Forty three years ago deceased Detroit mafia middleman and longtime labor-union troubleshooter Leonard (Little Lenny) Schultz was probably involved in the Harvey Leach murder conspiracy, according to multiple FBI informants, acting as a “set-up man,” in the still never-closed gangland homicide. Leach went missing on his way to Schultz’s suburban southeastern Michigan home on an early spring afternoon in 1974 and popped up hours later gruesomely butchered.

The ambitious young millionaire businessman had allegedly been butting heads with Schultz’s direct superior in the local mob, the steely-eyed and quite lethal Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, who had bought into Leach’s chic furniture store and home-decorating chain via an introduction from Schultz in the years previous. A lawyer linked to Giacalone ended up gaining ownership of Leach’s Joshua Doore brand in the aftermath of the Leach slaying.

Schultz, Giacalone and the Leach murder are referenced in a Forbes Magazine article this month focusing on the rise of Metro Detroit business mogul Sheldon Yellen, a 59-year old reconstruction and disaster recovery specialist groomed in his teenage years by Schultz at Schultz’s Southfield Athletic Club, which doubled as Giacalone’s day-to-day nerve center. Yellen ran a juice stand at the club until he was 22 and emphasized in the Forbes article that he never engaged in any illegal behavior while working for Schultz in the 1970s.

The 34-year old Leach’s mangled, tortured body was discovered hogtied with its throat cut in the trunk of his Cadillac in the parking lot of the Congress Building, an office complex two miles away from the Southfield Athletic Club and just a 10-minute drive from Schultz’s residence, on March 17, 1974, the day he was supposed to get married and 24 hours after he disappeared en route to a meeting with Schultz, Giacalone and two Joshua Doore home-furnishings company executives. The Leach homicide is considered one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in Michigan history.

Leach, a University of Michigan grad and risk-taking entrepreneur, bought failing Robinson Furniture in February 1971 and changed its name to Joshua Doore, a rebranding that paid quick dividends. The switch worked right off the bat and the chain became an area staple in the community by the end of the year, widely known for its hip inventory and an advertising jingle that told customers that they had an “uncle in the furniture business.”

Members of federal law enforcement who worked the Leach case say Leach and Schultz, both Jewish, were friends and that Schultz had lent Leach money in the past for business ventures and introduced him around to his gangster pals at the Southfield Athletic Club – Leach had even hired Schultz as his official labor consultant. Informants told the FBI that Schultz brokered a sizeable loan between Leach and Giacalone in late 1972 in order to expand Joshua Doore and open more outlets, but once Giacalone got his hooks into the business, the company began incurring financial problems due to his bust-out tactics and him and Leach started feuding. Giacalone decided the best way to handle the situation, per Michigan State Police records, was to force Leach out as owner by “leaning on him” to bail.

As a result, according to the federal informants and the state police files, Schultz was helping Leach and Giacalone work out an agreement where Leach would sell the business to a lawyer and Giacalone associate, however things weren’t going smoothly and the pair were haggling over the purchase amount and other demands by Leach, such as Giacalone being responsible for certain insurance payments. The meeting Leach was headed to at Schultz’s Franklin Village, Michigan house on the day he ended up dead was to try and finalize the buy-out price, per the informants..

State police records tell of Giacalone calling the two Joshua Doore executives scheduled to attend the 10:00 a.m. meeting with him and Leach at the Schultz residence and informing them to come to the meeting an hour late, Schultz telling his wife to leave their house that morning and not come back until the late afternoon and Leach never showing nor returning home to his fiancé Beverly. One of the executives recalled to investigators Giacalone arriving at the meeting late himself and informing those in attendance “Harvey won’t be making it,” with a sly grin on his face. 

Other possible motives in the Leach hit the FBI fielded from informants beside the business relationship-gone-bad angle were Leach’s possible involvement in helping Giacalone launder money through channels in Canada, and an alleged romantic affair Leach had engaged in with the girlfriend of Giacalone’s little brother and fellow Detroit mafia bigwig, Vito “Billy Jack” Giacalone, while Billy Jack was away in state prison. Billy Giacalone, also considered a suspect in the Leach murder, had been released from behind bars two months earlier.

