Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mistress of Mob Boss to Testify

Friends of ours: James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nicholas Calabrese, Anthony Spilotro
Friends of mine: Mike Spilotro

A one-time mistress of reputed top Chicago mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello is scheduled to be called today as a witness for the prosecution in the Family Secrets trial, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

It could not be determined what Connie Marcello will tell jurors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars referred to her only as "Miss Marcello" when asked by U.S. District Judge James Zagel Wednesday for a list of witnesses who are expected to appear today.

While there is a marital privilege that generally prohibits prosecutors from calling wives to testify against their husbands, there is no mistress privilege. Connie Marcello adopted James Marcello's last name, but the two never married.

It's the latest twist in the Family Secrets case, in which one defendant, reputed Outfit killer Frank Calabrese Sr., saw his son, Frank Jr., and brother, Nicholas, testify against him.

Also expected to appear today as witnesses are the widow and daughter of Michael Spilotro, who was killed in a brutal gangland beating in 1986 with his brother, Anthony Spilotro, who oversaw the Outfit's interests in Las Vegas.

Michael Spilotro's daughter, Michelle, is expected to testify that James Marcello called her home twice looking for her father, who left for a meeting and never returned. Spilotro's daughter said in an affidavit that she had heard Marcello's voice many times before. She later identified his voice from an FBI recording.

On Wednesday, a forensic pathologist testified Michael and Anthony Spilotro died from blunt force injuries and could not breathe because blood filled their airways or lungs. There was no evidence they were buried alive or hit with baseball bats -- a version popularized in the 1995 movie "Casino."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2

The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2 is the highly anticipated conclusion of the long-running HBO series surrounding mob boss Tony Soprano, and his life with both "families". The highly publicized conclusion of the program's final season made the news recently, and HBO Home Video and Warner Home Video are bringing this home on October 23rd. There will be a 4-DVD set and HBO will release hi-def versions on both the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats, too.

The 9 episodes, which are nominated for 15 Emmy awards, will be joined by several extras, including 2 Featurettes and a number of Commentary Tracks: Making "Cleaver": Behind the scenes of Christopher' s horror film The Music of The Sopranos: Creator David Chase, cast and crew discuss the songs from the show Four audio commentaries with cast members Dominic Chainese, Robert Iler, Arthur Nascarella, Steven R. Schirripa and Stevie Van Zandt.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Forensic Pathologist Details Spilotro's Autopsies

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, James Marcello, Nick Calabrese
Friends of mine: Michale Spilotro, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

A forensic pathologist who took part in the autopsies of mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro gave testimony on Wednesday that upended the Hollywood version of their deaths, which had the men beaten to death with bats and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield.

Dr. John Pless said at the Family Secrets trial that there was no evidence that the men had been buried alive. The grisly detail was popularized in the 1995 mob movie, “Casino.” Pless said the injuries the men received were more likely from fists than bats.

Pless riveted jurors with a detailed list of the injuries both men received. The Spilotros both died from multiple blunt trauma injuries and from having their lungs or airways so filled with blood from their wounds that they couldn't breathe, according to Pless’ testimony.

The men had been lured to the basement of a Bensenville area home in June 1986 after a mob hit squad had unsuccessfully tried to kill Anthony Spilotro in Las Vegas, according to earlier trial testimony.

Spilotro had tried to blow up a mob associate (Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal) without Outfit permission, had slept with that associate's wife and had committed unauthorized murders, according to evidence at trial.

Mob officials lured the men to the basement on the promise that Tony Spilotro was to be promoted to a capo position in the mob, and Michael Spilotro was to be a “made” member of the Outfit. Instead, a dozen killers were waiting for the men in the basement and jumped them as they came down.

Earlier in the trial, Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese, who is testifying for the government, described his own role in the murders. Calabrese testified he held Michael Spilotro while another man strangled him. Calabrese said he did not get a good look at how Anthony Spilotro was killed.

The forensic pathologist testified that he found abrasions around the neck of Michael Spilotro that could have come from a rope, but noted that the corpses had decomposed after being buried for at least a week in the cornfield, and it was difficult to find markings.

The attorney for reputed mob boss James Marcello jumped on the lack of clear strangulation marks. Defense lawyer Thomas Breen hammered home that point to the jury and will likely use it to bolster his argument that Nicholas Calabrese wasn’t even at the Spilotro murders and made up his account of them.

Calabrese’s testimony is important to Marcello because Calabrese contends Marcello took part in the murders by driving him and other killers to the Bensenville area home.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

The Dentist Who Drilled the Mob

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Nick Calabrese, Frank Calabrase Sr., James Marcello, Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Jr.

It is the stuff of novels: a dentist on the trail of his brothers' killers who learns to extract more than teeth.

When Patrick Spilotro, 70, takes the stand this week in the federal "Family Secrets" mob trial, the gruesome odyssey of a brother thirsty for justice will unfold with a few shocking surprises.

In an interview last week, Spilotro detailed his obsession with bringing his brothers' killers to justice.

Spilotro told Michael Sneed: "I promised my mother 21 years ago I would find the men who did it; who butchered my brothers and tortured her sons. We talked about it before she died in 1995. You never get over something like that. But I told her I would never give up."

