The Chicago Syndicate: U.S. drops hammer on who's who of mob: Charges range from murder to racketeering #FamilySecrets
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

U.S. drops hammer on who's who of mob: Charges range from murder to racketeering #FamilySecrets

Federal agents pinned decades of gangland killings on Chicago-area mobsters Monday, charging a dozen organized crime figures and two former police officers with running an outfit based on illegal gambling, loan sharking and murder.

In a city where mob hits are rarely solved, prosecutors charged La Cosa Nostra bosses and "made" members alike in connection with 18 slayings dating to 1970.

The killings were some of Chicago's most notorious, including the 1986 beating deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, whose bodies were found in a shallow grave in an Indiana field.

Moving out across Chicago and two other states early Monday, agents swept up numerous career mobsters. They arrested James Marcello, 63, the reputed boss of the local mob, at his Lombard home.

Agents were still searching for two of those charged Monday night, including Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 75, once the reputed boss of Chicago's mob.

One alleged mob hit man--Frank Saladino--was found dead in a Kane County motel room by the federal agents who came to arrest him Monday morning. He apparently died of natural causes just hours before he was to be picked up, prosecutors said.

At a hearing in federal court, Marcello, identified by Robert D. Grant, FBI special agent-in-charge in Chicago, as the city's top mob boss, and six other defendants were questioned briefly by U.S. District Judge James Zagel before each pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dressed in light gray sweat pants and shirt, Marcello said he had some sinus allergies in response to a question about his health. He was ordered held for a bond hearing later this week.

All told, the charges amounted to an unprecedented attack on the local Outfit. "This is the first indictment that I can recall that involves so many murders, which really gets to the heart of what the [La Cosa Nostra] is, and that is a bunch of murderous thugs," Grant said.

At a packed news conference, U.S. Atty. Patrick J. Fitzgerald identified the alleged participants in only one murder, saying Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother, Nicholas, were charged with taking part in the slaying of John Fecarotta, a mob enforcer who reportedly was killed for botching the burial of the Spilotros.

A key break in the probe came after Nicholas Calabrese was confronted with DNA evidence that allegedly implicated him in the Fecarotta homicide. Calabrese then agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and fingered his brother and others in many of the killings, according to law enforcement sources.

It was the squabbling within the Calabrese family that led police to name the investigation "Operation Family Secrets."

Authorities said the lengthy investigation solved some brutal mob murders:

  • Daniel Seifert, slain in 1974 before he could testify against Lombardo and others;
  • William Dauber, a top Outfit enforcer, and his wife, who were gunned down in 1980 on a rural Will County road.
  • William "Butch" Petrocelli, a reputed mob hit man who was killed in 1980 for allegedly stealing money.

In a surprise, Fitzgerald threw in a twist into the well-known story of the Spilotro brothers slayings, saying the men were killed in DuPage County. A 1986 autopsy had reportedly found dirt in the brothers' lungs, leading authorities at the time to believe the men had been buried alive in the Indiana cornfield where their bodies were later found.

Grant said the indictment delivers a significant blow to the Chicago Outfit, though not a fatal one. The FBI believes the Chicago mob has four street crews operating in the Chicago area--down from six--and estimates its members and associates at more than 100, Grant said.

In another wrinkle to the indictment, two retired Chicago police officers, Anthony Doyle and Michael Ricci, were charged with passing messages from the imprisoned Frank Calabrese Sr. to other Outfit members in a bid to find out if Nicholas Calabrese or another mob associate was cooperating with the FBI.

Doyle also allegedly tipped off Frank Calabrese Sr. that the FBI had pulled the file on the Fecarotta murder. Ricci, who was employed by the Cook County sheriff's department when he allegedly relayed messages, was also accused of lying to FBI agents.

The indictment charged six of the men with committing murder on behalf of the outfit: Marcello, Lombardo, both Calabreses, Paul Schiro and Frank Saladino. In addition, Frank "German" Schweihs, an Outfit enforcer, allegedly agreed to commit murder for the mob.

Also charged with racketeering conspiracy but not in connection with any murders were Marcello's brother, Michael; Nicholas Ferriola, son of the late reputed mob boss Joseph Ferriola; Doyle and Ricci.

The racketeering conspiracy count charged the 11 defendants also illegally collected "street tax," ran illegal sports bookmaking and video gambling businesses, made "juice loans" at extortionate rates and used extortion, threats and violence to collect the juice loans and other debts.

Authorities are seeking forfeiture of $10 million in illicit profits from those 11 defendants.

