Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Last Mob Case in Chicago?

The FBI called the investigation "Operation Family Secrets,'' secrets that allegedly include at least 18 murders, pornography, bookmaking, loan-sharking, burglaries to order and more.

Members of the "Outfit,'' as the crime syndicate is known in Chicago, have been brought to trial before, but this is the first time the entire structure and enterprise have been dragged into court.

The trial, which began Tuesday before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, is expected to last four months. If a criminal trial is real-life drama, this one certainly has a cast of reluctant stars.

The leading players include James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, 65, considered the boss of the Outfit at the time of his arrest; Frank Calabrese Sr., 70, a member of the Mafia and once considered Chicago's top loan shark; Paul "the Indian'' Schiro, 69; and an Irish-American, former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle 62. And don't forget Joseph "Joey the Clown'' Lombardo, 78, a wisecracker who kept the boys laughing even while he was busy killing someone.

Take Tony the Ant, for instance. That would be Anthony Spilotro. Tony liked to be known as "the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas." Whether he was or not is open to question. But one thing is certain: Not everybody in the Outfit liked him.

Some years ago, he got the idea that it might be fun and profitable to skim the Las Vegas take that normally went to Anthony "Big Tuna'' Accardo, the fabled boss of bosses of the Outfit. Big Tuna didn't get the joke and put out a contract on the Ant. Accardo died of natural causes in 1992, one of the last of Al Capone's associates to pass on to the great sitdown in the sky. But before he died, Accardo saw the end of Tony the Ant.

In 1986, according to the feds, Joe Lombardo and Frank "the German'' Schweihs took Tony the Ant and his brother, Michael, for a ride. They stopped at a cornfield in northern Indiana, where the Clown and the German beat the two Spilotro brothers senseless with baseball bats. Then they buried them, still alive. The remains were found recently. The case was an inspiration for the plot to the 1995 Martin Scorsese film Casino, with Joe Pesci playing the Spilotro character.

The main witness for the prosecution is expected to be Nicholas Calabrese, the brother of the defendant, Frank Calabrese. He admitted taking part in 14 mob murders, and said he helped bury the Spilotro brothers alive. Frank Jr. also is expected to testify against his father.

Meanwhile, according to the Chicago Tribune, the federal courthouse in Chicago looks like a geriatric ward as the elderly bosses of the Outfit show up for trial. They come in on walkers or leaning on canes. Joey the Clown is in a wheelchair. But these were the young guns of the Roaring '20s and '30s, the capos of the 1940s and '50s.

The government even has a reputed expert witness they call a "mobologist.'' That would be James Wagner, current president of the Chicago Crime Commission and former chief of the Chicago FBI's organized crime section, according to the Tribune.

Joey the Clown appears to be enjoying all the fuss. And a former FBI agent who headed up the organized crime task force in Chicago said that this may very possibly be the last great mob case. "This will hurt the mob," Gus Russo, author of The Outfit and other books about organized crime, told The Associated Press. "But it won't end it."

"They always find a way to redefine themselves and bounce back."

Thanks to George McEvoy

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