Gunmen In Philadelphia Murder Colozzi in Numbers War

Camden Courier-Post - January 10, 1940

Westmont Victim Reported to Have Been Aide of Klosterman

Scarduzio Death Tie-Up Also Seen

A reputed employee of Fred Klosterman, Camden numbers baron, was shot and killed in Philadelphia last night in what police there believed was an inter-city fight for control of the numbers racket.

The dead man was Joseph Colozzi, 49, of Westmont, known in the underworld and police circles as a "cheap thief."

While Captain John Murphy, of the Philadelphia vice squad, expressed belief the slaying of Colozzi and shooting last Sunday of Klosterman were related. County Detective Chief Lawrence T. Doran was working on another angle.

Visited Colozzi's Home

Doran said Colozzi had been closely associated during the last 10 days with John Lenkowski, 22, a fugitive wanted here in connection with the murder of Andrew Scarduzio.

"Both of them were convicted of similar offences- thievery, and they apparently were hooked up together lately. I could not say whether either of them ever was In the numbers racket."

Philadelphia police, however, seemed certain Colozzi was shot as a result of a new "numbers war." They said they had Information that the dead man apparently was in the employ of a Camden numbers bank.

Credence was given the report that local numbers barons are attempting to "muscle in" on the "Philadelphia play" when Irving Bickel, 34, who admits being friendly with Klosterman was arrested yesterday.

New Setup Alleged

Bickel, Murphy said, declared he had been contacting numbers writers in Philadelphia to inform them of a "new setup" and invite them to join.

Detective Sergeant Benjamin Simon and Detective Edwin Mills questioned Bickel in Philadelphia yesterday and said he admitted "knowing Klosterman" but denied he worked for him.

Simon and Mills were in Philadelphia again today working on the Colozzi shooting to ascertain whether there was any connection between the slaying and shooting of Klosterman on Sunday. Simon said he would investigate to learn if the slain man ever had been in the employ of Klosterman.

A theory advanced yesterday by police that Klosterman had been shot by killers hired by Atlantic City gamblers brought on an expression of surprise from shore police.

Detective Captain Frank Feretti said he did not know of any gambling house near the Union Station in which Klosterman may have been interested. He said no request had "been made by Camden police for an inquiry at the resort."

Colozzi was murdered at Eleventh and Carpenter Streets, South Philadelphia, last night. The top of his head was blasted by shotgun slugs to end a career in crime that extended over 30 year, with at least 30 arrests.

Colozzi's body was found lying across the trolley tracks in a darkened section near the Bartlett Junior High School.

Police of the Seventh and Carpenter streets station a few minutes before received an anonymous telephone call that "there's been a shooting at Eleventh and Catherine." The caller hung up.

No One Sees Shooting

Homicide squad detectives under Acting Captain William C. Bugle rounded up a number of persons in the neighborhood but could locate no one who admitted he saw the shooting. That was what the police expected, for the section has been the scene of unsolved gang killings in the past.

Captain Engle admitted the possibility that Colozzi, may have been allied in some way with Jersey gamblers attempting to poach on Philadelphia territory, and had met sudden death for that reason.

Though Captain Engle described the murdered man as a "cheap thief" he wouldn't deny the possible link to the threatened outbreak in a numbers war between rival operators as evidenced by the Klosterman shooting.

"I won't say there's a tie up, and I won't say there's not," said Engle. "We can't tell, right now."

Syndicate Under Way'

But the story told Captain Murphy, head of Philadelphia's vice squad, by a Camden man known to be a pal of Klosterman, put further credence in the rumored attempts at revision along the numbers front

The man is Bickel of a hotel at Delaware Avenue and Market street, who yesterday was held in $1000 bail for a hearing next Tuesday by Magistrate Thomas Connor in Philadelphia's central police court on suspicion of being connected with the numbers racket. He was picked up in Germantown.

Captain Murphy said Bickel admitted to him he was contacting various numbers writers for the purpose of having them pool their resources.

"He admitted verbally he had the names of several Philadelphia writers and that he was trying to line up the boys," Murphy said. "He is trying to coerce them with a new numbers set-up. That will cause a revival of gang warfare."

Although the murdered man was never known to have had theatrical connections police said he often boasted he was an entertainer in a New York cabaret.

Brother of Philadelphia Cop

The body of Colozzi, brother of a Philadelphia policeman, was identified by the officers wife at the Pennsylvania Hospital, Eighth and Spruce Streets. Five bullets had penetrated his skull.

