The passing of Paul Ricca carried with it an ominous undertone, one appreciated by few outside the Outfit’s world. It had been Ricca who had first brought Mooney Giancana to the Outfit as his driver, then later remained his chief booster as he rose through the ranks; Ricca was one of the few who had stood by Mooney during his constant breeches of gang protocol. Now, with Ricca gone, Giancana was without his sponsor. In Accardo’s eyes, if Giancana refused to capitulate soon, the upstart exile’s fate was all but sealed. It was one of many circumstances Accardo would have to confront in the years ahead as the last survivor of the original Outfit.
The final acts in Accardo’s career are here briefly summarized due to the constraints of space.
Increasing his distance from the front lines, Joe Accardo purchased a $110,000 condo that bordered the fairway of Palm Springs Country Club Golf Course. The home, in a gated community on Roadrunner Drive in Indian Wells, California, kept Accardo far removed from the wiretap fray and gave his wife, Clarice, the retired life she had so long coveted. When in Chicago, Accardo stayed at his home on Ashland Avenue, which he retained after his Indian Wells purchase.
Throughout this period, the Outfit’s day-to-day boss was Joey “Doves” Aiuppa, so nicknamed for his 1962 prosecution on charges of illegally shooting, along with his shotgun-toting soldiers, more than fourteen hundred mourning doves in Kansas. (Bobby Kennedy had been so excited by the conviction, he flew to Kansas for the sentencing.1) Along with powerful underboss Jackie “the Lackey” Cerone, Aiuppa oversaw a regime infamous for its strict enforcement of the Outfit’s code. Aiuppa’s tenure was bloody, typified by more executions for drug dealers, as well as for bookies and juice men who neglected their “street tax.”
Before totally abandoning the Vegas casinos, a crime consortium that included Kansas City, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Chicago (represented by Aiuppa for Joe Accardo) sang its swan song in Sin City, its new lead singer named Allen Glick. A sucker with far shallower pockets than Howard Hughes, local entrepreneur Glick naively thought (or so he later claimed) that he could obtain a $62-million loan from the Teamsters pension fund with no stings attached. His subsequent 1974 purchase of the Stardust, Fremont, Hacienda, and Marina casinos gave the underworld one last chance at hitting the gambling capital’s jackpot. However, this time, the hoods would finally learn what it felt like to lose in Las Vegas. All except Joe Accardo, that is.
At this time, the first RICO successes were yet to be secured, thus the gangs believed they could raid the golden goose one more time. With the endorsement of Milwaukee “theater owner” Frank Bal (who was in fact Milwaukee mob boss Frank Balistrieri, and who was ultimately subservient to Chicago), Glick obtained his Teamster loan. However, before the first set of dice were polished, Glick was told by Bal, under orders from Accardo and the consortium, to hire Chicago’s Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal to be in charge of operations. “If you interfere with any of the casino operations,” Rosenthal warned Glick, “or try to undermine anything I do here . . . you will never leave this corporation alive.”
Over the next three years, the cartel skimmed $7 million per year from the slots alone (investigators believe, but cannot confirm, that a similar amount was taken from the tables). In four years, Glick would be ordered to sell his Argent Corporation to an even more pliant owner or his children would be killed. He did as told and disappeared into southern California obscurity with a tidy profit.
The same year Glick was being booted from Nevada, Mooney Giancana was receiving the same sentence in Mexico, rendering all his hard work in the gambling-junket business for naught. On the night of July 18, 1974, the Mexican government seized Mooney in his pajamas and slippers, after eight years in exile. In a surprise abduction by Mexican immigration authorities, Mooney was deported on a charge of being an unwanted visitor. After being driven to Mexico City, where authorities alerted the FBI, he was sent to San Antonio, Texas, and met there by Chicago agents who bought the penniless Giancana a one-way plane ticket to Chicago. And due to local law, Mooney was never able to retrieve the millions he had deposited in Mexican banks. It was a frail, unshaven Giancana, outfitted in a blue work shirt and a pair of pants four sizes too large (given him by authorities in Mexico City), who unceremoniously boarded the flight back to the Second City.
