John Caifano – later, John Marshall – was one of the most notorious hitmen in mob history. He died quietly in 2003 – unlike almost all of his victims. This is his story.
THE EARLY YEARS
Caifano had trained as a boxer in his earlier days – and during his early teens, in the mid 1920’s, Caifano was a member of the 42 Gang – a street gang in Chicago that featured many men who would later become the most influential members of The Chicago Outfit.
Even as a junior member, he was one of the most feared – and by 1929 he had been convicted for extortion, burglarly, interstate fraud and larceny. He was at one point the prime suspect for the murder of notorious gambler Frank Quotrocci – although it was found later that Al Capone – the boss of The Outfit – was behind that particular murder.
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TAKING OVER VEGAS
When Chicago boss Paul Ricca took Las Vegas from Bugsy Siegel, he installed Caifano as its overseer – and by the late 1940s Caifano was running the town.
And Caifano didn’t just rule with an iron first – he was fiercely loyal. In 1943, a friend of his (Nick Circella) was on trial for extortion. Circella’s former lover – a ‘dice girl’ – was planning to testify against him. It wasn’t long before her body turned up – battered, burnt, and hacked apart with an ice-pick.
Caifano was in the frame – but police couldn’t make the evidence stick, and so the case never went to trial. He was also the key suspect for a string of other murders – including that of Policeman William Drury, and the suffocation of ‘Russian Willie’ (another mobster), as well as the shooting of Richard Cain (a disgraced policeman) in a sandwich shop.
A MAN TO BE FEARED
By the 1950s, Caifano’s outfit had upped their game – and kidnapped Theodore Roe, in moves aimed at taking over his ‘street lottery’ policy racket. During the kidnapping, Roe shot Caifano’s brother. The next year, he was taken down by a shotgun. Caifano was called in for questioning – but charges were never brought.
In 1964 Caifano was sent to prison for the attempted extortion of Ray Ryan – an oil man from Indiana. When he was released, knowing his reputation for exacting revenge, Ray Ryan offered to pay Caifano a million dollars as an apology. Caifano took the money, but decided to kill him all the same. In 1977 his car blew up – with him inside – no charges were brought.
In 1980, the man who had become so feared was finally put away for a significant stretch – 20 years – convicted of selling stock certificates on the black market. He served just 10 years – and was released in 1990, from when by all accounts he lived a much quieter life.
In 2003 Caifano passed away peacefully – a luxury that definitely wasn’t afforded to his many victims.