Home Blog Page 362

Mafia Hit List – Top Las Vegas Mob Murders

SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’

Top 5 Las Vegas Mob Murders of All-Time

1 Bill Coulthard – In an epic clash of wills, Coulthard, a retired FBI agent and Las Vegas land-owner, lost out to Benny Binion, the infamous casino mogul crossed with a cowboy and a crime boss, and was blown up in his car at his Clark County office parking garage on July 25, 1972. As a young man, Benny “The Cowboy” Binion made his name in the underworld and the business world in Texas, before relocating to Nevada and helping build the gambling and entertainment mecca that Las Vegas is today. His flagship casino was The Horseshoe, which resided on property in the Glitter Gulch district he personally spearheaded the development of, and was owned by Coulthard, the head agent in the city’s inaugural FBI outpost. When Binion’s lease was up in the early 1970s, Coulthard refused to renew it and it most likely cost him his life. Binion was considered the top suspect in the hit, but never formally charged.

2 “The Ant Hill Hits” – From practically the second diminutive, yet deadly Chicago mobster Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro stepped foot in Las Vegas in the spring of 1971, tapped to look after the Outfit’s interests on The Strip, bodies began dropping. His rise up the proverbial mountain to becoming the city’s only genuine “mob boss” in history was a blood-soaked one. In the Ant’s first six months on the scene, he was looked into by police for his role in six homicides. Over the next three years of Spilotro’s decade and a half reign of terror in the desert, there were more murders in the city limits than there had been the previous 25 combined. Transplanted Chicago mafia associates Jerry Delman, Marty Bucceri and Rick Manzi as well as casino pit boss Joseph (Red) Klimm were just some of the slayings Spilotro is thought to have ordered or taken part himself in that period. Spilotro himself met a heinous fate, stomped and strangled to death in a Chicago basement for his out-of-control behavior in the desert. Las Vegas’ Spilotro Era was the subject of the 1995 Scorsese gangster movie classic “Casino”, starring Oscar-winner Joe Pesci as the vicious and vibrant Tony the Ant.

3 Herbert (Fat Herbie) Blitzstein – Tony the Ant Spilotro’s behemoth and garish former bodyguard and henchman, Fat Herbie was killed on January 6, 1997 at his house in Las Vegas, the conclusion of an attempted hostile takeover of his independent rackets orchestrated in tandem between the L.A and Buffalo mafia families. Several members of both syndicates were implicated and/or charged in the slaying that took place after the mammoth Jewish gangster returned to his residence from work at his auto repair shop by two waiting gunmen. A childhood friend of Spilotro’s from their days growing up in the Windy City, Blitzstein was a member of the Ant’s prolific and high-profile burglary troop known in the Nevada press as “The Hole In The Wall Gang.”

4 Al Bramlet – Violent labor leader, mob associate and longtime president of Local 226 in the Culinary Worker’s Union, one of the nation’s largest and most powerful, Bramlet was killed on February 22, 1977, after being kidnapped, ripped off for $10,000 and executed in the Nevada desert. The culprits were Thomas and Gramby Hanley, a father-and-son set of Las Vegas underworld enforcers, who were angry at Bramlet for him stiffing them on payment for an attempted restaurant bombing that was foiled. Bramlet was notorious for unleashing bombing campaigns on eateries on that refused to unionize under the thumb of Local 226. The Hanleys were convicted of the murder and both sentenced to life in prison

5 Marvin Shumate – Small-time Las Vegas hood and cab driver that plotted to kidnap Benny Binion’s son, Ted, but before he could he was discovered on the morning of December 2, 1967 in the outskirts of the desert, less than a mile from the Strip with a shotgun blast to his chest and a revolver bullet-tap to the head. Shumate unwisely chose to bring another local criminal into his plot and that person is believed to have tipped-off Binion to his plan. Much like the Coulthard murder five years later, Binion was looked at as the prime suspect in the crime, however was able to avoid being charged for it. Benny Binion died of heart failure, a free man and multi-millionaire several times over, in 1989. Ted Binion would die mysteriously in Las Vegas in 1998, his girlfriend and a lover of her’s charged, convicted and then acquitted at a second trial.

