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Big Tuna Accardo and his Red Mercedes

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. In this episode, Gary and Chicago Outfit expert and author Camillus Robinson discuss Mafia Boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo and the most significant criminal charge he ever faced. The IRS charged Anthony Accardo with tax evasion, just like Al Capone. Accardo went to a jury trial where several people testified that he was a beer salesman and always drove his Red Mercedes Benz sports car when he called on customers. They had to do this because he had deducted his depreciation, mileage, and gasoline for his work use of this unlikely car. We learn that future Southside Chicago Height’s Capo Al Pilotto was instrumental in testifying for Accardo.

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GARY JENKINS, Camillus Robinson

Well welcome all you Wiretapperss back here in studio Gangland Wire got my good friend Camilius “Cam” Robinson. Welcome cam.

Camillus Robinson 00:06
How you doing? Very good to see you.

Well, it’s a cold up there in Chicago with cold and hell down there.

Camillus Robinson 00:12
Yeah, it is it was in the it was in the teens earlier I might get up into the midterm needs to

do. Anyhow, we’re going to talk about the big Tuna or Joe Batters, Anthony Accardo today and him and I both stumble across this little story. And I mentioned to him and he’d already knew something about it. And it’s the little red sportscar story. This is really fascinating, I think, in the lender in the 50s. Tony Accardo had the perfect job. He was a beer salesman, I remember as a kid guys wanted to get a job with the pearl brewery or on the brewery truck, because you got all the free beer you wanted to drink. Accardo had it for other reasons. Of course, you know, he was an outfit guy. He was he was the boss at the time. And he had a lot of connections with Chicago bars and liquor distributors and places to buy beer when you say

Camillus Robinson 01:09
Damn, that’s where you make the pickups. Three pickups, cash. That’s where

you pick up the case, man. sports gambling was going on out. That’s where the deals are made. And that’s where that’s where the gamblers were, that’s where the money was. And he made $65,000 a year as a beer salesman. For everyone round he got he also got I mean, look at my notes here. He got five cents a case on all Foxhead beer. he sold. He was working for this company. It wasn’t really a mob company particularly but he was he was the mob guy representing them. And it probably was more of a mob company. We realize he deducted his expenses and like car expenses. Other expenses depreciated. That is a concern. But what’s interesting is his car was a little red sports car, but it wasn’t just any little red sports car. Was it what was it? I know you’re this

Camillus Robinson 02:06
guy as a car guy, you know, I know your motorcycle guy. But so for me the 300 SL, Mercedes Gullwing. We know what’s going on because Gary, I wondered for years, Gary found a great quote from the judge talking about the up and down doors. But 300 300 SL Goldwing was the first supercar I sat in one at an auction it’s got a steering wheel that tilts forward because it’s so hard to get into. So you can imagine these guys in their in their expensive suits stepping over this wide is wide beam to get into this car with the doors oh going up and it was a race car in in everything except name. They used him to race the handling was tremendous. This was the quintessential he was like driving around selling beer in the equivalent of a Lamborghini.

Richard Ogilvy who was the sheriff for one for a while in Cook County and he was an investigator and he did some investigation on this and he went to 3500 local tavern owners, and he never found anybody that ever talked to Tony Accardo.

Camillus Robinson 03:12
Police work for the day!

Really! He deducted $3,994 in depreciation and oil and gas expenses for this Mercedes don’t pay for the car, you know and Accardo at his trial was it was really interesting. He he was he had you know succeeded Capone so he was the man and he had always he knew how they got Capone right? Income tax so he had always showed some income and depreciation and some deductions like normal people do he wanted to make it look as normal as possible. Of course he lived way beyond those means but but maybe not like Capone did Al Capone you know he had these silver diamond encrusted belt buckles that he gave out then hotel homes and I guess he had a big home down in Florida and he just did a lot of other real ostentatious things that Accardo didn’t particularly do. He did have a home in Palm Springs later on in life. But this this Mercedes was was pretty ostentatious at the time what would that car be worth today?

Camillus Robinson 04:18
So now they go for about 1,000,002 million 1,000,002 just went on an auction. I

think if you could find the one that Tony Accardo actually owned. If you could trace that VI N

Camillus Robinson 04:29
Jay Leno has got a red one taht looks something like it looks something like it but yeah, they are a tremendous car if you could trace Accardo’s that would just be an extra maybe an extra $100,000 in the bank

or more. They would I wonder how you do that you know how you trace those bi ends I know guys do that they go back and find their high school car that they had I’ve heard of that.

