Thursday, September 29, 2005

Evidence In Mob Murders Surfaces In Casino Battle

The first piece of evidence in the Operation Family Secrets mob murder case surfaced Tuesday during a battle over a casino license. As CBS 2's John Drummond reports, a top FBI agent believes the undercover videotape shows a link between the mob and Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens.

James Marcello is identified by the FBI as the boss of the Chicago mob. In March 2004, the FBI videotaped a conversation between Marcello and his brother, Michael, at the federal prison at Milan, Michigan.

Stephens, the long-time mayor of Rosemont, had lobbied hard for the Emerald Casino Inc., to be granted a license to operate in Rosemont. But the Illinois Gaming Board rejected the Emerald bid, citing alleged mob ties. At a special hearing Tuesday on the Emerald license, the gaming board watched an undercover videotape from the Operation Family Secrets investigation. On the tape, the Marcello brothers discussed whether the mob would have a piece of any casino in Rosemont.

The two men did not use proper names when discussing the matter. The FBI said "he" referred to Stephens.

James Marcello: “Are we gonna be in there at all?”

Michael Marcello: “I don’t ... MGM or one of them companies will wind up with it. I mean he ain't going to get it like he wanted it before but...”

James Marcello: “They'll pay him so much a month and that'll be it.”

James Marcello: “You gotta say it. This guy really knew what he was doing, Mickey. They could say what they want about him.”

Attorney Robert Cliffford, who represents Emerald Casino, was skeptical of the meaning of the tape. “When I first saw this my reaction was you have a couple of sideways talking about stuff they don't know an awful lot about,” Clifford said. But top FBI organized crime agent John Mallul said that Stephens had a special interest in Emerald getting a license since he could exercise some control over it.

A spokesman for the Rosemont mayor ripped the FBI tape, calling it "meaningless." He said it proves nothing and suggests the gaming board has a "vendetta against Mayor Stephens."

As far as the videotape itself, this is the first time we've seen some of the mountain of evidence expected to be used against James Marcello and other alleged mobsters in the Family Secrets case. The video portion clearly showed the Marcello brothers having a chat in a day room at the Michigan prison. But the audio was difficult to make out. We had to read from a transcript provided by an FBI agent.

Thanks to Bulldog John Drummond

Italian group criticizes Yaddo for allowing Mafia film shoot

The president of an Italian-American anti-defamation group has criticized the Yaddo Gardens artistic retreat for allowing a local independent film with Mafia content to be shot on its public grounds. But Schenectady filmmaker Christopher Bishop says the Commission for Social Justice has not read the script for the film, named "Corruption."

Bishop says his film is about a Mafia member who wants to get out of the business, and he says it doesn't show Italians in a negative light.

A spokeswoman for Yaddo, which is in Schenectady, New York, did not comment on the letter sent last week to the retreat. The Schenectady Daily Gazette reports the film shot there for one day in August.

Gotti Jury is Hung, Judge Declares Mistrial

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family

Jurors said they could not agree on verdicts against 41-year-old John A "Junior" Gotti, son of the late head of the powerful Gambino crime family.

Gotti, who has stayed in prison since serving out a sentence for extortion, hugged his lawyers after the decision. The jury did agree on one count - acquitting Gotti of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin said she is likely to agree to a request to allow bail for Gotti. "It's my view that the time has come," Ms Scheindlin said in the courtroom. Gotti has already served a five-year sentence on other racketeering charges.

The new charges were brought against him last year before he was due to be released.
One of those who testified against Gotti was Curtis Sliwa, a former radio host and founder of the anti-crime citizens group, the Guardian Angels.

Mr Sliwa says that Gotti ordered him to be attacked in retaliation for comments made about his father on the radio programme. "It's a hung jury, it's a mistrial, it's round two for me, it doesn't mean John 'Junior' Gotti is innocent," Mr Sliwa said. Prosecutors have said they will seek a retrial.


Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family
Friends of mine: David Gross

The state's top court yesterday ruled that an alleged mob-connected Long Island judge can receive his $122,700 annual judicial salary until the case is resolved. The Court of Appeals yesterday formally suspended Nassau County District Court Judge David Gross, who is accused of moonlighting as a mob money launderer.

"The statute creates a presumption in favor of suspension with pay, corresponding to the presumption of innocence that is basic to our justice system," the court found in its unanimous two-page ruling. The judges explained that the court's usual practice is to suspend a judge with pay "unless the charged misconduct is directly connected with the performance of the judicial office." The court held open the possibility of revisiting the issue if such a link is later established.

Gross, a father of two with a wife who does not have a job, had asked the court through his lawyer not to cut off his pay because it is his family's only income. "Judges aren't permitted to pursue employment outside of their responsibilities as judges," the lawyer, John Carman, wrote the Court of Appeals.

Gross, a Democrat still running for re-election, was arrested on Aug. 30 by federal agents, who also busted several reputed Genovese crime family members with nicknames like "Joe Box," "Beaver" and "Mousey," according to court papers. An undercover agent allegedly was introduced to Gross, who offered to fence diamonds in an illegal scheme, authorities charge.

The agent allegedly caught Gross on tape demanding a $500 fee for his services. Gross also was reputedly recorded bragging to the agent that he knew how to bend campaign finance rules. Gross was released on $500,000 bond and put on administrative leave.