Sneed is told mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, who was hiding in Chicago in hopes of not becoming part of the "Family Secrets" trial, was captured as a result of a visit to Spilotro's office for dental problems. A tooth abscess led the feds to the flamboyant mobster.

The story of how Spilotro, a suburban dentist, helped break the backbone of the old Chicago mob syndicate is the detritus of two decades spent searching for 12 men who beat and strangled his brothers, reputed mobsters Tony and Michael Spilotro. The menburied them in an unmarked grave in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

It was the flipping of mobster Nick Calabrese and his nephew, Frank Calabrese Jr., that cracked the "Family Secrets" case. And it was Spilotro, who began working with the feds 21 years ago, who helped them do it.

Secretly taping Nick Calabrese while in prison for extortion, Spilotro primed the pump of redemption with the help of his dental patient, Nick's wife, Nora. And it was Spilotro who tracked down Frank "The German" Schweihs, a reputed mob killer, in his Kentucky lair by tracing multiple cell phones used by Schweihs' son, Sneed hears.

Many of these men and their wives and kids and grandparents were patients of Spilotro over a 35-year span.

Spilotro did not know Calabrese was one of his brothers' murderers, and told Sneed that it would have been impossible for him to talk to Calabrese had he known.

Spilotro's intention was to get Calabrese to tell him what happened that night when a mobster named James Marcello, described in 2005 as the boss of the Chicago outfit, allegedly called Michael Spilotro's home and summoned him to the meeting that led to his death. Michael's daughter, Michelle, will reportedly testify that it was Marcello's voice she heard on the phone that night.

It was the flipping of Nick Calabrese that broke the case. But during Spilotro's meeting with the underworld kingpin, Spilotro discovered Calabrese hated his brother, Frank, whom he considered a dangerous psychopath. Spilotro also told the feds Frank Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., hated his father; important information for the feds to build a scenario to subsequently flip them, sources said.

Armed with Spilotro's information, and subsequent DNA evidence linking Calabrese to a mob hit, the feds were able to flip Calabrese -- whose wife, Nora, had urged him to cooperate.

Spilotro never knew of Nick Calabrese's involvement in his brothers' demise.

"They never told him that they did it," a source said. "But there's no honor amongst these men," said Spilotro. "No respect. They are all a different breed. Money and power are their gods, nothing else."

Thanks to Michael Sneed

2 Counts Dropped Against U.S. Marshal in Mob Case

Friends of ours: Nicholas Calabrese
Friends of mine: John Ambrose

A federal judge Monday dismissed two counts in an indictment against a deputy U.S. marshal accused of leaking information about a key government witness to the mob.

John Ambrose was charged earlier this year with giving information on the cooperation and movement of witness Nicholas Calabrese to members of the Chicago Outfit while Calabrese was in protective custody.

Ambrose had been charged with federal felony theft and a count alleging he had disclosed information without authorization. U.S. District Judge John Grady found that the counts were not specific enough.

Grady wrote that the government had not adequately described what Ambrose allegedly stole to constitute the theft charge. He also found that prosecutors did not fully outline what information allegedly was taken, denying Ambrose the ability to formulate an adequate defense.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment on the decision.

Ambrose remains charged with making false statements in the case.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chicago for Dummies

Years ago, when Frank Sinatra sang the praises of "my kind of town," he was saluting Chicago. Chicago is still a truly vibrant and eclectic city that constantly reinvents itself. Cosmopolitan yet not elitist, sophisticated in some ways yet refreshingly brash in others, Chicago is wonderfully entertaining and welcoming. There’s plenty to do and this guide clues you in with the latest info on:

  • Four options for exploring the city
  • Five day trips to nearby attractions
  • Accommodations, ranging from three of the world’s best luxury hotels to wonderful historic getaways with modern amenities
  • A shopping guide that covers power shopping along the Magnificent Mile and bargain hunting in unique shops
  • The action and attractions, ranging from Soldier Field or Wrigley Field to the Hancock Observatory to Navy Pier
  • Restaurants, including everything from elegant to family-style, and from Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza to all kinds of ethnic cuisine
  • Intriguing architecture and incredible museums, including the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Fantastic outdoor attractions, including Millenium Park, Grant Park, North Avenue Beach, two great zoos, and more
  • What to do when the sun goes down, whether you like the blues, ska, or hip-hop… the hot night spots or great theater
  • Culture, ranging from Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to The Second City and Improv Olympics
  • Sports—baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and more—in a city of notoriously passionate fans

Like every For Dummies travel guide, Chicago For Dummies, 4th Edition, includes:

  • Down-to-earth trip-planning advice
  • What you shouldn’t miss — and what you can skip
  • The best hotels and restaurants for every budget
  • Handy Post-it Flags to mark your favorite pages

With this friendly guide to help you choose from the best sites and attractions, Chicago will surely be your kind of town.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Talarico Brothers Choose Sides at Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Michael Talarico, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nicholas Calabrese, Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra
Friends of mine: Al Talarico

In the Family Secrets mob trial in Chicago, a brother has testified against a brother, and a son has testified against a father. But in recent days, the trial has revealed another family twist.

