A graphic scene from the 1995 movie Casino shows actor Joe Pesci’s character placing a man’s head in a vise, and squeezing until one of his eyeballs pops out. This was based on a real-life incident that took place in a Chicago suburb in 1962. The man who was being “squeezed” for information was named Billy McCarthy. The guy applying the pressure was Tony Spilotro. And the name he wanted McCarthy to give up was Jimmy Miraglia.
McCarthy and Miraglia were part of Frank Cullotta’s burglary crew. The pair had made the mistake of killing the Outfit-connected Scalvo brothers without permission. They compounded that sin by carrying out the hits in mobster-inhabited territory and killing an innocent person in the process. The Outfit bosses were outraged and wanted the perpetrators identified and brought to justice. In mob parlance, that meant killed. Whoever handled the job would certainly endear himself to the bosses.
Tony Spilotro, who had been toiling as an enforcer for depraved loanshark “Mad Sam” DeStefano, saw this as a chance to make his bones with the Outfit and attain his goal of becoming a “made man.” Tony’s sources told him that the Scalvos had roughed McCarthy up on a couple of occasions, and that he and his buddy Miraglia were more than likely responsible for the killings. It was speculated that their crew chief, Frank Cullotta, may have also been in on the hits.
Tony called on Cullotta, his friend since they met as shoe shiners on the streets of the Windy City. He explained that while he didn’t think Frank had taken part in the murders, some people did. Frank could either prove himself by setting up McCarthy, or die along with his pals.
With no good options, Frank lured McCarthy to a meeting where the Irishman was captured by Spilotro. Before Tony killed McCarthy, he wanted him to confirm the name of his accomplice. McCarthy’s refusal to cooperate resulted in three days of beatings, ice pick stabbings, and finally the vise. After losing his eye, McCarthy provided Miraglia’s name and then begged Tony to kill him. It was a request that Tony promptly honored. A few days later Miraglia was disposed of, and his body joined McCarthy’s in the trunk of an abandoned car.
Tony Spilotro was well on his way to becoming one of the most feared enforcers in Chicago organized crime.