The 71-page affidavit outlining the case against Gross said his name surfaced in the course of an investigation of reputed mob figures and gambling on Long Island. If convicted, Gross could get up to 20 years.

Thanks to Kenneth Lovett

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gotti Jury 'Family' Circus

The jury that was so split it couldn't decide the case against John "Junior" Gotti last week was a flawed bunch that included panelists who didn't belong on any criminal case let alone one starring the son of a notorious godfather, experts say.

Juror No. 2, a man in his 30s on disability for depression, took a drug that "gets me drowsy" and occasionally appeared to doze during the trial. Juror No. 11, a 67-year-old retired actress who once played Woody Allen's wife on stage, said she was brutally mugged in Manhattan, fought off a friend's attacker with a tap shoe and worked in a mob-run Las Vegas casino where a man was shot in the barber's chair.
"I was frightened," she said. During the trial, when the sound system made a cracking noise that sounded like gunshots, she jumped in alarm. Juror No. 5, a man in his 50s who works for a costume-wig company, admitted in pretrial questioning that he'd fibbed on the jury questionnaire by naming Al Capone as the person he least admired, in an "inept attempt to get disqualified."

Gotti's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, had opposed the selection of a nurse who left nine questions blank on her questionnaire, saying the omissions showed a "lack of effort, lack of interest" and "incompetence." But Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin refused to dismiss the woman after prompting her to name three famous people she most admired: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sidney Poitier and Whoopi Goldberg.

Lichtman called the outcome "surprising," saying it seemed impossible to get a jury not biased against or fearful of his client's notorious name. He recalled one potential juror, eventually eliminated, who began sobbing in the courtroom. "I'm afraid I'm going to get axed," the woman whimpered. (She meant whacked.)

Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn, who aided the defense in the Danny Pelosi murder trial, was incredulous at some of the jurors selected for a case involving charges that the son of the late Gambino big John "Dapper Don" Gotti used violence or threats to extort and abducted Guardian Angel and radio host Curtis Sliwa, who was shot several times.

Last week, the jury acquitted Gotti, 41, of securities fraud and deadlocked 10-2 and 7-5 for conviction on the kidnapping charges. In an 11-1 split, a lone holdout blocked a Gotti guilty verdict on extortion and racketeering counts.

Hirschhorn called it "a miracle" that the jury didn't convict Gotti of anything and pointed out that some panelists had admitted biases. The retired actress, who suffers from osteoarthritis, told the judge before her selection that she assumed Junior had followed in his late father's footsteps.

"I thought it was part of the family tree. If your father is a doctor, you should be a doctor. Perhaps that is what he [Gotti] is doing. It's part of the business, isn't it?" she said. She also said that she suffered a concussion and that her teeth were knocked out by a mugger who escaped. "It was very bad," she told the judge, who got the woman to vow she could still be fair on the case. But Hirschhorn asked, "Do you want somebody on the jury who has been through such a terrifying experience?" He called the medicated juror "impaired" and said it seemed the costume-wig employee who hoped to return to work by Halloween lied because "he didn't want to serve. All he wanted to do was get out of there."

Scheindlin set a hearing tomorrow to decide whether to release Gotti on bail pending a possible retrial.

Thanks to Susan Edelman

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mafia Retirement Package Includes Funeral, Dat's About It

No pension, no medical benefits, no prescription plan. When you're a mob boss, retirement is more bronze casket than golden parachute.

Since the 1930s ascension of the Mafia, its leaders have departed "The Life" almost exclusively through their deaths. Albert Anastasia, Carmine Galante and "Big Paul" Castellano were brutally (and memorably) assassinated; Vito Genovese, John Gotti and "Fat Tony" Salerno died in prison.

A third, more palatable option emerged in recent years: The Witness Protection Program, for those who found relocation to Arizona preferable to interment in Queens. But an actual mob retirement, renouncing all illegal ties and income for a shot at the straight life, is a trick rarely turned. So it's no surprise that law enforcement officials remained skeptical about John A. "Junior" Gotti's claim that he did what his father, uncles and brother-in-law could not: quit the Gambino crime family.

Defense attorneys, arguing the younger Gotti had left organized crime in the late 1990s, managed to win a hung jury in the recent racketeering case against the mob scion. The mistrial indicated at least one juror was convinced that Gotti had gone legit.

Others are not as easily swayed. "You never leave the mob," said Bruce Mouw, former head of the FBI's Gambino squad. "Sometimes you're wishing you'd never gotten into it, when there's a contract on your life or you're going to jail. But you never leave."

Federal prosecutors agree; they were already considering a retrial for Gotti. Talk radio show host Curtis Sliwa, the target of a botched kidnapping attempt allegedly ordered by Gotti, expressed fear that Junior's possible release on bail could again make him a target.

The best known example of volunteer mob retirement was Joe Bonanno, who headed one of New York's original five families. After the bloody "Banana Wars," Bonanno ceded control of his family and bolted New York for Tuscon in 1968. He died peacefully in the Arizona desert three years ago, surrounded by his family, at age 97.

While Bonanno considered himself out of the crime business, authorities disagreed. He wound up serving 14 months in 1985-86 after refusing to testify at "The Commission" trial that earned 100-year jail terms for the heads of the Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese families.

The mob's induction ceremony, with the burning of a saint's picture and a blood oath of silence, makes it clear that leaving the family is a move taken at great risk for even low-level members. Death is the penalty for breaking any of the Mafia code, particularly omerta.

