The Chicago Syndicate: Mobster "Tokyo Joe" is dead
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mobster "Tokyo Joe" is dead

Friends of ours: Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto, Jasper Campise, John Gattuso

One of Chicago's most well known mobsters has died. He lived a much longer life than the mob intended. Ken Eto survived a mob hit back in 1983 when the bullets that were meant to kill him bounced off his head.

The failed assassination convinced Eto to cooperate with prosecutors. But now, more than 20 years after the botched hit, there is still a mystery surrounding the death of Ken Eto. ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie takes a look at the mob mystery in this Intelligence Report.

When Ken Eto lived through the gangland hit, everybody knew about it. Bullets rebounding from someone's head makes for lead story news. When Eto died more than two years ago of natural causes, almost nobody knew about it and it wasn't on the news until the I-Team reported it Wednesday afternoon. His was a life cloaked in mobdom, even ending in mystery.

"Toyko Joe," as he was known, was one of the most colorful, well-known characters of Chicago mob lore, a gambling boss who ran a $200,000 a week bolita empire.

"He was a trusted moneymaker, he'd been around for a long time and actually had kind of a reputation as a violent sort of person," said Elaine smith, former FBI agent.

Elaine Smith worked Ken Eto cases for the FBI in Chicago for more than 20 years. We interviewed her a few years ago before she retired and Eto died. In a business not known for longevity, the fact that Tokyo Joe lived to age 84 was remarkable. He was supposed to have died in an alleyway on February 10th, 1983, a few weeks before sentencing on gambling-related charges.

Outfit bosses, fearing Eto might spill mob secrets to avoid prison, ordered him killed. Hitman Jasper Campise and Cook County Deputy Sheriff John Gattuso were deployed to carry out the murder. But somehow, three .22 caliber bullets ricocheted off Eto's skull and he survived. A few months later, the bungling assassins were themselves killed.

Eto opted to become a government informant and special agent Smith interrogated him for months, then helped prepare him for federal prosecutions that put away police officials and mob bosses.

During his cooperation, Smith says Eto admitted to a role in four murders. "He didn't participate in these murders, he set the people up," Smith said.

Eto lived out his days in the federal witness security program under the assumed name Joe Tanaka from Iowa. But on January 23, 2004, he died, a mobster at heart.

"Imagine what it would be like on a day-to-day basis and always show respect and always do what they said to do, unquestioning, with people that are dumb, immoral, selfish, corrupt individuals," Smith said.

Elaine Smith attended a memorial service for Eto after he passed at his Georgia home in 2004. Even at that service, the dearly departed was known as Joe Tanaka, restaurateur. But by whatever name, Tokyo Joe left behind six children, most of them still carrying the Eto name, a name that their father couldn't live with for the last portion of his life.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie


  1. I knew John Gattuso and at the time Ken Eto was arrested he would not cooperate. The Feds then leaked to the press that he was cooperating and let him go. He had no choice but to contact his bosses and try to tell them what really happened. That is why he was with Gattuso and Campise that day.

  2. I knew both John and Andy Gattuso quite well in the early 70’s. They were the Falstaff Beer distributors along with a line of Sodas. Falstaff was all over the Near North then, they also owned/controlled a couple of neighborhood bars and an Italian Restaurant on Clark Street but their names were never on the liquor licenses. They seemed to be nice people, I suspected but that was as far as I wanted to explore:). Johnny had a wife and family in Northbrook, I heard years later that Andy was employed by Coca Cola.



Affliction Sale

Flash Mafia Book Sales!