Solving a Mafia murder case is a tall order. Since the early 1900s, more than 1,100 murders have been linked to Mafia activities in Chicago but only 14 people have been convicted in those killings. Soon though, the FBI may be able to resolve dozens of mob hits, many with links to Las Vegas. It's a case that might even shed light on the assassination of a president.
The FBI calls it Operation Family Secrets. The I-Team has reported on it in the past. It's been underway in Chicago for more than two years and may finally be getting close to the indictment stage. The targets include major figures in the Chicago mob. The victims include tough Tony Spilotro, once the king of the Las Vegas streets. If the FBI hits the jackpot though, this operation could resolve even bigger mysteries.
Lawmen in Las Vegas and elsewhere harbored all kinds of suspicions about Tony The Ant Spilotro. They suspected him in as many as 22 gangland murders. They indicted him for skimming Las Vegas casinos. And regarded him as the Nevada ambassador for the feared Chicago mob. But the law never managed to put Spilotro away. That job was carried out by his Mafia associates.
In 1986, Spilotro returned to Chicago to meet with the family. His body and that of his brother Michael were found days later, buried in an Indiana cornfield. Both were savagely beaten. Spilotro's widow Nancy told the I-Team the FBI never tried to solve the murder, but she's convinced that her husband knew the people who did it.
"When he went away like that, left all their stuff behind and they go -- you know. That's no good. They leave their watch and their wallet. They had to know somebody to get them to go to the place," said Nancy Spilotro, Tony Spilotro's widow.
Sometime later this year, someone may finally be charged in Tony Spilotro's murder. That someone will likely be Spilotro's former boss, Joey The Clown Lombardo, for decades a reputed top figure in the Chicago mob.
John Flood, former Chicago Police officer, said, "Lombardo in Chicago is the last of the major giants and in the United States few men have his stature in organized crime."
Former Chicago cop John Flood should know. For years, he was part of a Chicago Police team that chased the mob and says Lombardo once tried to kill him. Flood expects the FBI's Operation Family Matters to produce indictments soon.
The two-year probe reportedly has mob informants and is aimed at the top tier of the Chicago outfit, which means Joey The Clown. Tips have already led FBI agents to unearth the bodies of murder victims. DNA evidence has been obtained from crime scenes and is now being analyzed in forensic labs around the country. It is all but certain that the Spilotro murders are among the cases that are being analyzed. But there are many more unsolved cases in the Las Vegas-Chicago nexus and Lombardo, allegedly, was in a position to know about all of them.
John Flood says, "There is not a shadow of doubt that because he was such a young man involved with major mob figures going back to Capone, he would know anything that happened regarding assassinations, not only in Chicago but Las Vegas, across the country. He's a top guy and a tough guy."
Flood says Lombardo would have to know about the murder of teamsters pension fund executive Alan Dorfman, who loaned millions to Las Vegas casinos and was indicted with Lombardo for trying to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon.
Former mob ambassador to Las Vegas, Johnny Rosselli was preparing to testify to Congress about mob plots to kill Fidel Castro. His body was found floating in a drum. Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, once the overlord of Las Vegas rackets, was murdered in his home just before he had to testify. Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared in 1975 and is believed to have been murdered by Midwestern mob families. Lawmen think Lombardo knew about all of them, including one of the biggest murders of all time.
John Flood says, "Sam Gianacana, supposedly involved in the building of Las Vegas, his brother said Sam told him before he died it was Chicago organized crime guys that assassinated John Kennedy."
That's a whopper of a story, but there is other testimony hinting at a Chicago connection to the JFK slaying. Jack Ruby was a Chicago mob flunky before moving to Dallas. But Flood says he doubts Lombardo would talk, indictment or not.
Lombardo's Chicago attorney acknowledges that his client is a target of the FBI investigation, but he denies any wrong doing by Lombardo. Lombardo has given a DNA sample to the FBI. So have three other suspected mobsters.
Ex-cop John Flood says he doubts Lombardo would roll over or spill the beans about any murder, let alone the JFK assassination, but says it depends on who else might be indicted with him.
Stranger things have happened.