Former Las Vegas Mayor 'Wouldn't Tell' if He Had Info on Lake Mead Barrel Victim

Former Las Vegas Mayor 'Wouldn't Tell' if He Had Info on Lake Mead Barrel Victim
© USA Today

Defense attorney Oscar Goodman doesn’t buy into the theory that a murder victim found inside a metal barrel near Las Vegas was shot to death by mobster Tony Spilotro.

Known in the media as “Tough Tony” and “The Ant,” Spilotro had been one of Goodman’s legal clients decades ago. In the 1970s and into the ’80s, Spilotro was the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Southern Nevada.

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Goodman, who later became Las Vegas mayor, said people constantly ask him about the body in the barrel. It was discovered two months ago at Lake Mead, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas.

“I can’t even leave my home without being asked who did it,” Goodman told “Law and Crime” reporter Brian Ross. “If I knew I wouldn’t tell you.”

Goodman is set to discuss the incident in a presentation on Wednesday at Oscar’s Steakhouse in downtown Las Vegas.

The restaurant, named for the 82-year-old Goodman, is inside the Plaza hotel-casino at Main and Fremont streets. A statue of Goodman and Spilotro is on display at the restaurant. Goodman’s wife, Carolyn, is the current mayor. 

The title of Oscar Goodman’s presentation, “Roll out the barrels. Same old crap. Tony did it,” underscores a point he has made in the past, that Spilotro often was blamed for crimes that occurred in Las Vegas.

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The corroded barrel, with skeletal remains inside, was located May 1 in an area that once had been underwater but, because of severe drought, has been exposed by the receding lake level. As late as 1983, Lake Mead was at full capacity, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The male victim had on Kmart shoes and other clothing indicating he was killed and placed inside the barrel in the 1970s or early ’80s. Police said the man had been shot to death. At the time of the killing, the barrel was dumped in what would have been deep water.

Because of the timeframe, some suspect Spilotro might have had a hand in the incident. 

During that period, mobsters were active in Las Vegas, stealing untaxed casino revenue for Midwestern Mob bosses and committing violent acts. This era is depicted in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie “Casino,” with actor Joe Pesci portraying a character based on Spilotro.

By the 1980s, with corporate casinos replacing Mob-controlled resorts, the Mafia was being shoved out of Las Vegas. 

Spilotro and his brother, Michael, were beaten to death by mobsters at a Chicago-area residence in 1986 and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

"There's no Mob here now," Goodman recently said.

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In the “Law and Crime” interview, Goodman said Spilotro has been blamed for a number of killings but was never imprisoned on a murder conviction. 

“The FBI always used to say, ‘How can you represent a guy who killed 27 people,’ and I said, ‘How could you even say that to me when he never spent a day in jail,’” Goodman said. “The only time he spent in jail was waiting for me to get through with the case so I could get him out on bail.”

The barrel incident “doesn’t smell even like what they allege” Spilotro would have been involved in during that era, Goodman said.

“It’s a big desert out there,” he said of the area surrounding Las Vegas, adding that placing a body in a barrel and transporting it to the lake would be “a lot of trouble."

Goodman said taking a shovel to the desert near urban Las Vegas and digging a hole would accomplish the same thing as the Lake Mead incident, but “probably more effectively than how it turned out.”

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