Showing posts with label Sam DeStefano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sam DeStefano. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Mob of His Own: Mad Sam DeStefano and the Chicago Mob's "Juice" Rackets

The true story of one of Chicago's most sadistic murderers who killed for power, money and pleasure. Sam "Mad Dog" DeStefano controlled the flow of money on Chicago's streets backed by the Chicago mob, he became a multimillionaire by squeezing the "juice" out of his victims. This book details the life of Mad Sam and describes the sick methods he used to kill. This book also explores Chicago's Italian mob and what was commonly known as the "juice" rackets, loan sharking, and shylocking.

A Mob of His Own: Mad Sam DeStefano and the Chicago Mob's "Juice" Rackets, explains the rackets in full detail as well as the men who made a living at killing and destroying lives.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Revisiting the Mob Career of Tony Spilotro

Tony Spilotro, who would eventually be portrayed by Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorcese film "Casino," was born and raised in “The Patch,” a near west side Chicago neighborhood that was a haven for Italian immigrants in the 1940s and 50sTony Spilotro. Spilotro entered high school at Steinmetz, but when his father had a stroke and died the next year, he dropped out and started a full-time life of crime. All but one of his five brothers, along with a number of neighbors, became members of the Chicago mob, and a few played starring roles.

During the 1970s, Tony Spilotro was fronted in Las Vegas by childhood friend Frank Rosenthal (portrayed by Robert DeNiro in "Casino"), who ran numerous mob-backed gambling operations, to become the enforcer for Chicago. Spilotro was already known for his brutality and quickly established an embezzling scheme that took a cut for mob families in Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

Leo Foreman was the first brutal murder that Spilotro was accused of, supposedly in retribution because the loan shark (Foreman) had disrespected Chicago mob boss Sam DeStefano. Spilotro also is thought to have murdered Tamara Rand, a California real estate broker, in 1975, because she was suing over an unpaid $2 million loan to Spilotro’s Las Vegas associate Allen Glick.

When Tony was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1979, which barred him from being physically present in a casino, Spilotro’s role of enforcer was curtailed. By that time, he had branched out into other activities like fencing stolen property and conducting a burglary operation with his brother Michael. The first Chicago mob informants flipped by the FBI named Spilotro in the murder of Leo Foreman, and a half dozen other close associates who accused Spilotro of ordering or carrying out mob murders.

By the early 1980s, Spilotro had already broke with Rosenthal after he had an affair with Rosenthal’s wife. When Frank Cullotta, a childhood friend who had remained an insider, began to fear that Spilotro was going to kill him, Cullotta began talking to the FBI.

Spilotro was acquitted in Chicago on a murder charge stemming in part from Cullotta’s testimony, but by 1986 the mobster had been implicated in about 22 murders and had lots of enemies in and out of jail.  Among other high-profile killings, Spilotro was suspected of being involved in the murder of his mentor Sam DeStefano and mob kingpin Sam Giancana.

There are several theories about how Tony and his brother Michael were lured to a summit meeting likely in Bensenville or North Riverside, Ill., and subsequently beaten and killed on June, 14, 1986.

About 10 days after the murders, the partially decomposed bodies of Tony and Michael Spilotro were found buried in a cornfield within the 12,000-acre Willow Slough preserve, in Newton County, Indiana. The farmer who spotted the site of the burial investigated at first because he thought a poacher had buried a deer killed out of season. The coroner noted that the bodies appeared to have been beaten to death by several people, and numerous people were eventually convicted. Of the 7-8 suspects in the Spilotro killings, several were convicted, others flipped and received lighter sentences in later cases, but everyone who was known to be at the meeting where the brothers were murdered, went to jail or died.

Thanks to Pat Collander.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Underworld Histories 2: Chicago

IF YOU were an underworld mobster would you really like the nickname "The Clown", or "The German" – or what about "Mad Sam"?

Then there's "Joe Batters" – sounds like someone who works at a fish and chip shop, doesn't it?

But they are all real-life and real scary members of Chicago's underworld: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo (also known as Lumpy), Frank "The German" Schweihs and Samuele "Mad Sam" DeStefano.

Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (also known as Big Tuna) was the chief executive of the Chicago Outfit, that city's notorious crime gang founded by none other than Al Capone. According to this doco, Accardo earned the Joe Batters moniker because of "his talent of breaking skulls with a baseball bat".

Underworld Histories 2: Chicago is littered with such marvellously rich quotes which could be discarded as the stuff of comic book gratuitousness if it weren't recorded fact.

