Monday, January 30, 2006

Electronic Arts And It's Godfather

When it appeared 3 years ago, Mafia was trying to fight back the Grang Theft Auto 3 mania through the atmosphere and story specific to the golden age of the mob, superior graphics and a stinky level of difficulty. Later on, Chicago 1930 was imagined as a RTT tackling the same "illegal" theme. Unfortunately, both games kind of screwed up. Now, EA, eager to take advantage of the concept of law-challenged boys, pulled out The Godfather from the archives, convinced Marlon Brando to borrow his image and his voice (or so they say), and threatens to unleash the Italian terror on our monitors. Ladies and gentleman - The Godfather
The Godfather
A mob grows in Brooklyn

EA's Godfather will (fortunately) deviate from the original story, and will focus on the life, attitude and ascension of a punk who has just entered the Corleone clan. Starting from the lowest level, the character will spend the period between 1945 and 1955 in a nice atmosphere of fights, robberies and racketeering, until it will finish going up the hierarchy ladder and will establish his own crime-oriented family. The action will respect, to some extent, the storyline imagined by Mario Puzo and brought to the big screen by Francis Ford Coppola, just enough so that it will allow the main character to do whatever he please in the city, but also take advantage of the cut-scenes, dialogues and other perks from the movie that has already become a legend.

Welcome to La Famiglia

Vincenzo, I'm glad you're here. I've been keeping an eye on you and I think that it's about time you joined the real world. You know (desperate yells outside), I might soon have an opening in our organization for you - (a few gunshots then silence) - in fact, that place has just become available. I trust that you'll do your job well, not like (keeping a moment of silence) our former employee, who just disappeared in a very tragic event. But remember: respect is the most important thing. If you don't know what that is, listen to DJ Bobo, he'll give you a clue. Come on, get out of here, and may the force be with you!
These being said -
The insurance agent

Your first duty as a mobster is to convince the people owning small businesses in the neighborhood to pay up for some so called "protection". For the beginners, this "protection fee" is some sort of universal insurance, which includes life, body integrity, the safety of your property and a lot of other things the good fellas will point out to those who refuse to cooperate. The inventory of things you can use in order to make people see things your way is quite varied, and it contains just about any element from the already very popular Mafia repertoire, starting from more or less obvious threats to quite serious beatings (the kind of beating only experienced mobsters know how to apply). Any rookie mafia man will do things as he sees fit, but look out: The NPCs react differently to each stimulus. A yellow-bellied barber will cough up the dough after just a few serious threats, while a cheeky butcher will great you with his rifle if you just show him your new baseball bat, without talking to him first. If you do your job right, you gain everyone's respect, and this is the most important thing. As you get more respect points and increase your reputation, naturally, you get promoted, and gain access to more options. A mobster known and respected in the community will also be able to corrupt the local policemen. The system is quite the same, from a nice chat to a good beating, with the associated intermediate steps. Some coppers are eagerly waiting for the paycheck offered by The Godfather, Inc, others have the weird idea that they are Kevin Kostner in "The Untouchables" and require a partial or total corrective action. Once you've calmed them down, the coppers will become your best friends, overlooking all your crimes in the area (well, don't push the limit too far, cause your reputation might decrease and you'll have to start over, or the Godfather will "take care" of you, for good). Moreover, if you've disturbed some of the boys from the other crime families and you "just happen" to meet them in a crossfire, the long arm of the law will come to your aid. We have to say that respect is truly related to the mission's success, but the game says that this is only the beginning. The respect points you get also depend on the manner in which you get the job done. There's not much respect involved in killing an enemy from a distance. A bullet between the eyes shot from a close range, a guy being thrown out on the window, disfiguring somebody with a piece of pipe, these are the methods of a serious mobster.
Stairway to - The Godfather, not heaven

