Joey ‘The Clown’ Lombardo, Who Oversaw Mob Casino Interests in Las Vegas, Dies in Prison At Age 90

Posted on: October 21, 2019, 08:52h. 

Last updated on: October 21, 2019, 11:42h.

Chicago Mobster and gambling kingpin Joey Lombardo died Saturday in the federal maximum security prison where he was serving a 2007 life sentence for racketeering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, and murder.

Joey Lombardo
Joey Lombardo leaves a courtroom in 1981. It was antics such as this that earned him the nickname “the Clown.” (Image: Chicago Sun-Times)

Lombardo was alleged to have been the Chicago Outfit’s Consiglieri at a time when it controlled — and skimmed the profits from — some of Las Vegas’ most popular casinos, notably the Stardust, Fremont, the Hacienda, and the Marina.

In 1986, he was convicted of maintaining hidden interests in several casinos, including the Stardust, and of skimming more than $2 million from them between 1974 and 1978. He was released in 1992 to resume his position in the Outfit’s highest echelon.

Killer Clown

Lombardo, born Giuseppe Lombardi, was nicknamed “the Clown” largely by the media because of his quick wit in the courtroom and his tendency to pull faces in police mugshots.

He once left a courtroom with a copy of The Chicago Sun Times covering his face with eye holes cut out.

But he was also a ruthless killer. His official Mob nickname was “Lumpy,” reportedly for his propensity to knock lumps out of people. This was a sobriquet earned as a young loansharking hoodlum in a tough Italian neighbourhood known as “the Patch” on Chicago’s Near West Side.

But Lombardo’s violence was coupled with a fierce intelligence, which by the early seventies had helped him rise to the top.

Lefty and The Ant

The Outfit’s Las Vegas operations were dramatized in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 movie Casino, which details the exploits of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Spilotro and Rosenthal had been sent out West to look after the Outfit’s casinos — Rosenthal as a manager, Spilotro as a vicious enforcer who would later fall out of favor with the Mob and pay with his life.

Lombardo did not appear as a character in Casino, but his responsibilities in Las Vegas — which he conducted from Chicago — were major.

According to The Beachwood Reporter, big boss Tony Accardo assigned Lombardo the roles of overseeing the Teamsters Union’s Central States Pension Fund and supervising Rosenthal and Spilotro.

The Outfit used the Teamsters pension fund as its own personal bank, which it dipped into to finance many of its ventures, including the purchase and construction of casinos, because it couldn’t apply for a loan at a regular bank.

Family Secrets

In 2005, Lombardo was indicted with 13 others as part of the FBI’s “Family Secrets” investigation, so-called because the resulting convictions were based on the testimonies of the son and brother of Outfit hitman Frank Calabrese Sr.

The 74-year-old Lombardo went on the lam, but was captured by the FBI nine months later.

He kept Omerta, the Mafia’s code of silence, to the bitter end.