November 9, 1933 Cleveland, Ohio, U.S
October 6, 1977 (aged 43) Lyndhurst, Ohio, U.S
The Celtic Club/Leader
Cause of death
"If somebody wants to come after me,eh, we're over here by the Celtic Club. I'm not hard to find." - Danny Green
Daniel "Danny" J. Patrick Greene (November 14, 1929 – October 6, 1977) was an Irish American mobster and associate of London mobster John Nardi during the gang war for the city's criminal operations during the late 1970s.
Daniel Patrick Greene was born to first generation Irish-American immigrants John Henry Greene and his girlfriend, Irene Cecilia Fallon. At the time of Daniel's conception they were both twenty-year olds. On November 9, 1933 they were legally married in a simple wedding before a justice of the peace. Five days later after Irene gave birth to Daniel she died of complications brought on from an enlarged heart. The baby's identity remained simply "Baby Greene" until the burial of his mother. Afterward, John Greene decided to name his son Daniel after the baby's paternal grandfather.
Shortly after the death of his wife, John Greene began drinking heavily. He had lost his job as a travelling salesman for Fuller Brush and moved in temporarily with his father, a newspaper printer, who himself had also been recently widowed. Unable and unwilling to provide for his son, Greene placed the child in Parmadale, a Roman Catholic orphanage.
At St. Jerome Catholic School he developed a great fondness for the nuns and priests. He developed a lasting friendship with some of his teachers, although he did misbehave in class often. During his enrollment at St. Jerome he served as an altar boy. He was quite athletic and excelled at baseball and was an all-star basketball player. Even though he was a poor student the nuns at St. Jerome let him play sports because he was too valuable for the team.
In 1939 Daniel's father began dating a nurse. Within a year the couple married, moved into an apartment and started their own family. Daniel, who was six years old at the time, did not like his stepmother and ran away on several occasions. Daniel was then taken in by his maternal grandfather who he lived with, along with an aunt, for the rest of his childhood years. When John Greene died in 1959, the newspaper obituary acknowledged him as the father of the children from his second marriage, but had no mention of Daniel.
When Greene reached the age of adolescence he was enrolled in St. Ignatius High School. It was at St. Ignatius High School that he would frequently get into fights with fellow Italian-American students and was subjected to their racist remarks about his Irish heritage that fueled a hatred for Italians that lasted his entire life. He was expelled from St. Ignatius High School and transferred to Collinwood High School, where he excelled in athletics.
He was also involved in the Boy Scouts of America for a very short period of time before he was kicked out. Eventually, Greene was expelled from Collinwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio due to excessive tardiness which was caused by the constant bullying from fellow students.
In his adulthood, Daniel stood at 5'10" with curly blond hair and handsome looks, although he was extremely self conscious about his personal appearance. He was heavily involved in personal physical fitness lifting weights and jogging, and as he grew older he quit smoking and drinking, underwent hair prosthesis, and disciplined himself further by going on a rigid diet of fish, vegetables and vitamin supplements. Often when at a restaurant, he would only order a hot cup of water, supplying his own tea bag. In spite of this, he would often leave a generous tip. Greene was a devoted animal lover and owned two pet cats. He had a habit of putting out food for the birds and squirrels.
Ironically, while Greene privately hated Italians, he would later collaborate with many Italian American business associates and made members of La Cosa Nostra in lucrative business interests that benefited him. He came to believe that Cleveland family mobster Anthony Liberatore was his friend, even though, later on in life, Liberatore would later help plan and orchestrate his demise.
Leaving high school in 1951, he enlisted in the United States Marines in 1951 and was noticed for his abilities as a boxer and his excellent marksmanship. A few weeks later he was inducted and shipped off to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He was transferred many times which may have been because of behavioral issues. Still, he was promoted to the rank of corporal in 1953 and taught new recruits how to be artillerymen. He was honorably discharged later that year.