Honorable Mention: Tamara Rand & Gus Greenspan and his wife – neither were killed in LV, Rand took out in California and the Greenspans in Arizona – but both hit were heavily connected to syndicate affairs, (Frankie Blue) Bluestein – accidentially killed by Las Vegas PD in the famous “Hoagie Sandwich Homicide” depicted on the big screen in Casino, Sherwin Lisner – killed by Spilotro’s right-hand man Frank Cullotta

Mafia Hit List – Top Springfield (MA) Mob Murders

SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’

Top 5 Springfield (MA) Mob Murders of All-Time

1 Adolfo (Big Al) Bruno – High-profile Springfield mobster that ran the Genovese Family’s rackets in Western Massachusetts and was a fixture in the local media for decades, Bruno was slain on November 23, 2003 while walking out of a weekly Sunday card game at his Our Lady of Mount Carmel Social Club by hit man Frankie Roche, hired by Bruno’s protégé Anthony (Bingy) Arrilotta. With growing anti-Bruno sentiment bubbling around the Genovese syndicate, Arrioltta took advantage and convinced the bosses in New York that his mentor should be removed, accusing him of cooperating with the FBI, and that he should take his place as capo of the region. Big Al was gregarious and camera-friendly, known for his loud wardrobe, jumbo cigars and a seemingly constant giant smile plastered across his face, whether facing attempted murder charges (which he did and beat in the 1990s) or out on the town, which he was frequently. Arrilotta turned government witness a few years later and gave up Roche as the shooter in the Bruno hit. Roche in turn joined Arrilotta on Team America and testified against the other co-conspirators in the murder plot, including Genovese street boss Arthur (Little Artie) Nigro, each of whom were convicted.

2 Joe Fiore – Springfield’s unofficial first modern-day mob don, Fiore married two-time Godfather’s widow, Pasqualina Sinischalini and inherited her past two husband’s robust bootlegging and racketeering empire, until he was shot dead on June 8, 1933. The year before Sinischalini, who lost her husband, Carlo Sinischalini, the city’s early-Prohibition underworld leader in a 1920 underworld coup and then saw his predecessor and her second husband Antonio Miranda die of blood poisoning, was killed gangland-style herself on November 12, 1932. The drive-by shooting that killed the lady mafia muse that was thought to be dabbling too much in the rackets for the liking of her male counterparts, wounded Fiore, himself a convicted attempted murderer and someone once arrested for stabbing a cop.

3 Antonio Facente – Ferocious wiseguy and mob hit man that was killed on March 29, 1979, two years following him being sprung from behind bars when he won a new trial on an initial headline-grabbing 1972 conviction for the gangland slaying of a Springfield business order that owed him money. Facente’s trussed, diaper-wearing corpse was found in the trunk of his Chrysler Cordoba in an area parking lot, tortured and shot six times. Informants told police in the aftermath of the murder, a young and up-and-coming Big Al Bruno boasted of carrying out the grisly slaying.

4 Victor DeCaro – The gangster son-in-law of then-Springfield Genovese captain, Francis (Frankie Skyball) Scibelli, DeCaro disappeared from his Agawam Lounge headquarters, his bound, battered and bullet-strewn corpse eventually discovered in the Connecticut River on July 3, 1972. Massachusetts State Police records indicate that Scibelli continually warned DeCaro about cheating on his daughter with the wife of another gangster to no avail and was forced to issue the contract at the orders of his mafia superiors in New York.

5 Gary Westerman – In the weeks leading up to Big Al Bruno’s murder, his protégé-turned-enemy Anthony (Bingy) Arrilotta did a little warm-up work, bludgeoning his brother-in-law and mob associate Gary Westerman to death on November 11, 2003 inside his Springfield home alongside fellow mobsters Emilio Fusco and the Geas brothers (Ty and Freddy). A convicted cocaine dealer and police informant, Westerman’s body wasn’t found until 2010 when Arillotta began working for the government.

