Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Was Arrest of a US Marshall a Terrific Mistake?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Aldo Cardellicchio
Friends of mine: John Ambrose, William Guide

Like his late father, John Ambrose was a distinguished, decorated law enforcement officer, respected by his peers. And also like his dad, Ambrose doesn't believe he should be facing criminal charges.

The elder Ambrose, Thomas, was a decorated Chicago cop before he was prosecuted as one of the Marquette 10, a police corruption case in the 1980s. At age 37, Thomas Ambrose died of a heart attack in prison -- just seven days after John's 18th birthday.

John Ambrose, 38, grew up to become a deputy U.S. marshal known for hunting down violent fugitives, including gang-bangers, and hauling them in to face a judge. But last week, it was Ambrose who had to face a judge's questions after he was accused of leaking sensitive government information. With short-cropped hair, Ambrose, well-built and intense, answered in an almost military style -- "Yes, your honor" -- to each of the questions.

His intensity, tenacity and strong work ethic made him such a successful law enforcement officer, colleagues say.

Despite what the FBI and federal prosecutors allege, Ambrose doesn't believe he should face prison time and plans vigorously to fight the charges, said his lawyer, Frank Lipuma. "I think they've made a terrific mistake," Lipuma said. "I think it's going to come out that other people's names have been identified, other people could have been the source of the material . . . not John."

Ambrose is accused of leaking information about what mob witness Nick Calabrese was telling the feds. After guarding Calabrese during short stints with the federal witness security program in 2002 and 2003, Ambrose allegedly leaked information from a sensitive file to a longtime family friend, William Guide. His fingerprints were found on the file, but his lawyer said the file was not secured and Ambrose was allowed to review it.

Guide, also one of the Marquette 10, allegedly passed on the information -- including details about Calabrese's movements and his cooperation -- to the mob. It caught authorities' attention when two reputed mobsters under surveillance were heard discussing the information and referred to Ambrose as "the babysitter," according to charges.

If the allegations are true, what was Ambrose's motivation? The feds do not allege Ambrose was paid. In fact, transcripts of conversations between the reputed mobsters indicate Ambrose refused money.

"Perhaps Mr. Ambrose had a father figure in this person [Guide] who may or may not have taken advantage of Mr. Ambrose," Lipuma suggested. "John did not knowingly disclose any confidential information to Guide. Whether Guide conveyed that information to someone else, we don't know."

Lipuma said Ambrose was open with his superiors about his longtime friendship with Guide, who shares Ambrose's interest in wrestling.

Ambrose, married and a father of four, grew up on the South Side and was an avid wrestler while attending St. Laurence High School. He went to Lewis University in Romeoville. Ambrose is a wrestling coach today.

Ambrose allegedly told investigators he was just bragging to Guide, described only as "Individual A" by the feds. He said he hoped his goodwill with Guide would ingratiate Ambrose with reputed mobster John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

DiFronzo and Guide are reportedly friends. That relationship could help Ambrose track down Joey "the Clown" Lombardo if he were to become a fugitive, Ambrose allegedly told investigators last September. The alleged leaks to Guide happened in 2002 and 2003. Lombardo was charged in April 2005 and then became a fugitive.

Ambrose was in his mid-teens when he saw his father go to prison. "It was very painful and hurt him a great deal when his father was convicted," Lipuma said. "He missed having his father in his life since then."

The Marquette 10 prosecution was considered ground-breaking because it was among the first to put drug dealers on the stand to testify against police officers. Some saw it as a slap in the face to local law enforcement. "I think there was a certain element of the community that resented it," said former prosecutor Dean Polales.

Lipuma dismissed any notion that Ambrose harbored resentment against the FBI or prosecutors for charging his father.

He pointed to dangerous fugitives Ambrose has hunted down, including gang-bangers on the most wanted list and mobster Aldo Cardellicchio, wanted by Italian authorities. "His job meant everything to him, to the point where he sacrificed his time with his family to do his job," Lipuma said.

Ambrose, a supervisory inspector with the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, was involved in the hunt for six Cook County jail escapees last year. He also helped capture a man whose disappearance in the federal courthouse caused it to be shut down for hours last year. "John was so highly regarded," said attorney Thomas C. Royce, who represented Ambrose's father. "I would see him in the courthouse and he would say, 'I haven't slept in two days because I've been chasing a fugitive to Milwaukee.' "

There's a reason federal authorities are taking the Calabrese matter so seriously. Calabrese is among one of the most significant witnesses developed in Chicago's history, Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said at a news conference.

Calabrese is poised to testify this May in the Operation Family Secrets trial as a witness to 16 mob killings that he allegedly carried out with others. But his cooperation is delicate; Calabrese has allegedly admitted to taking part in slayings, has promised to testify against family members but has no deal with prosecutors to do so.

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