Bookmaker Michael Talarico took the stand against Frank Calabrese Sr., who ran the street crew that made Talarico pay a "street tax."

Days later, another Talarico family member -- civil attorney Al Talarico, Michael's brother -- entered the courtroom and promptly sat a few feet away from Calabrese Sr. He sat on a courtroom bench and started taking notes, whispering comments to Calabrese Sr.

Al Talarico even wanted to enter the case officially on Calabrese Sr.'s behalf, but Judge James Zagel denied his request. Calabrese Sr. already has one lawyer, defense attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez.

Lopez, normally a font of quotes for inquiring reporters, declined to comment on Al Talarico's appearance. Lopez cited a gag order the judge has imposed. Lopez, though, appears to have grown increasingly irritated by Talarico's presence. Lopez now has his client and Talarico whispering advice to him at trial.

Calabrese Sr. may need all the help he can get. He is accused of murdering 13 people for the mob. His brother, alleged Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese, and his eldest son have testified against him.

Michael and Al Talarico are nephews of the late mob boss Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, a brutal killer who ran the 26th Street/Chinatown crew to which Calabrese Sr. belonged.

Al Talarico could not be reached for comment Friday. He has done civil work for the Calabrese family involving real estate, records show. One deal involved a home that the feds contended Calabrese Sr. stole from a man who owed him thousands of dollars in juice loans.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Gangster Graveyard

Friends of ours: Joseph "Jerry" Scalise, Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto, Joseph Ferriola, Gerald Scarpelli, James Peter Basile, Harry Aleman

After learning his mobster brothers planned to kill him, the stocky bank robber figured his only way out alive was to turn FBI informant.

So, for 16 months, the self-professed soldier secretly recorded 186 conversations with his Chicago Outfit associates. He also detailed about 40 unsolved mob murders.

It was during one of those chats that FBI agent Jack O'Rourke said his informant nonchalantly mentioned a mob graveyard in southeast DuPage County near the former home of syndicate enforcer Joseph "Jerry" Scalise, imprisoned at the time for a London jewelry heist. "What are you talking about?" O'Rourke, now a private consultant, recalls asking. "He said it was common knowledge."

For five months, an elite FBI-led task force excavated many acres near Route 83 and Bluff Road, near Darien. They found bodies of two low-level wise guys before calling it quits in October 1988.

Nearly 20 years later, the group's early intelligence work remains significant. It laid part of the foundation for the Family Secrets trial under way in Chicago in which five defendants are accused of racketeering conspiracy in an indictment that outlines 18 murders, gambling and extortion.

A construction crew also resurrected the field's ominous past in March 2007 after unearthing a third body just north of the site.

It's unknown if more vanquished mobsters remain there undiscovered. A fabled 45-carat gem known as the Marlborough diamond that Scalise stole also was never found. Some theorize he hid it on his property. And, finally, just who is the turncoat who led FBI agents long ago to the burial site?

For decades, Chicago gambling kingpin Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto was a loyal soldier. That changed in February 1983 when he survived three gunshots in a botched hit. Eto played possum, and later turned informant. His would-be killers were later found dead in a trunk in Naperville - the price for not getting the job done right.

Eto proved to be a valued government witness before his Jan. 23, 2004 death, but he was not the one who led authorities to the graveyard. His attempted assassination, though, in part sparked the formation of the organized crime task force of FBI, Chicago, state and local officials in the mid-1980s to curb such mob violence.

An early goal was to bring down the crime family or "crew" of mob boss Joseph Ferriola of Oak Brook, who operated lucrative gambling rackets from Cicero to Lake County until his 1989 death.

Members of the task force said they focused on Gerald Scarpelli, who along with Scalise, known as Whiterhand because he was born minus four fingers, were Ferriola's busiest hitmen.

About this time, another mob guy started getting cold feet. O'Rourke identified him as James Peter Basile, a convicted Chicago bank robber best known as "Duke." Basile already had the FBI zeroing in on him for a 1983 race track robbery in Crete. So, after he also learned Scarpelli, his longtime associate, was planning to kill him, Basile realized he had no other choice but to break the mob's code of silence.

For 16 months, he helped the FBI listen in on his chats with Scarpelli and other associates before serving a few years in prison for the race track robbery and slipping into a witness protection program in the early 1990s.

Basile re-emerged briefly in June 1996 at a U.S. Senate judiciary committee hearing. "I finally decided to do something because it seemed there was no way out," he testified. "I began informing on the mob."

It was during one of his recordings of Scarpelli that the FBI first learned of the DuPage County graveyard. Basile later took them to the site, near Scalise's former home. The FBI heard there could be as many as seven bodies buried in the field.

It was painstaking work. For five months, task force members traded in suits, badges and guns for jeans, chain saws and shovels. They dug up acres of soil, trees and drained a pond. Members hand sifted truckloads of dirt through mesh screens for trace evidence. "We were meticulous," said Jerry Buten, a retired 30-year FBI supervisor. "This was way before CSI, but we knew the way you solve most major crimes was through physical evidence."

Authorities speculated the field held victims of the infamous chop shop wars of the 1970s, when the mob seized control of the stolen auto-parts trade and wiped out uncooperative dealers.

