Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frank "The German" Schweihs, Chicago Outfit Mob Enforcer, Dies Awaiting Trial

Frank "the German" Schweihs, a reputed Chicago Outfit enforcer once described as one of the most feared men in the city, died Wednesday in a North Side hospital after being transferred from the Metropolitan Correction Center, where he was awaiting trial.

Frank 'The German' SchweihsSchweihs, 78, was cancer-stricken and too ill to face charges in last year's landmark Family Secrets case, one of the biggest mob trials in Chicago's history. The frail Schweihs was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 28. He appeared at recent hearings in federal court in a wheelchair.

On Wednesday, Schweihs died in Thorek Memorial Hospital, said jail spokesman Vincent Shaw.

Schweihs initially went on the lam after the sweeping indictment came down in 2005, but authorities were able to track him down in an apartment complex in a small town in Kentucky late that year.

His upcoming trial had been threatened when Schweihs signed a do-not-resuscitate order that might have forced officials to move him from the downtown jail, which has no medical facility. But Schweihs rescinded the order.

During the Family Secrets trial, in which five of Schweihs' co-defendants were found guilty, witnesses testified that Schweihs was a henchman for capo Joey "the Clown" Lombardo. Schweihs was identified during the trial as being involved in the 1974 hit in Bensenville on Lombardo business partner and federal witness Daniel Seifert.

Schweihs' last court appearance June 10 was memorable, as he complained loudly and barked at federal prosecutors. One of them, Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, who was part of the trial team on Family Secrets, had looked in his direction as he spoke with his attorney Ellen Domph.

"You makin' eyes at me?" Schweihs snarled. "Do I look like a [expletive] to you or something?"

In a recent court filing, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel to seat an anonymous jury to hear the Schweihs case, noting that he used violence to rise in the Outfit starting in the 1960s.

"Throughout this phase of his life, Schweihs continued to use seemingly irrational brutality for 'effect,' portraying himself as the consummate 'tough guy' at every opportunity," the government's brief stated.

Trial testimony during last year's Family Secrets case made it clear that Schweihs was someone who others linked to the mob feared most.

Michael Spilotro, who was killed in a mob hit along with his brother, once told his daughter that if she ever saw Schweihs around their home, she was to call 911 immediately. Brothers James and Mickey Marcello, defendants in the case, had another nickname for him: "Hitler."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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