Lenny Strollo, the former mobster once credited by the FBI with operating America’s biggest illegal casino, has died at age 90.
He controlled all vice in the surrounding Mahoning Valley, at a time when Youngstown was dubbed “Crimetown USA” by The Saturday Evening Post.
Strollo and his brother, Dante, ran bookmaking, poker machines, and vending machines in the Valley. With local officials in their back pockets, they also did a fine line in narcotics trafficking, racketeering, and murder.
In Campbell, a rundown suburb of Youngstown, Strollo ran the All-American Club. When the club was shut down in 1987, prosecutors said it was generating $20 million a year for the Pittsburgh Mob, more than any other underground casino in the country.
Strollo was arrested in 1997 as part of a crackdown on illegal gambling and public corruption. He became a turncoat mobster, cutting a deal with federal prosecutors that let him keep his money and spend just 12 years in prison for spilling the beans.
He pleaded guilty to leading the Mahoning Valley’s organized crime operations and to ordering the murder of rival mobster Ernie Biondillo.
He also confessed to ordering the botched assassination of Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who was targeted for refusing to cooperate with organized crime. Gains was severely injured in the attack on Christmas Eve 1996, but recovered, and remains in office.
Meanwhile, Strollo’s testimonies led to the arrest and imprisonment of two judges, a former sheriff, a former prosecutor, and former district congressman James Traficant.
The gangster told the court how he controlled virtually the entire Mahoning County legal system through a mixture of bribes, payoffs, and campaign donations.
Some of those he testified against received life imprisonment without parole.
Decline of the Pittsburgh Mob
Strollo was released from prison in 2008 and immediately disappeared into the federal witness protection program. But he got to live out his retirement in the Valley. He later returned to his home in the fashionable area of Canfield, southwest of Youngstown, as the threat of retribution subsided.
By the 2010s, the Pittsburgh Mob, otherwise known as the De Rocca crime family, was a spent force, thanks to the death of key members and a string of convictions in the 1990s and 2000s, some of which are attributable to Strollo’s testimony.
“His passing is an end of an era,” said Gains to The Tribune-Chronicle, about the man who tried to kill him and very nearly succeeded. “Thank God that his organization has been completely abandoned.”