Paul Carparelli may have fancied himself a rising star in the Chicago Outfit, but by his own admission he made a pretty lousy firefighter.
In 2012, Carparelli, a reputed debt collector for the mob's Cicero faction, was caught on undercover federal recordings talking about his unsuccessful stint as a firefighter in sleepy west suburban Bloomingdale in the 1990s.
Among his gripes about the job: running into burning buildings for low pay, being forced to do menial tasks like washing firetrucks instead of his beloved Cadillac, and, heaven forbid, going on a late-night call to the nearby nursing home, where "them old (expletive) (expletive)ers are always croakin.'"
"It just wasn't the job for me, you know. You gotta help them (expletive) people," Carparelli told his top muscle guy, George Brown, in a profanity-laced tirade, according to a transcript in court records. "You gotta be a certain kind of person for that. George, I guess you gotta like people. My problem is I hate everybody."
Carparelli's day of reckoning comes Wednesday when he faces sentencing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse for a series of extortion attempts involving deadbeat businessmen. Federal prosecutors are seeking about 11 years in prison.
At the center of the case are hundreds of hours of conversations between Carparelli and Brown, a 300-pound union bodyguard and mixed martial arts fighter who was secretly cooperating with the FBI. The recordings paint a colorful picture of Carparelli as a callous mid-level mob operative looking to make a name for himself after convictions had sent several Outfit bosses — including Cicero crew leader Mike "The Large Guy" Sarno — to prison.
"This position doesn't happen all the time, George," Carparelli told Brown in a recorded call from 2011. "This is like a once in a lifetime (expletive) thing, if this is what you want to do, if this is the way you want to live your life."
Carparelli's lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman for as little as probation, saying in a recent court filing that the former pizzeria owner was "nothing but a blowhard" whose constant exaggerations of his mob ties "caused the government to believe he was a connected guy."
"Mr. Carparelli is clearly a 'wanna-be' who has watched 'The Sopranos' and 'Goodfellas' too many times," attorneys Ed Wanderling and Charles Nesbit wrote. He was simply playing a "role," they argued.
If it was just a role, it was one Carparelli, now 47, played to the hilt. Carparelli was caught on surveillance arranging for the beating of suburban car dealership owner R.J. Serpico — he wanted both his legs broken — for failing to pay back a $300,000 loan from Michael "Mickey" Davis. Davis was a longtime partner of reputed mob lieutenant Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis and had Outfit connections that purportedly went all the way to acting boss John DiFronzo, according to testimony at Davis' recent trial.
"We definitely can't (expletive) around with these guys or we're gonna have a big (expletive) headache," Carparelli told Brown in one call that was played at Davis' trial.
Carparelli also played a behind-the-scenes role in a plot to confront a business owner in Appleton, Wis., about a $100,000 debt. In a backroom at a Fuddruckers restaurant, Brown and two other mob toughs threatened the owner, who had offered to hand over a special-edition Ford Mustang as partial payment.
Asked where the car could be found, the victim was "shaking and stuttering" so badly that one of the enforcers grabbed his driver's license and wrote the address down himself, prosecutors said. At a 2014 trial in Chicago, the victim had trouble reading the complaint he had filed with police, telling jurors he was still shaking when he filled it out and that his handwriting was almost illegible.
Carparelli's undercover conversations with Brown certainly seem ripped from the pages of a low-grade gangster script. In call after call, the two talked as casually as office cubicle mates about the depleted state of the mob, the difficult logistics of certain contract beatings and the pain they intended to inflict on those behind in payments.
In one phone call from February 2013, Carparelli was recorded telling Brown to go to the home of a victim to collect a $66,000 juice loan debt with a ridiculously high interest rate, according to Carparelli's plea agreement.
"(Expletive) ring the bell and crack that guy," Carparelli was quoted as telling Brown. "Don't even say nothing to him. ... Go over there, give him a (expletive) crack, and we'll get in contact with him."
And when Brown and Carparelli had a falling out — purportedly over Brown's inability to get certain beatings done on time — Carparelli patched things up by reciting a sort of mob creed.
"As long as you don't steal from me, (expletive) my wife or rat on me, you're my friend 1,000 percent," he was quoted as telling Brown in a transcript of the call. "The thing is, when we say we're gonna do something, we have to get it done 'cause we look like (expletive) idiots. And I'm not in a position to look like an idiot. Because there is a lot of (expletive) goin' on now."
Prosecutors alleged Carparelli's allegiance to the Outfit began at a young age. As a teen, he joined the 12th Street Players, a Cicero-based gang founded in the late 1960s and credited with being the first street gang in the west suburbs, where Carparelli grew up, records show.
He racked up numerous violent arrests in his teens and 20s for bar fights, street beatings and several incidents in which he allegedly pulled a gun during an altercation, according to court records. In 1995, Carparelli was arrested at a Chicago Blackhawks game after he allegedly punched a man in the face "without warning" during a conversation, records show.
After his brief employment as a firefighter, Carparelli went to work for a company owned by Bridgeport trucking boss Michael Tadin — a longtime friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley — whose firm Marina Cartage was once the target of an Outfit-related bombing, records show.
At the same time, Carparelli was establishing himself as a cocaine dealer, a lucrative moneymaker for him for more than 20 years, according to prosecutors.
When Carparelli was arrested in July 2013 as he pulled into his driveway with his son in the car, agents found "distribution amounts of cocaine" on him, prosecutors said. The FBI also recovered two guns, $170,500 and nearly $200,000 in jewelry — including a gold bracelet with the name "Paulie" spelled in diamonds — in a safe hidden in his home's crawlspace, court records show.
While free on bond awaiting trial, Carparelli was accused of threatening the life of a witness against him outside a Chicago-area Wal-Mart, pulling up alongside an employee of the witness and saying, "Tell him he is a (expletive) rat. Tell him he knows what happens to rats," prosecutors said.
Even after Carparelli was jailed for the stunt, he continued to make threats from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal jail, prosecutors said. In intercepted emails and prison calls, Carparelli allegedly called his business partner a "fink" after he stopped returning calls and accused him of cooperating with the government, prosecutors said. He also claimed the man owed him money.
"Doesn't matter if I get six months or six years, when I'm done were gonna have a talk," Carparelli wrote in all capital letters in an email to the man. "So put your big boy pants on and get ready."
"The 1,500 means nothing," Carparelli wrote. "It's the point that matters!!!!!! ... See you when I get out!!!!!! Partner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
In their court filing asking for probation, Carparelli's attorneys said he is the sole caretaker for his son, who suffers from Tourette syndrome. They also pointed to his work as a firefighter and that his felony extortion conviction prevents him from ever holding a civil service position again.
If the issue comes up in court on Wednesday, prosecutors could play the recording in which Carparelli talks about his firefighting experience, ripping everything from the "ex-military, straight-A guys" who worked with him at the station to the long 24-hour shifts.
He also complained about frequent medical calls to a local nursing home and recalled one early-morning trip there when a resident told him she had been having chest pains since 6:30 or 7 that night.
"I looked at her, I said, 'Lady, it's 2 in the morning. You wait until 2 in the morning and call us. Why didn't you call us at 7? You woke everybody up,'" he said. "She looked at me and got hot."
Thanks to Jason Meisner.
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