Saturday, December 31, 2005

Junior to Face Jury Solo

Friends of ours: John Gotti Jr., Michael Yannotti, John Gotti

When John Gotti Jr. goes on trial again in February, he'll face the jury alone. A federal judge yesterday acquitted Gotti co-defendant Michael Yannotti on charges he participated in a botched kidnapping plot against radio host Curtis Sliwa in 1992. A jury previously acquitted Yannotti of attempted murder for allegedly shooting Sliwa as he and another Gambino posing as a cabby tried to snatch him in a yellow taxi.

In a 26-page written opinion, Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin sided with defense lawyer Diarmuid White, finding that Yannotti could not be retried on the remaining charge based on technical legal grounds stemming from the jury's vote. Yannotti will instead proceed directly to sentencing as the jury convicted him of additional racketeering conspiracy charges that could land him behind bars for 20 years.

Gotti, the 41-year-old son of the late Gambino boss John "Dapper Don" Gotti, still stands accused of ordering and orchestrating the kidnapping of Sliwa after the jury delivered a hung verdict on that charge.

On the Lighter Side

Because some kid sent this to me and it made me chuckle, I present to you the Real Internet Mafia .

My favorite was the mention of a $10,000 bill. Who knew those existed?
I hope his Mom lets him finish the site soon. :-)

Sam "Momo" Giancana Index

Sam Giancana was a famous and powerful mafioso and boss of the Chicago Outfit from 1957-66.Sam Giancana Originally nicknamed "Mooney", when he became Boss, Giancana shortened it to "Momo", which stood for "More Money". Born in Chicago's "Little Italy," Sam Giancana was arrested more than 70 times in his life, but was imprisoned only twice.

Giancana started his criminal career in the 1920s on Chicago's West Side as a member of a violent street gang called "The 42s". He soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, high earner and vicious killer. These qualities got him noticed by the successor to Al Capone, Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. It is widely reputed Giancana and other mobsters had been recruited by the CIA during the waning days of the Eisenhower administration to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who had taken power in January 1959. Giancana was himself reported to have said that the CIA and the Mafia are "different sides of the same coin." It is also widely reputed that at roughly the same time Joseph P. Kennedy recruited Giancana to help mobilize labor union voter and financial support behind his son, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy in the latter's bid to secure the Democratic nomination for the 1960 Presidential election.

There are also strong suggestions that during his presidency, JFK maintained close links with Giancana and the Chicago Mafia as he continued the practice of covertly using the Mafia in a bid to assassinate Castro. The two men also shared the same lover, Los Angeles socialite Judith Campbell who also apparently acted as a courier between the two men, passing money and information.

Giancana was forced to step down as Mafia boss in 1966 because of his greed (refusing to share the profits of his Latin American gambling operations--a major violation of Mafia protocol) excessively high-profile personal behavior (openly associating with various popular entertainers like singers Phyllis McGuire and Frank Sinatra) and serious legal problems, serious enough to have had the FBI place Giancana under close, intense and relentless surveillance. In response to these setbacks, the dethroned Giancana spent the next seven years (1967-74) in exile in Cuernavaca, Mexico until the Mexican government (under pressure from the US Justice Department) had him deported to the United States. Returning to Chicago, Giancana was assassinated on 19 June 1975 in the basement of his home in Oak Park, Illinois (which had been under close FBI and Chicago Police observation) shortly before he was to appear before a Senate committee investigating CIA and Mafia links to plots to kill Castro.

The unknown assassin shot Giancana in the head seven times with a silenced .22 caliber handgun. Although some suspected the CIA was responsible for the shooting (as Giancana had a somewhat troubled history with the agency), CIA Director William Colby was quoted as saying, "We had nothing to do with it." Many researchers believe Colby's claim as it seems much more likely that Giancana's onetime friend and Chicago Mafia boss Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa ordered the hit on the disgraced "Momo" because he had become too talkative and Aiuppa feared Giancana would reveal everything he knew about Chicago mob operations (including Giancana's alleged complicity in orchestrating the JFK assassination) during his upcoming Senate committee appearance.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Crime Commission Officially Gains New Boss

Former FBI agent James Wagner ws officially introduced on December 14th as the new boss at the Chicago Crime Commission, a mixed blessing for the good citizens of our city and state.

On the plus side, it should prove an exciting shot in the arm for the Crime Commission, the venerable civic organization that was born in the lawlessness of Chicago circa 1919 and thrived on a crimebusting image earned during the heyday of Chicago hoodlums, but has seemed to struggle with its sense of purpose in recent decades.

In Wagner, the Crime Commission gets a real law-enforcement veteran with not only historical perspective but up-to-date knowledge of organized crime, both the players and their activities -- the mission that should remain at the top of the commission's reasons to exist.

Wagner, though, gained some of his knowledge during the past six years as the top investigator for the Illinois Gaming Board, which is where the downside to the public factors into the equation. The Gaming Board, which rides herd on Illinois' riverboat gambling industry, was already woefully short of investigators, whose not-so-simple task is to keep organized crime from infiltrating the casinos. Losing Wagner could be another serious blow.

Because of state budget cuts and hiring freezes under Gov. Blagojevich, the Gaming Board has gone from 18 investigators when Wagner started there to just eight at present. "That's just not enough to do the job over there," Wagner told me Tuesday, admitting that frustration with the situation at the Gaming Board was a major factor in his decision to leave after he was recruited for the Crime Commission opening.

There are 10,000 casino employees in Illinois, each of whom has to undergo a background check by the investigative staff before they can be licensed. Owners and managers are supposed to get more extensive background investigations. The Gaming Board also must investigate the companies that supply gaming equipment to the casinos. "I really was not comfortable we had enough people to do a satisfactory job. We did the best we could, but I would strongly recommend that the state increase the manpower there," said Wagner with the understatement one would expect from a career FBI agent.

Does that mean the door has already been left open for organized crime to get a foothold in Illinois? "I wouldn't go that far," Wagner said. "My concern is that it has left open the opportunity for infiltration that would be unbeknownst to us because we're not looking in all the places that we should be looking."

It's a warning that Gaming Board officials have been issuing for several years now -- to no avail. State government has many unmet needs at present, but sooner or later, this one is going to catch up to us.

It was my first chance to meet Wagner, a distinguished-looking 62-year-old with a full head of silvery hair who grew up on a farm in downstate Newman and taught high school four years before joining the FBI in 1969.

Wagner had just come up on retirement age when federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta took over as administrator of the Gaming Board and persuaded Wagner, then the coordinator of the bureau's Chicago Organized Crime Section, to join him in March 2000. His tenure included the investigation that so far has helped block Emerald Casino from locating a new riverboat in Rosemont, partially based on organized crime concerns.

Returning to the bright side, Wagner can continue this kind of work from the bully pulpit provided by the Crime Commission, which will benefit from someone who has credibility with the law enforcement community and the news media, although the latter will need to persuade him to loosen up a bit.

To many, the Crime Commission must seem an anachronism, a throwback to the days when organized crime figures operated openly and conspicuously within this city. But the Hired Truck scandal at City Hall, the still unfolding Family Secrets investigation and even the Emerald episode have provided fresh evidence that organized crime is still active in our city, having burrowed deeply into our institutions.

Wagner offers a sobering perspective. "Organized crime is alive and well in Chicago and, unfortunately, probably always will be," he said. "There is a concerted effort on the part of some, I don't know if you'd call them apologists, but people often like to believe we put them out of business by putting them in jail, and that doesn't eradicate anything. They're still there, and they're still working."

"They are strong. They have done a great job of insulating themselves through investments and what we would consider to be legitimate businesses and getting out of the limelight and going below into the shadows again." Wagner should find plenty to keep him busy. Let's make sure the Gaming Board is empowered to move forcefully to complete the work he left behind.

Thanks to Mark Brown

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Overheard: Mafia in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau assured incoming tourists Monday the city will be heavily guarded on New Year's. There's very little danger. The terrorists would never attack a Mafia holy site, if only out of professional courtesy.

Junior Gotti is Happy with Lawyer

A judge warned John A. "Junior" Gotti on Wednesday that his lawyer has a conflict of interest, but the son of late mob boss John Gotti said he's happy with his representation in an upcoming racketeering retrial.

Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin said attorney Charles Carnesi might be forced to give Gotti biased advice because he also represents a co-defendant. "I think you'd be better off with a lawyer who has no conflict problems," Scheindlin bluntly told Gotti, who shrugged off the conflict. Gotti said Carnesi was the best lawyer for him because he was already familiar with the case, which goes to trial again Feb. 13.

Scheindlin offered to let Gotti speak for free to a neutral lawyer she had invited to court solely for that purpose. "I'm OK," Gotti said. Then he added, "It would be the first free lawyer I've ever spoken with."

Carnesi represented reputed Gambino crime family associate Louis "Louie Black" Mariani at a trial that ended in September with a conviction of Mariani for securities fraud and a mistrial on charges against Gotti. Mariani is to be sentenced March 30. "I'm absolutely convinced I can represent them both," Carnesi said.

Gotti dismissed lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman after his first trial ended with a deadlocked jury on charges that he ordered a botched 1992 plot to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, a radio show host and founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group. Gotti is free on $7 million bond.

Gambino Hit Man is Free

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia, John Gotti

An alleged Gambino hit man was released on a $3 million bond yesterday - even though the accused double murderer is charged with committing a crime while out on bail. Dominick "Skinny Dom" Pizzonia, 64, is awaiting trial on charges of extorting money in 2001 - while he was awaiting trial on another extortion case. Authorities will be able to keep an eye on him this time around because, as part of his bail terms, Pizzonia will be on home detention and his movements will be monitored electronically.

