Anthony ‘The Ant’ Spilotro is one of the most notorious casino mobsters – and was the inspiration for Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santoro in the 1995 Martin Scorcese film Casino. This is his story.


Spilotro was born in 1938 into a large Italian family – and was raised with his five siblings in and around his parents restaurant ‘Patsy’s’. The restaurant was a notorious mobster meeting point – and “made” men regularly met in the establishment’s car park.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Anthony was a tearaway as a child. A schoolyard bully from early on, he left high school after the sophomore year, could regularly be found snatching purses and shoplifting.

The young Tony was arrested many times – but far from setting him back on the straight and narrow, it made him hunger for more – and it wasn’t long before he was lining himself up for work with the infamous mobsters he’d become so familiar with in his parents’ restaurant.


By the time he was 24, in 1962, Spilotro made some pretty influential friends – and managed to get an introduction to ‘Mad Sam’ DeStefano. He joined Destefano’s crew soon after.

It was through Mad Sam that Spilotro won his first contract kill. He was tasked with bringing to bear ‘the M&M Boys’ – Miraglia and McCarthy – two burglars the same age as Spilotro – 24. The two men were tortured – and their murder was vicious.

His fearless sadism won him the reputation he was looking for – and by 1963, at just 25, he became a “made” man. He was tasked with controlling a territory in Northwest Chicago – although his new standing also meant he was firmly on the radar of the police and the media. The nicknamed him ‘The Ant’ – a play on both his name, and his height (he stood at just 5’2”).

Spilotro wasn’t just a made man – he was also marked – with law enforcement officials determined to do all they could to bring him to justice.


Spilotro continued building up his reputation – and by the early 1970s had worked his way up through the ranks of the mob. In 1971 he was moved to Las Vegas – and tasked with running the Chicago mob’s scheme to move the money in Vegas’s casinos back to Chicago.

But while there – he did more than just send money back to Chicago. Spilotro took the entire Vegas underworld over – and introduced a tax on all criminals wishing to do business in the town. Anyone who didn’t pay up faced certain death.


In 1976, Spilotro opened ‘The Gold Rush’ – an electronics and high-end jewellery store that was really a front for his new venture – high-end burglary.

Spliotro’s gang of thieves would gain access to hotel rooms and the homes of the rich – and steal anything in sight. They fenced all of the goods via the store. Their modus operandi was to cut holes in either the roof, or the wall. They became known as ‘The Hole in the Wall Gang’.

Over the next few years Spilotro’s operations dramatically expanded – the robberies were no longer just in Vegas, but throughout the whole tri-state region – and it was rumoured that he had moved into the drugs trade – dealing via a local motorcycle gang.

Spilotro had a reputation – and would put out a contract on anyone that stood in his way. But one such contract, on Aladena Fratianno (also known as Jimmy The Weasel) would lead to his downfall. Fratianno learnt about the contract before it could be carried out – and became an informant – testifying to the Gaming Commission in Nevada against Spilotro.


Spilotro was blacklisted – and banned from entertain any Casino in vegas. This made it much harder for him to do his job. The bosses back in Chicago were also concerned about just how much attention he was bringing upon himself, and upon the mob.

Their concerns were amplified when a foiled robbery led to almost all of Spilotro’s gang being arrested and tried.

In 1986, Spilotro and his brother Michael were called to a meeting – under the guise that Michael was soon to be ‘made’. Instead – the two were brutally beaten, and suffocated – by 12 other mobsters. Such was the power of The Ant – it took twelve of them to be sure they could bring him down without repercussions.

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