Now that the body of a man shot in the head has been discovered in the receding waters of drought-ravaged Lake Mead in Nevada, two Mafia experts speculate he could be one of three men connected to the Mafia who mysteriously disappeared.
The dead man, shot execution-style, according to local police, was wearing clothing from a mid-to-late 1970s Kmart discount store when it was discovered on May 1 inside a corroded metal barrel.
“Our research has found three possible victims who may be the body in the barrel,” wrote two authors, who have written books on the Mafia, for The Daily Mail.
“The thread that strings these three men together is they were all linked to the most powerful Las Vegas mob operation of that time – Argent Corp., a front company for an organized crime operation that ran some of Las Vegas’ top gambling operations,” the authors write.
Jeff Burbank, the author of Las Vegas Babylon: True Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed, and Geoff Schumacher, the author of Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas contend that one possible identity of the victim could be George “Jay” Vandermark, who vanished in 1976.
Vandermark worked at the Stardust casino overseeing the slot machines but “facilitated the skimming of between $7 million and $15 million worth of coins,” the authors contend, adding, “The mob wanted him dead, but we doubt that it is him in Lake Mead.”
The second identity suggested by the authors: William Crespo, who testified before a federal grand jury that ultimately indicted 10 defendants, including an executive for a front company for a Mafia operation that supervised some of Las Vegas’ chief gambling operations.
“We can reasonably — by virtue of his owning a boat at Lake Mead — place him at the scene of the dumping grounds around the time the murder may have occurred,” the authors surmise.
But the “leading candidate for the man in the barrel” the authors suggest is Johnny Pappas, who according to veteran Las Vegas journalist John L. Smith in The Nevada Independent managed “Lake Mead’s Echo Bay Resort, a Teamsters Central States Pension Fund-financed project, for the Argent Corporation.”
“Did the Outfit fear that Pappas might have something to reveal about the then-unfolding details about skimming at the Argent casinos?” the authors ask rhetorically. “If so, they had a motive to rub him out.”
The authors speculate that infamous murderer Tony Spilotro may have killed the dead man, noting, “His weapon of choice was a .22-caliber pistol, equipped with a suppressor, and fired into the victim’s head.”
“It’s going to be a very difficult case,” Las Vegas Metro police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer had told the 8 News Now investigation team. “I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains.”