The extortion raps could be the least of his problems. Prosecutors say Pizzonia rubbed out a husband-and-wife robbery team that targeted mobbed-up social clubs. Thomas and Rosemary Uva became the Mafia's top enemies in 1992 when they targeted locales run by the five crime families. Thomas, 28, would bust into the clubs brandishing an Uzi submachine gun, while his 31-year-old wife stayed behind the wheel of their getaway car.

Their mobster victims dubbed the pair "Bonnie and Clyde," and the couple seemed to know that they'd meet the same fate as their notorious namesakes. When one mobster told Thomas the Mafia would kill him, he shrugged and said, "Everybody dies."

Brooklyn federal prosecutors say Pizzonia was the one who caught up with them on Christmas Eve 1992. They were both shot in the head while sitting in a car at an intersection in Ozone Park, Queens. Their car kept rolling and collided with another vehicle before coming to a stop against a curb. Pizzonia is also charged with the 1988 murder of a mob underling.

Prosecutors say he was running his latest extortion scam while on bail pending trial in the 2001 case, and then again after he pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors signed off on Pizzonia's $3 million bail package at a hearing in front of Judge Jack Weinstein yesterday.

Pizzonia, who reportedly was once placed in charge of "Dapper Don" John Gotti's Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, was able to raise the bond money after his son Frank and other relatives put up six of their properties. He's expected to stand trial on racketeering charges — including extortion and murder — in June.

Thanks to Heidi Singer

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Mafia" Cop Had a Mole

Friends of ours: Lucchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

Just months before being exposed as an alleged Mafia hit man, one of the accused mob cops bragged about a high-ranking NYPD member slipping him unauthorized identification under the table, feds say. Disgraced ex-Detective Louis Eppolito was caught on a wiretap earlier this year describing how he was given credentials that state he is an active New York cop, despite living in Las Vegas and having retired more than a decade ago, according to a letter filed by prosecutors last week. Eppolito, 57, claimed he was given the card by a prominent city cop, whom the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify.

Eppolito - who is accused of "routinely divulging sensitive law-enforcement information in exchange for money" - also boasted about how easily he could still access driver-registration records, thanks to his lasting ties with local cops. The comments were made public by the feds in a court document asking that the identities of jurors deciding Eppolito's fate be kept secret.

Eppolito and his alleged partner in crime, former Detective Stephen Caracappa, 63, are charged with handing over names of cooperating witnesses to the Luchese crime family - intelligence that was used to commit nine rubouts between 1986 and 1991. Caracappa is believed to have been the triggerman in one of the slayings.

Prosecutors say the two were on $4,000 retainer to jailed Luchese underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. "The defendants have demonstrated . . . a propensity to obstruct the fair working of the criminal justice system," prosecutor Robert Henoch wrote in his letter to Brooklyn federal court Judge Jack Weinstein.

"The history of selling information and using murder to obstruct criminal investigations is strong evidence for the need of an anonymous jury." If the judge decides their identities should not be revealed, the jurors would be escorted to and from the courthouse by federal marshals throughout the trial. "There's really no reason to have [an anonymous jury]," said Caracappa's lawyer, Ed Hayes, adding that he may try to block the government's request.

The trial is expected to get under way in February.

Thanks to Zach Haberman

New Head of Major Mafia Family

Friends of ours: John Gotti, John "Jackie Nose" D'Amico, Petter Gotti, Junior Gotti, Nicholaz "Little Nick" Corozzo, Gambino Crime Family, Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri

Meet the new John Gotti.

John (Jackie Nose) D'Amico, the Dapper Don's longtime sidekick and confidant, has emerged as the new acting boss of the Gambino crime family, law enforcement officials told the Daily News. D'Amico, known as a dapper dresser himself with a gift for gab and a way with the ladies, even confirmed to The News that he was a "boss."

Well, sort of. "I'm the boss of my house and my bathroom," said D'Amico, 69. "When I go in my house and my bathroom and close the door, I'm the boss." The comment sounds like a tribute to something his dear friend John Gotti often said to reporters: "I'm the boss of my family, my wife and kids."

It was a line D'Amico probably heard a thousand times as the Dapper Don's constant companion on the town and in court. But despite his common-man self-portrayal, law enforcement authorities say D'Amico is the new Don. "It's apparent from a number of directions that Jackie is the street boss right now," one source said. "He is speaking with authority. He's not the same person from eight months ago."

D'Amico, known more as a lover than a fighter, may not have had the respect in the past of tough guys in the crime family, but his skills of diplomacy are needed now more than muscle is. "He's a very personable individual," said Bruce Mouw, the retired head of the FBI's Gambino squad. "He can be a diplomat, a mediator. He's not a hard-liner. They need someone to rally people together."

Law enforcement sources say that after Gotti was convicted in 1992 and sent away for life, a ruling panel consisting of D'Amico and fellow Gambino capos Peter Gotti and Nicholas (Little Nick) Corozzo was designated to assist the Dapper Don's son John A. (Junior) Gotti in running the crime family.

When Junior Gotti and D'Amico were pinched on racketeering charges in 1998, Peter Gotti, the Dapper Don's brother, became boss. Fast-forward to the present, with the beleaguered crime family beset by leadership woes.

Junior Gotti claims he has quit the Mafia. Peter Gotti was convicted of racketeering, and the former acting boss, Arnold (Zeke) Squitieri, is under indictment. But D'Amico, son of a television repairman from the East Village, insisted the feds and cops have it all wrong.

He said his life has none of the trappings of a Mafia boss. "I'm insignificant, I'm not important," said D'Amico. "I take the 4 train, the 5 train, the 6 train. That's the only way I travel. I don't have a chauffeur-driven car."

D'Amico, who earned his nickname because of his "Romanesque nose," according to the recent testimony of a mob turncoat, dismissed talk about his mob ascension as lies told by snitches. These confidential informants want to ingratiate themselves (with law enforcement), so they can keep on selling drugs," he said.

Still, D'Amico's supposed promotion makes sense for several reasons. Corozzo, the other logical heir to the Gambino throne, is said to be preoccupied these days with health issues and remains on supervised release, which bars him from meeting with goodfellas.

Mob watchers say D'Amico was never much of an earner for the Gambinos, which is the main function of a Mafia family. In fact, Mouw said, "D'Amico was always broke, constantly in debt, a degenerate gambler. John Gotti loved him because ... Jackie was his fellow gambler who placed all his bets for him."

For a while, D'Amico dabbled in a phone-card business and cruised around in a Jaguar, courtesy of a supposed job as a salesman at a Crystal Geyser water distributor in Brooklyn.

These days, D'Amico lives in an Upper East Side high-rise in Manhattan and is known to frequent Fresco, a popular Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

In his conversation with The News, he expressed concern about what his neighbors will think after reading this story. "Go bother the people that are ruining the country, Cheney and Bush," he said. "There are plenty of things more important than who I am or not."

He still owns a modest, split-level home in Hillsdale, N.J., where his wife, Rosalie, resides. "You're not going to get any information from me," she said when a reporter knocked at her door last week. "He comes and goes. That's the way it's been for the past 40 years."

Few heads at Chin Funeral

Friends of ours: Vincent "Chin" Gigante, John Gotti, Mario Gigante, Genovese Crime Family, Frank Costello

Pallbearers carry a coffin with the body of former Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante out of St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Village after a simple service attended by few mobsters. There were no garish floral arrangements yesterday and only a few shiny limos with refrigerator-size guys. Hardly a capo showed up. Mostly, the funeral of the legendary Mafia boss Vincent (Chin) Gigante was a quiet reminder of an Old World Greenwich Village that is disappearing day by day.

Gigante, after all, was an underworld dinosaur, an old-time gangster who dodged prison for decades by shuffling unshaven about the Village in a bathrobe, muttering that Jesus was his lawyer. His final tribute reflected the fallen state of the Mafia, with hardly any mobsters seen paying their final respects at the St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan St.

It was a modest affair, nothing like the 2002 funeral for mob boss John Gotti, when 19 open-air cars packed with flowers paraded about Queens.

The attendees mainly were family and friends, including Gigante's brother, Mario, a reputed captain in the Genovese family, Gigante's wife, Olympia, and several of his children.

The service was held a few blocks down Sullivan St. from the tiny apartment where Gigante lived for years with his mother. It was presided over by another of his brothers, the Rev. Louis Gigante.

Rev. Gigante, who stood by his sibling even after Vincent had admitted the crazy act was just that, did his best to preserve the image of his brother as a man misunderstood. "The world had a different view of him through the media," he declared. "But we, his family, his friends, the people of Greenwich Village, me, his brothers, his mother and father, we all knew him as a gentle man, a man of God."

To a church three-quarters full, the priest presented the powerful gangster as a lonely throwback wedded to his rapidly changing neighborhood. "Vincent never traveled," the priest said. "He was always on Sullivan St., walking and helping others, neglecting himself."

No mention was made of Gigante's status as Godfather of the most powerful crime family in America. No one recalled that Gigante once parted the hair of mobster Frank Costello with a bullet, shouting, "This one's for you, Frank!"

Instead there was the story of a 77-year-old man dying alone in a prison somewhere in the Midwest, neglected. As the priest saw it, the government that pursued his brother for decades finally did him in. "In the eight years Vincent was in prison, I visited him 19 times. There wasn't a day he didn't suffer," said Rev. Gigante. "He did his time like a man. He was going to come home. He was dying to come home. But he couldn't. They allowed him to die."

