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The Lost ‘Casino’ Hits: Tony The Ant’s Bicentennial Bloodbath Was Done On Down Low, Beached Bodies May Be Ace Skimmer, Resort Boss

May 14, 2022 — A pair of August 1976 disappearances tied to mob activity in Las Vegas depicted in the famous gangster-flick Casino are back under the microscope since two bodies surfaced from Lake Mead recently, according to those, “in the know.”

The first body was found encased in a barrel on April 30. A skull with two bullet holes in the back was discovered on May 8.

Per sources in Nevada law enforcement, investigators are exploring the possibility that the skeletal remains belong to Jay Vandermark and John (Johnny Pappas) Panagiotakos, respectively. Vandermark, the casino skim expert who skipped town following a federal raid of the Outfit-run Stardust hotel’s count room months earlier, went missing on August 1, 1976. Johnny Pappas, the Chicago-born overseer of a mob-controlled resort on Lake Mead itself, vanished on the evening of August 18, 1976 on his way to a dinner meeting at Jo Jo’s Restaurant.

Both Vandermark and Pappas worked for Las Vegas mob boss Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, the bloodthirsty, power-hungry point man for the Chicago mafia on the Strip from 1971 until his own nasty gangland execution in the summer of 1986. Spilotro and his younger brother Michael were beaten, stomped and strangled to death in a suburban Chicago basement as a result of Tony the Ant’s rogue behavior and his open talk of leading an insurgence against Outfit brass.

In the movie Casino, released in the fall of 1995, Oscar-winner Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro. At the time of his death, the FBI considered Spilotro a suspect in carrying out or ordering close to three dozen mob hits. Vandermark’s name was changed to John Nance in the film. Pappas maintained ties to the Nevada Democratic Party.

*Las Vegas mob reporting legend John L. Smith was the first to report on the Vandermark and Pappas angle of this still-unraveling storyline.

The Casino Mob Murder Timeline: More Chicago Mafia Slayings Possibly Being Resolved As Las Vegas Lake Dispenses Old Dead Bodies

May 13, 2022 — With bodies popping up in Las Vegas lately, let’s look back on the mob murders connected to the Tony (The Ant) Spilotro reign on the Strip as Desert Don in the 1970s through the first half of the 1980s. Spilotro ran the Vegas rackets for the Chicago mob and his exploits were chronicled in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film Casino, starring Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro. Authorities in Nevada believe the two sets of human remains discovered on the shores of Lake Meade over the past two weeks are victims of Tony the Ant and his glitzy, raucous regime.

The Casino Hit List (1962-1997)

May 13 & 14 1962 — The M&M Murders: Spilotro kills Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia for an unsanctioned shooting at a mob-owned bar that ended up with three dead in Chicago. Spilotro put McCarthy’s head in a vise and popped his eye out of his head to get him to give up his partner Miraglia’s whereabouts before killing him by slitting his throat. Miraglia is murdered the next day and their bodies are stacked on top of each other and put in the back of Miraglia’s Cadillac. The hit boosts Tony the Ant’s reputation as a fast-riser in Chicago Outfit circles and puts him in line to get sent to Vegas in the subsequent years. The Miraglia murder is shown in Casino and is one of the movie’s most memorable scenes.

June 23, 1973 – Las Vegas bookie and loanshark William (Joey Red) Klimm is gunned down in the parking lot of the Churchill Downs Race Book. The Klimm murder was the first headline-grabbing hit of the Spilotro era in Vegas. Klimm was resisting shakedown efforts from Spilotro’s crew of misfits, ,many of whom traveled West with him from Illinois. The Ant was charged with the homicide, but had the case thrown out before trial.

May 12, 1975 – Mob associate and Caesars Palace casino pit boss Marty Buccieri is shot to death for demanding a finder’s fee for helping broker financing for casino executive Allen Glick’s Argent Corp. (owners of The Stardust, The Hacienda, The Fremont and The Marina) via contacts in the Chicago and Milwaukee mafia syndicates. Buccieri was a cousin of Chicago mafia capo Fiore (Fifi) Buccieri and his brother Frank (The Horse) Buccieri, the Outfit’s liaison to Milwaukee’s Balestrieri crime family.