In the early 1960s Daniel earned himself steady work as a longshoreman at the Cleveland, Ohio docks years before the docks would become monopolized by the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). In his free time he read ravenously about his ancestral homeland of Ireland and its turbulent history. He began to think of himself as a "Celtic warrior". Impressed with the history of the Celts, he would try to emulate the ancient Celtic warriors. It has been speculated that it was, at least in part, the reading about his noble roots that fueled his criminal ambitions.
Daniel became outspoken for his fellow dockworkers and through sometimes violent protests and strikes forced the stevedore companies to allow the ILA to oversee the hiring of its dockworkers. As a prerequisite in landing a job as a longshoreman many longshoremen were forced to unload grain from the boats on a temporary basis and turn their paychecks over to Greene.
The funds were said to be going towards paying for a union hall, but most of the funds ended up in Greene's personal bank account. A unidentified ILA member would later recall about Greene, "He read On the Waterfront. He imagined himself a tough dock boss. But he was thirty years too late. He used workers to beat up union members who did not come in line, but he was never seen fighting himself. He was a spellbinding speaker and a good organizer."
As a union organizer he would declare non-sensical, work stoppages on occasion, as often as twenty-five stops a day solely to demonstrate his authority on the docks to company owners. On one occasion he threatened to murder the son and daughter of one company owner, whose house had to be put under constant protection from the FBI and had his children escorted to and from school by armed U.S. Marshals.
After Sam Marshall, a courageous investigative reporter collected affidavits that proved charges of extortion, Greene was exiled from the union and convicted of embezzlement. The conviction was later overturned during an appeal. But rather than face a second trial he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of falsifying union records, was fined $10,000 and received a suspended sentence. Afterward, he did not pay the fine or receive any prison time. After he returned to his rackets on the waterfront he met and became close friends with Teamsters boss Louis Triscaro. Louis later introduced Daniel to Jimmy Hoffa. After the friendly meeting Hoffa would later reportedly say to Triscaro, "Stay away from that guy. There's something wrong with him."
He began working on the docks as a longshoreman and was quite popular with the other workers. In 1961, the president of the local union was removed from office by the ILA and Greene was chosen to serve as interim president. After his service as interim president, he handily won re-election.
Once president, Greene had the union office painted green and installed thick green carpeting. He was known to drive a green car, wear green jackets, and often handed out green ink pens. In office, he raised dues 25 percent and pushed workers to perform "volunteer" hours to assist in providing a "building fund." It was unwise to refuse as those who did often found themselves losing out on work. He also fired more than fifty members denouncing them as "winos and bums" to the other workers.
Having contact with other union leaders who were under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) brought Greene a visit from agent Marty McCann of the Organized Crime Division.
Much like Whitey Bulger, Greene became a top-echelon confidential informant, quietly passing along information to the FBI but only that which suited his personal needs and nothing that would hurt himself or those he valued. His codename was "Mr. Patrick", a reflection on his steadfast Irish pride. The name was both the name with which he was confirmed as a child and that of his beloved Irish saint.
By 1964, the members of the union were fed up with Greene's behavior and the Cleveland Plain Dealer began writing a nine part series about him. The series brought Greene unwanted attention from U.S. attorney, the Internal Revenue Service, the Labor Department, and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor.
The International Longshoremen's Association began their own investigation and soon Greene was removed from office. Eventually, Greene was convicted of embezzling $11,500 in union funds as well as two counts of falsifying records. The verdict was overturned by an appeals court and federal prosecutors finally settled for Greene's guilty plea of two misdemeanors. All in all, he was only fined $10,000, but even then he only paid a fraction of it. Some think that his FBI connections were at work to lessen his punishment.
Greene soon found employment with the Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild wherein he was hired in a capacity to "keep the peace". Impressed with his attitude and abilities, mobster, Alex "Shondor" Birns, hired Greene to be an enforcer for his various numbers operators.