Then the white-gloved pallbearers did their job, carrying the coffin piled high with red and white poinsettias down the aisle and into the pre-Christmas chill.

In the end, Vincent (Chin) Gigante emerged from his childhood church, carried out into a Village the old mob boss would have barely recognized.

Thanks to Greg Smith

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas on the Lam

Sing a sad Christmas song for Joe Dogs.

On Dec. 25, when much of the world opens presents beneath the tree or enjoys a turkey dinner, Joe Iannuzzi will spend another lonely holiday far from his family, his friends, his city. Maybe knock back a couple of drinks, probably shed a few tears.

"It's sad," says Joe Dogs, whose nickname pays homage to a long fascination with gambling on greyhounds. "Very sad." And very predictable, given Iannuzzi's past. Once a made member of New York's Genovese crime family, Iannuzzi survived a vicious mob beating in 1981 that left him near dead. He awoke in a Florida hospital to find a priest giving him the last rites.

Months later, Iannuzzi recovered. He became convinced that revenge, even more than laughter, was the best medicine. He became an informer, testified at a dozen trials, put away some old pals. A botched mob hit sent him into the federal Witness Protection Program. And now, 24 years after he flipped for the feds, every Christmas brings a reminder of what he left behind.

Joe Dogs may eat alone on Christmas, but he's not the only one. Since 1971, more than 7,700 witnesses were relocated after testifying for the federal government at the risk of their lives. Not all wound up as lonesome as Iannuzzi; 9,800 family members were relocated with them. But they're all far from home, and for many, the holidays are a melancholy time.

"There's tremendous pressure to return home. We sympathize with it, but that's absolutely forbidden," says Dave Turner of the U.S. Marshals Service, which runs witness protection.

Ianuzzi hasn't gone home. He abandoned the high-end world of New York and Florida for low-profile homes in Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama. He now resides in an undisclosed Midwest location where "I gotta travel 100 miles to go to a decent restaurant."

He's gotten used to the rootless life but not Christmas on the lam. "The very worst for me," Iannuzzi says over the phone from his apartment, his accent still betraying his New York roots. "I never had the warm feelings that a normal individual would have during that holiday. ... I haven't been around my family since 1982. "You count the Christmas days."

It wasn't always this way. When he was with the mob, every day was a holiday, and he greeted every maitre d' and doorman with a flash of cash. The son of a suburban bookie, he grew up among mobsters north of the Bronx. His first arrest came at age 14. He worked briefly as a dognapper, returning the pilfered pooches once their owners posted a reward.

Iannuzzi had a straight gig as a cook, working in diners and hot dog stands. It was at a classy restaurant in Cleveland that he received professional training, emerging as a saucier. But after a year, he longed for home. "It was time for me to leave," he says. "So I stole a car and went back to New York. It was less expensive that way. I stole a pink Lincoln. Can you imagine? I kept it for a couple of months then parked the car near a place called 'Buzzy's Big Nightclub.' "It still had the Ohio plates."

Three marriages and five kids followed as Iannuzzi burrowed deeper into organized crime. He moved to Florida and became the protege of Gambino soldier Tommy Agro - a hoodlum straight off a Hollywood lot, with a flashy wardrobe, a big bankroll and a short fuse.

Iannuzzi provided muscle for Agro, who loaned him money to launch a loan-sharking operation. But as Joe Dogs fell behind on the payments, their friendship faded and Agro's anger grew. On Jan. 19, 1981, inside a Florida pizzeria, Iannuzzi took a terrible beating from his one-time mentor and some cronies.

His last memory before everything went black was Agro's alligator loafer sinking forcefully into his ribs. When he finally recovered, Iannuzzi joined up with the FBI and taped his fellow Mafiosi discussing their illicit businesses. "All these guys convicted themselves with their big mouths," Iannuzzi says. "All I did was tape it. They all talked their heads off."

When the chatter finally stopped, Colombo boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico went to jail along with another dozen mobsters - including the brutal Agro, who died of cancer in 1987.

Iannuzzi went into witness protection after surviving a murder attempt on a Florida interstate. Today he demurs when asked if he's ever killed somebody: "My answer is, 'That's a rude question.' Let's go onto another subject."

Iannuzzi soon was supplementing his witness protection stipend as a writer. But he was booted from the program in October 1993 after violating its rules: He returned to New York to promote "The Mob Cookbook" on David Letterman's show. He would have to protect himself.

Iannuzzi just published another book, "Cooking on the Lam," which intersperses recipes for brook trout amandine and strawberries with Grand Marinier sauce with tales of life in and out of the mob. It's his fourth book; in his biggest non-mob score, he was paid $250,000 for his autobiography. "How many people wrote one book, much less four?" he asks. "I'm trying to do things the hard way: honest."

Iannuzzi stays in contact with one of his daughters, who calls him 10 times a day. "She loves her dad," he says. He avoids contact with all of his other old friends and stays away from New York and its environs.

Iannuzzi knows sitting alone on Christmas is not necessarily the worst thing. Henry Hill, the infamous mob informant whose story became the Oscar-winning movie "GoodFellas," won't be alone this Christmas - he'll share his meal with the rest of the inmates at the Lincoln County Jail in North Platte, Neb. Hill, a fellow witness protection alumnus, is finishing up a six-month stretch following his July arrest on drug charges.

At 74, Joe Dogs has slowed down quite a bit. He recently survived "triple A surgery" - operations on his aorta, abdomen and an aneurysm. He shares his apartment with two Yorkshire terriers and confides some of the tamer old tales to a few locals.

"Some of them are still scared to death of me," says Iannuzzi. "I don't know why. I'm a nice guy. I say that every day to myself."

Thanks to Larry McShane

Remembering the PJ Don

Friends of ours: Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Genovese Crime Family, John Gotti, Paul Castellano, Gambino Crime Family. Thomas Eboli, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Phillip Lombardo, Mario Gigante

Vincent "Chin" Gigante, boss of the Genovese crime family, who was noted for walking the streets of the Village near his Sullivan St. social club dressed in pajamas and bathrobe and mumbling to himself, died in a federal prison hospital in Missouri on Dec. 19 at the age of 77. He was serving a 12-year sentence for racketeering, conspiring to kill the late John Gotti for Gotti's role in the unsanctioned killing of the Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano, and for obstructing justice by pretending - successfully for three decades - to be mad in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Gigante died of an apparent heart attack at 5:15 a.m. in the same Springfield, Mo., federal prison medical center where Gotti and other underworld bosses died.

He was a promising light-heavyweight boxer whose ring career in the 1940s was managed by Thomas Eboli, a reputed mobster. Impressed by Gigante's 21 boxing wins, the mob boss Vito Genovese took him under his wing. A doorman at The Majestic apartments on Central Park West identified Gigante as the shooter in the 1957 attempted assassination of the crime lord Frank Costello, whom Genovese was trying to supplant. Costello survived the shooting but refused to identify Gigante and the charges were dropped.

Gigante rose in the Genovese family and in 1985 became the boss, succeeding Philip Lombardo, according to a Daily News article. But Chin began his bizarre and deceptive behavior as early as 1969 when he was first hospitalized for psychiatric examination. He finally gave up the mad act in 2003 after federal investigators found prison witnesses who heard Gigante speaking very sanely on the telephone, according to a Daily News article

Gigante got his nickname because his mother called him Vincenzo (pronounced Vinchenzo). Born March 29, 1928, he was the third of five brothers. His mother moved into the Mitchell-Lama co-op at 505 LaGuardia Pl., and Gigante - who always had an apartment of his own in the South Village - frequently visited there until she died a few years ago.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who grew up in 505 LaGuardia Pl. and still lives there, said it was known that Gigante often came by the apartment of his mother, who spoke little English and was affectionately regarded in the building. "He spent quite a bit of time visiting his mother, both visiting and overnight," Gerson said. "He was a frequent, regular visitor, until he went out of town, so to speak."

Neighbors reportedly knew the building was sometimes under surveillance by federal agents and that Gigante brought associates there for meetings. The apartment is now home to a surviving brother, Reverend Louis Gigante, a retired priest, former Bronx councilmember and director of a Bronx nonprofit housing organization.

An older brother, Mario, 80, reputed to be an elder in the Genovese crime family, also survives. Vincent Gigante leaves five children that he had with his wife, Olympia, and three more children he had with another woman, Olympia Esposito.

Thanks to Albert Amateau

Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo

Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo is an American mafioso and high ranking member of the Chicago Outfit.

Born in 1929 Lombardo joined the Chicago Outfit in the 1950s. In 1963 Lombardo was arrested and charged with kidnapping however he was later acquitted. Lombardo was again on trial in 1974 with Allen Dorfman, an insurance agent, and charged with embezzling of $1.4 million from pension funds of the Teamsters Union. The charges were later dropped after the main witness, Daniel Siefert, was killed two days before his scheduled appearance.

In 1982 Lombardo and Dorfman were again charged with extortion of $800,000 from construction owner Robert Kendler as well as, with Teamsters President Roy L. Williams, attempted bribery of Nevada Senator Howard W. Cannon.

Lombardo was later implicated, by government informant Alva Johnson Rodgers, in the deaths of Daniel Siefert and Robert Harder in 1974, Sam Annerino and Raymond Ryan in 1977, and Allen Dorfman in 1983. Lombardo was also accused of personally murdering ex-police officer Richard Cain. Interestingly, Cain was believed to be a CIA agent as well.

