“Mad Sam” DeStefano

“Mad Sam” Destefano was an infamous Chicago loan shark who was known to torture and kill those who defied him or failed to pay their debts.

Who Was 'Mad Sam' DeStefano?

Born in Illinois in 1909, "Mad Sam" DeStefano was one of Chicago's most infamous crime figures. DeStefano moved to Chicago as a teenager. From 1928 to 1931, he served time in prison for his involvement in a gang rape, and was convicted for bank robbery in 1933. Released in 1944, DeStefano was soon back in trouble. He was sentenced to Leavenworth Prison for forgery in 1947 for about a year. He met several Chicago crime figures while in jail. By the mid-1950s, DeStefano was operating his own loan-sharking business. Tony Spilotro was part of his crew in the early 1960s. The two were involved in the 1963 murder of Leo Foreman, for which DeStefano was indicted in 1972. DeStefano was shot to death in Chicago on April 14, 1973.

Anita DeStefano

In February 1945 Sam married Anita, who had been working as a seamstress when they met. The couple had three children.

Brothers Mario and Michael DeStefano

Among Sam's brothers was Mario and Michael. Having the same vicious streak as Sam, Mario worked alongside his brother and joined the 42 Gang. Younger brother Michael was also part of their criminal activities but was considered a "softy" and caused problems when he began using heroin. Sam was believed to have murdered Michael in 1955 on order by the mob, with the latter's body dressed in a suit and shot to death in the back of a car trunk.  

Early Life and Crimes

Born on September 13, 1909, in Illinois, Samuel "Mad Sam" DeStefano Jr. was one of Chicago's cruelest crime figures. He ran a loan-sharking operation for years, and relished the opportunity to torture and kill those who crossed him.

DeStefano was one of 10 children born to Italian immigrants Samuel Sr. and Rosalie DeStefano. When he was young, he and his family moved to Heron, Illinois. He was a teenager when his family moved again, choosing to live in one of Chicago's Italian neighborhoods. DeStefano's neighborhood was known as "the Patch," and it was there that he embarked upon a life of crime. A high school dropout, he eventually joined the 42 Gang, along with his brother, Mario. The group also included Sam Giancana.

Among his early crimes, "Mad Sam" DeStefano was arrested and convicted for his role in a gang rape; he served three years in prison for the crime, from 1928 to 1931. Two years after his release, DeStefano found himself in trouble with the law once again: He was tried and convicted for his role in a bank robbery in Wisconsin. Originally sentenced to 15 to 40 years, DeStefano ended up being released in 1944 after the governor shortened his sentence.

Vicious Loan Shark and Killer

DeStefano was sent to Leavenworth Prison to serve time on a forgery conviction in 1947, after creating and trying to pass off fake sugar ration coupons. While he was only locked up for roughly a year, he managed to use his time behind bars to advance his criminal career, meeting and befriending some Chicago mob figures in Leavenworth.

It was through his mob connections that DeStefano was able to score a "no-show" job with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation in the early 1950s. He eventually had to resign after a newspaper investigation revealed that he was being paid for not working. By this time, however, DeStefano had graduated to full-time loan shark. He took particular glee in dispensing out punishments to those who failed to make payments on their loans or got in his way, using the basement of his Chicago home as a torture chamber of sorts. While his wife, Anita, and their three children were upstairs, he worked on his victims in a soundproof basement, taking a special liking to using his ice pick to inflict pain. 

While he received approval to operate his illegal enterprise in the city, DeStefano was considered to be too unstable and violent by many in the organized crime world to have a place in its organizational hierarchy. He did, however, mentor Tony Spilotro, a rising star in the Outfit, as the Chicago mob is sometimes called. In the early 1960s, DeStefano brought Spilotro into his operation. The two worked together on some of DeStefano's murders, including the 1962 killing of two young burglars.

Murder of Leo Foreman

With Spilotro, brother Mario and fellow crew member Chuckie Grimaldi, "Mad Sam" DeStefano orchestrated the murder of one of his debt collectors, Leo Foreman, in November 1963. Foreman had previously gotten into a heated argument with DeStefano and kicked him out of his office. After Foreman spent time in hiding to avoid DeStefano's wrath after the incident, he was lured to DeStefano's brother's home where he was tortured and killed. This crime proved to be DeStefano's undoing when Grimaldi turned FBI informant. DeStefano, Mario and Spilotro were ultimately indicted for the Foreman murder in September 1972. When DeStefano represented himself in the preliminary hearings  — ranting wildly, dressed in pajamas and demonstrating other outlandish behavior — his mob associates grew concerned. The Outfit felt he was a danger to them and what he might do if he was faced with a long sentence. DeStefano never made it to his trial. 

Death by Assassination

"Mad Sam" DeStefano was gunned down at his Chicago home on April 14, 1973. His body was found in his garage. According to several sources, DeStefano's murder is believed to have been carried out by his brother, Mario, and former protégée, Tony Spilotro. No one, however, has been charged with DeStefano's murder.

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