By Bob Weaver 2024

"My life with the mafia" in West Virginia is a sideways story, meeting a number of the crime-ridden members while running treatment centers for alcoholics and addicts.

Mafia chiefs didn't cotton much to their own suffering from addiction, it hurt business.

I was always mystified, living in Wheeling for a number of years, when some residents would say, "We wish (godfather) Big Bill Lias was back again." I finally figured out what they meant about the murderous, criminal mob boss.

They seemed to believe the city was in better control during his long tenure, additionally he had a philanthropy bent to give cash back to the community. American's seem to have a per-chant for outlaws, ignoring their gruesome history.

During Lias' last days a murderous and torturous period exploded, including the rise of Paul "No Legs" Hankish as the new boss. A car bomb exploded causing the loss of his limbs.

In 1980 Hankish called the Preston Addiction Treatment Center where I was to become director, advising he wanted his 18-year-old son Christopher admitted. He was the first addict I met addicted to cocaine.

The staff had a "rule" if a patient didn't settle in and become compliant, we would discharge them. Christopher was a role model for non-compliance and we called the Godfather about the problem. He advised he would be over.

He came to the hospital in a chauffeur-driven limo, the legless man in the back seat. I came down to the vehicle to express my concerns. He then told me to summon Christopher to the vehicle to have a chat, after which Chris returned to the floor. Hankish then advised me we would have no problems, after which Cris was a model patient and completed treatment.

Many years later Christopher continued his wanton ways and was charged in Pittsburgh with a multi-million bookmaking deal, dying in 2008.

A mafia chieftain in Clarksburg sent his daughter to treatment in Kingwood, she embracing a life-long recovery. Sometime later he sent his young son, being admitted to the facility late at night.

I received a call from the hospital that a drug induced boy was running around the hospital, out of control. Upon arriving, with the night janitor (and security officer) discovered the youth in bed with a woman in the birthing center. Coaxing him we got him into the main lobby where we shoved him outside the hospital, locking the door. He was not happy.

A short time passed and the youth called my house, threatening to kill me, my wife and family. I called the mafia chieftain and advised what he had done, after which he explicitly advised to never worry about it again. Then, all quiet.

Years later, while administrator at Touchstones Treatment Center, we had a long succession of crime family members admitted.

My Wheeling neighbor George T. Sidiropolis wrote one of the most defining stories about the mafia - "Murder Never Dies: Crime and Corruption in the Friendly City."