Francis J. McGrath versus the Worcester Mafia
By Steven Maher
It was the type of press Worcester Mafia boss Frank Iaconi abhorred.
Iaconi’s picture appeared on page one of the November 5, 1946 Worcester Telegram under a headline, “Three sued for $57,300 as a Result of Horse Bet Losses”. There was also a photograph of Ward 3 councilman Philip F. Sullivan.
Jules Vohlgemuth was a Belgian immigrant who had saved $19,000 from stock market investments and his wages as a diesinker. George Trudell had gotten Vohlgemuth to lend him the money under false pretenses, and then lost it betting on horses in an Iaconi Franklin Street gambling den. Vohlgemuth sued Iaconi, Sullivan, and Irving Zabarsky under a state law that allowed for the recovery of triple damages for gambling losses.
“In those days, Worcester’s government was mired in bickering, inefficiency, political shenanigans, corruption, graft, and all the ailments of a weak, deteriorating system,” retired Worcester Telegram Publisher Robert C. Achorn wrote fifty years later. “In that atmosphere, the mob – the underworld – was able to do business comfortably in Worcester, as it did in Providence, Boston, Springfield and most other big towns. For years, it had clout at City Hall. Illegal gambling parlors, specializing in horse betting, flourished on Green, Franklin and Front Streets and other locations. When there were complaints, the police couldn’t find the joints, even though the customers could. And it was not just betting parlors. To do business in Worcester, bookies, loan sharks, strong-arm enforcers, drug peddlers and on-the-edge operators of every kind needed clearance from the mob. Free-lancing was not encouraged.” Click to continue »