Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro (May 19, 1938 – June 14, 1986) was an Italian-American mobster and enforcer for the Chicago Outfit in Las Vegas during the 1970s and 1980s. It is generally thought his job was to protect and oversee the Outfit's illegal casino profits, called, the "skim." Spilotro replaced Outfit member Marshall Caifano.
Spilotro was born in Chicago in 1938. He grew up on the city's near west side in an Italian-American neighborhood known as The Patch, an area that saw it's share of young toughs grow up to become members of the Chicago Mob. Spilotro had five brothers, John, Vincent, Pasqule, Victor and Michael, all of whom, with the notable exception of Pasquale, a dentist, became involved with organized crime to varying degrees.
Spiltoro began his life of crime early, amassing a number of arrests as a juvenile. Spilotro was a thief and attracted the attention of mob members quickly. Spilotro served an apprenticeship of sorts under noted mob enforcer and loan shark "Mad" Sam DeStefano. Spilotro also began forging a professional relationship with gambler and bookmaker Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a longime family friend, that would culminate in both men holding important positions overseeing the mob's interests in Las Vegas.
M & M Murders
In 1963 Spilotro participated in what became known as the M&M murders. Burglars Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia (M & M) became targets of the Chicago Mob after committing a shooting in a known mob hangout that resulted in the deaths of two mob associates. Relying on information from Frank Cullotta, (an associate of M&M and a lifelong friend of Anthony Spilotro) McCarthy was snatched off the streets by Spilotro and noted hitmen Charles Nicoletti and Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio. They then proceeded to torture McCarthy to give up the name of his accomplice. After having his head placed in a vise by Spilotro, McCarthy gave up his accomplice Miraglia and was killed, with Miraglia's murder following later on. McCarthy's murder was infamouly recreated in the film Casino. It is believed that Spilotro became a made man as a result of this hit.
"Boss" of Las Vegas
By 1971, Spilotro had become an accomplished gangster and hitman. It was this success, coupled with his friendship with Frank Rosenthal, that caused him to be sent to Las Vegas by the Outfit hierarchy to oversee their interests, mainly the skimming of profits from casinos secretly owned by the mob. Spilotro took it upon himself to increase his role and effectively become the "boss" of Las Vegas, not only overseeing the skim but taking over all organized street crime in Las Vegas. Contrary to popular opinion, Spilotro held no official position as a "boss" or even as a capo in the Chicago Outfit. Spilotro worked under his capo back in Chicago, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.
Over time Spilotro's profile, and the high number of murders that came with it, caused Spilotro to become heavily scrutinized by the authorities not only in Vegas and Chicago, but the FBI as well. Complicating matters was the falling out he had with Frank Rosenthal, caused mainly by an affair Spilotro began with Rosenthal's wife, Geri."
By 1986, the powers that be had grown tired of Spilotro and all the troubles he had caused. In June of 1986, lured under the guise of being promoted within the mob ranks, Spilotro and his brother Michael were murdered. They were beaten and garroted in a basement in the Chicago suburb or Bensenville and were then buried in a cornfield in rural Indiana. Contrary to the portrayal of the murders in the film Casino, they were not beaten with baseball bats nor buried alive.
In Pop Culture
Spilotro remains one of the more interesting figures in Chicago mob history and has been portrayed on film twice. First on the NBC television series Crime Story, and then in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film Casino. In Crime Story, Anthony Dension portrays mobster Ray Luca, a highly fictionalized version of Spilotro. In Casino, Joe Pesci portrays Nicky Santoro, also a fictionalized version but much closer in truth to the real Spilotro.