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Blake Pontchartrain: Who was ‘Silver Dollar Sam’ Carollo? 

The mob figure who introduced slot machines to Louisiana had a colorful life

click to enlarge New Orleans mob boss Sam Carollo is credited with introducing slot machines like these in Pilottown, Louisiana, to the area in the 1930s.

Photo by Russell Lee/ Library of Congress

New Orleans mob boss Sam Carollo is credited with introducing slot machines like these in Pilottown, Louisiana, to the area in the 1930s.

Hey Blake,

Who was "Silver Dollar Sam" Carollo?

Dear Reader,

The history of organized crime in New Orleans is murky by design, but over the years there has been a handful of key figures whose court and criminal records speak for themselves. Silvestro "Silver Dollar Sam" Carollo is one of them.

  Born in Sicily in 1896, Carollo moved to the French Quarter with his parents in 1903. His criminal record in the city dates to 1923, when he was convicted on a drug charge. "By the early 1930s his name began to get bigger in headlines," The Times-Picayune reported in 1970. In Bourbon Street: A History, author Richard Campanella wrote that Carollo took control of the city's organized crime operation during Prohibition in the 1920s. By 1934, Carollo reportedly had brokered a deal with New York mob boss Frank Costello and U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long of Louisiana to operate slot machines in the New Orleans area with Long's assurances that local officials would look the other way when it came to enforcing laws outlawing gambling.

  Carollo went to prison three times over the years, once each for bootlegging, narcotics and attempted murder. In the latter case he received a pardon from Louisiana Gov. O.K. Allen, The T-P reported. Carollo continued to lead the local mob scene until he was deported to Sicily in 1947, after which Carlos Marcello reputedly was anointed leader of the New Orleans underworld.

  Carollo sneaked back into the New Orleans area in 1970, just as a federal grand jury was investigating organized crime in the region. He died a few months later. The headline on his June 27, 1970 obituary in The Times-Picayune read, "Alleged Mafia Leader Expires."

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