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Mafia, history tours show the good, bad and ugly sides of Ybor City

Cuban independence figure Jose Marti (the good), mobster Charlie Wall (the bad) and family killer Victor Licata (the ugly).

Handout photo

Cuban independence figure Jose Marti (the good), mobster Charlie Wall (the bad) and family killer Victor Licata (the ugly).

His book is a must read for anyone curious about Ybor City's history of gambling and organized crime.

Now, the gangland expert leads walking tours of places in Ybor where local mobsters hung out and, in some cases, died by gunshot.

Cigar City Mafia author Scott Deitche is teaming up with Cigar City Magazine and local historian Manny Leto to do monthly tours titled "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.'' Deitche focuses on Ybor's mob past. Leto, a former Ybor City Museum spokesman who now works at the Tampa Bay History Center, talks about Ybor's roots.

The 90-minute tours give people insight into the lives of Jose Marti, the Cuban independence leader; Charlie "Dean of the Underworld'' Wall; and Victor Licata, the "Dream Slayer,'' who killed his family with an axe as they slept. Hence, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like other Ybor tours, including the self-guided Secret City Walks for mp3 players, Cigar City's tours aim to give locals and tourists a better appreciation of Ybor, beyond the bars and late-night partying.

"Some of these people have not been to Ybor in 30 years because they thought it was a crack town with all kinds of nasty things going on,'' said Lisa Figueredo, Cigar City publisher who organizes the tours. "When they see the cafes and cigar shops, they are like, 'Oh, my god, I wish I would have been down here sooner.' ''

Figueredo tested tours in September and, after getting a huge response, decided to relaunch them in January and offer each tour once a month through May.

Deitche's tour stops at 10 points of interest on or around Seventh Avenue. He gives a description of each, based on his extensive research of Ybor's mobster past through newspaper clippings, interviews and historical accounts.

Here's a taste of what to expect.

Eighth Avenue and 14th Street: Now a parking lot, the site housed El Dorado, one of Ybor's most infamous gambling houses. George "Saturday'' Zarate, was shot outside in his car by gunmen who supposedly wanted to send a message to his boss, Charlie Wall, who ran illegal bolita lottery games. Zarate survived the hit but fled the area and later died in Cuba. Wall's throat was slashed in 1955.

11th Avenue and 15th Street: A concrete block shell is all that remains of this former brothel and gambling spot known as the Yellow House. The house was a popular mobster hangout and near the site of two killings in the '30s: Mario Perla and the wife of bolita operator Fernando Serrano, who was injured in the attack.

Fifth Avenue and 16th Street: Charlie Williams was gunned down in the 1950s coming out of a barbershop near the current Centro Ybor garage. Williams ran illegal gambling in St. Petersburg and often visited Ybor.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Scott Deitche's gangland tour is Saturday in Ybor City, followed by Manny Leto's history tour on Jan. 22. Both start at 5 p.m. from King Corona Cigars, 1523 E Seventh Ave., and last up to two hours. Tickets are $15 and be reserved by calling (813) 358-3455 or going to

cigarcitymagazine.com. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

Mafia, history tours show the good, bad and ugly sides of Ybor City 01/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 6:25pm]

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