Chicago Police Department mugshot of Mad Sam DeStefano
September 13, 1909|
Streator, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||April 14, 1973
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano (September 13, 1909 − April 14, 1973) was an Italian-American gangster who became one of the Chicago Outfit's most notorious loan sharks and sociopathic killers. Chicago-based Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, such as William F. Roemer, Jr., considered DeStefano to be the worst torture-murderer in the history of the United States. The Outfit used the mentally unstable and sadistic DeStefano for the torture-murders of Leo Foreman and Arthur Adler, the murder of DeStefano's younger brother, Michael DeStefano, Outfit enforcer and fellow loan shark William "Action" Jackson and many others. However, due to DeStefano's deranged mental state, the Outfit never let him become a made man. At least one Outfit insider, Charles Crimaldi, claimed DeStefano was a Devil worshipper.
Samuel DeStefano, Jr. was born in Streator, Illinois, into the Italian-American family of Samuel DeStefano, Sr., and Rosalie DeStefano (née Brasco), both of whom had been born in Italy and had immigrated to the United States in 1903. Destefano, Sr., was a laborer and, later on in life, a grocer and real estate salesman before dying of natural causes, in 1942, at age 77. Rosalie was a housewife, who throughout her life was supported by the contributions of her children. She died in October 1960. In all, the DeStefanos had six children, four sons and two daughters. Not long after his birth, Sam DeStefano and his family moved to Herrin, Illinois, where his father worked in the local coal mine. After the labor-related turmoil surrounding the Herrin Massacre, the DeStefano family moved north to Chicago's Little Italy.
One of the earliest reports on DeStefano is from September 12, 1926, when he was arrested in Chicago and turned over to the Niles Police Department as a fugitive for breaking out of jail. On July 1, 1927, several hundred Westside gang members showed up threatening violence against a police sergeant for arresting DeStefano and shooting DeStefano's associate Harry Casgrovi.
In November 1927, DeStefano and fellow gang member Ralph Orlando were in court on charges of assaulting a 17-year-old girl. The prosecution claimed that on August 19, 1927, the girl was forced into an automobile and driven to a garage where she was sexually assaulted by seven men. Orlando and DeStefano were both found guilty of rape; Orlando was sentenced to ten years while DeStefano was sentenced to three. The reason for the lighter sentence was that police arrived before DeStefano had the opportunity to rape the girl.
In 1930, DeStefano joined the Forty-Two Gang, an infamous Chicago street gang led by future Outfit boss, Salvatore "Sam" Giancana. DeStefano soon became involved in bootlegging and gambling. In 1932, he was wounded by a policeman during a grocery store robbery. In August of that year, DeStefano appeared at a hospital on Chicago's West Side with bullet wounds, which he refused to explain.
In 1933, DeStefano was convicted of a bank robbery in New Lisbon, Wisconsin and sentenced to 40 years in prison. His sentence was commuted by Governor Julius Heil in December 1942 and he was released in December 1944. DeStefano returned to prison in June 1947 for possessing counterfeit sugar ration stamps.
While in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in the 1940s DeStefano met Outfit members Paul Ricca and Louis Campagna. Later in 1947, DeStefano was released and obtained a civil service job in Chicago as a garbage dump foreman. In 1952, city officials discovered DeStefano had omitted his criminal record from his Civil Service application; however, they chose not to prosecute him.
During the early 1950s, DeStefano became one of the most prominent loan shark operators in Chicago. Using stolen money from his days as a bank robber, DeStefano began investing in Chicago real estate. He bought a 24-suite apartment building and used the rent money as legitimate income to bribe local aldermen and other politicians.
By the mid-1950s, DeStefano's influence extended to city officials, prominent judges, and law enforcement officers. DeStefano would brag "there wasn't any case he couldn't 'fix,' and began offering his services accordingly. His fees ranged from $800 for fixing a robbery case to $1,500 for an assault case. DeStefano allegedly fixed a first-degree murder case for $20,000. DeStefano's arrangements became so routine, corrupt police officers would escort suspects to DeStefano's house. After DeStefano paid off the cops, the suspects would be "put on the juice" to DeStefano in exchange for his assistance.
By the early 1960s, DeStefano was a leading loan shark for the Outfit. DeStefano's loan shark victims included politicians, lawyers and small-time criminals; by the end of the decade, DeStefano was charging 20% to 25% a week in interest. DeStefano would accept very high-risk debtors, such as drug addicts or business men who had already defaulted on previous debts. The reason was simple: DeStefano enjoyed it when debtors did not pay on time, since he could then bring them to the sound-proof torture chamber he had built in his basement. Other gangsters said the sadistic DeStefano would actually foam at the mouth while torturing his victims. From time to time, DeStefano would also kill debtors who owed him small sums just to scare other debtors into paying their bigger debts.
DeStefano would give his loan shark victims presents, such as a gold watch with his name engraved on the back, so that if he had to kill his victim and the police accused him he could use the watch as proof of how close he was to the victim and why he could never have killed him. He wore thick black rimmed glasses, making people believe he couldn't see without them, when in truth he could see everything that was going on and would take mental notes on how people operated.
Under normal circumstances, the Outfit would have distanced itself from DeStefano due to his sadistic, irrational behavior. However, the bosses tolerated DeStefano because he earned them a great deal of money. DeStefano was such a successful earner, Giancana and Tony Accardo invested some of their own money in DeStefano's loansharking operations.
Following a negative report in the Chicago Tribune by reporter William Doherty, DeStefano assaulted Doherty, chased him with a gun, threatened his family and finally broke the windows on Doherty's nearby parked car.
