The Chicago Syndicate: A wiseguy's son tells how mob rewards loyalty

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A wiseguy's son tells how mob rewards loyalty

Friends of ours: Ronald Jarret, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown"Lombardo, Nick Calabrese, Frank Calabrese Sr., Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra

I thought I'd see Ronnie Jarrett's name on the chart of those 18 previously unsolved Chicago Outfit homicides this week, with the indictments of mob bosses in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets.

So did his son, Ronnie Jarrett Jr., 32, who told me what Outfit loyalty means and about the day his father was shot in 1999. "I slept late, and I was in bed and thought it was firecrackers and heard my mother run outside, and Mom was screaming and stuff," Ronnie Jr. told me Tuesday during an interview in his Bridgeport home.

"He was outside on the ground, and Mom was scared to go over by him. I ran out on the porch, and he was laying there by his car."

Jarrett Sr. was a close friend of the FBI's key Outfit informant, Nicholas Calabrese, and was killed about the time Calabrese began falling out with his brother, mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr.

He had been a reputed hit man for the Chinatown Crew, an accomplished burglar, and a bodyguard for Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra. On the day he was shot five years ago, he was on the books as working for Marina Cartage trucking boss and mayoral friend Mike Tadin.

I visited Tadin on Jan. 26, 2004, and taped our interview. I asked him why he hired Jarrett. "I know Ronnie all my life from being in the neighborhood," Tadin said then. "He needed a break. I helped him out. He did a good job here, never had no issues here, never had no complaints from the supervisors."

Absolutely. Tadin's supervisors aren't stupid, and you don't complain about a man who is handy with tools. Ronnie was with Nick and Frank Calabrese, and the other 26th Street guys, and nobody in the 11th Ward ever tells them what to do. But Jarrett's killing wasn't on Monday's list of solved homicides in the federal building. On Tuesday, I drove out to the 11th Ward, to Jarrett's home on Lowe Avenue, to ask what his family knew.

Convicted burglar Ronnie Jarrett Jr. was home, without a leg monitor, just getting used to the idea of not wearing one. He had been given an 8-year sentence for burglary and served it by spending a few weeks in the sheriff's boot camp and a few months at home. He thought Nicholas Calabrese's information would close his father's hit. "I figured that with Nick talking and everything, I figured if anyone knew anything it would be Nick," Ronnie Jr. said. "The FBI actually told my mother that it would be part of the indictment."

A federal official said such a conversation would have been highly unlikely and added that other mob homicides are still being investigated.

The FBI "called about 6 a.m. that day," he said, meaning Monday, indictment day, when Outfit figures such as Joey "Lumby" Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs were among those indicted in a murder conspiracy and extortion plot.

The father was--and the son is--a convicted criminal. Yet the Jarretts were welcome at City Hall. The Jarrett kids got City Hall jobs. Ronnie Jr. was slinging asphalt in the Department of Tony (Transportation). His younger brother trims trees. Jarrett Sr.'s widow, Rosemary, also has a political job. She's a clerk for Cook County Circuit Judge Barbara J. Disko. Mrs. Jarrett declined to comment.

Ronnie Jarrett Sr. was shot outside the home on Dec. 23, 1999. "I ran and got the comforter off my bed because it was freezing out," his son said in our one-hour interview. "He was talking to me, like, `Oh, my arm.' He was in pain."

If Jarrett knew who shot him, he didn't say. "He never said nothing," said his son. "I always tell my mom I should have asked him."

A law-enforcement theory is that he was on his way to the wake of a relative. A Bridgeport theory is that he hated the relative and was on his way to see two men known as "the twins." Another theory is that the killing of Jarrett was a message to Nick to keep his mouth shut.

When his father died in the hospital a month later, Ronnie Jr. noticed that his fathers' friends stopped visiting. "A few came, only a couple, that's about it," he said, adding that the condolence calls didn't resemble the movies, with bags of cash for the Outfit widow and kids.

Jarrett Jr. said that while on probation, he has had trouble finding a job. He remembers how great he thought it was to be a wiseguy's kid. "I'm not going to lie, it was cool. But now, you see them, you get the big hug and the big kiss in public, and you know it don't mean nothing."

His father spent much of his life behind bars and never squealed, even when facing 25 years in prison. "It's @#$% {circ} &* brutal, terrible," he said. "He did all that time for those guys, and the feds wanted him to flip and he didn't. I just felt [the Outfit] owed him more."

No matter what they owed him, they did pay him.

They paid him their way.

Thanks to John Kass

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