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An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
By Chuck Goudie and Barbara Markoff and Christine Tressel
Friday, June 24, 2016
On June 23, 30 years ago, the mob's powerhouse brothers were discovered buried in an Indiana cornfield. The "last family secret" is how they got there.

The I-Team looks into Tony and Michael Spilotro's last road trip, where it began and who was behind it.

"Do you have any fears at all for your life?"

The question to Tony "Ant" Spilotro was finally answered on June 23, 1986, when he and his brother Michael were found six feet under by a Northwest Indiana corn farmer.

"This don't look like any animal skin I've ever seen," the farmer said at the time.

The Spilotro's temporary resting place is still eerily visible thirty years later. How they ended up here is not nearly as obvious.

The movie "Casino," Hollywood's version of the brother's death, shows outfit bosses beating them in the Indiana cornfield, something mob insiders say never happened.

We do know from authorities and underworld informants the Spilotros were rubbed out because Tony had angered Chicago crime bosses by an affair with the wife of Lefty Rosenthal, a Chicago native and Vegas casino exec who was an outfit operative.

And former FBI supervisor John Mallul says Spilotro was a loose cannon.

"He was essentially operating on his own. Keeping the proceeds to himself and not looking for authority to do anything," says Mallul.

"He did a lot of things he was not supposed to do that were really bad for business and for the Outfit," says John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit."

And we know the Spilotros had been invited to a meeting with the bosses, under the belief it was to be a mob promotion ceremony. But they had been summoned to their deaths in a suburban basement. Details came years later by mob informant Nick Calabrese.

"He dove at Michael's legs, he grabbed Michael, he held Michael and Louie Eboli cut his throat," says Joe "the Shark" Lopez, mob attorney.

Top hoodlums Louie "The Mooch" Eboli and all the bosses were there, according to authorities, along with several mystery murderers, not known to this day.

"The plan was simply to tackle them, hold them down and strangle them," Mullul says.

"The top guys made a point of being there and getting their whacks in on them before they were dead," says Binder.

And the last Family secret? The exact location of where they were jumped and beaten by that gaggle of hoodlums, narrowed down only to a subdivision in northwest suburban Bensenville,

"It was my understanding that there was a couple of members, alleged members, that lived in that subdivision," says Lopez.

One of the murderers was Nick Calabrese, an FBI informant since 2002, and numerous times he tried to lead agents to the site of the basement beat-down.

"We couldn't locate the home and Nick couldn't confirm it. That's why that still remains a mystery," says Mallul.

For the family of Tony Spilotro, a ruthless career criminal who once put a victim's head in a vice until his eyeball popped out, 30 years has softened the memories.

"Ya know, he just- he was just a man, and got caught up in some things that maybe he shouldn't have but he lived it the way he lived it," says Vincent Spilotro, his son.

Mobwatcher websites display several Bensenville homes purported to be the location of the Spilotro killings. Investigators say all were all looked at and cleared. The I-Team examined property records for those and other possible locations and spoke with current and former homeowners and found no outfit connection. So that last family secret remains intact.

More of Las Vegas’ mob past blown up

Strip’s 60-year-old Riviera is imploded

The Monaco Tower at the Riviera Hotel and Casino crumbles to the ground during a controlled demolition early Tuesday morning in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS – The Riviera Hotel and Casino – the Las Vegas Strip’s first high-rise that was as famous for its ties to organized crime as its Hollywood personification of Sin City’s mobster past – exited the scene early Tuesday with a cinematic implosion, complete with fireworks.
Enlarge photo
The Riviera Hotel and Casino was the first high-rise casino in Las Vegas when it opened in 1955.
A series of explosions demolished the 24-story Monaco Tower around 2:30 a.m., with the building crumbling from the sides and then into the middle, kicking up a mountain of dust. A fireworks display erupted moments before the demolition.
“The Riv” closed in May 2015 after 60 years on the northern end of the Strip. The shuttered casino’s owners, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, spent $42 million to level the 13-building property.
Officials said the Monte Carlo Tower will be imploded in August. The tourism agency bought the 2,075-room property that spans 26 acres last year for $182.5 million, plus $8.5 million in related transaction costs, with plans to expand its Las Vegas Convention Center.
The Riviera’s implosion marks the latest kiss goodbye to what’s left of the relics of Vegas’ mobster past.
“Ironically, The Riviera is as famous for its imaginary self as much as its actual self,” said Geoff Schumacher of the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob Museum, in Las Vegas.
Most of its contemporaries are long gone, with only the Tropicana and Flamingo casinos still in business. The Flamingo has been completely rebuilt at its original location, but the Tropicana still has pieces of its original building, making it the last true mob structure on the Strip, said Michael Green, a Nevada historian and professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
When The Riviera opened in 1955, organized crime outfits from across the country had already sunk their teeth into the casinos, starting the decade before. They skimmed gambling profits to send back home to pay for their gangs’ illegal enterprises: illegal betting, drugs, prostitution and murder.
Mobsters were known to have controlled the money-counting at the most famous casinos in their day, including the Dunes, Sands, Desert Inn and Stardust – all of which have already disappeared from the Strip.
“The Riviera was and always was the Chicago outfit’s crown jewel in the desert,” Schumacher said.
A classic mob joint, the Riviera’s place in that seedy time is probably outranked by the Flamingo, historians said. That casino was run by Bugsy Siegel, regarded as the most historically significant mob figure from that era.
State and federal crackdowns on organized crime cleaned up the casinos in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hollywood’s version of the past, however, would hoist the Riviera to the top.
Three of the most famous movies ever filmed in Las Vegas used the Riviera as a backdrop, including the Rat Pack’s original 1960 “Ocean’s 11,” the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Casino,” the 1995 movie based on Vegas mobsters Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro during their 1970s heyday at the Stardust.
More recently, it was featured in “The Hangover” in 2009.
The Riviera also pioneered the business model that helped Vegas turn into an entertainment capital. The casino’s first headliner was Liberace. Dean Martin was part owner for a short time as part of his exclusive residency.
“(The Riviera) looked like a ’50s Rat Pack casino up until yesterday,” Schumacher said.
Associated Press photographer John Locher contributed to this article from Las Vegas.