November 9, 1975 – Casino investor Tamara Rand, one of Allen Glick’s partners who was threatening to sue him for blocking purchase of more shares in Argent, is killed inside her San Diego home. In Casino, the character based on Rand was called Anna Scott.

August 1, 1976 – Mob associate Jay Vandermark, the point man in charge of the skim operation on the floor of The Stardust, disappears upon being sought for questioning by the feds in a theft and hidden ownership probe. The FBI raided The Stardust in May 1976, the same month Vandermark bolted town for Arizona. Vandermark was the slot supervisor at The Stardust and last seen alive in Phoenix with members of the Spilotro’s Arizona crew. He’s believed to have been murdered in Mexico to prevent him from giving the mob up to save himself and his son. Vandermark’s name is changed to John Nance in the movie Casino and the location of his murder moved from Mexico to Costa Rica. Nance ending up in a swimming pool in the script was taken from a real mob hit committed by the Spilotro crew three years later.

August 18, 1976 — Mob associate John (Johnny Pappas) Panagiotakos vanishes on his way to a meeting at Jo Jo’s Restaurant. Pappas’ abandoned car was found three days later in the parking structure attached to Circus Circus casino. The Chitown transplant managed a Lake Meade resort property controlled by the Outfit and had connections to Outfit fixer Gus (Slim) Alex.

October 8, 1976 – MGM Grand casino baccarat dealer Peter Bufala is slain in his driveway.

November 21, 1976 – Mob associate and bookie Gerald (Fat Jerry) Delman, who ran Saratoga Race & Sportsbook for Spilotro in Downtown Vegas, is murdered. Delman had worked for Spilotro back in Chicago and handled gambling affairs for The Ant in Indianapolis.

December 15, 1976 – Mob associate and drug dealer Rick Manzie is found shot to death inside the Las Vegas mansion he shared with his wife, singer and actress Barbara McNair. Manzie, a Chicago native, was close friends with Tony Spilotro and Spilotro is caught on an FBI wire in the months that followed vowing revenge on the killers. Others believe, it was all a ruse, and Spilotro killed Manzie himself.

April 23, 1977 – Jeff Vandermark, the drug junkie son of Jay Vandermark, is bludgeoned to death inside his Las Vegas apartment. The younger Vandermark’s addiction is referenced in the John Nance storyline in Casino.

February 24, 1977 – Las Vegas labor union leader and mob associate Al Bramlet is kidnapped and murdered by Tom Hanley and his son Gramby for refusing to pay them for bombings they did for him. Bramlet was president of Nevada’s AFL-CIO and the secretary-treasurer of the Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union Local 226. He was taken from the airport at gunpoint and then killed execution style in the desert. Spilotro held influence with Bramlet.

July 24, 1977 – The Park Ridge Massacre: Chicago Outfit associates Joe LaRose, John Viache, Malcom Russell and Don Marchbanks are killed execution style in their offices in Park Ridge, Illinois. The four men were partners in a alarm company being used by the mob to wash Las Vegas skim money and suspected of trying to swindle some for themselves.

June 17, 1979 — West Coast sports promotor and agent Vic Weiss is found murdered in a North Hollywood hotel parking lot, hogtied, shot twice in the back of the head and stuffed in the trunk of his Rolls Royce. Weiss represented “outlaw” UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and was a staple on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1970s, often running in the same circles as Spilotro. At the time of his death, Weiss was negotiating a contract that never came to fruition for Tarkanian to coach the L.A. Lakers. He left a meeting with Lakers ownership on the late afternoon of June 14 and was never seen alive again.

October 11, 1979 – Mob associate and con man Jerry Lisner is shot to death and dumped in his swimming pool by Tony Spilotro’s right-hand man Frank Cullota. Lisner was believed to have been testifying in front of a federal grand jury looking into Spilotro crew activity. Lisner’s murder is shown in Casino, but the character killed was, “John Nance,” based on Jay Vandermark.

