Friday, May 16, 2014

A Free Celona

Joe Celona got out of prison the second time in 1943. He didn't turn his life around though. Instead, he turned his attention to bootlegging. He set up shop on the second floor of 373 East Hastings. Celona had a few run ins with the police, paid some fines but managed to stay out of prison.

This is 373 E Hastings. The top floor is where Celona ran his bootlegging business.
Celona was back in the spotlight with the 'Mulligan Affair'. Chief Constable Walter Mulligan had established a police pay-off system for local organized gangsters. The year was 1955 and a Toronto-based tabloid called Flash broke the story. An inquiry, led by RH Tupper, was held. 

Police witnesses testified that Celona seemed to have intimate knowledge of policing affairs, such as who was being transferred and when. Joe Celona was subpoenaed to testify. Detective Grant said he first learned he was being transferred to the Dry Squad while speaking with Celona at the corner of Hastings and Gore. Celona denied this and stated he had never been shaken down by the police nor paid them off. 

The Mulligan inquiry was the biggest Canadian news story of the year and the press were all over it. Joe Celona may have been a household name in Vancouver, but he wasn't well known in the rest of the country and Celona avoided having his picture in the paper. He liked the anonymity. When a photographer from the Sun took his photo, the Italian immigrant covered his face with his hat. His lawyer, Angelo Branca, tried to break the camera and Celona hit the photographer in the head. Joe did become less camera shy after this incident. 

Joe Celona eventually retired from the criminal life. He said “there’s no dough left in bootlegging; all the bawdy houses are closed down and now they stop a man from taking a few honest bets.”

Giuseppe Fiorenza, aka Joe Celona, died in St. Paul's Hospital on March 4, 1958.

 I would like to thank the Past Tense website for the information on Joe Celona.

 I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. You'd expect more then giving up because there was no money in crime. What did he do for a living after all that? Or did he get on assistance for the old aged?

    1. Good question Lee. Perhaps he was wary of the spotlight or was just tired. The Mulligan inquiry was in '55 and Celano died three years later. Perhaps he was sick. I don't know the answer to your question.

  2. If he died three years later most likely he got sick. Thanks anyway. I will make up my own ending. lol