Monday, November 21, 2005

Come out, Joey, wherever you are

Friends of Ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, Mike Swiatek, John "No Nose" DiFronzo

Dear Joey, It happened again this week. Somebody called to say they had spotted you in a restaurant on Grand Avenue. "Swear to God," the tipster told me, "it was the Clown."

As you know, a lot of folks are spending a lot of time looking for you. Chief among them, of course, is the FBI. They're still pretty embarrassed about the fact that you weren't home in bed last spring when they came early one morning to wake you up and haul you away.

It certainly didn't help matters that your co-defendant, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, has also given them the slip. For a couple of guys in their late 70s, you two are really "The Sunshine Boys" of the federal fugitive list.

Monday in Chicago, U.S. District Judge James Zagel is going to set a trial date for you and other defendants in your case. I know from the letter you sent to the judge last summer that you said you're an innocent man. And that you had nothing to do with those 18 unsolved mob murders. The feds don't buy that, of course, and really wish you'd attend your own trial. Because of all the attention you're getting, Joey, I think you should know your friends are getting just a bit jittery.

I say that because of another tip I got a couple of weeks ago. It seems there was an anniversary party at the Victoria Banquet Hall in Norridge last month. I'm sure you've been there many times over the years for weddings and parties and funeral lunches. It's a great place. Good food.

Anyway, this party was in full swing. And according to the tip, among those in the room was Mike Swiatek. You know Mike, of course. The feds list him as a member of your Grand Avenue crew. Like you, he's done time in the joint but is out on parole now. Also at the party supposedly was the infamous mobster, John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Right in the middle of this party, I'm told, the weirdest thing happened! Quoting the tip I received, "During the event an individual's foot came through the ceiling of the room, and when the partygoers investigated, they discovered that it was the foot of an FBI agent who was filming and recording the event. Needless to say, the partygoers departed rapidly."

They fled, according to the tipster, believing that the feds had come looking for you. Well, Joey, I just had to find out if this was true. So first I called the FBI. Special Agent Frank Bochte told me he had "no knowledge that that had occurred." If it had, he said, he would have heard.

Then I called Mike Swiatek. He wasn't home, but the woman who answered (she didn't think it was a good idea to give me her name) said, "Oh, my God!" when I explained why I was calling. She took my number and said she'd have Mike call me. He must be busy because he hasn't called back.

Finally, I called the Victoria Banquet Hall and talked to the manager. He was very nice but also not eager to read his name in the paper. "Oh, my God!" he said in a now familiar refrain. "That's a false rumor tip," he said.

Well, yes and no.

"We did have an incident where a dishwasher [was up in the attic and] stepped on a heater vent . . . and pushed a ceiling tile down from the ceiling, yes, we did have that happen." He went on, "There was something [a foot] through the ceiling, but that's the only part that's correct. The FBI were never in the building unless they were here unbeknownst to any of us. There were no cameras in the ceiling, I can guarantee you that."

Oh, by the way, Joey, I asked him if by any chance John DiFronzo or Mike Swiatek was at that party."One of those names was at the party," he told me.

Can you say which one? "I don't think I should," he said. "You're putting me on the spot."

He was a very nice man, Joey, and I didn't want to be pushy.

All of this is to say we haven't heard from you lately. Your last letter, mailed to your attorney, Rick Halprin, in August, was postmarked Chicago and included several clippings from the Sun-Times in which you noted the FBI had done you wrong.

So since there is a chance that you might be reading this, how about a call or a letter? I won't even put in for the $20,000 reward the FBI has offered for information. Or better yet, why not show up in person? You've had your fun with the feds, scared your friends and lived up to the reputation for being "The Clown."

It's time to turn yourself in.

Thanks to Carol Marin

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