts, the stench has been just as putrid. Competition for rubbish hauling in Ohio’s largest metropolitan
area has been marred by acts of bribery, threats and even murder, replete with organized crime connections.
Waste hauling, garbage collection and landfill operations have historically been a haven for organized crime
elements nationwide. This hasn’t been lost on law enforcement officials, the news media and even popular
culture. For example, in the very first episode of the hit HBO television series "The Sopranos," mob boss Tony
Soprano utters a seemingly programmed response "waste management consultant" to his therapist’s inquiry
"what line of work are you in?"
It’s a case of art imitating life in many major U.S. cities where criminal organizations, especially the American
Mafia, had gained a stronghold. Cleveland was one of those cities, with its sordid history of industrial and
political corruption fed by lawless undercurrents from its diverse ethnic groups. But it was the Italian-American
and, to a lesser extent, Irish-American ethnic criminal groups who emerged as powerhouses and became linked
with their brethren nationwide.
For mafiosi involved in the American Mafia, or La Cosa Nostra (LCN, translated generally as "this thing"), the
garbage business was a clean business. That may seem a contradiction in terms, but garbage offered a
legitimate enterprise where dirty money derived from gambling, loansharking and other mob activities could
easily be laundered. Garbage hauling contracts with various local governments and mob-controlled businesses
could be "padded" at higher rates to mask the transfer of ill-gotten gains. It also offered a means of legitimate
employment for organized crime associates to work on the trucks, in route sales to garner more trash pickup
sites (called stops), or even in executive positions and still carry out illicit activities in furtherance of the criminal
Waste hauling became an attractive growth industry in the 1950s and 60s while LCN was at its peak. New,
cleaner garbage collection practices involved Dumpsters and roll-off containers that could be loaded into trucks
without workers having to come into contact with the rusted 55-gallon drums and filthy cardboard boxes of
yesteryear. Despite the growth potential, waste hauling wasn’t for the faint of heart. It was a place for tough,
In blue-collar Cleveland in the 1950s and 60s, such gritty men often came from the metro area’s Italian
neighborhoods. One of those men was Frank Brancato, a high-ranking member of the Licatese faction of the
Cleveland Mafia, according to Rick Porrello’s book "To Kill the Irishman." Others came from cities already having
strong mob links to their rubbish hauling operations, such as Joseph Messina, a New York City native who had a
background in the Big Apple’s waste hauling rackets. Another was a New Jersey mobster, Carmen Semenoro.
Messina and Semenoro soon worked for Brancato and used their experiences to organize waste haulers in
Greater Cleveland in the late 1960s. But Semenoro didn’t last long. His talkative nature apparently was the
reason why he received a mysterious, nighttime visit to his apartment from a shotgun blast to the head.
As for Messina, he had a lot of catching up to do. Legitimate waste haulers had already formed the Cleveland
Solid Waste Trade Guild to eliminate competition by stifling price fixing and undercutting. The growth of waste
hauling, combined with the street-tough nature of the men who ran it, turned the business into a world of
cutthroat competition. Some entrepreneurs often followed in the exhaust of a competitor’s truck and stole their
stops by offering customers a new, lower price. The Guild attempted to put a stop to that, and so did Messina
with the guidance of New York City’s Gambino Mafia family. But the mobster wasn’t having much success as he
put his own selfish interests ahead of the Mafia’s by lining his own pockets first. So, Brancato replaced Messina
by putting Irish gangster Danny Greene in charge. It was a move the Cleveland Mafia would soon regret.
Mike Frato got into the waste hauling business in 1957 with just one truck. His business soon expanded to 18
trucks and an annual income of $1 million per year, according to Porrello’s book. He was a legitimate operator
who saw the wisdom of the Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild. But, unfortunately for Frato, he had befriended
Greene. As Greene forced his way into the Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild on the Cleveland Mafia’s behalf,
Frato became disenfranchised with Greene’s mob connections and strong-arm tactics that included threats and
other forms of intimidation. So Frato bowed out and started his own organization, the Cuyahoga County Refuse
Haulers Association. It was a fatal mistake.
On Halloween night 1971, Frato’s Cadillac exploded at a gas station in Coventry Village, a Cleveland Heights
neighborhood. Frato often parked his Caddy at the gas station, near the offices of the new Cuyahoga County
Refuse Haulers Association. But it wasn’t Frato’s body that lay next to the Cadillac. It was the dismembered
remnants of Greene’s associate, Art Snepeger. Some speculated that the bomb simply went off accidentally. But
law enforcement investigators tried in vain to verify reports that Greene learned Snepeger had recently talked
to police about his involvement with the Irish gangster and detonated the bomb as Snepeger was planting it.
