Feature Articles

August 2001

The End of Fat Herbie

By John William Tuohy

     Back in the old days, Fat Herbie Blitzstein was a somebody, a man to step aside from, under Tony Spilotro, back in the 1980's when Spilotro and his crew ruled Vegas. Nicky the Ant Spilotro was Chicago representative in Vegas and since Fat Herbie was Tony the Hat's top loan shark, Fat Herbie could do what he wanted to do, say what he wanted to say, and take whatever he wanted to take.

     Then the bosses back home ordered that Tony the Ant be turned into trunk music, by his own crew. They whacked him in an Indiana cornfield and left him buried half alive. After that, Fat Herbie was just another Vegas hustler looking for a buck. The boys back in Chicago didn't want to have anything to do with him, hell, they didn't want anything to do with Vegas anymore.

     Then in January of 1997, the outfit killed Fat Herbie. A hitman put two in his skull as he sat in a black leather easy chair in his Vegas home. Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

     The problem was that Fat Herbie stayed obnoxious and greedy up till the day he died because he still figured he was under Chicago protection.

     But nobody else saw it that way, including the Los Angeles mob, called the Micky Mouse Mafia, and its new partner in Vegas, the Buffalo New York family. Together they decided to move in on Vegas in a big way and would start with Fat Herbie Blitzstein's rackets.

     A meeting was held in L.A., Johnny Branco, an ex-con out of Los Angeles who was also wearing a wire for the FBI, was there, so was Carmine Milano, underboss of the Los Angeles mob and two of his boys, Steve Cino and Steve Caruso.

     Bobby Panaro, out of Buffalo was there, the FBI figures he represented New York's interest in the deal.

     It was agreed at the meeting that after they took over Fat Herbie's operations, that he would be allowed to retire out of the game, and he wouldn't be killed. The Buffalo people wanted it that way.

     What they didn't know was that the L.A. hoods had already decided to whack Herbie, if for no other reason than to show the world that Los Angeles was no longer taking orders from Chicago or anybody else.

     It's always somebody you know. In Herbie's case, the guy who sold him out was Joe DeLuca, who had fronted for Fat Herbie's Iona car repair shop. A few days before the hit, DeLuca met with Panaro, Cino, Branco and Caruso at a Denny's restaurant outside Vegas and divided up Fat Herbie's belongings.

     DeLuca told the hoods how much they could expect to make off of Fat Herbie's various scams and then told them that Herbie kept most of his loot inside his house. He even told them where it was and how much of it there was.

     DeLuca sold his friend out for a larger share in the car repair business and agreed to let the hoods, either Buffalo or L.A., continue to run insurance scams out of the shop.

     Adding insult to injury, Mauriello told the FBI that he managed to hire two hitmen, Richard Friedman, and Antone Davi, 29, to take Fat Herbie out...for $3,500.

     Peter Caruso burglarized Blitzstein's home a few hours before the hit took place, he got about $50,000 worth of loot and on his way out left the door open for the hit men he had hired through Wise guy Alfred Mauriello.

     It was late when Fat Herbie got home. He sat down in an oversized black leather chair in his office off the living room and closed his eyes for a minute. When he opened them, the hitmen, Friedman and Davi, were standing over him, guns drawn.

     "Why me?" Fat Herbie asked. "What did I do?"

     They answered him by pouring six shots into his oversized chest.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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