Police said Colozzi lived at 113 Westmont Avenue, Westmont, since his last release from prison, some time during September 1939.

He lived with his wife Rose and most of their eight children.

In Colozzi's pocket, when a police ambulance arrived at the scene, was a card bearing his name and the Westmont address.

He was one of two brothers of John Colozzi, whose police record was said to be longer even than Joe's, and is being sought.

Police of Haddon Township said Colozzi was known to them only as an "innocent" junk dealer, who plied his trade picking up old car parts in and around the section.

Colozzi's last brush with the law according to the Philadelphia police records, was last Spring when he was implicated in a dress robbery. He was freed in September after serving part of his sentence.

Meanwhile Camden city and county detectives continued their investigations into the pump gun shooting of Klosterman, who remained in critical condition at West Jersey Hospital.

Klosterman was shot down in front of his saloon at Mount Ephraim Avenue and Mechanic Street at 10:00 PM Sunday as he went to the street to drive his car to a garage. The would-be killer sped away.

Seldom In Jail Long

Colozzi had run afoul of the law since early school days, but he often boasted that "with all the friends I got, I can't stay in jail long." He invariably managed to regain freedom, only to renew his jostles with police.

The stiffest sentence he ever got was on December 13, 1934 when Judge Frank F. Neutze sent him and an accomplice to state prison for robbing a coat factory at 7 South 3rd Street four months before.

In passing sentence on the much arrested "Manayunk Joe," Judge Neutze put aside pleas the prisoner was the father of eight children and sent him "up the river" for a term ox six to seven years.

"You're a typical criminal and a menace to the public" Judge Neutze said in a searing rebuke. "A light sentence won't do you any good. Your record is one of the longest shown to me since l have been on the bench. You represent a type that is better off behind bars, for outside of prison you are a menace to the public. I'll go the limit with you."

Obtained Police Badge

But Colozzi merely nodded, apparently thinking of which "friend" he would call on this time to get him out.

Previously Joe had established a second-hand tire shop on the White Horse Pike at Lindenwold and escaped serious penalty as police held a continuous club over his head for suspected escapades.

On one occasion he diverted his talents to another "profession" - extortion. By some means he obtained a police badge in Clementon township. A few months later he and several other members of the police department were rounded up for wholesale extortion of money from motorists and truck drivers

Those were the day of Prohibition, and the White Horse Pike was a frequently used. Highway for passage of beer trucks between Philadelphia and Camden and Atlantic City and other sea shore points.

The extortion continued among other motorists most of them guilty of petty violations. There were times when Colozzi took "anything they had," police said.

35-Year Police Record

Colozzi's police record dates back to 1904, when as a a child of 12 he was committed to the Glen Mills, Pa. Home for Boys for petty larceny. He served 19 months.

In 1909 he was given a two-month sentence In the Montgomery county jail at Norristown, PA, after another conviction for larceny.

Then followed a series of brushes with the law, with Colozzi landing behind bars a dozen times, but invariably obtaining freedom before the expiration of his term.

The record continues: 1914, committed to Philadelphia County Prison, larceny, three months;

In 1915, for receiving stolen goods, Eastern Penitentiary, four years and six months;

In 1919, at Newark, larceny, sentenced to two to seven months and pardoned in December, 1920.

A 10-year stretch followed during which his name failed to appear on police records.

Acquitted of Charge

In 1929, State Police of the Hammonton barracks arrested him for extortion, but he was acquitted in Camden County Criminal Court May 90, 1930.

In 1930 he was arrested in Trenton for breaking and entering and sentenced to a year and six months in Mercer County jail.

In 1933 he was taken in custody by the U.S. Marshal at Trenton. No disposition of the case is listed.

Later in 1933. he was arrested for Larceny in Philadelphia, and no record is known further of the case.

Later the same year Camden police arrested him for attempted larceny. No disposition.

In October 1933, he was jailed by U. S. Marshals for violation of the Dyer Act, interstate transportation of a stolen auto, but was placed on five years' probation.

In July. 1934 he was arrested in Camden for breaking and entering and in December of the same year was sentenced to six to seven years in State Prison.

The last time he appeared in local police records was less than a year ago, when he was arrested on a detainer for violation of federal parole and sent to Mercer County jail. A few days later he was freed.

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