Tony Spilotro biography
Tony Spilotro was born on May 19, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois. His parents ran a restaurant that became a hangout for local mobsters. Tony became a "made" man in 1963 and would be sent to act as the mob representative in Las Vegas in 1971. His continued involvement in criminal activity would lead to him being blacklisted from casinos, making it difficult to enforce his position. Spilotro was brutally beaten and murdered by mob members on June 23, 1986.
Born Anthony John Spilotro on May 19, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois, Tony Spilotro was one of six children. His parents, Pasquale and Antoinette Spilotro, were Italian immigrants who ran an Italian eatery, Patsy's Restaurant. It was through his family's business that young Anthony first became acquainted with organized crime; Patsy's was a regular mobster hangout, and meetings between "made" men were frequently held in the restaurant's parking lot.
Spilotro and his four brothers -- Victor, John, Vincent and Michael -- often engaged in criminal activities together, including shoplifting and purse-snatching. Spilotro became a bully at an early age: He dropped out of Steinmetz High School in his sophomore year, and spent most of his time engaging in petty crime. At the age of 16, he earned his first arrest for attempting to steal a shirt. He was fined $10 and placed on probation.
The arrest did nothing to curb Spilotro's criminal activities. Over the next five years, he was arrested at least a dozen more times. But small time criminal activity was no longer enough for Spilotro. He soon had his eye on Chicago's biggest criminal outfit: the La Cosa Nostra crime family.
By 1962, Spilotro had befriended several influential members of the Chicago underworld including Vincent "the Saint" Inserro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and mob boss Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa. Spilotro joined Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano's crew that same year. Sam was considered too unpredictable and undisciplined to ever be considered for real leadership, but his sadistic nature was highly sought after by his bosses as a way to spread fear and terror.
Through DeStefano's guidance, Spilotro finally earned a contract to murder Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia, two 24-year-old burglars known as The M&M Boys. During their interrogation, Spilotro tortured the two men, allegedly squeezing McCartney's head in a vice until the man's eye popped out of its socket. The corpses of the two men were found by authorities in the trunk of a car on Chicago's South side later that year.
The vicious killings won Spilotro a good reputation with area mobsters, and earned him the status as a "made" in 1963. His new title also scored him a job controlling bookmaking territory on the northwest side of Chicago. But Spilotro's standing also caught the attention of local law enforcement as well as the media, who began referring to Spilotro as "The Ant," in reference to his 5-foot-2-inch stature.
Spilotro became a marked man, and federal law enforcement worked hard to put him behind bars.
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.
As a result, Spilotro the Nevada Gaming Commission officially blacklisted Spilotro in December 1979. The ruling legally prevented Spilotro from being physically present in any Nevada casino.
This didn't prevent Spilotro from continuing to conduct his business, however. The Hole in the Wall Gang now included Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Joe Blasko and mob members Frank Cullotta, Leo Guardino, Ernest Davino, Sal Romano, Lawrence Neumann and Wayne Matecki, Samuel Cusumano and Joseph Cusumano.
Their robberies had also expanded to include the tri-state area. In addition, it was rumored the Spilotro had began dealing drugs through a motorcycle gang. He had also taken to Rosenthal's wife, and the two were having a less-than-secret affair. Despite his setback at the casinos, Spilotro felt he still had Las Vegas by the tail.
The mob, however, was not pleased with the amount of attention that Spilotro was drawing to himself. The blacklisting and the affair created unwanted headaches for the Outfit. In the minds of the mob bosses, Spilotro had two strikes against him. His third would come soon enough.
On the night of July 4, 1981, The Hole in the Wall Gang had planned a big robbery for Bertha's Gifts & Home Furnishings, which they believed would garner at least $1 million in profits. But once they had penetrated the roof, police surrounded the store and arrested Cullotta, Blasko, Guardino, Davino, Neumann and Matecki. They were each charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted grand larceny and possession of burglary tools.
The botched robbery was due to the defection of the alarm system specialist in group, Sal Romano. Romano had turned informant after the police had pegged him for another crime, and had told the police about the planned heist. The Hole in the Wall gang was locked in the Las Vegas police department's holding cell in downtown Las Vegas. Cullotta also turned state's witness after he discovered Spilotro had put a contract on his life. Culotta's testimony, however, proved to be insufficient evidence. Spilotro was acquitted again.
The Chicago Syndicate bosses were not pleased. In their opinions, Spilotro had made a public spectacle of himself in Las Vegas, and had to be removed. As later testimony indicated, the Spilotro brothers were called into a meeting with the understanding that Michael would become a made man. Instead, on June 14, 1986, the brothers were tortured and beaten before being buried alive in a cornfield in Enos, Indiana.
In 2005, more than two decades after Spilotro's death, the film Casino, directed by Martin Scorsese, was released to eager audiences. The character Nicky Santoro in the film, played by actor Joe Pesci, was based on Spilotro. In 2007, during the government's Operation Family Secrets investigation aimed at clearing up unsolved gangland killings, several men confessed to the Spilotro killings.
Albert Tocco and Nicholas Calabrese, pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy that included hits on Anthony and Michael.
On September 27, 2007, James Marcello was found guilty by a federal jury of the murders of both Spilotro brothers. On February 5, 2009, he was sentenced to life in prison for his crime.
Spilotro was replaced in Las Vegas by Donald Angelini. He is survived by his wife Nancy and his son Vincent.