Remembering the iconic roles of cinema’s best gangsters

He might tell you to leave the gun, but be sure to take those cannolis. Richard S. Castellano (September 4, 1933 – December 10, 1988) is most notably remembered as Peter Clemenza, in “The Godfather,” one of Don Corleone’s captains in the Corleone Family. His performance reeked of that real old-school Italian gangster, that wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty, but also stayed loyal to the family that offered him the life of privilege as a mobster in the 1940s.

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Campaign To Reopen Family Secrets Case Derailed, U.S. District Ct. Judge In Chicago Boots Pro Se Motion Filed For Outfit Boss Marcello

August 9, 2022 – Ruling that the movant in the matter has no grounds to interject himself into the proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Blakey tossed the pro se motion in the Operation Family Secrets case that he had originally agreed to hear argued in front of him last week. First, Blakey canceled the hearing back on Friday, but agreed to rule on the motion after digesting the briefs filed on the matter. Then, on Monday, he threw out the entire motion.

The motion was filed by ex-Chicago mob associate and former government witness Chuck Miceli on behalf of the Outfit’s incarcerated boss, James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello, currently serving life in prison from a conviction in the historic case. The hearing had been scheduled for Wednesday August 10. Some of the murders resolved in the Family Secrets case were dramatized in the movie Casino.

The 78-year old Marcello was the No. 1 defendant in the landmark Family Secrets trial back in 2007. Miceli was denied the ability to testify in the trial by retired U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel on the same grounds as Blakey found. His testimony would have refuted the prosecution’s account of a number of murders adjudicated in the case.

Blakey replaced Zagel upon Zagel leaving the bench in 2016. At the time of the widely-covered Family Secrets trial, Miceli, a one-time cop, was in prison down in Florida, serving a 10-year sentence for fraud. Zagel ruled Miceli’s claims unreliable, despite his documented cooperation and verified veracity in past state and federal criminal and corruption probes.

One of the murders Miceli says he can shed fresh light on is the 1974 killing of mob associate turned informant Danny Seifert.

Miceli says he watched on from the backseat of his uncle’s car when he was an eight-year old boy as dirty Chicago Police Department officer Rick Madeja shot Seifert, a future federal witness, to death on the morning of September 27, 1974. Madeja was booted from CPD in 1981 after he got busted selling guns and silencers on the black market. Two of the silencers authorities tied to Madeja’s operation were alleged to be linked to the 1975 assassination of deposed Chicago mob boss Sam (Momo) Giancana and the 1983 attempted murder of South Side Outfit gambling chief Ken (Tokyo Joe) Eto, per sources familiar with the Madeja cooperation agreement.

The Chicago Outfit’s then-consigliere Joey (The Clown) Lombardo was found guilty of heading a hit squad that viciously murdered Seifert, his former business partner, on the grounds of his Bensenville plastics factory in front of his wife and son, Joey, named after Lombardo.

Miceli, 56, alleges that Madeja played a role in Family Secrets more than just being the triggerman in the Seifert homicide. Madeja, today 83 years old, denies the accusations.

The lead prosecutor in the Family Secrets case, the distinguished courtroom terminator Mitch Mars, was the prosecutor on Madeja’s case in 1981 in which Madeja cut a deal to cooperate. Mars died of cancer shortly after capping his celebrated career with convictions across the board in Family Secrets in the fall of 2007.

The Operation Family Secrets case put to bed 18 previously uncharged Chicago mob murders, highlighted by the Seifert and Spilotro hits, stretching back more than three decades. Marcello and Lombardo were the highest profile of the 14 defendants in the case. It was the federal government’s biggest assault against organized crime in the U.S. since the Commission Case in the 1980s that took down the dons of all Five Families in the New York mafia.

Miceli grew up around Lombardo, the Godfather of Grand Avenue and longtime capo of Chicago’s West Side. Seifert was readying to take the stand against Joey the Clown, the legendary Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, the Outfit’s crew boss in Las Vegas, and insurance magnate Allen Dorfman in a Teamsters union pension-fund fraud case where Lombardo, Spilotro and Dorfman were accused of fleecing a work pail-manufacturing business in New Mexico being operated under Seifert’s name. Dorfman was in charge of the pension fund for the Teamsters.

The case was dropped after Seifert’s murder. Spilotro and Dorfman were both slain in mob hits in 1983 and 1986, respectively, that took place in the Chicagoland area and garnered national headlines. Jimmy Marcello was convicted of driving Spilotro and Spilotro’s baby brother Michael, to their slaughter inside a Bensenville basement. He was sentence to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Spilotro brothers were gruesomely beaten, stomped and strangled to death in a double homicide depicted in Casino, Martin Scorsese’s 1995 opus chronicling the real-life mob drama of Tony the Ant’s reign in Vegas. Oscar-winner Joe Pesci portrayed Spilotro in the film.

Marcello became acting boss of the Chicago mob in 2003, according to court records. He hails from the Melrose Park wing of the Cicero crew, per Chicago Crime Commission files. The Bureau of Prisons currently has Marcello locked up in the SuperMax facility in Florence, Colorado, the prison tasked with housing the country’s worst of the worst federal convicts.

Lombardo’s defense attorney, Rick Halprin, failed to notify Lombardo of Miceli’s attempt to testify on his behalf back in 2005 — Joey the Clown was a fugitive of justice at the time. Lombardo didn’t become aware of Miceli’s story until he uncovered it in court records in the final years of his life. According to sources and BOP records, Lombardo was moved to the SuperMax prison in the final years of his life as punishment for trying to place a murder contract on Judge Zagel’s head from his prison hospital room in North Carolina.

