Las Vegas Mob Murder Suspected In Grisly Discovery

Las Vegas Mob Murder Suspected In Grisly Discovery
© USA Today

The discovery of human remains inside a corroded metal barrel near Las Vegas has some suspecting this points to a decades-old Mob murder. 

The person inside the barrel at Lake Mead was shot to death in the mid-1970s or early ’80s, police said. The date was determined by the age of Kmart shoes and other clothing on the skeletal remains.

Police are seeking help from experts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the investigation, though authorities have indicated the crime will be difficult to solve.

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‘A Time Of Conflict’

During the timeframe that police cited, Mafia operatives were illegally running casinos in Las Vegas, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in untaxed gaming revenue.

High-level mobsters later were convicted of this unlawful activity, called “skimming.” Over time, corporate ownership has contributed to ending the Mafia’s involvement in Nevada casinos.

But during the Mob years, some who didn't fall in line felt the wrath.

Geoff Schumacher, vice president of exhibits and programs at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, told KLAS-TV the Mob was “pretty prominent” in Las Vegas during the era when the person in the barrel was killed and dumped into the lake.

“It was a time of conflict as well, so there were people who went missing,” Schumacher said.

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Scream Alerts Boaters

On May 1, boaters were alerted to the barrel when they heard a witness screaming. Water levels at the lake 40 miles east of Las Vegas have receded over the years because of severe drought, exposing the barrel. The lake was formed with the construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

Witness Shawna Hollister said she and her husband were docking their boat when they heard the scream. Her husband walked over and saw human remains stuck inside the barrel at what now is the shoreline. Four decades ago, that area would have been underwater.

“His shirt and belt were the only thing we could see over his decomposing bones,” she told the television station.

Since then, a second discovery revealed additional human remains at the lake, though not in a barrel. The cause of death in the second instance remained unclear early this week.

Because of these discoveries, Las Vegas has been buzzing with speculation.

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Police Not Ruling Out Mafia Involvement

One theory that continues to gain traction into this week is the possibility that mobsters might have had a hand at least in the barrel incident. 

Police are “definitely” not ruling out possible Mafia involvement, the New York Times reported.

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Scott Burnstein said the FBI in Las Vegas believes the person in the barrel was a victim of mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro.

Burnstein, a Mob Museum advisory council member and co-founder of The Gangster Report website, said in a web post that this information came to him from Nevada law enforcement sources.

From the early 1970s into the ’80s, Spilotro was the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas. In 1986, he and his brother, Michael, were beaten to death in a Chicago-area residence and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

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Mob Killings Recall Movie “Casino”

The 1995 Mob movie “Casino,” with actor Joe Pesci as a Spilotro-inspired character, dramatizes this volatile period in Las Vegas history. 

The movie also features Robert De Niro as a character based on Chicago oddsmaker Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who illegally ran the Stardust hotel-casino and other Las Vegas resorts for Midwestern crime families. Sharon Stone plays his wife. 

In the book “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas,” author Nicholas Pileggi used the characters’ real names, and the name of the Stardust.

However, he and director Martin Scorsese, who co-wrote the screenplay, changed the names in the movie for legal reasons. The Stardust was called the Tangiers.

Years later, the Stardust was demolished. Resorts World Las Vegas, the most expensive resort project in Nevada history at $4.3 billion, opened in 2021 at that site on the west side of the Strip near Slots-A-Fun and Circus Circus.

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