State police stood guard 24 hours a day. Large canopies were erected to block circling media helicopters. But they weren't the only pests. "I gave an order that anyone who came in was given a pair of work gloves because I got tired of all the suits showing up just to look at us," former DuPage Coroner Richard Ballinger said. "We'd spend 12 hours out there, come back to the office to do more work and sleep, then go back out the next morning."

On May 16, 1988, members unearthed the first skeletal remains. On June 9, a second shallow grave was found. Both men were shot to death.

Authorities brought in experts from across the country, from archaeologists to soil scientists, including top forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow of Oklahoma. Snow had identified the remains of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele in Brazil and some victims of John Wayne Gacy and the 1979 American Airlines crash near O'Hare.

Using dental records and facial reconstruction, Snow relied mostly on computerized skull-face superimposition to identify the corpses. The second body, buried in a ski mask and with a cache of pornographic materials, was that of Michael S. Oliver, 29, a Chicago machinist who vanished November 1979.

In the FBI recordings, Scarpelli is heard saying that Oliver was a minor hoodlum shot during a syndicate raid on an independent porn shop near Elk Grove Village.

Not sure how to dump the body, in a scene similar to that in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas," his underworld pals talked over a bite to eat as the corpse sat in the trunk.

It took more than one year to identify remains in the first grave as Robert "Bobbie" Hatridge, a 56-year-old Cincinnati man with a distinctive Dick Tracy square jaw, flat feet and a flair for fashion. The FBI said his girlfriend later told agents that Hatridge came to Chicago in April 1979 to meet with Scalise and Scarpelli about a big robbery. He never made it home.

Basile's graveyard tip was considered one of the task force's first big scoops. Nearly 20 years later, its intelligence work reverberates still.

The secret tapes Basile made led to Scarpelli's arrest in July 1988. He killed himself a year later, but not before making a 500-page confession that exposed many mob secrets. He also admitted to 10 murders, including some in the Family Secrets trial.

The task force also made history with another big bust. It brought down Ferriola's nephew, Harry Aleman, for killing a union steward in 1977. He was acquitted, then retried and convicted. Aleman, 68, and still in prison, is the only person tried twice for the same crime. Double jeopardy was discarded after it was learned his first judge took a bribe. "The entire (Ferriola) crew was prosecuted as a result of the task force," Buten said. "It marked the beginning of the Chicago Outfit's end."

The mob graveyard made news again in March when crews building townhouses unearthed a third body several blocks north of the field near 91st Street.

The remains were identified as Robert Charles Cruz of Kildeer, who vanished Dec. 4, 1997. Cruz, who was Aleman's cousin, had been on Arizona's death row just two years earlier until his conviction for a 1980 double murder was overturned.

The discovery of his body begs the question - Could more graves be found there?

Members searched far and wide, with one exception. At the time, a large drug rehab facility was being built there. Many wonder if beneath its foundation lie the bodies of more hoodlums. It's possible, task force members say, but unlikely. The bodies were unearthed in shallow graves less than 5 feet deep. They argue crews dug deeper when laying the foundation and probably would have found more graves if they existed.

Also still missing is the fabled $960,000 Marlborough diamond that Scalise stole during a 1980 London jewelry store heist. It was once owned by Sir Winston Churchill's cousin, the duchess of Marlborough.

Years ago, O'Rourke visited Scalise in his cell on England's Isle of Wight - the British version of Alcatraz - where he was imprisoned for the jewelry heist. "Scalise would do a lot of talking but never say anything," O'Rourke said. "Informants told us he shipped it to Chicago, where it was broken up and sold."

Scalise, 69, has kept a low profile since returning to the Chicago area after finishing an Arizona prison stint on drug charges. But, long ago, he was rumored to be working on his memoirs.

So far, though, he has upheld the mob's code of silence.

Thanks to Christy Gutowski

Top Ten Signs You're Watching A Bad Organized Crime Show

10. It chronicles the life and times of the Jackson family

Top Ten Signs You're Watching A Bad Organized Crime Show9. Mob bosses settle conflicts with spirited game of Trivial Pursuit

8. Only illegal activity is double parking

7. Mobsters whack an informant by driving up his cholesterol with rich desserts

6. Boss makes guy an offer he has the option of refusing

5. All nine mobsters played by Eddie Murphy -- remember "Norbit" is now available on DVD

4. They sit around eating sausage and pepperoni Hot Pockets

3. Everyone dies after catching tuberculosis from guy on airplane

2. Crime syndicate is run from behind bars by Paris Hilton

1. It's less violent than a typical episode of "The View"

Tipster Helps Put Mob Turncoat Behind Bars

Friends of ours: Peter "Petey Cap" Caporino, Genovese Crime Family, Michael Crincoli, Louis "Bobby" Manna, Lawrence "Little Larry" Dentico, Joseph Scarbrough

Peter Caporino stood in a Jersey City courtroom last week in a green prison jumpsuit and blue slippers, with his hands cuffed behind his back. He held his head high but looked tired.