The Cleveland family boss, Frank "Little Frank" Brancato, brought in Greene and other gangsters of Irish heritage to act as errand boys and muscle to enforce the Mafia’s influence during the 1960s. Greene was used as muscle in enforcing the Mob’s control over the garbage hauling contracts and other Mob influenced rackets. This was a move Brancato would later grow to regret. Until his death in 1973, he regretted bringing Danny Greene into the Mob and the damage it did.
In May 1968, under Birns's orders, Greene was supposed to toss a bomb at a dissident black numbers man who was holding out on the protection money due. He stopped a block down the street and pulled the igniter. However, Greene was unfamiliar with the military type detonator and the fuse was burning faster than he had anticipated. Greene opened the door and had barely made it out when the bomb exploded, blowing out the roof of the car. He told the police that a passing car had tossed the bomb into his vehicle at which point he managed to push it away. The explosion threw Greene nearly 20 feet (6 m) from the demolished vehicle and he claimed "the luck of the Irish" for having only minor injuries. The blast severely damaged his right eardrum, leaving him unable to hear properly through his right ear for life. In the future, Greene would only trust professionals to handle bombs for him.
One of the men in charge of the Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild, Mike "Big Mike" Frato, decided to end the group and form a more legitimate trade group called the Cuyahoga County Refuse Haulers Association. Frato was a legitimate businessman, who despite his own mob connections, protested upon realizing that Greene was bringing mob-involvement and strong arm tactics to the guild. The Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild fell apart shortly thereafter.
In 1971, Frato's car was destroyed by a bomb. The body inside wasn't Frato, but instead was an accomplice of Greene named Art Sneperger. Sneperger had allegedly been careless with the bomb he was trying to plant. Frato had been playing cards in an office across the street, when his car was bombed. In the previous September, Greene had instructed Sneperger to fix a bomb on Frato's car, but Sneperger had second thoughts and informed Frato of Greene's plan. Also, Sneperger had been a police informant and solemnly revealed everything, including Greene's top-echelon FBI informant status, to Sgt. Edward Kovacic, of the Cleveland Police intelligence unit.
Some investigators were certain that the explosion was an accident caused by a radio signal, possibly from a short wave radio, or a passing police car. It seems likely that Sneperger's death was, in fact, a murder arranged by Birns and Greene, after learning of his informant status. This view was held by Sneperger's girlfriend and Kovacic. Kovacic was told by an underworld source that Greene was the person who pressed the button on the detonator, killing Sneperger instantly. The case was never officially solved.
A month later on November 26, 1971 Frato was shot and killed at Cleveland's White City Beach. Greene was arrested and interrogated. He admitted to the killing but claimed it was self-defense. He stated that Frato had fired two shots at him, while Greene was jogging and exercising his dogs. Evidence seemed to corroborate Greene's story and he was released. Later, Cleveland police learned that Frato was armed and had an opportunity to kill Greene several weeks prior to the White Beach shooting. Ironically, during their partnership, Greene and Frato had become apparently so close that they had named sons after each other.
Not long after the Frato shooting, Greene again found himself a target while jogging in White City Beach. A sniper, concealed several hundred feet away, fired several shots at Greene from a rifle. Instead of ducking to the ground, Greene pulled out his revolver and started shooting, while running toward his would-be assassin, in complete disregard for his own safety. The sniper fled and was never positively identified. It was later learned that this was an attempt to fulfill the murder contract left by Shondor Birns.
Soon after, Greene left his wife and their two daughters and moved to Collinwood, where he rented an apartment at Waterloo road. There, as Ned Whelan wrote in a Cleveland Magazine story called "How Danny Greene's Murder Exploded the Godfather Myth": "Imagining himself as a feudal baron, he supported a number of destitute Collinwood families, paid tuition to Catholic schools for various children and, like the gangsters of the Twenties, actually had fifty, twenty pound turkeys delivered to needy households on Thanksgiving." He would often pick up tabs for friends, neighbors, and acquaintances at a restaurant, and made it a point to leave generous tips.