Gotti was 24 when he was became a Gambino family "made man" in a Christmas 1988 ceremony at his dad's Little Italy hideaway, the Ravenite Social Club. But he's distanced himself from the mob life lately.

Gotti, in various prison conversations recorded by authorities, expressed disgust to family and friends about following his father into the mob. In October 2003, Gotti said his association with the Gambinos had ended six years earlier. "Believe me, I like it better that way," he said. "I sleep better ... I just want to do my time, go home and go fishing."

He may go home on bail as early as Monday. But Gotti is likely to remain a target for catch of the day by law enforcers who reject his purported mob repudiation.

Veteran defense attorney Ed Hayes, a Court TV commentator, said Gotti's defense combined "good strategy and a good lawyer." But does that mean Gotti is no longer a top-echelon member of the Gambino family?

"Absolutely not," said Mouw. "The only way of leaving is by the slab. You're in the mob for life."

Or death.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Fulton Fish Market Move Delayed Over Concern about Mafia Influence

New York's historic Fulton Fish Market will be staying put for at least another week.

The nation's largest wholesale fish market has been on the lower Manhattan waterfront for 180 years. The city has built it a new indoor refrigerated facility in the Bronx. But the moving date has been pushed back over concerns that the new market will be dominated by the Mafia, as the old one was until a decade ago.

Judge Carol Edmead extended a restraining order delaying the move. She called the appearance of impropriety "overwhelming."

Forgive the analogy, the judge said, "but the fish is smelling."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Legendary Mob Boss Tocco Dies

Legendary south suburban Chicago mob boss Albert "Caesar" Tocco has died in prison at age 76.

He was just 16 years into his 200-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, extortion and tax fraud when he died, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

Tocco, whose estranged wife Betty testified he helped bury the bodies of the mob-associated Spilotro brothers in an Indiana corn field, died Wednesday at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

The preliminary cause of death appears to be complications from high blood pressure, said Carla Wilson, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons.

At the height of his power, Tocco ruled all the rackets south of 95th Street, federal officials said. Though he was never charged with any killing, prosecutors linked him to at least nine gangland-style killings, including those of the Spilotros, mob hit man William Dauber and vending machine operator Dino Valente.

Federal authorities nabbed Tocco in Greece in 1989.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

FBI Says Mob Eyed Rosemont Casino

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Michael Marcello, Tony Spilotro, Michael Spilotro
Friends of mine: Don Stephens

The reputed head of the Chicago mob and his half-brother were caught more than two years ago on FBI surveillance videotape discussing organized crime's efforts to infiltrate a casino in Rosemont, the head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago testified Tuesday.

A portion of the grainy and muffled videotape, recorded surreptitiously in the visiting room of the federal prison in Michigan where James Marcello was incarcerated at the time, was played openly for the first time. It was part of the Illinois Gaming Board's ongoing public hearing aimed at stripping the Emerald Casino once planned for Rosemont of its riverboat gambling license. But attorneys for Emerald attempted to cast serious doubt about the relevance of the tape and whether FBI Special Agent John Mallul's opinion of what Marcello, the reputed boss of the Chicago mob, and his half-brother Michael were discussing in the coded conversation was accurate.

Emerald attorney Robert Clifford also pointed out that the portion of the tape played was only a two-and-a-half minute piece of a five-hour conversation and that the testimony was part of the gaming board's effort to yank Emerald's license by sullying Rosemont's reputation. "Is this fair to produce this?" Clifford said. "I don't think so."

According to Mallul's testimony about the discussion, James Marcello asked Michael Marcello what influence and control organized crime would have in a Rosemont casino. They also discussed what role longtime Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens would have in the casino deal.

"Are we gonna be in there at all?" James asks on the tape as he sits next to his half-brother in the crowded visiting room.

"I don't ... MGM or one of them companies will wind up with it," Michael responds. "I mean he ain't gonna get it like he wanted it before."

Mallul testified that the "he" Michael Marcello referred to was Stephens. In July Mallul testified that an informant had placed Stephens in a suburban restaurant meeting with several high-ranking members of organized crime to discuss what control the mob would have over contracts at the casino.

"It's my opinion based on this conversation, Donald Stephens had a special interest in having Emerald itself be a casino in Rosemont," Mallul testified.

When asked to describe "special," Mallul said he thought the mayor had an "extraordinary interest" in Emerald being selected as the casino in Rosemont as opposed to another casino firm, in part to have more control over the casino.

Rosemont attorney Robert Stephenson questioned Mallul's opinions about what the vague conversation between the brothers was actually about. "The guy is either a liar or incompetent," Stephenson said. "In either case, he should be immediately fired by the FBI."

In April federal prosecutors charged the Marcello brothers, along with more than a dozen other alleged members of organized crime, with an array of crimes. James Marcello is charged with the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro in 1986, and Michael is facing charges that include conducting an illegal gambling business.

The March 24, 2003, conversation between the two brothers also included a new allegation that former Chicago alderman and Cicero village attorney Edward Vrdolyak played a role in getting former Chicago Crime Commission investigator Wayne Johnson to settle a defamation lawsuit Stephens had filed. The two brothers implied that because of the settlement, Rosemont was allowed to continue to seek a casino.