If you've secured your starting area and you're getting bored, perhaps it's about time to start making some trouble. Slowly, but surely, you're extending your territory and entering that of the rival families. You start intercepting their shipments of various goods, empty some of their warehouses, all you need is the mood to do it, because the New York rebuilt by EA offers plenty of juicy targets. Quite obviously, any transgression will lead to aggression, and, as you become more famous and hated by others, the enemies will send teams of "psychologists" in order to calm you down with an overdose of lead. As far as we know up until now, it is recommended that expansion should not take the brutal and simple form of a medieval war, because the competition will have the same kind of answer in store for you. The combination of diplomacy, bribes and violence may bring a whole lot more. In any case, if you've chosen a path, you must stick to it till the end. A war against one of the other families must be finished, one way or the other. Otherwise, the AI promises to rebuild its forces, organize a cute little vendetta and create even bigger problems than in the first place. Your worries will be briefly put to rest as the headquarters of the rival family is completely "cleaned out". They disappear off the map, their territories, income and fame are now yours. Then, you start over, because there are three more families competing for a place in the Obituaries column from the New York Times.
When the fist meets the face

I was talking a bit earlier about the methods employed by the Mafia to make somebody see things their way, and I don't think I've said all I had to say on the matter. Well, the gameplay will offer you the sadistic pleasure that lies in any human mind. Each fight's equation will be solved by applying the "fist to the face" or "kick to the groin" theorems, the strangling method or the law of gravity, the patron of all jumpers, volunteer or less. In case math is not your strong point, you can get the help of such items like bats, crowbars, pipes and any other heavy objects. The cherry on this killer cake is the arsenal, and the way in which it can be used. Shotguns, pistols and the famous Tommy-guns, as well as a few Molotov cocktails to heat up the party, that's what you'll be able to use in order to inflict all sorts of nasty things to your opponents. Besides the armory, the producers have also added the concept of "Pressure Point Targeting", which allows you to target a certain specific area from your opponent's anatomy. The counter fans will probably choose the already passe' "headshot", but I hope that The Godfather will have some henchmen with a little more imagination, ready to take down their enemy with a smart shot to the knee, disarming him and leaving him there, screaming, in pain.

If it's Marlon Brando -

- then there are also Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen) and James Caan (Sonny Corleone), as well as 20 other actors, (artificially) impersonating the characters from the movie. Unfortunately, Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), has rejected the very consistent offer from Electronic Arts, being too busy with Scarface: The World Is Yours from Vivendi. However, with such an army of characters from the original movie, EA has stopped at nothing to make the figures in its game as realistic as possible. The gaming environment will get an interactivity shot, and from what we can see, the graphics manages to recreate the New York of the 50's perfectly.

Hidden from curious eyes, Mark Weingartner (the author of The Godfather Returns) plays the part of the consigliere, sorry, consultant to the story, and Bill Conti is trying to put together something that vaguely resembles a soundtrack.

The only thing missing are the players, but there will be plenty of them once the game is launched near the end of March. Until then, the only thing we can do is watch the Godfather movies, because a little bit of Italian accent is good for a wannabe mobster. Capisci?

Thanks to Jack the Ripper

Retaliation Charged by Mafia Attorney

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

The longtime criminal attorney for former Cumberland County judge and convicted felon Robert Cochonour wants to leave the case because his representation of an alleged Chicago mob boss is consuming all of his time. "I'm gone," attorney Rick Halprin said Friday in Toledo. "I have no more time to be dealing with matters in this district." Halprin, of Chicago, has represented Cochonour since 2002, when Cochonour resigned as Cumberland County resident judge and soon after admitted to stealing from an estate under his care.

Halprin's other clients include Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, a reputed mob leader whom the FBI took into custody Jan. 13 in suburban Chicago. Following a lengthy federal investigation of unsolved mob assassinations, Lombardo and 13 others were indicted last April, according to the Associated Press. On Jan. 18 Lombardo pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy.

On Friday in Toledo, Halprin said the judge in the Lombardo case set a "very early" trial date. Halprin also noted that some of the current issues related to Cochonour - namely real estate matters - are outside of his expertise. "I'm not competent to handle these matters," Halprin said. "And the results, as far as I'm concerned, are preordained, and I'm sure (Cochonour's co-counsel Michael) Collins can handle them." But probate Judge Stephen Pacey indicated Halprin's departure from the case may not be so easy. "You haven't withdrawn yet," said Pacey.

