August Palmisano

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August Palmisano
August Samuel Palmisano

(1928-08-28)August 28, 1928
DiedJune 30, 1978(1978-06-30) (aged 49)
Other namesAugie
OccupationTavern owner
Years active1963–1978
Known forMilwaukee Mafia
Jean Rose Lassa
(m. 1952)

August Samuel Palmisano (August 28, 1928 – June 30, 1978), also known as Augie, was an American tavern owner.

The owner of the Palmy's Bar, a tavern in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Palmisano was a reputed mobster and suspected informant. He was convicted of running gambling operations in the 1960s. Palmisano was killed in a car bombing in 1978.

Early life[edit]

Palmisano was born in 1928 to Sicilian immigrants Giovanni and Angeline Palmisano. He grew up in Milwaukee's Third Ward and attended school at Lincoln High School. After graduating, he went to work assisting in the management of his father's produce business, John Palmisano & Sons Wholesale Produce.[1]


Cafe Benelux, formerly Ritchie's and Palmy's

In 1962, Palmisano and two others were arrested on bookmaking charges for taking bets on basketball games by US Marshals, the IRS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the office of the United States Attorney. Bail was set at US$5,000 for each defendant; prosecutors argued for a high bail on the grounds that the defendants had a history of engaging in strong-arm tactics. Palmisano paid the bail and was released.[2] In 1963, Palmisano was convicted at trial.[3] In denying the appeal the following year, the court said the evidence against the three men was "overwhelming".[4]

Authorities suspected him of being part of the Milwaukee Mafia, while others believed him to be a police informant.[5] When Palmisano's father died in 1964, Palmisano renamed the business "Palmisano Produce". He continued working as a wholesaler while taking an additional job at the American Motors Corporation.

Palmisano used his income to open a tavern called Ritchie's (later renamed Palmy's), using the backrooms to run illegal games of chance. FBI agents raided it in 1974, seizing US$16,339.76 in cash, US$87,380 in promise-to-pay slips, 93 sticks of dynamite, and several firearms.[1][6] In 1975, he was again convicted, for "conducting a gambling business" and put on probation for two years. The charge of illegally storing 93 sticks of dynamite was dismissed as prosecutors could not prove that he had any knowledge of them.[3][7]

In 1978, Palmisano was notified that he was one of nine Milwaukee residents subject to a police order to have their phones wiretapped as part of a federal investigation into Mafia-controlled gambling operations; Palmisano was suspected of violating his probation by continuing to run games.[8]

Palmisano was known to frequent Pitch's Lounge and Restaurant in Milwaukee. On January 18, 1978, he was involved in an altercation at Pitch's with another restaurant owner named Robert Bruns, who was tackled and beaten by Palmisano and three others: Bruns was hospitalized after the attack. Two women who were shoved by Palmisano during the scuffle were also recorded as assault victims. All charges were dropped after the two women refused to testify by stating their intentions to leave town; Bruns received a cash settlement from Palmisano's lawyers.[9]


Juneau Village Garden Apartments underground parking

On the morning of June 30, 1978, Palmisano went to the underground parking of the Juneau Village Garden Apartments where he lived. When he turned the key in the ignition of his 1977 Mercury sedan, it exploded. At least 20 other vehicles were damaged and a resident said the blast was strong enough to knock pictures off the walls.[3] Palmisano was killed; losing his right foot and face, he was identified by his fingerprints.[1]

Frank Balistrieri, the head of the Milwaukee Mafia, was thought to be behind the bombing.[10] Undercover FBI agent Gail Cobb reported that Balistrieri said, "He [Palmisano] was arrogant. He called me a name to my face. Now he has no skin". Balistrieri also reportedly told the agent that nobody ever survived to be a witness against him.[1]

The Capital Times newspaper published an article with the headline "Blast Kills Convicted Milwaukee Gambler". The Kenosha News ran the headline, "Blast Victim was in Organized Crime".[11]

The Milwaukee Sentinel reported that, less than a day after Palmisano's death, burglars forced their way into the warehouse section of the tavern and then made a hole in an internal wall. A safe in the tavern was "peeled" open and documents scattered about.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Palmisano married Jean Rose née Lassa in 1952; the two bought a home in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin[1] and had four children: Angela, John, Patricia and Angeline.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e Spicuzza, Mary; Schulz, Bill; Chen, Daphnie (January 17, 2024). "My cousin was killed by a car bomb in Milwaukee. A mob boss was the top suspect. Now, I'm looking for answers". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  2. ^ "Arrest Three as Gamblers". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c "Blast Kills Convicted Milwaukee Gambler". The Capital Times. The Capital Times. Associated Press. July 3, 1978. p. 28. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  4. ^ "Conviction of 3 on Gambling Charges Upheld". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 24, 1964. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  5. ^ Lardinois, Anna (October 1, 2020). Storied & Scandalous Wisconsin: A History of Mischief and Menace, Heroes and Heartbreak. Washington, DC: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-4930-4758-1. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  6. ^ August Palmisano FBI ATF Files. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: FBI. October 5, 2017. p. 2. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  7. ^ "United States v. Palmisano, 386 F. Supp. 599 (E.D. Wis. 1974)". Justia Law. Justia. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  8. ^ "Mob-Style Killing in Milwaukee". Green Bay Press-Gazette. Associated Press. July 1, 1978. p. 3. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  9. ^ "No Charges in Battery Case". The Milwaukee Journal. April 5, 1978. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  10. ^ Bie, Michael (July 3, 2012). Myths and Mysteries of Wisconsin: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 131–133. ISBN 978-0-7627-9441-6. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  11. ^ "Blast Victim was in Organized Crime". Kenosha News. Kenosha News. Associated Press. July 1, 1978. p. 8. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  12. ^ "Bar Linked to Palisano Burglarized". The Milwaukee Sentinel. July 3, 1978. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  13. ^ "Death Notices". The Milwaukee Sentinel. July 3, 1978. Retrieved January 25, 2024.

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