The Original Teflon Don: Des Moines's Louie Fratto

Oct 15, 2009 - by Allan May - 0 Comments

Louis Fratto

Louis Fratto

"Cockeyed Louie" Fratto stared down three U.S. Senate committees -- Kefauver, McClellan, and Capehart -- by taking "the Fifth." His 30-year reign as the mob's lead man in Iowa netted him numerous civic honors, but not one day in jail.

by Allan May

According to Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Clark R. Mollenhoff, Louis Fratto, better known as Lew Farrell, "was not a master criminal. He was no more than a second or third operator from the lower ranks of the Capone mob in Chicago." This may have been Mollenhoff's opinion when the Capone gunman arrived in Des Moines, Iowa, in September 1939, but things would change.

As a cub reporter for the Des Moines Register during the early 1940s, Mollenhoff witnessed, "the tentacles of Lew Farrell reach into the Des Moines Police Department to promote his friends; into the Sheriff's Office for a gun permit; into the Prosecutor's Office to kill a criminal indictment; into the local courts to manipulate decisions on evidence; and into the state political arena."

Luigi Thomaso Giuseppe Fratto was born in Chicago on July 17, 1907. In Steven Fox's Blood and Power, the author discusses Fratto's nickname Lew Farrell, a name Fratto used most of his life, which allowed him an almost dual identity. Fox states, "As young boxers Vincent DeMora, Girolamo Santuccio, Joseph Aiuppa, and Louis Fratto took the ring names of Jack McGurn, Bobby Doyle, Joey O'Brien, and Lew Farrell, and when they graduated from boxing they kept the names."

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