Lombardo and Williams were finally convicted of attempted bribery in August 1985 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Williams, who received 10 years imprisonment, later agreed to testify against Lombardo and several top members of the Chicago Outfit later charged with concealing Mafiosi ownership of the Las Vegas Stardust Resort & Casino of which over $2 million unreported income was skimmed from 1974-1978. By January 1986 five mobsters had been convicted, including Lombardo who was sentenced to an additional 10 years, as well as Chicago syndicate leaders Joey Aiuppa and John Phillip Cerone, sentenced to 28 years imprisonment, and Angelo Lapeer, and Milton Rockman.

When he was paroled from prison in 1992, Lombardo ran an ad in the Chicago Tribue that said:
I am Joe Lombardo, I have been released on parole from federal prison. I never took a secret oath with guns and daggars, pricked my finger, drew blood, or burned paper to join a criminal organization. If anyone hears my name used in conjuction with any criminal activity, please notify the FBI and my parole officer, Ron Kumke

On April 27, 2005 indictments were handed down in which 14 people including Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs were named in the murders of 18 people. Despite being in his late 70s, Lombardo avoided capture. During his time as a fugitive, he wrote two letters to his lawyer, one claiming innocence in the charges brought against him, the other not yet made public. He was finally captured by FBI agents in Elmwood Park, Illinois on January 13, 2006.

Chicago Syndicate Articles with Joey "The Clown" LombardoJoseph

Joey The Clown Lombardo Caught
Joey The Clown Caught!!
Angry Son Knows Mob's True Colors
Fed, Family Come Out to See The German
Initial Court Appearance for The German
Court Appearance for The German
Chicago Mob, Vegas, Celebrities, Is There a Movie here?
End of the Run for Fugitive Mobster
Mob Fugitive Arrested in Kentucky
Come Out Joey Wherever You Are
Stephens: I Didn't Meet with Mob
From Al Capone to a Mayor Richard Daley Special
Inmate Says He Has Information on Mob Crimes
Loan Sharks Tale in Federal Court Has Literay Ring
Judge to Lombardo: No Deal
Casino Hearing Expected to Call Reputed Mobster

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wintry grave may be part of mob's legacy

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, William Hanhardt, Paul Schiro, Richard Cain, Sam "Momo" Gianacana

In a few days, U.S. marshals will drive the fugitive Chicago Outfit enforcer Frank "The German" Schweihs from Kentucky back to Chicago. Here, he will stand trial for two gangland murders that are part of the FBI's Family Secrets investigation of unsolved mob killings. But once in the Chicago area, on the way to the federal lockup, the marshals might think about taking a short detour to Elmwood Cemetery in suburban River Grove.

They should drive about a half-mile past the cemetery office and start looking for a giant Norwegian pine that throws shade on the gravestones in the afternoon. From the road, with that tree as a marker, it is only a few paces to Section 47-Lot 15-Grave 2.

After that long drive up from Kentucky, it might be good for Schweihs to stretch his legs a bit, to take a short walk on the snow and stand at the grave I have in mind, one of those graves in the shadow of the big pine tree. That's where Eugenia Pappas, also known as "Becca," is buried. She's been there a long time now. She wasn't a tough guy. She wasn't a jewel thief or an iceman, wasn't a burglar or extortionist. She wasn't a puppet master, giving politicians orders. She was young and beautiful, with big brown eyes, only 18 years old when she dated Schweihs, a bodyguard for mobster Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio.

Her father, Christopher, and her mother, Helen, didn't like it that one of Chicago's most fearsome and untouchable hoodlums had taken a fancy to their daughter. Christopher moved the family to Arizona, to start a new life, to give his daughter a chance away from Schweihs. Eventually, though, she returned to Chicago. A few weeks later, she stopped dating Schweihs. She stopped dating him about the time a bullet pierced her heart.

I spoke to Pappas family members, but they were too afraid to be quoted in this column and declined to be interviewed. I also spoke to a family friend who told me about Pappas on the condition her name was not used. I understand. Every so often, some writer announces that the Outfit is dead. But if it's so dead, why are people in Chicago still afraid?

"The whole family, they were so close, so loving," the family friend told me Tuesday. "When Becca was found, it was so horrible, devastating. It was like somebody scooped their insides out and left the shells. Her mother, Helen, was a strong woman, she was American, but she wore black from that day on. She died later, but she really died the day Becca was found."

Becca was last seen a week or so before Christmas of 1962. Her distraught father went to the newspapers for help in mid-January. An article in the Tribune, under the headline "Girl Sought" ran in the Jan. 12, 1963, editions. "Left behind in the apartment, Pappas said, were all her clothes, except those she was wearing," the story said.

On Feb. 9, a tugboat captain found her body floating in the Chicago River. She'd been in the water about two weeks. Authorities surmised she was killed while sitting in the passenger's seat of an automobile. She was buried on Feb. 15, 1963. "You've seen those wakes where people get emotional and loud," the family friend told me. "This wasn't like that. It was silent, completely silent. That was worse."

Schweihs was hauled in for questioning by a celebrated crime fighter, Richard Cain, the homicide chief of the Cook County sheriff's police. After much questioning and investigating--or simply the appearance of questioning and investigating--the case against Schweihs, if there ever was one, fizzled. He was let go and no charges regarding the Pappas murder were ever filed against him. Schweihs, the papers noted, had a long police record, but no convictions. That's not hard to figure, since he was usually being investigated by one of those celebrated crime fighters.

It's a Chicago thing. The relationship between mobsters and top local cops isn't new, and it isn't old. William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, was recently convicted of running the Outfit's interstate jewelry theft ring, using police information to set up the victims. One of Hanhardt's convicted accomplices in the jewel ring is Paul Schiro, an Outfit enforcer. Schiro and Schweihs have been charged by the feds with an Outfit killing in Arizona.

When the victim is another mobster, Chicago shrugs. But this victim was a girl, a civilian, whose family had no power. So the local law spit on her and the Outfit spit on her and the investigation was dropped.

I said that Richard Cain, the detective who cleared Schweihs of the Pappas killing, was a celebrated crime fighter. He was celebrated, sure, the way Hanhardt was celebrated, in gushing media accounts as some heroic tough guy, ready-made for Hollywood. Cain was a bodyguard for Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. On Dec. 20, 1973, Cain was in Rose's Sandwich Shop on the West Side when two men entered with shotguns. He took two blasts to the face. The second one was just to make sure.

Schweihs is an old man, now, at 75, and Cain is dead. And Eugenia Pappas' grave was silent in the shadow of that pine tree in the snow. "Elusive in life," reads the inscription on her gravestone. "Elusive in death."

Thanks to John Kass

Reputed Mobster Gets 30 Months

Friends of ours: Salvatore Locascio, Frank Locascio, John Gotti

Salvatore Locascio was indicted in February on multiple felonies alleging he received several million dollars from a massive, illegal phone cramming operation that scammed thousands of customers. With a sick wife and a felony charge to which he had already pleaded guilty, North Naples resident and reputed Mafia captain Salvatore Locascio entered a New York courtroom Monday hoping to avoid a prison term at his sentencing. Locascio, 45, didn't succeed, but he did persuade the judge to sentence him to well below the minimum under federal guidelines — 2½ years in prison. The sentencing took place in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

Locascio, pleaded guilty in February to money laundering. He was indicted on multiple felonies alleging he received several million dollars from a massive, illegal phone cramming operation that scammed thousands of customers by placing charges on their bills for unauthorized, unordered services. He faced up to 10 years in prison, with federal sentencing guidelines calling for between about five and seven years behind bars. So the 2½-year sentence was several years below the minimum.

"Now he hopes to return to his family and focus on them so they can cope with his absence for the next year and a half," one of Locascio's attorneys, Eric Franz, said after the hearing. Judge Carol Amon granted Locascio's request to begin his prison sentence June 1, 2006. He wanted to remain free to attend his son's high school graduation and care for his wife, who has multiple sclerosis.

The subject of the Mafia actually played little part in the sentence, even if prosecutors alleged it played a significant part in Locascio's past. Locascio's father, Frank, was the consigliere, or counselor, to Mafia crime boss John Gotti. The U.S. Attorney's Office has alleged Salvatore Locascio inherited his father's Bronx street crew in the mid-1990s. And the federal prosecutors argued the phone cramming operation was a Mafia-related business, with the payments to Locascio as tribute due to his position as a captain in the crime family.

The defense had signed a stipulation indicating they wouldn't oppose the characterization of Locascio as a mobster for purposes of the sentencing. One of the grounds under which the defense asked the judge to sentence below the minimum was for "extraordinary rehabilitation." So despite initial denials by Locascio and his attorneys that he was part of the organized crime world, they relied on that allegation to argue he had left the mob to start a clean life in Naples. He has a prior conviction and prison term in a tax evasion case.

Franz didn't want to comment on any mob-related allegations. But he said the business that conducted the illegal phone cramming, Creative Program Communications, was formed by Locascio and several other investors 20 years ago and had nothing to do with the Mafia.

Franz said Locascio moved from New York in 2000 or 2001 "to start a new life in Florida, free of organized crime, and the money he received was not a form of tribute." When asked Monday by Judge Amon whether the U.S. Attorney's Office had any evidence Locascio is currently involved in organized crime activities, the prosecutors said they didn't. So with there being no dispute over that issue, the judge didn't press for any argument or discussion on it during the sentencing. Locascio addressed the court and asked for any form of punishment that didn't involve incarceration. He spoke mostly of his family in North Naples and the need to care for his wife. Until he turns himself in to begin his sentence, he'll remain free on $10 million bond.

