May 19, 1938 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
June 14, 1986 (aged 48) Bensenville, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of death
Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery
"The United States of America versus Anthony Spilotro. 'Now what kind of odds are those?" - Anthony "Tough Tony" Spilotro
Anthony "Tough Tony" Spilotro (May 19, 1938 - June 14, 1986) was a mafia enforcer for the Chicago Outfit who worked in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. It is generally thought his job was to protect and oversee the mafia's illegal casino profits. Spilotro replaced Chicago mobster Marshall Caifano to run the skim.
Early career[edit | edit source]
Anthony John Spilotro (pronounced Spil-ah-tro) was called "Tony the Ant" by the press, after FBI agent William Roemer referred to Spilotro as "that little pissant."
The fourth of six children, Spilotro was born and raised in Chicago. His parents, Pasquale (who emigrated from Triggiano, in the Italian province of Bari, in 1914) and Antoinette Spilotro, ran Patsy's Restaurant. Mobsters such as Sam Giancana, Jackie Cerone, Gussie Alex and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti regularly dined at Patsy's, using its parking lot for mob meetings. It was a small place famous for homemade meatballs that attracted customers from all over Chicago.
Along with his brothers John, Vincent, Victor and Michael, Tony became involved in criminal activity early in life. Another of Tony's brothers, Pasquale, became a highly respected oral surgeon in the Chicago area. A bully at school, Tony dropped out of Chicago's Steinmetz High School in his sophomore year and quickly became known for a succession of petty crimes.
Spilotro and Rosenthal[edit | edit source]
Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal was first linked to Spilotro in 1962, when Spilotro pled guilty to attempted bribery of a New York University basketball player in a game against West Virginia University. There is also suspicion that Spilotro tried to bribe a University of Oregon football player.
Arrested numerous times for mopery, Spilotro befriended Vincent "the Saint" Inserro, who introduced him to Chicago underworld figures such as Joseph Aiuppa, Jimmy "the Turk" Torrello, Joseph Lombardo and William Daddano Sr., all of whom would eventually climb up the ranks of the Chicago mob. Spilotro was mentored by "Mad" Sam DeStefano, and then by Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio and Charles Nicoletti. Spilotro became a made member of the Chicago mafia in 1963 and was assigned to a large bookmaking operation. For a while, Spilotro was a bail bondsman for reputed mob associate Irwin "Red" Weiner.
Frank Cullotta[edit | edit source]
The FBI first turned a former associate of Sam DeStefano, Charles "Chuckie" Crimaldi, who had been a juice collector for DeStefano during the 1950s and 1960s. Crimaldi gave evidence against Spilotro and DeStefano in the murder of real estate agent-loan collector Leo Foreman on November 19, 1963. DeStefano and Spilotro were both acquitted. Crimaldi also provided information on his part in luring William "Action" Jackson to his death. Jackson was another loan-shark enforcer who worked for DeStefano and had been indicted on a hijacking charge. DeStefano suspected Jackson of bargaining with the FBI, in order to receive a lighter sentence, after Jackson was allegedly spotted with agents in a Milwaukee restaurant owned by Louis Fazio, a DeStefano associate.
Later, Sal Romano, a member of the Hole in the Wall Gang that specialized in disabling alarm systems, became a government informant. Romano had been working counter-surveillance during July 4 burglary at Bertha's jewelry store in Las Vegas. Unbeknownst to Spilotro, his brother John and partner Herbie Blitzstein, as well as the Hole in the Wall Gang burglars, Romano had turned informant several months earlier and federal agents and police were waiting for the burglars when the heist at Bertha's went down.
Spilotro's boyhood friend, Frank Cullotta, had for many years done "muscle work" on Spilotro's behalf, including the 1962 "M&M Murders" of James Miraglia and Billy McCarthy. Spilotro ordered the killing of Miraglia and McCarthy after the two men had robbed and murdered three businessmen in a suburban Chicago neighborhood where several members of the Chicago Outfit lived. To murder anyone in that neighborhood was considered off limits, because it might bring too much unwanted attention to the mobsters who lived there.
