December 20, 2019 — The aftermath of the unsanctioned murders of Chicago mafia figure Sam (Sammy Eyes) Marcello and his bodyguard Joseph (Big Joe) Grisafe sent blood-soaked ripples through a crew of mob misfits who thought they could bump off a respected member of the Outfit’s Cicero regime and get away with it. They badly miscalculated their decision and met an equally brutal end themselves.
Marcello, 57, and Grisafe, 36, were murdered on November 24, 1973 by a Greek gambler and market owner named Sam Rantis who was seeking to avoid having to pay-off a juice loan. Rantis and two accomplices were slain in retaliation, with Marcello’s oldest son rumored to have “made his bones” in the hits, according to Chicago Crime Commission documents.
That son, James (Jimmy the Man) Marcello, would go on to become boss of the whole Outfit and is doing life behind bars for his role in the epic Family Secrets case that landed in the mid-2000s. Jimmy Marcello, 72, and his half-brother Michael (Big Mickey) Marcello, 68, both went down in the case that grabbed nationwide headlines and solved almost a dozen gangland slayings.
Mickey Marcello did six years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering charges. He was indicted earlier this week on stealing $45,000 of Social Security money.
Per FBI records, the Marcello’s father, Sammy Marcello, worked as a loan shark in the Outfit’s Cicero crew directly under then Chicago mob boss Joseph (Joey Doves) Aiuppa. One of Marcello’s customers was Sam Rantis, the owner of the Korner Sandwich Shop at the corner of Taylor and Western. Rantis, Greek in heritage, sometimes went by the street handle “Sammy Paper.”
According to police informants, Rantis ran bookmaking and bolita operations out the shop, but also liked to gamble himself and was deeply involved in the counterfeiting business. When he got into debt, he borrowed money from Sammy Marcello. When Marcello and his hulking 6-foot-5, 275-pound bodyguard Big Joe Grisafe came to collect their weekly payment the Saturday after Thanksgiving back in 1973, Rantis shot both of them dead at point-blank range and then stored the bodies in his walk-in freezer while he called for help from a couple knock-around guys he did business with, Billy Cascone and Jimmy Erwin. They chopped Grisafe’s legs off and stuffed him and Marcello into 55-gallon drums.
Grisafe’s legs were placed in box Rantis received wholesale Baby Ruth candy bar shipments in. The bodies weren’t discovered in the back of the sandwich shop’s freezer until the next summer.
The Marcello family thought the FBI had arrested patriarch Sammy Eyes that Saturday afternoon they never came home, but on December 5, the family was informed that neither Sammy Marcello, nor, Joe Grisafe, were ever taken into custody. Marcello’s car was towed from in front of the Korner Sandwich Shop, tipping the Outfit off as to where they had made their final stop.
The 43-year old Rantis was killed two days later on December 7. His body was found in February 1974 in the trunk of his own vehicle in the long-term parking section of O’Hare Airport. Rantis’ throat had been cut and he had been stabbed several times in the chest.
Next, came retribution for his accomplices, Cascone and Erwin. Billy Cascone popped up dead on February 26, 1974, two days after Rantis’ body is discovered, shot in the head in the backseat of his car. Jimmy Erwin lasted two more years before he was gunned down on May 1, 1976 on North Halsted.
Jimmy Marcello’s name surfaced as a suspect in all three murders that avenged his dad’s grisly death. The Cicero crew’s notorious “Wild Bunch” enforcement team was also believed to have participated in the planning and carrying out the executions. Marcello was “made” by his dad’s mob mentor, Joey Aiuppa, in a 1983 ceremony, per court filings, and was the protégé of one of Aiuppa’s successors as Outfit don, Sam (Wings) Carlisi. Aiuppa and Carlisi gave him responsibility for the historic Cicero crew’s bookmaking and loan sharking operations prior to him becoming don himself.
Carlisi and Marcello were nailed together in a 1992 racketeering indictment. Carlisi died in prison of a heart attack. Marcello ruled the Chicago mob as boss of the Outfit in the first half of the 2000s. When the Family Secrets case landed in April 2005, Marcello was charged with more racketeering counts, the 1981 murder of Outfit soldier Nick D’Andrea and the 1986 Spilotro brothers double homicide.
Tony (The Ant) Spilotro was the Chicago’s mob crew chief in Las Vegas and had angered the Outfit hierarchy with his attention-garnering antics out west in his capacity overseeing the group’s interests in the casino industry. Spilotro and his brother Michael were driven by Jimmy Marcello to their murders at a residence located in Chicago’s Bensenville neighborhood. The famous gangland hit was recreated in the 1995 film Casino starring Oscar-winner Joe Pesci as the diminutive, yet explosive Spilotro.
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