Chicago underworld’s ‘Big Tomato’ comes home after over two decades behind bars
Louis (Louie Tomatoes) Marino is back in the Windy City.
Last month, Marino, a grizzled Illinois mob veteran and hit man in the Outfit’s Cicero crew, was moved to a halfway house in downtown Chicago, following almost 25 years locked up on a wide-sweeping 1990 racketeering bust that took down a batch of high-ranking Cicero-based mobsters.
Nicknamed Louie Tomatoes because of his ownership of a tomato-canning company, Marino will be released from the halfway house on November 2.
Set to return to his old stomping grounds before Thanksgiving, he carries quite the reputation for instilling fear in the community and within the Chicago mafia itself. He just turned 82 years old and has been implicated in participating in two of the city’s most-storied gangland hits of all-time.
Spending the early part of his underworld career acting as a driver and bodyguard for Cicero capo Ernest (Rocky) Infelise, Marino and his goombata running buddy, Salvatore (Solly D) DeLaurentis, were “made” in the 1980s and assigned by Infelise to assume command of the Chicagoland’s Northwest suburbs.
“We’re taking over Lake County,” Marino was recorded telling an associate of his and DeLaurentis’ intention of grabbing control of the rackets being given up by the retiring Joseph (Black Joe) Amato.
Marino’s ferocity in his collection methods are legendary on the Windy City streets.
In 1981, a knife-wielding Louie Tomatoes was picked up by an FBI wire, delivering this choice nugget of intimidation to a man who owed Marino and DeLaurentis $12,000 on a juice loan.
Sliding into the booth at a local restaurant, next to DeLaurentis and across from his mark, Marino asked Solly D “Does he got the cash?”
“He ain’t got a thing,” DeLaurentis informed his partner in crime, leading to Louie Tomatoes jumping over the table and jabbing his blade into the debtor’s chest.
“You motherfucker, I should give it to you right here you dirty cocksucker,” Marino screamed. “Do what you gotta do, sell your jewelry, I want every mother fucking thing you got. I want my money, I don’t care where you find it. Rob a bank, knock off a liquor store. I want my money, I want it now, I want it tonight. You hear me? This is serious shit. And if you think I ain’t capable think again. I’m gonna to be at your doorstep tonight. I’m gonna to be at your motherfucking bedside every morning you wake up. I’ll take the whole place (his house) apart. You got nowhere to fucking hide. Make right on this or you’re in big fucking trouble.”
The following year in 1982, accompanied by his protégé, Michael (A-1 Mike) Zitello, Louie Tomatoes famously hung a debtor of his over a balcony at the Chicago Board of Trade, threatening to kill him if he didn’t ante up what he owed in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers.
Although not charged in the massive 2005 Family Secrets indictment, Marino was named by turncoat and former Outfit hit man Nicholas (Nicky Slim) Calabrese as one of seven assassins that beat and strangled the Chicago mob’s Las Vegas crew boss, Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro and his little brother, Michael, to death in June 1986.
The Spilotro brothers’ double-murder was reenacted in the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie, Casino, with actor Joe Pesci portraying the character based on the wild card, power-hungry, Tony the Ant.
Marino’s involvement in the gory twin slayings was speculated upon immediately by members of law enforcement. Snitches mentioned him as a possible “doer” right off the bat, according to multiple FBI agents that worked the case. Observed by an FBI surveillance team attending a meeting with Chicago don Joe Ferriola the day after the Spilotros hit at the funeral of popular Outfit soldier Anthony (Bucky) Ortenzi, he was quickly tabbed a “person of interest” in the investigation.
That Labor Day weekend Marino returned home early from a trip to Wisconsin with his family to find FBI agents in the process of putting his Cadillac El Dorado back in his garage following an unsuccessful attempt to bug it. Louie Tomatoes went on to successfully sue the federal government for the damage his car endured (a number of holes were drilled in the interior of the vehicle and the radio was dismantled).
Brought down in the “Good Ship Lollipop” case of 1990, Marino was convicted of racketeering, specifically looking after gambling and loansharking affairs on behalf of Infelise and the Cicero crew at a 1992 trial.
Within the indictment, he was charged with, but never convicted of the gruesome 1985 murder of independent bookmaker Hal Smith. Police found a pair of glasses belonging to Marino and a cigar with his fingerprints on it in Smith’s car, the same vehicle that Smith’s strangled, mutilated corpse was discovered in, his throat cut, in the parking lot of an Arlington Heights hotel.
Mob associate and DeLaurentis’ former driver, William (B.J.) Jahoda, fingered Marino as directly taking part in Smith’s torture and murder. Smith, flamboyant and wealthy, was killed for his indignant behavior, refusal to bow to Outfit demands and the suspicion that he was informing on the Cicero crew (called “The Good Ship Lollipop”) trying to shake him down.
Jahoda testified at trial that at Infelise’s behest he drove Smith to his own house, where he witnessed Marino, Infelise, Robert (Bobby the Boxer) Salerno and Robert (Bobby the Gabeet) Bellavia, converge on him and begin pummeling him to the ground. Instructed to wait outside as his mob superiors finished the job, Jahoda was greeted by a blood-spattered kitchen floor when he was finally allowed to return to his residence. A week after Smith was found in his trunk, Infelise told him that Ferriola sent his “thanks for help with that whole Smith thing.”
The mastermind behind a multi-million dollar a year sports betting and money laundering business in the ritzy Chicago suburbs, Smith feuded with DeLaurentis and Marino, upon the imposing tandem, first, demanding that he pay a street tax and then after he started paying, demanding more.
Jahoda was present at a dinner meeting between Smith and the pair in late 1984 which erupted in a shouting match, having Smith hurl ethnic slurs at Solly D and Louie Tomatoes and DeLaurentis chillingly predict that the high-profile 48-year old Prospect Heights resident was about to become “trunk music.” In the days after the encounter, Smith reportedly told people, “Fuck those little guineas,” referencing his war or words with the two Mafiosi.
Jurors hung on the murder charges against DeLaurentis and Marino, while Infelise, Salerno and Bellavia were each nailed on the Smith slaying and hit with life prison sentences (with parole). Rocky Infelise died in 2005. Salerno won’t be eligible for parole for another decade. Bellavia, on the other hand, will be coming out in 2016.
Delaurentis was released in 2006 and reassumed his post as crew leader of Lake County, a de-facto consigliere of sorts to current Cicero capo James (Jimmy I) Indendino and the Outfit administration in general in this time of syndicate transition at the top.
Most mob watchers in the Windy City predict Marino will probably, in spite of his old age, get back in the rackets at some capacity, taking a seat next to his longtime friend, Solly D, and his son, Dino, a button-man and believed to be one of DeLaurentis’ main proxies.
“Louie Marino always meant business, he was a street guy, constantly out and about, throwing his weight around,” retired FBI agent Jim Wagner said. “He’s got the Outfit in his DNA, a stone-cold gangster.”