TAMPA — Angelo Bedami has openly told tales of his criminal past since his release from prison nearly 30 years ago.
His book, Who Are These Guys? Tampa’s Underground Airline, details how he smuggled drugs into the United States with stolen planes that were then crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He is now in negotiations for a television series based on those exploits.
But there is one story Bedami, 70, kept secret until now.
It involves the 1975 killing of Richard Cloud, a former Tampa police sergeant turned organized crime investigator for the federal government.
Cloud was scheduled to testify against Bedami’s brother and likely had information on him, too.
And that, Bedami said, is why “they whacked Cloud … Vic and my cousin did him in.”
“Vic” is Bedami’s friend Victor Acosta, who organized the hit, and his cousin is Manuel Gispert, who provided the gun. Both men were later charged with the crime.
It has long been speculated that Cloud was assassinated to protect Angelo Bedami and his brother, Joe Bedami Jr., but there were other theories. One was that Acosta’s attorney was feeding information to Cloud.
Bedami is adamant that he did not know about the hit in advance.
“When you do something like that, the less people that know, the better,” he said.
The moment he heard about Cloud, Bedami said, he figured Acosta and Gispert were involved but was not certain until arrests were made. Bedami said he does not recall how or when he learned the motive.
Ken Larsen, a former Tampa detective who worked undercover for Cloud, was not shocked to learn the truth. But he does not believe Bedami was kept in the dark.
“If Angelo Bedami tells me it’s Tuesday, I’d check the calendar,” Larsen said. “Angelo was a street hoodlum who was lucky enough to have a father who was loved by Santo Trafficante. That’s why Cloud is not alive today.”
Bedami’s father, Joe Bedami Sr., was allegedly a hit man for the Trafficante family, which ruled Florida’s underworld from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Joe Sr.’s alleged victims included Charlie Wall, known as the dean of Tampa’s underworld. Wall was murdered in his Tampa home in April 1955. His head was battered with a baseball bat and his neck was sliced. The crime remains unsolved, but the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy who investigated the slaying once told the Tampa Bay Times that he believed Joe Sr. was the killer.
In 1968, Joe Sr. went missing shortly before a trial on arson charges.
Tampa mafia historian Scott Deitche said he’s been told by “good sources” that Joe Sr. was killed by people connected to Trafficante because some worried he might talk in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Bedami said it is possible his father was “whacked,” but does not believe it would have been anyone linked to Trafficante because his father would never have turned against him.
Still, from that point on, Trafficante looked out for the Bedami brothers, according to Deitche and Larsen.
“They were allowed to do their own thing without kicking anything up to Trafficante,” Deitche said. “That was unique during that time period.”
Bedami admits he operated outside the syndicate and was close with Trafficante.
Guys like the Bedamis, Larsen said, were operating illegal enterprises with little concern for law enforcement.
There were two reasons for this, according to Larsen and Deitche.
One was that some future criminals and law enforcement officers — both typically of Italian or Cuban descent — grew up together and their families were friends for generations in a city that still had a small town feel, Larsen said. They then remained friends even when on opposite sides of the law.
“They protected their own,” Larsen said. “Guys like that didn’t go to jail, except maybe overnight.”
More prevalent, Deitche said, was…