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Chicago Outfit Enforcer and Las Vegas Boss Tony Spilotro

Submitted by on Wednesday, 4 December 2013No Comment
Tony Spilotro was the enforcer sent out to Vegas by the Chicago Outfit.

Tony Spilotro was the enforcer sent out to Vegas by the Chicago Outfit.

My story MURDER IN MCHENRY relates to former mobster turned government witness Frank Cullotta. This is not a story about him but his former boss. You can say that Frank Cullotta started his Outfit Association when he was 10 years old fighting over shoeshine territory back in Chicago. The person that he was fighting with was a young and tough Tony Spilotro. They resolved the territory issue when Tony found out from his father that he was being extorted by the Black Hand years back. It was Frank’s father, Joe Cullotta, that relieved him of the extortion by killing the Black Hand extorters. Many years later Tony Spilotro was the Chicago Outfit enforcer sent to Las Vegas to look after the Las Vegas skim.

Tony was born May 19th, 1938 and grew up on the near west side of Chicago in a neighborhood called “The Patch.” Coming from the same neighborhood as the Outfit boss Tony Accardo, Sam Giancana, Jack Cerone, and others. Even as a young kid growing up he was very tough. Tony’s older brother would offer kids $5 to $10 to fight his brother Tony, but most would never take the challenge. His father Patsy Spilotro owned Patsy’s Restaurant. He hung out with a local gang robbing cars, and gas stations. He wanted to be an Outfit guy and he got connected around 18 or 19 years of age. He started robbing what was called the bank route for the Outfit.

They would follow bank messenger trucks and see what kind of scores they would be picking up from each location. The following week they would follow the truck again, but this time they would ambush the messengers and take the money. This was very lucrative and helped Tony get noticed by a couple of Outfit crews.

Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano

Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano

He got connected to Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano. “Mad Sam” was a bookie that was known for torture, rape, and being an excellent earner. Tony would be mentored by him.

By 1962 he had already done many Outfit crimes, including what was dubbed as the M and M murders. They were dubbed the M and M murders because it was Jimmy Miraglia and Billy McCarthy that were killed.

It started when Billy McCarthy went to a bar called the Black Door in Rosemount, IL that was managed by Ronnie and Phil Scalvo. Their father was connected to the Outfit boss Tony Accardo. Billy got into a fight with them as they beat him up and threw him out of the bar. Billy went back to Jimmy Miraglia and Frank Cullotta wanting to plot revenge. Frank said that they were connected and he should forget about it. Billy and Jimmy did not forget about it and killed the Scalvos’ and a waitress.

Police photos made for the Rossi story of Frank Cullotta

Police photos made for the Rossi story of Frank Cullotta

The Outfit tasked Tony to find the murderers and take care of them. The Outfit had thought that Frank Cullotta was one of the murderers. Tony approached Frank and told him that he believed that he was not there but he was going to have to set Billy and Jimmy up or be killed himself. Frank called Billy to meet up with him but it was a faint for Spilotro to get at him. Tony did, and he beat Billy down with everything he had. Even still, the tough Irishman would not say who was with him when he killed the Scalvo brothers. Tony lost his patience and now enraged, grabbed Billy’s head and stuck it in a vice. He twisted the vice tighter and tighter sensing that Billy’s head was being smashed, but he still kept on going. Tony kept on twisting on the vice until finally his eye popped out of his head. Only then did Billy McCarthy gave up Jimmy Miraglia and asked to be killed. Tony obliged Billy’s request and found Jimmy offering him the same fate. Two weeks later both bodies were found in the trunk of Billy’s car.

In 1963 one of Mad Sam’s collectors, a loan shark named Leo Foreman threw Mad Sam out of his office. Citing this as an ultimate disrespect, DeStefano wanted revenge and gave Spilotro a call. Tony later lured Leo into the basement of a friend’s house. Spilotro grabbed Foreman and started to torture him. Tony was slicing skin off of Foreman and hitting him in the knee caps with a hammer while “Mad Sam” stabbed him 20 times with an ice pick. Much like Billy McCarthy, Leo Foreman begged to be killed.

Frank Rosenthal or "Lefty." He was the Chicago Outfit's odds maker and gambling guru.

Frank Rosenthal or “Lefty.” He was the Chicago Outfit’s odds maker and gambling guru.

