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After moving away from his family home, the Bomp never again lived in Little Italy. But Moore paints him as returning to the neighborhood time and again to visit his mother, giving her an allowance for groceries and handing out hams, salamis, and produce to her neighbors, as though he were a Sicilian Robin Hood. The people loved him for it. That’s an exaggeration, Bonpensiero told me. “Peter Corona is right that once he realized he couldn’t extort Italian businesses, Frank virtually disappeared from the neighborhood.”

I asked Bonpensiero if he knew much about the Bomp’s criminal life that does not turn up in Moore’s book. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “He was my father’s brother and was over at our house all the time. When he first got out of prison in the 1960s, I walked him around. So I learned a heck of a lot about what he was doing and also how many cops in San Diego were on the take. My dad must have paid out close to a hundred grand over the years getting Frank out of jail.”

It’s difficult to assess Bonpensiero’s claims because he’s withholding most of the details to fill out his book. During my time with him on the phone, he spoke only in generalities. “Frank was the laziest man I ever saw,” he said. “He hated hard work, especially working on the tuna fishing boats that his father and brother owned. He was never successful at any legitimate business he tried. He never had any money. Moore called the Gold Rail his bar, but other people really owned it, and his bosses in Los Angeles just set him up in there so that he’d have a base of operation in San Diego.”

Is Bonpensiero preparing simply to capitalize further on his uncle’s infamy? Or will his effort serve to help demystify legendary mafiosos? “Italian Americans are tired of their being stereotyped by stories glorifying criminals,” says Nick D’Angelo, a local accountant who grew up in Little Italy and is a friend of Joe Bonpensiero. “Many people are sensitive and resent the television show Sopranos and movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas. They feel that our heritage is being misrepresented.”

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Visduh May 21, 2011 @ 8:34 p.m.

It is so amusing to remember that in 1977 when Frank was "wacked" while out walking his dog in PB, the two Copley papers reported it as if he were just some elderly, retired meatpacker or plumber. It took about a week before someone woke up and reported his murder as involving an organized crime figure. Then years passed before the real story of SD's mini-Mafioso was ever mentioned. It was mystifying why an old ex-con like him was still seen as a threat to other crime thugs.


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