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40 years later, gangland murder of Allen Dorfman in Lincolnwood remains unsolved

40 years later, gangland murder of Allen Dorfman remains unsolved
40 years later, gangland murder of Allen Dorfman remains unsolved 02:29

LINCOLNWOOD, Ill. (CBS) -- This week marks 40 years since one of the most brazen and infamously still-unsolved murders in Chicago history.

Allen Dorfman, an insurance salesman with close ties to the Chicago mob, was gunned down outside the old Purple Hyatt Hotel in Lincolnwood in broad daylight on Jan. 20, 1983, 40 years ago this coming Friday.

Insiders said organized crime figures feared Dorfman might rat out mob higher-ups after being convicted himself.

On Monday night, CBS 2's Chris Tye took a closer look at the still-unanswered questions in Dorfman's murder.


Dorfman, 60 at the time, controlled the Amalgamated Insurance Agency – which processed insurance claims for Teamsters Union members. He had a grip on Teamsters fund loans, land transactions, and major insurance deals.

Dorfman also led a jet-set lifestyle – immaculately dressed and with a perpetual tan, as CBS 2's John Drummond put it at the time.

Dorfman was on a first-name basis with powerful politicians, union bigwigs, and Hollywood stars – but was also tied up with organized crime figures. No one doubted the Chicago Outfit was behind his demise in the hotel parking lot, but who actually did it? That remains a mystery.

"In my opinion, other than the fact of the Sam Giancana murder in 1975, it probably is the biggest mystery of any organized crime hit we've had in Chicago," said Drummond, now retired.

Dorfman had been in plenty of trouble already by the time he was gunned down. He had served nine months in prison in the early 1970s for taking a $55,000 kickback on a Teamsters pension fund loan, and he was tried on a fraud charge in 1975 – but was acquitted in that case.

But the roof caved in on Dorfman in 1982.

On Dec. 15 of that year, he was convicted – along with Teamsters Union President Roy Williams, former Chicago Police Officer and Teamsters pension fund trustee Thomas O'Malley, former Teamsters pension fund trustee Andrew Amos Massa, and Chicago Outfit figure Joey "The Clown" Lombardo – of trying to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nevada) so that Cannon would get a trucking deregulation bill blocked.

The case stemmed from the FBI's Operation Pendorf – beginning in 1979 – in which wiretaps were set up in Dorfman's insurance agency offices for the FBI to penetrate Dorfman's funneling of Teamsters pension money to mob casinos in Las Vegas, according to a 1982 Washington Post report.

In the bribery conspiracy case, he was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10, 1983 – and faced a lengthy prison term.

Dorfman was also scheduled to go on trial later in 1983 in a case involving Robert Kendler – a developer and nationally-known handball player. Federal prosecutors said Dorfman and Lombardo conspired to extort $800,000 from Kendler.

Kendler's Lake Forest mansion was later bombed, and federal prosecutors said Dorfman and Lombardo were behind it.

Dorfman was also indicted in San Francisco a week before he was gunned down – on charges of attempting to loot the funds of a labor union there. The U.S. Department of Labor had also been trying to freeze the assets of Dorfman's companies and place them in the hands of a receiver.

It is believed that Dorfman had deep mob secrets. There was concern, Drummond said, that "this guy was going to spill his beans."

Drummond said the mob's rationale was: "Allen at 60 years of age can't take hard time anymore. He's not going to be put away for as much as 20 years. He's going to talk. So we have to do something about it."

On Thursday, Jan. 20, 1983, Dorfman was out on bond. He had just finished a transaction at the First National Bank of Lincolnwood with his friend, Irwin Weiner, and they were going to lunch at Tessy's – the restaurant at the Purple Hyatt, formally named the Hyatt House Hotel, at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. at the intersection with Lincoln Avenue.


Drummond said someone tipped off the Mafia that day.

"They had to get rid of Dorfman. They had to take the risks of doing the hit in public like that, because they normally would have never have done that," Drummond said. "But they had to get him when they could, before he went to California and started spilling the beans."

The clock was ticking.

"They had to hit him and do it soon," Drummond said.

The killers apparently waited until Dorfman parked his Cadillac in the hotel parking lot and began walking with Weiner to Tessy's – about 100 feet away. As Dorfman passed between two cars, the killers came up from behind.

Dorfman was struck seven times at close range. Eight shell casings were found at the scene.

"Gunned down - seven shots to the head in broad daylight at noontime, when people were frequenting the hotel," Drummond said. "It was almost unprecedented."

Weiner, a former bail bondsman from Niles who also had mob ties and who died in 1996, was not injured.

In the back seat of Dorfman's car at the time of the shooting was a VHS videocassette of the new Paul Newman movie, "The Verdict."

"Dorfman himself was awaiting sentencing in federal court, but apparently, someone had already passed sentence on Allen Dorfman," the late CBS 2 reporter Phil Walters said in his report on the murder.

Jan. 20, 1983: Phil Walters reports on the murder of Allen Dorfman and the crime scene, while John Drummond reports on Dorfman's ignoble background:

CBS 2 Vault: Coverage of the gangland murder of Allen Dorfman 04:50

When Dorfman walked the halls of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse just a month earlier as his professional world crumbled, he couldn't know the end was near. Forty years later, the veteran Drummond wouldn't have believed back then that murder of the insurance executive with mafia ties would still be unsolved.

"But it's still the mystery today as it was back in 1983 — on that cold January day when they put seven slugs into Mr. Dorfman's head," Drummond said. "The fact they did it in broad daylight, in a popular restaurant and hotel, and got away with it – and it hadn't been cleared, and I thought by now it would have been."

Meanwhile, the Purple Hyatt remained in operation for many years afterward – though it changed hands to become a Radisson and a Ramada in the 1990s, and finally changed names simply to the Purple Hotel in 2004.

Dating back to the early 1960s, the hotel was known for its two high-end restaurants – Tessy's, where Dorfman and Weiner had been going, and T.J. Peppercorn's. Celebrities such as Barry Manilow and Robert Flack stayed at the hotel over the years. Its outdoor pool was also immensely popular.

But the hotel grew to be known for seedy activity as the years went on after the Dorfman murder.

In the corruption trials of political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko in 2008 – and Springfield powerbroker William Cellini in 2011 – businessman, political fixer, and admitted scam artist Stuart Levine testified that he attended all-night sex parties loaded with drugs such as crystal meth and ketamine at the hotel.

The hotel in its later years was also known for hosting such events as the Midwest Fetish Fair & Marketplace.

The infamy of the hotel disappointed former Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry.

"Of all of the wonderful things that happened here – and the fine families that had entertainment here, and weddings, and bar mitzvahs, and you name it – they remember the Dorfman issue, and Levine, and everything else that's bad," Turry told the late CBS 2 reporter Mike Parker in 2013.

The hotel, down on its luck, finally closed in 2007. It was demolished in August 2013, and a new development is under construction there today. 

And while the crime remains unsolved, Dorfman's life and demise have long since made their way into pop culture. In the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie "Casino," Alan King played a character named Andy Stone who was based on Dorfman. Jake Hoffman played Dorfman – this time using the deceased crime figure's real name – in the 2019 Scorsese movie "The Irishman."

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