Sunday, December 16, 2007

Illinois Governor Blagovich Leads List of Politicians Receiving Contributions from Friend of Mob Boss

An Oak Brook businessman who has extensive financial and personal ties to the former head of the Chicago mob has given more than $200,000 in contributions to Illinois politicians through personal and corporate donations -- with Gov. Blagojevich receiving the most money, $35,000, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Among other top recipients of donations from the businessman, Nicholas Vangel, a longtime friend of mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, were former Gov. George Ryan, House Speaker Michael Madigan and state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, an analysis of the political contributions shows.

Vangel has not been accused of any wrongdoing and did not return phone messages Friday. He has denied in court documents any connections to organized crime. Some politicians who received contributions from Vangel or his businesses told the Sun-Times they were either unaware of Vangel's relationship with Marcello or had no idea who he was.

"We don't know much about the person in question and are still reviewing the contributions," said Doug Scofield, a spokesman for the governor's campaign.

A spokesman for Madigan, who received more than $17,000 over 10 years, had no idea who Vangel was and noted the amount contributed was relatively small per year. Saviano, who got more than $20,000, did not return phone messages.

Vangel, 66, and his family have extensive investments in several nursing homes throughout the Chicago area, as well as other businesses, but another side of him was shown during the recent Family Secrets mob trial.

In a secret videotape made by the FBI and played to jurors, Vangel was shown chatting as he visited Marcello at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., in February 2003. As Marcello snacks on a bag of Fritos, Vangel talks with him about the secret ongoing federal investigation of unsolved mob murders, including which mob leaders have been swabbed for DNA testing. Vangel tells Marcello he will find out what he can.

The men at times speak in code, and Vangel tells Marcello he wishes an unnamed individual had gone to testify before the grand jury investigating the mob murders. "Fact is, I mean to tell ya the truth, I was almost hopin' he'd a gone to find out what they were gonna ask him," Vangel tells Marcello.

His assistance to Marcello did not end there.

Vangel at times would deliver cash to Marcello's mistress, according to the woman's testimony. The woman was also put on the payroll of one of Vangel's businesses, so she could get health insurance.

After Marcello was arrested in the Family Secrets case in 2005, Vangel offered to put up his home, which had more than $1 million in equity, for Marcello's bond.

The judge refused to release Marcello, but if he had gotten out, Marcello could have returned to the job Vangel gave him, which involved calling upon several nursing homes on behalf of Vangel's management company.

In the Family Secrets case, Marcello was convicted of racketeering and was found to have taken part in the 1986 murders of the mob's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother, Michael.

Marcello drove the brothers to what they believed was a mob meeting at a Bensenville area home, where they were lured into a basement and beaten to death, according to court testimony.

Vangel is an investor in another company with the wife of a Marcello associate. Vangel is listed on the corporate records of a temporary worker business called Patriot Staffing Management Inc. with Susan Zizzo, wife of missing mobster Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, records show.

Vangel's interests do not end there. He has been, for instance, an investor in the well-known Rush Street restaurant Tavern on Rush, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Vangel is the former owner of the Carlisle banquet hall in west suburban Lombard and was among nine people arrested there during a gambling raid of a Super Bowl party in 1991. Among those arrested were William Galioto, who is a former Chicago Police officer and Marcello's brother-in-law. Galioto has been identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as a mob lieutenant. Also there were two union leaders, who lost their positions after their locals were found to be mobbed up.

Charges against all the men were dropped when prosecutors missed a filing deadline, authorities said.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

The  Wine Messenger

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