Halprin, in turn, accused Pacey of being vengeful because Halprin has accused the judge of malfeasance in several cases involving Cochonour. "I regard it as retaliatory," Halprin said.

Thanks to Nathaniel West

Friday, January 27, 2006

God Vs. the Mafia

Friends of ours: Michael Franzese, Colombo Crime Family, John "Sonny" Franzese

For fans of The Godfather and Goodfellas, it may be an offer you can't refuse: an invitation to dine with an ex-Mafia don. Lexington's Porter Memorial Baptist Church officials predict 1,000 men will pay $7 each to eat a Fazoli's Italian dinner tonight with Michael Franzese, a former high-ranking member of the Colombo crime family. Afterward, Franzese, 53, will speak about his journey from prison to the pulpit and the public-speaking circuit.

Trent Snyder, a Porter Memorial minister and a former Lexington police officer, says Franzese's story proves God's power to transform lives. "You can be a sinner and involved in the worst crimes in life and if you truly surrender your life, Christ can turn that around and use that to glorify him," he said.

Franzese's criminal past is well-documented. His 1985 indictment on criminal conspiracy charges made the front page of The New York Times. In 1986, Fortune Magazine ranked him No. 18 on its list of "50 biggest Mafia bosses." Life Magazine, in 1987, described him as "one of the biggest money earners in the history of the Mafia." Before his 1985 arrest, he allegedly helped steal more than $1 billion in gasoline tax revenues. When he wasn't stealing millions, he produced B movies such as Knights of the City and Mausoleum.

After his conviction on federal charges, Franzese cut a deal with the feds. He spent seven years behind bars. Law enforcement officials were skeptical that Franzese would ever give up crime, and when he became a born-again Christian, many viewed it as just another scam. "I carry a lot of baggage and it's always going to be there," Franzese said in a telephone interview. "People have every right to be skeptical." But he says he has truly changed.

The pivotal moment was in the mid-1980s, when he fell in love with an evangelical Christian who danced in one of his movies. "She had a tremendous effect on me," he said. "She planted the seed, and there's no doubt God used her as a catalyst to turn my life around." He married the woman, Cammy Garcia, after divorcing his previous wife. They have been married for 20 years.

Unlike most underworld figures, Franzese has never kept a low profile. He turned down chances to be in the witness protection program and welcomed the chance to appear on TV news shows. His autobiography, Quitting the Mob, was published in 1992. His latest book, Blood Covenant, was released in 2003. In addition to ministry, Franzese speaks out against gambling and meets with National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball players to warn them of the risks. He has also spoken on gambling at about 150 college campuses across America, including the University of Kentucky.

Quitting the mob was a risky move. "My dad (mobster John "Sonny" Franzese) didn't speak to me for 10 years," he says. There were death threats. But Franzese said he survived by trusting God and refusing to squeal. "I never put anybody in prison. At one point in time, they realized I wasn't a threat."

As he talks about his faith, Franzese mentions the Apostle Paul, another tough guy who preached and spent time behind bars. "It just shows you," Franzese said. "Nobody's beyond redemption and fulfilling God's purpose."

'Mafia Cops' prosecutors drop two murders

Friends of ours: John Gotti, Bartolomeo "Bobby" Boriello, Luchese Crime Family, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Louis Eppolito, Stephen Caracappa

With less than a month before trial, Brooklyn federal prosecutors slimmed down the indictment against the "Mafia Cops" by dropping two murders that were part of the racketeering conspiracy charged against the ex-cops. A new indictment unsealed Thursday showed that prosecutors, seeking to simplify the trial, have decided to weed out the 1990 murder of union official James Bishop and the 1991 killing of one-time John Gotti crony Bartolomeo "Bobby" Boriello.

Former NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito, 57, and Stephen Caracappa, 64, have been charged with playing roles in as many as 10 homicides, including some while they were police officers, for members of the Luchese crime family. Some of the murders were believed to have been part of a scheme by former Luchese boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso to avenge a foiled assassination plot against him.

