Feature Articles

July 2002

Marshal Caifan: The Outside Man

By John William Tuohy

     The Outside man was a living reminder to the Inside men, and the card sharps, con artists and stick up men who considered stealing from casinos, that behind the glitter and glare of the Vegas lights, killers ran the show. It was their casino. It was their money, so smarten up and walk straight.

     If the boss of a casino had a problem he couldn't handle, he took it to the Outside man. He was the muscle, not the brains in Vegas, and when Chicago called the shot in that town, being their "Representato" was, for wiseguys, like being a God.

     For almost four decades, the various mob outfits worked well together in Las Vegas. There had been a few nasty incidents, like the one in 1954, when Los Angeles Mafia boss, Jack Dragna, made a sloppy attempt to get a toe hold in Vegas by sending in some sluggers to scare Meyer Lansky's men, Doc Stacher and Moey Sedway.

     It took the New York families a few days, but they managed to send in several dozen of their best gunmen to match Dragna's invasion force. A shooting war on the strip was avoided, when a peace council was called. The gangs met in Manhattan, and Dragna withdrew his troops after Lansky gave him a cash send off.

     The New York mobs figured that Chicago's boss, Tony Accardo, was behind the Dragna move, but in the name of peace, they overlooked it. Still, the message was clear. If they didn't want to get muscled out of Gangster Heaven, each of the families would need a strong presence in Vegas.

     But that didn't work either. By 1958, each organization had sent in its toughest, in some cases, craziest enforcers to represent them on the strip. But, the only thing they accomplished, as Accardo said, "was to scare the fuck'n tourist back to Iowa."

     A general syndicate meeting was called, and it was decided that since Chicago had declared itself the arbitrator of all mob business west of the Mississippi, that they would appoint the Outside man, the enforcer, to watch over Vegas, for everyone.

     It gave Chicago a lot of power, but, on the other hand, having an enforcer in Vegas was overhead. There was no money in it. The real money, the real power, was inside the casinos.

     And that was another reason for the Outside man to exist.

     Every outfit had an "Inside man" in Vegas, the low level, business like hood, charged with watching over the "skim," the millions of dollars taken out of the casino's counting rooms before the tally was reported to the government and taxed.

     Since no one, accept the Inside man, really knew how much the day's count was before it was skimmed, there were persistent rumors that the inside men were stealing from the take.

     But a little stealing was expected, unavoidable really.

     However, sometimes the stealing got to be much, and the bosses back home needed to scare the inside men into following the rules. Enter the Outside man.

     The first hood that Chicago sent to be its God in Vegas was Marshal Caifano, a dangerous man with a hair-trigger temper and the disposition of a rattlesnake.

     Like Sam Giancana, and most of the hoods who ruled over Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Caifano came out of the notorious 42 gang that sprung out of Chicago's sprawling Italian Ghettos, and, again like Giancana, Caifano's arrest record dated back to 1929. By 1952 he was already a prime suspect in at least ten mob murders, and, later, won short lived, national recognition when he refused to answer questions before the McClellan committee.

     It was Sam Giancana who sent Caifano to Las Vegas in the late 1950s, when the Chicago outfit was skimming a million a day out of its casinos there.

     Caifano got the job, largely because Giancana decided that he wanted the hood's beautiful wife, Darlene, a tough talking, Kentucky Mountain hillbilly who, according to FBI agent Bill Roemer, modeled herself after Virginia Hill.

     Sam had a thing for Darlene, and Darlene wanted to taste Momo's power, so in 1958 the two started to meet regularly on Friday nights in a hotel Giancana owned, the Thunderbird, in suburban Rosemount, outside Chicago. Soon, Sam decided he wanted Darlene on a full-time basis, so, to get Caifano out of the way, the mob boss sent his most trusted solider to Vegas as a replacement for Johnny Roselli, a man Giancana never liked or trusted.

     It was interesting how Caifano found out about Momo and Darlene too. Special Agent Bill Roemer of the FBI was trailing Giancana and figured out that Giancana and Darlene were having an affair.

     Roemer decided to use the information to see if he could get Caifano to flip over to the FBI as an informant. Roemer stopped Caifano one night and told him about Giancana and Darlene and then asked "So what do you think about that?"