Tony was not only an enforcer but an earner. Tony started to get into the book making business for the Chicago Outfit. He had bookies kicking up to him a percentage of their operations. He also had his own operations that was enhanced by a friend named Frank Rosenthal or “Lefty.” They were an excellent match, as Tony was the brawn of the operation and “Lefty” was the brains. Rosenthal was an odds maker and he was very good at it, making lots of money for himself and those connected to him.

In 1967  the IRS raided Tony Spilotro’s Oak Park home where they found that he was running a very large book making business. They arrested Tony and Tony told IRS Special Agent Bob Fuesel to remember his name. He was going to become the big guy on the block. Tony was fined for this arrest but served no time.

In September of 1969 the Chicago Police Department found that Tony was running another book making business out of a basement of an abandoned building. The police got a search warrant for the building. When the police raided the building Tony was there and would not let them in beyond the steel doors of the building. The bets were written on paper that would quickly dissolve in water. When the cops got into the building, Tony did not have water, so he was eating the bets.

In 1971 Tony had done all that he could in Chicago to climb the ladder in the Chicago Outfit. The Outfit had an excellent business in Las Vegas known as the skim. They were skimming off the top the proceeds of cash that was entering into the mob controlled Casino’s. The Outfit needed to have someone out in Vegas to enforce Outfit rules and protect the skim. The bosses picked Tony based on his past as an earner and for killing in the interest of the Chicago Outfit. Tony accepted the new position and headed out to Vegas.

Upon landing in Las Vegas the Vegas PD met up with Tony at the airport. They were trying to intimidate him into leaving. It did not have the desired effect. In the upcoming weeks five bodies turned up tortured and dead in the desert. They were all loan sharks but were never traced to Spilotro.

In Tony’s wife’s maiden name, he opened up a gift shop in the Circus Circus Casino at a cost of $70,000. He used this shop as a base for all of his operations. Across town, his good friend, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was operating behind the scenes as the manager of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, for the Chicago Outfit. “Lefty” making sure that the operations were profitable for the bosses back at home and Tony making sure that no one or nothing got in the way.

Chicago had not forgotten about Tony Spilotro and indicted him for the Leo Foreman murder in September 1st, 1972. He was indicted with “Mad Sam” DeStefano along with “Mad Sam’s” brother, Mario DeStefano. “Mad Sam” was unpredictable and had a history of drawing unwanted attention in the courtroom. He would choose to represent himself, showing up in pajama’s, being rolled around on an ambulance gurney, and screaming through a bull horn. He wound up serving three years for contempt in a courtroom which he otherwise would have not have served any time at all. Tony, nor the Outfit could risk what “Mad Sam” might do in a murder trial. With the help of “Mad Sam’s” brother, Tony killed his mentor “Mad Sam” before going to trial. Tony was acquitted of the murder of Leo Foreman and headed back to Las Vegas.

Circus Circus was sold, so Tony had to sell his interest in the gift shop that he owned inside. He made a tidy profit on his $70,000 investment and was given $700,000 in return. Not bad for a three year investment. Tony was inviting big trouble for himself with the bosses back at home.

Geraldine McGee Rosenthal

Geraldine McGee Rosenthal

He started an affair with “Lefty” Rosenthal’s wife, Geri. This is a big no-no in the Chicago Outfit. It is considered a big disrespect to get involved with another guy’s wife or girlfriend. They did not like to kill a guy over something like this but they most certainly would.

It was known throughout Las Vegas that Tony was a guy that you did not want to ever visit you. It was understood that if you were a dealer, or a pit boss and you were caught stealing you were going to be dealt with by Tony Spilotro or someone from his crew. It even got out to all other families around the country that you don’t go to Vegas to cause trouble or trouble would certainly find you. Tony had Vegas and everyone else in it, towing the line. With the money he had made selling his gift shop at Circus Circus, he opened another store. It was a jewelry store called the Gold Rush that was off of the strip. Things were good but the heat was still on. To maintain control of his operations, he called back home to Chicago to his childhood friend Frank Cullotta.

1981 The Hole in the Wall Gang. From left to right, Larry Neumann, Frank Cullotta, Joe Blasko, Leo Guardino, Ernie Davino, and Wayne Matecki.

1981 The Hole in the Wall Gang. From left to right, Ernie Davino, Larry Neumann, Wayne Matecki, Leo Guardino, Joe Blasko, and Frank Cullotta.

