‘When Spilotro got greedy, the end was written’
Veteran reporter Chuck Goudie discusses the Chicago Outfit – and it links to Las Vegas
Since 1980, award-winning reporter Chuck Goudie has covered the Mob and much more for ABC7 News in Chicago. He’s been the television station’s chief investigative reporter since 1990.
Among other high-profile mobsters Goudie has reported on, Tony Spilotro was, beginning in the early 1970s, the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas. In 1986, Spilotro and his brother, Michael, were beaten to death in the basement of a home near O’Hare International Airport and buried in an Indiana cornfield. Outfit leaders were angry with Spilotro for being a “loose cannon,” according to what one federal official told Goudie.
In 2022, Goudie traveled to Las Vegas to investigate whether human remains discovered along Lake Mead’s receding shoreline might have a connection to the Chicago Outfit. The lake is about 30 miles east of Las Vegas.
Many of Goudie’s stories about organized crime can be found on YouTube at “Chuck Goudie’s Mob Vault.”
The Mob Museum recently interviewed Goudie about his coverage of the Outfit and some of its members.
Museum: What are the one or two Chicago Outfit stories that have especially stood out to you over the years as a reporter, and why?
Goudie: One was “Lunch with No Nose.” The late John DiFronzo was quite a character, albeit you wouldn’t want to cross him.
When he assumed the leadership of the Outfit in 2009, my ABC7 I-Team began a surveillance operation of a west suburban Chicago restaurant where he would hold weekly Mob court.
The upper crust of the Outfit would be there. We branded it “Lunch with No Nose,” the nickname given to DiFronzo decades ago when he sliced off a good portion of his proboscis while diving through a plate-glass window during a Michigan Avenue retail theft gone awry. That mob luncheon seemed to be a command performance, a who’s who of crime bosses.
Anyway, the restaurant was open to the public. So I sent in our fearless camerawoman wired for undercover video to get a table and some video. And then when DiFronzo and his chums came out from lunch, I was with a full TV crew in the parking lot to conduct a little interview. DiFronzo, not surprisingly, was cordial but knew nuttin ’about nuttin’.
Perhaps the best non-assassination shot ever came as DiFronzo was driving away. A fake (I hope) large pair of testicles was gangling from the ball of his trailer hitch.
Also, ABC7 reported on how a jury mistake cut the sentence for current (but now ailing) Chicago Mob boss Solly DeLaurentis.
During the Good Ship Lollipop case in 1993, the jury reported a clean sweep of guilty verdicts against DeLaurentis that would have sent him away for decades. The day after, a juror contacted me to say that the judge got it wrong. They had actually acquitted him on a murder conspiracy count.
The judge had to reconvene the jury, and after being satisfied that there had been a mistake in announcing the verdict, it was thrown out. That mistake, and our reporting it, resulted in DeLaurentis getting out of prison far earlier than he might have.
What is the significance of the Chicago Outfit’s involvement in Las Vegas?
The significance is that the Outfit represents the beginning and the end of lucrative, old-time Las Vegas. From the 1950s through the mid-’80s, Chicago racketeers controlled legal gambling rackets, illegal gambling with better odds, loansharking, prostitution, drugs, guns and even much street crime.
When Spilotro got greedy, the end was written. Spilotro’s semifinal resting place in an Indiana cornfield marked the beginning of the city going legit. Or as legit as it will ever be.
What are your thoughts on the body found in the barrel at Lake Mead — the shooting victim whose clothing indicated he was dumped in the lake in the late 1970s or early ‘80s? Does your reporting indicate this could have been an Outfit hit by Tony Spilotro or someone in his circle?
We went to Lake Mead last fall to look into this, and I came away with mixed feelings. While it certainly could be a Mob-hit victim, several law enforcement experts said that with an expansive desert to dispose of bodies, the lake seemed to be a long shot. So who knows?
Has anybody pinpointed the exact house near O’Hare where Spilotro and his brother Michael were beaten to death in 1986? Is the house still there?
We looked into this for a Spilotro anniversary piece in 2016.
While there will be disagreement, we reported: “Mob-watcher websites display several Bensenville homes purported to be the location of the Spilotro killings. Investigators say all were looked at and cleared. The I-Team examined property records for those and other possible locations and spoke with current and former homeowners and found no Outfit connection. So, 30 years later, that last family secret remains intact.”
What’s next for the Outfit? Is it still active with an identified leader?
Federal law enforcement officials in Chicago say the Outfit exists but is leaner and less mean. Salvatore “Solly D” DeLaurentis is said to be the boss of the Outfit, but in his mid-80s, he is also in failing health, according to some sources.
The day-to-day operations head of the Outfit is likely Albert “Albie the Falcon” Vena, a Spilotro-style hoodlum, according to some Mob watchers.
And don’t count out old man Rudy Fratto, who never seems to go away.
There have been notable Mob movies about New York and Las Vegas but not much from Hollywood on the Chicago Outfit. Do you have thoughts on why that is?
There have been some, but the New York-Los Angeles pipeline frequently forgets there is a middle of the country. The more likely issue may be that Chicago City Hall has always insisted on playing down Chicago’s rich organized crime history. That is why Al Capone’s haunts are not recognized by the city in any meaningful way, Mob tours are disrespected by the city and any effort to get an organized crime museum here has always been stymied.
Only a cynic would think that the reason for this might be the long and deep connections between the Outfit and City Hall that have surfaced over the years in various federal investigations. After all, the entire First Ward governors of the city were once Mob bosses and their devoted underlings.
Of course, in 2023 city officials insist such organized crime infiltration has been doused.
Larry Henry is a veteran print and broadcast journalist. He served as press secretary for Nevada Governor Bob Miller, and was political editor at the Las Vegas Sun and managing editor at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Northwest Arkansas. Today, he is a senior reporter for Gambling.com. The Mob in Pop Culture blog appears monthly.
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