Camillus Robinson 04:50
If you went down to either probably go downtown to the registration road vehicles and maybe track it down and I have a hard time believing that the car no I had too many good and records but because that car was in a court case, I’m sure it would be somewhere

you might be able to find the VIN in that old court case. And it uses real mob fans out there in Chicago and Cook County that like to research. It’s a go find those if you can find those court records. There’s not a lot of those cars out there and get that VIN and then start trying to trace it or send that VIN in to me, I’ll try to trace it. At least whatever I can get on the internet. I’m not going to travel around the country, but it would be worth it actually to travel around the country if you thought you could find it. But even if you found it, even if they didn’t know who it was, you know, it’d be hard to buy. Oh, they just don’t go up for sale. Those No, no, no

Camillus Robinson 05:40
people get them and hold onto them.

Accardo is famous for never spending a night in jail. And that trial he they put up a pretty good defense. It was a typical Chicago defense. And he take a look at here. It’s a pretty good quotes. He got Al Pilotto in there, who at the time would have been what would he have been at the time in 1956. He was pretty

Camillus Robinson 06:02
high ranking Lieutenant down in Chicago Heights. A lot of the Chicago Heights crew Frank Frank Laporte was running things in Chicago Heights and Al Piolotto. And a bunch of guys Joe Colombo, Joe and Joe Costello. These guys all were witnesses in this trial. So basically the whole Chicago Heights group because a lot of the bars that Accardo was supposedly selling to were down in between Kankakee and Calumet City, in the south of south of Chicago.

And that makes sense why Pilotto would would be the one that came down he at the time he had been the president of the local number five for the International Hod Carriers, Builders and Common Laborers union. Yeah. And he claimed that he worked with he was a leg man for Accardo, which is why you didn’t see Accardo when these joints he sent. Pilotto said I want us to go out and do things in these joints and take bar napkins and you know, little giveaway items and promotional things for him. He said and even remarked that he was in a particular liquor store the park in liquors in Calumet City, and he saw Accardo come in with Jackie Cerone you know, that’s how far back Jackie’s thrown goes. He had to be really young guy. He must have been like driving Accardo How would he have been?

Camillus Robinson 07:18
Yeah, it was in. So he was in his early 50s. He was born in 1906. So in the late 50s, he was just turned 50 Driving this car and so yeah, he would have been in his 50s throne would have been he was born. So in his in his late 30s, early 40s.

Okay, yeah, he would have been a young guy so he was he’d been going round with Accardo. Yeah, really young man carried on all the way to the rest of his life as Accardo was alive. He was Jackie Cerone was the guy that was a longtime relationship. I never really thought about that. I know. Look at it later on in the 70s when he’s sitting up but nor the males restaurant, Meo’s Norwood restaurant, I think and he’d sit there. Meet with Paul Ricca before he died and meet with other people Jackie Cerone was was often noted as being the guy that took him there and maybe stayed Yeah, maybe came back and got him and so he was with him a long time.

Camillus Robinson 08:14
Oh, yeah. He was his right hand, man. And I’m with Mark.

Yeah, at the time Pilotto named off his partners in his jukebox, cigarette vending company business. So he had a reason to have people going in and out of these bars to Frank Laporte, like you said, guy named James Ross, Frank Franz, Mike Roberts, Marty kusini. Sam, DiGiovanni, and Dominic and William Palermo. I don’t really know any of those guys you know anything.

Yeah. Toots Palermo was he went down in the big sting. Dominic “toots” Palermo but there was a lot of trade back and forth over in between Italy and Chicago Heights, not a heroin trade. And they had a pipeline of stolen cars to do. I’ll talk about those a lot of connections to Sicily to Chicago Chicago Heights. Those are all big rigs in Chicago has a parade of mob guys coming in and say no, he was a beer salesman.

Yes, really. There was another guy named Joseph L. Costello. Connected I don’t remember that name either. You remember that name.

Camillus Robinson 09:22
Now there’s another guy in Chicago Heights. He got up there and verified that verified the Accardo had been a beer salesman downer. He invented the device in Chicago and climate City

Energy John Macaluso, who was the president of the Kankakee distributing company and head of the Chicago Heights liquor distributing company. And he said he saw Accardo when there’s Joseph Costello, many times coming in the sports car on a beer selling mission.

Camillus Robinson 09:50
You know, to run an organization like that in the 50s and 60s you would have had to be on

when asked about the little red sports car Pilotto said something aboutuips up about You know, he sold a lot of beer out of that little red car

Camillus Robinson 10:06
not out of the trunk though. I saw a picture years ago of a Accardo’s maybe granddaughter niece or something driving a, what’s called a Borgward Isabella, which is another little German car little German coupe. So he might have had a predilection for German cars.

He might have. Yeah. And back then that was unusual. That was oh, yeah, really unusual. Everybody you know, you’re gonna have a sports car, you probably have a Corvette more than likely, if you had money. And if you didn’t have so much money, you might get one of those little English sports cars like you. Right, right. You got a little MG your Triumph or something. They weren’t very expensive, but it was you had to work on him every day, but

Camillus Robinson 10:47
quite a mechanic.