He wanted Frank to come out with a crew to help enforce for Tony and the Outfit. Tony would allow them to steal to earn a living and they would only have to kick up to Tony and the Outfit on big scores. Frank Cullotta formed a crew together of Joe Blasko, Wayne Matecki, Ernie Davino, Leo Guardino, and Larry Neumann. The crew would earn the nickname the “Hole in the Wall Gang,” by the media. To work around the magnets around the doors and windows for alarm systems, they would punch holes in the wall or ceiling to bypass them. After Las Vegas has suffered a series of these type of break ins they were dubbed the Hole in the Wall Gang in the papers.

Things were going good for Frank and Tony until Tony got word that Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner got picked up for larceny and conspiracy. He was an associate of Tony’s that was familiar with him and Frank. Tony also got word that he was cooperating with the government. With everything at risk, Tony approached Frank and told him that “we got to do something about this guy.”

Tony gave the Ok for Cullotta to kill Lisner. Frank carried out the order and Lisner wound up dead floating in his pool at his house leaking blood from the multiple shots to the head. Everything was fine until Frank went back to Chicago and the bosses asked about the Lisner murder. That is when Frank realized that Tony did not get an Ok from the bosses at home to kill Lisner. This could be a big problem even for a guy like Tony.

In 1979 Tony was added to the famous Black Book. This would exclude him from entering any Casino in Nevada. Tony was now barred from entering all the places that he was supposed to watch after on behalf of the Chicago Outfit. Tony was taking too many risks. He was having an affair with “Lefty’s” wife, was selling stolen merchandise out of the Gold Rush, called a hit on Jerry Lisner without getting the Ok to do so, and now he was added to the infamous Black Book. Things are starting to heat up for Spilotro.

In 1981 the Hole in the Wall Gang were planning their biggest score to date. It was the robbery of a very upscale second hand shop called Bertha’s in Las Vegas. Frank and his crew estimated that there was over $1,000,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables. Tony insisted with Frank that he would take a long a guy named Sal Romano. Frank did not want to bring him along as he did not trust him. Frank objected but Tony told him to take him anyway. On the 4th of July the Hole in the Wall gang was busted by the FBI breaking into Bertha’s. Everyone was picked up except for Sal Romano. He was an FBI mole and told the Feds everything.

The Feds reached out to Frank Cullotta to play a tape that they had. In the tape Frank could hear Tony’s voice talking to someone back at home in Chicago. Tony was telling the person on the tape that “he (Frank) had lost his mind and I no longer have control over him.” The other voice on the tape could be heard saying “You know what you have to do with your dirty laundry, take care of it.” Frank hears what everyone believes to be a contract on Frank’s life. It was not until April of 1982 that Frank’s neighbor was shot. About an hour later Frank’s phone rang and it was Tony Spilotro. Frank thinks that maybe that man shot next door was supposed to be for  him and Tony was calling to see if he was still alive. With a contract out on his life there are two choices for Frank, death or cooperation with the government. Frank Cullotta turns government witness.

Friends since childhood, now enemies, Frank Cullotta knew a lot about Tony Spilotro and the Chicago Outfit. He was a real threat to Tony and the bosses back at home. Tony went from feeling the heat to being engulfed in a four alarm fire. Frank turned government witness, his partner in the Las Vegas skim, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal barely escaped a car bombing in the parking lot of Tony Romo’s, a restaurant, and “Lefty’s” wife, Gerri Rosenthal, died a month later in a Las Vegas motel of a drug overdose. In keeping with the string of bad luck Tony was indicted for the M&M murders with the help of Frank Cullotta.

That same year the court moved forward with the M&M murders back in Chicago. The judge questioned Cullotta, telling him that he thought that he knew an awful lot about these murders for having not been there. The charmed life for Spilotro had not yet ran out. It became Frank’s word against Tony’s. Tony was found not guilty. Only a month later after being found not guilty, Tony was charged again, this time for the skimming of the Vegas’ Casinos.

Joe "Dove" Aiuppa. Chicago Outfit Boss

Joe “Dove” Aiuppa. Chicago Outfit Boss

Tony was not the only one indicted in the Las Vegas Skim. Fifteen other members of the Outfit were indicted including Outfit boss Joey Aiuppa. This was going to be big trouble for Tony. Not only did his problems catch an Outfit boss but this at the very least was going to change everything on how the casinos were going to have to start reporting their revenue interrupting the cash flow to the Chicago Outfit.

