Posts Tagged ‘larry neumann’

Possible Closure in 1981 Illinois Double Homicide Case

February 15, 2009

Authorities in McHenry County, Illinois, may be closer to solving a pair of 1981 killings thanks to a former mobster’s biography. For details please read http://www.lvrj.com/news/39633437.html.

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Larry Neumann may officially be credited with two more murders

December 19, 2008

Chicago Channel 5 and the Chicago Sun Times have broken stories that deceased mobster Larry Neumann may have been the killer in a pair of 27-year-old McHenry County, Illinois murders.

You can see the article at http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/1339456,mchenry-cold-case-holly-hager-121808.article or view the video at http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Was_Small_Town_Mob_Murder_Covered_Up__Chicago.html

Larry Neumann

September 30, 2008

There were some very dangerous organized crime figures plying their trade in Las Vegas during the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Tony Spilotro and Frank Cullotta were among them. But one of their associates, although not as well known, may have been the most dangerous of them all. His name was Larry Neumann. Like Spilotro and Cullotta, Neumann was a native of the Chicago area. He was a burglar, robber, and arsonist; but his forte was murder. Larry Neumann loved to kill people.

 

Nicknamed “Lurch” because of his physical build, Neumann’s story is far different from the many young men forced into lives of crime due to economic hardship. On the contrary, Larry’s family was actually quite well off. In fact, when his father passed away he left his son a trust that produced a substantial monthly income. No, Larry Neumann wasn’t a criminal out of necessity. He robbed and killed because he liked it.

 

Larry’s first three known murders took place in single incident in Chicago in 1956. On that occasion he used a shotgun to kill the bartender and a waitress in a Chicago tavern. As he left the bar he encountered a young man delivering newspapers and killed him too. The local papers reported that the slayings inside the bar were the result of a dispute in which Neumann thought he had been short-changed in the amount of $2. After the dispute he left the bar, returned with the shotgun and opened fire. The newspaper man was slain simply because he happened to be walking by. Lurch was convicted and sentenced to 125 years. For all practical purposes that should have been the end of Neumann’s criminal career. But incredibly, the killer was paroled after serving only about 11 years of his prison term.

 

While in Illinois’ Statesville penitentiary, Larry met Frank Cullotta when both men were working in the prison’s psychiatric ward. This unit was home to convicts that couldn’t be housed in general population. They included those with mental problems, stool pigeons, and baby rapists. Known as the “goon squad” by the other inmates, Larry and his co-workers did many of the things the guards didn’t like to do. They dispensed medications, monitored the ward as part of the suicide prevention program and—the most fun of all—rolled in on unruly prisoners and beat them into submission. After Frank was transferred to the federal facility in Terre Haute to finish that portion of his sentence, Larry received his miraculous parole.

 

Following his release from prison in 1974, Frank returned to Chicago where he and Larry reunited. The former cellmates partnered up on a couple of scores, but didn’t work together regularly. In 1979, Frank accepted Tony Spilotro’s invitation to move to Las Vegas. However, that move didn’t end his relationship with Neumann.

 

Upon arriving in Sin City, one of the assignments Spilotro gave Frank was to put together a crew of top-notch criminals to operate his street rackets and provide muscle as necessary. Although Larry still lived in Chicago, Frank figured he’d be a good man to have come into town for special jobs. Frank made his proposal and Neumann agreed to help him out as needed. And he said that if Frank had any good leads for robberies in Chicago, he and his partner Wayne Matecki would gladly do the job and give Frank a cut of the profits. A short time later Frank gave Larry a tip on a guy in Chicago who was a prime target for a stickup.

 

The score Frank turned Neumann and Matecki onto was the robbery of a jeweler. Frank had information that this individual likely had between a hundred-fifty and two-hundred thousand dollars worth of jewelry on hand at any given time.

 

Frank remembers the caper this way:

 

“The guy’s name was Bob Brown. He was a friend of Allen Dorfman, who was involved in arranging Teamster loans to the Outfit. It turned out that Wayne knew Brown and wouldn’t be able to do the robbery himself, but he thought he could enter the store under the pretext that he was looking to buy a ring. After he got inside Larry could come in and stick the place up. That seemed like a possibility that might work. Wayne and Larry pulled the robbery, but not exactly in the way we’d discussed.