The suit stemmed from comments Johnson made in 2001 about a "troubling ... litany of associations" between Stephens and six people the commission considered to have criminal or mob ties. The month after Johnson accepted the job of Cicero police chief in 2003, Johnson and Stephens privately settled the suit when Johnson said in a letter that he had "no personal knowledge about Mayor Donald E. Stephens' business dealings."

"The V guy put his arm around him," Michael Marcello said, referring to Vrdolyak, according to Mallul. "Put 'em over there in that town [Cicero]. He backed off the other guy [Stephens] out there."

Johnson and Vrdolyak both flatly denied the assertion, saying they never met each other until after Johnson became police chief, a job he left this year. "Ed Vrdolyak had nothing to do with that letter," Johnson said.

"It's absolute folly to say that anything like that ever went down," Vrdolyak said. "LSD must be coming back. It's nuts."

The testimony came on the second-to-last-day of testimony in the hearings. The administrative law judge overseeing the case, former federal judge Abner Mikva, is expected to rule no sooner than next month.

Thanks to John Chase and Brett McNeil

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Birth of the US Mob

In article covering the history of New Orleans, the author comments on the formation of the the mob in the US.
It's not coincidence that the American incarnation of the mafia, or Black Hand, had its inception in New Orleans and announced its presence in 1891 by murdering the police commissioner. Keeping the tradition alive, U.S. Sen. Huey P. Long gave the state of Louisiana to Frank Costello and the Mob. The slot and racehorse machines came from Chicago

You can read the entire article at A city of saints and Sancho Panza

Monday, September 19, 2005

Gotti Deadlocked

Friends of ours: John "Junior Gotti, Gambino Crime Family

A federal jury deliberating the case of John A. "Junior" Gotti indicated Monday that it was deadlocked on a racketeering charge against the son of the late mob boss.

Jurors, at the urging of the judge, were to resume deliberating Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. In a note to U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on the seventh day of deliberations, jurors asked what they should do if they were deadlocked over the question of Gotti's so-called withdrawal defense.

Gotti, 41, claims he quit the Gambino organized crime family before July 22, 1999, meaning the five-year statute of limitations would have expired on racketeering charges.

The judge read the jurors a charge encouraging them to keep deliberating until they reached a unanimous verdict. They worked about another two hours before quitting for the day.

Prosecutors allege Gotti ordered his Gambino crew to give radio personality Curtis Sliwa a severe beating in retaliation for Sliwa's on-air rants against his father, John Gotti.

A masked hit man shot Sliwa, a WABC radio host and the outspoken founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group, during a struggle in a taxi. Sliwa survived, and he testified last month against Gotti, as did admitted mobsters who pleaded guilty and became government cooperators.

The defense told jurors that Gotti had nothing to do with the Sliwa attack and said he retired from the Gambinos following an unrelated racketeering conviction in 1999. Prosecutors dismissed the claim, saying Gotti used his name to rise in the crime organization and gave orders and collected kickbacks beyond 1999.

Gotti faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison if convicted of multiple racketeering charges. His father was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 and died there 10 years later.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mayor Donald E. Stephens: I didn't meet with mob

Excerpted from articles by Carol Marin and Shamus Toomey of the Sun Times and by Matt O'Connor and John Chase of the Tribune.

Rosemont Mayor Donald E. Stephens adamantly denied under oath Thursday that he met with the mob in 1999 to talk about a casino for his town. And, in an ironic twist, a reputed mob boss on the lam is backing him up.

Joey "The Clown" Lombardo fired off a letter to his lawyer last month denying an FBI informant's claim that Lombardo and reputed mobsters John "No Nose" DiFronzo, his brother Peter, Joe "the Builder" Andriacchi, Rudy Fratto and other alleged hoodlums met with Stephens at Armand's, an Elmwood Park restaurant, according to Rick Halprin, Lombardo's lawyer.

"Let me inform you that it is positively a lie," the hand-printed letter, which included misspellings, read. "I have never, never, ever sat down with Mayor Stephens and the rest of the names in the article. I will take truth serum or lie detector test if the agent and there reliable witness will take one. It has to be done by a private co., not the FBI."

Lombardo, 76, has been missing since a major federal indictment linking the mob to 18 unsolved murders came down in April. Shortly after the indictment, a letter from Lombardo arrived by mail at Halprin's Chicago office. That letter, postmarked in Chicago and directed at U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel, proclaimed his innocence and asked for a separate trial from the others indicted. However, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said agents don't necessarily think Lombardo is hiding out in the Chicago area.

The FBI launched international manhunts for Lombardo and co-defendant Frank "the German" Schweihs and are offering rewards of up to $20,000 apiece for their arrests. Lombardo, 76, who had lived on Chicago's Near West Side for more than half a century, and Schweihs, 75, who last lived near Ft. Lauderdale, face up to life in prison if convicted.

The latest letter was dated Aug. 24 and postmarked Aug. 25 in Chicago. The letter was on three-ring notebook paper and was accompanied by two Chicago Sun-Times articles, including a July 19 clipping about Lombardo's alleged meeting with Stephens, Halprin said. "I doubt that he has a home subscription," Halprin said of Lombardo. "I have no idea where Mr. Lombardo is," Halprin said. "I'm saying the same thing I've said over and over again: It's my obligation to tell Joey, I can only tell him he should surrender himself and prepare for trial."

