Anyone in the St. Louis Metro-East would likely know the name of Thomas Venezia. A long time, old time, racketeer, purveyor of gambling machines and topless clubs, was found dead today in his Belleville home. Jennifer Anderson, 21, a live-in girl friend was also found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Reports say Venezia killed Anderson and then himself. A note was found. Venezia had been suffering from throat cancer. Anderson recently left her job as a topless dancer at the Penthouse Stip Club in Sauget.
In March 1996, a federal judge in East St. Louis sentenced Venezia to 15 years in prison for racketeering and related charges stemming from his control of illegal video poker machines in taverns and topless clubs across the metro-east. He at one point made $48 million in five years, a prosecutor said.
In August 1997, the judge reduced Venezia's sentence to nine years as a result of Venezia's help in two federal probes into public corruption and another unrelated criminal investigation. His testimony helped convict a longtime friend of his, Belleville attorney, Amiel Cueto, of conspiracy to defraud and obstruction of justice charges.
Chicago has the biggest national reputation for it's organized crime figures, but the Illinois side of St. Louis has never been a slouch when it came to mob types and the passing of Thomas Venezia is one more chapter in the story.
Collinsville's link to gangsters, Buster Wortman. Wortman was probably the first person I heard about after moving here. Although long gone by that time, he must have cut quite the figure around town to have made so many remember him so clearly. Almost as though he and his business were sorely missed. He built a big home east of town that had a moat around it. A moat! In Collinsville!