Childhood & Early Life
Daniel John Patrick "Danny" Greene was born on November 14, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio to John Henry Greene and Irene Cecelia Greene (née Fallon). Greene’s mother died when he was just three days old.
For some time, Danny stayed with his grandfather as his father lost his job as ‘Fuller Brush’ salesman due to his heavy drinking. Subsequently, Danny was placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage, ‘Parmadale’, situated in Parma, on the outskirts of Cleveland.
In 1939, Danny’s father married again and brought Danny back from the orphanage. However, the six-year-old resented his stepmother and on several occasions, ran away from home. His grandfather took him in again, and Danny lived with him for the rest of his childhood.
Enrolled at St. Jerome Catholic School, Danny did not fare too well in studies but excelled in sports and games, especially baseball and basketball. He got along very well with the nuns and priests who gave him latitude with his studies due to his sporting talent that brought the school credit.
He then shifted to St. Ignatius High School, where he found himself frequently involved in brawls with the Italian-American students and developed a very strong aversion to Italians; an aversion that stayed with him for the rest of his life. After being expelled from St. Ignatius High School, he attended Collingwood High School, which also expelled him for being habitually late.
Putting his academic pursuits behind him, Greene, joined the United States Marines, where his boxing and shooting talent was soon spotted. In 1953, he was promoted as a corporal and later the same year, was honorably discharged.
In early 1960, Greene worked at the Cleveland docks. In 1961, Green became the interim president of the ILA. After easily winning the ensuing elections in 1962, he ruled the dock workers with an iron hand forcing them to contribute more for a "building fund" and taking away jobs at will to bend them into compliance.
Green also frequently declared work stoppages to demonstrate his authority to the company owners; on one occasion, he even threatened to kill an owner’s two children prompting the ‘FBI’ to place them under protection.
After an investigative reporter collected evidence of extortion, Danny was stripped of his union position in 1964 and convicted of embezzling union funds, however, the charge was subsequently overturned. Unwilling to face another trial, he pled guilty to falsifying union records and was fined a hefty $10,000 and a suspended sentence, however, neither did he pay the fine or serve any prison time. He was recruited as an informer by ‘FBI’ agent, Marty McCann of the Organized Crime Division.
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Leaving the dockyards, Greene found employment in the ‘Cleveland Solid Waste Trade Guild’ as an enforcer. His abilities impressed both mobster Alex "Shondor" Birns and Frank "Little Frank" Brancato. A bombing incident that went wrong and almost killed him left the hearing in his right ear permanently damaged.
Disturbed by Danny involving the mafia and using violence, Mike "Big Mike" Frato quit the guild to set up a legitimate business. Greene, in September 1970, ordered Art Sneperger, an accomplice, to attach a bomb to Frato’s car but Sneperger informed Frato. As a police informer, he also disclosed the plan and that Greene was an FBI informer to Sgt. Edward Kovacic of the Cleveland Police intelligence unit.
In 1971, an apparent mistake while planting a bomb inside Frato’s car killed Sneperger but not Frato. The case was never solved, however, many theories abounded, including Greene murdering Sneperger for revealing his FBI informer status.
Greene was arrested and charged with the murder of Frato on November 26, 1971, at Cleveland's White City Beach. Despite Greene admitting to the killing, he was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Apparently, Frato had first fired on him three times from a passing car as Greene was jogging on the beach.
Not long afterward, Danny was fired upon by a sniper as he was jogging on the same beach. Undeterred, Greene started firing on him while giving chase but the assassin could not be caught or identified.
Greene moved to Collingwood, where he lived the life of a feudal baron supporting destitute families, paying tuition fees of children to Catholic schools, and generally keeping the peace in town by threatening dire action on the culprits.
Greene formed his own gang, the ‘Celtic Club’ with some young Irish-American gangsters and set up gambling dens all over the city. He also allied with John Nardi, a Cleveland labor racketeer.
Greene had a very close relationship with Birns; each of them named their sons after each other but their friendship soured. A loan of $75,000 organized from the Gambino crime family by Birns for Greene finally split them. Even though the cash was never delivered to Greene as the courier employed by Birns had used it to buy cocaine and got busted by the police, Birns, under pressure from the Gambino family, started pressing Greene to return the money, which he flatly refused to.
An infuriated Birns issued a $25,000 contract through an associate for murdering Greene and there were several attempts by minor characters of the underworld to assassinate him. After Danny Greene discovered an improperly wired bomb in his car while filling up at a Collingwood service station, he personally disassembled the bomb, removed the dynamite, and delivered the rest of the apparatus to Edward Kovacic, a policeman who had earlier come to know of his FBI informer status.
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Suspecting the involvement of Birns, Greene killed him with a powerful military explosive on March 29, 1975. On May 12, 1975, a big blast destroyed Greene’s building but he emerged miraculously with only minor injuries.
In 1975, Greene started expanding into the mafia-controlled vending machine racket as well as gambling operations. This brought on the wrath of the Cleveland family leadership, especially, Thomas "The Chinaman" Sinito who wanted to control some of the more lucrative coin-operated laundry contracts of Greene. In retaliation for the murder of one of his associates, Danny planted a bomb in Sinito's car, which, however, was discovered and defused.
The death of mobster John Scalish in 1976 started a huge gang war for control of lucrative criminal operations in Cleveland. James Licavoli, the successor appointed by Scalish, was challenged by John Nardi, who assisted by Greene, killed many of Licavoli's supporters sparking off an enduring war between the Licavoli and Greene gangs. Greene killed at least eight hitmen sent by the mafia to assassinate him.
After Greene’s ally, John Nardi was killed by a bomb on May 17, 1977, James Licavoli, entered into a ceasefire pact with Danny hoping to catch him off-guard. On October 6, 1977, Greene was assassinated by the mafia who had planted a bomb in the car parked next to Greene’s Lincoln Continental. He was killed instantly as he approached the vehicle after visiting a dentist at the Brainard Place office building in Lyndhurst, Ohio.
Personal Life & Legacy
Danny Greene married June Tears on December 17, 1953, and they divorced on February 28, 1956. The couple had two children.
On March 27, 1956, he married Nancy Hegler. In the late 50s they divorced but remarried in the early 60s, before finally parting ways in the mid-70s; with Nancy, he had three more children.
A book by a former Cleveland-area police lieutenant, Rick Porrello, on Greene’s war against the mafia, ‘To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia’ was published in 1998. It was awarded a prize for the best non-fiction book and also adapted as a film, ‘The Irishman: The Legend of Danny Greene’.
In 2011, a biopic on Greene, ‘Kill the Irishman’, directed by Jonathan Hensleigh was released.
‘Brother's Keeper’, Season 11, Episode 21 of ‘Law & Order’ is based on Danny Greene.