After moving to Waterloo road, Greene made sure that the neighborhood undesirables were kept in line. He evicted a bookmaker who operated out of a small Waterloo business and kept a local bar in order by personal visits, if things got too chaotic or disorderly. When a rowdy group of Hells Angels moved into Collinwood, Greene visited their headquarters with a stick of dynamite. He threatened to light it and throw it into their club house until they came out to receive a warning to keep things quiet when in Collinwood.
He also formed his own crew of young Irish-American gangsters called The Celtic Club. His main enforcers were Keith Ritson, Kevin McTaggart, Brian O'Donnell, Danny Greene Jr., Billy McDuffy who had 14 hits under his belt and enforcer-hitman James "Icepick" Sterling from Southwest Detroit. They started setting up their own gambling dens across the city. He also allied himself with John Nardi, a Cleveland family labor racketeer who wanted to overthrow the Cleveland family leadership. Underworld crime figures note that James "Icepick" Sterling, a gun & explosives expert, is believed to have almost 60 contract killings under his belt, but was never arrested or questioned in any of the Cleveland bombings. Sterling “retired” after Greene’s 1977 death and now leads a quiet life in Troy, Michigan.
The relationship between Greene and Birns also began to sour. Greene had requested Shondor Birns for a loan of $75,000. Greene wanted the money to set up a "cheat spot," a speakeasy and gambling house. Therefore, Shondor had arranged a loan for Greene through the Gambino crime family. Somehow later, the money wound up in the hands of Billy Cox, a numbers operator, who used it to purchase narcotics. The police raided his house, arrested him, seized the narcotics and what was left of the $75,000.
The Gambino family, from whom Birns had borrowed the loan, wanted their money. Shondor pressed Greene but Greene flatly refused to return the money. He told Birns that it wasn't his fault that it was lost.
In order to settle his dispute with Greene, Birns had left $25,000 with an associate to hire a hit man for Greene to be murdered, especially in the event of any harm befalling him. This contract was soon taken by several minor underworld characters who were burglars by trade. This contract would result in numerous failed assassination attempts on Greene.
Not long after, Greene found an unexploded bomb in his car when he pulled into a Collinwood service station for gas. The explosive was wired improperly and failed to detonate. Greene disassembled the bomb himself, removed the dynamite, and brought the rest of the package to the Cleveland police lieutenant, Edward Kovacic. Kovacic offered him police protection, but he refused. He also refused to hand over the bomb, telling him, "I'm going to send this back to the old bastard that sent it to me." Suspecting that Birns was behind it, Greene decided to retaliate. On March, 1975, Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter, Birns was blown up via a bomb containing C-4, a potent military explosive outside St. Malachi Church.
On May 12, an explosion rocked Collinwood. Greene's building was destroyed, but Greene somehow had only minor injuries. As the second floor fell, he was shielded from the debris by a refrigerator which had lodged against a wall. A second, and more powerful, bomb had failed to explode. This second explosion would surely have killed Greene. Greene credited his miraculous escape to the intercession of St. Jude, whose medal he always wore around his neck.
In 1975 Green started asserting himself in the vending machine racket, which had traditionally been a Mafia racket, and began muscling into many of the Cleveland mafia's gambling operations. This greatly angered the Cleveland family leadership. According to a mob informant, this move brought him into conflict with the Cleveland family soldier, Thomas "The Chinaman" Sinito. Sinito considered Greene an extortionist and felt that Greene’s coined operated laundry contracts with their excessive fees were nothing more than extortion.
Danny Greene controlled some of the more lucrative laundry contracts which Sinito was competing for. Sinito and mob soldier, Joseph "Joey Loose" Iacobacci soon murdered one of Greene’s lower level associates. Greene’s response was to have one of his gang, possibly his cousin Kevin McTaggart, wire a bundle of dynamite to the frame of Sinito’s car. Sinito found the bomb in his car, attached to the frame. He removed the bomb, disarmed it and later destroyed it.
