“Mad Sam” DeStefano
The Mob’s Marquis de Sade
By Allan May
When FBI agents and members of the Chicago Police Department’s Organized crime unit showed up to monitor the mourners at “Mad Sam” DeStefano’s funeral, they were disappointed, but not surprised. The “puny” turnout, which included a 10-car caravan to the cemetery, only amplified what law enforcement had known for years –
“Mad Sam” was despised by everyone who knew him. Police considered that anyone who ever had contact with him could be considered a suspect.
Born in 1909, in what would seem a fitting start to his vicious criminal career, DeStefano was convicted of raping a teenage girl and was sent to prison for three years when he was 18. In 1932, as a member of Chicago’s infamous “42 Gang,” he was shot during the attempted burglary of a grocery store. By 1933 he was back in prison, this time for robbing a bank in New Lisbon, Wisconsin. DeStefano was captured while climbing a tree to escape after the getaway car broke down and the robbers took off into the woods. He served eleven years before his release in 1944. Three years later he was in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary serving time for selling counterfeit sugar ration stamps. While there he met Chicago Outfit heavyweights Paul Ricca and Louis Campagna.
After his release from Leavenworth, DeStefano worked as a laborer for the city of Chicago. In 1949, he passed the civil service test to become a garbage dump foreman, lying on the application about his criminal past. When the falsification was discovered in 1952, the city refused to file charges.
In William Brashler’s “The Don: The Life and Death of Sam Giancana,” he gives this description of DeStefano:
“The mob was full of psychopaths and morons, and keeping order among them was a challenge to the mettle of any boss, be he an elderly don like Paul Ricca, or a power broker like Giancana. Nobody tested the patience and discipline of both men more than Sam DeStefano, a freelance juice-loan operator and terrorist who was the pre-eminent clown prince of the Chicago outfit, a buffoon with no equal. …DeStefano through the years had somehow gained the favor of Ricca and Giancana, a standing that kept him alive. For nobody made more enemies, or talked louder, than DeStefano, the mad hatter.”
DeStefano’s brother, Michael, who also worked for the city, developed a drug habit and sources said Giancana wanted him out of the way. Sam carried out the murder himself by stabbing his brother to death. He then stripped the body and washed it with soap and water “to cleanse his brother’s soul.”
Although many people considered him crazy, DeStefano was a pretty sharp businessman. After a big score from a bank robbery in the early 1930s, he purchased an apartment building with 24 suites. He used the rent money to help support local politicians. Over the years, as his contributions increased, so did the number of people on Sam’s payroll, which, in addition to political figures, included judges and police officers. By the mid-1950s, DeStefano boasted that with his connections, there wasn’t any case he couldn’t fix.
Standard fees for fixing cases were; $1,500 for assault and $800 for robbery. He once fixed an “open and shut” first-degree murder indictment for $20,000. He became so well known to police officers who were on the take that it was not unusual for an arrested criminal to be driven to Sam’s house, where the police would be paid off and the criminal freed and put “on juice for the fix.” It was said that if DeStefano promised a fix, he delivered. If, however, the defendant lost in court, DeStefano would pay the appeal costs out of his own pocket.
By the late 1950s though, DeStefano knew the big dollars were in loansharking. His clientele included borrowers from all levels of Chicago society. The upper levels included politicians and attorneys, while petty crooks borrowed money just to party for the evening or to cover an unexpected expense that came due. Other times the clients were holdup men who needed to finance a robbery.
DeStefano profited the most from the small time borrowers where his loans carried a 20 to 25% interest rate. Sam found that when these people went into hiding, they were the easiest to find and frighten because wives were always eager to help the collectors find their husbands. One collector was quoted, “I’d like to have a dollar for every wife that set her husband up for me. Hell, I wouldn’t have to worry anymore.”
There were many stories about DeStefano’s viciousness. Peter Cappelletti, one of his collectors, once took off with $25,000 of Sam’s money. DeStefano found him in Milwaukee and brought him back to Chicago. He took him to Mario’s Restaurant in Cicero, which was owned by his brother. In the basement, DeStefano, his brother, and collectors Charles Crimaldi and Sam Gallo stripped Cappelletti and handcuffed him to a hot radiator. Over the next 75 hours Cappelletti was brutally kicked and beaten. DeStefano then decided to have a party at the restaurant. The invitation list included judges, politicians, police officers, several of Sam’s mob friends, and Mrs. Cappelletti. After dinner, DeStefano made a speech in front of the group telling how Cappelletti had stolen from him and what a big heart he had for letting him live. As he was expounding, Crimaldi, Gallo, and Mario DeStefano went to the basement. There they gave Cappelletti yet another beating and then the three urinated on him. When this was done, they took him upstairs just as Sam was completing his speech and pushed him, naked, burned, bloodied, and dripping with urine into the room in front of his wife.
