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Podcast Review: Crooked City

Crooked City is a podcast about crime and corruption in Youngstown, Ohio. The host is Marc Smerling, producer of the podcast Crimetown and the HBO show The Jinx. A key figure in the podcast is Jim Traficant who was a corrupt politician that remained popular despite being a convicted criminal. You learn that Youngstown was the scene of so much violence because of it being in between two rivaling mobs in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Individuals from Youngstown are interviewed and they describe their criminal activities in the past. When listening to this podcast, you will be shocked at the criminal activity and violence in one city. Crooked City is a must listen podcast for true crime fans. 

In episode one, titled “Welcome to Youngstown”, you are given of summary of the crime and corruption in the city’s history. The first person you learn about is Jim Traficant who represented Ohio’s 17th District in Congress. Traficant served a seven year sentence in jail for racketeering, filing false tax returns, and other illegal activities. Despite being a convicted criminal, he remained popular with some of the people in Ohio. His supporters deny his criminal past and have nothing but praise for him.  Also in the first episode, the host, Marc Smerling, talks about how the mob was tolerated by citizens of Youngstown as long as they kept to themselves. Public outcry against the mob began after bombings destroyed parts of the city and innocent civilians were killed. These are just a few of the fascinating stories that are in this episode.

The United California Bank Heist is described in episode two. Smerling talks about how the rumor that Nixon’s “dirty money” was stored at United California Bank. Jimmy Hoffa supposedly told the mob were Nixon’s money was kept to get back at Nixon for denying his eligibility for being president of the Teamsters’ Union. Two robbers that were involved in the robbery, Phil Christopher and Amil Dinsio, describe disabling alarms and breaking into the vault with dynamite. Incredibly, the bank was closed over the weekend so Christopher, Dinsio, and other robbers were able to break into the bank a couple of times before extracting money they were looking for. Christoper and Dinsio provide conflicting reports of the amount of money stolen but it is none the less interesting to hear about the robbery from their perspectives as well facts of the crime provided by the host.

You learn about the beginning of Jim Traficant’s political career in episode three. The first position that Traficant ran for was sheriff of Mahoning County located in Youngstown. Though he never ran for political office, he was a natural public speaker with charisma. He gave hope to the people of Youngstown who were suffering from unemployment, which resulted in rampant crime. The Sheet and Tube steel Mill in Youngstown that provided thousands of jobs to people in the city shut down in 1977 and left 5,000 people unemployed. Traficiant’s working class roots and charisma instilled hope to people and he was elected as sheriff. Towards the end of the episode, you learn about the beginning of his political corruption. It was fascinating to learn about the beginning of Traficiant’s political career and when he was corrupted.

 Crooked City is a brilliantly crafted podcast filled with interesting stories and facts. It will maintain your attention from episode one and onward. This podcast is the perfect blend of thriller and true crime story. In many cases, you will be shocked at what you are hearing is true and that is what makes Crooked City an excellent podcast.   

Crooked City can be heard on the Apple Podcast website or podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.  

Due to the mature content in this podcast, it is recommended for adults only.

Michael Walsh

Adult Services-Will Branch