Milwaukee Mobster Balistrieri's Sisters Cut from Will

Will, page one

When Joe Balistrieri, elder son of Milwaukee mob figure Frank Balistrieri, died last year he left it all to his brother--and gave his two sisters the proverbial shaft.

"Even in death, Joe Balistrieri played favorites. [He] ... left his entire estate to his brother, John J. Balistrieri, when he died last October at 70. And not one penny to his two sisters," according to an article on Milwaukee Magazine's News Buzz website.

After his brother, the only other named beneficiaries were three women, none of which were sisters.

The article continues: according to the provisions of the will, “I request that my sole beneficiary, John Balistrieri, give and/or dispense to (them), in his sole discretion, such items or monies as he deems just and equitable being guided by his personal knowledge of the love and esteem in which I held such persons in life … I ask him to exercise not only discretion but also commensurate generosity.”

Beyond the four mentioned – three of whom are dependent upon the sole heir for any generosity by him – there are no bequests to charities or to Balistrieri’s remaining sibling.
Will, page two

Frank, the father,  known as “Frankie Bal” to his criminal cohorts, is seen as the most well-known crime boss of Milwaukee, and, unfortunately at one point in his illustrious career came close to forming a relationship with the Bonanno family courtesy of an associate of Bonanno soldier Lefty Ruggiero, named Donnie Brasco.

According to a post on by Jay C. Ambler, Balistieri had established a sizable loan shark book, monopolistic control over illegal sports betting, and large-scale influence over vending machines.

The following has been extracted from Ambler's post:

In March 1967 Balistrieri was convicted for felony income tax evasion. He had named his brother Peter underboss -- and acting boss during his absence. He served two years at the federal prison located at Sandstone, MN and was released in June 1971.

By 1972 or 1973, Balistieri was approached by California real-estate developer Allen Glick regarding Las Vegas. Glick had desired to build a casino in Las Vegas but lacked the funding. According to the testimony, Balistrieri contacted Kansas City crime family boss Nicholas “Nick” Civella about a possible loan to Glick. Civella was able to secure the funding from the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, the creation of previous Teamsters boss James R. Hoffa.

The best known of these casinos was the Star Dust Hotel. Glick would act as a “front man” while Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal would run things on the inside. Balistrieri would be responsible for dividing the illegal funds or “skim money” among the various criminal organizations.
Law enforcement claims that from 1974 to 1981 the skim likely was well over $2 million.

In 1978 FBI Agent Joseph Pistone, under the alias “Donnie Brasco," was infiltrating a Bonanno crew. Simultaneously another FBI Agent was based in Milwaukee investigating Balistrieri’s control over vending machines. He, along with Pistone, devised a plan that would bring both the Bonanno and Milwaukee mobsters to form an illegal partnership. 

According to Pistone, from his book Donnie Brasco, after much formalities, Pistone and Bonanno soldier Benjamin “Lefty Guns” Ruggiero met with Balistrieri. Pistone would then be a part of a unique event. The trio actually ate dinner with Balisteiri at his massive mansion. Pistone details how Ruggiero sat in awe when Balistieri actually drove them to his home and his openness.
The Bonannos, Milwaukee gangsters and the FBI Agents did reach an agreement over the vending machine rackets. Months later, Balistrieri mysteriously cancelled the arrangements and ceased all contact with the Bonannos. 

By the 1980s American justice had caught up with all three Balistrieris. Frank Balistrieri would be hit with one indictment after the other. Many were from the FBI investigations into his controlling interests in local businesses and his involvement in the Las Vegas skim racket. Frank Balistrieri arranged a plea agreement that called for him to serve thirteen years in a federal prison. He was believed to have made such an arrangement due in part because both sons were slated to go on trial for extortion. Balistrieri was hoping that they would garner lighter sentences. Both sons would eventually serve two years.

Frank Balistieri was released from prison in late 1991. He would die of a heart attack in early February 1993.

Read rest of Michael Horne's article on Milwaukee Magazine's News Buzz website.