Mob Wives: Chicago star Pia Rizza is unique to both VH1 mafia matriarch franchises because her connection to organized crime (her father Vincent Rizza) was not only mobbed up, but he was also a police officer!
Vincent Richard Rizza became a member of the Chicago Police Department in 1969, and his duties mostly involved working traffic duty on the Chicago Loop. While a police officer, Rizza began supplementing his income by running an illegal bookmaking operation on the side.
Toward the end of 1974 or beginning of 1975 Rizza had one of his “wire rooms” busted by Chicago police, the news of which put him on the radar of organized crime members in the area.
At this time mobsters Harry “The Hook” Aleman and Joseph Ferriola were attempting to reorganize illegal gambling in Chicago by forcing independent bookmakers to start paying “street tax” or tributes. The emphasis of their crackdown was sports betting, and after his operation made headlines, Vincent Rizza was one of their first targets. (More on that in a minute)
Rizza resigned from the Chicago Police Department in 1976 after he was arrested in Mexico for attempting to purchase cocaine. He was also charged with grand theft in San Diego in 1979, but would jump bail. Later he would plead guilty to a lesser charge and was placed on three years’ probation.
During this time Rizza was a full-time bookie and drug dealer with close ties to Harry Aleman.
Vincent Rizza was arrested in 1979 on federal drug charges after he conspired with two Hammond, Illinois firefighters (Clyde Franklin and Joseph Dybel, a former classmate of Rizza’s) to sell two kilograms of cocaine valued at $120,000 at the time. Undercover agents for the DEA posed as buyers and met with the three men at a motel near O’Hare International Airport in November of 1979. Rizza was convicted in 1982, sentenced to 15 years in prison, and ordered to pay $10,000 in fines. Rizza would later turn government informant and testify against Aleman.
Rizza’s testimony not only connected Aleman to the murder of bookmaker Anthony Reitinger, but also helped prove that Aleman paid off Cook County Circuit Court Judge Frank Wilson in his 1977 murder trial for killing Teamster Billy Logan, who was married to Aleman’s cousin at the time. Aleman was originally acquitted in a bench trial, but was convicted and sentence to 300 years when the case was retried in 1997. In February of 1990, fearing prosecution for accepting the bribe 13 years earlier, retired judge Frank Wilson shot himself to death at his Arizona retirement home.
According to law enforcement and the Chicago Crime Commission, Aleman committed 13 murders in Chicago between 1971 and 1976, which helped earn him the dishonor of being one of the most feared enforcers in the history of Chicago organized crime.
In his testimony against Aleman, Rizza described how they met and the details of their relationship afterward. Rizza recalls meeting Harry Aleman and his associate Jimmy Inendino at a restaurant on the Southwest Side of Chicago. “Harry told me I owed him street tax,” Rizza said. “40-some thousand dollars.”
Rizza took the news to his connection in organized crime, Angelo LaPietra, who was boss of the Chinatown area of Chicago at the time. “Angelo said it is a very serious situation I had gotten myself into,” Rizza remembers. He then says he gave LaPietra a paper bag with several thousand dollars inside which the boss promised to give to Harry Aleman as part of a deal.
The deal that Rizza said was made gave Aleman and his associates 50% of his earnings and they agreed to pay Rizza’s losses. In addition, Rizza would pay $1,000 every month for street tax. Despite the steep costs, Rizza was reportedly still able to make a profit with his gambling endeavors.
Also, Rizza began ratting out other independent bookmakers to Aleman and Inendino, and it was Rizza who first placed a call to Anthony Reitinger to inform him Aleman demanded he pay street tax on his $100,000 per month bookmaking operation.
Reitinger refused and Rizza relayed the message to an irate Aleman. “He said he would kill that [bleep],” Rizza recalls.
At a later meeting between Rizza and Aleman the subject came up again. “I told him it’s a dead deal, that Reitinger wasn’t coming in,” Rizza says. “Aleman told me to forget about it, that Reitinger was a dead man. . . . He said he was going to whack Reitinger.”
According to Rizza, Aleman said the hit would go down on Halloween so he could wear a mask without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. On Halloween night Rizza recalls watching a news report on Reitinger’s death and getting a phone call from Aleman. “The phone rings. It’s Harry Aleman: `We killed that [bleep]. I told you we would kill that guy.’”
Rizza entered the witness protection program and Aleman went to prison, where he died from complications stemming from lung cancer on May 15, 2010.
Vincent Rizza would be 64 now.
Vincent Rizza photos: VH1/Pia Rizza