In January 1950, DeStefano bought a new car, which police later spotted him driving around in with a sign on it that said "This is a lemon". To make sure everyone would notice it he also festooned the car with grapefruits. DeStefano's reason for this was because he thought he had bought a bad car and wanted the world to know it.
In 1962, DeStefano was arrested after he tried to represent Vito Zaccagonini in a forgery trial in Rockford, Illinois. He later returned demanding the names of all employees in the state's attorney's and sheriff's offices so they could be called as witnesses at his subsequent trial. During another court date in Rockford, when he was serving as his own lawyer as was his practice, he confused everyone in the courtroom when he approached the jury and asked, "Have you ever seen an elephant?" Moments later DeStefano suddenly changed his plea to guilty, telling the jury, "something had come to light that I had not known before." The jury found him guilty and fined him $100 for disorderly conduct.
He would say it was his dream in life to own a pig farm so he could feed his victims to the pigs. He even drove to pig farms just to watch them for hours.
According to hitman-turned-informant Charles Crimaldi, one time DeStefano made his wife Anita take his gun and put the end of the barrel in her mouth, then demanded that she pull the trigger. When she pulled the trigger and the gun didn't go off, DeStefano began to laugh and told her that he had removed the bullets. He would tell this story over and over again to his mob associates for amusement.
FBI Agent William F. Roemer wrote that he would go to DeStefano's house to question him about mob business and on a few occasions, DeStefano would walk down the stairs in his pajamas, exposing himself. Often DeStefano's wife would serve the agents coffee and the agents would comment that the coffee had a unique taste to it. Sam would claim the coffee was made from special Italian coffee beans that his wife brewed. Months later Roemer found out that DeStefano had been urinating in the coffee before it was served to the agents. Roemer wrote he could never drink coffee again in his life.
DeStefano's partner in the drug dealing business was rogue cop Tommy Dorso. Dorso reported that he once saw DeStefano roll on the floor, spit running from his mouth, begging Satan to show him mercy and screaming over and over again, "I'm your servant, command me."
Once, while riding in his car, he saw a black man walking down a Chicago street. DeStefano forced the man into his car at gunpoint, took the man to his house and forced the man and his own wife to have sex with each other, all for some real or imagined grievance DeStefano had with his wife. Afterward, the man was so mortified that he would be accused of rape, he went to the nearest police station and reported the incident.
One informant who was close to DeStefano described him as a highly emotional, temperamental individual, extremely egotistic and concerned with his personal appearance. The walls of his home were lined with mirrors and as DeStefano talked to people he continually watched his reflection in those mirrors as he walked across the room. He was described as being of such a temperament that he could be crying at one moment and laughing the very next. DeStefano would often state if he had not been framed for rape at age 17, he would have been the president of the United States.
In 1961, the Outfit mistakenly suspected that enforcer and loanshark William "Action" Jackson had become an FBI informant, after he met with the FBI in Milwaukee and someone spotted Jackson there. Jackson was then grabbed off the street and taken to a meat-rendering plant on Chicago's South Side, where DeStefano and others brutalized Jackson with a cattle prod while he was suspended and tied onto a meat hook, where he died within three days after lapsing into unconsciousness. On August 11, Jackson's naked body was found stuffed in the trunk of his Cadillac. Jackson had never become an informant.
In November 1963, DeStefano had a violent argument with Leo Foreman, a real estate agent and one of DeStefano's "juice-loan" collectors, in Foreman's office. DeStefano was physically ejected by Foreman from his office, and then he went into hiding. Later on, DeStefano underlings Tony Spilotro and Chuck Crimaldi contacted Foreman and said DeStefano wanted to let "bygones be bygones". However, Foreman was lured to DeStefano's brother's house and was murdered soon after.
In another incident, Peter Cappelletti, a collector for DeStefano, fled Chicago with $25,000 from a loan shark victim. DeStefano's men located Cappelletti in Wisconsin and brought him back to Chicago. DeStefano chained Cappelletti to a radiator and tortured him for three days. While a banquet was going on, Cappelletti was secretly being tortured in the back of the restaurant. "Kill me man, please, I'm on fire!" Cappelletti implored, to which DeStefano replied "Then we need to put the fire out" before having his men drag the severely burned Cappelletti into the dining area and forcing the man's family to urinate on him in unison. Following the banquet, the family quickly paid back the stolen money.
DeStefano's last days
In 1965, DeStefano was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to three to five years in prison. On February 22, 1972, DeStefano was sentenced to three and one half years in prison for threatening the life of a witness, mobster turned informant Charles Crimaldi, an accomplice in the Foreman murder. DeStefano had encountered Crimaldi in the elevator of the Chicago Dirksen Federal Building and threatened him. Later in 1972, DeStefano was indicted on federal charges for illegal possession of firearms by a felon.
DeStefano and his associates were eventually indicted for the Foreman murder. As in his previous trials, DeStefano had raised a large amount of public interest with his bizarre behavior. He made demands to represent himself, dressed in pajamas, shouted through bullhorns, and rambled incoherently. DeStefano then started displaying similar behavior in the Foreman trial. The Outfit bosses began to worry DeStefano was not only jeopardizing his own defense, but also the defenses of his other crew members. In a secret meeting, the boss of the Chicago Outfit, Tony Accardo, gave DeStefano's crew permission to kill him.
|Sam DeStefano murder scene|
On April 14, 1973, it was presumed that DeStefano was to have met with his brother, Mario Anthony DeStefano, and associate Tony Spilotro in the garage of his West Side, Austin neighborhood home, in the 1600 block of North Sayre Avenue. Before the meeting began, Spilotro allegedly entered the lot and shot DeStefano twice with a shotgun, hitting him in the chest and tearing his left arm off at the elbow, instantly killing him. The murderer was never brought to trial.
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