"Mr. Caporino, are you thinking clearly today?" Superior Court Judge Peter Vazquez asked him. "Yes," Caporino replied, nodding.

The exchange began the final ironic twist in the strange, sorry tale of "Petey Cap," one of the better-known and well-liked mobsters to grace or -- depending on your view -- plague North Jersey.

Caporino was the Hasbrouck Heights wiseguy who traded four decades of service in the mob for an FBI wire and the chance to spare himself and his wife from prison. He secretly recorded hundreds of conversations, and later helped federal prosecutors win convictions against 16 Jersey-based members and associates of the Genovese crime family. But as most of them marched off to prison last summer, a whisper campaign was in the works: Caporino, the rumors went, was not only back on the streets, but still brazenly running the lucrative six-figure gambling racket the feds had ordered him -- twice -- to shut down.

A new nickname was in the air. Greedy Petey, they called him.

Anonymous letters found their way to the Jersey City police, the county prosecutors, even The Star-Ledger, identifying locations where Caporino and underlings were said to still be operating. Someone was ratting out the rat.

Last month, police raided his home, seized betting records and cash and charged Caporino and his wife. The end came Thursday, when the 70-year-old mobster admitted his crimes in a plea deal with Hudson County prosecutors, and agreed to a seven-year prison term, most of which will probably be spent in isolation.

Caporino's punishment could ultimately be longer and lonelier than any given to most of the men he helped put away. "It's poetic justice, that's what it is," said Joseph Ferrante, a defense attorney who grilled Caporino on the witness stand during a federal racketeering trial last year. "You can't go and be a rat and put it in everybody's face."

Caporino wasn't a boss or even a ranking member in New Jersey's most dominant crime family. But he was a fixture -- a slight, chatty fellow, known and liked by cops, criminals and politicians alike, fond of fine wines and quick to pick up the tab. With his white hair and silver-rimmed glasses, he was more lottery agent than bruiser.

He was also the proprietor of a Hoboken members-only social hall, the Character Club, that occupied a faded brick building in the shadow of gleaming new condos. Like the building, its owner represented the new realities of the modern mob in New Jersey. A lifelong Genovese associate, Caporino turned informant to save the family that mattered most to him, but couldn't abandon the job. "It's all he knows," said his defense attorney, Sam DeLuca.

Caporino isn't the first wiseguy cooperator to return to his criminal ways. It happens so often that some in Garden State law enforcement circles have a saying about their witness protection participants: You can take the wiseguy out of Jersey, but you can't take Jersey out of the wiseguy.

Caporino refused to enter the program, even after he was forced to testify at the May 2006 trial of reputed Genovese soldier Michael Crincoli. On the stand, Caporino calmly admitted peddling information to the FBI for more than 15 years, including intelligence that helped in the prosecution of Louis "Bobby" Manna, a reputed Genovese underboss who ran operations in New Jersey.

He also acknowledged under oath that agents had repeatedly ordered him to end his numbers racket. But at the hearing Thursday, Caporino admitted he was running it again last June, weeks after the Crincoli trial, raising the prospect that he never really shut it down. "It certainly looked that way," said Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Thomas Carroll.

Caporino was first arrested and released last summer on minor gambling promotion charges. At the time, Jersey City Police Lt. Gary Lallo credited "community complaints in various sectors of the city" for jump-starting the investigation, but declined to say more. But there was no shortage of suspects behind the campaign to topple him, according to attorneys, investigators and others who know him.

Near the top would be the wiseguys he helped convict, or their friends, looking to exact some revenge, even if it's not a traditional form. "They like to see a guy suffer," said Assistant U.S. Attorney V. Grady O'Malley, a veteran organized crime prosecutor who oversees that office's Strike Force. "He's going to suffer with this. You're talking about spending the remaining good years of his life in jail."

There are other theories. One blames competitors coveting his lucrative turf. Or federal authorities angry at Caporino or looking for a way to force him into the protective custody he had repeatedly refused. Or local law enforcement, relishing the chance to embarrass the FBI by nailing one of its informants.

Another grapevine theory said Caporino's arrest was police payback after one of his right-hand men, Steve French, became a federal witness against a Jersey City detective, Frank D'Agosta, who was convicted of extorting the ring operators.

French became a cooperator after his arrest in a gambling raid by Hudson County investigators in 2002, the same one that snared Caporino, his wife, Ann, and more than a dozen others. By that point, Caporino had secretly been an FBI informant for more than a decade. But the prospect of he and his wife being sent to jail turned him into a full-fledged cooperating witness. In the two and a half years that followed, he recorded more than 300 conversations, most often with a microphone embedded on the pager he wore on his belt.

The racketeering indictment that ensued outlined loan-sharking operations, extortion attempts, and shakedowns against bettors by associates, soldiers, and Lawrence "Little Larry" Dentico, believed to be one of the ranking captains in the crime family.

One of Caporino's recordings captured Joseph Scarbrough, the reputed Jersey crew boss who presided at his own Hoboken social club, musing about whether to execute one gambler before his debts got too big. On another, Scarbrough waxed nostalgic about a particularly ruthless killer from Chicago. "Good man. Good (bleeping) man," said Scarbrough, who later pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to five years in federal prison. "I loved the guy."