Tipped to Mooney’s arrival, longtime adversary and macho man Bill Roemer raced to O’Hare Airport to get in his face, for old times’ sake. However, when Roemer confronted the aged former boss and heard his greeting, Roemer backed off. The G-man later wrote that Giancana “was undoubtedly the wealthiest person on that plane, but he looked like some Italian immigrant landing at Ellis Island, destitute and frail.”
“I’m not gonna be involved in anything anymore,” Mooney whispered. “You’ll soon find out that I have nothin’ goin’ for me here. I’m out of it. So, please, just leave me alone. Nothin’ personal like it was between us before. If it takes an apology, then this is it. Let’s just forget what has been before.”
Although he had been intent on goading Mooney into another fight, Roemer became disarmed by the gangster’s feeble visage. However, the agent quickly found a way to relieve his frustration. “I think at that moment,” he later wrote, “I realized that I had won.”
On June 18, 1975, Mooney Giancana was shot to death in his basement. For months, the ailing Mooney had been telling friends that he would do anything to avoid “rotting in jail.” The don was currently the subject of another grand jury proceeding and had agreed to meet with investigators for the Senate’s Church Committee, which had been investigating, among other things, the Kennedy administration plots to murder Fidel Castro. The same committee had also called Johnny Rosselli, who voluntarily agreed to testify. Now, Mooney’s prospective testimony, under subpoena, would virtually guarantee more unwanted front-page coverage for organized crime in Chicago, a prospect that, in addition to Mooney’s refusal to pay tribute to Accardo, likely sealed his fate.
On his last night alive, Giancana had been cooking his favorite meal of sausage, escarole, and ceci beans in his basement kitchen sometime after 10 P.M. His daughter Francine had visited that evening, and as she drove away around ten, she saw Mooney’s longtime aide Butch Blasi pull into the driveway. Blasi’s car was also observed there by Chicago detectives who were patrolling the suburban homes of a number of bosses that evening. About two hours later, family friend and Giancana tenant Joe DiPersio went downstairs to check on Mooney and discovered the body. Giancana had been shot seven times with a silencer-equipped .22, once in the back of the head, once in the mouth, and five times under the chin in an upward direction.
Although it has been reported that the killer took no loot, that may not be the case. “Mooney had a velvet bag full of diamonds and other precious jewels,” remembers his son-in-law Bob McDonnell. “He always used to call it his ’escape insurance,’ something he could use if he ever had to leave the country in a hurry.” Mooney’s daughter also remembers the valuable cache, which has never been located. Until it was recently brought to her attention that Accardo was feuding with Mooney over money, Antoinette never considered that the missing jewels may have been taken by the killer. All told, Giancana’s assets at the time of his death (in cash, property, trusts, and investments) totaled about $1 million, although he was reportedly worth $25 million at his peak. It has never been determined whether any of his resources are gathering dust in a Swiss account or a buried stash.
In 2001, a source who was close to Butch Blasi at the time stated that Blasi admitted to having been the perpetrator. A few months after Giancana’s slaying, a village worker found the murder weapon on a patch of grass located halfway along a route to Blasi’s home. After a long bout with dementia, Blasi passed away, an occurrence that effectively ended authorities’ interest in the case.
On June 24, only six days after Mooney’s murder, the don’s assassination-plot partner Johnny Rosselli gave his first testimony in Washington before a rapt Church Committee, once again placing the underworld in the media spotlight. The exquisitely tailored Rosselli was in great form and, totally disavowing Curly Humphreys’ dictum to say nothing, spared no details. “It has always puzzled me,” committee member Senator Richard Schweiker later said, “why he came in, and why he was so forthcoming.”
“John gave a fully detailed description,” his lawyer Leslie Scherr later recalled. “Everything that had gone on in ’61 and ’62, everything from that era, and every one of those guys were mesmerized by John. He was hypnotic. The guy would have made a wonderful lawyer.” At one point, Rosselli brought the room to convulsive laughter when answering Senator Barry Goldwater’s query as to whether he had taken any notes during the plotting.
