"Mad Sam" DeStefano
The story of a man many consider to be the most vicious in Chicago gangster history.
by Allan May
Charles "Chuckie" Crimaldi worked as a "juice collector" for Sam 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 explained his reason for sending the watch this way: "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. He wanted people to think that when he took his glasses off he was nearly blind. 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, Jackson 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 tortured the 300-pound collector for three days until he finally died.
In 1963, DeStefano got even with another of his collectors. Leo Foreman was a granite 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, Foreman 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 Foreman helped fence a diamond theft and paid back his debt. On Nov. 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 Foreman’s face, he cursed at him 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. All three were released on bail.
Before the trial began, DeStefano threatened Crimaldi in the courthouse elevator. Because of Sam’s courtroom antics, the attorneys for both Spilotro and Mario filed motions to have their clients tried separately from Sam. Their motions were granted. During previous courtroom appearances, Sam had acted as his own attorney, shown up in court wearing pajamas, or been brought in to court in a wheel chair or on a stretcher. During one appearance he used a bullhorn to make himself heard.
The trial of Spilotro and Mario was set to begin on April 30, 1973. On Saturday morning, April 15, Sam 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.
Copyright 1999 by Allan May