“Lenny and the Giacalone brothers were the top persons of interest in the investigation, they all had dealings together,” said retired U.S. federal prosecutor and Southeast Michigan Organized Crime Task Force member Keith Corbett said. “Lenny was one of their top guys, they trusted him a lot and he was privy to a lot of highly-sensitive information related to mob affairs in the city. We watched him closely and it wasn’t that hard because he was always hanging with Tony and Billy, who we had a beat on 24-7.”

Investigators pegged Schultz a “set-up man” on the Leach hit, not the “doer,” or person who actually committed the physical killing.

“If Lenny was instructed by the Giacalones to set Harvey Leach up to be murdered, I believe he would have done it,” Corbett said. “Realistically, he wouldn’t have had much of a choice.”

Lenny Schultz in 1985

Leach’s funeral attracted almost 1,000 mourners. In the wake of his passing, Joshua Doore went into bankruptcy and eventually was bought by another Giacalone associate and had its name changed back to Robinson Furniture. Closing its doors for a dozen years, Robinson Furniture re-opened in Detroit under new ownership in 2010. The Joshua Doore trademark was eventually purchased, reactivated and is back in circulation in some regions of North America.

Both Giacalone brothers died of natural causes – Tony in 2001 and Billy in 2012. Schultz and the Giacalones were called in front of a federal grand jury investigating the Leach murder in the months after it occurred. No charges were ever filed in the case.

Less than a year and a half following the Leach homicide, Schultz and the Giacalones would have their names surface again as persons of interest in the famed Jimmy Hoffa kidnapping and murder probe. Again, they would be hauled in front of a federal grand jury in the wake of the hit, but never arrested. For years, Schultz had run interference for the Giacalone brothers between themselves and Hoffa, the mob-backed president of the Teamsters union, per state police records.

Hoffa was jailed for fraud, bribery and jury tampering in 1967 and when he was released from federal prison in the early 1970s he became determined to take back his presidency against the wishes of the mafia, sentiments being delivered to an undeterred Hoffa in the months preceding his demise by both Schultz and the Giacalones, per confidential informants to the FBI. On the afternoon of July 30, 1975, Hoffa vanished from a suburban Detroit restaurant parking lot. He was supposed to be meeting Schultz and Tony Giacalone for lunch that day, but both were down the road at the Southfield Athletic Club, formerly located on the first floor of the Travelers Towers office building with firmly-established alibis instead. Billy Giacalone was unaccounted for that entire afternoon, having ditched his normal FBI surveillance unit in traffic after breakfast.

While in his 20s, Schultz came up in the Detroit underworld as a driver, bodyguard and all-around right-hand man for Purple Gang lieutenant Abe (Abie the Agent) Zussman. The Purple Gang was Detroit’s all-Jewish crime syndicate in the first half of the Twentieth Century. He went to work for the Giacalone brothers in the 1950s and rose to be a trusted aide-de-camp theirs for the next four decades. Besides the Southfield Athletic Club (owned in name by his two sons), Schultz owned several nursing homes and a vast amount of real estate.

Most of Schultz’s criminal record runs from 1940 to 1960, a time period in which he was charged with 18 various felonies. During his last brush with the law in the 1980s for a drug-dealing case, Schultz admitted to being a confidential informant for the FBI for more than 30 years. Because of his close relationship with the Giacalones, according to sources, upon his release from prison in 1990, Schultz was given a “pass” for his misdeeds and allowed to retire to Florida without repercussions.

A former FBI agent familiar with Schultz’s cooperation says that despite all the information he provided, he always denied holding any knowledge of the Leach and Hoffa hits. Schultz publically blamed a February 1975 break-in and robbery at his house in Franklin Village on local law enforcement attempting to find evidence in the Leach murder investigation.

Lenny Schultz outside the Leach grand jury c. June of 1974

Related Post

Leave a Reply