 

“Thirty-six hours after the job Larry was at my door in Vegas; he was carrying an attaché case. I said things must have gone well. He said there had been a change in how the robbery went down. I asked him what he meant. He said, ‘I had to kill him.’

 

“He told me that it started with Wayne going in the store as planned. But it had been in the back of his mind that the Outfit might figure out that Wayne had been in on the robbery and come after him. Larry said, ‘When I got in the store I said fuck it. I put my gun down and grabbed a machete that was hanging on the wall. I started stabbing him and Wayne broke a vase over his head.’

 

“I couldn’t believe he turned a simple robbery into a murder. I told him he was nuts. I didn’t dare say too much, though. Larry was a very dangerous individual; he feared absolutely no one. If I pissed him off he was liable to kill me, too. Even Tony came to be afraid of him. I sold all the merchandise to a Jew in Las Vegas. By the time I paid all the overhead we got about twenty-five thousand each. It was hardly worth anyone’s life.

 

“Larry went back to Chicago right afterward. Within thirty days he moved to Las Vegas.”

 

Shortly after arriving in Vegas, Frank Cullotta and fellow burglar Leo Guardino used the proceeds from their first three scores to open a restaurant called the Upper Crust, located on Maryland Parkway at Flamingo Road. The eatery became a hangout for Frank’s crew and other Vegas wiseguys. The motivation for Neumann’s next two killings began with a phone call he received while at the bistro talking with Frank and Leo.

 

“One day Larry, Leo, and I were sitting in the Upper Crust when Larry got a phone call,” Cullotta remembered. “He went to the phone and when he came back he was violent. He said some guy had gotten in a beef with his ex-wife in a lounge back in Chicago and grabbed her by the throat. I said she wasn’t hurt and they weren’t married any more, so he shouldn’t get so upset. Larry said, ‘What he did was a sign of disrespect to me. I’ve got to go back and kill the bastard.’

 

“I told Larry he couldn’t do that; it wasn’t right. For the next hour and a half I talked to him about it, trying to convince him not to do anything. When we finished, I felt in my heart that I’d succeeded.

 

“About ten days later Larry said he had to go to Chicago. I asked him if he’d take this kid named Tommy along with him. I had something in the works that I was going to use Tommy as an alibi for. I figured if he was out of town there would be less chance that someone would connect us. And in case Larry still had bad intentions about that thing with his ex-wife, he probably wouldn’t do anything foolish with Tommy around.

 

“I got a call the next day telling me about a big killing in McHenry County. A guy and his girlfriend were shot in the head in a lounge. I called Tommy to find out what was going on, but he didn’t want to say anything on the phone. I told him to have Larry call me. When he called he said he’d be back in a week. In the meantime he was going to keep Tommy under wraps so nobody could talk with him.

 

“The following week Larry was back. I asked him if he’d killed those two people; he said he had. I told him I thought he’d promised me not to do it. He explained it this way: ‘I thought about what you said, but I couldn’t control myself. I found out the tavern this guy was in and went there; I left Tommy outside in the car. I asked the guy why he grabbed my ex-wife’s neck. I was getting more and more pissed off. I pulled my gun and shot him in the forehead. And then I shot the broad. The guy gurgled, so I shot them both again.’

 

“I told Larry that the girl was innocent and supposedly had a couple of kids. All he said to that was that the kids were probably better off now.”

 

Neumann’s homicidal tendencies weren’t lost on Tony Spilotro. According to Frank, Spilotro, considered by some to be the most dangerous man in Las Vegas at the time, once said of Neumann: “Jesus, don’t ever unleash that bastard on me, whatever you do.”    

 

In addition to these six known murders Neumann committed, he wanted to kill or participate in the killing of two more people. One was a member of Cullotta’s crew suspected of being a police informant. The other was the wife of a man who had made a deal with federal prosecutors to testify against Spilotro and Cullotta. Tony Spilotro nixed both hits. He wasn’t convinced the suspected informant was guilty; and he didn’t want to bring on the additional heat that would have resulted from killing the witness’ wife. The fearless Neumann wasn’t happy with Spilotro’s decisions and threatened to do the murders anyway; but Frank managed to talk him out of it.