Greene was an FBI informant and often took advantage of the federal protections that came with it. Regardless,
the bombing served as a warning to Frato.
Later, anonymous verbal threats were delivered to Frato and Messina to stay away from the mob’s control of
the waste business. While Messina took heed and left town, Frato stayed. His response was to carry a gun.
Fate would prove that Frato’s precaution wasn’t enough.
In an incident that has never been sorted out by police to the satisfaction of Frato’s family, Frato was killed by a
gunshot wound to the head. Greene said he was walking his three dogs in the White City Beach section of
Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood when Frato, a passenger in a passing Buick Riviera, fired his gun twice at
Greene. Though Frato’s alleged gunfire missed him, Greene said he returned fire in self defense and claimed he
saw his lone bullet strike his ex-friend in the shoulder. He doubted he mortally wounded Frato. But the fact was
that Frato was dead and a lack of evidence to contradict Greene’s statement kept him from being convicted.
According to police reports, the only witness to Frato’s killing was his driver on that fateful day, close friend
August "Gus" Palladino -- the older cousin of an up-and-coming garbage hauler named James August Palladino.
August Palladino, a reputed loanshark and gambling organizer with links to mobsters in Cleveland and
Youngstown, didn’t dispute the police report made by Greene.
After Brancato passed away from natural causes in 1973, Greene secured his hold on the city’s garbage
business. It was during these years that the Irishman allegedly became associated with James Palladino. Less
than 10 years later, Palladino would become the most powerful force in Greater Cleveland’s waste-hauling
scene, garnering nearly two-thirds of Cuyahoga County’s landfill business.
Law enforcement sources and informants alleged Palladino reached such heights so quickly with help of the
Cleveland Mafia. Specifically, that help reportedly came from local mobsters associated with the Teamsters
union, including Greene, Jackie Presser, John Nardi, Milton "Maishe" Rockman and John "Curly" Montana.
Palladino’s lawyers denied he had such links and that his business grew quickly because "he worked like a
dog," they said.
Palladino, born July 21, 1940, had his share of brushes with the law, which started from an early age. A few
months after graduating from Mayfield High School in 1958, he was caught burglarizing a service station in the
Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst. Sentenced to a term of 1-to-15 years in the Ohio State Reformatory in
Mansfield, the parole board released him on Nov. 1, 1960.
More arrests followed. In 1972, he was convicted of receiving stolen property, namely for buying a stolen
television from a heisted interstate shipment -- his second felony. Five other arrests would further tarnish
Palladino’s record, but none resulted in convictions. There would be more legal troubles ahead.
Despite these distractions, Palladino’s business career grew, starting from just one truck to haul steel pellets
and sand. His interest soon turned to garbage hauling which, in the 1970s, was firmly in the Cleveland Mafia’s
In 1976, the 35-year-old Palladino made two key real estate acquisitions to secure his position. First was his
purchase of 12 acres of land on Richmond Road in Glenwillow on the southeast edge of Greater Cleveland. That
land, bought from the Testa family for $215,000 in loans and notes, would be used as the headquarters for
Palladino’s trucking company, Ohio Bulk Transfer. The other property acquisition was next to Testa’s land -- a 98-
acre landfill owned by Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI). On behalf of another of his companies, Inland
Reclamation Inc., Palladino paid $1.2 million for the BFI property, including $302,500 in cash. The balance
consisted of a promissory note to be paid off in only five years.
In 1977, a Texas lawyer, Joseph Brodigan, testified before a federal grand jury in Cleveland that Greene and
Nardi, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Vending Machines Service Employees Local 410, were partners with
Palladino in the landfill. This was denied years later by Palladino attorney John Climaco, former legal
representative to the Teamsters union and to Presser, who would become president of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1983. Brodigan was the attorney for a Cleveland man, Anthony Collins. Brodigan
said he and Collins sought a Teamsters loan for a Texas cattle dealer and went to meet with unspecified
persons at the office of Palladino’s Ohio Bulk Transfer Inc. to arrange the loan. It should also be noted that,
early in 1977, Greene and Nardi began working on a joint venture to take over a financially ailing Texas cattle
ranch to supply meat at a discounted rate to members of the mob-influenced Laborers International Union of
North America. It isn’t known whether Brodigan and Collins were working with Greene and Nardi.