Like this quote from a former mob member about an associate who was being tortured with an ice pick: "Billy wouldn't come up with anything, so finally they stuck his head in a vice and they started tightening until . . ."

(OK, look away now, or up to the ceiling, like the camera does in Reservoir Dogs when they're ripping that guy's ear off, because I'm about to give you the end of this quote and it's a bit squeamy. So skip to the next paragraph if you need.)

". . . until his eyeball popped out. Then they cut his throat."

Eeee-yuk. Horrible, horrible stuff . . . but you just have to watch it somehow – like a train wreck. Or like when I saw Huey Lewis from the '80s band Huey Lewis And The News playing the part of celebrity lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway a few years back.

He was awful . . . eye-poppingly awful. It was a wonder a Chicago mobster on vacation in New York didn't open his violin case and rat-a-tat-tat him right there on stage. But back to America's "second city".

Underworld Histories 2: Chicago details the rise and fall of the Outfit from the Prohibition days of the 1920s through to the wild and wicked '60s and '70s and touches on how the city now copes with its bloody heritage, saying law enforcement agencies now have the upper hand on mobsters.

"For the people of Chicago," the narrator (who's Rory O'Shea, by the way, but who really sounds like he's channelling Phil Hartman's Simpsons character Troy McClure) says, "organised crime is the history and the foundation of the city."

The underworld of Chicago was just that. The city is located on the banks of Lake Michigan and in the mid 19th century much of it was built on stilts to avoid flooding. The bullets and bashings went on in the gloomy shadows around those stilts. But there were a few light moments in the history of the Outfit – the classic being Mad Sam DeStefano.

There's some great footage of him arriving for a pre-trial in the mid-1960s.

He's carried into court on a stretcher and he's rambling incoherently through a bullhorn to the crowds outside.

It looks like a scene from Get Smart. But once again, there is a seriousness behind all this.

DeStefano was convicted of rape and sentenced to three years' imprisonment when he was just 18. He was known as Mad Sam for his sadistic torture methods and the way he'd froth at the mouth and laugh uncontrollably when being interviewed by police.

Considered by some to be a devil worshipper, he also built his own sound-proof torture chamber in his basement.

If ever Heath Ledger had needed an archetype for The Joker, then this was the guy.

Actually, come to think of it, Huey Lewis doesn't look too horrendous against these mobsters. Now that's scary.

Thanks to Geoff Shearer

Monday, July 28, 2008

Frank 'The German' Schweihs - "A Killer, That's All, A Killer of a Girl"

Diane Pappas learned that Chicago isn't Camelot a lifetime ago when a tugboat captain found her sister's murdered body in the Chicago River. Eugenia "Becca" Pappas was only 18.

So last week, 46 years after Becca's death, when Diane heard the German was dead, she knew what to do: Drive out to the cemetery, to Becca's grave in the shade of a giant Norwegian pine, and talk to her little sister. "I'm going to the cemetery right now," Diane said. "I've got to be there. Now I want to tell Becca. The big, tough man. The big killer. The murderer of my sister. The German. The murderer of a girl."

If Frank "The German" Schweihs ever wondered about hell, he's not wondering now. He died last week, at 78, of cancer, waiting to stand federal trial in the Family Secrets case.

The FBI considers him the Babe Ruth of Outfit hit men, with dozens of Outfit victims, mobsters from New York to Los Angeles, murderous bosses and their turncoat business associates. Other hit men were terrified to be near him, even when he was sleeping. A glimpse of the German in Los Angeles, a chance sighting in a car window, frightened Jimmy "The Weasel" Frattiano so much that the mobster ran shrieking into the federal witness protection program.

Schweihs the enforcer was the reason those frail, old men could run things without worrying about ambitious underlings. He's the reason they made fortunes, and a president and mayors and judges.

The list of the German's dead is a history of organized crime in America. Except for Becca Pappas, a beauty, tall, slim, black eyes, black hair. "I know he killed her. I just know. She was in his car. She was driving his car the last time anyone saw her. His car disappeared. Then it was auctioned a month later, totally stripped clean, washed down," Diane said.

Becca's murder was investigated by corrupt Chicago lawman Richard CainThe Tangled Web: The Life and Death of Richard Cain - Chicago Cop and Mafia Hitman. This being Chicago, Schweihs was released without charges. Still, I agree with Diane that Schweihs killed her sister.