'Ridiculous nonsense'

FBI agent John Mallul had testified on July 18 that an informant told him of the Armand's meeting. Mallul's testimony came during a state Gaming Board hearing to revoke the license of Emerald Casino, which has been trying to open a casino in Rosemont but has been bogged down by mob allegations.

Lombardo says he also sent a separate letter to Rosemont's village attorney denying the Armand's meeting. "And also if I met with these people on that date, May 29th, 1999 I would have been in violation of my parole and probation," the letter to Halprin read.

Rosemont attorney Bob Stephenson confirmed he recently received two letters, purportedly from Lombardo. One appeared to mirror the Halprin letter, the other was a brief note in which Lombardo told Stephenson he remembered him from an old Teamsters trial, Stephenson said. The letters were signed "Joseph Lombardo I'm an innocent man," wording similar to the letter sent in the spring. The Rosemont letters were turned over to the feds, Stephenson said.

Word of the latest round of Lombardo correspondence came as Stephens testified before retired Judge Abner Mikva, who will rule whether Emerald should lose its gaming license. Stephens testified he was "absolutely not" at the Armand's meeting -- and said he had never even been to the restaurant.

Outside of the hearing, Stephens, 77, called the Armand's allegation "such ridiculous nonsense."

'I hate my son-in-law'

"The FBI agent said there was some informant. Well, at the very least, the informant's a liar," Stephens said. "As a matter of fact, I also understand that my [ex-]son-in-law was at this meeting. I've got news for you, I hate my son-in-law. I've never gone around the block with him in my car. Never."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

'Mafia Cops' lawyers demanding witness information

Lawyers for the "Mafia Cops" are pressing federal prosecutors to disclose whether a key government witness was a secret informant at a time when he allegedly helped engineer some mob murders.

Edward Hayes, who is representing ex-NYPD detective Stephen Caracappa, said in a letter to prosecutors that he has learned that the informant was providing information to the government much earlier than the defense has been led to believe

Caracappa, 63, and Louis Eppolito, 56, have been indicted on charges they worked as moles for the mob while they were detectives in the 1980s and '90s, and played roles in several hits. Court records and law enforcement sources have indicated that convicted drug trafficker Burton Kaplan is the main source of information used to get the two former cops indicted.

Citing his own sources and a recent Vanity Fair article, Hayes said in his Sept. 1 letter to prosecutors that Kaplan was providing information to the government well before the 2005 indictment against his client. If true, said Hayes, Kaplan might have himself exploited his relationship with investigators to glean information useful for the mob hits.

"Obviously, if he had a relationship with some law enforcement agency and failed to disclose it: 1. that relationship could be a source of information used to kill these individuals, and 2: failure to disclose it could show that he felt guilty or desired concealment of the relationship," Hayes said in his letter to Brooklyn Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Henoch.

Kaplan, whose daughter is a city criminal court judge, was convicted in 1998 on charges he trafficked in several tons of marijuana. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He apparently began cooperating against the former detectives in 2004. Kaplan reportedly was the intermediary between former acting Lucchese crime boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso and Caracappa and Eppolito. Government records also revealed that Kaplan had ties to high-ranking members of the Bonanno crime family. He apparently began cooperating in early 2004.

According to an article in Vanity Fair last month that cited two retired police detectives and an FBI agent, all unidentified, Kaplan never disclosed his status as a confidential informant in the 1980s. The magazine stated that the FBI agent later changed his story, claiming to have never used Kaplan as an informant.

Hayes asked Henoch to provide him with information about "the circumstances in which Mr. Kaplan first began providing information of any sort to any government representatives, particularly federal agents." Hayes also wants to know if Kaplan was an informant when he was arrested in the 1990s.

Henoch couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Thanks to Anthony M. Destefano

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From Al Capone, to a Mayor Richard Daley special:

The other big city with questionable alliances between the underworld, and the men who officially run things, is of course Chicago.

When I think of the Chicago mob, I think of Al Capone, as would anyone. As far as big hitters are concerned, he was definitely right up there at the top of the mafia tree, along with his old New York pal, Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano.

Post-Capone, there is the legacy of The Big Tuna himself, Tony Accardo, aka Joe Batters - allegedly handed the moniker by Capone after he bludgeoned a man to death with a baseball bat upon his boss's order.

From streetwise young hoodlum to boss of arguably one of the most powerful La Cosa Nostra families in the United States, the Chicago 'Outfit', Accardo, up until his death in the early nineties, controlled organized crime in 'The Windy City' for the best part of four decades. He was a man adversely disposed towards publicity. Certainly no John Gotti, he. Accardo preferred the shadows, and is considered one of the most astute, and organized of all mafia chieftans. A legend in mobdom, the Carlo Gambino of the midwest.

Accardo, with his top lieutenants, saw to it that Las Vegas, a gambling mecca launched by New York mobster, Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel, in the fifties, would over the next several decades, become almost exclusively controlled by Chicago, with other mafia families like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City, operating under Chicago's solid umbrella.

Though capable of ordering the most vicious of murders - I recall a bunch of thieves whom had made the mistake of robbing the Accardo home in plush Forest Hills, Illinois, and who were later found horrifically murdered all across the city, stabbed, and beaten, shot and strangled (all mercillesly tortured, naturally) - Accardo, having worked his way up in the organization as a proficient hitman himself, often allowed those close to him to assume the ultimate mantle of boss, at least superficially, but it was always Accardo as the man behind the scenes, running the show, the real power.

