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Episode 4: Pawnshop Swaps
So just to segue from the last edition of the Chronicles, I ended up getting busted for selling steroids, although I was lucky to not be part of the Federal indictment involving Juiceman Joe and about twenty of his “associates.” But since I had been filmed (photographed) coming and going from his house for months, I was questioned by the FBI. One of their agents came to my house and interrogated me for several hours, but I claimed I was just buying “juice” for myself and a couple of high school buddies. I think because my last name was Lindbloom, the Feds didn’t make the Tocco connection, as I was a completely unknown to them at the time. But I’m sure they knew I was lying about only buying the stuff for me and my boys. They just couldn’t prove otherwise. Plus they knew the state had a pending case against me for two hand-to-hand deliveries of steroids.
A couple days after the Feds questioned me, I was arrested by a local drug task force and charged with two counts of delivery of steroids. The next morning, after I saw a judge and my bond was set at $50,000, my Uncle Salvatore “Buddy” Tocco picked me up from the Macomb County Jail with the Family bondsman. Right away I knew I was in trouble. Had my Uncle Pete picked me up, I would have been fine. But my Uncle Sal picking me up meant that not only did he know what happened, but my grandfather also knew what happened. Which was bad because my grandfather already warned me about selling drugs. Or rather, dealing with anyone outside the Family, which was strictly prohibited.
My uncle Sal looked pissed. He was a Boss and he did not like to deal with “trouble.” He was extremely low-key, and now here I was, in the newspaper. The article read: “Steroid bust leads to organized crime…” It went on to say that I was part of a huge international distribution network, which was of course a bunch of inflated BS.
I remember being nervous as hell on the ride home. “Does grandpa know?” I asked, barely able to look at him.
“He’s handling it,” he answered coldly, not even turning to look at me. “He’s having lunch with the judge tomorrow.”
Thankfully, my grandfather was a very forgiving man. And well-connected. He was friends with a circuit court judge who arranged for me to get 2 years probation. But that was my first major strike against me when it came to dealing with people outside the Family. I’d later get a couple more strikes before I landed in prison for 13 years.
I ended up living with my grandparents Tocco in Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb just north of Detroit. They had a nice big home but I made my bedroom in their basement, which became my own little personal domain. And of course I picked up hustling right where I left off. That basement became ground zero for my pot and steroid operation. Though my steroid supplier had gotten busted, I quickly found a new one—a Mexican friend of mine began flying down to Mexico to bring ‘roids back for me and one of my cousins, which cut out the middleman and increased our profits.
Then one day my Uncle Pete walked into my room and saw my cache of stolen swag. “What the hell you doing with all this shit?” he asked, snatching a Kenwood amp off a stack of similar amps.
“Selling it,” I shrugged. “Why, you buying?”
He laughed when I told him where I was getting it. But a few days later he came down to my room and told me to start buying all the merchandise I could off the street, stuff like what I was already buying. Apparently, he and some of his associates were opening a pawnshop.
But the pawn business is a tricky one. You can’t just sell a bunch of “hot” stolen merchandise on your shelves, because (A) someone could walk in and recognize their property, and (B) the local cops have detectives whose sole job is to police and audit pawnshop inventory. That’s where “the swap” comes in.
Now most people don’t realize how interconnected most Cosa Nostra Families are. Everyone has friends and associates in other cities. For example, Detroit has VERY strong ties to New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Windsor, Miami, Los Angeles, and especially Chicago. And everyone faces the same problems.
So one day my uncle told me,
“Listen, I’m sending you to meet a kid. Name’s Tony. He’s one of Chicago’s guys but he lives up here. He’s gonna ride with you on a run down to Chicago. We got a load of swag they’re gonna dump in one of their pawnshops. You guys will come back up with a load of their swag we can dump in ours. Capisce?”
Now here is where I have to share a quick side story. A really funny one. I’d already met this kid, “Tony.” Well, that may not be the best way of putting it. I smashed a TV over his head one night at a party for hitting on my girlfriend. We were about 16 at the time. Maybe 17. The party was not in my neighborhood, but rather a neighborhood a few miles from my own. I only knew the guy having it because he had once lived in my neighborhood. His name was Chris and he was a good guy. A straight shooter who knew exactly what I was about. But since he was new to his neighborhood, most of his new friends had no idea who I was.
I ended up going to the party with my girlfriend, two of her friends, and my best friend, a maniac little Italian kid named Jay. Right away I saw an opportunity. A bunch of guys were in the kitchen playing dice. It was obvious they were all football players for their high school, because they all wore varsity jackets and were pretty big guys. Not that I cared. I went in there and offered to house a game of 3-dice, taking all bets. They were too stupid to realize it was a hustle. Within minutes I was cleaning them out. But as I ran the dice game, I happened to glance over and notice some guy talking to my girl on the living room couch. I mean, he was all up on her. Normally, I wouldn’t have even cared, but he was a real good-looking kid. Real Hollywood. And I could tell he was putting the moves on her. So after a minute I told Chris, the kid having the party, to go tell his boy to back off, that she was my girl. He did. I watched him walk over and tell the guy, who glanced at me and then backed off. But ten minutes later, he was back on the couch next to her, smiling and flirting with her.
Irritated, I walked over and said to the kid, “Hey, bro, she’s my girl. Back the fuck off or we’re gonna have a problem.”
He looked up at me and I could tell he wasn’t scared or impressed, but he did shrug and walk away. No big deal. I figured that was the end of it. But five minutes later, when I was back at the kitchen table playing dice, I looked over and saw him on the couch making eyes at my girl. Well, that was it. I had already warned him. It was time to make an example, so I snatched my money off the table, nodded to my boy Jay (who already knew what was coming), and stormed into the living room with rage in my eyes. My girl looked up and knew what was about to happen. She actually jumped off the couch to get out of the line of fire. I grabbed the 32” television off the entertainment center and smashed it over the guy’s head. I then proceeded to go berserk. I knew me and my boy were outnumbered, so I figured aggression was the best course of action. I just charged at those football players and started swinging. Jay didn’t hesitate. He charged into the kitchen right behind me. Just as I hoped, they cut their losses and made a break for the back door. Not all of them made it. Jay and I each grabbed one and threw a few good punches before they, too, broke free and scrambled out the back door. But we also made a quick exit because the kid having the party had a younger sister who called the cops. Plus the guy I smashed with the TV was still stretched out on the living room floor.
Well, as I’m sure you can you guess, the kid I smashed with the TV was the same “Tony” I had to ride down to Chicago with. He never brought up what happened with his people or mine, because he knew he was in the wrong and had it coming. We ended up becoming pretty good friends and doing a lot of business together. Today he is very successful and doing well.
The pawnshop-swap racket was very lucrative. My uncle and his associates made more money than you could imagine. Loads of stolen merchandise were swapped between Families all over the country, from Buffalo to Kansas and everywhere in between. We even had a guy who worked for a major alarm company helping us deactivate alarms. But that’s another story in itself. The funny thing was, after word got out about how I handled this Tony guy for hitting on my girl, my uncles and cousins began calling me whenever they needed a little “muscle.” Which led to my next step into “the life.” Enforcement. But I’ll save that for next time.
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