FBI Files: A Peek Into Mobster Vito Giacalone’s Cat-And-Mouse Game With the Feds

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Like old Tiger Stadium and the Vernors plant, Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone was a fixture in Detroit, one of the city’s best known mobsters — a Tony Soprano type whose mug occasionally graced the 6 p.m. news.

He was a suspect in the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance. He was known as a street boss who helped run sports betting operations.

And he wasn’t shy about collecting debts.

After he died last year at  88, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, which indicated it had about 20,000 documents on Giacalone.

I became interested in Giacalone as a Detroit News reporter in the early 1990s. He had just pleaded guilty to some IRS charges and was walking out of a federal courtroom downtown.

“Mr. Giacalone, would you care to comment?” I asked.  He ignored me, and with an icy stare, straight ahead, he proceeded to the elevator.

Before he went off to prison, I wrote a rather lengthy profile on him. I called his attorney David DuMouchel to request an interview. Dumouchel called Giacalone, then called me back to say that he not only didn’t want to talk, but:  “He’s not happy” that I was doing the story.

While Giacalone was alive, we got very little information on his private goings on, even though there was always a thirst for news about the Mafia.  I thought the FBI files could shed some light. 

FBI Finally Releases Some Documents

A week ago, I got the first installment from the FBI, a measly 120-plus pages or so, focusing on the mid-1980s. Many were redacted, chock full of whited out spaces to hide names and certain information , and more than 250  were reviewed and withheld. The FBI said it is working on processing the rest of the documents, determining what it can release.

The pages I received provide a glimpse of the ongoing cat-and-mouse game Giacalone played with the FBI and U.S. Strike Force attorneys, who often relied on snitches, wiretaps and surveillances to keep tabs on his life.

And keep tabs they did.

FBI documents talk about  seeing him play golf around town, including on the Wolverine Golf Course in Mt. Clemens; chatting with certain people on the course; people picked him up by car;  a dentist appointment for some gum problems; his winter stays in North Miami Beach and a desire to influence Teamsters elections.

The FBI also got word that Giacalone could be one wily guy.

Could Listen to Phone Conversations

A 1986 document mentions a source saying that Giacalone “has the capability to monitor telephone conversations. Source advised that he/she does not know how Giacalone does this, but he/she has heard on several occasions that Giacalone has this capability. Source added that Giacalone carries binoculars around in his automobile and that he used to spot surveillance vehicles.”

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