When the brash, and high-profile Sam Giancana rose to the top spot in the late 50‘s, and his much-publicized exploits with Marilyn Monroe and JFK (many believe that Sam put Kennedy in the Whitehouse, by securing votes in Chicago) elevated his status, particularly with the federal government, exponentially, came and went with several bullets in his head, he was replaced with a succession of other bosses, from Joe Ferriola - believed to be the man whom sanctioned the hit on Tony Spilotro, one-time Vegas enforcer for the mob - to Joey 'The Clown' Lombardo, whom despite a recent arrest on murder and racketeering charges (what else) is suspected today of occupying the top spot.

Only in the city of Chicago has organized crime enjoyed such strong relationships with law enforcement and upper echelon politicians, for so many years. It is a city that has long been associated with unprecedented corruption, stemming back to before even Al Capone, when Big Jim Colossimo ran the scene, with more crooked politicians in his back pocket than he knew what to do with.

SoBoss Richard J Daley of Chicago, moving away from these more overtly unsavoury characters, and onto City Hall, we come to the mayor of that fair city, Richard Daley, whom was questioned last week by none other than the U.S attorney's office. The two hour grilling session revolved around various scandals, alleged to have taken place in Daley's offices. Daley is likely to have been the first Chicago mayor to face this kind of questioning. Going back over the last half a century, to when Daley’s father was mayor, none have come under such scrutiny by the FBI. Now, they have.

Daley was questioned on Friday by the U.S. Attorney's office in a two-hour session about the alleged scandals that surround him. Talking sparingly with the predicted throng of reporters outside his offices, Daley commented that he would be avoiding specifics pertaining to the matter, though he did concede to answering his questioners in a frank, and honest fashion. Would we expect anything less, one is bound to ask?

Describing questions posed to him as: "very serious," Mayor Daley reinforced that his current predicament would not impact upon his responsibilities in running his city. And contrary to recent speculation that he might not run for re-election, Daley remained more than optimistic about continuing in his role as mayor, all this despite the fact that two city officials have been charged last month with allegedly rigging the city's hiring system to flout a court order that bars City Hall from considering politics when filling most city jobs. The ensuing federal investigation encompasses bribery also.

Well, at least ostensibly, the mayor of Chicago's empire is a respectable, and of course, law-abiding one.

Excerpted with thanks to Steven Morris at New Criminologist

Friday, September 09, 2005

Former Chicago Cop was Mob Muscle?

The former owner of the Bridgeview Sports Dome, 8900 S. 77th Ave., has alleged in a lawsuit that he was intimidated to sell his share of his business to the Village of Bridgeview. In a suit that was filed with the U.S. District Court, John Laflamboy alleges that Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek and other individuals used political pressure and intimidation to get him to sell the Sports Dome. Laflamboy is reportedly seeking $6 million in damages.

Laflamboy owned the Sports Dome, but his share was allegedly given to Landek’s consultant’s fiancĂ©, who then sold it to Bridgeview for about $242,000. The other half of the Sports Dome was reportedly sold to Bridgeview by Laflamboy’s former partner, Alan Gustafson.

Laflamboy made the allegations a few months before news broke in November 2004 that the Chicago Fire soccer team would make Bridgeview its permanent home.

Former Chicago police officer Fred Pascente is alleged in the lawsuit of persuading Laflamboy at gunpoint to sell the Sports Dome to Bridgeview. It was alleged in 2004 and in the suit that Pascente has ties to the mob. He is currently banned by the Nevada Gaming Commission from going to any casinos in that state because of alleged mob connections. (Pascente is a former Chicago police detective who was convicted of mail fraud in 1995 and served an eighteen month prison sentence. He has been identified by the Chicago Crime Commission as an associate of the Chicago organized crime family. His placement in the Nevada "Black Book" occurred in 1999. According to court records, Pascente was convicted of falsely receiving a $20,000 payout from Allstate Insurance Co. with an associate, Anthony Ziga, who filed a false injury claim, as the result of a staged accident. Investigators also alleged that Pascente and another associate, David Ballog, falsely submitted a $44,500 insurance claim for jewelry that they said had been lost at O'Hare International Airport. They later received a $37,000 check for the claim. Pascente denies any connection to the Mafia.)

The Chicago Fire has not been named in the suit. The Sports Dome will be used for the team to practice while a new stadium is built for the games. A new stadium is currently being built for the team over 100 acres of land at 71st Street and Harlem Avenue. It is estimated the building will be completed by the fall of 2006, and will have about 20,000 seats.

Laflamboy told media venues that he was given a small amount for the sale despite the dome being worth in the millions. Landek and village attorney Vincent Cainkar were unavailable for comment. (Vince Cainkar is the local attorney for several villages and cities across the the Southwest suburbs.)

Thanks to Yvette Presberry - SW News Herald

Federal agents armed with warrant raid Melrose Park police station

Federal agents armed with a search warrant raided the police station in suburban Melrose Park on Thursday, an FBI spokesman said.

"We did have several agents there this morning," FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. The raid, he said, was part of an ongoing investigation but he declined to give details. He also declined to say what the agents were looking for and what, if anything, they found. "No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed," he said.

U.S. attorney spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment.

