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Alumni spotlight: Former FBI analyst Paul Hodos discusses “Steel City Mafia,” his second nonfiction book

Alumni spotlight: Former FBI analyst Paul Hodos discusses “Steel City Mafia,” his second nonfiction book

by Public Relations | February 15, 2024

LATROBE, PA — At the outset of his 19-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Paul Hodos, C’02, worked as an investigator the New York City field office, which sits less than a mile from the site of the former World Trade Center. He later moved to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and analyzed counterterrorism and public corruption cases.PaulHodos.jpeg

“It was a busy time, for sure,” Hodos said.

In his free time, Hodos took up writing to ease the stress of his workaday world. “I’d gotten a taste for it when I wrote my thesis on Roman history at Saint Vincent,” said Hodos, who majored in history with a minor in political science. “It was a little bit of an escape from my job and normal life. It was a nice, creative outlet that became my side gig.”

Hodos’ first book, “The Kaiser’s Lost Kreuzer,” about German U-boats that prowled the United States coastline during World War I, was published in 2017. In April 2023, he released “Steel City Mafia: Blood, Betrayal and Pittsburgh’s Last Don.”

Hodos never worked on mob cases for the FBI, but he has long been fascinated by organized crime. As a kid growing up in Johnstown, his interest was piqued by newspaper articles about local gangsters. His grandfather told tales of a distant relative, Joseph “Pippy” DiFalco, a small-time gambler with ties to Pittsburgh mobster John LaRocca. DiFalco was stabbed to death in February 1960, and his body was discovered three months later in the Conemaugh Dam near Saltsburg. The murder remains unsolved.“Steel City Mafia: Blood, Betrayal and Pittsburgh’s Last Don” book cover

“That’s kind of where my interest [in the mob] originated,” Hodos said. “I fell in love with the media aspect of it, too—shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Goodfellas.’” When he was trying to decide the topic for his second book, Hodos realized there are plenty of books and movies about organized crime in big cities such as New York, Detroit, and Chicago, but not much has been written the shadowy wise guys in and around his hometown.

“The mob in Pittsburgh flew under the radar for a lot of people because it wasn’t as flashy as [crime families in] Philadelphia or New York,” Hodos said. “But I think a lot of local people knew about it. The main money maker was gambling, which was a multi-million-dollar industry. Then they decided to get into drug trafficking in a big way, and that’s what eventually weakened the family fatally in the 1980s.”

A key figure in “Steel City Mafia” is Michael Genovese, allegedly the last major mob boss in Pittsburgh. Genovese rose to power in 1985, but his empire crumbled five years later when his top two lieutenants, Charles “Chucky” Porter and Louis Raucci Sr., were convicted of drug distribution, extortion and racketeering.

Hodos also covers the exploits of mafia crews in Altoona; Wheeling, WV; and Youngstown, OH. “I was pretty surprised by the amount of activity in Altoona and how violent it was,” he said.

Court records from the 1980s revealed a treasure trove of information that Hodos used in his book. One vignette concerns John Clark, a drug dealer in Altoona in the 1970s who crossed the leader of the local crew and subsequently was literally whacked—Clark was murdered with an ax. “It’s one of the most violent Pittsburgh mafia scenes,” Hodos said. “It’s super rare to have direct testimony like that about a mob murder in Pittsburgh.”

A lot of Hodos’ research was conducted online, and he also interviewed the family, friends, and associates of reputed mobsters. His FBI training was helpful—Hodos knows how to dig for clues and information and is adept at sifting through wordy legal documents—but it did not give him special access to secret FBI files. Like the rest of us, he had to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and wait—and wait, and wait some more—for the FBI to reply.

“I was able to obtain what they were willing to release publicly, especially the older stuff,” Hodos said. “The FOIA backlog is pretty significant; it can take years to get some documents. I was lucky in that some of the files I requested already had been run through the mill and they had redacted what they needed to redact to protect sources and so on. I’m still waiting on some of the stuff I requested, even though it’s too late for it [to get into the book]. It’s definitely on the lower tier of priorities at the agency.”

Hodos lives in Kensington, MD, and retired from the FBI a couple of years ago. He works part time as an adjunct professor at The Catholic University of America.



PHOTO 1: Paul Hodos

PHOTO 2: “Steel City Mafia: Blood, Betrayal and Pittsburgh’s Last Don” book cover