     Caifano's face lit up with a smile that went from ear to ear. He couldn't be happier. He thought it was an honor. Roemer, who was relatively new to the job, didn't understand the rules yet, and went away confused, certain that, at the least, a killer like Caifano would fly into a rage. But he didn't. All it did was make him happy, because now Caifano had Sam Giancana just where he wanted him.

     Sleeping with Caifano's wife was a direct violation of the few rules the Chicago mob has. Caifano could have killed Giancana for what he was doing and got away with it too. But he wouldn't. The affair between his boss and his had gotten him one of the best jobs in organized crime, and Caifano knew that as long as the affair went on, he would hold his position in Vegas.

     Tony Accardo, the true boss of the Chicago outfit under Paul Ricca, was appalled with Giancana's selection. Accardo was a man who liked things done quietly, in the shadows, and he knew that Caifano didn't have the suave and sophistication to handle the delicate work needed in Vegas. But Giancana wouldn't budge on his decision.

     But before Caifano left for Vegas, Accardo called him into Meo's Restaurant, where he conducted most of his business and told him to "lay low in Las Vegas, no one get's hurt without clearing it with us first and don't do nothing to scare the tourists."

     And at first, Caifano did as he was told. He laid low and minded his own business. He handled everything safely and quietly. Then he decided to let the city know he was there. He changed his name to John Marshall, dumped the cheap suits and replaced them with expensive, but loud, open neck silk shirts, bedecked himself in gold chains, yellow pants and $500 imported European leather loafers.

     He asserted Chicago's position and authority by terror and intimidation. Police have long suspected that it was Caifano who placed the bomb under Willie Bioff's truck and slashed Gus Greenbaum's throat.

     The more people Caifano killed on the bosses' orders, the more belligerent he became, alienating almost everyone in town that had to deal with him.

     Caifano never learned that terror worked in the union extortion business, or the protection and loan sharking rackets, but not in Vegas, where cooperation and low profile were the keys to success.

     There were few people in the Vegas-Mob hierarchy that he didn't manage to threaten, insult or frighten. But, he was Chicago's man, so there was nothing that could be done about it.

     But, by the start of 1960, the people and the state government started to resent the reputation that the hoodlums in Vegas were giving their state and they decided to do something about it.

     They drew up legislation that banned known mobsters from their casinos by placing their names, photographs and background information in the so called "Vegas Black Book" and one of its first entrees, behind Sam Giancana, was Marshal Ciafano.

     Caifano was informed, in writing and in person, to stay out of all of the state's casinos and, if he was seen in the casinos, he would be arrested and casino operators would be fined and eventually lose their license to operate. It was the worst possible thing that could happen to any gangster, much less Chicago's Representative. There were hundreds of mobsters who roamed the streets of Vegas in the early sixties and most of them laid low enough to avoid being included in the book, but Caifano had brought on the problem himself.

     However, being included in the Vegas Black Book did nothing to slow Caifano down; more then ever before, he stuttered up and down Glitter Gulch making sure the world understood he was Chicago's man in Vegas. In fact, he made a point of not only going into the casinos, he made sure he was spotted.

     The Nevada State authorities, who would have been willing to look the other way for the occasional transgression, had no choice but to arrest the mobster in the lobby of the Stardust casino when he entered it three times in one night, after he was warned to stay out.

     Then, to the horror of Ricca and Accardo, Caifano did the unthinkable.

     He sued the state of Nevada, taking the state to court to have his name removed from the Black Book. Caifano lost his suit and his name stayed in the exclusion book but the entire episode scared the hell out of Ricca and Accardo.

     Finally, Paul Ricca stepped in and told Giancana to replace Caifano with Johnny Roselli, whom Caifano had replaced several years before, until they could find someone else to send out to Vegas.

     Although Giancana despised Roselli, he had to acknowledge that Caifano wasn't working out, and that Roselli did have the diplomacy needed to work between the different families working in Vegas.

     Disgusted, Tony Accardo circumvented Sam Giancana's authority and called Caifano back to Chicago and demoted him to the numbers pool, but, Giancana, almost as an act of defiance, put Caifano under his wing as all around trouble shooter.

     Once Giancana fell from power in 1964, one of the first orders that Accardo gave was to toss Caifano out of power, forever.

     By 1965, Caifano, the one time God of Vegas, was reduced to the status of a neighborhood bookmaker on Chicago's West Side and was warned to keep his mouth shut and his nose clean. He was given enough income from keeping him from going broke, but otherwise he was as out as out could get in mobdom.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to

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