 

When Cullotta flipped and became a government witness in 1982, he was required to testify against his former associates, including Larry Neumann. He remembers his court appearance regarding the murder of Chicago jeweler Bob Brown:

 

“As they were taking me to the courtroom we had to walk by two holding cells. Larry Neumann was in one of them. The cops ordered him to turn his back as I walked by. Larry said, ‘Fuck you, you cocksuckers! I know who you’ve got there.’ They told him again to turn his back; he said the same thing. He didn’t say anything to me directly, but when our eyes met I had the impression he was thinking, ‘What the fuck are you doing to me?’

 

Neumann was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He died behind bars of natural causes in January 2007. His unclaimed body was cremated at state expense.

            

       

 

 

Skimming the Las Vegas Casinos — Part II

August 27, 2008

Around the same time in 1978 that Allen Glick was ordered by the Kansas City mob to sell his Argent-owned casinos, the feds launched a major investigation into organized-crime’s influence in Las Vegas. A large part of that effort consisted of court authorized electronic surveillance of telephones and locations in Kansas City, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The residences of Carl DeLuna, Anthony Civella, and Anthony Chiavola, Sr., were being monitored. The business offices of Allen Dorfman, Joe Lombardo, Milton Rockman, and Angelo LaPietra, were being listened in on. Frank Balistrieri’s office and a restaurant he owned were also bugged.  The investigators learned a lot and conducted several court-authorized raids based on that information.

 

FBI agent Gary Magnesen was working in Milwaukee then and recalled the information that was obtained on Frank Balistrieri.

 

“We’d been running the taps on Frank [Balistrieri] for close to a year. In one of the calls Frank made from his office he mentioned that it was almost time for his ‘transfusion.’ We didn’t know what that meant at the time, but later on, when we compared notes with our Kansas City office, it was determined that ‘transfusion’ referred to the money coming in from the Las Vegas casino skim.

 

“In March 1978, we had enough probable cause to get a search warrant and went to Balistrieri’s house to execute it. We had to break the door down with a sledgehammer to get in. Once we were inside, I told Frank that there wouldn’t be any more ‘transfusions.’ He looked at me and realized that we knew about the skim. I could see the confidence drain out of him. He knew it was over.”

 

   

The search that was perhaps most devastating to the criminals occurred on February 14, 1979, Valentine’s Day. Federal investigators entered the home of Carl DeLuna and seized addresses, phone books, papers, and other documents. Among them were DeLuna’s detailed records of the skim. They included the dates and nature of meetings and conversations among the conspirators, telephone numbers, and the disbursement of funds from the skimming operations. The evidence gathered represented a bonanza for law enforcement — and doom for the mobsters.

 

The records available to investigators placed the estimate of the money taken from the Stardust and Fremont casinos at well over $2 million. Former Cleveland underboss Angelo Lonardo testified before the Senate Committee on Government Affairs on April 4, 1988. At that time he was serving a prison sentence of life without parole, plus 103 years, for his role in operating the family’s drug ring. He began his statement by highlighting his long criminal history, including a couple of murders he had committed. He later explained how the Las Vegas casino skim operated after his family became involved.

 

“The skim of the Las Vegas casinos started in the early 1970s. Starting in 1974 I began receiving $1,000 to $1,500 a month from the family through Maishe [Milton] Rockman. I did not know where the money was coming from, but I suspected that it was from the Las Vegas casinos. I learned this from various conversations I had with Rockman.

 

“Lefty Rosenthal ran the skim operation in Las Vegas. Rockman would travel to Chicago or Kansas City to get Cleveland’s share. Bill Presser [a Teamster power broker and father if future Teamster president Jackie Presser] and Roy Williams received about $1,500 a month for their role in the skim. The Cleveland family received a total of about $40,000 a month.”

