Archive for October, 2007

Frank Meets Tony

October 22, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness 

Frank started shining shoes up and down Grand Avenue. One day he noticed a short kid about his age shining shoes on the opposite side of the street. The competitors glared at each other for several seconds.


The stranger hollered, “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?”


Frank replied, “I’m looking at you. What about it?”


Like a pair of Wild West gunfighters ready to do battle, the boys walked toward each other. Stopping a few feet apart in the middle of the street they put their shoeboxes down.


 The stranger said, “This is my fuckin’ territory and I don’t want you on this street. Understand?”


“I don’t see your name on any street signs and I’m not leaving,” was Frank’s reply.


The challenge had been made and answered. Some pushing, shoving and name-calling followed. As the confrontation ended the other boy said to Frank, “I’m coming back here tomorrow and if I see you we’ll have to fight.”


Not backing down, Frank said, “Then that’s what we’ll have to do.”


Frank returned to the same spot the next day as promised, but the other kid wasn’t there. In fact, the two didn’t meet again until about a week later. Frank didn’t think he had intimidated the other shoe shiner. He figured the guy was around and they were simply missing each other. 

The next time the two met the stranger approached Frank, but he wanted to talk, not fight. “I’ve been asking around about you. What’s your last name?”


“Cullotta,” Frank replied.


“Was your father Joe Cullotta?”


 “Yeah. So what?”


“Your father and my father were friends. Your old man helped my old man out of a bad spot one time.”


As the boys talked, the stranger explained that his father ran a well-known Italian restaurant on the east side called Patsy’s. Joe Cullotta frequented the restaurant and liked Patsy Spilotro.  Joe had come to Patsy’s rescue when he was being harassed by a gang of criminals known as the Black Hand. Frank’s adversary-turned-friend was Tony Spilotro.


After listening to Tony’s story Frank remembered hearing about the incident at Patsy’s restaurant. The Black Hand was comprised of Sicilian and Italian gangsters that extorted money from their own kind, and Frank’s father hated them with a passion. Their method was to shake down business owners by demanding money in return for letting the business stay open. They were making Patsy pay dues every week. When Joe Cullotta heard about it he and his crew hid in the back room of the restaurant until the Black Handers came in for their money. Then they came out and killed them. After that Patsy wasn’t bothered anymore.

Frank’s First Taste of Crime

October 21, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness 

Frank’s disdain for authority, rules and regulations, became apparent early on. Going to school was problematic for him: he hated it. He considered the teachers to be a bunch of old biddies, most of whom were mean. There was another problem, too: Frank wore glasses. In those days kids who wore eyeglasses were looked on as freaks by some of their classmates. When nasty comments or dirty looks were directed at Frank because of his eyesight he responded with his fists. These conditions weren’t conducive to a good learning environment. Frank would have much preferred to be out of the classroom and do his learning on the streets. Some of his instructors and fellow students probably wished he had been.


Ongoing difficulties regarding Frank’s conduct resulted in his spending time in a variety of schools, including facilities specifically designed to handle kids with behavior problems. But none of those settings corrected the trouble.


Frank’s mother tried enrolling him in a Catholic school. The nuns were tough on him and routinely slapped his hands or knuckles with a ruler. On one such occasion Frank fought back; he took the ruler away from the nun and broke it over his knee. That incident resulted in expulsion and a return to the public school system.


The change of scenery didn’t improve Frank’s attitude toward school. When he acted up the teachers would punish him by making him sit behind the piano or putting him in the closet. This made him even more hateful and defiant. He started coming to school late or not showing up at all.


When Frank’s mother received calls or letters from the school about his behavior she did what most parents would do: she punished him. He had to come straight home from school in the afternoon and be in the house by a certain time at night. And then she took away his allowance. To compensate, while walking to school he started stealing the money out of the bags customers left out to pay for their newspaper. Eventually the paperboy got tired of finding the bags empty and began to keep an eye out for the thief. One day he spotted Frank in the act and the chase was on. Frank got away and started taking a different route to school.


Stealing the paper money had made Frank accustomed to having some cash in his pocket. It was a feeling he liked, and he knew he needed to find another source of income. By this time the Cullottas had moved to the west side. Like many other kids in his neighborhood, he decided to try his hand at shining shoes.