Greene and Nardi had already joined forces in a more important and fateful venture -- to move in on the
Cleveland Mafia’s rackets. Their efforts were met with gangland violence. Nardi was killed by a car bomb in May
1977; Greene met the same fate five months later. Brodigan’s grand jury testimony was given only days after
Greene was killed. His client, Collins, was later sent to jail for bank fraud. When federal agents inventoried the
car bombing scene in suburban Lyndhurst where Greene was killed, a green, leather gym bag was found that
belonged to the Irishman. In it were notes that demonstrated Greene had a "relationship" with Palladino,
according to Stephen C. Wells, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
With his expanding trucking and landfill operations and properties, Palladino turned his attention in the 1970s
to securing municipal waste-hauling contracts from various suburbs and other communities. The city of
Cleveland’s rubbish contract was the prize of prizes -- a multi-year deal worth $3.5 million annually at that time.
Palladino won the contract, but wasn’t able to hold on to it. The cutthroat, competitive nature of rubbish hauling
in Greater Cleveland was about to reemerge.
Palladino lost out on the Cleveland contract to rubbish rival Daniel Dzina, at the recommendation of Mayor
Dennis Kucinich, elected in 1977. Unlike his predecessor Ralph Perk, the populist mayor was no friend of
organized crime. In 1978, Cleveland Mafia lieutenant Tommy Sinito hired a hit man to kill Kucinich because the
mob felt the mayor was harming organized crime operations. As the hit man tracked Kucinich’s daily routines,
the plot was discovered by law enforcement before the hit man could find a clean shot. Undisclosed publicly until
1984, it remains the only known plot by the American Mafia to assassinate a big-city mayor.
When asked about the assassination plot, Kucinich, now a U.S. Congressman, said "Refer to the 23rd Psalm."
That Biblical passage states, in part -- ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear
no evil: For thou art with me.’
A memorandum by Robert Friedrick, former head of the FBI’s Cleveland organized crime squad, said the
Cleveland Mafia’s money man -- Rockman -- soon interceded on Palladino’s behalf to reclaim the Cleveland
rubbish contract. Rockman was the Cleveland Mafia’s intermediary with the Teamsters union and the brains
behind a number of high-level mob schemes. Friedrick’s memo quoted an FBI informant whom the Cleveland
Plain Dealer later claimed was reputed mobster Anthony Hughes, a friend of Dzina’s. Hughes also served as a
union official of Cleveland Bakery Workers Local 19 and Teamsters Local 507. He was also Presser’s main
"Source advised that Jackie Presser recently had a meeting with Jimmy Palladino at the behest of Maishe
(Milton) Rockman. Palladino was upset because his garbage contract has been awarded to (Danny) Dzina and it
has hurt (Palladino’s) business. Palladino knows that Presser recommended that Dzina be awarded the contract
by the city (of Cleveland). Supposedly, Presser showed Palladino the figures for the contract. Palladino’s
response was that he could not come down in his price to meet the figures of Dzina," said Friedrick’s memo,
filed with a U.S. District Court in New York.
"That meeting never happened," Climaco said to a Plain Dealer reporter. Hughes denied being the source for
that FBI memo.
Friedrick later was quoted in a Plain Dealer article that he didn’t remember writing that memo. The same
newspaper article quoted Friedrick as saying "I didn’t know he (Palladino) was involved directly with any of the
The Department of Justice (DOJ) would eventually indict Friedrick, Presser and Hughes in 1986 as part of a
larger case involving racketeering and embezzlement charges. DOJ attorneys accused the FBI agent of getting
too close to Presser. The Teamsters leader, who died of brain cancer in 1988, had been an FBI informant since
the late 1960s. Friedrick allegedly authorized Presser, Hughes and fellow Teamster official Harold Friedman to
hire ghost employees at Cleveland Teamsters union Local 505.
Accused of lying on behalf of Presser, Friedrick was fired from the FBI and jailed on contempt of court charges.
Friedrick said his legal troubles were the result of a turf battle between federal agencies investigating Presser’s
illicit activities. Friedrick was eventually released from jail as the case against him was allowed to fade away.
Hughes and Friedman were convicted in the ghost employee case and sent to prison, despite that the FBI
allegedly authorized them to hire the ghost employees.
