Herbert Blitzstein Biography
Herbert Blitzstein was a feared man in both the Chicago and Las Vegas area for his connections to the mafia and his association with various murders and crime sprees. He was able to work alongside many infamous mobsters from the mid to late 1990s, learning from their ways and developing his own schemes.
Due to his long list of gambling related crimes, in 1996, The State Gaming Control Board recommended that Blitzstein's name be added to the infamous "Black Book," which is the state's list of people who are banned from the casinos.
Herbert Blitzstein, also referred to as "Fat Herbie," was born November 2nd, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois. He became a racketeer in the late 1950s, which was fitting because he was a mountain of a man, weighing in at over 300 pounds and measuring in at over six feet in height. He certainly wasn't someone you would want to run into on the streets.
Blitzstein first started working with Henry Kushner, an infamous bookmaker of the mafia who taught him the ways of bookmaking. When Kushner was arrested and sent to jail, Blitzstein took over his clientele and became one of the leading bookmakers of the Chicago area.
However, Blitzstein was forced to leave Chicago in order to avoid facing charges for illegal gambling and racketeering, so he headed to Las Vegas to open The Gold Rush: a combination jewelry and electronics store with another fellow mobster, Antonio Spilotro.
Blitzstein Meets Las Vegas
The "store" they ran in Las Vegas was actually a place where they could both launder money and harbor stolen goods. Blitzstein became a crucial member of Spilotro's "Hole in the Wall" gang, who went on hundreds of burglary sprees across the state of Nevada. The gang was rightfully named, as they would punch holes in the walls and ceilings of the places they robbed to make escaping that much easier.
The FBI managed to catch some of the gang members in action in the summer of 1981. Blitzstein and Spilotro weren't present during that particular break in, but they were still charged on federal racketeering charges, as the other members of the gang told of their involvement in previous crimes and lead police to their hideout.
The trial, which took place in 1986, was declared a mistrial when one of the jurors informed the judge that she overheard other members of the jury saying that they had accepted a bribe. Spilotro was mysteriously murdered before the trail was reinstated.
The following year upon the second trial, Blitzstein pleaded guilty to several different charges including using counterfeit credit cards, holding stolen property, and refusing to pay his income taxes and for his crimes he received an eight-year sentence to a federal prison.
Blitzstein suffered from diabetes and heart problems, so his experiences in prison weren't delightful to say the least. Blitzstein was taken off his heart medication, as the prison medics refused to give to him, causing him to have a heart attack. Also as a result of the lack of medical attention, he had to have two heart bypass surgeries and several toes removed during his stay there. This malpractice was mentioned in the 1991 congressional investigation of medical abuse in prisons.
Blitzstein and Las Vegas 2.0
By the time Blitzstein had been released from prison, new gaming laws had decreased the Chicago mob's control over Las Vegas. That didn't stop Blitzstein though, as he soon was involved in an auto insurance fraud operation that he ran out of an automobile repair shop with Joseph DeLuca. By the mid-1990s their operations were earning a significant profit which made members of both the Milano Crime Family and the Buffalo Crime Family extremely jealous.
On January 6th, 1997, DeLuca went to Blitzstein's home only to find him hunched over in a chair. He called the police claiming he thought Blitzstein had suffered from a heart attack, but when the ambulance arrived, it became evident that his death was caused by three bullets shots to his head.
Reports from the murder claim that the neighbors overheard Blitzstein cry out, "Why me?" over and over again. Seconds later they heard three bullet shots and a loud crash as Blitzstein collapsed on the chair, but they never had a clear answer as to why they didn't call the police. His murder was indulged in mystery.
Investigators later discovered that seven individuals were involved in the plot to kill Herbert Blitzstein, one of which was his current partner at the time, DeLuca. However, police never found out who actually fired the bullets that killed him.
In the movie, "Casino," Bret McCormick plays Bernie Blue whose character is based off of Blitzstein, but in that film, he was supposedly killed by the Las Vegas police during a fatal arrest which is clearly not accurate. Cathy Scott write the true details of Blitzstein's murder in her novel, Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre, which was published in 2012.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: November 2016