Mob Biggie Johnny Roselli Getting Biopic

Tony Sokol

Fox & Davis Entertainment Developing Biopic About Mobster Johnny Roselli
Handsome Johnny Roselli was part of the Chicago Outfit that Al Capone built in the 1920s. He headed west and helped build Las Vegas and put the bite on Hollywood to pay for it. Hollywood is paying Roselli back with a movie.
The biopic is being put together by 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment. The movie will be produced by John Davis (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Ira Napoloello, with Michael Ireland calling in the shots for Fox.

Bringing 'The Ant' to trial in 1986

Reported by: Tom Hawley
Email: thawley@mynews3.com
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — No one can say for sure there is no organized crime in Las Vegas today. But it's certainly nothing like when the syndicate was sprinkled throughout casinos both on the Strip and downtown from the 1940s into the early 1980s.
It all came to a head with racketeering trials of the big bosses in the Midwest, and some of their top enforcers here in 1986.
News 3’s Dan Burns identified some of the key characters in what had been dubbed the “Hole in the Wall Gang” for their method of entry into buildings they would burglarize.
“Anthony Spilotro is the boss of a crime business. Defendant Pete Baisle and mafia turncoat Frank Cullotta were lieutenants in that crime ring, with other defendants the crew members,” Burns reported.
Tony "The Ant" Spilotro was the muscle on the street, working out of front businesses like the Gold Rush Jewelry Store on Sahara near the Strip and Upper Crust Pizzeria on Maryland at Flamingo while insiders ran the casino skim at the Stardust, Fremont and Sundance hotels.
The prosecution's star was Cullotta, an admitted burglar and killer who had opted to testify against his former partners and enter the FBI’s Witness Protection Program.
“The man belongs on death row,” defense attorney Allan Ackerman told News 3, referring to Cullotta. “Right now, he's living in someone's neighborhood and they don't know who he is. And sure as we're talking right now ... two years from now, he's going to go hurt somebody. And then what? Some poor citizen is going to turn around and say ‘My God! Why wasn't he in jail?’ ”
Ackerman was in from Chicago, joining Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Oscar Goodman, who took direct aim at law enforcement.
“Goodman wants to tell the jury about the killing of Frank Bluestein ... a man defense lawyers say was gunned down by Metro police officers after he was seen with Anthony Spilotro,” reported Burns. “Goodman also wants to talk about the night in April 1981, when someone shot cars and homes owned by Tony Spilotro and his brother, John.”
As the trial dragged on for three months, it seemed like Burns lived at the Foley Federal Building. Some excerpts from his “standups” out front:
“We're not talking about mom, baseball and apple pie here. We're talking ugly crime.”
“… And that the group had tipsters who would out point good potential victims for future burglaries.”
“… Probably because we are drawing closer and closer to the end of this trial.”
“The biggest organized crime case in Las Vegas history can go to the jury.”
After more than a week of jury deliberations, when attorneys were finally summoned back to the courtroom, Goodman had a skip in his step.
Sure enough, a mistrial was declared when one juror told the judge she overheard two other jurors use the phrase, "Ten thousand dollars isn't enough." Could it have indicated an attempted bribe?
“The only comment I have,” responded Goodman. “Whenever my clients go home with me at the end of the trial, I'm happy.”
Nancy Spilotro gave Goodman a peck on the cheek. Her husband, Tony, took out an ad thanking the jury ... even though they clearly were not happy.
“Sources close to this case say just minutes after the defendants left the courtroom, FBI agents were on their way up to talk to some of the jurors and investigate the validity of claims of jury misconduct,” reported Burns. “That could be a felony.”
In the end, no jurors were charged with misconduct.
There was talk of a re-trial, and Tony’s brothers weighed in.
“I think it's silly that they're coming at 'em again and putting more jurors through this,” said John Spilotro. “I mean ... this jury, I really feel sorry for these people.”
“And we will regroup for the next trial,” added Michael Spilotro. “And I'm sure it will turn out the way it should be. And that is 'not guilty' on all counts.”
But there was no re-trial. A little over a week before proceedings were supposed to start again, Tony and his brother Michael disappeared. Their bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield, where they had been buried after being beaten to death by fellow mobsters.

