Sam Carlino knew nothing of his grandfather Pete’s involvement in organized crime in Pueblo until 1985 while working at his family’s Italian sausage stand in San Jose, Calif.

An elderly man took a sample and immediately recognized the recipe.

“He immediately asked if I was a Carlino, and as I said yes. He proceeded to tell me how he had known my grandfather during Prohibition,” Carlino wrote in his book “Colorado’s Carlino Brothers: A Bootlegging Empire.” “This stranger told me how he had known my grandfather, my dad and of my uncles and how he had worked for my grandfather during Prohibition.”

“Colorado’s Carlino Brothers: A Bootlegging Empire” details the involvement of Carlino’s grandfather, Pete, and Pete’s brother Sam, in bootlegging liquor between Southern Colorado and Denver during the Prohibition era. Carlino presented details from the book during a book-signing Saturday at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.

After recognizing the Carlino family’s sausage recipe, the elderly man proceeded to recall the day Carlino’s grandfather was murdered. Growing up, Carlino was told that his grandfather had died of pneumonia.

“Your grandfather was the biggest bootlegger in Colorado … they shot him up,” the man said. “He died of lead poisoning.”

Carlino said his encounter with the man at the Italian sausage stand launched a search for the truth about an aspect of his family history that his father and uncles were ashamed of.

“My motivation for writing the book was to not just tell one side of the story, our perspective of things, but to also lay out all the truth that I knew that’s been documented,” Carlino said. “The more this book has been out, the more people have come to me with more information. I’m starting to find out new things.”

Born June 13, 1887, in Lucca Sicula, Sicily, Pete Carlino’s family moved to Vineland from New Orlean to farm. In 1917, just one year after the state of Colorado banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages, Pete and Sam’s family farm was lost to foreclosure. Around this time, the brothers began producing moonshine on hidden stills.

“With Colorado passing its ‘Bone Dry Act,’ it turned honest farmers into outlaws and family neighbors into bootleg rivals,” Carlino wrote.

The Carlino brothers would go on to secure a stronghold in Colorado organized crime through the 1920s until 1931, the year Sam was killed in May and Pete was found dead outside Pueblo in September.

“My biggest goal in this is the truth,” Carlino said. “Good, bad, or indifferent, whatever it is how my grandfather is perceived. He was a bad guy … but whatever he did to instill something in his sons that made them so good, there was some humanity in him, too. It’s really interesting how bad people can be good and vice versa.”

Overall, he wasn’t a good guy, but his kids turned out really well,” Carlino said. “It’s amazing the fact that those six boys fell away from that life and started over in San Jose.”

jbartolo@chieftain.com

Twitter: @JamesBartolo6