Why? Because, as explained to me by mob-watchers and former FBI agents, no man in Chicago, or anywhere else, would have dared approach the German's girlfriend. Not even to say hello. They wouldn't have allowed their brains to think of it. Not one. Schweihs would have skinned them alive with a paring knife.

The German is said to have later shotgunned Cain at Rose's Sandwich Shop. And killed Jimmy "the Bomber" Catuara. Teamsters lawyer Allan Dorfman died in a parking lot, shot in the head with a .22. Joe Testa was blown up in his car. Sam DeStefano's arms were shotgunned off in his garage. Patsy Riccardi, Chucky Nicoletti, the list continues.

The Chicago Outfit's flamboyant Hollywood connection, Johnny Rosselli, was found stuffed into an oil drum, floating at sea. Angelo Boscarino was shotgunned, though his son was later given a piece of the failed Rosemont casino deal.

If I've missed a few names, Schweihs didn't miss.

In the late 1980s, he was held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center at the same time as Outfit member-turned-federal informant Gerald Scarpelli. The official story is Scarpelli committed suicide. He must have seen the German in the day room and then decided to tie his own feet and hands and choke himself to death with a plastic bag in the shower. The German is also credited with torturing and killing several burglars who dared rob the home of Anthony Accardo.

"He never informed. He killed who they told him to kill. And if he was involved in the killing of that young woman—it sheds an entirely new light on his personality," said FBI Special Agent John Mallul, a supervisor of the Organized Crime Unit. "No criminal ever wanted to see this guy around. Even if they knew that Frank was coming around and knew why, they were still terrified."

Law enforcement says that just about his only friend was Chicago political figure Peter Schivarelli, currently the manager of the rock group Chicago and the former 43rd Ward supervisor of Streets and San. Schivarelli is reputed to have been around Outfit types all his life and is the nephew of late mobster Johnny "The Bug" Varelli.

One night, Schweihs was arrested after fighting with police. "Schivarelli came down to the station trying to get him out, throwing his political clout around, and all hell broke loose," former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke recalled a while back. "It was a madhouse."

"That's not my recollection," Schivarelli said when I tracked him down. He talked on the phone as if I held a subpoena. "But I'd rather not debate it. I'll respectfully decline to comment."

Too bad. I was waiting to hear that the German was kind to tiny children and animals and helped old women cross the street. None of it matters to Becca Pappas' sister. "Schweihs still lived 46 years when he shouldn't have. And people glorify him, and they glorify the mob with their movies and TV shows. But all he was, was a killer. That's all. A killer of a girl."

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saluting the Best Mafiosa Court Room Antics

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, John Gotti, Joey “Doves” Aiuppa, Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Judge Thomas Maloney

“The Sopranos” might have ended, but the first episode of Chicago’s latest mob drama begins Tuesday.

How fitting that the official festivities will take place in the feds’ ceremonial courtroom. The Outfit is big on ceremony, beginning with the oath that “made” guys take. They also take an oath of Omerta, promising never to talk about family secrets to the big bad wolf with the menacing initials: FBI. But how many of us can keep a good secret for life? So, between the gangsters who are desirous of saving their own hides and those who have or will be pleading guilty to high crimes and non-misdemeanors, only five wiseguys are expected to actually be sitting on their ceremonial behinds when jury selection begins Tuesday.

The lawyers for La Cosa Nostra have some serious work ahead of them in the next four or five months. I’m talking about the new, outlandish stunts the hoods will need if they expect to get a mention in the Mob’s Greatest Trial Antics.

It appeared as though Frank “The German” Schweihs might offer the first memorable moment. The German, who was one of the Outfit’s most feared and proficient hitmen, according to federal authorities, is said to be terminally ill.

There was a time when Schweihs would have come to trial with the rest of them, his skin pasty white and IV tubes plugged into his veins, a sad and pathetic character worthy of great sympathy from the jury. But now, Schweihs has been “severed” from the trial, which seems to be an apt legal description for somebody who federal authorities say cut short a few dozen lives himself.

Judge James Zagel didn’t want Schweihs dying one day during the case and creating a mistrial for the others, so he allowed him time to heal … a consideration that Mr. Schweihs himself allegedly would rarely grant those who begged him for mercy.

Schweihs could have followed the script written by Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano back in the ’60s. The vicious mob enforcer would feign illness so he had to be wheeled into court on a gurney while wearing pajamas. Once, Mad Sam used a bullhorn in the courtroom so he was assured of being louder than prosecutors.