Cullotta, after his own arrest to save himself, subsequently became a federal informant, or a "rat." In November 1981, Cullotta was arrested for a previous burglary, in which a woman's home was broken into and her furniture stolen. The furniture was later found in Cullotta's home, which led to an indictment for possession of stolen property. Cullotta was also a suspect in the 1979 murder of a mob associate, Sherwin "Jerry" Lisner, in Las Vegas.
Mob protocol required that Spilotro support Cullotta's family financially while Frank was incarcerated. Authorities instead discovered that Spilotro had ordered Hole in the Wall Gang member Lawrence Neumann, 53, of McHenry, Illinois, to murder Cullotta and fellow burglar, Wayne Matecki, 30, of Norridge, Illinois.
Cullotta was able to supply information about the "M&M murders." Neumann was attempting to post bail for Cullotta so he could murder both Cullotta and Matecki, but the police had Culotta's bail revoked to protect him. Cullotta received eight years for the stolen property charges. In September 1983, Spilotro was indicted in Las Vegas on murder and racketeering charges based on Cullotta's testimony.
Meanwhile, Spilotro was tried before Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Maloney in Chicago for the Miraglia and McCarthy killings, while Cullotta's foiled executioner Neumann was sentenced to life in prison in 1983. Judge Maloney decided not to accept statements provided by Cullotta as evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt and acquitted Spilotro. (In 1992, Judge Maloney was convicted through Operation Greylord of accepting bribes in several unrelated cases.)
Cullotta later appeared before various federal and state grand juries. Cullotta helped hand down 19 federal racketeering-related indictments, four Illinois murder indictments and five Nevada burglary and armed robbery indictments. These charges resulted in 15 federal convictions, one Illinois murder conviction, and burglary and robbery convictions.
Cullotta testified before the President's Commission on Organized Crime, the Florida Governor's Commission on Organized Crime and appeared at a sentencing hearing for the Chicago mobster Joseph Lombardo. Cullotta later served as a technical advisor for the movie Casino and was the inspiration for the Frank Vincent character, Frank Marino.
The Hole in the Wall Gang[edit | edit source]
Spilotro, in 1976, formed a burglary ring with his brother Michael Spilotro and top lieutenant Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein, utilizing about eight associates as burglars. The crew became known as the Hole in the Wall Gang because of its penchant for gaining entry by drilling through the exterior walls and ceilings of the buildings they burglarized. The Hole in the Wall Gang operated out of The Gold Rush Ltd. in Las Vegas near the Las Vegas Strip. The gang consisted of Tony, his brother John, Herbie, Samuel Cusumano, Joseph Cusumano, Ernesto "Ernie" Davino, Lawrence "Crazy Larry" Neumann, Wayne Matecki, Salvatore "Sonny" Romano, Leonardo "Leo" Guardino, Frank Culotta and former Las Vegas detective Joseph Blasko, who acted as a lookout and who later worked as a bouncer at the Crazy Horse Too topless club and died of a heart attack in 2002;
Following the botched burglary at Bertha's Household Products on July 4, 1981, members of Spilotro's Hole in the Wall Gang (1976 to July 4, 1981), consisting of Frank Cullotta, age 43, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Joe Blasko, age 45, Leo Guardino, age 47, and Ernest Davino, age 34, all of Las Vegas, were in custody. Also arrested for the Independence Day burglary were Lawrence Neumann, age 53, of McHenry, Ill., and Wayne Matecki, age 30, of Norridge, Ill.
Cullotta, Blasko, Guardino, Davino, Neumann and Matecki were each charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted grand larceny and possession of burglary tools. They were locked into the Las Vegas police department's holding cell in downtown Las Vegas. The only member of Spilotro's gang not arrested for the July 4 burglary was Herbie Blitzstein, who was also a Chicago bookmaker friend of Ted Binion, Michael Spilotro, and Tony Spilotro's messenger at The Stardust, Joseph Cusumano.
By this time, Spilotro's relationship with Rosenthal had collapsed, as Tony had had an affair with Rosenthal's wife, Geraldine McGee. Meanwhile, Cullotta had turned state's witness, testifying against Spilotro. But the testimony was insufficient and Tony was acquitted.
