Desert Mafia Murder Mystery: Is Old Spilotro Vegas Mob Crew Affiliate Bobby Shaw The Body In The Barrel?

August 14, 2022 — Investigators in Las Vegas are hoping to match DNA from one of the bodies found off the banks of Lake Mead in recent month to a former member of mob boss Tony (The Ant) Spilotro’s Sin City crew that ran amok on the Strip in the 1970s and 1980s, according to reports in the Vegas press and comments made by the suspected victim’s sister.

Thirty-eight year old Bobby Shaw disappeared in the spring of 1977. Sources place Shaw in Spilotro crew’s orbit through robbery and drug rackets. One source connects Shaw to Spilotro’s L.A. lieutenant, Joey Hansen, a known hit man and professional thief. Hansen died of cancer in 2003.

Las Vegas Police took DNA samples from Shaw’s sister and nephew shortly after the first body was discovered in early May encased in a mud-strewn barrel. Police are eying Shaw for the remains found in the barrel, per sources.

Four sets of human remains have popped up in or around Lake Mead 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 Spilotro regime documented in the classic Martin Scorsese film Casino. Authorities are exploring the possibility that one or more of the bodies are tied to Spilotro’s bloody reign atop the Vegas underworld.

Shaw’s sister Barbara last saw him alive on May 14, 1977 in Fontana, California. Shaw departed for Las Vegas and was never seen again.

Other missing suspected Spilotro victims being probed for links to the Lake Mead bodies include an unnamed female cocktail waitress at a popular local disco, casino count-room supervisor Jay Vandermark, casino-resort manager John (Johnny Pappas) Panagiotakos and drug dealer Billy (Bahama) Crespo. Vandermark, Pappas and Crespo were considered associates of the Chicago mafia at the time of their respective disappearances.

Spilotro was sent to Vegas in 1971 by mafia dons in Chicago to look after their investments in the city’s booming hotel and gaming industry. He was beaten, stomped and strangled to death in a basement of a home in suburban Chicago for being insubordinate in the summer of 1986. Federal law enforcement credits Spilotro and his so-called “Hole In The Wall Gang” with more than two dozen killings in their 15 years rampaging through the desert sun with impunity.

In the movie Casino, Spilotro, renamed “Nicky Santoro” for the film ran mob affairs at the fictional Tangiers Hotel & Casino, and several other casinos owned by a consortium of Midwest mafia families. The Tangiers was based on The Stardust. Joey Hansen was reimagined as “Jack Frisco.”

Vandermark and Johnny Pappas both went missing in the same three-week period in August 1976. Crespo disappeared in the summer of 1983. Vandermark’s drug addled son, Jeff, was killed less than a year later. 1n 1995’s Casino, Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci played a memorable character based on Tony the Ant. There was another character in the movie inspired by Vandermark called “John Nance.”

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 and the mob worrying he would cut a deal to save himself and his son.

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.

Billy Crespo, a native Cuban, 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. Crespo was on the verge of testifying against Chicago mafia associates in a casino-rip off case.

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 involving mob-owned casinos.

Two years ago, Las Vegas reporter Jack Sheehan wrote about a source being in Spilotro’s entourage one evening in 1981 when a cocktail waitress accidentally spilled a drink on one of Spilotro’s mobster friends and drew Spilotro’s ire. According to Sheehan’s source, Tony the Ant cursed the young woman and two days later she was on the frontpage of the local papers as a missing persons case.

This article was originally posted here