Tampa Mafia

Organized Crime in Tampa

Kingpin Charlie Wall, the Bolita King of Tampa.

When you start talking about organized crime, things can get dicey. The people of Tampa, especially the ones still around to remember those days still feel a “duty” of sorts to keep quite of these things, as if these people are still amongst us and can hear our chatter. 

Organized Crime in Tampa


We have to admit we are fascinated by the whole idea of the mafia and the people we knew and the whispers we grew up hearing.

We can’t help ourself when it comes to watching mob films like The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino and HBO’s The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. We found ourselves in a TV love affair with Tony Soprano and we know some women to have found themselves secretly wishing to be one of his multitude of goomatta’s.

At this point in our collective history, we’re not sure anyone would be surprised to learn that there is, in fact, something called “The Mafia.” What you might be surprised to learn, however, is how prevalent-even rampant–organized crime in Tampa was in the early and mid-20th century. From bolita–an illegal version of the now-legal Florida lottery–to narcotics, Tampa’s experience with organized crime is as notable as Chicago’s or New York’s.

Still, there’s a fine line between exploring a topic and glorifying it. Indeed, some people would rather not dwell on the less-than-noble aspects of our local history. In the 1950’s, Tampa’s reputation for corruption and vice was so bad it prompted one national magazine to label the area the “Hell Hole of the Gulf Coast.” Given such negativity, who can blame people for just wanting to forget?

Despite all of this or, perhaps, because of it, a few writers and filmmakers have chosen to focus on organized crime, determined to give Tampa it’s due. You can read more about Tampa’s Organized Crime HERE

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