Las Vegas[edit | edit source]
In 1971, Spilotro succeeded the mercurial Marshall Caifano as the mob's representative in Las Vegas. Spilotro reunited with his boyhood friend Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, who ran several mafia-backed casinos, including the Stardust. Spilotro and Rosenthal worked together to embezzle profits from the casinos (i.e., "the skim"), which were then sent back to midwest Mafia families, especially those in Chicago. On his own, Spilotro (under the alias Tony Stuart) took over the gift shop at The Circus-Circus Hotel, a "family" hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel offered first-class entertainment for children, while their parents gambled in the casino. Parts of the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever were shot there. In 1971, the hotel was owned by Jay Sarno, who had purchased the property with a $43 million loan from the Teamsters Union Central States Pension Fund. In 1974, the Circus-Circus was sold; for Spilotro's $70,000 investment, he received $700,000. In 1972, he was indicted in Chicago for the murder of Leo Foreman, a real estate agent/loan enforcer, who had made the mistake of ordering Sam DeStefano out of his office in May 1963. Foreman was lured to the home of Sam's brother, Mario DeStefano, to play cards. There, Foreman was tortured before being shot, repeatedly stabbed with an ice pick, and had pieces of his flesh cut out.
In 1976, Spilotro opened The Gold Rush Ltd. with Chicago bookmaker Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein, and brother Michael Spilotro. The Gold Rush, located one block from The Strip, was a combination jewelry store and "electronics factory." Here Spilotro, his brother John and associate Blitzstein gained expertise in fencing stolen goods.
Where Rosenthal was responsible for the actual management of the casinos, Spilotro's primary task was to control casino employees and other personnel involved in the skim/embezzlement scheme. Spilotro's role as enforcer, however, was severely curtailed after he was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission in December 1979 (chaired then by current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), a ruling that legally prevented him from being physically present in any casino in Nevada. Spilotro was blacklisted as a direct result of Aladena "Jimmy The Weasel" Fratianno's testimony, following his arrest in 1977.
Death/Aftermath[edit | edit source]
Getting blacklisted from the very casinos he was supposed to be overseeing, generating unwanted media attention through his high-profile jewel heists, and breaking the "made man" code by sleeping with an associate's wife, proved to be a lethal combination for Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. With the accession of a new boss of the Chicago crime family, Joe Ferriola, the decision was made to have Spilotro murdered. It is suspected that Tony and his brother Michael were called by Sam "Wings" Carlisi to a meeting at a hunting lodge owned by Spilotro's former mob boss, Joey Aiuppa. The Spilotros were savagely beaten and buried in a cornfield in Enos, Indiana. Tony and Michael were identified by their brother Pasqaule Jr. through dental records.
An autopsy performed on the recovered bodies found sand in the brothers' lungs, leading FBI examiners to conclude that they had been buried alive. No arrests were made until April 25, 2005, when 14 members of the Chicago Outfit (including reputed boss James Marcello) were indicted for 18 murders, including the Spilotros'. As a result of that investigation, the murders of the Spilotro brothers are now thought to have taken place in DuPage County, Illinois -- in Joey Aiuppa's hunting lodge, where they were beaten and strangled before being buried in Indiana. At the time of Spilotro's murder, Aiuppa was in prison, but Spilotro must have thought the building was still in use as a hunting lodge.
The suspected murderers included Albert Tocco, who was sentenced to 20 years after his wife Betty testified against him in 1989. She claimed that the day after the Spilotro murders, she was called to pick up Tocco 1.6 km (one mile) from where the brothers' bodies would later be found. She said that Tocco was dressed in dirty blue work clothes. Betty Tocco further implicated Nicholas "Nicky" Guzzino, Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo and Albert "Chickie" Rovero in the Spilotro brothers' murders. Tocco died at the age of 77 in an Indiana prison on September 21, 2005.