The Cullotta Family

October 20, 2007

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness

 Frank Cullotta was born in Chicago on December 14, 1938, the son of Joseph and Josephine Cullotta. He had two siblings, a sister Jean, and a younger brother, Joseph. The family lived in the    section of town called the Patch, a working class and mostly Italian neighborhood. His father had a rather unique job: he drove the work car — getaway car — for his crew of burglars and robbers. He exhibited a cold, businesslike demeanor to all, including his family. He also had a violent temper. Any love and warmth the children experienced in the Cullotta household came from Josephine.

Joe Cullotta was killed when the car he was driving crashed during a high-speed police chase when Frank was about nine years old. In addition to his own memories, as Frank grew up relatives and associates of his father told him story after story of Joe’s exploits and expertise as a criminal. The elder Cullotta was considered by friend and foe to have been the best wheel man in Chicago. He was also a very dangerous man, capable of mayhem and murder.

Josephine Cullotta herself never discussed her late husband’s criminal activities with her children, either before or after his death. She limited her comments about him to simply saying that he was a good man. But Frank witnessed his father slap his mother around on more than one occasion. And Joe’s violence toward his family wasn’t limited to his wife; the children were also targets of his wrath when he became angry.

Among the things that set Joe off was if one of the kids got a bad report card. Josephine knew that and made an effort to keep that kind of news from her husband; but if he did find out there was hell to pay. On one of the occasions when Frank was the recipient of a derogatory report, Joe got wind of it and went into a rage. Josephine tried to calm her husband to no avail. Frank dove under his bed as his father headed toward him. At that point his sister intervened on his behalf. “I’m not going to let you hurt him, Dad,” she said, stepping in front of her father to block his path.

Joe Cullotta glared at his daughter in disbelief. “Oh yeah? Here,” he snarled, as he kicked her and sent her sprawling down the stairs. Although she suffered the consequences, Jean’s heroic action saved Frank from a beating,

Joe Cullotta’s ferocity wasn’t limited to his family, and young Frank personally witnessed his father in action in a situation that today might be called road rage. He was with his father driving on North Avenue when a couple of guys in another car got under Joe’s skin. One of them spit out their window and some of it got on the Cullotta vehicle. Joe flew into a maniacal rage. He chased the other car down the street and ran it up on the curb. He then dragged the two occupants out and beat them senseless.

In spite of Joe’s lack of affection and propensity for violence, he was a good provider for his family. He made sure they never wanted for anything. The Cullottas had new furniture every year and the kids had the best toys. Frank didn’t learn until later that virtually everything his father provided was stolen.

In addition to the source of their home furnishings, Frank sometimes saw other things that he later learned were related to his father’s criminal behavior. One of those times was when the family was living on the east side near Grand and Ogden, a few doors from future Outfit boss Tony Accardo.

He came home from school one day and found a man sitting in his house. He’d never seen the guy before and had no idea who he was. His mother didn’t acknowledge the stranger and provided no explanation as to why he was there. That man stayed for several hours and left when another man Frank had never seen before replaced him. This routine continued for several days. To add to the mystery, Joe Cullotta had apparently gone missing. If his wife knew where he was she wasn’t saying.

After about a week the strangers stopped showing up and Joe Cullotta made his appearance shortly afterward. Frank listened in on conversations between his father and his father’s friends who stopped in to visit. Between his eavesdropping at the time and things he was told afterward, Frank discovered that the strangers had been police detectives. His father was a suspect in the robbery of the Chicago Tribune. He and his crew got away before the police arrived, but a witness had identified them. The cops had been waiting for him to come home so they could arrest him. Joe was subsequently charged in that robbery and beat the case in court. He hadn’t been caught at the scene and the witness identification linking him to the crime didn’t hold up. All the charges were dropped.

In spite of Joe Cullotta’s sometimes abusive behavior toward his wife and children, Frank came to idolize him and admired his success as a criminal. That adoration was more than likely a contributing factor in Frank’s decision to follow the same road. And once he started down that path there was no turning back.

He who laughs last …

October 18, 2007

battle.jpgThe mobsters had no doubt chuckled at the FBI’s embarrassment over the “cookie caper.” But that incident didn’t end the investigations; it only caused a change in investigative strategy. Eventually, Las Vegas’ Strawman case agent Lynn Ferrin got to have that last laugh.


