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Feature Articles


March 2000

The Gambinos Come to Vegas

By Scott M. Deitche


"An ill wind comes arising across the cities of the plain" - Neil Peart

Following the killing of Herbie Blitzstein and the ensuing cases stemming from the undercover FBI operation, it seemed that the mob had been successfully eradicated from Las Vegas once again. Vegas, however, has too much allure and money to be made, for the mob to give up on it completely. In 1998, the Gambinos were the next to try.

The Gambino family was attempting to muscle in and eliminate competition in the outcall service business. These escort services are a major moneymaker in Vegas and ripe for the Mafia to attempt a takeover. Outcall services provide "entertainment" for businessmen and tourists, sending stripper sup to their hotel rooms. Many in law enforcement saw these companies as simple fronts for prostitution. Never shrinking form a money making opportunity, the Gambino family needed some enforcers in town.

The Gambinos reached down into their southern stronghold of Tampa, Florida for two of their best, Vincent "Vinny Aspirins" Congiusti and Anton "Angel of Mercy" Nelsen.

Congiusti was a plumber from Valrico, outside of Tampa. He's a tall, legally blind family man who has been known to drill into people's heads with a power tool, when they weren't cooperating. Nelsen was a reputed demolitions expert. Once, when he was unhappy with services he received from a dentist, he blew up the dental office.

In November of 1997, Anthony Nastasi, an outcall service operator, was arrested for pandering charges. While awaiting trial Christiano DeCarlo, an associate of Nastasi contacted him. DeCarlo told Nastasi that he could get the charges dropped. DeCarlo was in with the mob and reached out to Mario Stefano, a.k.a. Mario Pugliese, a Gambino family associate.

Stefano then told Nastasi that for $10,000 and a piece of the outcall service, he would make the charges disappear. Nastasi agreed and the Gambino family was now in the outcall business in Vegas. One thing, Nastsi told Stefano, was that some competitors were getting into his business. Nastasi said his competitors used computers to divert calls to Nastasi's business and a host of other problems.

Stefano told Nastasi not to worry. He was going to send some aspirins for the headache….Vinny Aspirins. Congiusti and Nelsen were then sent for. On October 7, 1998, the two mob figures flew out to Las Vegas and were driven around by an associate of Stefano's. The trip was not going to turn out how they planned, however. From the beginning Nastasi was working for the FBI. The feds had followed Congiusti and Nelsen around Vegas after their arrival, and found a number of weapons and incendiary devices when they searched the car the men were using.

By now, the Tampa mob guys had been watching the property of Richard Sorrano, one of the outcall competitors. The FBI knew that the men were leaving Vegas the next day and may be back in the future. They decided to arrest the men at a local business. When hearing he was a target of the mob plot to run him out of business, Richard Sorrano told reporters, "Of course I'm scared. I'm terrified. I could go out, start my car, and get blown up like some hood."

After all the preliminary motions and hearings the cases were about to begin. The feds had arrested Congiusti, Nelsen, Stefano, Christiano DeCarlo, Kenneth Byrnes, and Joshua Snellings, the last two associates of DeCarlo. Congiusti was the first to decide he didn't want to go to trial, and the prosecution, with less than a compelling case, was no doubt anxious to get the case over with. Vinny Aspirins pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats. He was sentenced to 51 to 63 month sin prison. The rest of the dominoes fell one by one and the remaining defendants all pled guilty to similar charges. The sentences ranged from 51 months to 7 ½ years.

The Gambino family's plan to infiltrate Las Vegas outcall services was not successful. It was just the latest misstep in the mob's quest to get back into the "new" Las Vegas.

© 2000 by Scott M. Deitche


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