“Senator, in my business, we don’t take notes,” Rosselli deadpanned in response. After being excused, Rosselli agreed to return for a second round on September 22. With Rosselli’s testimony to be sealed for the next twenty years, underworld leaders across the nation surely feared that the garrulous gangster, now totally chastened by his late-life prison stay, must have divulged secrets that would cause Curly and Paul to spin in their graves. Like so many other underworld players of his era, Johnny Rosselli was now living on borrowed time.
On July 30, just five weeks after Mooney’s murder, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. He had placed himself in jeopardy in April 1973 when he had declared his intention to take back the Teamsters. However, most experts believe that the underworld was already happy with Fitzsimmons and decreed otherwise, for reasons stated. “Hoffa was also a government informant,” says Dan Moldea. “All the Teamster presidents occasionally talked against their associates to the government, that’s how they survived.” Moldea believes the contract to kill Hoffa, meant also as a warning to Fitzsimmons, was put out by Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santo Trafficante of Tampa, and from there it was given to East Coast bosses Tony Provenzano of New York and Russell Bufalino of Pennsylvania. Both the FBI and Moldea agree that the actual killer was Sal Briguglio, an enforcer for Provenzano. What the hoods never knew was that Fitzsimmons, in fear of both the mob and the IRS, quietly followed Hoffa’s lead and began informing for the G as well. “Fitzsimmons was a stoolie for [IRS investigator] John Daley,” a partner of Daley’s recently confirmed. “That’s how he stayed out of prison. It’s also one of the reasons the government was able to start building its case against the mob’s pension-fund loans in Nevada.”
After a third meeting in Washington with members of the Church Committee, a semiretired Johnny Rosselli traveled to Plantation, Florida, to visit his sister, Edith. Anxious to make another score, Rosselli called Hollywood producer-friend Brynie Foy and pitched him a new film idea, a thinly veiled roman a clef in which a patriotic gangster helps the White House kill Fidel Castro, but the operation backfires when Castro gets his own people to plan the American president’s death. Perhaps Rosselli was trying to cash in on his recent Church Committee testimony, the salient points of which had leaked to the press. According to some, Foy believed the story was too implausible to get interest from the studios.
On a May 1976 trip to Los Angeles, Johnny had a relaxed dinner with old chum Jimmy Fratianno, of the L.A. underworld. The California hood was clearly worried about Johnny, and given Rosselli’s recent testimony and attempts to sell his Mafia-CIA story to the studios, it was small wonder.
“Johnny, be careful, will you,” Fratianno implored. “This thing of ours is treacherous. You never know when you’re going to make the hit list. Don’t let Trafficante or [Jackie] Cerone set you up.”
“Will you stop worrying?” Rosselli nonchalantly responded. “I’m all right. Everything’s under control.”
On July 28, during another visit to Plantation, Florida, Rosselli borrowed his sister’s car and drove off just after noon with his golf clubs. It was the last time he was seen alive. That night, the family began their frantic search, with Rosselli’s brother-in-law recalling that Johnny had once said, “If I’m ever missing, check the airports, because that’s where they usually leave the car.” It was an eerie prognostication: His car was found two days later at Miami International Airport, and seven days after that, on August 7, Johnny’s grisly remains were found. He had been strangled to death, then dismembered, stuffed into a rusted oil drum, and dumped at sea. Rosselli’s metal coffin washed ashore not far from the former Biscayne Bay home of Curly Humphreys.
Fred Black, a Washington influence peddler and close Rosselli friend, was among those certain that Santo Trafficante had ordered the hit. That it had taken place in Trafficante’s domain was telling. For years, the Florida boss was believed by many to have been playing a dangerous game, operating a numbers racket (bolita) out of Havana in partnership with Castro, while living among the Castro-hating exiles. The theory goes that Trafficante feared reprisal from Castro if his role in the CIA plots surfaced, or from the exiles if his game with Castro was revealed. Beyond the speculation, there was never a suspect officially named in the murder.