Excerpted from The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob. 


After the cookie caper, the FBI changed tactics from covert to overt and went after the Stardust’s new owners, the Trans Sterling Corporation, openly. “We had enough information to start going over their records,” Ferrin said. “The Carl Thomas method of the skim primarily involved stealing from the count room. We found that another method of theft was also going on at the Stardust. This one involved the cashier’s cage.


“We looked at thousands of fill slips from the Stardust for the years that we knew the skim was going on. The fill slips were used when chips were removed from the cage to replenish the supplies at the gaming tables when they ran low on chips. The slips were required to have the signatures of four different casino employees. The money involved was about $20,000 per slip, and was presumed to reflect [casino] losses at the tables. We eventually discovered a pattern of forged signatures on the fill slips. That discovery led to the next step. We took handwriting samples from over two hundred Stardust employees and sent them to the FBI lab in Washington. Analysis revealed that the casino manager, Lou Salerno, was responsible for most of the forgeries.


“We got some good convictions in this phase. More important, though, through our investigation we were able to help the Nevada Gaming Control Board seize the Stardust. They revoked the licenses of the Trans Sterling people and fined them $1 million. The Stardust was eventually purchased by the Boyd Group, ending over a decade of mob control.”


That wasn’t the entire story for Lynn Ferrin, though. “The cage manager was a guy named Larry Carpenter. During the course of the investigation, he came to hate my guts. We lived in the same neighborhood and some mornings I’d come out to go to work and find that somebody had spit all over my car. I’d have to clean the car off before heading for the office. I suspected that Carpenter was responsible.


“Carpenter was gay and had full-blown AIDS. I thought maybe he was trying to infect me by having me come in contact with his body fluid and absorb it through my skin. Anyway, I stayed up all night to see if I could find out who was sliming my car. Around 5 a.m. I caught Carpenter coming around the corner on his bike. I could tell by the look on his face that he was the one. It never happened again after that morning. Carpenter later committed suicide, hanging himself when he went to jail.”


But there was more. “Lou DiMartini was a floorman at the Stardust. He claimed that during the investigation I caused him to suffer irreparable harm by asking his employer questions about him. He filed a $1 million civil suit against the government and me individually. It took seven years and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was decided in the government’s and my favor.”  


How does Ferrin sum up the results of the Strawman investigations?


“I think that our investigation basically broke the back of the mob’s efforts to control the casinos in Las Vegas.”


That last statement seems to say it all.              


Lefty’s Big Bang

October 13, 2007

battle.jpgExcerpted from The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob 

Rosenthal’s stock with the Chicago Outfit and Tony Spilotro had been dwindling for some time. His highly publicized fight with the gaming authorities and his controversial television show hadn’t gone over very well in Chicago or with some of the other crime families. And the fiasco over Tony’s affair with Geri caused the bosses to be concerned about the judgment of both men. Spilotro was unhappy with his former buddy, because Lefty hadn’t backed his play to expand his power in Vegas and California. The situation with Geri had placed a further wedge between them.


Nick Civella, boss of the Kansas City mob that controlled the Tropicana, had been suspicious of Lefty for some time. He believed the gambler was way too friendly with the FBI, and might be acting as an informant. At one point Civella called Oscar Goodman and asked if he thought Lefty was crazy. The lawyer said he didn’t think Rosenthal was crazy, that he was okay. An FBI agent later testified at the mob chief’s racketeering trial that to Civella, “crazy” was code for “trustworthy?”


Goodman said he wasn’t aware of the dual meaning at the time. When he learned about it, he realized that had he given the wrong answer Lefty might have been killed. Still, was Rosenthal providing the authorities with information?


Attorney Goodman explained it this way: “There are snitches and then there are snitches. There is such a thing as a dry snitch, a person who talks to the FBI or police, but doesn’t necessarily say anything. I think Frank Rosenthal enjoyed playing with people in power. I think a lot of people played the game with him. But did he sit down and say, ‘Make a deal for me not to be prosecuted’? I don’t think so. I think he’d been through too much in his life to become a rat.”