After his prison sentence, he must also serve three years of supervised release, which is similar to probation. He'll pay a $50,000 fine. And he must satisfy a $4.7 million asset forfeiture. Franz said Locascio may consider selling his Pelican Marsh home, valued at $2.1 million. And Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Locascio has said he'll forfeit property on Indigo Bush Way in Grey Oaks. He'll sell commercial property he owns in the Bronx. And he presented the court with a check for more than $500,000 on Monday.

The phone cramming scheme generated $50,000 to $600,000 a day between 1997 and 2001. In total, the scheme is alleged to have produced about $200 million in gross revenues and $100 million in profits, prosecutors said. (From 1997 to 2001, assuming the full years for each is 5 years total. My calculator procudes a gross revenue range of $91, 250,000 to over a Billion dollars. The average take was probably a little over $100,000 day. It's good work if you can get it.)

If convicted of charges under his original indictments, Locascio could have faced up to 20 years in prison on the racketeering charge; 20 years in prison on the racketeering conspiracy charge; 20 years in prison on each wire fraud charge, five years in prison on the wire fraud conspiracy charge, and 20 years in prison on the money laundering conspiracy charge, federal prosecutors said. Instead, almost all those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Thanks to Chris Colby

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gaming Board Pulls Casino License

In a unanimous decision, the Illinois Gaming Board today stripped the bankrupt Emerald Casino of its gambling license, saying its managers and owners lied to regulators and allowed people with ties to organized crime to become investors. Emerald officials, who wanted to open a gambling house in northwest suburban Rosemont, are expected to appeal the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court.

The regulatory saga began in 2001 when a board made up of entirely different members first said the casino's owners should turn over their license.

In announcing its opinion, the board agreed with retired federal Judge Abner Mikva, who oversaw nearly two months of testimony in which Emerald argued that the punishment of stripping its license was too severe. But Mikva said in an opinion last month that Emerald's officials lied to regulators and played "fast and loose" with the facts in their zeal to open a casino.

"Judge Mikva said it best," board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said, when he wrote "the people who operated Emerald and who did this deal operated on the premise of 'Catch me if you can.'

"My feeling is they were caught, they lost their game of 'Catch me if you can,'" Jaffe said. "They were caught, and they should lose their license."

State lawmakers passed legislation to allow casino operators to move their struggling operation to Rosemont in 1999 and former Gov. George Ryan signed it. At the time, it was considered a done deal. But the gaming board tripped up those plans when in 2000 and 2001 it raised questions about some investors in the project. Board staff accused the main owners of the Emerald, the Flynn family, of lying to them.

Although they did not technically play a role in the board's decision, questions also were raised about ties between municipal leaders in Rosemont, including longtime Mayor Donald Stephens, and organized crime figures. Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan has also raised similar questions about links between Stephens and the mob. Stephens has repeatedly denied the accusations.

As part of the deal reached in 1999, legislators guaranteed that 20 percent of the owners of the casino would be minorities and women. Several of the so-called 23 "minority investors" were in attendance at the board meeting today and complained the board's decision means they will lose the money they put into the project. Collectively, the group invested nearly $33 million. "This investment has been wiped out today. It's been wiped out on this Christmas Eve. We have nothing," said one of the minority investors, Chaz Ebert, wife of Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert.

Emerald attorney Robert Clifford said the casino would appeal the board's decision to the 4th Appellate Court in Springfield. Clifford said any investors who lied or misled regulators or had other ties the board found objectionable were willing to drop out as investors, but the board never considered that offer. He said by not accepting the offer, the case will continue in legal circles for at least another two to possibly five years. "This hearing was all about preventing this casino from going to the Village of Rosemont," Clifford said.

Chicago Mob, Vegas, Celebrities, Is there a movie here?

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, "Johnny Green" Faraci, Bonnano Crime Family, Tony "the ant" Spilotro
Friends of mine: Rick Rizzolo, Rocco Lombardo, Vincent Faraci, Joey Cusumano

Some should call Hollywood if they have not already and see what they can come up with regarding the Mobster-Celebrity Strip Club Probe . I can help with casting.

Vincent "The Chin" Gigante Dies

Friends of ours: Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Genovese Crime Family

US mob boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, who avoided jail for decades by wandering Manhattan streets in a ratty bathrobe and slippers as part of an elaborate feigned mental illness, has died in prison. He was 77.

Mafioso Gigante died at the US Medical Centre for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, early today, said prison spokesman Al Quintero. "The cause of death is currently unknown. He had a history of coronary disease."

Dubbed the "Oddfather" for his bizarre behaviour, the former Genovese crime family head, an ex-boxer whose lengthy string of victories over prosecutors ended with a July 1997 racketeering conviction, finally admitted his insanity ruse at an April 2003 court hearing.

After nearly a quarter-century of public craziness, Gigante calmly pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his deception. He then chatted amiably with his son, shook hands with defence lawyers and even laughed at one point.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cermak tale teaches more than history

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Giuseppe Zanagara, Paul "The Waiter" Ricca

It felt strange giving a history lesson to a potential mayoral candidate about the Chicago Outfit and Chicago politics. And I probably should have kept my mouth shut. But when did that ever happen?

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Chicago Democrat, and I were talking politics over the phone Wednesday. He explained the importance of coalitions and how other Chicago mayors have put such coalitions together. "If I don't organize Latinos, who will?" he said. "How do I challenge others to be fair and just and more equitable, if I don't organize that voice? If that leads people to seeing me purely in a very myopic way, well, you and I both know that's not representative of my life's work." What is a politician's life's work? This is an eternal question.

I'm more interested in the immediate, like: Will Gutierrez position himself as a viable alternative to Mayor Richard Daley as the feds hammer City Hall? Or, is it more likely that a three-way mayoral campaign between Gutierrez, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) and Daley would split the vote and keep Daley in office? Consider it the Incumbent Protection Committee. We'll see. These can't be answered in a day, and Gutierrez was talking about coalitions.

"My life's work has been about immigrants. If you came to my office, you'd see Polish people, right? Irish people, Greek people, others, my office is rich in the immigrant history of Chicago. You go to my rallies, you see Asians, from China and the Philippines. That's been my history, but that's kind of the history of Cermak, wouldn't you agree? He kind of put together a coalition of those that were not part of the Thompson machine." Anton Cermak? "Yes," Gutierrez said.

Some of you have probably driven on the street named after Cermak but not known what happened to the former mayor. Gutierrez is correct. Cermak was a masterful coalition builder.

This is how I understand what happened: Back in the 1920s, the puppet mayor was William "Big Bill" Thompson, a blowhard who once threatened to punch English King George "in the snoot." But one snoot he'd never punch belonged to Al Capone. Thompson couldn't even think about touching Capone's snoot. That would have been more painful than punching himself in the nose hard, every day for a lifetime.

After doing the Outfit's bidding for years, Thompson was used goods. The boys found another politician--Anton "Pushcart Tony" Cermak, who was elected mayor in 1931 on the reform ticket. Foolishly, he decided to double-cross the Capone gang by siding with Capone rivals and sent police to exterminate Capone successor Frank Nitti.

Unfortunately for some, Nitti survived. So Cermak decided to take an extended vacation and hang out with President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Florida. On the night of Feb. 15, 1933, a former Italian army marksman, Giuseppe Zangara, was waiting in a crowd at Bayfront Park in Miami. Zangara had three things going for him as an Outfit assassin. He had an inoperable disease, he had a family and he had a gun. From about 30 feet, he popped Cermak in the chest. Roosevelt was not injured because he wasn't the target. Zangara was later executed.

By this time, Capone was in federal prison, slowly going insane as the result of a little something he picked up in his earthier travels between Chicago hotel rooms. His illness is well known to people who've watched the many movies made about Capone.

As I've written before, Hollywood never made a movie about Paul "The Waiter" Ricca. He was too shy. And he wisely let others pretend they were the boss and grab all the publicity. But he knew how to send a message. There was a main Chicago thoroughfare leading from the Capone headquarters at the Lexington Hotel on 22nd Street to the Outfit's hangouts in Cicero. This road was renamed Cermak Road. Every hood traveled it. They laughed. And every politician understood. But that's such ancient history.

On Wednesday, Chicago was still the reform capital of Cook County. And Gutierrez was talking on the phone about coalitions. "Cermak put together a coalition of those who were not part of the Thompson regime, right?" Gutierrez asked. Right. "And he put together a great coalition, of disparate people," Gutierrez said. And what happened to Cermak? There was a silence. "Oh, I know," Gutierrez said. "He got assassinated." I explained how Cermak was honored with his own street.

"Oh, I never thought of that," Gutierrez said. "I didn't know about that. I guess my point is, I look at the history of the city of Chicago, I look at the turn of the century, you know the Bohemians came together. It was a revolution in Chicago politics. Ask all the Irish politicians that have been elected ever since."

Gutierrez would make an entertaining candidate and might become mayor someday. He's smart enough. And besides, he likes history.

Thanks to John Kass

End of the Run for Fugitive Mobster

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese

The union boss slipped into a booth in a restaurant on Jackson Boulevard. He was wearing a federal wire, trembling, as the waitress brought over some ice water. The man he was to meet entered the restaurant, sat down and started glaring at him. The meeting didn't last long.

"The union boss, our potential witness, got scared. He started talking quickly, he started rushing, he blew it he was so scared. Frank Schweihs figured something was wrong. He got up, leaned over and said `I'll see you later' to our witness. The guy almost had a heart attack right there. He was that terrified. That's Frank Schweihs for you," said former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke. "He was a scary guy."