“I was saddened,” CG Harvey recently said, “like I would be with any friend.” Just two months earlier, on June 8, CG had lost her husband, Johnny Rosselli’s great CIA chum, Bill Harvey, due to heart failure.
In January 1977, while the Accardos were in Indian Wells, their Chicago home was burglarized by the most foolhardy band of thieves imaginable. Joe’s houseman, Michael Volpe, informed Accardo, who then instructed Aiuppa to “bring in Spilatro.” Tony Spilotro, one of Aiuppa’s most savage and uncontrollable enforcers, had been posted in Las Vegas, where he and his soldiers made short work of cheats and rival gangs.
When word got out that Accardo had ordered the stalking and executions of the guilty, there was a reported mass exodus from Illinois of thieves and cat burglars, who worried that they might mistakenly be linked to the crime. It took some time before Accardo’s men could crack the case, all the worse for the guilty parties, since Accardo’s anger only escalated with each passing day. Finally, in January 1978, the guilty parties were identified and the bodies quickly began piling up, as the sound of “trunk music” once again reverberated throughout Cook County.
On January 20, the first burglar was discovered, having been shot to death. Over the next eight weeks, the remaining six were found in various states of morbidity: Some had been tortured with castration, one had his face burned off with an acetylene torch, and most had either been shot to death or had their throats slashed.2 One year later, the two executioners likewise turned up murdered. Suffice it to say, no one ever again laid so much as a glove on Joe Accardo’s properties.
In 1977, according to the FBI, Joey Aiuppa journeyed to Atlantic City for an important Commission meeting, the subject of which concerned future expansion in Las Vegas. At the time, New Jersey’s Gambino crime family was making rumblings about buying into Sin City, much to the dislike of Accardo-Aiuppa. Fortunately, the state of New Jersey had just legalized casino gambling, an eventuality that gave the two parties a way out of their disagreement. It was decided that the Eastern families could keep what holdings they had in Vegas, but that was all. As a trade-off, they were given complete lordship over Atlantic City, a shrewd move by Accardo, since Atlantic City had an aggressive antimob Casino Control Commission in place before the first craps tables were set up.3 As a result, the New Jersey mob was never able to strangle Atlantic City the way Chicago and New York had Las Vegas.
On October 5, 1978, Michael Volpe, Accardo’s longtime housekeeper, vanished, an event believed by some to have been connected to his grand jury testimony five days previous. In response, the FBI executed a search warrant on Accardo’s eighteen-room Ashland Avenue home. With Joe’s daughters Linda Lee and Marie escorting them, the G spent over seven hours in a sacrosanct abode they had seen only from the outside since its construction in 1963. On the rancher’s first floor, the agents found little besides the indications of upscale urban domesticity. The basement, however, was another story.
The lower region of the home consisted of a long hallway, its walls covered with Joe’s photos and glass cases housing his gun collection. The hallway divided a large do-it-yourselfer’s workshop on one side, and Accardo’s conference room on the other. The large, carpeted conference room was commanded by a huge round table encircled by thirty chairs. “How many strategies had been plotted there?” mused FBI agent Bill Roemer.
Adjoining this room was the requisite kitchen; however, in this case it was an industrial-sized affair with walk-in pantries, coolers, and a wine cellar. One of the pantries contained a locked door that none of the house keys opened. The agents broke down the door and found that it concealed a bank-size vault. Accardo was called in Palm Springs and he reluctantly gave the G the combination to the vault. Inside Accardo’s ten-by-fifteen-foot vault, the agents found two .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolvers, a pile of bullets, and fifty-five stacks of $50 and $100 bills totaling $250,000. The G confiscated not only the weapons, but the loot, forcing Accardo to spend weeks in courts to have it returned.