 

By 1983, the government’s case against the gangsters was ready to move from the investigative to the prosecutorial stage. On September 30, a federal grand jury in Kansas City returned an eight-count indictment against 15 defendants in the Argent case. Five of them eventually stood trial, starting in late 1985: Chicago boss Joe Aiuppa, underboss John Cerone, West Side honcho Joe Lombardo, Milton Rockman, and Angelo LaPietra. Four of the accused, Carl Civella, Peter Tamburello, Anthony Chiavola, Sr., and Anthony Chiavola, Jr., entered guilty pleas prior to trial. Carl DeLuna and Frank Balistrieri pled guilty during the trial. Two others, John and Joseph Balistrieri, were acquitted. One, Carl Thomas, had his indictment dismissed during the trial and became a witness against the other defendants. And one, Tony Spilotro, had his case severed from the others prior to trial.

 

Other key players in the scam also testified during the trial. Allen Glick, Angelo Lonardo, and Roy Williams provided crucial evidence that resulted in guilty verdicts against Aiuppa, Cerone, Lombardo, LaPietra, and Rockman in January 1986.

 

Aiuppa and Cerone each received sentences totaling 28-1/2 years. Lombardo and LaPietra drew 16 years in prison. Rockman got 24 years behind bars. In addition, each man was fined $80,000.

 

 

The Tropicana

 

This case also involves the Teamster pension fund. But unlike Argent, it was a loan not granted that paved the way for Kansas City to take control of the casino and launch another skimming operation. It began in 1975 when Joe Agosto, an affiliate of Nick Civella’s Kansas City family, made a move to gain influence at the Tropicana.

 

Agosto was born Vincenzo Pianetti in 1927. Information on his early years is vague. There are even conflicting reports as to exactly where he was born, whether in Italy or Cleveland. Whichever the case, Agosto ended up in Seattle and eventually Las Vegas. He got his foot in the door at the Trop by assuming the title of manager of the Follies Bergėre show. The hotel didn’t employ him, however; he was an employee of the production company.

 

That April, the U.S. Immigration Service arrested Agosto as an illegal alien. He quickly obtained the services of Oscar Goodman and beat the immigration charge. Clear of that, he began conspiring with Nick Civella on how he could best infiltrate the financially troubled casino and protect himself from outside interference. Agosto, with Civella’s backing and support, proceeded with his plans to gain influence over the Doumani brothers, owners of the Tropicana. In conjunction with that goal, a loan application by the Tropicana pending before the Teamster Central States Pension Fund was denied, easily delivered by Civella’s friend Roy Williams. With their financial lifeline off the table, the Doumanis were susceptible to Agosto’s overtures, and he soon had a voice in the Trop’s management and operations.

 

Agosto maintained regular contact with Carl DeLuna in order to provide reports on his progress and receive guidance. Kansas City, meanwhile, had a man they felt was able to set up and operate the skim. Carl Thomas was already licensed through his operation of the Bingo Palace and Slots-A-Fun casino, and was trusted by the Civella family. Following instructions, Agosto brought Thomas on board.

 

But late that year before the skim got off the ground, a snag developed that stalled the gangster’s plans for over two years. The cash-strapped hotel came under the control of a new majority owner when chemical heiress Mitzi Stauffer Briggs purchased 51% of the Trop’s stock. And right off the bat, Mitzi didn’t trust Agosto and curtailed his role in running the casino. That prompted an all-out effort by Agosto to gain her confidence. By 1977, he had succeeded and was effectively running the hotel and casino. Carl Thomas did his duty and designed the skim. At his suggestion, Agosto hired Donald Shepard as casino manager and Billy Caldwell as assistant manager.

 

In March 1978, Agosto and Thomas spoke with Nick Civella in Los Angeles. They announced that with their plans and personnel in place, they were ready to go. Civella gave his approval. The first $1,500 dollars was skimmed in April by Shepard and transported to Kansas City by Carl DeLuna. In May, Shepard hired Jay Gould as cashier to steal money directly from the cashier’s cage and falsify fill slips to account for the missing money. From June through October, Shepard, Caldwell, and Gould stole $40,000 per month and gave it to Agosto. The money was then passed on to a courier named Carl Caruso for transport to Kansas City. Caruso turned the loot over to Civella’s man, Charles Moretina.

