Monday, December 23, 2002

Did feds kill off the mob?

Friends of ours: Fred Roti, Frank Maltese, Joe Ferriola, Sam Giancana, Bill Daddano, Tony Accardo, Vincent "Jimmy" Cozzo
Friends of mine: John D'Arco Sr., Pat Marcy, Betty Loren-Maltese, Robert Natale, John Serpico, Don Stephens, John Duff, Ed Hanley, William Hanhardt, James Vondruska, Bob Cooley

A mere decade ago, the Chicago Outfit's political wing still had an address: Room 2306 of the Bismarck Hotel, at Randolph and LaSalle, the 1st Ward offices of Committeeman John D'Arco Sr. and Ald. Fred Roti, a made member of the mob. Downstairs at Counsellors Row Restaurant, D'Arco and Roti held court with mob-friendly aldermen, judges and state legislators like John D'Arco Jr. The feds installed a hidden camera at Counsellors Row and wired lawyer Bob Cooley. They caught D'Arco and Roti discussing mob business such as rigging elections, bribing judges to fix cases and greasing zoning and license deals.

"Yes sir," the judges and aldermen--some still in office--told ward Secretary Pat Marcy, and rushed off to get him a liquor license or whatever he asked for.

Roti and D'Arco Sr. went to jail and have since died. Counsellors Row was torn down and the old 1st Ward mapped out of existence. Even the Bismarck has a new name: Hotel Allegro. At the same time, the feds took over some of the most mobbed-up unions to try to clean them.

So did the feds kill the mob? Are local pols right to call mob influence in Chicago "ancient history?" Have the mobsters gone straight and quit trying to cultivate friends in government? Mob-watchers and cops say, "No."

The mob has always wanted friendly judges on the bench for help on cases and cops on the force to keep some crimes unsolved. Controlling unions provides jobs for flunkies and money for pols. Friendships with legislators prevent bills cracking down on video poker, which some say nets $100 million a year for the mob.

Most of all, the mob wants friends in government for jobs and contracts. The mob doesn't offer health insurance--mob lackeys need day jobs for that. "It used to be you'd give him $200 a week to get the [illegal betting] books--now you get him a city job," a city worker said at a Northwest Side coffee shop as he looked around cautiously and sipped coffee on his 11 a.m. break. "There's a lot of power with jobs," said Terrance Norton, the Better Government Association executive director.

A slew of convictions this year shows the downsized mob has just diversified and moved west. And the video poker games stay in the bars.

Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale went to prison this year for taking mob bribes to allow illegal video poker gambling at mob-linked bars.

Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, widow of convicted mobster Frank Maltese, will be sentenced next month for an insurance scam that skimmed $4 million from employee policies. The firm behind the scam gave $21,000 to Gov. Ryan, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and others.

Union boss John Serpico--appointed and reappointed by Gov. Jim Thompson and Gov. Jim Edgar to head the state port authority even though Serpico testified in 1985 he regularly met with mob boss Joe Ferriola--was sentenced this year on a loan scheme. Serpico showered union money on pols.

Still, elected officials whose campaigns benefit most from the generosity of businesses the state Gaming Board or the Chicago Crime Commission call mob-tied say the mob is dead: "I don't think there's a mob around anyway to run anything," said state Rep. Ralph Capparelli (D-Chicago). "They're still talking about 1924 and 1930. I think you use the word 'mob' because some guy has an Italian name." Saviano and state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) have made similar statements.

If a mob-linked legitimate business does good work and offers the low bid, why shouldn't it get the contract, one west suburban mayor asked.

With no official address or go-to guy in local government, it's hard to know the mob's legislative agenda. Mob-watchers say a new casino in Rosemont, or better yet, downtown Chicago, tops the list, along with more video poker.

The state Gaming Board refused to allow a casino in Rosemont, finding mob-linked firms already working on the site. Former Crime Commission chief investigator Wayne Johnson blasted twice-indicted, never-convicted Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens for ties to men the commission says are associated with organized crime, such as Sam Giancana and Bill Daddano.

Stephens sued Johnson for libel but admitted the ties to Giancana and Daddano in court filings. Stephens' suit silenced Johnson, the most vocal mob-watcher in town. Johnson left the commission and has been advised by attorneys not to discuss Stephens' alleged mob ties.

Mayor Daley has not cut all ties to the mob-linked Duff family, which donated $8,875 to his campaigns and reaped $100 million in local government contracts. Patriarch John F. Duff Jr. was a character witness for mob boss Tony Accardo. "I just know them. That's all," Daley said. "I'm not personal friends with them. I know them. So what?" A federal grand jury subpoenaed records of Duff contracts with local governments.

Daley's main ally in pushing a downtown casino in the early '90s was Ed Hanley, who had to give up control of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers union amid a federal probe of mob ties.

William Hanhardt was convicted this year of running a jewelry theft ring that stole more than $5 million while Hanhardt climbed the ranks of the Chicago Police Department to deputy superintendent. Cooley warned officials more than a decade ago that Hanhardt was the mob's main plant on the force, getting mob lackeys hired and promoted.

Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez quit five years ago after admitting a close friendship with a mob-linked felon questioned in an oil executive's murder.

Chicago police have watched as powerful ward committeemen still in office today huddled with mob higher-ups such as Vincent "Jimmy" Cozzo.

"What does the mob want from government? No. 1, money, and No. 2, power," Cooley said. "Nobody could ever get a city job or a promotion without the approval of the 1st Ward. They had all the jobs in McCormick Place, all the city jobs, police, sheriff's, state's attorney."

Mobbed-up unions provide an entree for mob types to get jobs in departments like Transportation and Streets and Sanitation that hire union members. A raid at Streets and Sanitation found 37 employees AWOL, including Chucky Miller, who was robbing a Wisconsin jewelry store of $250,000 on city time.

Transportation Department 'worker' James Vondruska, whom the commission calls a mob associate, pleaded guilty this year to playing the horses on city time. WBBM-TV reporter Pam Zekman taped him and other mob-linked workers playing hooky.

Mob-watchers say the mob wants to unionize workers at any new casino that opens in Rosemont or Chicago to work their way into the operation there. "John Serpico was out there with John Matassa 'cause they were going to unionize all the workers at the casino," one mob-watcher said.

The feds have taken over one union after another, from the Teamsters to the Laborers and Hotel and Restaurant Workers' locals, to try to purge them. Serpico was kicked out of the Laborers Union, then committed his loan fraud at Central States.

"The attraction of a union to a mob organization is the union's pension fund investments and medical plans, which are supposed to go to benefit union rank and file, most of whom could never enter the same restaurants ... as Hanley and his syndicate friends," said Combined Counties Police Association President John Flood. "And the main attraction of a union like that controlled by Hanley to the politicians also is the ability to dish out cash contributions."


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