Santo Trafficante was born in Tampa, Florida, on 15th November, 1914. His father, Santo Trafficante Senior, was a leading figure in the Mafia. In the 1940s he joined up with Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky to set up gambling operations in Cuba. The dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, received a large cut of the profits.
Santo Trafficante married Josephine Marchese on 17th April, 1938. He worked for his father in Florida and in 1953 he was sent to Cuba to manage some Mafia controlled casinos. Trafficante took full control of these operations when his father died of stomach cancer in August, 1954.
Trafficante also spent time in Florida. This resulted in his arrest and conviction for gambling offences. He was released from prison in January 1957 after his conviction was overturned by Florida's State Supreme Court. It is believed that soon afterwards Trafficante arranged for Albert Anastasia, his Mafia rival, to be murdered. Trafficante returned to Cuba but his casinos were closed down when Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista in January, 1959. Trafficante spent time in prison before being deported to the United States.
In September 1960 Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana, took part in talks with Allen W. Dulles, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), about the possibility of murdering Fidel Castro. In 1961 Roselli persuaded Trafficante to join the conspiracy. Meyer Lansky also became involved in this plot and was reportedly offering a million-dollar reward for the Cuban leader's murder.
Trafficante also worked closely with the CIA agent, William Harvey, in this operation. By 1962, Trafficante and his friends became convinced that the Cuban revolution could not be reversed by simply killing Castro. However, they continued to play along with this CIA plot in order to prevent them being prosecuted for criminal offences committed in the United States.
It is also believed that Trafficante became involved in Mafia plots to kill President John F. Kennedy. He told a friend, Jose Aleman: "Mark my word, this man Kennedy is in trouble, and he will get what is coming to him. Kennedy's got going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit."
Just before Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, Jack Ruby made contact with Trafficante, and another Mafia leader, Carlos Marcello, about a problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). However, the Warren Commission failed to find any direct link between Trafficante and Ruby concluded that "Oswald acted alone".
Trafficante continued to work for the CIA and was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Santo Trafficante died on the 19th March, 1987.
On 14th January, 1992, the New York Post claimed that Trafficante, Jimmy Hoffa and Carlos Marcello had all been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963 Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: "You won't believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the president." He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.
In his autobiography, Mob Lawyer (1994) (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab) Frank Ragano added that in July, 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Hoffa to meet Trafficante and Carlos Marcello concerning plans to kill President John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy was killed Hoffa apparently said to Ragano: "I told you could do it. I'll never forget what Carlos and Santos did for me." He added: "This means Bobby is out as Attorney General". Marcello later told Ragano: "When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big."