Friday, September 16, 2005

Mayor Donald E. Stephens: I didn't meet with mob

Excerpted from articles by Carol Marin and Shamus Toomey of the Sun Times and by Matt O'Connor and John Chase of the Tribune.

Rosemont Mayor Donald E. Stephens adamantly denied under oath Thursday that he met with the mob in 1999 to talk about a casino for his town. And, in an ironic twist, a reputed mob boss on the lam is backing him up.

Joey "The Clown" Lombardo fired off a letter to his lawyer last month denying an FBI informant's claim that Lombardo and reputed mobsters John "No Nose" DiFronzo, his brother Peter, Joe "the Builder" Andriacchi, Rudy Fratto and other alleged hoodlums met with Stephens at Armand's, an Elmwood Park restaurant, according to Rick Halprin, Lombardo's lawyer.

"Let me inform you that it is positively a lie," the hand-printed letter, which included misspellings, read. "I have never, never, ever sat down with Mayor Stephens and the rest of the names in the article. I will take truth serum or lie detector test if the agent and there reliable witness will take one. It has to be done by a private co., not the FBI."

Lombardo, 76, has been missing since a major federal indictment linking the mob to 18 unsolved murders came down in April. Shortly after the indictment, a letter from Lombardo arrived by mail at Halprin's Chicago office. That letter, postmarked in Chicago and directed at U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel, proclaimed his innocence and asked for a separate trial from the others indicted. However, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said agents don't necessarily think Lombardo is hiding out in the Chicago area.

The FBI launched international manhunts for Lombardo and co-defendant Frank "the German" Schweihs and are offering rewards of up to $20,000 apiece for their arrests. Lombardo, 76, who had lived on Chicago's Near West Side for more than half a century, and Schweihs, 75, who last lived near Ft. Lauderdale, face up to life in prison if convicted.

The latest letter was dated Aug. 24 and postmarked Aug. 25 in Chicago. The letter was on three-ring notebook paper and was accompanied by two Chicago Sun-Times articles, including a July 19 clipping about Lombardo's alleged meeting with Stephens, Halprin said. "I doubt that he has a home subscription," Halprin said of Lombardo. "I have no idea where Mr. Lombardo is," Halprin said. "I'm saying the same thing I've said over and over again: It's my obligation to tell Joey, I can only tell him he should surrender himself and prepare for trial."

'Ridiculous nonsense'

FBI agent John Mallul had testified on July 18 that an informant told him of the Armand's meeting. Mallul's testimony came during a state Gaming Board hearing to revoke the license of Emerald Casino, which has been trying to open a casino in Rosemont but has been bogged down by mob allegations.

Lombardo says he also sent a separate letter to Rosemont's village attorney denying the Armand's meeting. "And also if I met with these people on that date, May 29th, 1999 I would have been in violation of my parole and probation," the letter to Halprin read.

Rosemont attorney Bob Stephenson confirmed he recently received two letters, purportedly from Lombardo. One appeared to mirror the Halprin letter, the other was a brief note in which Lombardo told Stephenson he remembered him from an old Teamsters trial, Stephenson said. The letters were signed "Joseph Lombardo I'm an innocent man," wording similar to the letter sent in the spring. The Rosemont letters were turned over to the feds, Stephenson said.

Word of the latest round of Lombardo correspondence came as Stephens testified before retired Judge Abner Mikva, who will rule whether Emerald should lose its gaming license. Stephens testified he was "absolutely not" at the Armand's meeting -- and said he had never even been to the restaurant.

Outside of the hearing, Stephens, 77, called the Armand's allegation "such ridiculous nonsense."

'I hate my son-in-law'

"The FBI agent said there was some informant. Well, at the very least, the informant's a liar," Stephens said. "As a matter of fact, I also understand that my [ex-]son-in-law was at this meeting. I've got news for you, I hate my son-in-law. I've never gone around the block with him in my car. Never."

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