Best Known For
Tony Spilotro is best known as a mob representative in Las Vegas from the 1970s to the '80s. He was brutally beaten and murdered by mob members in 1986.
A preview of "Mobsters: Tony Spilotro."
Tony Spilotro grew up in an Italian neighborhood on the west side of Chicago and got involved in Chicago's most powerful organized crime family, known as the "Outfit."
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In November of 1963, the FBI managed to turn Charles "Chuckie" Grimaldi, a former member of DeStefano's crew, into a federal witness. Grimaldi testified against Spilotro and DeStefano during the murder trial of Leo Foreman, a loan collector who had made the mistake of throwing DeStefano out of his office in May of that year.
Foreman was lured to the home of DeStafano's brother Mario, ostensibly to play cards. Once there, Spilotro and Grimaldi drug their victim into the cellar,
where Sam DeStefano beat Foreman with a hammer and then repeatedly stabbed him with an ice pick. He was then shot in the head, and left in the trunk of an abandoned car. Despite overwhelming evidence, both Spilotro and DeStefano were acquitted.
Spilotro's brush with the law didn't keep him from conducting business as usual. Throughout the '60s, there were a series of murders in which the mobster had allegedly participated, but no charges were ever officially made. Spilotro continued to gain fame throughout the syndicate and, by 1971, Spilotro was tapped by Aiuppa to replace Marshall Caifano as the mob's representative in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In his new role, Spilotro worked on the Chicago bosses' scheme to embezzle profits from area casinos. Using a front man as the casino's owner, the mob then placed a new mobster in the casino court rooms: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal -- a mobster who could never be a "made" man, according to mob rules, because he was of Swedish descent (he was adopted by a Jewish family), not of full Southern Italian descent. Rosenthal's job was to access the rooms and remove as much cash as possible (called "the skim"), before it was recorded as revenue.
The money was then sent back to the Chicago Outfit (also known as the Chicago Syndicate, or simply as the "Outfit") and several other mafia families. To protect the skim assets, Spilotro was hired to keep a watchful eye on Rosenthal and the other members of the Outfit. Once in Las Vegas, Spilotro -- under the alias Tony Stuart -- took over the Circus-Circus Hotel gift shop, as well as control of the Vegas underworld.
Spilotro's first move was to require all criminals to pay a street tax to continue doing business. If they didn't pay, they were threatened with death. Spilotro's next move came in 1976, when he opened his jewelry and electronics store, The Gold Rush, in partnership with his brother, Michael, and Chicago bookmaker Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein.
The Gold Rush, located one block of the Vegas strip, became home to Spilotro's team of burglars who would break into hotel rooms, wealthy homes and high-end stores and steal their goods. The group then fenced the items they stole. Because they often gained entrance to buildings and stores by making a hole in the wall or roof, they gave themselves the nickname "The Hole in the Wall Gang."
Spilotro's role as enforcer, however, was hampered after the arrest of Aladena "Jimmy The Weasel" Fratianno in 1977. After Fratianno learned of a contract on his life, he became a government informant and testified against Spilotro.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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