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Tampa’s history with a mafia twist

Scott Deitche has an April Fools’ Day surprise for interested Tampa residents: Their metropolis was built upon the secrets, sins and cigars of Mob folk.

In a guest lecture for USF’s Criminology Department today, Deitche, a marine biologist from Pinellas County, will share his knowledge of the Trafficante narcotics ring, the Donnie Brasco FBI operation designed to dismantle it, and the “Era of Blood” that typified the origins of Ybor City, or “Little Havana.”

The lecture is in support of Deitche’s new book, Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld.

The seamy nuggets of Tampa’s past detailed within the dust jacket do not originate from the desk of an author unfamiliar with his subject matter; Deitche, by concentrating on such matters since 1996, could be considered a ‘made man’ of the genre.

Deitche’s Internet portal, “The Tampa Mob,”, characterizes the Tampa Bay area from various timelines and “rap sheets,” depicting St. Petersburg, Tampa and even Tarpon Springs as entwined in a century-old tale of men with guns.

According to Deitche, those individuals spread their violent way of life throughout the Great Depression and World War eras, dispatching rivals with frequent hales of “buckshot” that Deitche shows would often end the lives of innocent bystanders.

Attendees of the lecture are likely to be treated to accounts of belligerent deeds such as Deitche’s take on an unsolved murder involving Depression-era gambling figure Fernando Serrano. As Deitche’s timeline of local Mob history summarizes:

“Serrano was sitting with his wife in their car, talking to Fernando’s brother in Ybor City. Another car pulled alongside them and opened fire with a shotgun. Fernando was slightly injured but his wife took a face full of buckshot and died at the hospital.”

In a news release, Deitche stated “Cigar City Mafia” has “the only chronology of the Tampa underworld to depict the local factories, gambling houses and the Hillsborough River, where a new body floated to the surface virtually every other day.”

Taken at face value, glancing into the bygone happenings involving Santo Trafficante Sr. and his “holding court at” the Columbia Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City would seem like so many round pegs long since relegated to square slots in Tampa’s heritage. However, with Deitche’s accounts of the “[ethnic] diversity and industriousness” that bound early Tampa residents together, it becomes ever easier to look past the cigar factories and shotgun killings to see the heart of a conurbation that even the Mob could not tame.

The lecture will take place at the Russell M. Cooper Building in Room 103 at 11 a .m.