"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 exposé of the American Mafia's infiltration of the nation's cheese and pizza businesses.
"Further evidence of influence of organized crime on the industry was developed in a New York State Department of Agriculture hearing on an application by Utica Cheese Incorporated of Oriskany for a license to manufacture mozzarella, which is a major ingredient of pizza. The hearing received testimony that Utica's owner, Saputo Cheese in Montreal, was in turn partly owned by Joseph Bonanno of Tucson, Ariz., head of the Bonanno organized-crime group of New York.
"Last month, Charles D. Breitel, former chief judge of the Court of Appeals of New York and special hearing officer for the license application, recommended that the department deny the Saputo request because of what he found to be the company's clandestine but continuing association with Mr. Bonanno.
"The department had introduced evidence to show that Mr. Bonanno had a hidden interest in the Saputo cheese business, and Mr. Breitel said a denial by Emanuele Saputo, the president, 'strains credibility.' The application was rejected on August 1 by J. Roger Barber, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
"The Pennsylvania study listed 23 cheese companies it said had ties to organized crime, many to the Gambino and Bonanno groups, and it traced in particular ties between one of the 23, Grande Cheese of Brownsville, Wis., and Roma Food Enterprises of New Jersey."
But no matter how lucrative to the mob, all the mozzarella in the world would not be enough to support Trinidad. During the climax of the town's great coal collapse of the mid-1950s, coal towns like Cokedale were shuttered and the houses sold off to private buyers. By the early 1960s, the coal business that had so fundamentally shaped Trinidad and its frontier culture was essentially dead. Over the years, many townspeople left town to find their fortunes in more lucrative places, like Los Angeles, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Yet they retained close ties to their birthplace.
Among them was the family of Angel Jerrold Galardi, whose father Angelo also went by the name of Gagliardi. (Gagliardi is pronounced the same as Galardi.)
Born September 25, 1936, Angel went to Trinidad High and was a member of the airplane club before graduating and moving to L.A. He died in Orange County on July 2, 1995, at the age of 58. Among his survivors, according to an obituary in the Orange County Register, was his brother, Jack Galardi of Las Vegas, the same Jack Galardi whose son, Mike Galardi, the name owner of San Diego's Cheetahs strip club, copped a guilty plea earlier this month to bribing three members of the San Diego City Council.
Jack Galardi is reported to own a large chain of strip clubs in the South and at one time reportedly had an interest in San Diego's Cheetahs with his son. Angel and his brother Jack were sentenced to federal prison terms in 1972 for a postal money-order theft in Los Angeles. Jack reportedly has denied any involvement in the San Diego case and has not been charged. His lawyer has also denied that Galardi has any connection to organized crime.
Another resident of Trinidad with connections to Jack Galardi is Gene H. Gagliardi. Born in 1926, an entry in the city directory shows he once was principal of Cokedale Elementary School and later became a U.S. history teacher and line coach of the football team -- the Miners -- at Trinidad High. But he abruptly left town in the late 1960s, says Cosette Henritze, a writer for the Trinidad Chronicle-News, who has lived her entire life in the town. "He went to Las Vegas to get into the gambling business or something," she recalls. "The thought was he might have inherited some funds. He drove a big black sedan and wore some pretty big rings." In the years since, Gagliardi, now 77, has frequently returned to Trinidad and has made generous contributions to the high school's athletic program, Henritze recounts. Yearbooks in the high school's collection also bear a notice saying they were donated by Gagliardi.
Las Animas County records show that Gagliardi still owns the old family home on East Seventh Street in Trinidad. It has three bedrooms and one bath and is covered in turquoise and white asbestos shingles, which were popular in the 1940s. The house has a partial view of the vast Colorado prairie that sprawls to the horizon on the east side of town. Today weeds lick around the sides of the house, giving the 100-year-old dwelling an unlived-in appearance.
For the past several years, Gagliardi's mailing address on property tax records has been listed as an office in Las Vegas, an address that is also used by Jack Galardi, his son Mike Galardi, and many of their enterprises. A deed to a piece of Trinidad property signed by Gagliardi in 1998 shows that it was signed by him in Las Vegas and notarized by Emelita P. Sy, who is listed as an officer in Nevada corporate papers filed by many of Jack Galardi's entities.
Several families named Gagliardi have long and deep roots in Trinidad. One of the longest living patriarchs was Pete Gagliardi, Sr., an auto mechanic. His death certificate records he was born in the nearby coal town Engleville on July 18, 1903, to Pietro Gagliardi and Maria Nucci and got as far as the eighth grade in school. Pete Sr. died on September 8, 1991, at the age of 88. His bride Josephine Naccarato preceded him in death, but he was survived by his son, Pete Jr., among many other family members.
On August 21, 1943, according to a property transfer record at the small Trinidad courthouse, "Pietro Gagliardi, also known as Pete Gagliardi," deeded the family's house on the hill behind the town to "his proper son Sam Gilardi." According to the deed, Pietro "reserves to himself the right of habitation for and during his natural life, to habitate in the dwelling house situated on the lots described above." Eighteen years later, on August 17, 1961, Sam Gilardi, "also known as Sam Gagliardi," deeded the same property to Gene Gagliardi.