 

Caruso made at least 18 trips between Las Vegas and Kansas City and was paid $1,000 after each delivery. Anthony Chiavola, Sr., Civella’s nephew and a Chicago police officer, assisted in the operation by getting Chicago’s share of the skim to Joe Aiuppa and underboss John Cerone.

 

The operation seemed to be perking right along, but in late September another potential problem arose. Agosto and the Civellas became suspicious that Shepard or his subordinates might be doing some unauthorized skimming. At Agosto’s suggestion, Nick Civella ordered the skimming suspended in November and December so that Carl Thomas could find out if someone was skimming the skim. Unfortunately for Agosto, Civella authorized a temporary halt in the stealing, but not in the payments to Kansas City. Since the problems had arisen on his watch, Agosto had to send the family $50,000 and $60,000 of his own money during the two months of downtime. But it wasn’t a total loss for Joe. He was later reimbursed $30,000, which Shepard pilfered from the Tropicana.

 

On November 26, Agosto and Thomas flew to Kansas City to meet with the Civellas and DeLuna. They explained that Thomas’ survey had been inconclusive, but they did have some ideas on improving the efficiency of the operation. Civella agreed that the skimming would resume in January.

 

The conspirators were unaware at the time that their homes and businesses were the subject of electronic and visual surveillance by the government. On February 14, 1979 — the same day Carl DeLuna’s home was raided — the FBI nabbed Caruso with $80,000 in skim money. The skimming of the Tropicana was over. Although the actual skim only occurred over a period of 11 months, during two of which the operation was suspended, the overall conspiracy to steal from the casino covered four years, 1975 to 1979.

 

Nick Civella had an even more serious problem than the Tropicana investigation. The Kansas City boss had been convicted in 1975 on gambling charges unrelated to Las Vegas. After exhausting his appeals, he went to prison in 1977. He was given an early release 20 months later due to health problems: He had cancer. Shortly after getting out, he was indicted again for attempting to bribe a prison official in an effort to get favorable treatment for his nephew, who was incarcerated. Convicted in July 1980, he was sentenced to a four-year stretch. So Nick was already behind bars in November 1981 when he and ten others were indicted in the Tropicana case. His lawyer in that matter — Oscar Goodman — successfully got the charges against Nick severed from the other defendants on the basis of his client’s poor health. On March 1, 1983, with his physical condition rapidly deteriorating, Civella was released to his family so he could spend his final days at home. He died on March 12, having never faced justice in either the Tropicana or Argent cases.

 

The 10 remaining defendants stood trial in 1983. Three of them, Donald Shepard, Billy Caldwell, and Joe Agosto, entered guilty pleas prior to trial. As a part of his plea arrangement, Agosto became the government’s key witness. Carl Caruso pled guilty during the trial. And Peter Tamburello was acquitted. Carl Civella, Carl DeLuna  (represented by Oscar Goodman), Charles Moretina, Anthony Chiavola, Sr., and Carl Thomas were all convicted.

 

In a memorandum to the judge regarding the case, prosecutors wrote, “These defendants have dealt a severe blow to the state and the industry and have made a mockery of the Nevada regulatory procedures.” At sentencing the judge dealt a severe blow to the defendants.

 

DeLuna was sentenced to 30 years, Civella got 35 years, Moretina was ordered to serve 20 years of incarceration followed by five years of probation, and Chiavola drew 15 years. Carl Thomas was initially sentenced to 15 years. That term was later reduced to two years when he agreed to be a cooperative government witness at the Argent trial.

 

Joe Agosto died shortly afterward of natural causes. As far as is known, neither the Doumani brothers nor Mitzi Briggs were aware of the skimming operation. Mitzi Briggs later went bankrupt.

 

The ensuing appeals filed by those convicted in both the Tropicana and Argent cases were unsuccessful.

               

*Note: Carl DeLuna passed away from natural causes on July 21, 2008.

 

Next: The investigation by the FBI’s Las Vegas field office