Saturday, January 14, 2006

Joey 'the Clown" Lombardo caught

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was the big fish that slipped through the FBI's hands. On Friday, the feds had the last laugh. Lombardo, the notorious reputed mob boss, was caught in Elmwood Park after nine months on the lam, the FBI said Friday.

A stunned Lombardo was sporting a beard and was caught about 8 p.m. as the FBI ran surveillance on another "person of interest" and found the two meeting together. "He was a little bit shocked, to say the least," FBI Supervisory Special Agent John Mallul said. Lombardo did not say anything to authorities.

Lombardo, 77, was charged last year along with 13 others - two have since died - in a sweeping mob indictment as part of the Operation Family Secrets federal investigation. The indictment tied 18 previously unsolved murders to the Chicago mob and charged the Outfit itself as a criminal enterprise.

Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs, a fugitive until last month when he too was caught, are specifically named in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville.

Mallul said the feds had set up surveillance on the man Lombardo was found with, after suspecting he was in contact with Lombardo. "We had a person of interest we were looking at. . . . Then we got the both of them together and we effectuated the arrest," Mallul said. The other man was not arrested.

Authorities have said they always believed Lombardo didn't stray far. In his time on the lam, he wrote letters to his attorney, and they carried local postmarks. Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said he received a call late Friday from the U.S. attorney's office, notifying him that Lombardo had been caught while driving with an unidentified friend. His client was picked up on 74th Avenue in the western suburb.

Halprin said Lombardo was being housed at 17th and State, a police facility, after the Metropolitan Correctional Center refused to take him, possibly because of his age and a needed health waiver. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. "His chances of getting bond are the same as Osama bin Laden's," Halprin said. "Maybe not as good."

The fact that Lombardo was caught due to surveillance is ironic because after he and Schweihs fled, questions arose as to why the two were not kept under surveillance before the April 25, 2005, arrests.

In a July interview with the Sun-Times, Mallul and Special Agent Michael Maseth, who leads the Family Secrets investigation, said the two left "well before" the mob indictments and their fleeing didn't come as a surprise to the FBI. The feds swabbed Lombardo for DNA in 2003. At the time, the agents said the FBI did everything it could to track them without tipping off the dozen others caught.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

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