A woman who answered the phone at the west suburban police station said that Chief Vito Scavo and his lieutenants were not immediately available to answer questions. The suburb has figured in a number of high-profile criminal cases in recent years. Former Melrose Park Mayor C. Augustus Taddeo pleaded guilty in 1999 to extortion and tax fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.

In recent years, a federal investigation of illegal electronic gambling devices controlled by the mob found that many were installed in Melrose Park taverns and strip joints. And the FBI said recently that the mob has a street crew based in the suburb. The suburb was also the site of the first raid by federal agents in October 1998 on an Illinois drivers license testing station operated by then-Secretary of State George Ryan's office. It was the beginning of the Operation Safe Road investigation of bribes exchanged for drivers licenses and political corruption in the Ryan era.

Junior Gotti's Last Jab

A federal jury is set to begin deliberating the fate of John "Junior" Gotti after hearing a last word from his lawyer who argued yesterday that the once-powerful mob leader hung up his gangster hat so long ago he can't be convicted. Defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman claimed Gotti renounced the mob and defied his father when he pleaded guilty to unrelated racketeering charges in April 1999 and then harkened back to the secretly taped words of the late John "Dapper Don" Gotti.

"We've heard from John's father that Gottis don't plead guilty. They fight, fight, fight," Lichtman said.

Facing a string of charges that span the 1990s including the 1992 kidnap-shooting of radio host Curtis Sliwa, Gotti has hung his hopes on convincing jurors he exited the mob prior to the five-year statute of limitations. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGovern told jurors they should disregard Gotti's claims that he's a changed man.

"The evidence in this case has shown nothing could be further from the truth," he argued. "As recently as 2002, he was continuing to stuff his pockets."

Prosecutors normally get the final word at trial, but Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin gave Lichtman the rare chance to respond in light of Gotti's unusual defense, which requires him to actively prove he renounced the Mafia.

Gotti, 41, is facing up to 30 years behind bars if convicted. He listened sullenly from the defense table and rarely lifted his gaze as his lawyer and the prosecutor sparred and interrupted each other with constant objections. Lichtman has claimed the 1999 plea and Gotti's subsequent six years in prison show "John ended his criminal dealing with the mob and should be acquitted of these charges." The lawyer noted that the only evidence linking Gotti to mob business in recent years came from the testimony of star witness Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo a former Gambino capo and an admitted killer and liar.

"There are no tapes, there are no letters, there are no cards, there are no bugs," Lichtman said. There were also no visits from any high-ranking members of the Gambino
crime family, other than Gotti's uncle Richard.

In the prosecution team's attempt to show Gotti's ongoing involvement in the mob, they have accused him of three criminal acts between 1999 and 2002. These include allegations that he asked DiLeonardo to return some machine guns and to repay an old $50,000 loan-sharking debt. Gotti also allegedly asked for a meeting with DiLeonardo's lawyer to convince his pal to plead guilty in an unrelated case, but DiLeonardo refused to arrange it.

Thanks to Kati Cornell Smith

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Prosecution presents closing argument in Junior Gotti racketeering trial

New York was buzzing about Gambino crime boss John Gotti in the spring of 1992, and radio host Curtis Sliwa didn't hide his disdain for the ''Dapper Don.'' Calling the boss ''America's No. 1 drug dealer,'' Sliwa infuriated the late mobster's son and protege, John A. ''Junior'' Gotti, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday as the younger Gotti's racketeering trial drew to a close.

Gotti ''didn't respond like an ordinary citizen,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in his closing argument. ''Instead of engaging in public debate, Gotti responded to Sliwa's words in the Gambino family native language: violence.''The younger Gotti sent thugs to beat Sliwa with baseball bats, Kim said. But Sliwa didn't shut up, so two mobsters were sent to pick him up in a stolen cab, Kim said. As Sliwa struggled to escape, a hitman opened fire, leaving the Guardian Angels founder weak and bleeding in the back seat, Kim said. Sliwa escaped by throwing himself out the cab window but other Gambino family rivals were not as lucky, Kim said.

Defense attorneys claim Gotti, 41, had nothing to do with Sliwa's shooting and other attacks and quit the mob after a 1999 conviction. But Kim called that argument ''simply nonsense,'' saying Gotti was ''a man who used his name to get to the top of this criminal enterprise ... a man who used his position in the family to line his pockets with millions of dollars in illegal money.''

Gotti met with gangsters and plotted crimes after his purported renunciation of the mob, Kim said. Gotti's alleged role in the Sliwa attack is part of charges that could send him to prison for 30 years. Gotti's attorney was to begin his summation today.

Thanks to Michael Weissenstein

John "Junior" Gotti ran the Gambino crime family like it was his own "government" and thought nothing of using violence to settle scores even against the media, prosecutors charged yesterday. "He believed he was special, for after all he had become the street boss of his own government . . . the Gambino organized-crime family," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in closing statements in Manhattan federal court. "Instead of engaging in public debate, Gotti responded in the Gambino crime family's native language: violence," Kim said.

Gotti is facing up to 30 years behind bars if convicted of racketeering charges, most notably for allegedly orchestrating the 1992 kidnapping of radio host Curtis Sliwa in a bid to silence him. At the time, Sliwa was on a crusade against Gotti's father, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, and had branded him "America's No. 1 drug dealer."