Climaco, who had been Presser’s and Hughes’ lawyer, was kept from testifying in the case by a motion from the
U.S. Attorney’s office. This strongly suggested Climaco had knowledge that might undermine the federal
government’s position and that he might even be a government informant. However, Climaco said he never was
an informant and didn’t abandon Hughes, his former client. But Dzina, Hughes’ longtime friend, said he was
angered by Climaco’s silence which he claimed resulted in the imprisonment of Hughes and Friedman.
"He (Climaco) is a pig," Dzina said. Climaco never had nice things to say about Dzina, either.
It was during this period in the early 1980s when federal investigators were having great success in convicting
many members of the Cleveland Mafia of various charges stemming from the aftermath of the Greene murder.
Among those were Cleveland Mafia boss James Licavoli, underboss Angelo Lonardo, capo Joseph Gallo,
lieutenant Sinito, mob money man Rockman and others. Low-level organized crime activities continued in
Greater Cleveland, but the organization had been beheaded by the feds.
While those mob troubles were starting, George Voinovich -- whose mayoral campaign was backed financially by
Presser, Palladino and others -- won Cleveland’s mayoral election in 1981. Voinovich recommended that the city’
s lucrative garbage-hauling contract with Dzina not be renewed and instead returned to Palladino. A city
consultant recommended against awarding Palladino the contract, citing "flaws" in the bidding process.
These were the seeds for a new garbage war.
In true Cleveland trash-haulers’ style, a spate of bribes, threats and even murder characterized this latest
garbage war. Dzina claimed Palladino fired a gun at him, took out a $25,000 contract on his life and was
responsible for the murder of Frank Richmond, a route man for one of Dzina’s rubbish-hauling companies.
Richmond’s body was found inside a scorched car that was set ablaze in April 1982 behind a lounge,
Forepaughs, in suburban Macedonia -- the same city where, six years later, Palladino would establish a lavish
estate. No one was ever charged in Richmond’s death.
In 1983, Dzina filed a $170 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that Palladino and 37 other city officials
and companies conspired to rub him out of the rubbish picture and monopolize the bountiful Cleveland garbage
contract. Dzina claimed Mayor Voinovich and City Council President George Forbes accepted bribes from
Voinovich said Dzina’s lawsuit was "absurd." Climaco responded with "uproarious laughter."
Other defendants had similar reactions, pointing to Dzina’s own record of misdeeds. Dzina, born Feb. 27, 1948,
was known as a man with a short fuse.
In July 1977, Dzina was charged with using a baseball bat to beat a Garfield Heights man to death. Dzina was
acquitted of that offense. In October of that year, he pleaded no contest to ramming an occupied van with a
truck and spent three weekends in the Ohio Penitentiary as his sentence. He also was arrested on several
other offenses, including passing bad checks, hit-skip and grand theft. Not enough evidence was found to
convict Dzina of those charges.
Dzina also had been in court on accusations of nonperformance concerning his Granger Garage’s $5.2 million
contract with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to rebuild bus engines and for another deal with
the city of Cleveland to repair garbage trucks.
If Dzina’s lawsuit held a strong case against Palladino and the city of Cleveland, he had a funny way of showing
it. Dzina showed up late and left early for court-held question and answer sessions, and was a no-show for
other hearings. When asked by court officials if he ever paid a bribe or committed a violent crime, Dzina invoked
his Fifth Amendment rights, often at the instruction of his attorney, William Wuliger. In 1985, U.S. District Court
Judge David D. Dowd in Akron dismissed Dzina’s lawsuit. Dowd said he was critical of Dzina’s complaints and
questioned whether Dzina came to the courtroom "with clean hands." Dzina lost on appeal.
Things soon turned from the strange to the bizarre in the garbage battle. A landfill in the Kinsman-Union area of
Cleveland, to which Wuliger said Dzina worked as a consultant, became the target of complaints by nearby
residents. They said it was the source of rats, foul odors and dust. Ironically, only after Tim Hagan, Voinovich’s
1985 mayoral reelection opponent, raised the issue did Voinovich do anything about it. Voinovich, a defendant
in the erstwhile Dzina lawsuit, finally instructed his staff to shut down Dzina’s landfill. Forbes, another
defendant in the Dzina lawsuit, agreed to let his law firm represent the landfill in its fight against the city.
"It takes a greater mind than this one to figure out why Forbes would now permit his firm to be involved in this
sleazy matter," wrote Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin in 1989.