June 10, 1980 – Mob associate Frank (Frankie Blue) Bluestein is killed by Las Vegas police during a routine traffic stop on his street in the Sunrise Villas subdivision he lived in when the cops shoot him dead for brandishing a gun while exiting the vehicle with a pizza. Bluestein, the son of labor union power “Stevie Blue” Bluestein, had just moved to town and was working at The Hacienda. Spilotro’s crew took Bluestein’s killing as an act of war and retaliated by shooting up the private residences of the two policemen that opened fire on Frankie Blue and placing murder contracts on their heads. FBI agents visited mob bosses in Chicago to let them know what was going on and how out of control the Spilotro contingent had gotten. Scorsese’s version of events in the film Casino leaves out the part of Frankie Blue having a gun and switches out the pizza for a submarine sandwich. In the movie, the character is called “Bernie Blue,” and was a composite of Bluestein and Spilotro’s bodyguard and boyhood buddy, Herbert (Fat Herbie) Blitzstein.

January 20, 1983 – Mob associate Allen Dorfman, the head of the Teamsters pension fund responsible for building much of Las Vegas via hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, is gunned down in the parking lot of the Lincolnwood Hyatt leaving a lunch meeting. Dorfman was on his way to prison and the Chicago Outfit bosses feared he would flip because he was Jewish, not Italian. The Dorfman character’s name is changed to Andy Stone for the movie Casino and his murder is recreated for the film.

June 14, 1983 — Mob associate Billy (Bahama) Crespo vanished on the verge of testifying against 10 Chicago mafia-affiliated drug dealers and casino executives in federal court. The charges in the case are eventually dropped before trial without Crespo there to take the witness stand. Crespo was nailed smuggling a half-million bucks worth of cocaine on an airplane from Miami to Las Vegas.

January 31, 1986 – Gambler and real estate agent Bobby Ellis is found shot to death in his living room. He was last seen leaving The Palace Station casino two days earlier.

February 20, 1986 – Mob associate and high-roller William (Willie the Watch) Rooney vanishes on a trip to New York City after he took out $40,000 from his gambling account at The Stardust.

June 10, 1986 – Mob associate Emil (Little Mal) Vaci is kidnapped from the parking lot of the Ernesto’s Backstreet bistro he worked at in Phoenix, Arizona, shot to death and dumped in a ditch on the East Side of the city. Vaci was a member of Spilotro’s Arizona crew at the time of his slaying and had once been a part of The Ant’s Las Vegas crew, working as a pit boss at The Stardust and helping Jay Vandermark operate the Skim.

June 14, 1986 – Mob crew boss Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit’s man in Las Vegas, and his little brother Mickey Spilotro are stomped and strangled to death inside a Chicago basement for insubordination. Their bodies are discovered a week later in a Northwest Indiana cornfield. The movie Casino shows the gruesome double murder taking place in a cornfield, not in a mobster’s basement. The power hungry Spilotro had been openly discussing killing his way to the top of The Outfit.

September 14, 1986 – Chicago mob enforcer Giovanni (Big John) Fecoratta is slain for botching the Spilotro brothers’ burial, shot in the back of the head in the vestibule of W. Belmont Avenue bingo hall. The crew Fecoratta used to dispose of the Spilotros bodies got spooked and lost in the Indiana cornfields they were getting rid of the bodies in, leaving a half-dug grave which was quickly discovered.

January 6, 1997 – Mob associate Herbert (Fat Herbie) Blitzstein is gunned down in his Las Vegas home in a hostile takeover of his rackets by the L.A. and Buffalo mobs. Blitzstein was Spilotro’s boyhood pal from Chicago and bodyguard in Vegas during his reign of terror. Blitzstein was portrayed in the movie Casino as the composite character “Bernie Blue,” based on him and Frank (Frankie Blue) Bluestein.

The Duke Of Roxbury & The Downfall Of His Criminal Empire: Campbell Brothers’ Run As Bosses Of Boston’s Black Mob Ended In ’82

May 8, 2022 — The end of the Campbell brothers’ reign atop Boston’s African-American rackets came with Alvin (Duke) Campbell’s fall 1982 bust for drugs and weapons after a raid of his Roxbury apartment. At the time of his Thanksgiving-week arrest, the then-48 year old Campbell was considered a person of interest in at least three gangland homicides. He did eight years in prison on the narcotics and gun case and was released in 1990.

Duke Campbell and his younger brother Arnold (Little Arnie) Campbell were the top dogs in the Roxbury drug game from the late 1960s until the ’82 case that swept them off the street for a final time and laid the foundation for the area’s crack explosion in the coming years. Former bank robbers, the Campbells were considered a self-contained wing of the Boston Irish mob, known locally as the Winter Hill Gang and led by James (Whitey) Bulger. The Campbell brothers and Bulger met when they were all locked up together in a federal correctional facility.