Caporino's role was more benign. He was the bank, the financier of an illegal daily lottery across North Jersey. He and his wife owned a house in middle-class Hasbrouck Heights, where they cared for their adult disabled daughter. Petey Cap's "office" -- the headquarters for the betting operation -- was a rented apartment in Staten Island, he admitted Thursday.

The take was sometimes as high as $40,000 a day, he testified last year, and he passed the proceeds both up and down the organizational ladder. Assistants and the legions of runners got paid for taking daily bets in office buildings, housing projects and storefronts. Scarbrough took as much as $5,000 a month, his "tribute" payment.

Caporino's cooperation won him a five-year suspended sentence in connection with the 2002 arrest and persuaded prosecutors to drop the charges against his wife.

The plea deal announced Thursday calls for Vazquez to reinstate the five-year term when he formally sentences Caporino in September. The judge is also expected to add a concurrent seven-year term for being the leader of an organized crime network. Again, prosecutors will drop their charges against Ann Caporino.

Thursday's plea hearing lasted just 15 minutes. Caporino stood at the defense table, guarded by two sheriff's officers and flanked on his left by DeLuca, his lawyer for more than 20 years. "Are you satisfied with the services of your attorney?" the judge asked. "Totally," Caporino said.

DeLuca then asked him a brief series of pre-arranged questions about the gambling ring and his role. Caporino limited his answers to one- or two-word replies. He wasn't asked to explain why he committed the crimes, though he'll get the chance to do so at sentencing. By that time, about half of the defendants he cooperated against will be free.

DeLuca said he hopes that Caporino will be eligible for parole in less than two years, although prosecutors said that was unlikely. Meanwhile, DeLuca said he will ask that Caporino serve his time somewhere outside of North Jersey.

He also can't expect any 11th hour assistance from the federal government. "We're not going to step in now and rescue him," said O'Malley, the federal prosecutor. "He takes the entire weight -- and he deserves it."

Thanks to John P. Martin

Mob Candy

Friends of ours: John Gotti, Carlo Gambino
Friends of mine: Soprano Crime Family

Tony Avella, a City Council member and founder of the Council’s Italian-American caucus, was home in Whitestone, Queens, watching the local news when a segment about a new magazine caught his attention. Inaugural Issue of Mob CandyThe magazine was called Mob Candy, its publisher, Frank DiMatteo, told the camera in what he calls broken Brooklynese, and its focus was the gangster lifestyle.

“Everyone likes to read about Mafia stuff; that’s why ‘The Sopranos’ did so well,” said Mr. DiMatteo, a balding man with forearms that display Popeye-like tattoos of a Marine Corps bulldog and the names of his three children.

Mr. Avella, whose father’s family came from the Naples area, was incensed by what he saw as pejorative stereotyping of Italian-Americans. In the past, he has spoken out against “Shark Tale,” the animated film in which criminal sea creatures speak with Italian-American accents, and attacked PBS for naming a series “The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance.”

On July 20, Mr. Avella took to the steps of City Hall to protest Mob Candy, accompanied by representatives of several Italian-American groups. He held a copy of the cover of the magazine’s premiere issue, which depicts a scantily clad, Glock-toting moll. “The magazine glorifies criminality,” he said. “It’s offensive to Italian-Americans and it degrades women.”

The other day, sitting at the bar of a Court Street pizzeria in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, just blocks from where he was born, Mr. DiMatteo pondered Mr. Avella’s position.

“Am I glorifying crime?” asked Mr. DiMatteo, 51, whose grandparents, like Mr. Avella’s, come from southern Italy. “Maybe I am, but I’ve had a lot of great teachers: The Post, The News, The Times, the History Channel, Hollywood.”

Mr. DiMatteo, who previously distributed the pornographic magazine Screw, said his new magazine offers “an entertaining history lesson.” And he added, “I ain’t making nothing up here.”

The 92-page first issue, which costs $4.99 and should be on newsstands by Thursday, offers an article about the legacy of Carlo Gambino and a history of a half-century of what the magazine describes as Mafia rats. There is also a pull-out poster. On one side is a collage of photographs of John Gotti; on the other, an image of the cover model, wearing a lace-up bustier and garter belt, toying suggestively with a grape Blow Pop. “That’s the candy side,” explained Tyrone Christopher, 39, the magazine’s co-founder.

Despite the publication’s glossy appearance, all the articles in the first issue were written by its two creators, and there are no advertisements. In the opinion of Mr. DiMatteo, the attention Mr. Avella called to his magazine may change that situation. “Ultimately,” he said, “it helps.”

Thanks to Emily Brady

Duke's Life of Crime

Friends of ours: James "Duke" Basile, Sam Giancana, Joe Ferriola

An edited text of James "Duke" Basile's June 1996 testimony in Washington, D.C. before a Senate judiciary committee. He hasn't been heard from publicly since.

I have lived a life of crime since 1958, two years after I was honorably discharged from the Marines.

I was 23 and in my second year of college when, by coincidence, I became connected with organized crime by signing on to work in the Owl Club in Calumet City as an operator for roulette, poker, blackjack and dice games. When the bosses moved their gambling operations to Las Vegas in 1962, I stayed in Chicago to do outfit work.