The vicious stories weren’t limited to DeStefano’s criminal activities. Once, after an argument with his wife, Anita, he went out and abducted a Black man off the street. Taking him home, he forced his wife Anita and the man to perform oral sex on each other at gunpoint.
In the wake of the 1957 Apalachin Conference, Hoover was finally beginning to focus on the organized crime problem in America. One of the objectives for his FBI agents was to turn members of organized crime into informants. This effort was called the Top Hoodlum Program. In Chicago, agent William F. Roemer, Jr., a six-foot two inch, former marine and four time boxing champ at Notre Dame, would try his hand at recruiting DeStefano for this program. Roemer, who had a bit of an ego himself and later authored five books about the mob (two of which were fictionalized accounts), discussed DeStefano is his first book, “Roemer: Man Against the Mob”:
“About this time I got to know Mad Sam DeStefano, the worst torture-murderer in the history of Chicago. He was a sadistic, arrogant, swaggering thug of the worst order, responsible for scores of killings, almost all by his own hands. I had a long series of confrontations with this beast, and looking back I must admit I enjoyed every one.”
When Bill Roemer first met DeStefano, he went to his home to inquire about the murder of Arthur Adler, a local restaurant owner, who fell behind in his loanshark payments. Roemer was certain that “Mad Sam” had caused his death. DeStefano met Roemer and his partner at the door wearing a pair of pajamas with the fly open and his “dingus” hanging out. He walked around his mirrored living room, holding his penis and staring at it in the mirror.
Roemer blurted out, “You killed Artie Adler.”
This diverted DeStefano’s attention away from his penis and he called for his wife, Anita, his three children, and their friends to come downstairs.
Once assembled, he screamed at them, “These two gentlemen are FBI agents. They have come out here to accuse me of killing Arthur Adler! I cry out to God up above! If I am guilty of killing Arthur Adler may God come down, right now, and put cancer in the eyeballs – of you, and you, and you.” He shouted pumping his finger in each one of their faces.
As Roemer and his stunned partner drove back to their office in complete silence, he was determined to turn DeStefano and would make several return trips to his home. Each time, Sam’s wife, Anita, would prepare breakfast and coffee for him. Word of these morning meetings was passed on to street detectives most likely from hoods who had heard about them directly from DeStefano. One day Roemer received a call from Bill Duffy of the Chicago Police Department’s Intelligence Division.
“Roemer,” Duffy asked, “Have you been going out to Sam DeStefano’s house?”
Roemer, who never discussed informants or people he was trying to turn, inquired, “Why do you ask, Bill?”
“Because, you dumb ass,” Duffy replied, “He’s been pissing in your coffee.”
Charles “Chuckie” Crimaldi worked as a “juice collector” for DeStefano during the 1950s and 1960s. He claims that Sam pioneered “organized” loansharking in Chicago, and, because of his success, he had the permission of Anthony Accardo and Sam Giancana to stay independent. Crimaldi claimed DeStefano “could make loans anyplace in the city irrespective of the jurisdiction allocated to the sharks who came later after Sam had greased the skids.” DeStefano’s independent status was confirmed by Roemer who wrote that Sam once told him that he was never a made guy because he could never submit to the discipline of the outfit.
Crimaldi reported that one of Sam’s pastimes was to drive along lonely country roads and look for burial grounds for his future victims. “We could bury a dozen guys there and nobody would ever find a smell of ‘em.” He would also go to pig farms and stare at the pigs for as long as an hour contemplating how he would feed his victims to the pigs so he could destroy the “evidence.”
When DeStefano was upset his face pinched up and his eyes narrowed. His voice became gravelly and he spoke his words very slowly and punctuated his conversation with the filthiest profanity. In addition, DeStefano’s eyes bulged, his lips drew back to reveal an evil smile, and he would begin to drool. He was a cautious man, almost to the point of being eccentric. He once sent a gold watch, engraved with, “To Bob from Sam” as a gift to a politician who owed him several hundred thousand. He claimed his reason for doing this was, “That way, if we have to whack him, everybody’ll think we were friends; and I won’t draw no heat from the dead son-of-a-bitch.”
The five feet, eleven inch, 165 pound DeStefano took to wearing heavy, black-rimmed glasses even though his eyesight was near perfect. His reason for this was to make people think he couldn’t see well. That way he could remove them and be able to observe all that went on around him without those present thinking he could.
While he was in prison in Wisconsin for eleven years, the only reading material he had was a Bible and a dictionary. He could engage in endless arguments about the Bible’s teachings and quote long passages. What makes this so bizarre is that according to Crimaldi, DeStefano was a devil worshipper:
“(Sam) was convinced that he was indeed Satan’s disciple. When he was in trouble or getting ‘heat’ … he would drop to his knees and pray. The ritual was always preceded by a violent rage during which he would stomp the floor and swear endlessly. He seemed to lose contact with the world around him and his anger propelled him through a series of spasms into some private hell where only he and the devil could enter. On all fours he would smash his fists against the floor in frustration and rage. The drool would pour from his mouth in streams to form frothy puddles beneath his face. His gravelly voice would become a croak so guttural that his words were barely comprehensible. Once he had reached this state, he would pray to the devil.”
