Monday, November 28, 2005

Firm with reputed mob ties flourishes

Friends of ours: Peter DiFronzo, John DiFronzo, James Marcello, Sam Carlisi

Near the front of this fall's Columbus Day Parade rolled a shiny, massive truck from D&P Construction -- one of many signs the local waste-hauling business is prospering.

D&P dumpsters, often emblazoned with painted American flags, have sprouted up all over the Chicago region: at an Old Town-area church being rehabbed; outside a Loop bridgehouse renovated by the Friends of the Chicago River; at a new strip mall in Niles, and along a canal in Evanston. But the company also continues to surface in other places: the files of the FBI and Illinois Gaming Board. Officials from those agencies have, in recent years, repeatedly described D&P as a mob-linked company.

On paper, D&P is run by Josephine DiFronzo. But authorities contend D&P really is "controlled" by her husband Peter and his brother John, and a Chicago Sun-Times examination indicates that Peter DiFronzo is deeply involved with the company.

The DiFronzo brothers are identified in law enforcement documents as "made" members of the Chicago mob, with John "No Nose" DiFronzo, 76, allegedly one of the three top organized crime figures in the city. Peter DiFronzo, 72, allegedly is his chief lieutenant and, at least for a time, was a leader of the mob's Elmwood Park Street Crew.

A recently released report from an Illinois Gaming Board hearing officer offers disturbing new allegations about D&P's operations -- and its success. The report, penned by retired judge and congressman Abner Mikva, cited an internal FBI memo from 2003 that not only alleged that D&P is "controlled by Peter and John DiFronzo," but it also said that the business "obtained contracts through illegal payoffs or intimidation."

Reached on the phone at her Barrington-area home this week, Josephine DiFronzo declined to comment. "I have a wake to go to. I'm just running out the door," she said before hanging up. Neither she nor her husband responded to subsequent phone calls to D&P. John DiFronzo's lawyer had no comment.

Despite the DiFronzos being shy with the press, D&P's profile only has increased in recent years. The company and a sister recycling and materials firm, JKS Ventures, now have sophisticated Web sites that, among other things, boast about them being family-owned for more than 30 years. "Whether it is providing waste removal options, delivering material or tearing down your old facility . . . D&P is 'At Your DISPOSAL!' " the D&P site reads.

D&P and JKS contribute generously to certain politicians, including state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and Republican Cook County commissioner and Elmwood Park Mayor Peter Silvestri. D&P, with addresses in Chicago and Melrose Park, co-sponsored a charity golf event earlier this year.

D&P used to operate quietly as a subcontractor for the once-mighty Palumbo Construction, which specialized in road building and public works projects but ultimately ran afoul of the law. Peter and John DiFronzo, one law enforcement source said, had a firm foundation from which to build D&P. "[Peter] knows trucking. He knows road building. He knows construction. He's got experience in those areas," the source said. "And his brother John knows cars. He's been a car dealer his whole life . . . he went to the auctions and would buy cars. He knew a good car from a bad car."

D&P now does a good deal of work leasing dumpsters for home renovations and larger developments. A D&P dumpster even was spotted around the corner from mob turncoat Nick Calabrese's old Norridge home, where a neighbor's building a new house. The number of union employees working for the DiFronzos has doubled in the past few years, said a person familiar with Peter DiFronzo and D&P. "While others are struggling . . . he is getting bigger every day," said the person. "He's definitely moving through the ranks, big and getting bigger."

The person believes D&P is offering competitive prices to beef up its customer list and sell, perhaps to a larger rival. Industry officials contacted in recent days said they aren't aware of that strategy and didn't want to speculate.

A D&P customer willing to talk is well-known developer Sam Zitella, who has used D&P dumpsters "for many years." Zitella lives near Peter and Josephine DiFronzo, and he considers Peter DiFronzo a good friend. "He's been providing my dumpsters for many years, he's a good guy," Zitella said. "He's a hard worker" who helps run a "great operation."

"He's a good person, good family, very family-oriented," Zitella added. "He gets a lot of business because the service is there, decent price."

While some customers are aware of the DiFronzo brothers' reputations, others are not. Like the Archdiocese of Chicago. This week, a D&P dumpster was on site at St. Joseph's Catholic Church near Orleans and Division in the Old Town area. Neither the contractor overseeing a project to convert an old rectory into a parish center nor the archdiocese's construction office apparently was aware of D&P's history.