That's the effect Schweihs, known in Chicago Outfit circles as "The German," had on almost everybody he met professionally. He not only terrified witnesses; even Outfit bosses were afraid of him. But someone wasn't afraid of $20,000 and tipped the FBI on Friday that Schweihs, 75, was hiding out in Berea, Ky., some 35 miles south of Lexington. The tipster likely will accept the reward in private.

"Our people drove over to assist, but by the time they got there, the FBI agent had arrested him without incident," said Berea police Lt. Ken Clark. "I guess when the agent asked if he was Frank Schweihs, he said he wasn't, then he played some old mob trick and started grabbing at his chest, saying he had chest pains. But he refused transport to a medical facility. I guess he'll be back in Chicago before long."

The German had been running since before he and 13 other top Outfit figures were indicted in April as part of the FBI's Operation Family Secrets, the most significant and far-reaching investigation of organized crime in the city's history.

With Schweihs' capture, there's only one clown remaining out there. Mob boss Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo still has not been found, though he has the use of his fingers, since he's written letters to his attorney, Rick Halprin, and those letters have all been postmarked in Chicago.

I told you about Family Secrets as it broke, almost three years ago now, when imprisoned mobster Nick Calabrese was quietly whisked into the federal witness protection program and began connecting the dots on at least 18 unsolved mob murders. Calabrese's decision to turn government informant stunned the Outfit and the Outfit's allies in local law enforcement and politics, the three sides of the iron triangle that has strangled this region since the 1920s. When word began trickling out that Calabrese had started talking, the bosses panicked, went underground and weren't about to help their allies in politics.

By then, the politicians had their own problems, with unprecedented federal investigations into City Hall corruption, from trucking and phony affirmative action contracts to political hiring. For the first time in decades, the sides of the triangle couldn't support each other as they had when they were strong. And that alone makes Family Secrets important.

Unlike corruption, there is no statute of limitations on murder. Schweihs has been charged with two killings, and Lombardo was charged with one.

The life they allegedly had in common belonged to Danny Seifert, whose testimony in a federal case on the bilking of Teamsters pension funds could have put Lombardo in prison. But Seifert didn't testify, because he was shotgunned to death in front of his wife and 4-year-old son in 1974. When the gunmen approached him outside his Bensenville plastics factory, he started running and was knocked to the ground by the first blast. One of the killers walked up to him, put the shotgun muzzle against Seifert's head, and pulled the trigger. The federal government's pension fund case fell apart.

O'Rourke recalled that in the 1980s, he was contacted at home by a worried Chicago police officer in the East Chicago Avenue District, after two other cops arrested Schweihs for battery. He allegedly kicked their car because it was parked too close to his home.

"The young cops were full of muscles and Schweihs was angry and they all went at it and took him in, but Schweihs had political people in the station, some guys involved in Streets and Sanitation," O'Rourke said. "And they were arguing to let him loose and police dropped the charges.

"Those two young cops were angry. That was typical Chicago," he said, meaning that the Outfit was taken care of by politicians and cops when it was necessary.

I can't say things have changed much since. A white-owned company with Outfit connections gets $100 million in fake affirmative action contracts and the mayor says they're a hardworking family. The city's budget director said he wasn't surprised that the city's Hired Truck Program was mobbed up, and for that bit of truth, he was canned for poor management.

But it's encouraging when guys like Schweihs are brought in, when Lombardo and 12 others get indicted for unsolved killings. It tells me that things are changing, as the triangle is slowly pried apart.

Thanks to John Kass

Kentucky Residents Shocked by Mobster

Friends of ours: Frank 'the German" Schweihs, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello

Residents in Berea, Kentucky, are shocked at the news that an alleged Chicago mobster was arrested Friday at an apartment complex in their town by the FBI. Gas station cashier Sue Morton says the biggest news up until now was when Cracker Barrel moved to the small town of about ten thousand in the Appalachian foothills.Frank Schweihs

Frank "the German" Schweihs was allegedly part of the top echelon of the Chicago underworld and had been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since April. He and co-defendant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo slipped away from federal prosecutors just before an indictment was unsealed against Chicago mob boss James Marcello and 13 others in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation.

FBI agents are still hunting for Lombardo.

Landlord Chat Leads FBI to Mob Slaying Suspect

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs

An FBI agent arrived at the sprawling Blakewood Apartments complex in Berea, Ky., Friday with a photograph and a question for the landlord. Had she seen the old man in the picture? Her answer was yes--he was the polite gentleman who had been sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a woman for the last two months, the landlord and FBI officials said.

The agent, who was from the FBI's small office in Lexington, Ky., did not tell her she was renting an apartment to Frank "The German" Schweihs, the reputed Chicago Outfit hit man and enforcer. Schweihs had been one of the bureau's most wanted fugitives since he was charged in April in connection with 18 unsolved organized crime murders.

"I assisted only in that they asked me if I could see him in a photograph," the landlord said. "They showed me a picture, but I didn't know anything about him."

After talking to the landlord, the agent parked his car where he could see the front door of the two-bedroom townhouse apartment and called for backup from fellow agents in Lexington and local Berea police, said FBI spokesman David Beyer. But help was still at least five minutes away when Schweihs and a woman emerged from the apartment and got into the sport-utility vehicle parked out front, Beyer said. Afraid of letting the fugitive slip through the FBI's fingers if he drove off, the agent swung his car forward and blocked the path of the SUV, got out and made the arrest alone.

Schweihs, 75, was being held Saturday at the county jail in Lexington. He waived extradition proceedings and would be taken back to Chicago by U.S. marshals, Beyer said. The FBI in Chicago developed a lead that Schweihs might be in southeastern Kentucky, and asked local agents to search the area, Beyer said Saturday.

Berea, a scenic college town of more than 12,000 people about 40 miles south of Lexington, was one area of interest, but Beyer would not elaborate on the information that aroused the FBI's attention. "He went to Berea to check various addresses, and the agent learned of this address," he said.

The complex's owner and manager, who spoke on condition that her name not be published, said she had spoken to Schweihs "on three or four occasions" but had no idea who he was. She had visited the apartment recently to give him a new furnace filter, and as usual he was a "very, very nice guy. Very respectful," she said.

After the arrest, FBI agents interviewed the woman Schweihs was living with but she was not in custody or charged with a crime, Beyer said. The landlord said all she knew about the woman was from a reference sheet the woman provided when she rented the apartment. The woman has a one-year lease for $425 a month, the landlord said. FBI officials said the couple had paid the rent in cash.

The landlord described the nine-building complex as a mixture of families, retired people and students at Berea College.

Thanks to David Heinzmann

Al Capone Index

Al "Scarface" Capone, was an infamous American gangster in the 1920s and 1930s, although his business card reportedly described him as a used furniture dealer. A Neapolitan born in New York, Capone began his career in Brooklyn before moving to Chicago and becoming Chicago's most notorious crime figure. By the end of the 1920s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had placed Capone on its "Most Wanted" list. Capone's downfall occurred in 1931 when he was indicted and convicted by the federal government for income tax evasion and sent to the notorious island prison Alcatraz.
Al Capone
Capone's life of crime started early: as a teenager he joined two gangs, the Brooklyn Rippers and the Forty Thieves Juniors, and engaged in petty crime. He quit high school at the age of 14 when he fought with a teacher and worked odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley. After his initial stint with small-time gangs, Capone joined the notorious Five Points Gang headed by Frankie Yale. It was at this time he began working as a bartender and bouncer at Yale's establishment, the seedy Harvard Inn. It was here, at the Harvard Inn, that Capone would engage in a knife fight with a thug named Frank Gallucio after Capone had made a bold move on Gallucio's sister. Gallucio had deeply slashed Capone's right cheek with a switchblade, earning him the nickname that he would bear for the rest of his life: "Scarface," a moniker he in fact detested.

In 1919 he lived in Amityville, Long Island, to be close to "Rum Row." Capone was still working for Frankie Yale and is thought to have committed at least two homicides before he was sent to Chicago in 1919. Yale sent his protege to Chicago after Capone was involved in a fight with a rival gang. Yale's intention was for Capone to "cool off" there; the move primed one of the most notorious crime careers in modern American history.

Initially, Capone took up grunt work with Johnny Torrio's outfit, but the elder Torrio immediately recognized Capone's talents and by 1922 Capone was Torrio's second in command, responsible for much of the gambling, alcohol, and prostitution rackets in the city of Chicago. Severely injured in an assassination attempt in 1925, the shaken Torrio returned to Italy and gave the reins of the business to Capone.

Capone was notorious during Prohibition for his control of the Chicago underworld and his bitter rivalries with gangsters such as Bugs Moran and Hymie Weiss. Raking in vast amounts of money from illegal gambling, prostitution and alcohol (some estimates were that between 1925 and 1930 Capone was making $100 million a year), the Chicago kingpin was largely immune to prosecution due to witness intimidation and the bribing of city officials, such as Chicago mayor William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson.

In 1928, Capone bought a retreat on Palm Island, Florida. It was shortly after this purchase that he orchestrated seven of the most notorious gangland killings of the century, the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Although details of the massacre are still in dispute, and no person has ever been charged or prosecuted for the crime, the killings are generally linked to Capone and his henchmen, especially Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, who is thought to have led the operation along with a young Tony Accardo. By staging the massacre, Capone was trying to dispose of his arch-rival Bugs Moran, who controlled gang operations on the North Side of Chicago. Moran himself was late for the meeting and escaped otherwise certain death. Throughout the 1920s, Capone himself was often the target of attempted murders.

