The Feds and the 1960s
The next decade was not kind to the Outfit. "Free love" cut into the action at their strip joints. Although it took the FBI several years to get up to speed, they quickly came to grips with the Chicago Mob. Bugs were planted in various places the Outfit used for meetings. Major Outfit guys were tailed, including the 24 hour surveillance of Giancana in 1963. Federal agents made Giancana lose his cool several times, including around his love interest, popular singer and entertainer Phyllis McGuire. They finally granted him immunity, forcing him to testify before a grand jury or be hit with contempt charges. Giancana refused to cooperate and was jailed for a year. Meanwhile, the Justice Department, under Robert Kennedy, made the first moves against corrupt labor unions, investigating the Mob dominated Teamsters Union and its national leader, Jimmy Hoffa, who was convicted of manipulating the pension fund in 1964.
Locally, Richard Ogilvie was elected Cook County Sheriff in 1962 and appointed incorruptible Chicago police officer Art Bilek as Chief of the Sheriff’s Police. For the first time in memory, the Sheriff’s Police conducted major raids on gambling games run by the Outfit, closing casinos, such as the Owl Club, all over the county. Even the Floating Crap game was hit by the Sheriffs’ Police, at a location in Cicero. At the same time, reformer O. W. Wilson was superintendent of the Chicago Police and no longer tolerated visible gambling and vice in the city. Importantly, Wilson decoupled the police department from politics, changing districts to no longer correspond with ward boundaries and centrally appointing district commanders rather than allowing the ward politicians to name them.
The pressure got to Giancana. His erratic behavior and his front page life style in return gave Ricca and Accardo fits. Thoroughly disgusted with Giancana, they deposed him in 1966 and elevated Sam "Teets" Battaglia, leader of the Battaglia-Carr gang in the early 1930s before joining the Outfit. Sam Giancana wisely left the country for Mexico and points beyond.
Battaglia was not at the helm long, however. The federal government practice of targeting the top man in the Outfit, which began with Giancana, turned the job of Boss into a revolving door. With prison on the other side of the door. Battaglia was jailed for racketeering in 1967 and replaced by Phil Alderisio, who was himself convicted in 1969. Long-time Accardo lieutenant Jackie Cerone succeeded Alderisio. In the years that followed, virtually every top mobster in Chicago, including everyone who sat in the boss’s chair, was convicted and jailed, with the exception of Tony Accardo.
A new activity for organized crime during the late 1960s was the "chop shop." The Outfit found a percentage in the wholesale theft of automobiles, by chopping them up and selling the untraceable parts rather than trying to move the entire car. This racket, centered in the South suburbs, was first subject to the street tax, with the mob later taking direct control of it.
Evolution in the 1970s and 1980s
Cerone was in turn convicted on gambling charges in May of 1970. In response to the dwindling supply of senior hoods, Accardo formed a threesome, including himself, Gus Alex and Joey Aiuppa, to run the Outfit, at least until Aiuppa was seasoned enough to be sole Boss. Within a few years Aiuppa held the reigns on his own.
The 1970s were tough on the Outfit from a business perspective. Off-track betting cut into their bookmaking operations. The state lottery cut into whatever action there was in numbers. And pressure on corrupt unions intensified.
Ethnic and political change also limited their opportunities in the city of Chicago. During most of the 1960s the Outfit was active, with the necessary political cover, in every part of the city. A side effect of the Civil Rights movement, however, was that minority groups elected new people to office who danced to a different tune. As neighborhoods changed, so did the Outfit’s ability to function in those areas. By the 1970s the Outfit’s activities were more focused on specific neighborhoods and suburbs where they had influence.
Another factor that hit organized crime was the changing nature of politics. During the 1960s, the old style, early 1900s, spittoon kicking, "I’m the boss and what I say goes" type of ward politician – who cooperated with the hoods because that was where the money was – was largely gone from the political landscape. The new, television covered, "servant of the people" type of politician was much less friendly to organized crime. Perhaps because the public was better informed about Mob activities and less tolerant of them.
Furthermore, the move into Las Vegas by legitimate operators, including large corporations, that started with Howard Hughes in the 1960s, resulted in the sale of many mob owned casinos. Law abiding individuals and corporations, because they had lower costs (relative to the hoods) due to operating efficiencies, found they could run the large Vegas casinos more profitably than the gangsters, even though they paid taxes on all their winnings. While they were able to cash out during this period rather than being forced out, this still changed the nature of the Outfit’s activities.
But the 1970s were not all bad. With increased interest in professional athletics, much of Mob bookmaking revolved around betting on pro sports, such as football and basketball. The clientele was mostly white and fairly white collar, as opposed to the traditional customers for the numbers or horse racing.
The 1970s also saw the demise of two major Chicago gangsters. Paul Ricca, who the government endlessly tried to deport (but no other country would take), died of natural causes in October of 1972. Sam Giancana, after returning to the U. S. in 1974, died of unnatural causes in the basement of his Oak Park home on June 19, 1975, after visiting with Dominic "Butch" Blasi.
During the 1980s, the Outfit’s business activities continued to evolve, while decreasing in size overall. Legal casino gaming cut into mob gambling of all types and by this decade the numbers, horse racing, slot machines and other traditional forms of illegal betting were largely a thing of the past. The Outfit was not completely but at least largely out of Las Vegas by the end of the decade, the process being hastened by federal indictments for skimming in Nevada. Video poker machines in bars, with the bartender paying winners in cash, and professional sports betting, which the Outfit quickly monopolized in the Chicago area, were the two main gambling activities. Juice loans and the related extortion were an ongoing activity, although labor racketeering was declining.
In 1983, for example, the Outfit was believed to be organized into five basic street crews (capos in parentheses) covering the North Side (Vince Solano), the South Suburbs (Albert Tocco), Chinatown (Angelo LaPietra), the West Side (Joey Lombardo) and the Western Suburbs (Joe Ferriola). A separate group, led by Tony Spilotro, oversaw their interests in Las Vegas. By 1990, the Outfit had six, much smaller crews: North Side, Chinatown, West Side, Western Suburbs, Grand Avenue and Lake County. Chris Petti was their man in Vegas, after Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were found buried in 1986 in an Indiana corn field.
The decrease in the number of made members in Chicago was not necessarily a bad thing, although it did reflect a decrease in the scope and nature of their activities. It was also most likely a response to federal inroads and the power of the RICO statute. Less made guys, more associates, meant less guys who could cause real damage if they turned on the Outfit. In fact, to date only two higher level Chicago mobsters, and neither were major figures, have been publicly identified as federal informants: Ken Eto in the 1983 and Lenny Patrick in 1991.
Aiuppa remained at the top until he was convicted in a Vegas skimming case in 1986. Joe Ferriola replaced him and at Ferriola’s death in 1989, Sam Carlisi took over the position of Boss. In each case Accardo served as the Chairman of the Board.