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Reputed Crime Boss Buried Near Boyhood Home

March 20, 1987

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Reputed Florida crime boss Santo Trafficante Jr. was laid to rest today in a simple ceremony at an old cemetery near where he grew up.

Some 200 mourners attended the private 20-minute service at a gray marble mausoleum at L’Unione Italiana Cemetery in Ybor, Tampa’s Latin section.

The 72-year-old Tampa native was buried in a crypt alongside his parents.

″It was very solemn, very respectul,″ said longtime friend and attorney Frank Ragano.

Monsignor Laurence Higgins, a family friend, delivered the eulogy.

″He said a lot of people will judge him on earth, but the final judge is God,″ Ragano said.

The Roman Catholic priest refused to give details of the service, saying it was private. Reporters were kept outside a chain link fence that wrapped around the old cemetery.

An agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stood outside with reporters snapping pictures of cars and mourners.

Trafficante died Tuesday night following triple bypass surgery at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Josephine, two daughters, three brothers and four grandchildren.

A retired New York City police officer who made a career of tracking mobsters called Trafficante’s death ″the twilight of the godfathers.″

″It actually represents the end of an era,″ said Ralph Salerno, 61, who now lives in Naples. ″He’s really the last of the old-time leaders.″

Federal prosecutors described him as a powerful don in organized crime, a ″boss of bosses″ in La Cosa Nostra. Over the years he was linked to at least four gangland slayings.

Trafficante was the son of a Sicilian immigrant who authorities said presided over Tampa’s ″era of blood,″ when rival families fought for control of Florida gambling. When his father died in 1954, he took over the family business, according to testimony before a U.S. Senate committee.

Trafficante was an occasisonal target of rivals and a constant target of the law. He was arrested at least 20 times in New York, Miami and Tampa, authorities said, but he never spent a night in a U.S. jail.

He once testified about a plot to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro, telling the House Assassination Committee he participated because he thought he was helping the U. S. government.

In recent years he was in failing health. He was nearly blind, suffered from kidney failure, serious heart problems and memory loss, his doctors said.

His health kept him from a 1981 racketeering trial in Miami and won him repeated delays in a Tampa racketeering case that was thrown out of court last year.

Before undergoing his second open-heart operation in 18 months, one doctor warned he might not survive, said longtime friend and attorney Frank Ragano.

Before leaving for Houston, Ragano said Trafficante told him: ″I’d rather roll the dice and take a chance.″

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