Although Capone always did his business through front men and had no accounting records linking him to his earnings, new laws enacted in 1927 allowed the federal government to pursue Capone on tax evasion, their best chance of finally convicting him. He was harassed by Prohibition Bureau agent Eliot Ness and his hand picked team of incorruptible U.S. Treasury agents "The Untouchables" and IRS agent Frank Wilson, who was able to find receipts linking Capone to illegal gambling income and evasion of taxes on that income.

The trial and indictment occurred in 1931. Initially, Capone pleaded guilty to the charges, hoping to a plea bargain. But, after the judge refused his lawyer's offers and Capone's associates failed to bribe or tamper with the jury, Al Capone was found guilty and sentenced to eleven years in a federal prison.

Capone was first sent to an Atlanta prison in 1932. However, the mobster was still able to control most of his interests from this facility, and he was ordered to be transferred to the infamous California island prison of Alcatraz in August of 1934. Here, Capone was strictly guarded and prohibited from any contact with the outside world. With the repeal of Prohibition and the arrest and confinement of its leader, the Capone empire soon began to wither. At Alcatraz, Capone went in with his cocky attitude. However, when he attempted to bribe guards, he was sent to the "hole", or solitary confinement. The same also stood for socializing, and eventually Capone's mental stability began to deteriorate. One example of his erratic behavior was that he would make his bed and then undo it, continuing this pattern for hours. Sometimes, Capone did not even want to leave his cell at all, crouching in a corner of his cell and talking to himself in gibberish. He began telling people that he was being haunted by the ghost of James Clark, a victim in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It was apparent over time that Capone no longer posed any threat of resuming his previous gangster-related activities.

Sometime in the mid-1930s, and at Alcatraz, Capone began showing signs of dementia, probably related to a case of untreated syphilis he contracted as a young man, a sexually transmitted disease, potentially very harmful if not treated. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, and was released late in 1939. After spending a year of residential treatment at a hospital in Baltimore, he retired to his estate in Miami, Florida.

Capone was now a broken man. He no longer controlled any mafia interests. On January 21, 1947, he had an apoplectic stroke. He regained consciousness and started to feel better when pneumonia set in on January 24. The next day he went into cardiac arrest and that was his death. Capone was first buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago's far South Side between the graves of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Frank, but in March of 1950 the remains of all three were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery on the far West Side in Hillside, Illinois.

Past Chicago Syndicate Articles with Al Capone

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mob Fugitive Arrested in Kentucky

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul Schiro

A 75-year-old man reputed to be a longtime mob enforcer was arrested Friday at an apartment complex in a small Kentucky town, eight months after being charged with two murders in a federal indictment in Chicago.

Frank "The German" Schweihs had eluded authorities since April when he and 13 other defendants, including reputed mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, were indicted in connection with 18 long-unsolved Outfit-related murders, loan sharking and illegal gambling. But local police said Friday that Schweihs apparently had been staying in the Blakewood Apartments in 12,000-resident Berea, Ky., for only two or three days. "I would say this is probably the biggest fish we ever got in our little pond," Berea police Lt. Ken Clark said of the capture.

A special agent from the FBI's Louisville office found Schweihs at the apartment complex and, at about noon Friday, the FBI called local police for backup, Clark said. "With his past history, they were sort of figuring it could get ugly," Clark said. But backup wasn't needed.

"We probably had people down there within 10 minutes, and by the time we got there [the agent] had already taken Mr. Schweihs into custody," Clark said. "Evidently [Schweihs] exited the apartment as if he was going to leave... So the FBI agent really had no choice. He had to [make the arrest]."

After the indictments in April, Schweihs and Lombardo became fugitives. FBI officials said both had disappeared before the indictments. Lombardo is still at large.

Federal prosecutors charged the two with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case. Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix.

"I'm sure the agents are pleased," FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. "They're going to be able to devote more resources now to finding Mr. Lombardo."

Schweihs appeared Friday before a federal judge in Lexington, Ky., FBI officials said. He is being held in Lexington until he can be brought back to Chicago to face charges, officials said.

According to Clark, an apartment manager at the complex said Schweihs and a woman had been staying there for two or three days and were in the process of trying to lease an apartment.

Thanks to Michael Higgins and Matt O'Connor

Call for Mob Sit Down

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Carmine Sciandra, John Gotti, Bonanno Crime Family
Friends of mine: Patrick Balsamo

The Gambino organized-crime family, furious at the shooting of one of its bosses, is calling for a sit-down with the rival Bonannos to decide the fate of the ex-cop who allegedly pulled the trigger, law-enforcement sources said yesterday. The Gambinos are absolutely livid because the victim, Carmine Sciandra, who runs the Top Tomato produce market, is a top captain in the Mafia family and was once considered a successor to "teflon don" John Gotti, the sources said. Both residents and law-enforcement officials fear that unless the dispute is resolved, it could lead to war between the two families.

Sciandra was shot in the belly outside the market on Dec. 7 by former cop Patrick Balsamo, who brought along two Bonanno thugs to use as muscle, police said. Balsamo was angry because he believed Carmine's brother, Salvatore, groped the cop's 18-year-old daughter, Maria, a College of Staten Island student. The teen had worked as a cashier at the market before being fired. Discount Golf Equipment

Swinging a baseball bat, Balsamo smashed several windows before a melee erupted. During the fracas, the ex-cop drew a gun and blasted Sciandra, police said. Balsamo, now a security guard at a Brighton Beach nightclub, hasn't been seen since he was released on $25,000 bail last Friday. Law-enforcement officials believe he has gone into hiding. "I imagine Balsamo is terrified. We're all concerned," said a woman who has lived in the neighborhood for years.

Sciandra is recovering from his wound at Staten Island University Hospital. His wife hung up on a reporter who called his room yesterday. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the FBI's organized crime task force are watching to see if any mobsters retaliate. The feds fear a mob war could erupt because the brazen attack on Sciandra was not approved by other bosses. "This was a renegade act," a police source said.

At the time of the shooting, witnesses said that they heard a shot and saw Sciandra go down. Then they saw several men with baseball bats chase a sedan out of the parking lot. Top Tomato employees would say only, "I don't know nothin'."

Thanks to various sources.

FBI Nabs Reputed Runaway Mob Enforcer

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, James Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

A reputed mob enforcer who has been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since federal prosecutors unsealed racketeering-murder charges against the alleged top echelon of the Chicago underworld was arrested Friday, the FBI announced. Frank "The German" Schweihs, 75, was captured without incident when agents swooped down on an apartment he had recently rented in Berea, Ky., a hilly area 40 miles south of Lexington.

Schweihs was one of two defendants who slipped away just before federal prosecutors in April unveiled the long-sealed indictment against reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello and 13 others in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation. FBI agents are still hunting Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 76, known as one of the senior figures in the Chicago mob.

The indictment charges that Chicago hoodlums and mob associates conspired in at least 19 unsolved deaths, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie "Casino."

The indictment charges Schweihs with taking part in the racketeering scheme, in which the participants allegedly agreed to commit a number of killings. It also charges him with extorting "street tax" on behalf of organized crime by using "force, violence and fear" against the owners of adult entertainment clubs in Indiana and the Chicago suburbs in 2001.

Schweihs had an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Lexington at which he waived extradition. He will be held there until he can be returned to Chicago, officials said. When he returns, Schweihs will be arraigned before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over the Family Secrets case.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said Schweihs first leased the Berea apartment two weeks ago and paid cash. His previous known residence was in Dania, Fla.

Federal law enforcement officers have been baffled in their search for Lombardo. They offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the two men.

Lombardo wrote a letter to Zagel last May, offering to turn himself in if he were guaranteed a trial separate from the other defendants. He later wrote a second letter, taking issue with news reports in the case.

Lombardo went to federal prison in the 1980s after being convicted along with then-International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams in a bribery conspiracy.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

FBI Mob Files Deal with Garbage

Friends of ours: Joseph Zito, Joseph Auippa, Joseph Zammuto, Frank Buscemi

Eye-popping allegations are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records concerning Joseph Zito, a reputed Rockford Mafia counsuleri, who reportedly had interests in the City of Rockford's garbage collection and disposal. Zito died of natural causes in 1981. Included in Zito's FBI file are allegations of bribery and intimidation during a time when a new garbage contract was being negotiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also during that time, the city closed the municipally-owned People’s Avenue landfill and began dumping its trash at the privately-owned Pagel Pit, which opened in July 1972.

The dump, which was formerly known as Pagel Pit, received approval from the Winnebago County Board Dec. 8 to expand Winnebago Landfill. The 18.7 million cubic-yard expansion is expected to serve 11 northern Illinois counties between 2010 and 2031. In 2004, the county also approved spending millions of taxpayer funds on two roads that lead to the landfill. The money will pay for 8 miles of road upgrades on Baxter Road and 5 miles on South Perryville Road.

According to the FBI file, Zito was allegedly part owner of the City of Rockford’s former waste hauler—Rockford Disposal Service Co. A March 31, 1970, FBI bulletin from Zito's FBI file reads that a male source "said [redact] for the Rockford Disposal Company and is also [redact] the Greater Rockford Airport Authority. "He said the site, which was under consideration as a new landfill site to be used for dumping garbage was under control of the airport authority and although unsuitable, in [redact] opinion, as a landfill site was being pushed in the City Council when the Illinois State Health Department advised that it would not be approved by that department as a landfill site.

"[Redact] advised that the City furnished the landfill site for the contractor who has the garbage disposal contact for Rockford, Illinois. "[Redact] said that in conversation with [redact] they stated no matter which site was selected for the landfill and no matter who the current contractor might be they would 'have to make their peace with Rockford Disposal Company.'