While Dzina was mired in court proceedings, his competitor was awarded a more lucrative prize. In Octber 1990,
new Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White renewed Palladino’s garbage hauling contract for an unheard-of $46.5
million. The four-year deal was accepted by the White Administration without receiving any competing bids. City
Council members raised their eyebrows at the lucrative, noncompetitive bid, but approved it anyway.
Then came the day that would change Palladino’s life, especially in the public’s eye.
On Feb. 7, 1991, federal agents raided Palladino’s 100-acre Terra Bella Farms, at 10080 Shepard Road in
Macedonia, an estate which included a private airstrip. In Palladino’s home, agents found a cache of 59 guns --
23 handguns, 21 rifles and 15 shotguns. As a convicted felon, Palladino was prohibited from owning or
possessing firearms. Later, agents raided another home of his, this one on Kelley’s Island in Lake Erie,
searching for more weapons. If convicted of the weapons charges, the state could revoke Palladino’s license to
operate a landfill. His attorney said the firearms belonged to Palladino’s son, August, who was a licensed
firearms dealer and collector.
Cause for executing the federal search warrant came from an affidavit developed from the input of several
informants. Climaco claimed those informants were Dzina and two of his friends -- Hughes and William W.
Bridge. The latter was a 37-year-old construction contractor from Geauga County’s Munson Township, east of
Cleveland, who was a reputed bomber and allegedly confessed to twice burning down Climaco’s Gates Mills
house in the 1980s. It isn’t known if Bridge torched Climaco’s homes on his own volition or at someone else’s
instruction. Bridge’s criminal record included a 1983 arrest for bombing a suburban Brook Park office building
belonging to Edward F. Doubrava Inc., which had also been hit 12 years earlier.
But one of the informants may also have been one of Palladino’s own employees, James Ridgeway. In late
1988, according to an affidavit by ATF agent Wells, Ridgeway was visiting Palladino’s home at Terra Bella Farms
when the two men got into a heated argument. The 5-foot-10, 250-pound trash man allegedly pulled a .25-
caliber pistol on Ridgeway and threatened to kill him. Climaco publicly denied the incident on his client’s behalf.
The raids on Palladino’s homes not only exposed the cache of weapons, but Palladino’s past. Suddenly, the
media became aware of Palladino’s connections, be they to political leaders or, allegedly, to mobsters. Palladino
had continued his financial support of Voinovich who, in 1990, turned his political sights on becoming Ohio’s next
governor -- a race he won. The Republican’s gubernatorial opponent was Democrat Ohio Attorney General
Anthony Celebrezze Jr. He received $25,000 in campaign contributions from Palladino and his relatives, collected
at a 1989 fundraiser at Climaco’s office. But Celebrezze returned $20,100 of those contributions after reading
the negative press stories about Palladino’s past. That not only soured Palladino’s view of the news media, but
of Democrats as well. He refused to talk to the press and became a staunch political conservative.
As the media spotlight shined more brightly on Palladino, his relatives soon caught some of the glare. The press
revived an old story about his older cousin August (he shares that name with Palladino’s son), who was
convicted in 1983 on gambling charges in the mob-run Pineway Trails Sportsman Club in Munson Township.
August Palladino was sentenced to three years of probation and a $3,000 fine.
Similar sentences were handed down against five other men involved in the Pineways case -- including reputed
LCN member Joseph "Joe Loose" Iacobacci and LCN associate George "Gigi" Argie, another cousin of James
Palladino. Argie also was convicted of trying to bribe then-Geauga County Sheriff James Todd to the tune of
$15,050 to protect the gambling operation. Initial reports indicated Argie managed Pineways. Instead, alleged
LCN associate Joseph "Joe Spaggs" Spaganlo was identified by authorities as the manager after he was
convicted in 1989 for a separate gambling caper at the Card Shop in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Argie was nabbed
in the Card Shop case as well.
Spaganlo also reportedly owned a small restaurant called the Woodbine Tavern, at the corner of Warner and
Canal roads in Garfield Heights, where he allegedly conducted bookie operations. The establishment was sold
to Palladino who renamed it Calla Club. It’s next to another, more notable Palladino nightclub and restaurant.