The mob bosses may not have been sufficiently convinced that Lefty needed to be eliminated. Tony Spilotro was another matter. In mid-September, Metro picked up word that the Ant had ordered Lefty killed. Similar to the policy of their FBI colleagues, the cops were required to inform the potential victim that he was in danger. Gene Smith and his partner were tasked with telling Rosenthal.


“We found Lefty in a restaurant with some of his buddies,” Smith said. “I told him we’d like to talk with him in private. He said no. The other men were his friends and anything we had to say could be said in front of them. Under those circumstances, I said, ‘Okay, you’re going to be killed.’ We turned around and walked out, with a suddenly interested Lefty right on our heels. Outside the restaurant we told him the whole story. He didn’t believe it, though. We’d done what we had to do. Our obligation to Lefty was over.”


A couple of weeks later on the evening of October 4, Rosenthal left Tony Roma’s restaurant on East Sahara. He got into his Cadillac and turned the key in the ignition. In the past, this action had always resulted in the Caddy’s engine coming to life and settling into a smooth purr. Things were a bit different this time. A charge of C-4 explosive had been placed under the trunk next to the gas tank and wired to the ignition. When Lefty turned the key the bomb ignited. Had he been in any other car, the gambler would no doubt have been killed instantly. But the Caddy was built with a steel plate under the driver’s seat as standard equipment. The steel barrier diverted the blast toward the passenger side of the vehicle and gave Lefty a chance to jump out of the car before the interior became fully engulfed. The gas tank exploded seconds later, sending the car’s roof 60 feet into the air. The lucky Lefty escaped the inferno with only some singed clothes and minor injuries. He was alive, but someone had sent a strong message.


The day after the bombing Rosenthal called Metro and demanded police protection. Kent Clifford and Gene Smith went to Lefty’s house to discuss the situation. “I asked him what he’d do for us in return for protecting him,” Kent Clifford said. “His answer was, ‘Nothing.’ I told him I wasn’t going to put my men at risk under those circumstances. I tried to scare him into talking to us or the FBI by telling him he was a walking dead man. He decided to take his chances rather than cooperate, though.”


Who was responsible for the attempt on Lefty’s life? The theories varied among the lawmen. Those who believed Tony Spilotro was behind the incident admitted that the Ant wasn’t known for using explosives. But they argued that he had motive and could have brought in an outside expert to handle the bombing. Others thought Chicago, with pressure from Kansas City, had ordered the hit, because they felt Lefty was either already in bed with the authorities or soon would be. Those who supported this idea pointed out that car bombings were common in assassinations by mob families throughout the Midwest. 


Some outside of law enforcement attributed Lefty’s near-death experience to Geri Rosenthal’s friends in California. Their rationale was that Geri was rapidly going through the money she’d left Las Vegas with. Her friends — comprised primarily of drug users, dealers, and biker gang members — believed she stood to gain a windfall from Lefty’s estate should he suffer a premature demise. In that case, the free-spending Geri would be able to support their bad habits for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it made sense that these unsavory characters would attempt to knock Lefty off.


Not long after the bombing, the gambler departed Las Vegas for California, and eventually Florida. Like so many of the killings and attempted killings in the realm of the mobsters, no one was ever charged in the attack.


Is Las Vegas mob-free today?

October 10, 2007

my-mob-photo.jpgI’m frequently asked if the mob still runs the gambling joints in Las Vegas as depicted in the movie Casino. Or have the gangsters been driven out of town?   

It is my opinion that way too much money passes through Sin City to have it free of organized crime. But the days of crime families having hidden ownership and control of the casinos are gone. Corporations are now in charge. And that can be seen as a good or bad thing, depending on one’s perspective.

Teflon Tony

October 10, 2007

battle.jpgExcerpted from The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob 

Teflon Tony 

John Gotti, the infamous former head of New York City’s Gambino crime family, was dubbed the Teflon Don for his ability to gain acquittals whenever the law took him to court. In fact, from the time he ascended to the throne in 1985 until his conviction in 1992 for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Gotti and his lawyers had made a habit out of beating up on prosecutors. But Gotti had been convicted and served time while he was making his way up the career ladder. And the sentence for his only conviction while he was the boss was a beauty: life without the possibility of parole.