During my tenure, I worked under several bosses -- Sam Giancana and Joe Ferriola were a few. I knew them on a first-name basis.

I became a main soldier in about 1976 after I was discharged from prison after serving five years for bank robbery. My duties included taking care of loan sharking, lending and collecting, gambling, bookmakers, chop-shops, prostitutes, restaurants and other business collections -- collections which were all extortion to allow these operations to continue doing their business.

I averaged about $300,000 a month. I was allowed to keep $5,000 monthly for myself.

During this time in 1982, I was called before the federal grand jury and given immunity. I served 15 months for my refusal to testify and earned the added respect from the outfit, being that I had kept quiet.

I was told to lay low afterward because I became too popular and had bad press. I then temporarily returned to burglaries and because of my high living and constant need for more money, I continued.

Although I was a loyal member of the Chicago outfit for 38 years, in 1986, I began for the first time to have my doubts. I finally decided to do something because it seemed there was no way out. I began informing on the mob.

The rest of my story is all documented in FBI files. I have made approximately 186 taped conversations. I was told that I kept 15 agents busy for months working on all the information I provided. I was able to provide the FBI with detailed information on 40 murders together with other details of the entire mob and its activities. I also testified against other members.

I always pride myself as having never pulled the trigger on any hits, although I was part of setting up and assisting hits.

I remain relatively straight, but it's hard. I haven't been able to get any good jobs. I've been turned down, on my worst day, at McDonald's. I've been living hand-to-mouth with jobs whenever I can get one. I'm not here looking for sympathy. I don't even deserve it.

Romance of the Mob Shattered by Trial

Friends of ours: Vito Corleone, Tony Soprano, Nicholas Calabrese, Frank Calabrese, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle, Joey Aiuppa, Michael "Hambone" Albergo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Louie "The Mooch" Eboli
Friends of mine: Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, William Hanhardt, Michael Spilotro

They have described becoming "made guys" in the mob by holding burning holy pictures in cupped hands while promising a lifetime of silence.

They've spoken of the arcane arts of "peeling" safes and selling bogus stock certificates. And they've told stories that seem straight from the movies: bombing businesses, bloody hits on FBI informants, bodies stuffed in car trunks and an oil drum stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. But Hollywood's romantic view has been mainly missing over the last month as witnesses — from a defendant's brother to old-time crooks with rap sheets as long as bed sheets — took the stand at Chicago's biggest mob trial in years.

Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano look like tame old duffers compared to what prosecution witnesses have been saying about the alleged dons of the Chicago Outfit, as the city's organized crime family has named itself. "They are not the romantic people who are often portrayed in the movies," says James Wagner, who fought the mob for decades as an FBI agent and now is president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "They are brutal."

Star witness Nicholas Calabrese told jurors he watched for decades as the bodies of his fellow mobsters piled up around him. He said he lived in dread that if he made just one misstep he would "end up in a car trunk."

His brother, Frank Calabrese, 69, is among the defendants along with Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78, James Marcello, 65, Paul Schiro, 70, and Anthony Doyle, 62. They are charged with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that included gambling, extortion, loan sharking and murders.

Lombardo was convicted in the early 1980s of conspiring to bribe then Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev. Calabrese and Marcello have both served time for mob-related activity. Schiro is a convicted jewel thief and Doyle — the only one not alleged to have killed anyone — is a retired police officer. All but Doyle could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

As prosecutors Mitchell A. Mars, John J. Scully and Markus Funk dredge up evidence going back to the 1970s, Chicago's police are not faring well.

Last week, old-time burglar Robert G. "Bobby the Beak" Siegel emerged from the witness protection program to accuse Chicago's former chief of detectives, William Hanhardt, of collecting $1,000 a week and a new car every two years in return for seeing to it that mobsters weren't caught. "Most of the police were on the payroll" in the old days, he recalled.

Hanhardt is now serving 16 years after pleading guilty to leading a band of thieves that stole some $5 million in jewelry and fine watches. Schiro pleaded guilty to serving as a member of Hanhardt's gang.

Nicholas Calabrese testified that onetime mob boss Joey Aiuppa personally presided over the ceremony at which he became a "made guy" in the Outfit, his finger cut in the ancient ceremonial manner and a burning holy picture placed in his hand while he recited the oath of silence. "If I ever give up my brothers may I burn in hell like this holy picture," he remembered promising. But DNA found on a bloody glove left at a murder scene was matched to his and he has agreed to testimony in return for a promise that he won't have to die in the execution chamber.

His testimony has been the most graphic of the trial. He told how his brother, Frank, allegedly strangled victims like loan shark Michael "Hambone" Albergo with a rope and then cut their throats to make sure that they were dead. Albergo had threatened to talk to the FBI.

Frank Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, who loves a good wisecrack and sometimes wears pink socks to court, said before the trial that Nicholas Calabrese was lying about his brother. Since then U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel has clamped a gag order on the attorneys.

Best known on the list of 18 murder victims in the indictment is Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Outfit's onetime man in Las Vegas who was found in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield along with his brother Michael. Tony Spilotro inspired the Joe Pesci character in the movie Casino.

