Ken Eto and the Chicago Outfit

January 18, 2022

Ken Eto or Tokyo Joe was an unusual dude in the world of the Sicilian Chicago Outfit. The only Japanese American to be in any position of trust with the Chicago Outfit or any other family. He was Japanese-American born in 1919. In 1942 the feds placed his entire family in a Japanese Internment Camp. At the end of the war Tokyo Joe worked at different jobs and in 1949, he appears in Chicago.

Chicago authorities first notice him during an investigation into the Numbers racket. At this time, nobody runs this kind of operation without the Outfit’s approval. Toyko Joe helped the Outfit take over African-American and Puerto Rican Numbers operations. It was thought he even helped set up hits on his competition.

By the 1980s, the Tokyo Joe is doing as much as $200,000.00 a week in total business. Of the most interest to the F.B.I. is the fact he is making payments to corrupt Chicago cops.

The Bureau soon learns that Tokyo Joe’s boss in the Outfit is Vincent Solano. Solano was a capo or captain over the Rush Street Crew and covered most of Northern Chicago and the adjoining suburbs. Solano was also the elected union president of Local 1 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
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F.B.I. agents focus on Tokyo Joe and his operation and soon he is indicted for running a gambling racket. Tokyo Joe was convicted of running the numbers gambling racket. His capo, Vincent Solano invited him to a meeting and asked for assurances that he would keep his mouth shut and do his time. Tokyo Joe claimed he asserted to his boss Solano that he would not talk and do his time.

Tokyo Joe was invited to a dinner on February 10, 1983, a few weeks before his sentencing. He was nervous and actually thought he might be killed because he dressed in his best suit before leaving. The same thing happened with the Spilotro brothers, Tony left his jewelry and billfold at home before he went to his last meeting.

Toyko Joe was sitting in his car when two men approached and entered the car. They fired several times, shooting into his torso and head and leaving him for dead. He crawled out of the car and into a nearby Pharmacy. He was able to call 911. The call-taker told him to drive himself to a hospital. Eventually, the call taker was convinced and an ambulance was dispatched. Toyko Joe would survive this hit because the hit team, trying to be too careful, had loaded their own bullets. When they loaded the shells with black powder, they failed to load enough and the lead bullets failed to do enough body damage to kill Joe.

The FBI would quickly visit Joe and offer him a deal. He agreed and agents moved him to another hospital under another name. They started the paperwork to place Eto into the witness protection program. He would name Jasper Campise and John Gattuso as the unsuccessful hitmen. The FBI immediately contacted both these Outfit mobsters and offered a deal in exchange for implicating Solano and other higher-ups.

As was well known with the Chicago Outfit, they were now at risk. A few months later, on July 14, 1983, they were both found dead in the trunk of a car in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. Both had been strangled.

Ken Eto or Toyko Joe would testify against many other Chicago Outfit mobsters. Eto’s testimony convicted 15 of them and they were sent to prison for various activities related to the numbers operation. This number included several corrupt Chicago cops.

Vincent Solano would live out his life and die at the age of 72 in 1992.

After he went into Witness Protection the FBI took Toyko Joe around to different mob trials that involved the Chicago Outfit as an expert on that family. He would eventually die at age 84 in 2004, under the name Joe Tanaka. He had been relocated to a small town called Norcross close to Atlanta Georgia.

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2 comments on “Ken Eto and the Chicago Outfit

  1. T-Bone Dec 7, 2021

    Gary,

    You should look into the case involving a Grand Avenue crew in the Chicago Outfit where a couple burglars/robbers that were somewhat recently convicted for posing as cops and raiding cartel dealers. These guys are under Albie “The Falcon” Vena and Christy “The Nose” Spina. This was some brazen stuff and it leads to other murders and city and county “clout jobs”. The two main guys are Bobby “Pinocchio” Panozzo (story is Joey “Lumpy “ or “The Clown” Lombardo nicknamed him that. His kid also got arrested with him (family vacation”) and another soldier, Paulie Koroluk, was involved and his wife was arrested and fired from her six-figure Cook County job. Pretty fascinating story.

    I know em all.

    T-Bone

    • Gary Jenkins Dec 8, 2021

      Thank you! That is a great story idea. I wonder if any of the cops involved would give me an interview. Who are they?

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