Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Made" The Chicago Way - Mob Induction & A Son Turning on His Father

In one of the first undercover tapes played at the Family Secrets trial, a speaker identified as reputed mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr. recounted for his son the ceremony at which Outfit members become "made."

The underboss, the Outfit's second-in-command, and capos, who led the street crews, initiated new members one by one, cutting their fingers and then burning a holy picture in their hands, the elder Calabrese said in the 1999 conversation. The bosses checked out if anyone flinched in pain, according to the tape played Monday in court. Candidates had to have a murder under their belt.

"You know what I regret more than anything?" said Calabrese, accused by prosecutors in 13 gangland slayings. "Burning the holy pictures in my hand. That bothers me."

In his first full day on the witness stand, Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., who identified his father on the tape, testified about murder and intimidation as his father glowered at him from under furrowed brows, his chin jutting forward in defiance at times and amusement at other times.

The younger Calabrese, dressed in an unbuttoned blue, red and white polo shirt, largely avoided his father's gaze, looking straight ahead as he responded to the questions of a federal prosecutor, often pushing out his lower lip and knitting together his eyebrows in the same manner as his father.

For the first time, Calabrese told why he had turned his back on his father and wore a hidden recorder for the feds as the two talked in a federal prison.

When the younger Calabrese was about to go to prison in the loan-sharking case, he said, he had a meeting at his attorney's office that his father unexpectedly attended. Calabrese had violated his bond by taking drugs, and his father made him promise to go clean, he said. "Promise me you'll never do drugs again" and be "a good person," the older Calabrese told him, the son testified

At the same time, Calabrese asked his father to "semiretire" from the Outfit, and "he said he would," the son testified.

After he went to prison, the younger Calabrese said he felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, leading him to decide to indeed change his criminal ways. But Calabrese said he realized his father never intended to reform.

The younger Calabrese said he contacted federal authorities from prison and offered to cooperate. Now he is one of the government's star witnesses at the trial of the senior Calabrese, 70, reputed mob figures Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello and Paul "the Indian" Schiro as well as Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer. At the heart of the prosecution are 18 long-unsolved murders.

In an undercover tape played in court Monday, the elder Calabrese expressed some regrets at being made a full-fledged member of the Outfit in the secret ceremony years earlier. On the tape, the elder Calabrese said he told his sponsor, Angelo LaPietra, boss of the 26th Street crew in the early to mid-1980s, that "I didn't want it."

"I would be strapped down and if I wanted to do something else, I couldn't," Calabrese was heard on the tape telling his son.

The elder Calabrese told his son that to qualify, a made member had to have committed at least one murder, though the initiation could take place years later, the son said. But the elder Calabrese gave plaudits to Mario Puzo, author of the "Godfather," saying the book's depiction of the making ceremony was "very close" to the real thing, his son said.

Calabrese told jurors that his father and his uncle, Nicholas Calabrese, had confided to him years earlier the details of how brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro had been killed in one of the Outfit's most infamous murders.

Nicholas Calabrese is expected to testify for the government, implicating his brother, Frank Sr. in as many as 13 murders. The cooperation of the elder Calabrese's brother and son led to the code name for the federal investigation, Operation Family Secrets.

In the mid-1980s, the Outfit was unhappy with Anthony Spilotro's handling of its interests in Nevada, and Nicholas Calabrese and John Fecarotta went out to Las Vegas to kill Anthony Spilotro and someone else, the younger Calabrese testified.

They were unsuccessful, but while they were there, Fecarotta won a lot of money while gambling. Casino records placed Nicholas Calabrese there for the Las Vegas trip. The two older Calabreses were furious when they learned of the records because Nicholas Calabrese and Fecarotta had killed another Outfit associate - - whose name Calabrese Jr. said he could not remember - - while they were in Las Vegas.

When the first attempt to kill Anthony Spilotro failed, members of the Outfit decided to bring the Spilotro brothers to Chicago, under the pretense of initiating Michael Spilotro as a "made" member, Calabrese Jr. said. The Spilotros were led to a Chicago-area home and to the basement, where "a whole bunch of guys" surrounded them, he testified.

The brothers were strangled, and beaten to death as some of the Outfit members held their legs, he said. The older Calabreses told him that "Michael didn't put up much of a struggle," but Anthony Spilotro struggled and warned those who were killing him, "You guys are going to get in trouble!" Calabrese Jr. testified.

Nicholas Calabrese later shot Fecarotta to death because Fecarotta was assigned to bury the Spilotros' bodies, which were discovered in an Indiana cornfield, but Nicholas himself was wounded in the hit, Calabrese Jr. testified. When his uncle recovered, he asked Calabrese Jr., at the time a supervisor at the Chicago Department of Sewers, to retrieve the gun used in the shooting from a sewer where Nicholas Calabrese had dumped it. The younger Calabrese said he arranged it so his work crew carried out repairs in the area where the gun was dumped. Under the pretense of cleaning the sewer, Calabrese found the gun and returned it to his uncle, he testified.

Jurors and defendants alike paid rapt attention to much of the testimony Monday, even when Calabrese Jr. detailed high-interest juice loans, street taxes on businesses and other Outfit operations.

The serious atmosphere of the courtroom was broken only a few times, including once when Calabrese Sr. decided to get up to leave the courtroom for a restroom in the middle of his son's testimony. The elder Calabrese, who is in custody, went to a bathroom in a lockup hidden from the view of jurors.

A few minutes later, outside the jury's presence, Judge James Zagel admonished the defendants that they were allowed to leave for a restroom break during testimony, but by doing so they waived their constitutional right to be present for testimony.

Lombardo, whose nickname of "the Clown" has long matched his history of colorful antics, piped up: "I go pretty often, judge!" drawing laughter from the packed courtroom.

Much of Calabrese's testimony Monday dealt with the minutiae of Outfit life, such as how he spoke in code with his father, how juice loans were calculated and his work with his uncle in enforcing bans on illegal activity in parts of the Chicago area without Outfit approval.

Calabrese Sr. also told his son, in one of their taped conversations played Monday, that federal authorities did not always know who were actual members of the Outfit. Asked by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully whether that meant that the Outfit had "sleepers" who worked almost exclusively behind the scenes, Calabrese said, "Yes."

The only other testimony Monday came from Joel Glickman, a former mob-connected sports bookmaker who previously had refused to testify, despite being given immunity from prosecution, and had been jailed for contempt. After a week in jail, Glickman decided to testify after all. He said he took out a juice loan for his boss at an insurance company from Calabrese Sr.

Thanks to Liam Ford

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