Is third corpse found in receding Lake Mead a missing Chicago mobster?

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner via WLS logo
Thursday, July 28, 2022
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The Clark County coroner, police near Las Vegas and federal agents are working to identify this latest corpse and two others found a few months ago in the receding waters.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One of the most famous lines from "The Godfather" may be playing out in real life as Lake Mead dries up and a third body turns up. "Sleeping with the fishes" is a notorious description of what happened to some organized crime figures after they were murdered by the mob. Police and the FBI are looking into whether the three bodies that surfaced outside Las Vegas, are three Chicago Outfit soldiers missing in action for more than 40 years.

Entombed in mud, a body became visible as Lake Mead continues to dry up. The coroner of Clark County, Nevada, police near Las Vegas and federal agents are working to identify this latest corpse and two others found a few months ago in the receding waters. The two skeletons were found by passersby, one on the parched beach; the other in a rusty oil drum. The body in the oil drum had been shot in the back, according to law enforcement sources.

"It's possible, of course, that the bodies that are turning up in Lake Mead are mob related...related to the Tony Spilotro years in Las Vegas," Chicago mob expert and author John Binder told the I-Team.

Binder said Anthony "Ant" Spilotro, who ran Vegas for the Chicago mob into the 1980's, had a hand in "disappearing" untold numbers of people who had "run afoul of organized crime."

Authorities are looking at whether the newly surfaced bodies include Jay Vandermark, a former slot machine manager for the mobbed-up Stardust casino, and Johnny Pappas, an Outfit-connected Chicagoan. Both men vanished in 1976. And could the latest body found be Billy "Bahama" Crespo, who was a mob drug courier?

"Those aren't big names per se. So, we're not talking about people that are really famous. But there's a variety of different ways to get on the wrong side of the outfit, and especially get on the wrong side of an affair with Tony Spilotro, and it could be very well that those are the dead people," said Binder.

He said while it would have been easier for Tony Spilotro to simply dump victims in the desert, perhaps he chose Lake Mead to deflect attention from the Outfit's then-burgeoning casino skimming business.

As it was, in 1986, Spilotro and his brother Michael were found dead in an Indiana cornfield grave.

There is no instruction manual for disposing of Outfit operatives. Johnny Roselli, one of Chicago's most notorious Chicago hoodlums, was found in a barrel in Biscayne Bay, Florida, in 1976. That's the same year a suspected Lake Mead victim vanished. But it may be that all three unidentified Lake Mead bodies had no Chicago mob ties, and all of this is pure coincidence.