Mafia Hit List – Top New England Mob Murders

SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’

Top 5 New England Mob Murders of All-Time

1 William (Billy the Wild Man) Grasso – The volatile underboss of the New England mafia, Grasso was the victim of a power play and the first body to drop in a five-year mob war that tore across Massachusetts and Connecticut in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Grasso, who headquartered out of New Haven, was killed on June 16, 1989 by Boston” button man” Gaetano Milano as they drove in a van on a local expressway, shot in the head, his body tossed in a local riverbed. Known for a bloodthirsty and unstable demeanor, the Wild Man sided with boss Raymond Patriarca, Jr. and future don Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme in the conflict that saw capos, Joseph (J.R.) Russo and Vincent (Vinnie the Animal) Ferrara, try to wrestle control of the crime family for themselves. Russo, soon promoted to consigliere as a conciliatory gesture, organized a time-coordinated hit, where hit teams were sent to whack Grasso and Salemme on the same afternoon. Salemme, recently released from prison at that point after serving 17 years for a car bombing, survived nine gun-shot wounds in an attack that took place in the parking lot of a suburban Boston International House of Pancakes.

2 The “Connecticut Capos Murders” – Legendary Genovese Family Connecticut captain Salvatore (Midge) Annunziato and longtime Connecticut-based Colombo captain Ralph (Whitey) Tropiano were both killed within the same year period between 1979 and 1980, victims of changing times in the East Coast underworld and the aspirations of complete statewide mafia dominance harbored by up-and-coming Patriarca Family mobster Billy Grasso: Annunziato, 61, disappeared on June 19, 1979, never to be seen again after getting into a car at his East Haven home chauffeured by his lieutenant Thomas (Tommy the Blonde) Vastano – clipped himself months later. The following year, on April 3, 1980, Tropiano, Grasso’s mentor, a former member of Murder Inc. and a suspect in taking part in literally dozens of murders in his lengthy gangland career, was slain by gunmen jumping out of a car on a corner in Brooklyn when the 67-year old underworld chieftain was crossing the street.

3 The Marfeo Brothers Murders – A pair of insubordinate Providence bookmakers, both gangster brethren engaged in a bitter feud with New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca, costing them their lives. Willie Marfeo outright refused to pay tribute to Patriarca, cursed him and assaulted Patriarca’s consigliere, Henry (The Referee) Tameleo when he came to discuss the issue, which led to him being shot-gunned to death on July 13, 1966 in a phone booth at the Korner Kitchen Restaurant in the city’s famous Federal Hill neighborhood. Less than two years later, in the midst of trying to avenge his brother’s death, Rudy Marfeo and his buddy, Anthony Melei were killed inside a Providence grocery store on April 7, 1968 by Patriarca-dispensed hood John (Red) Kelley. Patriarca was convicted in connection with both slayings, although his conviction in the Rudy Marfeo-Anthony Melei hits were eventually overturned when it was discovered Kelly perjured himself at trial and the FBI knew about it and covered it up.

4 Richard (Richie the Hatchet) Devlin – Tough-as-nails Irishman and the primary enforcer for Cadillac Frank Salemme when he took power as boss in 1991 and began his reign of terror avenging his assassination attempt two years prior, was found shot in the back of the head behind the wheel of his Buick Skylark in a Providence parking lot on March 31, 1994. Devlin, a suspect in several of the gangland slayings related to the New England mob war he lost his life as a part of, was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was killed. He acquired the ominous nickname “The Hatchet,” due to a manslaughter conviction he took in the 1970s where the victim’s headless, handless and hatchet-impaled corpse was discovered floating in Boston’s Dorchester Bay. While imprisoned in Walpole State Prison, Devlin was considered the top suspect in the stabbing death of Albert DiSalvo, better known as “The Boston Strangler.”

5 Kevin Hanrahan – High-profile Patriarca Family strong arm and hit man, the feisty and dangerous Irish-born Hanrahan was killed by gunmen on Atwells Avenue in the heart of Providence’s historic Federal Hill “Little Italy” on the evening of September 18, 1992. Hanrahan was allied with Cadillac Frank Salemme in the New England mob war and shot four times in the face at point-blank range moments after leaving a dinner at a nearby eatery in the middle of the incendiary dispute that would last for another two years.