Frank Cullotta still lives in Las Vegas, has co-written an autobiography and professes to be a very different person from his days as a criminal.

Reputed New Jersey mob captain arrested at Henderson home

Henderson resident Charles Stango didn’t need to be in New Jersey to participate in a scheme to kill a rival crime syndicate member there, federal authorities said Thursday.
Stango, 71, a captain in the DeCavalcante crime family, conspired to kill the rival while living in the Las Vegas area, where he told an undercover cop he had “planted the f—-ing flag” for organized crime, according to a federal complaint unsealed in New Jersey.
Late Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe ordered Stango held behind bars and transported back to New Jersey to face felony charges that include the murder scheme.
Federal authorities said they have secret cellphone recordings of Stango in the Las Vegas area planning the mob hit with other crime family members back in New Jersey. The mobster also talked openly about the murder scheme in face-to-face meetings with an undercover agent who had infiltrated the New Jersey crime family, the complaint said.
Stango’s arrest was the result of a three-year investigation of the DeCavalcante crime family by the FBI in Newark.
Stango, also known as “Beeps,” oversaw a street crew that distributes drugs and contraband cigarettes in New Jersey for the DeCavalcante organization, a wing of New York’s powerful Gambino Mafia family, the complaint alleges. The HBO series “The Sopranos” was reportedly based on the DeCavalcante family.
Stango, whose five prior felony convictions include a 1981 homicide, was arrested by FBI agents at his Henderson home Thursday morning on the New Jersey charges, which include allegations he conspired with other crime family members to distribute cocaine and run a prostitution business, authorities said.
Nine other people, including Stango’s son Anthony, 33, were arrested on varying charges in New Jersey.
Koppe ordered the elder Stango detained as a flight risk and danger to the community after Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickinson told her that Stango lived in Henderson while under federal supervised release in connection with a racketeering case involving a crime family murder plot in New York.
It was unclear how long Stango has been living in Henderson. His residence is north of Interstate 215 near Green Valley Parkway.
Dressed in a white sweatshirt, patterned slacks and large-rimmed glasses, Stango politely answered Koppe’s questions in a soft voice.
But he showed a different, profanity-laced side in discussing the makeup of the DeCavalcante crime family and his rank in the organization during a secretly recorded meeting with the undercover agent in New Jersey, according to the criminal complaint.
“Right is right and what’s wrong is f—-ing wrong,” he said. “And that’s what they do. That’s how we live. Now me. I planted the f—-ing flag in New Orleans, in Las Vegas, f—-ing LA, Ok?”
The murder scheme was discussed between Dec. 15 and March 13, the complaint said.
In one conversation with the undercover agent in Las Vegas, Stango said he wanted his rival maimed or killed because the man had insulted the acting boss of the family and was out of control, the complaint alleges.
Stango said the man “had to meet death or you gotta maim him or you just gotta put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life or somebody’s gotta get a f—-ing jar of acid and throw it in his f—-ing face …”
During another conversation in Las Vegas, the undercover agent suggested hiring two motorcycle gang members to kill the man, and Stango agreed and suggested each would be paid $25,000, the complaint said. Stango obtained permission for the hit from Frank Nigro, 72, the crime family’s reputed consigliore, or counsel, according to the complaint.
Stango assured the undercover agent in the recorded conversations that other high-ranking members of the family wanted the rival dead, the complaint alleges.

