Sunday, June 15, 1986 | 6 a.m.
A former Las Vegas junketeer, found slain gangland-style in Phoenix last week, once testified before a grand jury into the activities of Tony Spilotro, Arizona sources said Saturday.
The Arizona Republic reported that two unidentified Phoenix law enforcement sources confirmed Emil Joseph "Mal" Vaci, 73, testified before a grand jury investigating Spilotro.
Spilotro and eight others have been charged with conspiracy and racketeering in connection with a burglary ring that struck Las Vegas homes and businesses in 1980 and 1981.
A mistrial was declared April 8 after reports of jury tampering. A second trial is scheduled to begin next month.
Spilotro also faces charges of casino skimming and of violating the civil rights of Jerry Lisner, a Las Vegas police informer who was shot and killed in October 1979.
Meanwhile, Arizona sources said Vaci, who was employed as a maitre d' at Ernesto's Backstreet restaurant in Phoenix at the time of his death, had been granted immunity in exchange for grand jury testimony.
Vaci never hid the fact that he was called to testify before the grand jury in Las Vegas, his supervisor at the restaurant, Romano Sbrocca said. However, Vaci claimed that "he always took the fifth."
It is unknown when Vaci appeared before the grand jury or was appearing on a continuing basis.
Vaci worked from 1979 through the early 1980s organizing gambling junkets for several Las Vegas resorts.
"We do feel that it is an organized crime murder," said Sgt. Brad Thiss, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department.
However, Spilotro's attorney since 1972, Oscar Goodman, labeled the report "a figment of Arizona authorities imagination."
Goodman said: "Every time the police cannot solve a crime, they label i a gang-land slaying, and if it involved Las Vegas, Mr. Spilotro's name comes up. It's typical, but we never get used to it."
Goodman said he had never heard of Vaci and said he had never seen his name in any court documents pertaining to his client.
Vaci's body was last seen alive just before midnight June 6 when he left Ernesto's after receiving a phone call, authorities said.
Louis Gluck, manager of the restaurant, said Vaci appeared to be expecting the call and that he seemed "happy" after talking on the telephone.
Vaci, a native of Chicago, moved to Phoenix 26 years ago. He spent 20 years at the Arizona Manor Hotel, a resort which was razed in 1983 to make room for a high-rise development.
From 1979 through 1982, he was employed by the Stardust Hotel as a food and beverage supervisor and a 21 floorman.
At the Riviera Hotel, he worked as a sales representative and a junket representative and at the Treasury Hotel as a junket representative. He also reportedly worked at the Fremont Hotel.
"He worked for us only a short time several years ago," said a former executive at the Riviera, who asked that his name not be used. "He opened an office in Scottsdale but it didn't pan out because he didn't bring in enough business to keep it open."
Nevada Gaming Commission sources said they had no problems with Vaci when he worked in Las Vegas.