A new book by a retired U.S. Treasury Agent dissects a cold-case mob triple-murder from suburban Detroit, Michigan, known as the Time Realty Massacre, provides critical fresh insight on the brutal slayings and pokes holes in past theories surrounding the motive. Detroit mafia associate Eugene (Little Gene) Mancen, his best friend Freddy Sanderson and local bookie Joe Termine were killed execution style inside Mancen and Sanderson’s office at the Time Realty Building in Sterling Heights, Michigan on the evening of April 3, 1985. Nobody has ever been arrested in the case called the biggest in Sterling Heights history. Somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 is believed to have been stolen from the Time Realty office as well. Termine was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, not originally targeted by the murder contract being carried out. His unsanctioned killing would prove problematic for some of the alleged conspirators down the line, per sources. Members of the Detroit mob’s notoriously-vicious Giacalone crew have always been considered top suspects in the grisly gangland slaughter. Although investigators believe they have a fairly certain idea of who most of the participants in the conspiracy and murder itself were, no charges have ever been brought. Author Jim Sanderson’s second book, Down The Rat Hole, does a deep dive into the Time Realty Massacre, uncovering that the motive for the triple murder was most likely a personal debt Mancen owed Detroit mob soldier Paul (Paulie the Lark) Leggio, not a refusal to pay the Tocco-Zerilli crime family street tax on his sports gambling business or a drug deal gone wrong. Sanderson’s reporting in Down The Rat Hole demonstrates that most of what was written about the case when it happened was wrong or at the very least misleading. Jim Sanderson worked as a special agent for the U.S. Treasury Department in Detroit for 26 years. His brother was Freddy Sanderson and his brother-in-law was Little Gene Mancen. He previously published the book Spoonful of Sugar about a case he encountered while at the Treasury Department. Down The Rat Hole details the circumstances surrounding the Time Realty Massacre in compelling depth, crafting a timeline of Mancen’s ascent and eventual bloody downfall in the Motor City sports gambling business, serving as a gripping autopsy of the crime top-to-bottom, the nuts-and-bolts of how and why a mob hit goes down from start to finish. Sanderson’s book, augmented for context by a set of newly-developed Gangster Report sources, tell the following story: Mancen was a mob-protected bookmaker operating in Detroit’s eastside suburbs in the early 1980s. Freddy Sanderson was Little Gene’s right-hand man and at the time of their deaths the pair was looking to purchase a bar together. They booked out of a small office in a two-story business complex in Sterling Heights, Michigan called the Time Realty Building located down the street from the Maple Lane Golf Club on 14 Mile Road. Informants told authorities, Mancen, described as affable and easy going, was set up in the bookmaking business by Jewish mob gambling chief, Allen (The General) Hilf and had a silent partner in the business in Paulie Leggio, a hardened felon, gangland strong arm and narcotics trafficker. Mancen became friendly with both men, especially Leggio, who stood up for him at his wedding, and they provided him protection on the street. When that protection went away in early 1985, he was living on borrowed time. Leggio and Hilf were members of the Detroit mafia’s Giacalone crew. The Giacalone brothers, icy taskmaster Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone and good-natured, back-slapping Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone were the Motor City mob’s junkyard dogs and day-to-day overlords from the 1960s into the 2000s, suspected of ordering or personally carrying out a multitude of gangland homicides in their over half-century in the underworld. Hilf was the biggest bookie in the state of Michigan and a trusted advisor to the Giacalone brothers. He was also a whale of a gambler himself and would often bet through Mancen’s book, placing wagers ranging in value between $25,000 and $50,000 per game. The muscle behind Hilf and Leggio was Robert (Bobby the Animal) LaPuma, a hulking, ornery, aptly-nicknamed gangster and alleged hit man who had worked as a top enforcer for the Giacalone crew for years. LaPuma did all of Hilf’s collections and him and Leggio had opened a satellite office in Florida where they were dealing in cocaine and booking bets. Leggio and LaPuma were “persons of interests” in a number of unsolved homicides from the 1970s, including one in which LaPuma is alleged to have aided Hilf in taking over a large sports book belonging to one of the victims in the wake of his death. According to sources, Hilf received Mancen’s sports book from the Giacalones after Mancen was killed. Mancen’s mob protection fell apart in the last few months of his life through falling outs he had with both Hilf and Leggio. First, Mancen got into a beef with Hilf over Mancen being cheated at a fixed card game Hilf was a part of. Hilf’s multi-ethnic gambling crew ran a backdoor casino that rotated staging posts, sometimes being held in Hilf’s basement, other times being held at the mansions of famous pro athletes residing in the area, like Hall of Fame NBA point guard Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and Motown’s favorite son in the 1980s fight game, Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns. Mancen wasn’t as reliant on Hilf as he had been in the past. He had developed connections on the east coast and was getting his betting line from people in New York. Instead of “laying” off his heavy action to Hilf, he began using his contacts in New York as his layoff house. Mancen’s client list grew to roughly 100 bettors and allegedly began drawing from some of Hilf’s already spoken-for customers. After the incident at the card game, Mancen stopped booking personal bets for Hilf and was barely on speaking terms with him, per two sources. In the first few weeks of 1985, Mancen’s sports book incurred a series of heavy losses and he took out a $50,000 loan from Paulie Leggio with the understanding he would pay it back in six weeks. Mancen couldn’t meet the deadline but by late March he had repaid