After a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry to the archdiocese, the contractor agreed to hire a different firm, said Jim Dwyer, an archdiocese spokesman. "We don't micromanage our projects to the extent we would know who's doing the waste hauling," Dwyer said. "The contractor we had wasn't aware of anything like this, and they have volunteered to hire somebody else." Still, "we're not making any judgments about this company," Dwyer said, adding he was not aware of D&P being involved in any other current archdiocese construction work. A D&P dumpster, however, was at an archdiocesan facility on the Northwest Side in recent years.

D&P was widely publicized as a mob-linked firm in March 2001, when the Gaming Board took issue with D&P hauling trash from the Rosemont site where Emerald Casino Inc. tried to build a gambling barge. Emerald's use of D&P, the board stated, was one of many reasons Emerald discredited the integrity of state casino operations and deserved to have its gaming license revoked. Mikva's ruling last week supports the board's original finding. Emerald is expected to appeal the case.

Former federal prosecutor Gregory Jones was the Gaming Board chairman in 2001. Reached Wednesday, he said he wasn't surprised by D&P's growth. "It's a little hard to say what the public reacts to. . . . It could be there are so many allegations surfacing around today that they don't pay too much attention to it until there's some sort of action from a legal standpoint," Jones said. "Our views back from the Gaming Board were that you don't have to be convicted for something to be hurting your reputation or hurting the integrity of gaming. That's a much broader standard."

The DiFronzo brothers have had their share of legal trouble. John DiFronzo, whose family has residences in River Grove, McHenry County and southern Wisconsin, has more than two dozen arrests, and he was convicted in 1993 in a scheme to infiltrate an Indian casino. Peter DiFronzo did time in Leavenworth in the 1960s for a warehouse heist. Their younger brother Joseph, meanwhile, is imprisoned in Springfield, Mo., on federal drug offenses.

Peter DiFronzo's other trouble has stemmed from the Teamsters. In 1998, a government-union agency known as the Independent Review Board tried to kick him out of the group "for being a member of the Chicago La Cosa Nostra . . . and knowingly associating with other organized crime members," according to union documents.

Those reputed mob figures included John DiFronzo and Joseph Andriacchi, described as a childhood friend of Peter DiFronzo. "According to the FBI, [Peter] DiFronzo has a close relationship with his [older] brother," the union documents stated.

Peter DiFronzo was believed to be a liaison between his older brother and other reputed hoodlums, including James Marcello and the late Sam Carlisi, according to records and the law enforcement source. A confidential informant told the FBI in 2001 that John DiFronzo "visits Peter DiFronzo every morning at . . . JKS Ventures, and gives Peter DiFronzo instructions and orders for the day with regards to Chicago Organized Crime," according to testimony at the Gaming Board's Emerald Casino disciplinary hearing.

Peter DiFronzo resigned from the Teamsters in 1998, but did not admit to any of the charges.

Since then, it's clear that he's been part of D&P's operations.

Peter DiFronzo is listed as the D&P contact for the June charity golf event; he's the point person for the sale of an old JKS grinder, according to a U.S. Manufacturing Inc. Web site, and he regularly directs D&P workers, said the source familiar with the company. "He has daily contact with the drivers, or their supervisors," the source said.

Meanwhile, two workers from D&P ran unsuccessfully in the most recent Teamsters Local 731 election, raising concerns among some about whether Peter DiFronzo was trying to exert influence at his former union. "There seems to be a general attitude that there's no need to be concerned about the Outfit" any more, the law enforcement source said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Thanks to Robert Herguth and Chris Fusco

3 comments:

  1. I think people get the wrong idea about these people. I care about these people. They're decent people j zitella

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  2. I remember back in the old neigborhood (Damen & Ohio), my buddy and his brother lived with their mom...the dad was a deadbeat and never around, they had no fridge. Every night they would go to the store and buy a quart of milk and a bag of ice so they could have milk in the morning with cereal. Somehow, Joey Lombardo found out about it and a couple days later a truck from Goldblatts shows up with a new fridge for them. No one ever said who paid for it. This was a regular occurrence in them days. The wiseguys were always good to the neighborhood.

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