Iconic Riviera Casino To Close Its Doors For The Final Time


The iconic Riviera Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip will close May 4th, its management announced this week, just two weeks after it celebrates its 60th anniversary.
“The Riv,” as it is affectionately known, is one of the oldest casinos in Vegas, the ninth to be built on the Las Vegas Strip and the first high-rise building.
Its story took in everything from the Mob to the Marx Brothers; Joan Crawford hosted its opening night party on April 20th, 1955, while Liberace provided the entertainment.
However, if its glamor has faded in recent years, it is about to be snuffed out completely when the property is demolished to make way for an expansion of the Las Vegas Center and Convention Authority’s (LVCCA) Las Vegas Global Business District.
$275 Million in Debt
“With no shortage of sadness, we can confirm that our doors will close at noon on May 4, 2015,” the casino said in a new release.”
“We greatly appreciate the expressions of fondness and loyalty for ‘The Riv’ from our guests since ground first broke in 1954 and through the years. More importantly we want to acknowledge and applaud our associates who have worked to create enduring memories for all of our guests. This is what will be remembered long after the walls have come down. We look forward to making the coming weeks fun, exciting and memorable.”
The Riviera filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2010 for the second time in its history, its holding company listing $275 million in debt. The casino had suffered from a lack of foot traffic in its part of the Strip due to the demolition of its neighbors, the Stardust, The New Frontier and The Westward Ho.
The properties were knocked down to make way for new constructions, all of which were stalled by the recession, which meant that Vegas’ overstimulated tourists remained in livelier areas. The property was acquired last month by the LVCCA for $182.5 million and it is currently leased back to its operators Paragon Gaming.
1000 Jobs Lost
Paragon is the latest in a long line of operators, which has included Meyer Lansky and the Chicago Outfit, while shareholders have included Dean Martin and the aforementioned Marx Brothers.
Meanwhile, Paragon has said that its primary concern is finding employment for the casino 1,000 staff. The company is working with several agencies in Nevada to assist in the transition, it said. “We’ve had a huge response of support from local and regional gaming companies looking for experienced and well-seasoned people,” said Paragon CEO Scott Menk. “We hope to be effective in helping everybody connect.”
The new property, meanwhile, is expected to create 6,000 construction jobs, along with 6,000 more projected permanent jobs on completion.

Sinatra's Old Lake Tahoe Resort Set To Reopen


The legendary Cal Neva is getting ready to reopen.
The famed Cal Neva, a North Lake Tahoe resort once owned by Frank Sinatra and frequented by a number of shady businessmen over the years, will reopen on Dec. 12, 2015.
That date is crucial Robert Radovan, co-owner of Criswell-Radovan the firm that bought the historic hotel in 2013. He has been trying to remodel it in time to open on what would have been Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 100th birthday.
Criswell-Radovan previously set the reopening date for Dec. 12, 2014, to coincide with Sinatra’s 99th birthday. However, various financing and construction issues delayed the reopening. Sinatra died in 1998.
The 219-room, 10-story hotel and 6,000-square-foot casinos will be upgraded in an effort to restore the property to its former glory, he said.
“It’s a property that just has tremendous character and history,” Radovan told KNPR. “It has fallen on hard times over the past couple of decades, and to some degree that’s what creates the opportunity.”
Radovan said it’s still a property that everyone knows and loves. That includes Sinatra’s three children – Tina, Nancy and Frank Jr., he said.
“Tina, Nancy and Frank Jr. are all personally invested,” Radovan told KNPR. “We are speaking quite a bit. They are very happy to see it come back.”
The Cal Neva hotel had fallen on hard times because of the recession and competition from tribal casinos in Northern California. Its casino was closed in 2010 due to declining business. During its heyday from 1960 to 1963, the Cal Neva became one of the most famous casino-resorts in the world.
Cal Nevada attracted fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford, and movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Juliet Prowse. Monroe spent her final weekend at the Cal Neva before she died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles in August 1962.
But, it was also the hideaway for mob boss Sam Giancana during the early 1960s.
“Giancana was one of the best known mobsters for decades,” Geoff Schumacher, director of content at the Mob Museum told KNPR. “It is believed he was looking for a place in Nevada where he could get away from the scrutiny of the FBI.”
Schumacher said Giancana, a close friend of Sinatra’s, used the entertainer as the front man to purchase the Cal Nevada for $250,000 because he was listed in the state’s black book. Nevada gaming regulators had banned Giancana from ever entering a casino.
Unfortunately for Giancana, Sinatra and the Cal-Neva, the FBI photographed them playing golf and having drinks and dinner together in the Cal-Neva dining room. Those photos led to an investigation by gaming regulators, and eventually Sinatra losing his gaming license.
In the end, Sinatra’s association with Giancana not only cost him his gaming license, but it forced him to sell not only his 50 percent stake in Cal Neva, but also his nine percent interest in Sands on the Strip. His stake was valued for about $3.5 million in 1963.

Schumacher said the mafia was involved in Northern Nevada casinos at the time, albeit not as dramatically as in Las Vegas. He told KNPR what drew the mafia to Cal Neva was the resort’s remote location.