On June 4, 1981, Accardo was arrested in Chicago, taken downtown in handcuffs, and charged along with sixteen others in a Miami-based scheme to receive $2 million in kickbacks from the medical plan of the 550,000-member Laborers International Union. Using crack Chicago attorney Carl Walsh, Accardo was able to show that the indictment was, for once, specious, there being only hearsay innuendo connecting him to the fraud. When the case was adjudicated, only six of the defendants were convicted. The case was a good example of overzealous prosecutors attempting to utilize RICO, but not taking the time to prove the necessary linkages.
In late 1982, as a result of a massive FBI surveillance operation called PENDORF (Penetration of Dorfman), Allen Dorfman was convicted of defrauding the Teamsters pension fund, a display of the proper uses of RICO and Title III. On January 20, 1983, while awaiting sentencing, Dorfman was murdered in the Hyatt Hotel parking lot in Lincolnwood, Illinois. Some believe he was hit to prevent him from cutting a deal with the G; apparently he had been hinting at such a strategy. Gang insiders also claim that boss Joey Lombardo, also convicted in the case, expected Dorfman to bail him out; when he failed to deliver, the murder was ordered. Those same insiders assert that “the big hit” was so important that no Italians were used as executioners, and that mob bail bondsman Irwin Weiner, who had accompanied Dorfman to the Hyatt, had set him up.
But the biggest blow was still to come. Since the late seventies, when the Carter administration had got serious about corruption and ordered hundreds of taps, the FBI, in a two-phase operation code-named Straw-man, had learned of the mob consortium that was skimming the Tropicana (Phase One), and the Stardust, Hacienda, and Marina casinos (Phase Two). At the trial, Teamsters president Roy Williams (who had succeeded Frank Fitzsimmons, who died in 1981) admitted being paid by the mob. Combined with Glick’s incriminating testimony, the damning tapes from the conspirators’ phone conversations, and a retrieved ledger that described how the skim was divided, the case was so airtight that some of the defendants pled guilty before the jury returned verdicts. Amazingly, Glick claimed to have no idea that Frank Bal was mobster Frank Balistrieri. Bill Ouseley, the lead FBI investigator on the case, said recently that Click’s contention was absurd. “Glick was a brilliant guy,” said Ouseley. “Vegas was a cesspool at that time, and everyone knew how the game was played. However, after a long period of working to obtain Glick’s testimony, we reached agreement wherein he would be a neutral witness, and we were happy with that.”
As a result, many of the mob bosses received stiff sentences, ranging from thirteen to thirty years. In all, there were more than thirty defendants, only one of whom was acquitted. Fronting for Accardo, bosses Joey Aiuppa, then seventy-seven years old, and Jackie Cerone each received a twenty-eight-year term. Once again, Accardo was unscathed. Lead government prosecutor David Helfrey recently opined, “Accardo was definitely involved, but we can’t convict without the evidence.” Helfrey explained that since Accardo was ostensibly retired in Palm Springs, he was not under electronic surveillance and thus had no incriminating links to convicted boss Joey Aiuppa. And since the defendants did not take the stand, there was no opportunity to draw them out on Accardo. It was a classic use of the Outfit’s strategy of the front man/ flak-catcher.4
On February 23, 1984, a frail, seventy-seven-year-old Joe Accardo appeared under subpoena before the U.S. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which at the time was conducting a scaled-down organized-crime inquiry along the lines of McClellan. Under advice from counsel Carl Walsh, Accardo refused to answer the probers’ questions, not citing the Fifth Amendment, but his belief that the foundation for the questions was arrived at through the use of illegal wiretaps. After being cited for contempt of Congress, Accardo’s appeals wound their way through the courts until he was ultimately ordered to answer the questions.
On June 21, Accardo appeared before the federal tribunal again, and this time he answered the questions, but in a manner that would have been laughable had they not been coming from a man who appeared as everyone’s kindly grandfather.