However, other competitors of Greene’s vending machine empire were not as lucky. In Greene’s war with the mafia to build a vending machine empire, John Conte became a victim. While Conte owned a vending machine company, he worked as a route man for another one. Conte’s company provided slot machines to various private clubs and parties. Conte was also a close friend to Mob figure Joseph Gallo.
In the day of his disappearance, Conte told his wife that he had a meeting with Greene to discuss some business dealings. That was the last time Conte’s wife saw him. His badly, beaten corpse was discovered a few days later in Austintown, Ohio.
Police investigators theorized that Conte was beaten to death in Danny Greene’s trailer and his body was later transported to the dump site in Austintown. Investigators also found some physical evidence in Greene’s trailer that a violent act may have occurred. Danny Greene was never charged with Conte’s murder.
In 1976, longtime mobster John Scalish died, leaving control of Cleveland’s lucrative criminal operations, specifically the cities' Teamsters Union locals, up for grabs. Before his death, Scalish had appointed James Licavoli as his successor. However, other mobsters such as John Nardi challenged him for leadership of the organization. With the assistance of Greene, Nardi had many of Licavoli's supporters killed within weeks. That included Licavoli's underboss, Leo "Lips" Moceri, whose bloodstained car was found in a hotel parking lot in Akron, Ohio. The Cleveland family's most fearsome enforcer, Eugene "The Animal" Ciasullo was seriously injured and put out of commission for several months with a bomb that was placed on the front porch of his car.
Soon after, another of the Cleveland family enforcers was targeted. A bomb planted in Alfred "Allie" Calabrese's car instead killed an innocent man. Frank Pircio, 50, of Collinwood, died when he tried moving the mobster's Lincoln Continental to get his own car out of a shared driveway. Calabrese died in 1999 of a stroke while behind bars, according to federal prison records. This started a long standing war between Licavoli's Cleveland crime family and Greene's Celtic Club.
As the mafia began to chase Greene, he retaliated. In 1976 alone, 36 bombs exploded around the Cleveland area. It was soon to be called "Bomb City, U.S.A.". The use of bombs, far from being solely used in the mob war with the Cleveland family, had become a favorite weapon in the Northeast Ohio underworld. The ATF was so inundated with blast investigations that they tripled their manpower in northeast Ohio.
According to the book To Kill The Irishman by Rick Porrello, Greene personally assassinated at least eight of the Mafia hitmen sent to kill him. Most of these killings were either through the use of bombs or bullets.
After the failed Waterloo Avenue bombing, Greene played up the stories of the Mafia's failed assassination attempts to his benefit. His bravado and flamboyant behaviour only added to his growing aura of invincibility and power in the urban legends of the Cleveland criminal underworld. To this end, he granted interviews to all the local television stations. For a newspaper photographer, he posed proudly in front of a boarded-up window of his destroyed apartment building.
During a televised interview, Greene boldly declared to one television reporter, "The luck of the Irish is with me and I have a message for those yellow maggots (Cleveland Mafia). That includes the payers and the doers. The doers are the people who carried out the bombing. They have to be eliminated because the people who paid them can't afford to have them remain alive. And the payers are going to feel great heat from the FBI and the local authorities.... And let me clear something else up. I didn't run away from the explosion. Someone said they saw me running away. I walked away"
In response to the reporter's assertion that he was a cat with nine lives, Greene said, "I am an Irish Catholic. I believe that the Guy upstairs pulls the strings, and you're not going to go until he says so. It just wasn't my time yet."