Another suspect in the murders was Frank "The German" Schweihs, an extortionist, convicted burglar and alleged Chicago assassin with two felony murder charges pending against him, while he is suspected of at least 73 others including the Spilotros, Allen Dorfman (of the Teamster's Pension Fund), and a former girlfriend. Schweihs was arrested by the FBI on December 22, 2005. At the time, Schweihs was a fugitive living in a Blakewood, Kentucky, apartment complex. Schweihs had slipped away before prosecutors were able to nail him and 13 others, including reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello.
On May 18, 2007, the star witness in the government's case against 14 Chicago mob figures pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy that included 18 murders, including hits on Anthony Spilotro and Spilotro's brother, Michael, in 1986.
Under heavy security, Nicholas Calabrese admitted that he took part in planning or carrying out 14 of the murders, including the Spilotro killings. The husky, white-haired Calabrese is expected to be the key witness against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and other major mob figures charged in the government's Operation Family Secrets investigation. The investigation was aimed at clearing up old, unsolved gangland killings and bringing down Chicago's organized crime family.
Nicholas Calabrese reportedly agreed to testify after the FBI used DNA evidence to link him to the Spilotro brothers' murders. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s trial in Chicago's Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is scheduled to begin June 19, 2007. In addition to Frank Calabrese Sr., the trial will involve four other men associated with the Chicago mob: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul "the Indian" Schiro, and a former Chicago Police officer, Anthony "Twan" Doyle.
Spilotro was replaced in Las Vegas by Don "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini. Spilotro is survived by his wife Nancy, his son Vincent, and his remaining brothers.
Murders[edit | edit source]
Spilotro was implicated in the murders of Bill McCarthy and James Miraglia, known to the public as the "M&M Murders." There was a 70% increase in murders in Las Vegas following Spilotro's arrival. McCarthy and Miraglia were two young robbers who had robbed and shot dead three businessmen in the mobster populated neighborhood of Elmwood Park, near Chicago. They were also in debt to Anthony's old boss Sam DeStefano. Their bodies were discovered on May 15, 1962, in the trunk of a car dumped on the Southwest Side of Chicago. Both had been beaten badly and had their throats slit. From McCarthy's injuries, it seems his head was placed in a vise popping out his eye, presumably to persuade him to disclose the whereabouts of Miraglia.
Spilotro may also have been involved in the attempted car bombing murder of Rosenthal on October 4, 1982. He was also incriminated in the murder of his onetime mentor "Mad" Sam DeStefano on April 15, 1973, while Sam, his brother Mario and Spilotro were all facing trial for the murder of Leo Foreman, a local collector for the mob, who had been tortured to death in Sam DeStefano's basement. Spilotro is further suspected of murdering real estate heiress Tamara Rand; Teamsters Union executive Allen Dorfman, alongside whom Spilotro was indicted in 1984; and the manager of the International Fiber Glass Company, Danny Siefert. Siefert was to be a principal witness in the fraud case but was shot in front of his wife and four-year-old son in September 1974. The fiberglass company was later burned to the ground by arsonists, whereupon they claimed the insurance money.
When Spilotro gained control of Las Vegas, he is alleged to have murdered Frank “the Bomp” Bompensiero. Bompensiero was the consigliere of the "Mickey Mouse Mafia" (Cosa Nostra family in California), but may have been cooperating with the FBI and was viewed as an embarrassment to the bosses in the Midwest. (Ironically, before his murder, Bompensiero helped Spilotro locate Tamara Rand, who was pressuring Frank Rosenthal's front man Allen Glick to make good on a $2 million loan.)
According to former Willow Springs, Illinois, police chief Michael Corbitt, rumors on the street implicated Spilotro in the murder former Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana. The FBI believes Spilotro was also involved in the murder of loan shark enforcer William "Action" Jackson, who worked for Sam DeStefano in the 1950s and 1960s. The Chicago Outfit thought Jackson had become an FBI informant in 1961. Spilotro allegedly took Jackson to a meat packing plant, where he hung him by a meat hook inside the rectum and then crippled Jackson by smashing his knees with a hammer and poking his genitals with an electric cattle prod. Jackson was left near death for three days before finally succumbing to his injuries.