Nicholas Calabrese testified that mobsters were mad at Spilotro because he was "bringing too much heat" on them and having a romance with the wife of a casino executive. "That's a no-no," he quoted brother Frank as saying.

He testified that in June 1986 the Spilotros were lured to the basement of a Bensenville home where they were told Tony would be dubbed a "capo," or mob captain, and Michael a "made guy."

Instead, they were beaten and strangled.

Calabrese said he pulled one end of a rope around Michael Spilotro's neck while a mobster known as Louie the Mooche tugged away on the other.

With Nicholas in tow, FBI agents drove up and down Bensenville's streets searching for the house where the Spilotros died — to no avail. Such missing elements have been fodder for defense attorneys.

Marcello attorney Thomas M. Breen pounced on a claim that the Spilotro killers all wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, claiming that the story simply didn't sound realistic. "Did Mike Spilotro, say, 'Hey, guys, how come everybody's wearing gloves? This looks like a hit,"' Breen asked during Nicholas Calabrese's days on the witness stand.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

A Prison "Cap" to Petey's Life of Gambling

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family
Friends of mine: Peter "Petey Cap" Caporino

"Petey Cap" could have cashed in his chips and gone home, but he just couldn't give up his illegal gambling racket in Hudson County . And now it's going to land the 70-year-old back in prison for up to seven years.

"He just doesn't know how to do anything else," attorney Sam DeLuca said of his client, Peter Caporino, who pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Peter Vazquez yesterday.

Caporino ran illegal gambling for more 40 years and was an FBI informant for two decades. He operated out of his social club, the Character Club, on Monroe Street in Hoboken . A portion of his take was passed up the chain of Genovese crime family bosses.

In 2002, Caporino pleaded guilty to money laundering involving illegal gambling proceeds and was sentenced to five years in prison, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said. That sentence was suspended when he agreed to wear a wire for the FBI and help prosecute 15 reputed Genovese crime family associates. During that federal prosecution last year he testified that he continued to run his illegal gambling business even though the feds told him to stop.

After those prosecutions Caporino could have walked away and never looked back. Instead, things quickly fell apart.

Last month, he was arrested at his Hasbrouck Heights home and charged with leading an organized crime network, promoting gambling and possession of gambling records, officials said.

On Aug. 16 last year, he was arrested in Hoboken by Jersey City police and charged with promoting gambling and possession of gambling records, officials said.

The plea deal struck yesterday includes reinstatement of the five-year suspended sentence. Yesterday, he pleaded guilty to leading an organized crime network and prosecutors are asking that he be sentenced to seven years for that crime. He also pleaded guilty to promoting gambling, and prosecutors are seeking a five-year term for that. The prison terms are to run concurrently.

The sweep that netted Caporino in June also resulted in the arrest of his wife, Ann Caporino, 68, on the charge of possession of gambling records; and Andy Rush, 70, of Liberty Avenue in North Bergen , on the charge of conspiracy to promote gambling, officials said. The charge against Ann Caporino was dropped as part of her husband's plea deal. The charge against Rush stands.

Caporino was in prison from June 21, 1996 to April 21, 1997, corrections officials said. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 7.

Thanks to Michaelangelo Conte

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bulldog Talks to Widow about Mob Hit on Her Husband

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Danny Seifert was 29 years old when he was slain at his Bensenville plastics company 34 years ago. His widow, who testified at the Family Secrets mob trial, spoke only to CBS 2’s John “Bulldog” Drummond about his murder before he could testify against the mob.

Evidence indicates defendant Joey "The Clown" Lombardo was a hidden partner in the firm and frequently dropped in. Seifert, who confided that he would testify against Lombardo and others in a fraud trial, was murdered as his wife Emma and 4-year-old son looked on in horror.

Emma Seifert had been married to her husband for six years that September morning when her nightmare unfolded. Friday she shared her ordeal with CBS 2, although she remained reluctant to have her face shown on camera.

“Two men with masks and gloves and guns came through the factory door into the office, they asked I don’t remember where my husband was or where that S.O.B. is,” Emma Seifert said. "I felt that one of the two men was Mr. Lombardo,” she said.

When asked why, she responded, “By the way he was built. By the way he moved. He was very agile, he had a boxer's build and I was familiar enough with him."

Seifert said prior to the shooting Lombardo and another man cruised ominously past the Seifert residence. "That was Mr. Lombardo,” Seifert said. “I saw him in the driver's seat. And there was another person in the car I couldn't identify."

Wounded, Danny Seifert fled for his life, leaving his wife and son behind. "One of them came back and pushed me down. The other was struggling with my husband,” Seifert said. “He took Joseph and I to the bathroom, put a gun to my head and said 'be quiet.'"

She said she did not mention those details to the authorities back in 1974 out of fear for her children’s safety. “That if anything would happen to me I was afraid they didn't have anyone to raise them,” she said.

Lombardo's attorney Rick Halprin says his client has a solid alibi and was not at the Bensenville factory when the murder occurred.

The Family Secrets trial will resume Monday at the Dirksen Federal Building.

Thanks to John "Bulldog" Drummund

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