In another televised interview, Greene denied any knowledge of the underworld war. However, Greene added, "I have no axe to grind, but if these maggots in this so-called Mafia want to come after me, I'm over here by the Celtic Club. I'm not hard to find." This was a public insult to the reputation of the Cleveland family and drastically reduced their stature in front of the other families including the Five Families of New York. Their constant inability and failure to kill Greene made them look like a laughingstock and gave them an impression as "the gang that couldn't shoot straight" in the criminal underworld. In a bugged conversation between two mobsters, an exasperated mob lieutenant complained, "How the hell did this guy ever come into the picture?"
On May 17, 1977, Greene's long time ally, John Nardi was killed by a bomb explosion. Greene was now left without an ally and was now fighting alone against the mafia. The bomb was planted by Pasquale Cisternino, Sr. and Ronald Carabbia. After the killing of Nardi, Greene tried to unsuccessfully make peace with the Cleveland Family. But mafia boss James Licavoli made a cease fire with Greene, hoping he would relax so he could kill Greene while offguard. Shortly after the meeting, Greene quickly muscled in on a large West Side gambling operation that was originally run by John Nardi. Greene offered Licavoli a percentage, but he declined.
On October 6, 1977, Greene went to a dental appointment at the Brainard Place office building in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Members of the mafia, who had listened in on Greene's phone line they had tapped, anticipated this visit. Greene had his dentist repair a loose filling after which he left the office building and approached his car. The automobile parked next to his exploded. The explosion was thunderous and, sent a red ball of fire into the air, a blinding cloud of flame that for an instant bathed the already sunlit parking lot in a terrifying white light. Greene was ripped apart. His clothing, except for his brown zip-up boots and black socks, was blown clean off his body. His left arm was torn free and was thrown 100 feet away. One gold ring with five green stones was still on one of the fingers. His Adidas bag was untouched. Police found, among other contents, a 9mm pistol and a holy card with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The news of Greene's death brought about great joy to the members and associates of the Cleveland Mafia. A Cleveland magazine writer, Ned Whalen, relates an incident which occurred in a mob hangout, upon the mobsters discovery of Greene's death:
"That night at a restaurant in Little Italy there was a celebration. One man who loathed Greene danced about in a drunken stupor. He pulled out a .38 and shot it wildly into the ceiling. "The Irishman is dead!" he screamed. "The Irishman is dead! The Irishman ..."
In the aftermath of Greene's murder, the FBI intercepted some interesting conversation through their Title III hidden microphone surveillance at Licavoli's house. Apparently Licavoli, his right-hand man John Calandra and an unidentified male were complaining about Frank Embrescia, Frank Brancato and John Nardi. They felt that these men, all deceased mobsters, as well as the FBI were responsible for Greene's rise to power.
- LICAVOLI: Embrescia was so fuckin' burned up when Shondor got it. Hey if he couldn't handle him, that's his own fault.
- CALANDRA: That's right. That's right.
- UNIDENTIFIED: How can a marked man put a big flag in front of his house. He had a big Irish flag out by the side, anybody could see it. He put it there on purpose. He'd be sitting out there under the sun.
- CALANDRA: He has some pretty good connections though.
- LICAVOLI: He had some connections all right. The fucking FBI. He used to tell them about every goddamed thing everyone did.
- CALANDRA: You know that with Greene. He was the FBI's boy.
- LICAVOLI: Oh fuck yes. But he didn't work with the F.B.I., he told them what to do! He told them what to do. He said F.B.I. your ass. He thought he got so fuckin' big. Well he wanted it all that's all. Him and Nardi. That fucker. He used to give them the money and he used to give them all the information. He created a monster.
- CALANDRA: Nardi and Brancato?
- LICAVOLI: That's right. They created that guy. And all the fuckin' headaches we used to have.
The story of Greene's life and spectacular demise inspired the former Cleveland area police lieutenant turned writer, Rick Porrello, to write a book about Greene entitled To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia in 1998. Porrello won a national Non-Fiction award for the book. In 2001, this story was optioned for a film to be entitled The Irishman: The Legend of Danny Greene. It has Ray Stevenson as Danny Green and is said to be released March 11, 2011.