But you are by now. You know, during the time my research tells me that he was paying paying taxes on income that he said came from miscellaneous sources with a bed of about a million dollars between 40 and 55. In that justified his $500,000 mansion and River Forest, it’s time and vacations and lavish vacations. I think you must have been a golfer he like because he ended up in Palm Springs every winter.

Camillus Robinson 11:21
When we sacrifice and miscellaneous.

He did this after people started pushing him back in the day as he was coming up about what where do you work, you know, federal agents pushing him on where do you work? And he remember what happened in Capone and so that’s when he got in the liquor distributing the beer Beer sales business.

Camillus Robinson 11:39
Yeah, it was Capone and Nitti and Jake Gusik. All went down for Nitti and Gusik were in for 18 months with Capone was nailed and so Accardo was scared about that. He sold his house shortly after this and moved into a smaller it’s still a pretty pretty awesome tasting house but not like that one in River Forest. Do you have a similar was just was 24,000 square feet or so just insane isn’t it.

And and the appeal says the government introduced evidence that he had an employment contract with premium sales. And he was reimbursed by the Foxhead brewery for contract payments to the defendant. But the defendant Dhoni Accardo was unknown, and then seeing that premiums office at any times by premiums office supervisor, or any of the salesmen that were in there. We know those

Camillus Robinson 12:23
guys got in some trouble with the court and saying no, I don’t know this guy at all. I’ve never seen him around the office,

or by premium sales bookkeeper who saw the salesman every day. And there were six other premium salesmen that attended salesman’s meetings and salesman drivers, and sub distributors, and nobody could ever say they ever saw Tony Accardo around there.

Camillus Robinson 12:46
There’s a scene in The Sopranos where Tony? Tony Soprano has to show that he’s working he’s worried about its extra himself and he shows up at the sanitation place and if he’s supposedly a manager at and they don’t recognize they don’t know who he is, and then the owner comes in says, oh, no, no, it’s okay. It’s okay. He He’s, here’s his office over here and they turned it into a storage closet and all but nobody nobody knew.

And then the time I thought was a little bit hokey. But it it was kind of dramatic in a way and kind of funny is when several of his guys he got a no show jobs and a construction job site to the you know, labor racketeering. And I’ve heard of that same way at the Teamsters and no show jobs or minimal work jobs done on the docks in Kansas neighbors too, but his guys come in and they don’t work they take folding chairs in order to show up in the job and they sit around and sun themselves and smoking joke all day long. But they get in some fight with you know the regular laborers are mad as hell over this so I don’t think that was based in reality they’re there for a no show job they were just wouldn’t show up at all. And

Camillus Robinson 13:59
you know, I think they were there was a bit that was being over the top trying to drive home the point

but that’s been you know, that whole no show job. I just heard a story about a guy here in Kansas City that when he got to the penitentiary, I’ve seen in the 80s he was gonna have to show a job be continued to be supervised for a while and a local part time or have a local car dealer gave him a job at minimum wage and pay you know, cut a check for him every week. And they did this for two years and the guy never showed up. Never had to show up. But the car dealer got a really juicy contract with another big company to provide some kind of he had a body shop. It was a Buy Here Pay Here car lot and he had a body shop connected to that and a tow truck. So he got a tow contract with a bunch of other people that that he normally wouldn’t have got. He also got a deal for a couple of New car dealerships in the city to provide all the body shop supplies. So he went someplace to a distributor bought them and then took a little piece off the top. And so that that was a deal. That’s, you know, it’s just such a common thing with the mom.

Camillus Robinson 15:15
They ran the laborers, they ran the city government. So all those guys said, No Show job on the streets and sanitation or blato has been waving the laborers and several other cantos. We’re we’re chiefs in the laborers union.

And who else didn’t have one Joe Lombardo? Yeah, Lombardo was a driver up there for quite a while. And that finally somebody exposed that I don’t remember how it was exposed now to you,

