The Hole in the Wall Gang was the creation of Chicago Outfit mobster Anthony John Spilotro aka “Tony the Ant”, his brother Michael Peter “Micky” Spilotro and his friend Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein.
Before Tony Spilotro brought together his gang of thieves he had been breaking the law for several years both in Chicago and Las Vegas. He and four of his brothers had grown up seeing mobsters dining in their parents’ restaurant and having covert meetings in its parking lot.
It’s therefore not surprising that the boys turned to crime at an early age and Tony emerged as their leader. At first their activity of choice was petty theft and shop lifting for which he was arrested at the age of 17.
Nevertheless he continued on his errant path and eventually joined the Chicago Outfit. He moved to Las Vegas where his job was to ensure that the mob got its cut of casino proceeds i.e. ‘skimming’. He worked alongside Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and his brother Michael.
Working for the mob certainly came with its benefits and Tony was living the good life in Vegas. However he was an ambitious man and ran some side-hustles behind the scenes. One of them was a gift shop at the Circus Circus Hotel, which he owned for some time while another was a loan-shark business that he operated alongside Frank “Bomp” Bompensiero.
Tony then turned his attention to burglary and for this he needed a crew which came to be known as the Hole in the Wall Gang because of its mode of entrance which involved drilling holes into ceilings and walls.
The gang was lead by Tony, Michael and Herbert and they sought the assistance of a bunch of their friends to complete their jobs. They included:
• Lawrence “Crazy Larry” Neumann
• Butch Panczko
• Carl Urbanotti
• Ernest Lehnigg
• Ernesto “Ernie” Davino
• Frank Cullotta
• Frank DeLegge
• Gerald Tomasczek
• Joseph Blasko
• Joseph Cusumano
• Joseph D’Argento
• Leonardo “Leo” Guardino
• Michael LaJoy
• Peanuts Panczko
• Peter Basile
• Pops Panczko
• Salvatore “Sonny” Romano
• Samuel Cusumano
• Wayne Matecki
Once the robberies were complete, the group disposed of its loot through The Gold Rush, Ltd. This was a jewelry and electronics company that Tony had established with the sole purpose of fencing stolen property.
The Spilotro brothers and their friend Blitzstein should probably have stuck to selling stolen property and skimming casinos because managing the Hole in the Wall Gang was going to be quite challenging.
The Feds were on the prowl looking for gang members who were willing to make a deal with them. Of course with such a large number of people to pick from there was bound to be at least one who was willing to sing.
His name was Salvatore “Sonny” Romano and he was in charge of disabling alarm systems. He turned FBI informant and led the gang into a trap. The crew had planned to hit Bertha’s Household Products 1981 but police swung by and ruined their party.
Many of them including Lawrence Neumann, Ernesto Davino, Frank Cullotta, Joseph Blasko, Leonardo Guardino and Wayne Matecki were arrested. Only a few of them including Michael Spilotro and Herbert Blitzstein managed to escape while the less fortunate ones were slapped with various charges.
Tony Spilotro was charged more than once with murder but was never convicted. Eventually the mob turned on him and his brother Michael and they were brutally beaten, strangled and buried in an Indiana cornfield.