A convoy of Detroit mobsters traveled to Las Vegas in 1985 to have a sit down with the Chicago mafia’s west coast crew leader Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro over the fact that a Motor City crime-family affiliate was carrying on an affair with the wife of a member of Spilotro’s inner circle. Per federal informants, the Detroit mob contingent was led by current reputed underboss Anthony (Chicago Tony) LaPiana and then-gambling crew chief Freddy (The Saint) Salem.

Spilotro (pictured above), 48, was brutally slain alongside his baby brother and protégé Michael a year later for his out-of-control behavior. This week is the 30-year anniversary of Spilotro’s murder. He was beaten and strangled to death in the basement of Outfit lieutenant Louie (The Mooch) Eboli’s suburban Chicago residence on June 14, 1986 as his bosses in the Illinois mafia looked on in delight.

Spilotro’s reign on the Strip and his grisly homicide were depicted in the 1995 film Casino, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci as Spilotro. The Lebanese Salem reported directly to the Giacalone brothers (“Tony Jack” & “Billy Jack”), the Detroit mafia’s street bosses from 1960 into the 2000s. It was Billy Giacalone responsible for sending Salem and LaPiana to Las Vegas to work things out with Spilotro.

The 1985 Vegas sit down was held at a pizza parlor owned by Salem’s nephew Terry, who was his Nevada proxy. Terry Salem and Spilotro were close friends – Spilotro ran weekly card games at Salem’s pizza place. The Detroit mob-connected wiseguy caught sleeping with Spilotro’s friend’s wife was admonished, instructed to cease the romance and is forced to pay a fine.

Spilotro himself found himself in hot water with his superior in the mafia for his own romantic dalliance with the wife of childhood friend and Chicago mob gambling ace Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal. The controversial love affair was also depicted in the movie Casino. Robert DeNiro played a character based on Rosenthal and Sharon Stone was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Rosenthal’s wife, a drug-addicted former showgirl and hustler extraordinaire.

“The Ant,” known for his diminutive size and ferocious demeanor, had been placed in Las Vegas by Chicago mob brass in the early 1970s, put in charge of Outfit activity in the Vegas hotel and gaming industry as well as the organization’s interests in California and Arizona. He did frequent business with the Detroit crime family, a syndicate with a heavy west coast presence, especially in San Diego and Phoenix.

La Piana knew Spilotro from his days growing up in the Windy City. Freddy Salem had dealings with Spilotro from his job helping the Detroit mafia’s hierarchy oversee its Nevada casino “skim” operations. Around the time Spilotro relocated to Las Vegas, La Piana moved to Detroit and Salem’s Capital Street Social Club crew got assigned the skim detail in the wake of then-Detroit mob acting boss Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli being convicted of stealing six million dollars from the Frontier Hotel and Casino.

Salem died of natural causes in 2009. His nephew turned witness for the government in the late 1990s. Terry Salem and fellow Detroit-born Goodfella Paul (Big Paulie) Corrado drove Spilotro to the airport Friday June 12, 1986 to fly back to Chicago, two days before he was killed, and were scheduled to pick him up on his return that Monday, a flight he never made.

Corrado, the son of deceased Detroit mob capo Dominic (Fats) Corrado, had been sent to Las Vegas after his dad died of heart failure the year previous. By the end of the decade, he was back in Michigan. “Big Paulie” Corrado was convicted of racketeering in 1998 and did 12 years in prison.

Despite his alleged high-profile status in underworld circles for decades, Tony LaPiana doesn’t have a criminal record. He was found not guilty of federal truck hijacking charges at trial in Chicago in 1968. According to Chicago Crime Commission files, the 74-year old LaPiana has served as both the Detroit mob’s and the Outfit’s representative in the labor unions since the 1980s and acts as a conduit between several Midwest crime families, including those in Michigan and Illinois. His legitimate business portfolio has made him a millionaire several times over – see his 2015 50-million dollar sale of his U.S. Health and Life Insurance company.

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  1. Joe Hobbs

    Fascinating. Never knew what relationship Spilotro might’ve had with the Detroit guys. Always assumed there had to be one.
    Thank you, great site.