The crafty New York mafia boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante use to wear his bathrobe to court, mumble to himself and claim God was his lawyer in an effort to persuade jurors that he was deranged. It worked for many years until The Chin was eventually convicted. In 2003, two years before he died in prison, Gigante admitted it had all been an act.

The best courtroom performance by a mob lawyer was in 1986 by Bruce Cutler, who was representing John Gotti at the time. Cutler took the thick federal indictment against Gotti and stuffed it in a courtroom wastebasket. “It’s garbage,” Cutler shouted at prosecutors. “That’s where it belongs.”

Sickness and sympathy has been a favorite play by hoodlums for decades. When Chicago Outfit boss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa was on trial in Kansas City 20 years ago, Aiuppa hunched over a walker coming and going from court. Nevertheless, he managed to get in and out of a taxi and his hotel just fine.

During that same trial, Aiuppa’s vice consigliore Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone delivered a veiled threat to a Chicago news reporter while they were riding on a crowded elevator.

“How’s the wife and that new baby of yours?” Cerone asked the newsman, whose coverage he must have under appreciated. The question stunned the reporter, who certainly never had spoken to Cerone about his wife or his new daughter, Caylen Goudie.

Once, in 1983, I asked the infamous Outfit tough-guy Tony “The Ant” Spilotro a question that now seems prophetic.

“Tony, are you concerned for your personal safety?” I asked The Ant as he bailed out of Cook County jail.

Spilotro just sneered at me … a far different look than he must have displayed three years later when he and his brother were clubbed and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield.

When defrocked Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney was on trial for taking bribes to fix murder cases, the mob-connected Maloney tried his best every day to avoid TV crews staked out in front of the federal building.

Once, Maloney thought he had outsmarted news jockeys by sneaking into the federal building basement and walking up a ramp from the underground parking garage.

Not to be tricked, camera crews were waiting atop the ramp when Maloney strutted up dressed in a black trench coat and fedora. He began running across Adams Street in the Loop, pursued by TV crews until he tripped and did a belly flop onto the asphalt, staggering to his feet with a mouthful of gravel.

The finest out-of-court routine was put on by Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, who will go on trial again Tuesday. Years ago when he was free on bond, The Clown enjoyed living up to his nickname by shielding his face from photographers using a newspaper with cut-out eyeholes.

While he was a fugitive, Lombardo wrote a letter to Judge Zagel, who is hearing his case, stating that he was unfairly targeted by prosecutors who could convict “a hamburger” in federal court.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, November 06, 2006

Disbarred Attorney Who Claimed Mob Elected JFK Dies

As the Kennedy clan maneuvered to get JFK elected president, they turned to the Chicago mob for help -- and disbarred Chicago attorney Robert McDonnell helped the two sides connect, according to a controversial 1997 book by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.

Mr. McDonnell, according to The Dark Side of Camelot, helped arrange a secret meeting between the future president's father, Joseph Kennedy, and then-Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. A deal was supposedly struck, with the mob helping turn out the vote.

Much later, Mr. McDonnell married Giancana's blunt-spoken daughter, Antoinette, who today doesn't necessarily buy the story.

Regardless, she allowed that Mr. McDonnell certainly had "a colorful past," which included stints as a World War II soldier, a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. It was in the latter profession that he often was in the news, representing some fearful figures such as alleged mob murderer "Mad Sam" DeStefano.

Despite expressing concern over the years that he might get whacked, when Mr. McDonnell died on Oct. 29, it was from natural causes, his family said. He was 81.

"He liked to live on the edge -- much to the chagrin of my mother and myself," said Mr. McDonnell's brother Greg. "My brother was a rogue, but he was a good rogue."

Mr. McDonnell was raised on the South Side around 82nd and Wood, said his brother. His mother was a housewife; his father worked for a family contracting business. Mr. McDonnell attended St. Ignatius High School, where he played football. He went to the University of Notre Dame and played football there, too, but left before graduating. World War II was under way, and Mr. McDonnell "went to the draft board and said, 'Take my number,' " his brother said.

He ended up as an Army infantry squad leader and was shot several times after helping overtake a German machine gun nest in Italy. A German medic helped treat him, and Mr. McDonnell later intervened on the medic's behalf after the German was captured by Americans and was going to be killed by them, Greg McDonnell said. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, his brother said.

After returning to the U.S., Mr. McDonnell finished school and got a law degree. He served as a Cook County prosecutor before becoming a criminal defense attorney.