Leggio the original $50,000 back. The problem was Leggio decided to “juice him” and extort the loan, demanding $200,000 instead for back interest. Mancen apparently balked at the request and Leggio felt disrespected, calling Mancen “uppity,” to mutual friends. Witnesses overheard two separate shouting matches between Mancen and Leggio in the weeks leading up to the triple murder. Leggio screamed into a payphone at Mr. Paul’s Chop House, a popular mob gathering spot on the eastside, “I want my $200,000….. I’ll kill your ass. You don’t obviously don’t understand who you are messing with here. I’ve been to prison before and I don’t care if I go back.” In another verbal spat, Leggio told Gene he was getting “too big for your britches,” and “it’s going to reach a point where I don’t want the money anymore and you don’t want it to reach that point. It’s your life or the money, one or the other.” Eventually, Leggio has Bobby LaPuma pay Mancen a visit at his Time Realty Building office and LaPuma demanded Mancen fork over the money. Leggio himself visited Mancen at the Time Realty Building in late March, put a gun to his head, threatened to kill him and vandalized his car. As tensions neared reaching a crescendo, Billy Giacalone summoned Mancen to his home for a meeting. Mancen went and emerged shaken. Giacalone had been pressing Leggio and LaPuma for more tribute cash from their joint Florida rackets, per sources, and Leggio leveraged the Mancen debt with Billy Jack, promising him a cut. Mancen would have normally gone to Allen Hilf to get things smoothed over, but they were on the outs and Hilf was allegedly angling to benefit from Mancen’s squabble with Leggio by positioning himself to absorb Mancen’s book upon his demise. According to Mancen and Sanderson were worried for their safety and hired a bodyguard they called “Bad News,” who started hanging around the office when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off in March. However, Bad News wasn’t present on the night of the murders because the tournament had just concluded (with Villanova’s monumental upset of a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown squad) two nights before. Leggio is believed to have contracted the killings out to members of the Giacalone-sponsored Murder Row gang, an African-American criminal organization on Detroit’s eastside specializing in narcotics trafficking and hits for hire. Hilf often acted as a conduit for the Giacalone crew to do business with Murder Row. DNA from a black man was found on a piece of nylon used as a mask by one of the assailants resting inside Sanderson’s dead palm. Investigators think Sanderson grabbed the nylon mask off the head of one of his killers, possibly igniting the executions. Leggio was in Florida on the day of the slayings and used LaPuma as his point man for coordinating the job, most investigators theorize. Murder Row lieutenants James (Jimmy Red) Freeman and his cousin Travis (Thunderbird Melvin) Wiggins were eyed as possible suspects because of their frequent association with Leggio, LaPuma and Hilf. Freeman was acquitted at trial for participation in the 1979 Michigan Federated Democratic Social Club Massacre, a triple- beheading murder resulting from an internal power struggle within the Murder Row group. On the night of April 3, 1985, Mancen and Sanderson were taking bets and counting money at the Time Realty office when two hit men kicked down the front door and took them and Joe Termine, who had swung by to collect his winnings from Villanova’s historic win the National Championship Game, hostage, according to informants. The presence of Termine surprised the hit men since he wasn’t part of the contract and either via direct contact with Leggio and/or LaPuma or in a decision they made themselves, it was decided that Termine would be killed as well to avoid any witnesses to the crime. Mancen, Sanderson and Termine were each knocked unconscious by the butt of a gun and shot in the back of the head by a 22-caliber pistol. Termine was the last one to be slain and their bodies were left in a triangle formation in the center of the office. The thermostat in the office was turned way down to try to disrupt the ability to determine time of death and a mound of cocaine was planted at the scene in an apparent attempt to fake a drug transaction and confuse investigators. Informants told police there were two cars used on the job, one a getaway car for the hit team and the other a crash car to aid in the escape. It’s believed the crash car nearly got into an accident fleeing the scene and swerved wildly to avoid slamming into oncoming traffic, according to a woman who was almost jackknifed by a speeding car emerging from the Time Realty Building parking lot at between 8:00 and 8:30 pm that night. Mob gofer Gerry (J.J. Ears) Adkins, the man authorities believe drove the crash car and may have acted as a middle man between the mob and Murder Row in arranging logistics for the contract, was charged with perjury tied to grand jury testimony in the case, but was acquitted at trial. Leggio was jailed in 1987 for physically assaulting and threatening a business associate for testifying in front of the grand jury. That same business associate told the FBI that he witnessed Leggio give LaPuma $50,000 in cash down in Florida 48 hours following the triple murder. Leggio pleaded the Fifth Amendment upon being called in front of the grand jury. He was indicted by the feds in March 1988 on drug and tax fraud charges alongside LaPuma. At the time of his arrest, Leggio had been using Little Geno Mancen’s social security number. Per sources, the fact that Termine got unexpectedly included in the triple murder caused problems for Leggio and LaPuma with their superiors in the mafia. Termine was related to local mob figures Anthony (Terrible Tony) Teramine and Ronald (Hollywood Ronnie) Morelli. Leggio was described as “being on an island” in the crime family in the immediate aftermath of the Time Realty Massacre. He died of a heart attack in the spring of 1992 at a federal correctional facility in Milan, Michigan. LaPuma, 82, has long since retired from his days in the mob and lives quietly in Colorado. Billy Giacalone passed away in 2012 at 89 years old. Allen Hilf was felled by kidney failure two years later in 2014.
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