Media coverage of Palladino wasn’t all negative. The Plain Dealer reported in 1991 that the Ohio EPA considered
his Glenwillow landfill was in "substantial compliance" in recent years. But a side-bar article in that same
newspaper edition noted a report by the Ohio attorney general’s office which said Palladino failed to disclose in
a state landfill permit application several arrests involving him and his son August. In a Nov. 5, 1988 drunk
driving arrest in suburban Walton Hills, Palladino reportedly told arresting officers "You guys are fucking with the
wrong person. You guys fuck with the bull, you get the horns! And what goes around, comes around."
His son August, vice president of Palladino’s landfill operations, had been arrested five times since 1983 when
he was 20 years old, four of which resulted in convictions for criminal damaging, assault and public intoxication.
In a May 1988 public intoxication case in Athens, OH, where August attended Ohio University, he reportedly
threatened police officers, saying he would "cut their dicks off." In another incident five years earlier, he was
riding in a pickup truck in Bedford, a Cleveland suburb, when its occupants hurled racial slurs at a black bicyclist
and threatened to kill him. The cyclist withdrew his complaint the day before the case was to go to trial. No
reason was given.
A more serious investigation had begun in 1989 and was revealed by the press after the feds raided Palladino’s
home. According to an affidavit, ATF agent Wells said James Palladino, his son August and others were subjects
of an investigation into the smuggling of drugs in the Great Lakes region from Detroit. However, nothing ever
came of the investigation. An affidavit by Wells also said James Palladino bought firearms, explosives and
cocaine, was involved in various violent crimes and ordered others to carry out crimes of violence using firearms
and explosives. Nothing ever came of those allegations, either.
The same thing happened as a result of the raids on Palladino’s Terra Bella Farms estate and his Kelley’s Island
home. Weapons charges against Palladino were dropped in 1996 after Climaco showed that the raids
constituted an illegal search by federal agents.
But to say that Palladino wasn’t hurt by the public accusations against him and the negative press coverage
wouldn’t be accurate, according to Climaco and others who knew Palladino. Some of Palladino’s friends said he
was targeted by the feds simply because his last name ended in a vowel. Although Palladino won the legal
battles and the physical confrontations with his opponents, he lost the PR war. In the old days of the garbage
business, conflicts were settled with muscle, moxie and old-fashioned street smarts. The same isn’t true these
Meanwhile, large corporations, like Browning Ferris Industries (known commonly as BFI), cornered the garbage
biz while Palladino’s landfill operations have nearly exhausted their capacity.
Palladino retreated to live on land he owns on Kelleys Island in western Lake Erie where his family had
vacationed for many years. There, he focuses on providing limestone and other aggregates to supply asphalt to
the construction industry. His 176-acre quarry on that island is operated under the auspices of Kellstone Inc.,
one of 58 companies under his control or that of family members.
His longtime rival, Dzina, left the waste-hauling business and now focuses mainly on real estate investments.
He and Hughes ended their 30-year friendship in 1999 after Hughes accused Dzina of mismanaging the
Cleveland Golden Gloves Association Inc. Dzina became executive director of the boxing association in 1994.
Hughes, a three-time local Golden Gloves champion in the 1950s, said the boxing association raised more than
$500,000 through bingo games to renovate a Warrensville Heights complex that Dzina bought for $435,000 for
boxing and other athletic training. But Dzina sold the renovated building for $2.1 million, leaving the Golden
Gloves broke and without a home. Dzina denied the mismanagement allegations as the Golden Gloves chapter
was disbanded. Inexplicably, he got immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation with federal
authorities conducting an investigation of the whole mess.
Both Palladino and Dzina have grayed with age and conflict, while withdrawing from the garbage scene. The
hard edges of Cleveland’s waste-hauling business have equally softened. These last two combatants have
moved on, effectively ending Cleveland’s four-decade-long waste wars. But some traditions have persevered.
On a sultry night, July 24, 1999, a large crowd filed into Pesano’s, a classy club in a gritty, industrial section of
Garfield Heights near the Cuyahoga River. The club’s marquee attraction that night was Sam Butera, a tenor
saxophonist and vocalist who gained fame while playing for singer Louis Prima. You can hear Prima’s songs in
just about every mob movie that was made in the last 20 years.
Among those who attended that show at Pesano’s was a number of Cleveland’s remaining organized crime
figures, including reputed LCN member Russell Papalardo who reportedly never misses a local appearance by
Butera. Sources said this was an opportunity for those alleged organized crime remnants to gather in a "chance
meeting." The owner of Pesano’s? James Palladino.