Small Town Mob Is No Small Deal!

In 2014, Youngstown, Ohio Mayor John McNally was indicted on bribery, corruption and other related charges involving a scheme to line the pockets of a business associate. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to a variety of misdemeanors to avoid hard prison time. He was sentenced to probation. The former auditor of Mahoning County was also involved in the case and took a similar, prison dodging deal.

This type of thing happens somewhere in America regularly. However, this case is more interesting because it involves the mayor of a small, blighted mid-western city that, for years, was a hotbed of corruption and organized crime. The history of the Youngstown, OH Mafia is one that is fascinating, unbelievably sad and somewhat terrifying all at the same time.

Beginning in the 1930’s, Youngstown was a booming, steel producing powerhouse of a city. Over the next decade and a half, the city’s population became nearly 5 times larger. Youngstown, was considered THE place in the Midwest to raise a family if you were the hardworking, blue collar type.

However, honest families weren’t the only ones who wanted a piece of what Youngstown had to offer. Other families, namely the Pittsburgh and Cleveland-based mafia, also wanted their cut – and they didn’t waste any time or spare any lives to make it happen! When the steel industry started to fall about  35 years ago, it only manifested more crime, corruption, and opportunity for the mob.

Each decade since the 30’s had something for the mob to sink their greedy teeth into. In the 30’s, as one would expect, it was primarily bootlegging during the prohibition era. Future decades offered everything else at different junctures, including gambling, hijacking, loan sharking and, of course, drugs. Naturally, for any high octane, organized crime operation to be successful, it relies on corrupting those in local government. Therefore, everyone from once honest Police Officers to high-ranking city and county officials, often became involved in these illicit activities. Many were arrested. Some were eliminated. Others played it smart, made some big money, then got out of town before their luck (or life) ran out!
The two most infamous leaders of the Youngstown area mob were Jimmy Prato and Joey Naples. Prato headed up the Youngstown crew until the 1980’s when he “retired.” Replacing him was Joey Naples from the Pittsburgh-based mafia. Naples was a supporter of nearly anything illegal to make money – but his first love, and specialty, was illicit gambling operations and loan sharking.

Drugs became another of the mafia’s major interests beginning in the late 1970’s. Narcotics activity reigned supreme until a monumental FBI operation in the 1990’s eliminated most mafia activity. However, the 2014 arrest of Mayor McNally, makes it clear that once crime and corruption has dominated an area for decades, there is no way to eliminate it completely. Does a city named New Orleans come to mind?

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