Bulger’s enforcers ridded the Campbells of problems in the form of pimp and mob associate John (Jackie Touch) Banno and Roxbury gangster Ron (Cadillac Ronnie) Hicks. Banno, who was backing a play by out-of-towners to encroach on the Campbells’ turf, was stabbed to death in 1968 and Hicks, slated to be the star witness at an upcoming Campbell brothers’ trial for a Roxbury triple murder, referred to as the Blue Hill Avenue Massacre, was shot to death and stuffed into the trunk of his Cadillac Fleetwood in March 1969. Three months later, with no Hicks to take the stand and point the finger at them, the Campbells were both acquitted in the Blue Hill Avenue Massacre trial in state court.

The following year in 1970, the Campbells and their No. 1 lieutenant Dennis (Deke) Chandler were convicted on federal narcotics charges and sentenced to 20 years behind bars, but did just five. Chandler, also a co-defendant of the Campbell brothers in the Blue Hill Avenue Massacre case, was shot to death on the porch of his Roxbury home in November 1977 in a dustup over a female.

The 1982 case was five months in the making and a coordinated effort by the Massachusetts State Police and the DEA. On Tuesday, November 24, 1982, two days before Thanksgiving, feds and BPD hit the door at Duke Campbell’s apartment and found five guns, four silencers and a small amount of cocaine. They discovered newspaper clippings chronicling a spate of east coast gangland murders that had occurred over the past three years, including the September 1981 slaying of Connecticut mob power Frank (Frankie Cigars) Piccolo, a caporegime in New York’s Gambino crime family, and the August 1982 killing of Boston businessman John Callahan, who was in bed with the Winter Hill Gang in a World Jai Lai organization embezzlement scam.

If they are alive today, Alvin Campbell would be 88 and Arnold Campbell 87 years old. Whitey Bulger, outed as an FBI informant, was murdered in prison in 2018.

Temperature’s Rising In Tennessee: Outlaws & Pagan’s MCs See More Violence Erupt As Pagan’s Continue ‘Blue Wave’ Push

May 7, 2022 — The Outlaws Motorcycle Club’s Ken (Big Lee) Burgett died in a shootout with Pagan’s Motorcycle Club member Patrick Petty in the parking lot of Hatmaker’s Bar & Grill in Knoxville, Tennessee last week. Members of the Outlaws and Pagan’s began shooting at each other after words were exchanged inside the tavern.

The Outlaws and The Pagan’s have been clashing lately due to the Pagan’s Blue Wave expansion plan ignited in recent years, seeing Pagan’s flags being planted in various parts of the United States once solely Outlaws or Hells Angels territory. The Outlaws are traditionally Midwest based with a strong foothold in the South. The Pagan’s powerbase is in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

Burgett was 46. Petty was 30. The so-called Blue Wave began in earnest in 2018. Just last year in Oklahoma, the Outlaws and Pagan’s tussled in a freeway shooting leaving Pagan’s member Danny Aaron, a U.S. Marine Corps vet, dead on the pavement. Oklahoma Outlaws MC boss Virgil (Arlo) Nelson has pleaded not guilty in the Aaron homicide and is awaiting trial on the charges along with three co-defendants.

The Jimmy Limoli Murder: Vinnie Ferrara’s Role In Boston’s ’85 North End Mafia Slaying Still A Mystery

May 7, 2022 — Reputed Boston mob figure Vinnie (The Animal) Ferrara is back under the microscope these days, as state authorities in Massachusetts deep dive his finances, among other things, in an organized crime probe. This week, Ferrara, 73, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court for the return of $268,000 seized by Massachusetts State Police from a pair of Ferrara’s bank accounts last September without giving a reason why.

Ferrara, who once ran the North End as a caporegime in the Patriarca crime family until he was busted in a 1990 RICO case, came out of prison in 2005 after a murder count from the case was thrown out of court. That murder count was related to the 1985 gangland homicide of Ferrara’s driver and friend, Jimmy Limoli, a crime Ferrara pleaded guilty to ordering under false pretenses.

