GR SOURCES: Midwest Goodfella Butch Stramaglia Eyed In Detroit Mob Murder From 14 Yrs. Ago

Practically a decade and a half removed from the murder of Detroit mafia associate Jerome (Jerry the Blade) Bianchette, possibly the most recent Italian mob hit to take place in the Motown underworld, Louis (Butch) Stramaglia, a longtime reputed Michigan wiseguy, general contractor and businessman, remains a “prime” suspect in the unsolved gangland slaying, according to sources in local law enforcement. This is not the first time Stramaglia has had his name creep its’ way into a mafia-related homicide inquiry either. More on that in a little while.

The 31-year old Bianchette was shot-gunned to death as he arrived for what he thought was going to be a late-night meeting held at a suburban Detroit construction site on August 10, 2002. He was the driver and bodyguard for Motor City crime family underboss Anthony (Tony Z) Zerilli, who was convicted in a federal racketeering case at trial less than two weeks prior, and was allegedly feuding with Stramaglia over a partnership in a drug-dealing business that had soured, exclusive GR sources claim. Zerilli was said to have been “grooming” Bianchette, introduced to him through one of his grandsons.

The week before he died, Bianchette physically attacked and threatened a restaurant owner allegedly in debt to Zerilli, holding a hatchet to his throat to remind him that just because Zerilli was off to the Big House, didn’t mean he was off the hook for what he owed. The restaurant owner promptly went to the police and had a personal protection order issued against Bianchette. A few days after that, per sources, Bianchette was called to a sit down with Detroit mob leaders and told to “quiet down immediately or kick bricks,” and then the next night is said to have gotten into a small verbal spat with current reputed Motown Godfather Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone at a nearby wiseguy hangout. Giacalone was a capo and street boss of the Borgata back in those days.

“The heat this kid was bringing on everybody was so out of control that the second they (the Detroit mob brass) could, they wiped him off the face of the earth,” said one source of the motive for the Bianchette hit. “He didn’t know the meaning of keeping a low profile. That’s what these guys (traditional Detroit Mafiosi) are all about. Butch was one of a shit load of people that were bumping heads with Jerry.”

Jerry Bianchette

Jerry Bianchette

Bianchette, according to this source, had been tapped by Tony Zerilli to handle his collections on the outside as he started a five-year prison stint. At this time, Zerilli was beefing with syndicate boss and his first cousin Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco, who reportedly blamed Zerilli for the 1996 Operation GameTax bust, which brought down virtually the entire Detroit mob administration and was anchored by wiretaps installed in cars of Zerilli crew members. Tocco (convicted in GameTax as well in a 1998 trial) was close to Butch Stramaglia, a friendship Stramaglia himself wasn’t afraid to boast to the media about.

Authorities don’t believe Stramaglia, 68, pulled the trigger in Bianchette’s murder, but was possibly given authority of the contract on his head by Detroit mafia higher-ups and farmed out the job to area hitmen, per sources. One police record related to the still-open Bianchette murder probe show informants telling the cops that Albanian hitmen were used on the job, another state law enforcement snitch said it was a seasoned Italian wet-work specialist assigned to carry out the contract. Still another source says it was a biker gang member given the contract to clip Bianchette.

“Butch was the lure,” said a source. “He had the best reason to get him out in the open.”

The night Bianchette was killed he was summoned from a wedding to go to the Macomb County construction site where today resides a supermarket. An “in-the-know” Michigan mob insider tells GR, Bianchette was informed on his cell phone at the wedding that tens of thousands of dollars he and Stramaglia were fighting over was now available and could be picked up at the construction site.

Butch Stramaglia

Butch Stramaglia

Stramaglia knows a thing or two about construction. He owned Vito Trucking and Excavating and in 1990 was convicted of skimming two million dollars of municipal funds connected to a Dade County, Florida contract he was awarded to build the 200-million dollar Sawgrass Expressway and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Less than three years later, all 38 felony counts Stramaglia was found guilty of were tossed by an appellate court and he was freed.

He was originally indicted alongside his baby brother and co-owner Frank Stramaglia. The siblings also co-owned Four Bears Water Park in Shelby Township, 20 minutes north of Detroit and a popular family-fun destination for Metro Detroiters for two decades (shuttered since the early 2000s).

Known to have a cocaine habit, the younger Stramaglia was found dead of a suspicious drug overdose on January 2, 1989 (the coke was 20-times a lethal dose and cut with a toxic compound called cadmium, normally found in battery acid, fertilizer and house paint). In the weeks previous, word had leaked from the prosecutor’s office in Florida that Frank Stramaglia had reached out to authorities to discuss about potential cooperation.

The following month, Mark Giancotti, the comptroller at Four Bears Water Park, Frank Stramaglia’s best friend and a local mob-connected drug dealer, showed up slain. Giancotti was found shot to death in his car on February 7, 1989 in a supermarket parking lot in Rochester Hills, Michigan, about a half-hour drive from Detroit proper. Per police files regarding the Stramaglia overdose and the Giancotti murder, Butch Stramaglia is a suspect in both investigations. Butch Stramaglia has never faced any homicide charges and adamantly denies any involvement in the murder of his brother, Giancotti or Bianchette.

Jack Tocco, 86, died of heart failure in the summer of 2014, having reigned atop the Detroit mafia for a relatively peaceful 35 years. Tony Zerilli passed away from natural causes last spring. He was 86 too. The FBI looked into Stramaglia possibly helping Tocco launder illegal proceeds and vice versa, back in the 1980s, however never filed any charges.

“Butch is a means business kind of guy,” recalled one retired fed familiar with Stramaglia from his days working the Detroit mob beat. “He acts tough and he is tough. He can be smiling, laughing and carrying on one minute and stone cold serious in a blink of an eye. We saw how he leveraged his connection to Jack Tocco, it was clear as day. Butch can be intimidating, but he’s smart. He’s tip-toed through the landmines pretty well for himself.”


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