Camillus Robinson 15:44
They they purged all the corruption from from union. I mean, it was a major it was a major effort and they had to fight to get to to get them out. I know. One of the guys who was hired and laborers is still around. So I’m only saying this to save people’s names. But I mean, they really had to work hard to get these guys out and bring in national attention. The government was putting pressure on them and all they finally for the posting. Yeah, a lot. I was dead by that’s

yeah, that’s, that’s for sure. Like I said, I know there was a ton of Teamsters jobs here in the Kansas City there they they either did little or didn’t show me mainly they showed up but did very little on the docks and, and the former knew that he couldn’t push him. I talked to one form. He tried to push this one guy guy named bins Rallo beans, inzerillo, what can you remember his first name and and what beans did is he was part of a crew of mom guys that flew to other cities back in the 60s and Rob grocery stores. And back then you could rob a grocery store on Pay Day. And you could hit trigger a mountain in the late 60s, early 70s. And it was that was a lucrative business but hidden in between times, he was working on the dock and a big freight company. And this guy just wouldn’t do anything he’d show up, but he just wouldn’t do anything. And I talked to a guy later, years later, that was the supervisor. And he said I tried to push him he said that, you know, he even threatened to kill me by that, you know, I couldn’t get rid of it. So I just finally gave up, Justin. Yeah, it’s it’s an interesting lie, being in the mob and having those connections so that’s one reason people say oh, they don’t hurt anybody else. But you know, in some ways they do you know, think if you’re a guy working on the doctor, and you’re thinking well this guy didn’t do anything you know, give me his money I’ll work hard you know we’re among a few of us get let us get a little more money and you’ll get more work out of us but they watch that guy sit on his ass or they don’t even know about the ones that don’t show up. So right right and authorization everything unit where they do things like that?

Camillus Robinson 17:49
Oh, yeah, well, yeah, yeah, they really couple of those unions. I mean, the laborers and the Teamsters and the dock workers they just really rip through there. Remember

that and even businesses it gives some businesses an unfair economic advantage because they can put pressure on to do that now many times the pressure they put on somebody who bids to that pressure, they got their own little secrets go on there. They’re sports gamblers and you know maybe ad hoc or go in and out of hock to the mob and different things like this. We had been a guy once that you always think these kind of square John businessman are not part of it. And then he gets surprised. So a guy named What was the name of aero truck sales, it was a big time, big truck sales. And this was like their vice pres or something. This was a pretty high ranking person. And we did a operation on a bunch of really liberal art theaters what they were they were high end boosters, they stole the leak crystals. What’s the other countries other kind of crystal that use that people steal? They went a little museum up in Omaha and got a Remington painting they went some other smaller museums around and got some paintings and when we took down they were mobbed connected they mainly fence to the mob and when we took them down was one guy started talking and he told us about his oldest one famous painting I think was a Remington out of a museum to this guy who was an exec for Truck Sales went down to his office and there it is on the wall that’s breasts so this this side by side in and out overlapping of the mob and what seems like on the surface legitimate businessman is is always fascinating to me. It’s always interesting and it’s all and it’s there. But

Camillus Robinson 19:40
it’s now it’s all legalized and corporations have taken over all

Well, that’s interesting discussion can be

Camillus Robinson 19:49
driving a little racecar around red car

around I just impressed with him because you like me. I like my cars and I like motorcycles do I had a Porsche Boxster for a short period of time. A lot of fun. You’ve got your what is your car? Your

Camillus Robinson 20:06
little little 66? MG midget? midget? Yeah,

well, those things are small aren’t they? No. Yeah.

Camillus Robinson 20:12
It’s not as easy to get into as it was when I was 16.

Yeah, really?

Camillus Robinson 20:18
legs don’t work the same as 45.

Yeah. Yeah. Every time I see one of these cars, I think I want one. And me and my friend, Steve, St. John, go to our every Saturday night. There’s kind of unofficial local people with cars. Usually restored cars show up in a parking lot over here. And then he knows several of them over there. And I’m at mo there and just go around, talk to those guys and look at the cars and I always want one. But we start talking to him you find out oh, yeah, I put $110,000 that 5060 $75,000 You know, 65 quarterback, and that’s after I paid 20,000 to buy it.

Camillus Robinson 21:01
No comments. Really no comments.

You know, I like them, but not that but I wouldn’t take care of it. Anyhow, I like to use Alright, Cam Well, thanks a lot for working with me on this. I think it’s an interesting fun little story, which we tried to bring you guys out there and YouTube and podcast land. So don’t forget, I like motorcycles we just talked about look out for motorcycles. Pam got a book coming out. Tell me the name of that book. The it is it is Swan Song. The real Chicago Mob Wife. It is about Lisa Swan, the wife of Frank Calabrese Jr. It’s talking about what it’s like behind the doors of what goes on in a mob mob household not not from point of view of a mobster. But from the point of view of the family and what effect it has on on the wife, the mother and the children. And it’s really a pretty broad look like what we were just talking about. I mean, it’s it really, it really takes a toll on family members and I think this is a pretty interesting look. Lisa Swan tells a hell of a story. And so I think it’d be really something Chicago Swan song. thanks cam Chicago swans on and if you’ve got a problem with PTSD or you got a friend or relative that does look on the VA website and get that hotline because there’s help available for you former’s service people. Thanks a lot cam

Camillus Robinson 22:31
absolutely this

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