Monday, July 09, 2007

Mobster, Tony Spilotro, Fought Killers to Death

Friends of ours: Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese, James Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, Anthony Doyle
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Jr.

A mobster who inspired a movie character warned his attackers before they beat him to death that they would get in trouble, an organized crime insider testified Monday.

Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, and his brother, Michael, had been lured to a basement on the pretext that Michael would be initiated as a "made guy" into the mob, Frank Calabrese Jr. said.

"He came into the basement and there were a whole bunch of guys who grabbed him and strangled him and beat him to death," Calabrese said at Chicago's biggest mob trial in years. "Tony put up a fight. He kept saying, 'You guys are going to get in trouble, you guys are going to get in trouble,'" the prosecution witness said.

Five defendants, including Calabrese's father, reputed mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr., are charged with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 killings, gambling, loan sharking and extortion. The slayings of the Spilotro brothers - Michael was killed the same night - were among the murder charges.

Despite his graphic narrative, Calabrese was not a witness to the June 1986 death of Tony Spilotro, known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas and inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in "Casino."

Calabrese testified that he heard what happened from his uncle, Nicholas Calabrese, who has pleaded guilty and also is expected to testify at the trial. The younger Calabrese testified he was told Tony Spilotro would be killed because he was engaging in unauthorized activities in Las Vegas.

Calabrese Sr., 69, is on trial along with James Marcello, 65; Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78; convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 70; and former police officer Anthony Doyle, 62.

Prosecutors on Monday began playing tapes made secretly by Calabrese Jr. in talks with his father when they both were imprisoned for loan sharking. Calabrese Jr. said he wrote to an FBI agent volunteering to make the tapes because he wanted to change his life and get away from his father, whom he described as manipulative and unwilling to give up crime. The father sat expressionless as his son, who now runs a carry-out near Phoenix, said he wanted to "expose my father for what he was."

Also Monday, convicted bookie Joel Glickman, who went to jail rather than testify against Calabrese Sr., told jurors he paid thousands in "street tax" to the mob and once got a "juice loan" from Calabrese.

Glickman, looking haggard after spending a week behind bars for contempt because of his earlier refusal to testify, said he paid as much as $400,000 in "street tax" over 25 years of working as a bookmaker.

If he hadn't paid the mob for permission to do business, he would have lived in a state of fear, he said.

"Fear of what?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk. "Fear of getting hurt," Glickman said.

Glickman said that he stopped working as a bookie for six years in the 1970s and went into the insurance business, but that while doing so he got a $20,000 loan for his boss from Calabrese.

"A juice loan?" Funk asked, using a mob term for usury.

"I'd say so," said Glickman, testifying under immunity from prosecution.

Calabrese attorney Joseph Lopez tried to soften the impact of that testimony, asking Glickman whether "Calabrese ever threatened you."

"Never," Glickman said. He agreed with Lopez that Calabrese had always been polite and diplomatic with him.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

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