EIGHTY YEARS LATER, THE SHOTGUN MURDER OF TAMPA NUMBERS RACKETEER EVARISTO ‘TITO’ RUBIO REMAINS UNSOLVED
The 1930s were a tumultuous time in the Tampa underworld. Dubbed the “Era of Blood” by local journalists, the sound of shotgun blasts was a common occurrence as competing gangs vied for control of lucrative rackets. Chief among those rackets was bolita, a gambling game like the lottery in which balls (usually made of wood or ivory) numbered 1–100 were placed in a cloth sack. The bag was tossed into the crowd, and the winning ball was picked. This simple game generated hundred of thousands of dollars in revenue for gambling operators in neighborhoods throughout Tampa, especially in West Tampa and Ybor City, a bustling, close-knit neighborhood where many Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants lived.
One of the Tampa crime groups fighting for domination was led by Charlie Wall, the “Dean of the Underworld.” A tall, white man who often sported a white suit and hat (and nicknamed “The White Shadow”), Wall controlled narcotics, political corruption and some of the biggest bolita houses, including the famed El Dorado. The other group was the nascent Sicilian Mafia, led at that time by Ignazio Antinori.
One well-liked gambling house proprietor in Tampa, Evaristo “Tito” Rubio, operated the El Dorado for Charlie Wall. Known throughout Tampa’s Cuban community, Rubio was a dapper dresser and contributor to charitable causes. Together with his business partner, Eddie Virella, Tito ran some of the city’s more successful gambling businesses. And with Wall’s political connections, he had few encounters with law enforcement.
But the winds of war shifted rapidly, especially on the streets of Tampa. Starting in January 1937 and through the spring of 1938, gangsters were responsible for a half-dozen shotgun attacks. Among the victims was Rubio’s friend Virella, who was gunned down in early 1937 while driving home after an evening shift at the Lincoln Club, another of Charlie Wall’s bolita houses.
About 5 a.m. on March 9, 1938, Rubio and his new bodyguard, Lew Feldman, pulled up to Rubio’s house just west of Ybor City after a night at the El Dorado. Feldman pulled into the driveway facing the side of the house. Rubio got out of the car and walked upstairs to the short porch, illuminated by the car’s headlights. Neither man saw two gunmen crouched behind the high porch, which obstructed the headlights. Rubio opened the screen door and turned to face the main door to open it when the gunmen leapt up and, moving around behind Rubio, blasted the gambling kingpin. One shot hit his left side, two others tore through his left hip. CONTINUE READING AT THE MOB MUSEUM