"He said he asked what was meant by that statement but received no answer. "He said when he was showing opposition to the airport landfill site, he was approached by [redact] Rockford Disposal Company, in approximately October 1969, was asked, 'What does it take to get you to leave us alone?'" wrote the unidentified FBI agent.

Less than two months after issuing that memorandum, the FBI issued another bulletin on May 13, 1970. The document concerned alleged "bribery negotiations relative to [the] Cherry Valley Landfill site." The bulletin reads: "[A source] states he was told it would cost $100,000 to obtain Rockford City Disposal contract. "It has been previously reported that sources believe Rockford Disposal Service, Inc., utilizes Joe Zito in quieting labor disputes when Rockford Disposal first obtained the Rockford City contract [in 1956]. ...

"Rockford is presently attempting to locate a landfill site which would then be used by Rockford Disposal in performance of its trash removal contract. ... The site most likely to be chosen is located in Cherry Valley Township, adjacent to Rockford."

During a Dec. 1 interview, Dave Johnson, Winnebago County clerk and former long-time Rockford alderman, said he thought the site referred to in Zito's FBI file was the City of Rockford's 155-acre composting facility at the northeast corner of South Mulford and Baxter roads. Johnson raised questions about the city’s garbage contract in 1974, which led to an investigation conducted by the Rockford Police Department.

According to a 1975 Rockford Police Department report, Browning Ferris Industries, the city' garbage hauler at that time, was also known as Rockford Disposal Service Co. State records indicate Rockford Disposal changed its name to Laidlaw Waste Systems (Illinois) Inc., on March 25, 1982.

When Zito died in 1981, an FBI surveillance photo shows Zito' funeral was attended by Chicago Mafia boss Joseph Aiuppa, Joseph Zammuto, head of the Rockford Mob, and Frank J. Buscemi, who took control from Zammuto after his retirement, according to a March 4, 1984, Rockford Register Star article.

Thanks to Jeff Havens

Officer killed in Bronx shootout; actor is suspect

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

A young police officer dying from a bullet to his chest shot two burglars early Saturday, one of them identified as an actor who played a misfit mobster on "The Sopranos." The wounded suspects were quickly captured. Investigators identified one as Lillo Brancato Jr., an actor who got his break in the Robert De Niro-directed film "A Bronx Tale" in 1993, and played doomed mob wannabe Matt Bevilacqua during the 1999-2000 season of "The Sopranos: The Complete First Season." Brancato, 29, of Yonkers, was also arrested in June for alleged heroin possession.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the actor and another man were breaking into a vacant home when Officer Daniel Enchautegui, who had just finished a late-night shift, heard the sound of smashing glass next door. Enchautegui was off duty and in his street clothes, but he alerted his landlord and dialed 911 to report a possible burglary in progress. Then he grabbed his badge and a gun and went out to investigate.

His landlord heard Enchautegui shout, "Police! Don't move!" followed by a burst of gunfire, Kelly said. Enchautegui, 28, collapsed in the driveway of his home in the Bronx borough and died shortly afterward.

Mob Related Indictment

Friends of ours: Harry Aleman

A member of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted to parole reputed mob hit man Harry Aleman because Aleman's friends were going to help get the board member's son a job in the music industry in Las Vegas, according to an indictment handed down by a Lee County grand jury Friday. Victor Brooks cast the lone vote to parole Aleman three years ago when the board decided 10-1 to keep Aleman in prison for the murder of Teamster official Willie Logan.

Though prosecutors say Aleman was a mob hit man, the only murder he has ever been charged with is Logan's. He was acquitted the first time after bribing a judge. But he was convicted after being retried for the crime.

Former Illinois Department of Corrections official Ronald Matrisciano was also indicted Friday. He spoke up on Aleman's behalf at the hearing at the Dixon Correctional Center in Downstate Lee County three years ago, calling Aleman a "model prisoner."

Matrisciano was a family friend of Aleman's. Brooks said at the parole hearing that he was impressed that a prison official of Matrisciano's stature would speak on Aleman's behalf. He said at the time that's why he voted for Aleman's parole.

What was unsaid at the time, according to Friday's indictment, is that Matrisciano and Brooks had "an agreement ... under which ... in return for Ronald Matrisciano's assistance in obtaining employment in Las Vegas for Victor Brooks' son, Nicolas Brooks, Victor Brooks would vote to parole Harry Aleman."

Nicolas Brooks reportedly had some success in the music industry, singing the national anthem at Cubs and Bears games. He was living in Las Vegas and the agreement was to help get him a music gig, according to sources familiar with the allegations.

Victor Brooks was a former warden at the state juvenile corrections facility in St. Charles and was highly regarded on the prisoner review board, said chairman Jorge Montes. "Brooks during his tenure on the board was basically a model member," Montes said. "It comes as a shock to the parole board that these allegations would be raised against someone who everybody held in high esteem."

Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office brought the charges before the grand jury. "How Harry Aleman had access to a high-ranking IDOC official and why a member of the PRB would vote for his release are serious questions that have been raised," Lisa Madigan said in a release. "We allege that public corruption is part of the answer."

Brooks was appointed to the prisoner review board by Gov. Jim Edgar and was reappointed by Gov. George Ryan. But Gov. Blagojevich, after Brooks' vote to parole Aleman, chose not to reappoint him when his term was up for renewal.

When Aleman came up for parole again Wednesday, Aleman said he was "mad, very mad" that his friend Matrisciano was fired, ordered re-hired, demoted, then suspended with pay after testifying on Aleman's behalf. "You're saying anybody who speaks on my behalf gets into trouble? ...No one can talk for me or they get into trouble right away?"

Matrisciano faces five counts of official misconduct and two counts of wire fraud. Brooks faces one count of official misconduct and one of wire fraud

Thanks to Abdon Pallasch

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mob War?

Friends of Ours: Gambino Crime Family, Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine Sciandra, Ronald Carlucci, Michael Viga

The feds are keeping an eye out for a possible gangland blow-up following the shooting of a reputed Gambino capo on Staten Island, law-enforcement sources said yesterday. Mob heavy Carmine Sciandra was wounded Wednesday in the dust-up, which began after two Bonanno thugs and a retired NYPD cop showed up at a produce market he co-owned thinking Sciandra's brother Sal had groped the cop's daughter, police said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the FBI's organized-crime branch are watching in case any mobsters retaliate, sources said. "We're on top of it," said a law-enforcement official.

Yesterday, the two reputed Bonanno members, Ronald Carlucci, 62, and Michael Viga, 59, were released after the Staten Island District Attorney's Office decided not to press charges. The two were let go because of a lack of evidence, sources said.Ultimate Cigar Sampler - $120 value for $29.95

Former cop Patrick Balsamo brought Carlucci and Viga along to the Top Tomato market on Victory Boulevard, cops said. He started smashing some windows because his 18-year-old daughter had allegedly been groped and then fired from her cashier job at the market run by Sal Sciandra, cops said.

At Balsamo's arraignment yesterday, prosecutor Michele Molfetta told the court Balsamo is accused of pulling the trigger. "The defendant is charged with shooting the victim, a crime that resulted in serious physical injury" with damage to Carmine Sciandra's colon, she said in Staten Island Criminal Court. Prosecutors said a .25-caliber gun was used and a .25-caliber shell casing was recovered at the scene.

Defense lawyer Felix Gilroy said his client voluntarily turned over the weapon. The former cop was released on $25,000 bail and is due back in court Jan. 19 to face charges of assault, weapons possession and felony criminal mischief.

From Various Sources

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gambino Capo is Shot on Staten Island

Friends of Ours: Gambino Crime Family, Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine Sciandra, John Gotti, Junior Gotti, Ronald Carlucci, Michael Viga

A reputed Gambino capo was shot in the gut in Staten Island during a window-smashing, bat-swinging brawl with two Bonanno thugs and a retired NYPD officer who attacked him because they thought his brother groped the cop's daughter, police said yesterday.

The Gambinos are "screaming for blood" over the attack on powerful capo Carmine Sciandra at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday outside the Top Tomato produce market, which he owns with his brothers.

Authorities fear a mob war could erupt because the brazen attack was not approved by other bosses. "This was a renegade act," a police source said. "The Gambinos are going to want some retribution."

Cops identified the suspects as Patrick Balsamo, a former city cop; Ronald Carlucci, 62, a "made" member of the rival Bonanno crime family; and mob associate Michael Viga, 59, of Staten Island. Balsamo allegedly brought along the two men as muscle to help him when he confronted Sciandra because his brother, Sal, allegedly groped his 18-year-old daughter, who worked at the market.

According to police sources, Balsamo smashed some windows at Top Tomato. In the ensuing melee, someone shot Sciandra in the belly. Balsamo and his two sidekicks allegedly fled in two sedans with three bat-wielding guys running after them from market. Balsamo and his two cohorts were arrested without incident after police spotted them at East Broadway and Shadow Lane down the block from Viga's house.

Sciandra was listed in serious condition. "He's going to need another surgery," said Top Tomato's lawyer, Joseph Benefante. "The bullet is lodged in his muscle tissue." Sciandra was once considered a dark-horse candidate to lead the family after the late "Teflon Don" John Gotti grew ill in prison and son John A. "Junior" Gotti was also jailed.

Balsamo served only eight years as a cop before retiring with a disability pension. A grand jury cleared him of wrongdoing for his role in the 1990 shooting of a disturbed man who rushed at him and his partner with a knife. Balsamo was charged with criminal mischief in Wednesday's brawl.

The two Bonanno thugs were charged with assault and weapons possession police did not specify which was the triggerman.

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