"John Gotti Jr. did not like what Curtis Sliwa was saying one bit. He did not like that Curtis Sliwa called his father a gangster, a drug dealer," Kim told the jury. "Like he did so many times, he sent his underlings to do his dirty work for him," the prosecutor said, and recounted Gotti's allegedly chilling order to kidnap Sliwa and put him in the hospital.

"I want it to be personal. I want him to know we had our hands on him and we could do this any time. He's getting personal. I want to get personal," Kim said, quoting Gotti. Sliwa was picked up in a stolen cab as planned, but the plot went awry when the radio host was shot twice by Gotti's co-defendant Michael Yannotti, according to prosecutors.

"He would be dead if he didn't somehow leap out the window of a speeding cab," Kim said of Sliwa, who described his ordeal from the witness stand in the month-long trial. Gotti also is accused of raking in a fortune through securities fraud, extortion of the construction industry and loan-sharking. Gotti's defense will present its closing arguments today.

Thanks to Kati Cornell Smith

Sam Giancana coming to TNT

The world is apparently one step closer to seeing the story of former Oak Parker and Chicago Outfit leader Sam Giancana portrayed on televisionJFK and Sam: The Connection Between the Giancana and Kennedy Assassinations. The Hollywood Reporter reported last month that cable network TNT has confirmed it is in development for an as-yet-untitled film project based on Giancana's life, headed by Mark Wolper and Warner Bros. Television. It was announced last August that Dimitri Logothetis and Nicholas Celozzi II had acquired the rights to the movie from Giancana's daughter Francine after seven years of effort. Francine Giancana DePalma is Celozzi's cousin. In a press release last August from Celozzi and Logothetis's production company, Acme Entertainment, the pair referred to the Giancana’s life as a "real life 'Sopranos.'"

The six-hour mini-series will reportedly tell the story of "Momo" Giancana's rise from a Little Italy, born-and-bred street thug to leader of the powerful Chicago Outfit. At the height of his power, Giancana hobnobbed with the likes of John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, and ran the Chicago mob's operations out of the old Armory Lodge on Roosevelt Road in Forest Park.

Giancana was arrested some 70 times and served two prison sentences early in his criminal career. He was also jailed for contempt of a federal grand jury in 1965 after refusing to testify. After getting out, he "retired" to Mexico, but Mexican police unceremoniously arrested him one morning in 1974 and deported him to the U.S. He was subsequently unceremoniously shot six times in the head while he cooked his favorite sausage dish in the basement kitchen of his comfortable Wenonah Avenue bungalow on July 19, 1975.

Thanks to the Oak Park Journal

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New sentencing ordered in Cicero fraud case

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Michael Spano Sr., Frank Maltese
Friends of mine: Betty Loren-Maltese

This is the same Betty Loren-Maltese who fired her police chief, David Niebur, after he started working with the FBI in their investigation of corruption in Cicero. He was awarded $1.7MM by a federal grand jury as a result of the firing. The fraud case was the same scheme that prosecutors said was set up by the late Frank Maltese, a convicted mob bookmaker who was the husband of Betty Loren-Maltese.

Betty Loren-Maltese
Suburban Chicago Cicero's former town president and five others must be resentenced in the $10.6 million fraud case that sent them to prison, an appeals court ruled Thursday. Former town President Betty Loren-Maltese could get the same eight-year sentence she's now serving for swindling the suburban community, a stiffer one or a lesser one under the ruling.

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that U.S. District Judge John F. Grady, who presided over the three-month trial, made an error in imposing the sentences. The 15-page opinion written by Judge Richard A. Posner said that after Grady calculated the amount of the loss at $10.6 million he wrongly rounded the number down to below $10 million.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the greater the loss the harsher the sentence. Grady's decision cut 10 months or more off the sentences.

Grady said he rounded the number down by $600,001 because it was merely an estimate and an estimate could be unreliable. "But unless he thought the estimate biased, he had no basis for rounding down any more than he would have for rounding up," the appeals court said.

Betty Loren-MalteseLoren-Maltese, 55, was sentenced in January 2003 for presiding over a scheme in which millions of dollars were paid to an insurance consultant and siphoned off by the defendants. They used the money to buy a horse farm and a golf course among other things.

Federal guidelines that require longer time in prison for bigger monetary losses were mandatory when Grady imposed the sentences on Loren-Maltese and her co-defendants. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision has since made them advisory only and freed judges to impose sentences outside the guidelines as long as they are "reasonable." That means, the appeals court said, that Grady could impose the same sentences over again and they would most likely be upheld.

The appeals decision was a victory for federal prosecutors who have spent years investigating the small, blue-collar suburb just outside the Chicago city limits that has been known as a haven for corruption since the 1920s when Al Capone made it the hub of his bootlegging empire.

The appeals court affirmed all of the convictions and brushed aside defense arguments that they should be set aside. The court said attorneys for Loren-Maltese were wrong in claiming that she was unfairly convicted because she got little out of the scheme personally beyond increased health insurance coverage.

Michael Spano Sr.After the verdict, one juror was quoted in a published report as saying that co-defendant Michael Spano Sr.'s alleged mob ties had been discussed in the jury room. But the appeals court dismissed a defense claim that Grady should have held a hearing to determine if the jury's deliberations had been tainted by mention of Spano's alleged ties. Federal prosecutors have said Spano, now in prison, is the head of the Cicero mob.

Thanks to Mike Robinson.

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