Frank Peter Balistrieri (May 27, 1918 – February 7, 1993), also known as "Mr. Big", "Frankie Bal", "Mr. Slick", “Mr. Fancy Pants”, and "Mad Bomber", was a Milwaukee Mafia boss who was a central figure in skimming during the 1980s.
Balistrieri was college educated and attended law school for six months. As a young man, he started working for the Milwaukee crime family, which owed allegiance to the powerful Chicago Outfit criminal organization in Chicago. Balistrieri soon built a reputation for arrogance, cruelty and ruthlessness. Balistrieri allegedly received the "Mad Bomber" nickname because he frequently used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) attached to cars as weapons against his enemies.
Balistrieri married Antonina (Nina) Alioto and soon his father-in-law and Milwaukee boss, John Alioto, was grooming Balistrieri as his successor. Balistrieri had two sons, Joseph and John Balistrieri, who became lawyers and became involved in their father's business. Balistrieri had three daughters, Benedetta, Catherine and Tami MacLeod
On December 27, 1961, at a crime family social event in Milwaukee, Balistrieri was installed as the new boss of the Milwaukee family, replacing the retired Alioto.
Balistrieri eventually referred to himself as "the most powerful man in Milwaukee" after the "hit" on an acquaintance, August "Augie" Palmisano; Balistrieri was quoted as saying, "He called me a name – to my face – and now they can't find his skin!" Balistrieri conducted his business at a table at Snug's restaurant in Milwaukee's Shorecrest Hotel, giving orders over a red telephone.
In March 1967, Balistrieri was convicted of income tax evasion and was sent to federal prison in Sandstone, Minnesota for two years. He was released in June 1971.
On March 20, 1974, Balistrieri met with Kansas City mobsters Nicholas Civella and Carl DeLuna, in Las Vegas, Nevada. During the meeting, the mobsters arranged a meeting between Balistrieri and Allen Glick, the Cosa Nostra front man in that city. Balistrieri wanted to buy an option to purchase part of Glick's Argent Corporation, a holding company for four casino resorts. Glick later agreed to sell half of the corporation to Balistrieri's sons, John Balistrieri and Joseph P. Balistrieri, for $25,000. Balistrieri later claimed that, "he had an obligation arising from the assistance to Glick in obtaining a pension fund commitment in the amount of $62.75 million." Balistrieri was referring to the Teamsters Union pension fund, which was controlled by the Cosa Nostra.
In 1977, the FBI created a sting operation in Milwaukee aimed at Balistrieri. They sent Special Agent Joseph Pistone, working undercover in New York City as "Donnie Brasco", to Milwaukee to help set up a vending machine company. The object was to provoke Balistrieri into either retaliating against or working with the new business. When Pistone and another FBI agent finally met with Balistrieri to create a partnership, Balistrieri laughingly admitted that he had been getting ready to murder them.
In 1978, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) named Balistrieri in a news release as a "crime leader" in Milwaukee.
Soon Balistrieri and Civella were feuding over each other's share from the skimming operations. Finally, the two mobsters requested arbitration from The Outfit. The results of the arrangement, as ruled by Outfit leader Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa and underboss John "Jackie The Lackey" Cerone, demanded that The Outfit receive a 25% tax as its cut in skimming operations. Balistrieri blamed Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, the Outfit representative at the Stardust Hotel, for Balistrieri's problems in Las Vegas. In 1982, Rosenthal narrowly averted death in a Las Vegas car bombing that was attributed to Balistrieri.
In September 1983, Balistrieri and his two sons were indicted on charges of skimming over $2 million in unreported income from the Fremont Hotel and Casino and the Stardust. This was the first case in which federal authorities had successfully connected mobsters from four different states. On October 9, 1983, Balistrieri was convicted on five illegal gambling and tax evasion charges. While awaiting sentencing on extortion and bookmaking charges, Balistrieri declared his innocence; he told the press, "The first time I heard the word, 'Mafia,' was when I read it in the newspapers." On May 30, 1984, Balistrieri was sentenced in Milwaukee to 13 years in prison and fined $30,000. His sons were convicted of extorting a vending machine businessman and each received two years in prison.
In September 1985, Balistrieri was tried in Kansas City, Missouri with eight other associates for skimming an estimated $2 million of the gross income of the Argent Corporation from Syndicate casino operations. Federal prosecutors further accused Balistrieri of skimming the unreported income and distributing it to organized crime figures in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland. In failing health, Balistrieri pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in exchange for dropping federal charges, which included attempting to conceal ownership of a casino to skim profits and interstate travel to aid racketeering. He also attempted to shield his sons, John and Joe, from any charges.
On December 31, 1985, Balistrieri pleaded guilty in Kansas City to conspiracy and racketeering and was sentenced to 10 years in prison (to run concurrently with his 13-year sentence from 1984). Close to achieving a seat on the ruling Mafia Commission in New York, Balistrieri was thwarted by this prison sentence.
On November 5, 1991, Balistrieri was released early from federal prison due to his poor health. In December 1992, Balistrieri was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital (now Columbia St. Mary's) in Milwaukee, reportedly for colon surgery.
On February 7, 1993, Frank Balistrieri died.