Honorable Mention: Frank Piccolo, Ralph Mele, Raymond (Baby Ray) Curcio & Robert Candos hit, Arthur “Tash”, Bratsos & Tommy De Prisco “Nite-Lite Diner hit”, John (Johnny Slew) Palmieri, Thomas (Tommy the Blonde) Vastano, Thomas (Tommy the Enforcer) De Brizzi, Raymond (Slick) Vecchio

Mafia Hit List – Top Boston Mob Murders

SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’

Top 5 Boston Mob Murders of All-Time

1 Joseph (Joe the Animal) Barboza – A famed and incredibly-feared hit man and enforcer for the New England mafia, Barboza was killed walking to his car outside his Bay Area apartment while in hiding in San Fransisco on February 11, 1976. It has been long-rumored that he was shot-gunned to death by Eastside Boston gangster Joseph (J.R.) Russo, dispatched from Massachusetts to clip the “cowboy” Portuguese strong arm who testified against his mob superiors – most notably crime family namesake, Raymond Patriarca – in court years earlier. Joe the Animal was the first person to ever enter the Federal Witness Protection Program and lived under another identity (Joe Donati) in California for several years, interspersed with a four-year prison sentence for a murder he committed in the Program, prior to being tracked down via an associate of his who contacted Patriarca underboss Jerry Angiulo and divulged Barboza’s whereabouts, setting him up for his pending slaughter.

2 Teddy Deegan – Probably the most infamous mob murder that actually took place in the Boston area, Deegan, a small-time hood that ripped off a mafia-backed bookie for $40,000, was found shot to death in a Chelsea, Massachusetts alley on March 12, 1965. Deegan’s slaying is historically significant more for its aftermath than the actual hit itself. After Joe The Animal Barboza flipped in 1967, he implicated fellow Boston mobsters Louie Greco, Peter (The Crazy Horse) Limone, Henry (The Referee) Tameleo and Joseph (Joe the Horse) Salvatti in killing Deegan, with Grecco being the shooter and the other three helping orchestrate the homicide. Thirty years after the four Mafiosi were convicted and sentenced to death (none carried out), they were all exonerated when it came out that Barboza had lied about their roles to protect himself and his buddy and fellow muscle-for-hire Vincent (Jimmy the Bear) Flemmi, the real culprits in the hit, and the FBI knew about it and covered it up. Tameleo, New England Godfather Raymond Patriarca’s consigliere and Greco, who wasn’t even in the state of Massachusetts at the time the murder occurred, died in prison prior to their exoneration. Limone, thought to be New England’s current reigning mob don, and Salvatti, were released and eventually, along with members of Tameleo’s and Greco’s families, were rewarded over 100 million dollars in punitive damages from the government.

3 The “Consolidation Murders” – Legendary Boston mob don, Phil Buccola (1924-1954), consolidated power for the city’s Italian mafia by ordering the murders of Irish mob chief, Frank Wallace and Jewish Godfather Charles (The King) Solomon in the same 13-month span, assuming complete control of the Beantown underworld for the next 25 years. Wallace was called to a purported sit-down at C.K. Importing Company, the headquarters of Buccola’s underboss Joseph (J.L.) Lombardo and ambushed by gunmen alongside his No. 2 in charge, Bernard (Dodo) Walsh, as they walked through the door. Solomon was gunned down in the bathroom of Boston’s Cotton Club on January 24, 1933 by a pair of Wallace’s former Southie lieutenants, at that point employed by Buccola and Lombardo.

4 “The Cadillac Frank Hit Parade” – Following Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme being installed as New England’s Godfather in 1991, he went on a suspected killing spree, reputedly ordering the murders of at least a half-dozen local underworld figures he speculated were part of an offshoot faction of the Boston mob that tried to assassinate him two years prior in a power-grab that came on the heels of his release from prison and meteoric ascension through the ranks. Howard Ferrini (August 16, 1991), Bobby Donati, (September 1991), Barry Lazzerini, (October 3, 1991), Rocco Scali, (October 1992), Vincent Arcieri (December 1992), all showed up dead in the first 16 months of Salemme’s tenure as don.