Through federal court records, Massachusetts State Police reports and FBI informant documents, Gangster Report looks back on the Limoli slaying:

The 25-year old Limoli was gunned down in Boston’s North End on October 28, 1985 for ripping off local mobsters in a series of cocaine deals. Limoli worked for Ferrara overseeing an illegal fireworks business and sometimes acting as Vinnie the Animal’s driver and bodyguard. That September, Limoli stole a bag containing $50,000 in cash and $100,000 in cocaine from then Boston mob soldier Anthony (Spucky) Spagnolo. It proved a fatal mistake.

Per court records, Limoli was called to meetings with Boston mob capo Sam (Sammy Granite) Granito and future Patriarca crime family boss Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme, home on a furlough from state prison, to account for his actions. Spagnolo would also eventually rise to boss of the organization. Limoli was in a beef with Cadillac Frank’s son at the time. On October 17, 1985, Limoli attended a sit-down in a North End alleyway with Ferrara, Spucky Spagnolo, Cadillac Frank Salemme, Francis (Frankie Boy) Salemme, Jr. and Donato (Smiling Danny) Angiulo.

Salemme, Jr. and Limoli were dating sisters and Limoli claimed he thought he was stealing from Salemme, Jr., not Spagnolo. Danny Angiulo was Ferrara’s mentor in the mob and a capo in the North End. Limoli refused to admit he lifted Spagnolo’s stash until Cadillac Frank let him know Frankie Boy’s girlfriend saw the bag at her sister’s house.

After copping to the misdeed, Limoli was instructed to return the coke and cash to Spagnolo immediately and told all was forgiven.

“I should whack you right here, but we’ll go on from here and leave it behind us,” Ferrara allegedly told Limoli.

Some people, including Limoli himself, didn’t believe all was forgiven. Limoli told his girlfriend that he thought the Patriarca crime family was going to kill him.

Who gave the order remains a question in dispute to this very day.

Limoli was called to a purported drug deal with fellow Ferrara crew members Patsy Barone and Walter (Fats) Jordan on the night of October 28, 1985 at D’Amore’s Ristorante in the North End. Limoli didn’t think they were the ones tasked with killing him, so he intended to rip them off.

Barone and Jordan picked up Limoli from D’Amore’s in Jordan’s car at around 10:15 p.m. They stopped in front of a cemetery at Hull and Snowhill and got out of the car. Barone shot Limoli in the back of the head, grabbed what he thought was a bag of money (but was in actuality a sack filled with napkins) and fled on foot.

When he looked in the bag mid-flight and realized Limoli had been trying to burn him, he returned to the limp body sprawled on the pavement.

“Why, Jimmy?” he allegedly screamed as he emptied the rest of his clip into Limoli’s face.

Fats Jordan became a government witness. Barone and Ferrara both pleaded guilty to their roles in the Limoli hit, but had their convictions tossed for prosecutorial misconduct because the U.S. Attorneys’ Office failed to notify defense counsel that Jordan was recanting his statements related to the Limoli’s homicide. While Jordan originally told the FBI that Vinnie the Animal gave the order to kill Limoli, he later said Ferrara was protecting Limoli and planning on killing him and Barone for whacking Limoli without permission.

Per FBI records, Limoli aided Ferrara in carrying out more than one mob-related murder in the North End during the 1970s when Vinnie the Animal was on the come-up under the Angiulo brothers. Ferrara took over the Angiulos’ territory after they were imprisoned in the mid-1980s.

Cadillac Frank Salemme became boss of the New England mafia in 1990 in the wake of opposition from Ferrara and the crime family’s East Boston faction and a federal indictment that swept Ferrara and the other combatants off the street paving the way for Salemme to take the throne. The Salemme regime lasted until 1996. While locked up on racketeering charges himself in the latter half of the decade, Salemme flipped and entered the Witness Protection Program prior to being arrested and imprisoned for a final time six years ago for the May 1993 murder of Boston nightclub owner Stevie DiSarro.

DiSarro’s bones were dug up in Providence back in the spring of 2016 on a tip from a whole marijuana dealer who owned the property and had helped bury the body. Frankie Boy Salemme strangled DiSarro to death at his father’s suburban Boston home as his father watched on for the belief that DiSarro, a partner of both Salemmes in a South Boston rock club turned strip joint, was cooperating with the FBI and IRS. The younger Salemme died of AIDS-related cancer in 1995.