In addition, Michael Marcello, who owns Cicero-based M & M Amusement Inc., as well as his brother and three M & M employees--Joseph Venezia and Thomas and Dennis Johnson--were charged with conducting an illegal video gambling business since 1996.

Authorities said all but Lombardo, 75, of Chicago and Schweihs, 75, of Dania, Fla., were taken into custody Monday.

At an arraignment in federal court in Chicago, the Marcellos, Ricci, Ferriola, both Johnsons and Venezia all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Schiro is in federal prison for a conviction for taking part in a sophisticated jewelry theft ring headed by William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives.

All but the two Marcellos were released on $50,000 bails each. Prosecutors said they intend to seek the Marcellos' detention, saying they pose dangers to the community and flight risks. Zagel scheduled a bond hearing for Friday.

The FBI's Grant said he considers Lombardo and Schweihs fugitives--a claim scoffed at by Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin.

"I can't imagine Joey Lombardo running from anything, and that certainly includes an indictment," Halprin said.

James Marcello's lawyer, Marc Martin, called the indictment "vague."

"I cannot discern from it what my client is alleged to have done," he said.

Attorney Joseph Lopez, who represents Frank Calabrese Sr., said his client, who is in prison on a 1997 conviction for using violence to collect several million dollars in "juice" loans, hadn't yet learned of the indictment. "I'm sure he's like any other person who has a family member saying bad things against him," Lopez said in reference to the cooperation by brother Nicholas Calabrese.

Monday's indictment marks a milestone for law enforcement, which has long been frustrated by the secretive and violent Chicago Outfit and its ruthless effectiveness in silencing witnesses.

According to the Chicago Crime Commission, only 14 of 1,111 Chicago-area gangland killings since 1919 have ended in convictions.

The first major break came about five years ago when Frank Calabrese Sr.'s son, Frank Jr., who long had strained relations with his father, provided information to law enforcement when they were themselves being released from federal prison, according to a source familiar with the investigation. He also cooperated against his uncle, reputed mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese.

Realizing that Fecarotta's hit man had been shot in a struggle and bled, investigators sought Nicholas Calabrese's DNA and an X-ray of his arm.

Nicholas Calabrese's DNA matched blood found at the crime scene and in a Buick that was used for the hit, linking him to the murder, according to the source. And the X-ray showed that Calabrese had evidence of a long-ago injury, a through-and-through bullet wound in his forearm, the source said.

Confronted with the evidence, Nicholas Calabrese began spilling his family's secrets, according to law enforcement sources.

Authorities have also gathered additional information from court-authorized wiretaps at a federal prison in Michigan, sources said.

Lombardo, whose DNA was swabbed by investigators in early 2003, took out an ad to publicly swear off any mob ties after being released from prison in 1992.

When a reporter pointed that out to Fitzgerald, he said, "You can take an ad out in the paper; it doesn't stop an indictment if we have sufficient evidence to indicate otherwise. Otherwise, you guys would have lots of ads in about a week."

- - -

14 individuals indicted for alleged organized crime activities

James Marcello, 63 (Lombard)
Charges: Racketeering conspiracy (RICO); conducting an illegal gambling business; obstructing a criminal investigation; and tax fraud conspiracy

Joseph Lombardo, 75 (Chicago)
Charge: RICO

Michael Marcello, 55 (Schaumburg)
Charges: RICO; conducting an illegal gambling business; obstructing a criminal investigation; and tax fraud conspiracy

Nicholas Ferriola, 29 (Westchester)
Charges: RICO; extortion; and conducting an illegal gambling

Joseph Venezia, 62 (Hillside)
Charges: Conducting an illegal gambling business; and tax fraud conspiracy

Thomas Johnson, 49 (Willow Springs)
Charges: Conducting an illegal gambling business; and tax fraud conspiracy

Dennis Johnson, 34 (Lombard)
Charge: Conducting an illegal gambling business

Frank Saladino, 59, deceased (Hampshire, Freeport and Rockford)
Charge: RICO

Michael Ricci, 75 (Streamwood)
Charges: RICO; false statements

Frank Schweihs, 75 (Dania, Fla., and Chicago)
Charges: RICO; extortion; and extortionate collection of credit

Anthony Doyle, 60, (Wickenburg, Ariz., and Chicago)
Charge: RICO

Nicholas W. Calabrese, 62 (Chicago)
Charges: RICO

Frank Calabrese Sr., 68 (Oak Brook)
Charges: RICO; extortion; and conducting an illegal gambling

Paul Schiro, 67 (Phoenix)
Charge: RICO

Thanks to Matt O'Connor and Todd Lighty

No comments:

Post a Comment


Affliction Sale

Flash Mafia Book Sales!