He embraced the fast life, especially drinking and gambling, but life wasn't always pleasant. When his River Forest home burned in 1960, he reportedly went into hiding, fearing the blaze was started by the mob. Mr. McDonnell served prison time for trying to bribe a union official, and he was twice disbarred.

Services have been held.

Thanks to Robert C. Herguth

Monday, August 08, 2005

Unbridled Rage: A True Story of Organized Crime, Corruption, and Murder in Chicago

`Unbridled Rage: A True Story of Organized Crime, Corruption, and Murder in Chicago " (Berkley/Penguin) is a book written by Gene O'Shea.

It is about the Chicago Outfit's favorite murderous horseman, Silas Jayne, and his associates, the obese hit man Curtis Hansen, and Hansen's brother Ken, a horseman accused of using horses to get close to boys.

It is also about a triple murder of three such boys, the Schuessler-Peterson murders, in 1955. Bobby Peterson was 14. John Schuessler was 13, and his brother Anton was 11.

They waited almost 40 years for justice, until John Rotunno and Jim Grady, two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, took up the cold case and followed it relentlessly. "John Rotunno and Jim Grady from ATF wouldn't let it go," O'Shea said. "Those investigators were motivated by their professionalism, and by the fact that they were fathers. And I just felt I had to write the story."

O'Shea spent years covering the crime and courts beats for the Daily Southtown. Currently, he's the official spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Board. "I could identify with the boys," O'Shea told me. "Can't you? We all wanted adventure, and thought it special to go downtown when we were kids. That's what they did. They roamed around and looked for adventure."

I remember being 11 and roaming a bit. Perhaps you do as well. But we were lucky. We came home.

The boys were going downtown to a movie, to see some picture called "The African Lion." They ran into Ken Hansen. Two days later, their naked bodies were found in a ditch on a bridle path. The murders terrified the city.

O'Shea's book comes out this fall, but since I heard he was writing about the Schuessler-Peterson murders, I've been pestering him for a chance to read it. He gave me an advance copy the other day.

I read it steadily, in two sittings at a neighborhood coffee shop late into the night. There was plenty of light inside and the casual conversation of strangers and waitresses, then, finally, there was only the sound of the busboy vacuuming the carpet and the owner muttering over the cash register receipts at closing time.

Both nights it was quiet and pitch dark on the way to my car, and each time, listening to the night, I kept thinking about one passage in "Unbridled Rage."

I'm still thinking about it. I'll think about it for a long time.

It was about Hetty Salerno and how she wasn't a stranger to screams.

She was no stranger to screams because she'd heard all kinds. Only 10 or so years earlier, she'd been an ambulance driver in London during the Nazi bombardment of that city during World War II. But the war screams were nothing like those she heard from a boy on the night of Oct. 16, 1955, near the Idle Hour Stable across the road from her home in unincorporated Park Ridge, a stable owned by Silas Jayne.

The screams were terrible, "like someone beating the hell out of a child," she said.

It was a solid lead and the crime was so sensational and sensationalized--a public murder, a heater--that City Hall made sure there were plenty of police. Perhaps too many. And one officer talked to Salerno. Yet for some reason, investigators didn't follow up. It may have been a horrible mistake. Another theory is that police were steered away from Salerno's story--and the Jayne stable--by the political clout of Jayne's associates in the Chicago Outfit.

Police concentrated on other leads that led nowhere, or to tragedy, like Anton Schuessler Sr., father of two of the victims.

He was questioned, and harshly. Whether it was grief or the questioning and resulting shame or a combination, the man lost his mind. He was put in a psychiatric institution and subjected to electroshock therapy. The poor man died of a heart attack a month after his sons were killed.

Jayne's connections with organized crime, called the mob by outsiders and the Outfit by Chicagoans, were lengthy. "He'd have Outfit guys out to his stables, people like Sam DeStefano would show up, and dress up in full cowboy regalia and jump on horses and start shooting their six-shooters."

I can imagine the torturer "mad" Sam DeStefano in cowboy clothes. The guns were real. The fat Curt Hansen worked for DeStefano.

Those who were in Silas Jayne's way found themselves dead, including his brother, and a champion rider, and perhaps missing candy heiress Helen Brach.

Ken Hansen was convicted of the Schuessler-Peterson killings in 1995 and again in 2002 in a retrial. By then, Curtis Hansen and Silas Jayne were dead.

"This tells people working cold cases to never give up," O'Shea said. "Somebody knows something, and for various reasons, they keep their mouths shut. Silas Jayne died, and those who lived in fear of him were no longer afraid of what they knew."

Thanks to John Kass


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