In the early 1960s, one of DeStefano’s collectors, William “Action” Jackson was indicted on a hijacking charge. In an effort to receive a lighter sentence, Jackson was believed to be bargaining with the FBI. Although Bill Roemer would deny that they had struck a deal with Jackson, he was spotted meeting with agents in a Milwaukee restaurant owned by Louis Fazio, an acquaintance of DeStefano. Later Sam lured Jackson into a trap. Then he and his men performed unspeakable tortures on the 300-pound collector that lasted for three days until he finally died.
In 1963, DeStefano got even with another of his collectors. Leo Foreman was a giant of a man – six feet, two inches tall and 270 pounds. What began the road to his demise was DeStefano receiving a minor traffic ticket. Instead of paying the fine, Sam went to trial where he knew Foreman was a friend of the judge. DeStefano enjoyed courtroom confrontations and often acted as his own attorney. He always made sure his underlings were around to see his performance. In this case his sneering courtroom antics caused him to be fined several hundred dollars for contempt even though he was found innocent of the traffic violation. When the decision was read, he went into a “slobbering rage” and cursed everyone in the courtroom. But most of his anger was directed at Foreman.
Not long after this, DeStefano caught Foreman mishandling some of his money and declared a death sentence on him. When Sam went to Foreman’s office and confronted him with his evidence, Leo admitted that he might have made some “arithmetic mistakes.” DeStefano cursed at Foreman and growled, “You think “Action” Jackson had it rough? You’re gonna think he was on a picnic!” With this Foreman pulled a gun and ordered DeStefano out of his office.
The cautious Foreman was able to avoid Sam’s wrath for weeks until Mario tricked him into believing Sam was ready to let bygones be bygones, if Leo helped fence a diamond theft and paid back his debt. On November 14, 1963, Foreman was lulled into such a false security that he was playing cards with DeStefano in Sam’s home. Shortly thereafter, Mario and Crimaldi arrived and they all left for Mario’s house. When they arrived, Mario got Foreman to go down to his basement under the pretense of seeing his new bomb shelter. Once there, Mario and Crimaldi pulled guns and fired. Then Tony Spilotro, who was hiding in the basement, stepped out and fired. Foreman was lying on the floor writhing in pain, although not fatally wounded.
Suddenly Sam appeared, dressed in pajamas, and went right over to Foreman. Grabbing his face he cursed at Leo and told him he was going to be a blood sacrifice to Satan. After being viciously tortured, Foreman mercifully died. As DeStefano turned to leave, he looked down at the body and said, “Look. He’s got a smile on his face. Looks like he was glad to die.” He undoubtedly was.
Foreman’s body was stuffed into the trunk of a car and found a few days later. Police evidence technicians vacuumed his clothing and discovered paint and wood chips embedded in the fabric and sealed them as evidence. Seven years later, Mario sold his house. Investigators went in and were able to match the paint and wood chips they had saved since 1963 to similar material found in the basement, as well as blood specks.
By this time Crimaldi had become a government witness. With his grand jury testimony and the evidence, Sam and Mario DeStefano and Anthony Spilotro were indicted for Foreman’s murder. Before the trial began, DeStefano threatened Crimaldi in the court house elevator.
Both Spilotro and Mario fought to be tried separately from Sam. The two were afraid that his past courtroom antics would be repeated. During previous courtroom appearances, he would act as his own attorney, show up in court wearing pajamas, or be brought in to court in a wheel chair or on a stretcher. During one appearance he used a bullhorn to make himself heard. Spilotro and Mario were successful in their bid to be tried separately and their trial was set to begin on April 30, 1973.
On Saturday morning, April 15, DeStefano was sweeping out his garage. Although never proven, Bill Roemer surmised the following. Spilotro and Mario drove to Sam’s home to go over a plan to kill witness Charles Crimaldi. Getting out of the car, the two men approached Sam. Mario, in front, suddenly stepped aside and Spilotro fired two blasts from a shotgun. The first hit Sam in the left arm nearly severing it. The second blast hit him square in the chest. The devil worshipping, clown prince, and mad hatter of the Chicago underworld was killed instantly, a fate so many of his victims had been denied.
Writer’s Note: As I prefer to refrain from getting into the most graphic of details and language in my columns, I have tried my best to temper this article. For those of you with stronger stomachs who wish to read more about Sam DeStefano, I suggest you read “Crimaldi: Contract Killer,” by John Kidner.
Copyright A. R. May 1999