Although Tony Spilotro never officially attained “Don” status, the attention he received from the law was nearly the same as that bestowed on higher-ranking mobsters. In spite of being almost continuously under investigation, and a suspect in some 25 murders and countless other felonies, Tony conducted his affairs for more than a decade without being convicted of even a minor offense. Part of the reason for that impressive run could be his skills as a criminal; another likely factor was that his reputation and willingness to use violence made witnesses against him scarce. A third and equally important aspect was his lawyer, Oscar Goodman.      

Goodman was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. After moving to Las Vegas in 1964, he opened his own law practice. It wasn’t long before he became one of the city’s premier criminal defense attorneys, representing many high-profile clients. Among them were Harry Claiborne, a federal judge who was convicted of tax evasion in 1983 and impeached by the United States Senate, Allen Glick and his Argent Corporation, Lefty Rosenthal, and Tony Spilotro.

Goodman was a fiery advocate for his clients and he wasn’t shy about attacking his law-enforcement foes, both in and out of court. In Of Rats and Men, author John L. Smith chronicles the life and career of Oscar Goodman. At the beginning of that book are quotes from several people, including two from Goodman that may illustrate his attitude toward his opponents and the existence of organized crime. “I’d rather have my daughter date Tony Spilotro than an FBI agent,” and “There is no mob.”

Whether these words accurately reflected Mr. Goodman’s feelings or were only issued for public consumption, one can imagine that Tony, Allen, and Lefty appreciated hearing their legal representative say such things. But Goodman wasn’t merely rhetoric; he produced for those who placed their trust in him.

Together, Tony and Oscar, each using his own unique talents, made a team that prosecutors seemed unable to beat.

The Rift

October 9, 2007

battle.jpg Excerpted from The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob

Lefty Rosenthal couldn’t have been particularly happy when Tony Spilotro showed up in Las Vegas, knowing the potential impact of their relationship on his future licensing possibilities. Those concerns proved to be well-founded. But for the up-and-coming gaming tycoon, they weren’t the worst of it.      

      The first four years of marriage had been fruitful for the Rosenthals. They had two children, first Stephen and then Stephanie. Lefty’s position at the Stardust came with a hefty contract. Geri lived the good life and money was no object. On the surface, their lives seemed nearly ideal. But behind the facade, Geri Rosenthal was an unhappy woman. She entered into matrimony somewhat reluctantly, and as time passed she seemed to regret that decision.

When Lefty’s professional life became difficult as he fought the gaming regulators, his children provided an escape from the stress. Both youngsters were natural swimmers. Geri and Lefty spent a lot of time working with them in the family swimming pool on hot desert afternoons. The kids eventually became members of the Las Vegas Sandpipers swim team. The proud parents attended all of their tournaments and the doting father served as the official announcer at the meets, except for the races in which his children participated. When Rosenthal was ousted from the casino business in 1978, he remained upbeat, calling the decision a “blessing in disguise,” as it allowed him to devote more time to Stephen and Stephanie.

While the children provided solace for Lefty, the same couldn’t be said of Geri. She’d become increasingly disgruntled with her situation, drinking to excess, taking drugs, and frequently staying out all night. Lefty was concerned about her behavior for more than one reason. In addition to the strain her conduct was placing on their marriage, on a professional level, he had to worry about whom she was spending her time with and what she was saying to them. Lefty, after all, held a powerful position in the gaming industry, operating in the shadowy world of organized crime. His enemies or rivals could use his wife to obtain information to blackmail him. And the law  always lurking in the background  had an army of undercover operatives and informants with their noses to the ground in pursuit of usable intelligence. To help him keep track of Geri, Lefty demanded that she carry a mobile phone with her at all times. For Geri, the situation was becoming intolerable.  

As if the Gaming Control Board, the law, and his wife weren’t causing the oddsmaker enough grief, his old buddy Tony Spilotro was now running amok. Lefty encouraged Tony to keep a low profile, but the Ant seemed intent not only on expanding his criminal empire, but actually hogging the law enforcement and media spotlight. In fact, Tony wanted Lefty’s full support in his efforts. When Rosenthal refused, the relationship between the two men grew tense at best.

