By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
Anthony “Tony” Joseph Tocco, of Chesterfield Township, the only person aquitted in a major Detroit mob case from 1996, died Friday of natural causes. He was 80 years old.
His nephew Bill Bagnasco, owner of Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Homes in Sterling Heights and St. Clair Shores, said many will miss his uncle.
“He was great guy, well-respected with a lot of friends,” Bagnasco said.
Scott Burnstein, a national expert on the Detroit mob scene, said Tocco was the brother of Detroit mob boss Jack Tocco and the “longtime consigliere of the family.” Burnstein is the author of “Motor City Mafia: A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit.”
“He represents one of the final links to the founding fathers of the family, which dates back to the Prohibition era,” Burnstein said. “He was representative of that second generation in the Detroit mob, which was adept not only at street activity, the normal rackets of the mob. But he was also a boardroom gangster, in that he had a business degree.
“He was just very well respected.”
In federal documents Tocco went by various nicknames, including “Tony T,” “Tick Tock Tony,” and “Tawn,” Burnstein said. He was charged in 1996, along with 16 other members of what’s known as “The Detroit Partnership” in a federal lawsuit with racketeering and other allegations. Among those indicted were his brother Jack Tocco, who was co-owner of the Hazel Park Racetrack at the time, plus underboss Anthony Joseph Zerilli.
Tony Tocco was the only one who was aquitted in the case that FBI agents at the time said “drove a stake through the heart of La Cosa Nostra in Detroit.” Jack Tocco was convicted and sentenced to a year and a day in prison, well below the government’s request of 20 years in prison. After years of legal wrangling and appeals, federal prosecutors stopped the appeals in 2004, when Jack Tocco agreed to pay $950,000 in fees.
Tony Tocco is survived by his brother Jack and sister Grace, his wife Millie; children Rosalie (Joe) Vicari, Ninfa (Tony) Buscemi, Joe (Nancy), Dede, Tony (Michelle), & the late Bill. He has 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visitation happens 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Sterling Heights Chapel of the Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home, 13650 East Fifteen Mile Road. A funeral will be held at 10: 30 a.m. Monday at St. Thecla Catholic Church, Clinton Township.