Halprin committed suicide in 2013 at his Hyde Park apartment after falling in financial peril. The notoriously colorful yet lethal Lombardo died of throat cancer in October 2019 at age 90. Three months earlier, he hand-wrote a letter/motion to the court pleading for reconsideration of Miceli’s testimony. Besides the Seifert murder, Lombardo was considered a suspect in ordering or personally carrying out at least a dozen gangland slayings.

Miceli’s cooperation with the government began 13 years before the Family Secrets case was filed with the successful prosecution of former Cook County Chief Merrit Board Investigator Jack Novelli in 1992. He put a Gangster Disciples shot caller away for life with his testimony in the murder of Pamela Strauss in Rock Island in a 1996 drug deal gone wrong.

The Latin Kings street gang put a hit out on Miceli in December 1995 and he was subsequently the victim of a brutal home invasion and physical assault that landed him in the hospital for two weeks, per court filings. Part of Miceli’s cooperation included stopping a murder contract put out for New York mob princess and reality television star, Vickie Gotti Agnello, the daughter of the deceased Dapper Don, John Gotti, former celebrity boss of the Gambino crime family. Most of Miceli’s cooperation related to political corruption and dirty policemen.

Questions regarding the integrity of Family Secrets began to arise right away, with the government’s decision not to indict then Chicago mob don John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo, despite presenting evidence that placed him at the center of the Spilotro brothers’ execution, among other racketeering acts charged. DiFronzo, 89, succumbed to a battle with dementia in 2018 on the heels of ruling the Outfit in the shadows for almost 30 years from his Elmwood Park base.

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The Vegas Hit Parade (New Millenium Edition) Continues, Lake Mead Produces 4th Body Since May As Spilotro Mob Reign Returns To Headlines

August 7, 2022 — Yet another set of human remains popped up near Lake Mead in Las Vegas this weekend, making it four bodies to emerge from the body of water in the past three months. Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and is experiencing a drastic drop in water level. Las Vegas was once a gangster’s paradise and is a city with a trove of unsolved mob-related disappearances and murders linked to the old Tony (The Ant) Spilotro regime documented un the film Casino.

The first set of human remains were discovered on May 1 encased in a barrel. The second set, less than two weeks later. Body No. 3 surfaced on July 26. A man in Nevada believes one of the victims to be his dad. Todd Kolod told The Daily Mail last week he thinks, his father, Danny Kolod, who drowned in a speed-boating accident in 1958 was the second set of remains found on May 10..

Like with the last body unearthed, the remains discovered Saturday were entrenched in mud near Hemenway Harbor’s Swim Beach. The water level at Lake Mead is expected to drop another 20-30 feet in the next year.

Authorities in Nevada are examining the possibility that the bodies were victims of Spilotro, a ruthless mob overlord responsible for reeking havoc on The Strip in the 1970s and 1980s before dying in a brutal mob slaying himself in June 1986. Spilotro was sent to Vegas in 1971 by mafia dons in Chicago to look after the Midwest mob’s investments in the city’s hotel and gaming industry.

Federal law enforcement credits Spilotro and his so-called “Hole In The Wall Gang” with more than two dozen killings. The three names getting the most glims from investigators as potential victims tied to the recently discovered remains are missing Chicago mob associates Jay Vandermark, John (Johnny Pappas) Panagiotakos and Billy (Bahama) Crespo.

Vandermark and Johnny Pappas both went missing in the same few weeks in August 1976. Crespo disappeared in the summer of 1983. Vandermark’s drug addled son was killed less than a year later. Spilotro’s blood-stained reign was dramatized in 1995’s Casino, with Oscar-winner Joe Pesci playing a memorable character based on Tony the Ant and another character inspired by Vandermark.

According to federal court records, Vandermark was placed in charge of the count rooms at four separate mob-owned casinos and tasked with overseeing the “skim. He disappeared on August 1, 1976 while being sought for questioning by the FBI.

The feds had raided the casinos he was running count rooms in three months earlier. Hours after the raid, Vandermark bolted town for Arizona, per Clark County Sheriffs Department records. The last public sighting of Vandermark was in Phoenix with members of Spilotro’s Arizona crew. Per multiple FBI informants, Vandermark’s killing was to prevent him from giving up the mob’s casino-skimming racket to save himself and his drug-addled son. Vandermark’s name is changed to John Nance in the Casino script.

Johnny Pappas managed a Teamster-funded, mafia-owned resort on Lake Mead. He vanished on the night of August 18, 1976 his way to a meeting at Jo Jo’s Restaurant to discuss selling his boat. Pappas’ abandoned car was found in the parking structure attached to Circus Circus casino on August 21. Las Vegas Police Department records linked the Windy City transplant to infamous Outfit fixer Gus (Slim) Alex.

From almost the day he landed in Las Vegas in the 1960s, Pappas was deeply involved in Nevada Democratic Party politics. In the 1970s, Pappas was employed at several mob-controlled casino-hotels. By 1974, he was given the plum job of running the Echo Bay Resort.

Crespo got busted with a shipment of cocaine on a flight going from Miami to Las Vegas. He was acting as a courier for mob skim money being invested into drug deals in South Florida. At the time of his disappearance, Crespo was scheduled to testify against Chicago mafia associates in a casino-rip off case.

Billy Crespo was busted in November 1982 at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas deplaning with $400,000 in cocaine stashed in a suitcase. His federal grand jury testimony led to the indictment of ten conspirators in a drug and money-laundering scheme, including Chicago mob associate Victor Greger. When Crespo went missing in June 1983, the prosecutor’s case fell apart and the charges against Greger and six co-defendants were dropped. Greger was found guilty of money laundering and extortion in another case tied to his work at a mobbed-up gambling palace on The Strip.

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