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VIDEO VAULT | Jury hears 'biggest organized crime case in Las Vegas history'

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Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro stood trial in 1986 on federal charges in connection with his alleged role in organized crime in Las Vegas.

No one can say for sure there is no organized crime in Las Vegas today. But it's certainly nothing like when the syndicate was woven into casinos both on the Strip and downtown from the 1940s into the early 1980s.

It all came to a head with racketeering trials of the big bosses in the Midwest, and some of their top enforcers here in 1986.

News 3's Dan Burns identified some of the key characters in what had been dubbed the "Hole in the Wall Gang" for their method of entry into buildings they would burglarize.

"Anthony Spilotro is the boss of a crime business. Defendant Pete Baisle and mafia turncoat Frank Cullotta were lieutenants in that crime ring, with other defendants the crew members," Burns reported.

Tony "The Ant" Spilotro was the muscle on the street, working out of front businesses like the Gold Rush Jewelry Store on Sahara near the Strip and Upper Crust Pizzeria on Maryland at Flamingo, while insiders ran the casino skim at the Stardust, Fremont, Marina and Hacienda hotels.

The prosecution's star was Cullotta, an admitted burglar and killer who had opted to testify against his former partners and enter the FBI's Witness Protection Program.

"The man belongs on death row," defense attorney Allan Ackerman told News 3, referring to Cullotta. "Right now, he's living in someone's neighborhood and they don't know who he is. And sure as we're talking right now, two years from now he's going to go hurt somebody. And then what? Some poor citizen is going to turn around and say 'My God! Why wasn't he in jail?'"

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Ackerman was in from Chicago, joining Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Oscar Goodman, who took direct aim at law enforcement.

"Goodman wants to tell the jury about the killing of Frank Bluestein, a man defense lawyers say was gunned down by Metro police officers after he was seen with Anthony Spilotro," reported Burns. "Goodman also wants to talk about the night in April 1981, when someone shot cars and homes owned by Tony Spilotro and his brother, John."

As the trial dragged on for three months, it seemed like Burns lived at the Foley Federal Building. Some excerpts from his "standups" out front:

"We're not talking about mom, baseball and apple pie here. We're talking ugly crime."

"And that the group had tipsters who would point out good potential victims for future burglaries."

"Probably because we are drawing closer and closer to the end of this trial."

"The biggest organized crime case in Las Vegas history can go to the jury."

After more than a week of jury deliberations, when attorneys were finally summoned back to the courtroom, Goodman had a skip in his step.

Sure enough, a mistrial was declared when one juror told the judge she overheard two other jurors use the phrase, "Ten thousand dollars isn't enough." Could it have indicated an attempted bribe?

"The only comment I have," responded Goodman. "Whenever my clients go home with me at the end of the trial, I'm happy."

Nancy Spilotro gave Goodman a peck on the cheek. Her husband, Tony, took out an ad thanking the jury, even though they clearly were not happy.

"Sources close to this case say just minutes after the defendants left the courtroom, FBI agents were on their way up to talk to some of the jurors and investigate the validity of claims of jury misconduct," reported Burns. "That could be a felony."

In the end, no jurors were charged with misconduct.

There was talk of a re-trial, and Tony's brothers weighed in.

"I think it's silly that they're coming at 'em again and putting more jurors through this," said John Spilotro. "I mean ... this jury, I really feel sorry for these people."

"And we will regroup for the next trial," added Michael Spilotro. "And I'm sure it will turn out the way it should be. And that is 'not guilty' on all counts."

But there was no re-trial. A little over a week before proceedings were supposed to start again, Tony and his brother Michael disappeared. Their bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield, where they had been buried after being beaten to death by fellow mobsters.

Frank Cullotta still lives in Las Vegas, has co-written an autobiography and professes to be a very different person from his days as a criminal.

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