And then it happened. In July 1978, right on the heels of his gaming license being denied, Geri admitted to her husband that she was having an affair. That news was bad enough. Worse yet, her lover was none other than Tony Spilotro himself. Lefty must have been angry and hurt, but he was also scared. He made Geri promise not to tell Spilotro that she had confessed. There was no telling what the bosses in Chicago would do if they discovered their Las Vegas enforcer had become involved with their embattled inside-man’s wife.

Tony would certainly know that and with the relationship between him and Lefty already deteriorating, he’d fear that the aggrieved husband might make a complaint to Chicago. Lefty knew that people who posed a threat to Tony tended to have a brief life expectancy. He told Geri that if the volatile Spilotro learned Lefty knew the truth, he’d probably kill them both. They had no choice but to continue on as though nothing were wrong. It would be difficult, but their lives probably depended on it.

So, while Lefty struggled under his many burdens, Tony Spilotro cruised along, seemingly immune from being taken to task for any of his alleged wrongdoings. In fact, the Ant was simultaneously extending his influence and laying the groundwork for future expansion — westward.


Tony and Lefty’s Superiors: “Joe Batters” Accardo and “Doves” Aiuppa

October 5, 2007

battle.jpgExcerpted from The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob. Tony Accardo 

Anthony “Joe Batters” Accardo was born in Chicago’s Little Sicily on April 28, 1906. At the age of five he enrolled in grade school, but by the time Accardo was 14 he’d become disenchanted with the education system. So had his parents, who, like many others of that era, filed a delayed birth-record affidavit, stating that their son had actually been born in 1904. The additional two years allowed Tony to drop out of school and begin working.


Accardo had several minor brushes with the law in his youth — among them a 1922 arrest for a motor-vehicle violation and a 1923 charge in conjunction with an incident at a pool hall where organized-crime figures were known to hang out — but he never spent a single night in jail. Around this time the teenage Accardo joined the Circus Café Gang, named for its headquarters, the Circus Café on North Avenue. Among his fellow gang members was James Vincenzo De Mora, also known as Vincent Gibardi. De Mora would later make his mark as Machine Gun Jack McGurn. Under that name he became one of Al Capone’s most trusted hit men and was the reputed planner of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


By 1926, the Capone organization was expanding rapidly and Big Al needed more soldiers for his army. McGurn, having experienced Accardo’s criminal abilities first hand as a member of the Circus Café Gang, recommended his friend to Capone as a possible recruit. Tony had already participated in nearly every racket and was a prime candidate for advancement. So it was that Accardo graduated from the street gangs of Chicago to Scar Face Al’s powerful Outfit. He was brought before Capone at the Metropole Hotel on Michigan Avenue and, grasping the hand of his sponsor, Machine Gun Jack, swore the oath of Omerta. Having taken the mob’s vow of silence, the 20-year-old Accardo became a made man in the Chicago Outfit.


Tony was one of Capone’s bodyguards on September 20, 1926, when eleven cars occupied by members of Bugs Moran’s rival North Side Gang attacked Capone’s Cicero headquarters, the Hawthorne Inn. Thousands of machine-gun rounds poured into the building. As soon as the bullets started to fly, Accardo pulled Al to the floor and lay on top of him to shield his boss from the onslaught. At the conclusion of the assault a couple of bystanders and several minor gangsters had been wounded, but miraculously, no one was killed.


Tony’s actions that day earned him a position as one of Capone’s regular protectors, and he soon began taking on more important assignments for the Outfit. He allegedly earned his nickname by smashing the skulls of two men with a baseball bat; when Jack McGurn told Capone about the beating, the boss was impressed and said,  “This boy is a real Joe Batters.”  The name stuck, and from that point on Tony was known as Joe Batters to his criminal colleagues.


Accardo also worked closely with Capone’s other top assassins; McGurn, Albert Anselmi, and John Scalise. It’s believed the four went to New York City in 1928 to kill Capone’s friend-turned-enemy, Frankie Yale, who was gunned down in Brooklyn. It marked the first time a Thompson submachine gun was used in a gang-related hit in the Big Apple.    


Accardo continued to do the heavy work into the ’30s. When the Chicago Crime Commission released its first “Public Enemies” list in 1931, Tony came in at number seven.