Tony would suffer a heart attack during the conspiracy trial for the Las Vegas skim. He was not going to have to go to court with everyone else that was named in indictment. Tony also had the trial going on in relation to the botched Bertha’s robbery in Vegas. In that trial a juror had slipped a note to the judge that she believed that two of the jurors were paid off. The judge declared a mistrial. The mistrial was only a temporary reprieve. Tony’s walls were caving in on him. He had at one instance three trials going on at the same time. The Las Vegas skim, the Bertha’s robbery, and the murder of Jerry Lisner.

Tony And Michael Spilotro

Tony And Michael Spilotro

In June of 1986, the new boss of the Chicago Outfit summoned Tony back to Chicago. He and his brother Michael were to report to the Outfit. They were told that Tony was going to be promoted and that his brother Michael was going to be made. Both the brothers knew that this was going to be a big day for them one way or another. They knew that they were either moving up the Outfit ranks or they were being setup to be murdered. In any case they knew that the upper echelon of the Outfit was calling and they had no choice but to appear before them.

On June 14, 1986 Michael picked up his brother Tony from the airport to meet with the upper echelon of the Chicago Outfit the very next day. Michael and Tony left their house without their jewelry, wallets, etc. Michael told his wife that he should be home before 9:00 PM and if he wasn’t home that he ran into problems. The brothers headed out to a home in Bensenville, IL to meet with the Outfit Leadership. The brothers were led downstairs to the basement where they recognized all who was there. Michael went to shake hands with one of the associates there and saw that they had rubber gloves on. Tony was heard asking “Can I say a prayer,” which got no reply. The men were beaten to death by fists and kicks. They were beaten so severely that they died in part because their lungs and airways being so full of blood, they could not breathe.

Indiana Cornfield were the Spilotro Brother's were buried.

Indiana Cornfield were the Spilotro Brother’s were buried.

The dead bodies of the brothers were to be taken to a cornfield in Indiana. They were to be taken to Outfit Boss Joe Aiuppa’s farm to be buried. They did bury the brothers in a grave in a cornfield but it was not on Joe Aiuppa’s property. On June 23rd, 1986 a farmer noticed something funny in his cornfield. He thought originally there was a dear or an animal that was buried. When the authorities arrived and started to dig out the hole, the two brothers were found beaten to death in their underwear. The responsibility to making sure that they were buried went to John Fecarotta. He was gunned down in September of 1986 in part of botching up the burial of the two brothers. They were both waked at Salerno and Son’s Galewood Chapel Funeral Home and laid to rest in the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, IL. I am very familiar with both places because when my father was murdered five years earlier he too was waked at Salerno and Son’s Galewood Chapel Funeral Home and laid to rest in the Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

In 1995 the film Casino was released. The movie starred Robert De Nero and Joe Pesci. Robert De Niro’s character Sam “Ace” Rothstein, was based on real life odds maker and gambling guru Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santoro, was based on the real life Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro. Most of everything in the movie CASINO was true to life, even though some of the events were taken out of context. The ending of the movie showed that the Santoro brothers (Spilotro brothers) were taken directly to a cornfield and were beaten to near death and then buried in the cornfield still alive. They were not beaten to death with bats but with fists and kicks, and they were not buried alive.

Tony and Michael Spilotro's Gravesite before they were buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, IL.

Tony and Michael Spilotro’s Gravesite before they were buried at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, IL.

No one was convicted for the murder of the Spilotro brothers until the Family Secrets Trial in Chicago. The FBI turned in a 43 page indictment in April of 2005. This trial was centered around information provided by Frank Calabrese Jr., who testified against his father, an Outfit Capo, Frank Calabrese Sr. The trial commended in June of 2007. There were ten Outfit members that were responsible for killing the Spilotro brothers. They were Nick Calabrese, James LaPietra, John Fecarotta, John DiFronzo, Sam Carlisi, Louie “The Mooch” Eboli, James Marcello, Louis Marino, Joseph Ferriola, and Ernest “Rocky” Infelice. Most of them had passed one way or another but Outfit Boss James Marcello was convicted of the murders along with Nick Calabrese. James Marcello got life in prison, while Nick got only 12 years because of his cooperation with the prosecution during the trial.

To learn more about Tony Spilotro, I recommend deceased FBI agent Bill Roemer’s book the Enforcer.

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