Frank P. Balistrieri (May 27, 1918 – February 7, 1993) also known as "Mr. Big", "Frankie Bal", "Mr. Slick", and "Mad Bomber", was a incredibly powerful and influential Mafia boss of the Milwaukee crime family who was a central figure in casino skimming during the 1970s in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Balistrieri was college educated and attended law school for six months. His family immigrated to the United States in 1904 along with the Bompensiero family (Frank Bompensiero would eventually lead the San Diego crew of the Los Angeles crime family). As a young man, he started working for the Milwaukee crime family, which owed allegiance to the extremely powerful Chicago Outfit criminal organization in Chicago. Balistrieri soon built a reputation for arrogance, brutality, cruelty, fearlessness, and ruthlessness. Balistrieri received the "Mad Bomber" nickname because he constantly used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) attached to cars as weapons against his enemies. His father-in-law and Milwaukee boss, John Alioto, was soon grooming Balistrieri as his successor.
In 1961, Alioto retired and Balistrieri took control of the Milwaukee family. By the time Balistrieri succeeded his father-in-law, John Alioto, as the new boss of the Milwaukee LCN family, he had a sizable loan shark book, vast control over illegal sports betting and a tight hold on the vending machine market. Balistrieri eventually referred to himself as, “....the most powerful and dangerous man in Milwaukee.” After the "hit" on an acquaintance, August "Augie" Palmisano, Balistrieri was quoted as saying, "He called me a name - to my face - and now they can't find his skin!". Palmisano, was slain by a car bomb on June 30, 1978. around 1963, Frank Balistrieri quickly developed an astronomical net worth of $1 billion. Due to Frank Balistrieri's unlimited wealth, reach, and power, he was in fact what he referred himself to be, which was "the most powerful and dangerous man in Milwaukee." During Frank Balistrieri's leadership of the Milwaukee crime family, he ruled Milwaukee with an iron fist, and for over three decades he was one of the most powerful and feared crime bosses in America. During his time as boss of the Milwaukee crime family, Frank Balistrieri killed more people with bombs then any mafia boss in American history. It is believed by the FBI, that Balistrieri ordered more than 140 car bombings and house bombings all over Milwaukee, and some in Chicago, and Las Vegas. According to the FBI, During his 25 year regime, Frank Balistrieri ordered the deaths of as many as 1,500 people.
Balistrieri conducted his business at a table at Snug's restaurant in Milwaukee's Shorecrest Hotel, giving orders over a red telephone. In March 1967, Balistrieri was convicted of income tax evasion and was sent to prison for two years. In June 1971, he was released.
In the late 1970s, with his two sons John and Joseph Balistrieri, he worked with Bonanno crime family capo Michael Sabella and once met Bonanno crime family soldier Benjamin Ruggiero and undercover officer Joseph Pistone at his restaurant, Snug's, to discuss a vending machine operation that was brought to Pistone's attention by another undercover FBI agent working with the Milwaukee Mafia, Gail Tyrus Cobb. Ruggiero later admitted to Pistone that he felt threatened while in the presence of Balistrieri. The Bonannos, Milwaukee gangsters and the FBI Agents did reach an agreement over the vending machine rackets. Balistieri, through his sons, made an agreement. His sons, John and Joseph, drew up an agreement which gave Balstrieri overly favorable arrangements and could ultimately give control over the proposed arrangements. Months later, with suspicion looming, Balistrieri cancelled the arrangements and ceased all contact with the Bonanno LCN Family. It was through his sons and their legal expertise that Balistrieri was able to hide controlling interest in many legal businesses.
Casino skimming Edit
On March 20, 1974, Balistrieri met with Kansas City mobsters Nick Civella and Carl DeLuna, in Las Vegas. During the meeting, the mobsters agreed that Balistrieri would meet with the mafia front man in Las Vegas, Allen Glick, to secure an option to purchase part of his Argent Corporation. Glick would agree to sell half of the corporation's ownership to Balistrieri's sons, John Balistrieri and Joseph P. Balistrieri, for $25,000 which, as the mobster later claimed, "...he had an obligation arising from the assistance to Glick in obtaining a pension fund commitment in the amount of $62.75 million."
Soon Balistrieri and Civella were feuding over each other's share from the skimming operations. Finally, they requested arbitration from The Outfit. The results of the arrangement, as ruled by Outfit leader "Joey Doves" Joseph Aiuppa and Underboss John Cerone, demanded that The Outfit receive a 25% tax as its cut in skimming operations. The 1982 car bombing of mob associate and the Stardust Casino's Frank Rosenthal, in Las Vegas, was attributed to Balistrieri.
In September 1983, Balistrieri and his two sons were indicted on charges of skimming over $2 million in unreported income from the Fremont Hotel and Casino and the Stardust. This was the first case in which federal authorities had successfully connected mobsters from four different states. While awaiting sentencing on extortion and bookmaking charges, Balistrieri claimed to be innocent. He even told the press, "The first time I heard the word, 'Mafia,' was when I read it in the newspapers." However, on May 30, 1984, Balistrieri was sentenced to 13 years in prison and fined $30,000. His sons were convicted of extorting a vending machine businessman and each received two years in prison.
In September 1985, Balistrieri was tried in Kansas City, Missouri with eight other associates for skimming an estimated $2 million of the gross income of the Argent Corporation from Syndicate casino operations. Federal prosecutors further accused Balistrieri of skimming the unreported income and distributing it to organized crime figures in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. In failing health, Balistrieri pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy in exchange for dropping federal charges, which included attempting to conceal ownership of a casino to skim profits and interstate travel to aid racketeering. He also attempted to shield his sons from any charges.
In December 1985, Balistrieri was sentenced to 10 years in prison (to run concurrently with his 13-year sentence from 1984). Close to achieving a seat on the ruling Mafia Commission in New York, Balistrieri was thwarted by this prison sentence. According to the Bureau of Prisons, Balistrieri was released from prison in 1991.
Frank Balistrieri died of heart-related natural causes in early 1993. He will be missed.