Tony ‘The Ant’ Hitman Nick Calabrese Dies Aged 80

The man who put vicious Las Vegas-based Mob enforcer Tony “The Ant” Spilotro in the ground has himself gone to meet the Boss of all Bosses. Former Chicago Mob hitman turned government informant Nicholas Calabrese has died aged 80, according to a CBS News source.’

Nick Calabrese, Tony Spilotro, Michael Spilotro
Nick Calabrese, left, admitted his involvement in the murder of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, right, at the “Family Secrets” trial. (Image: Mob Museum/Casino.org)

Calabrese was in the federal witness protection program and little is known about his final days. He was sentenced to 12 years and four months in prison in 2009 for his role in 14 murders, including those of Spilotro and his brother, Michael Spilotro. His release from prison was never reported in the media.

Calabrese was only the second made man in the Chicago Outfit to turn government witness. With his nephew, Frank Calabrese Jr., he testified against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr. and other high-profile Outfit members in “the Family Secrets Trial.”

The Outfit in Las Vegas

Frank Sr. was a violent loan shark who ran underground gambling for the Outfit. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for murder, racketeering, extortion, and illegal gambling. He died a year later at the age of 75.

Spilotro was the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.” He was a capo for the Chicago Outfit in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s, overseeing illegal profit-skimming from its four Nevada casinos, The Stardust, The Fremont, The Hacienda, and The Marina.

Spilotro got into trouble with the Outfit after news spread of his affair with the wife of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, a Mob associate and sports gambler who ran the casinos. In the movie, Robert De Niro’s character Sam “Ace” Rothstein was based on Rosenthal.

It’s also been speculated that Spilotro’s other extracurricular activities – he branched out into robbing residential and commercial properties with his “Hole in the Wall Gang” – also hastened his demise.

Beaten and Strangled

The Spilotros disappeared on June 14, 1986. They were found a month later buried together in an Indiana cornfield. They had been stripped to their underwear and beaten to death.

According to Calabrese, the brothers were lured to Bensenville, Ill., under the pretext that Michael would be made a member of the Outfit. Calabrese testified that he and 10 other Outfit members beat and strangled the pair at a house in Bensenville.

Calabrese received a lenient sentence for his cooperation with the American judicial system. US District Judge James Zagel told him his actions had gone some way to making amends for his crimes by “ allowing penalties to be paid for the murders of others and for allowing families to know how and why their [loved ones] died.” But Zagel said Calabrese would never truly be free.

“The organization whose existence you testified to will not forgive or relent in their pursuit of you,” he cautioned.

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