“I have no knowledge of a crime family in Chicago,” Accardo meekly answered Senator William Ross (R-Del.). “I’ve never been boss.” To another query, Accardo said, “I only know about [organized crime] from the newspapers.” Incredibly, Accardo claimed that he had no idea what Joey Aiuppa did for a living. His sole admission was that he had broken the law many years ago when he had gambled.
Accardo’s appearance, altered by the ravages of bouts with cancer and heart disease, apparently affected his inquisitors. Although a perjury citation would obviously have prevailed on appeal, the lawmakers allowed Accardo’s testimony, and Accardo himself, to stand unmolested. It now appeared a certainty that Joe Accardo’s parroted boast that he had never spent a night in jail would be a permanent memorial.
The year began ominously, with the passing of Joe Accardo’s longtime First Ward mouthpiece, Pat Marcy. On May 27, 1992, eighty-six-year-old Joe Accardo, the last surviving Outfit boss, died of heart failure at Chicago’s St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital. With all of his best friends having preceded him into the Great Beyond, Joe’s wake consisted mostly of family. Buried in the Queen of Heaven cemetery in suburban Hillside, Accardo (as usual) is flanked by allies: the remains of Paul “Ricca” De Lucia on his right and Sam Battaglia on his left. While over at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Frank Nitti, Dion O’Banion, the Gennas, and Roger Touhy keep Big Al Capone company.
On July 27,1992, Curly Humphreys’ only child, Luella Brady, died, like her father and most of his pals, of heart failure in Norman, Oklahoma, at age fifty-seven. Since Curly’s death in 1965, Luella had made yearly pilgrimages to Switzerland to avail herself of her father’s nest egg, secreted in a numbered bank account in Zurich. However, due to a combination of mental instability, drug addiction, and, in an ironic twist, given her father’s acumen, a naive business sense, Luella had managed to squander every penny of her father’s accumulated treasure. Two years earlier, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court disbarred attorney Coy McKenzie for preying on Luella’s instability when he’d convinced her in the early 1980s to invest the last of her inheritance, over $400,000, in a racetrack-purchase scam. The Daily Oklahoman summarized the tawdry affair: “A Norman attorney’s effort to save a failed racetrack in Stroud led to financial ruin and disbarment for him and left a millionairess destitute and without food.”
Adding insult to injury, McKenzie had convinced Luella to put up the 320 acres near Norman that she had also inherited as collateral for a loan when her money ran out. The bank foreclosed on the property, which was eventually sold to a Realtor who parceled out ninety-nine lots that sold for a combined $2.25 million.
On June 20, 1996, the last member of the early Outfit brain trust, Sidney Roy Korshak, died at his home at 808 North Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills, his brother and confidant, Marshall, having died just the day before in Chicago. Sidney’s New York Timesobituary headline read: SIDNEY KORSHAK, 88, DIES; FABLED FIXER FOR THE CHICAGO MOB. Among those in attendance at Korshak’s wake were Barbara Sinatra, Robert Evans, Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse, Angie Dickinson, and Suzanne Pleshette.
And in a last great Outfit money mystery, Sidney Korshak left his wife nothing but their homes. The money had vanished.
1. In response to his conviction, Aiuppa established the Yorkshire Quail Club south of Chicago in Kankakee County. Joey’s club catered to underworld members around the country, who traveled to Yorkshire when their bloodlust needed sating. Aiuppa had come far since his days manufacturing the gang’s slot machines in his Cicero plant, the Taylor Furniture Company.
2. The burglar victims were identified as Bernard Ryan, Steven Garcia, Vincent Moretti, Donald Swanson, John Mandell, John McDonald, and Bobby Hartogs. Their executioners were believed to be John Borsellino and Gerry Carusiello.
3. According to a July 15,1985, article in the Reno Gazette-Journal, New Jersey was spending $3.4 million annually on casino regulation, fully ten times what was allocated in Nevada; also, New Jersey appointed 92.3 policing officials per casino, as compared to 1.1 in Nevada.
4. For details of the Strawman operation, the reader is urged to read the brilliantly researched Casino by Nicholas Pileggi.