Al Capone the Black Hand and the Trinidad Mafia

Vendetta killings, particularly among Italians, occurred in Las Animas County,” writes Colorado Metro State College professor Stephen Leonard in his book Lynching in Colorado, 1859-1919. “Although they had aspects of lynchings, they belonged at least as much, if not more to old-world customs than to the American tradition of lynching. Hence they have not been included among the lynchings in this book. If they had been, the number of lynchings would increase substantially, for more than 20 vendetta homicides took place in Las Animas County alone between 1880 and 1920.” According to local lore, Chicago gangster Al Capone once hid out with relatives in the small nearby town of Aguilar.

Trinidad’s coal business began a long decline in the 1930s, as energy uses shifted and the demand for coal to make steel declined. In the years following World War II, says Clyne, “The towns of Trinidad and Walsenburg went into long-term hibernation, subsisting on the relatively meager returns from ranching and small scale tourism.” Yet some enterprises with a relation to the region’s agricultural economy seemed to thrive remarkably well. One was the Colorado Cheese Company, which according to an August 1980 account in the
New York Times, had a big connection back East: Joe Bonanno, who at the time headed one of New York’s five major Mafia crime families. “Mr. Bonanno formed Colorado Cheese Ltd. in Trinidad, Colo., in the 1940s,” said the Times, which cited congressional sources and the Philadelphia Crime Commission as its source for a lengthy expose of the American Mafia’s infiltration of the nation’s cheese and pizza businesses.

Trinidad, Colorado was home town to the Mob Bosses Pete and Sam Carlino. These boys grew up to be some of the most powerful and deadly mob bosses of southern Colorado. Throughout the 1920’s as prohibition started to rise, Pete Carlino also known as the “Al Capone of southern Colorado” and his younger brother Sam created an empire off bootlegging and monitoring the fellow locals monthly income. Soon, Trinidad and Pueblo would be taken over by mafia, creating danger and anxiety.

There are a lot of underground tunnels around Trinidad. The stories go that they were used when the underground railroads were being used. There were many casinos, tubs, and when you couldn’t get liquor, they had it down in the tunnels. There are stories that tell of women mad at their husbands and they would go into the Columbian Hotel looking for them and the husbands would sneak out in the tunnels and so the wives wouldn’t know where they had been at. Most of the underground city has been cemented up because the town was starting to cave in in certain places and then with the stories out, a lot of the would be criminals would try to get into the banks from these tunnels and so they were sealed up with cement. There really is an epics worth of history and I can’t remember it all but I know the world would love to read about more it.


From Page 8 of our Fall 2018/Winter 2019 Issue.

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