Legendary Midwest don and Chicago mafia boss Anthony (Tony the Big Tuna) Accardo ordered the bloodletting of an entire Outfit burglary crew almost 40 years ago. The crew of professional thieves he targeted had dared to rob Accardo’s suburban River Forest mansion on January 6, 1978 while Accardo was out of town vacationing in California. Accardo led the Italian mafia in the Windy City in one capacity or another from the 1940s until his death of natural causes in 1992. The burglary crew Accardo wiped out in the late 1970s was headed by John Mendell, an accomplished thief, convicted felon and gangland renegade. Mendell and five of his crew members were executed in less than a three-month span following the audacious break-in. Also falling victim to the Big Tuna’s purge was Accardo’s loose-lipped Sicilian-born houseboy, two hit men who knew too much about the Godfather’s vengeful murder spree and one wiseguy who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

January 15, 1978 – Outfit burglar John Mendell disappears 11 days after leading a break-in of Accardo’s house as payback for Accardo ordering Mendell and his crew to return a giant score from the robbery of a jewelry store they had pulled off in the days before Christmas 1977. The owner of the jewelry store was a friend of Accardo’s and requested the Big Tuna’s aid in retrieving the stolen merchandise. Mendell’s body wasn’t found until February 20, discovered in the trunk of his car on a southside street corner, naked, hogtied, stabbed and strangled to death.

January 20, 1978 – Outfit burglar Bernard (Buddy) Ryan, second-in-command in the Mendell burglary ring, is found behind the wheel of his Lincoln Continental sitting on the side of a west-suburban street with four bullets lodged in the back of his head and his throat slit.

February 2, 1978 – Outfit burglar Stevie Garcia, Ryan’s right-hand man, is found slain in the trunk of his car in a Sheraton Hotel parking lot by O’Hare Airport, stabbed to death with his throat slit.

February 4, 1978 – Outfit burglar and fence Vince Moretti and his buddy Don Renno are beaten to death, their throats slashed, in a Cicero bar in what became known in Chicago mob circles as the “Strangers in the Night Murders,” due to the fact that the song was playing on the bar’s jukebox as Moretti and Renno were being killed. Moretti was an ex-cop and seen wearing Accardo’s monogramed gold, diamond-encrusted cuff links around town in the days after the high-profile heist. While Moretti was a high-ranking member of Mendell’s crew, Renno, a small-time crook, wasn’t and just happened to be with Moretti when he was summoned to be clipped.

April 6, 1978 – Outfit burglar Robert (Bobby Toggs) Hertogs is found in the trunk of his car in a grocery store parking lot on Grand Avenue, shot in the back of the head and his throat slashed. Hertogs was connected to the Mendell crew and had fallen behind on a juice loan.

April 14, 1978 –  Outfit burglar Johnny McDonald, the final Mendell crew member to get bumped off, is found lying dead in a westside alley, shot in the back of the head and his throat cut. McDonald allegedly was forced to set Buddy Ryan up to be killed.

October 5, 1978 – The Accardo residence’s Sicilian caretaker Michael Volpe vanishes on his way to work in the days after testifying too candidly in front of a federal grand jury investigating the string of slayings linked to the break-in.

May 22, 1979 – Outfit lieutenant and hit man Anthony (Little Tony) Borselino is found in a Will County cornfield shot in the back of the head. Borselino was part of the infamous Wild Bunch, a westside troop of assassins dispatched on the Chicago mob’s most pressing murder assignments, and suspected in taking part in a number of the slayings tied to the fallout from the break-in.

September 18, 1979 – Outfit lieutenant and hit man Gerald (Jerry the Dinger) Carusiello is shot in the back of the head and left on the concrete an in Addison, Illinois apartment complex parking lot. Carusiello was a driver and bodyguard for Accardo’s acting boss Joseph (Joey Doves) Aiuppa and suspected in at least one of the fallout slayings.

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  1. Joe S.

    I heard that this robbery/murder was going to be made into a movie. Robert DeNiro was to play Tony Accardo. Have you ever heard about it? Thanks for the great work.