Born in 1929 Lombardo joined the Chicago Outfit in the 1950s. In 1963 Lombardo was arrested and charged with kidnapping however he was later acquitted. Lombardo was again on trial in 1974 with Allen Dorfman, an insurance agent, and charged with embezzling of $1.4 million from pension funds of the Teamsters Union. The charges were later dropped after the main witness, Daniel Siefert, was killed two days before his scheduled appearance.
In 1982 Lombardo and Dorfman were again charged with extortion of $800,000 from construction owner Robert Kendler as well as, with Teamsters President Roy L. Williams, attempted bribery of Nevada Senator Howard W. Cannon.
Lombardo was later implicated, by government informant Alva Johnson Rodgers, in the deaths of Daniel Siefert and Robert Harder in 1974, Sam Annerino and Raymond Ryan in 1977, and Allen Dorfman in 1983. Lombardo was also accused of personally murdering ex-police officer Richard Cain. Interestingly, Cain was believed to be a CIA agent as well.
Lombardo and Williams were finally convicted of attempted bribery in August 1985 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Williams, who received 10 years imprisonment, later agreed to testify against Lombardo and several top members of the Chicago Outfit later charged with concealing Mafiosi ownership of the Las Vegas Stardust Resort & Casino of which over $2 million unreported income was skimmed from 1974-1978. By January 1986 five mobsters had been convicted, including Lombardo who was sentenced to an additional 10 years, as well as Chicago syndicate leaders Joey Aiuppa and John Phillip Cerone, sentenced to 28 years imprisonment, and Angelo Lapeer, and Milton Rockman.
When he was paroled from prison in 1992, Lombardo ran an ad in the Chicago Tribue that said:
I am Joe Lombardo, I have been released on parole from federal prison. I never took a secret oath with guns and daggars, pricked my finger, drew blood, or burned paper to join a criminal organization. If anyone hears my name used in conjuction with any criminal activity, please notify the FBI and my parole officer, Ron Kumke
On April 27, 2005 indictments were handed down in which 14 people including Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs were named in the murders of 18 people. Despite being in his late 70s, Lombardo avoided capture. During his time as a fugitive, he wrote two letters to his lawyer, one claiming innocence in the charges brought against him, the other not yet made public. He was finally captured by FBI agents in Elmwood Park, Illinois on January 13, 2006.