5 Jimmy Bratsos – A Greek wiseguy that fell out of favor with Boston mob administrators, Bratsos was rubbed out on March 21, 1954, disappearing, never to be heard from or seen again on his way to a meeting with then-up-and-coming North End gangster Larry Zannino. Eventually rising as high as consigliere in the Patriarca Crime Family, the heavily-feared Zannino is alleged to have “made his bones” with the Bratsos’ slaying. Informants told police that Bratsos, whose younger brother would die in similar fashion 12 years later, was shot in the back of the head when he came to meet Zannino at a bar in the Syrian section of Boston (today Chinatown) and then possibly buried at Zannino’s family farm in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Honorable Mention: Stevie DiSaro (1993), Jimmy Limoli (1985)

Jack Tocco Funeral: Detroit Mob Boss Tocco Laid To Rest

Detroit Mafia Godfather Jack Tocco Dead

Motor City mob mourns loss of longtime Godfather, reflects on his legacy

Detroit’s “Last Don” Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco was laid to rest late last week, in a wake and funeral fit for a king.

The nation’s longest-sitting mob boss at the time he died, Tocco passed away from natural causes at age 87 last Monday night and was laid out at Bagnascos-Calcaterra Funeral Home in Macomb County, the same funeral home (different location) that hosted memorial services for his two and only predecessors back in the 1970s. His funeral was held Friday at St. Claire of Monticello Catholic Church and he was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, next to his father, Michigan’s first modern-day Godfather William (Black Bill) Tocco and brother, his recently-deceased consigliere Anthony (Tony T) Tocco.

Crowds packed into the funeral home run by members of the Tocco family, and church to say goodbye to the regal mob dignitary, respected and feared in the underworld and beloved in his community. Alleged street boss Peter (Specs) Tocco, 66, Black Jack’s favorite nephew, greeted mourners at the door. Reputed underboss Anthony (Chicago Tony) La Piana, 70, Tocco’s protégé and nephew via marriage and newly-crowned Detroit mob don Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone, 62, were present helping preside over the precession as well.

Deposed 84-year old capo Frank (Frankie the Bomb) Bommarito’s appearance to pay his respects to the departing don was met by Jackie Giacalone, whose father and deceased Family underboss Billy was the Bomb’s best friend, immediately leaving. Bommarito and the younger Giacalone have been fighting since Billy Jack passed away two and a half years ago.

Detroit Mafia Godfathers
Detroit Mafia family founders Bill Tocco and Joe Zerilli

Not surprisingly, FBI agents peppered the crowd and shot surveillance photos from the across the street, noting those in attendance, just like they did four decades ago when Tocco’s father Black Bill and uncle, Joseph (Joe Uno) Zerilli, died after ruling a near half-century atop the crime syndicate they co-founded unchallenged.

Zerilli and Black Bill Tocco, brother-in-laws and best friends, won the “Crosstown Mob War” at the end of Prohibition and established the Motor City’s LCN branch in 1931, with Tocco serving as boss from 1931-1936 and Zerilli from 1936-1977, even earning a forthcoming seat on the national mafia Commission. Jack Tocco was “acting boss” of the crime family beginning in the early 1970s and was officially anointed the new don on June 11, 1979 at a ceremony at a posh hunting lodge near Ann Arbor.

Black Bill Tocco died of a heart attack in 1972, while Joe Uno held on until 1977 when he died of natural causes after never spending a night in jail. Until the Family’s recent power-shift, seeing Jack Tocco pass the reins to Jackie Giacalone and Tony La Piana, the Detroit mob had always been in the direct-hands of him or his blood relatives.

Bagnascos Funeral Home, the business itself, is entrenched in Detroit mob lore. Founded by Sicilian immigrant and alleged mafia soldier Frank (The Undertaker) Bagnasco at the start of the 20th Century, he was a key lieutenant to Black Bill Tocco and Joe Zerilli when they created what came to be known as the Detroit LCN crime family. Detroit Police Department files indicate Tocco and Zerilli may have even held a piece of silent ownership in the funeral parlor.