After Capone went to prison in 1931 for income-tax evasion, Joe Batters moved on to do the bidding of Al’s successor, Frank Nitti. In 1933, the new boss appointed Accardo as capo (captain) of a street crew, in command of a dozen or so soldiers. The promotion made Tony one of the top twelve members of the Chicago Mob.


In the early1940s, Accardo’s career took another giant step forward when many of his superiors were implicated in what was known as the Hollywood Extortion Case. As the men above them went to jail, Tony and others moved up the ladder. Eventually, two gangsters were in contention for the top spot: Tony Accardo and Dago Lawrence Mangano. Before the issue could be settled by a vote, the unfortunate Mangano was murdered. Unidentified assailants in a passing car fired shotguns and .45 pistols at him, riddling his body with more than 200 shotgun pellets and five 45-caliber bullets. With his competition gone, Accardo became the number-one man in the Chicago Outfit in 1945.


In 1946, Accardo’s people approached James Ragan, the owner of the Continental Press wire service that provided racing results to bookies, and offered to buy him out. It was an offer Ragan felt he could refuse, and he turned them down. To people with Accardo’s mindset, that was bad enough. But Ragan compounded his sin by bringing the Outfit’s proposal to the attention of law enforcement. Shortly thereafter he was gunned down on State Street in Chicago, then poisoned while recovering in the hospital. Ragan’s body had barely assumed room temperature before the Outfit had control of Continental Press.       


In 1950, the crime commission officially recognized Accardo as the boss of Chicago’s crime syndicate. However, his reign was cut short in 1957 when an IRS investigation forced him to step down and turn control of the Outfit over to Sam Giancana. At Giancana’s request, Tony agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity. Most law enforcement personnel believe that Accardo was actually the brains behind the Outfit for the next several years, keeping a low profile behind a series of “bosses.” One such figurehead was another career criminal, Joseph Aiuppa, who ascended to the throne of the Chicago mob in 1971.


Joe Aiuppa


Joseph John Aiuppa was born on December 1, 1907, in Melrose Park, Illinois. According to a 1958 FBI report, an examination of Aiuppa’s Selective Service questionnaire submitted in 1940 showed that he only attended school until the third grade. Aiuppa’s record from the Federal Penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana, from which he was released on March 3, 1958, after serving a year and a day for an unspecified offense, stated that he left school in 1918, at 11 years of age.


After working for the Alming Greenhouse in 1922 and as a driver for the Midwest Cartage Company in 1925, Aiuppa purchased the Turf Lounge in Cicero, Illinois, in 1930. That same year he also became a partner in the Taylor Company, which manufactured gambling equipment.


The same FBI report indicates that Aiuppa was connected with the John Dillinger and Alvin Karpis gangs in the early 1930s. In 1935, he joined the Capone Outfit, then being run by Frank Nitti, as a muscleman and gunner. He went on to take control of the Outfit’s criminal activities in Cicero and the western suburbs of Chicago. In 1958, Aiuppa was recognized as the boss of the “strip,” a row of illegal gambling and strip joints located in Cicero.


In the mid-1950s, when the Senate’s McClellan Committee investigated organized-crime’s infiltration of labor unions, Joe Aiuppa was summoned. When he appeared to testify, the gangster exercised his Fifth Amendment rights 56 times.




In 1962, Joe Aiuppa earned the moniker “Doves” when he was arrested upon returning from a hunting trip in Kansas. Some 500 dead birds, all doves, were found in his possession, far exceeding the 24-bird limit.  


Although Doves was vicious and loyal, he wasn’t considered especially bright or articulate. He rose through the ranks to become one of the top three men in the Outfit, but didn’t advance further for several years. His opportunity to move to the top came in 1971, when the current boss, Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, was convicted of bank fraud. Backed by Tony Accardo, Joe Aiuppa was picked to fill the resulting vacancy.


So, in 1971, the two most powerful men in the Chicago Outfit were Joe Aiuppa and the behind-the-scenes “real boss,” Tony Accardo. Between them, the pair had only about 12 years of formal education, but nearly 90 years of criminal experience.




Fallen Officers

October 4, 2007

Fallen Officers Photo Slideshow

This photo slideshow is a tribute to the Las Vegas police officers who died in the line of duty between 1933 and 1998. You can view the slideshow at:¤t=1170707684.pbw