Bishop, an official of Painters Union Local 37, was killed because he was believed by the mob to have been an informant, said prosecutors. Investigators said Boriello was killed after Eppolito and Caracappa provided information to Casso that the Gambino soldier had threatened him. Eppolito and Caracappa, who have denied the charges against them, are slated to go to trial Feb. 21 before Judge Jack B. Weinstein in Brooklyn federal district court.

The Bishop and Boriello homicides were dropped from the case to streamline the prosecution witness list. Last year Weinstein expressed doubts that he would allow prosecutors Mitra Hormozi and Robert Henoch to call as many as 100 witnesses.

As many as 10 potential witnesses now don't have to be called, said the source, who added that prosecutors will try to introduce evidence of the two killings as uncharged crimes if Weinstein allows it.

"Our defense is that Steve Caracappa is a hero, not a criminal," defense attorney Edward Hayes said Thursday. Bruce Cutler, who is defending Eppolito, couldn't be reached for comment.

Thanks to Anthony DeStefano

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Corruption Figures' Sentences Cut

Friends of ours: Michael Spano Sr.
Friends of mine: Betty Loren-Maltese, Michael Spano Jr., Charles Schneider

The son of a reputed mob boss and a former lawyer, both convicted four years ago of helping to bilk Cicero out of millions of dollars, have won lighter prison sentences.

U.S. District Judge John Grady reduced Michael Spano Jr.'s sentence by 14 months, to five years and four months. Former attorney Charles Schneider's sentence was cut by two years, to five years and three months.

The two men were convicted of racketeering in 2002 along with former Cicero town president Betty Loren-Maltese; Spano's father, alleged Cicero mob boss Michael Spano, Sr.; and two other co-defendants for using a bogus insurance company to bilk taxpayers out of more than $10 million from 1992 to 1996.

A federal appeals court in September ruled that the defendants should be resentenced because Grady, who presided over the three-month trial, made an error in imposing the original sentences.

Prosecutors argued Tuesday for a longer sentence for Spano and no change for Schneider, but Grady reduced both terms, saying the original sentences placed too much blame on the men for their roles in the scam.

Grady resentenced Loren-Maltese on Monday to eight years in prison - the same as her original sentence.

Ben Kingsley associated with the Mob

OSCAR winner Sir Ben Kingsley is to star in the final series of The Sopranos - as himself. The 62-year-old was revealing nothing about the plot of the US Mafia series yesterday, only telling the BBC that the cast were a pleasure to work with.

James Gandolfini, who plays the head of the New Jersey mob family, was also keeping very quiet about the series. He told reporters: "I don't know what's going to happen and I don't want to know." But the show's creator David Chase told a US paper: "Ben Kingsley will star and he plays Ben Kingsley."

Yorkshire born Kingsley played English gangster Don Logan in the critically acclaimed movie Sexy Beast in 2001. He also starred as mobster Meyer Lanksy in the children's spoof gangster film Bugsy in 1991. He won a Best Actor Oscar for playing Ghandi in the 1982 film directed by Richard Attenborough.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Apology Doesn't Sway Judge

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

Betty Loren-Maltese apologized in court Monday for allowing corruption to occur while on her watch as the former town president of the Chicago suburb of Cicero. But a federal judge determined her apology did not go far enough and resentenced her on a racketeering conviction to eight years in prison, the same jail term he doled out three years ago.

Loren-Maltese, 56, and five co-defendants were convicted of racketeering in 2002 for using a bogus insurance company to bilk taxpayers out of more than $10 million from 1992 to 1996.

A federal appeals court in September ruled that Loren-Maltese and her co-defendants should be resentenced because U.S. District Judge John F. Grady, who presided over the three-month trial, made an error in imposing the original sentences.

The appeals court opinion said that after Grady determined the amount of money Loren-Maltese and the others swindled from Cicero taxpayers to be $10.6 million, the judge wrongly rounded down the number to less than $10 million.

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

Among the others convicted with Loren-Maltese were alleged Cicero mob boss Michael Spano Sr. and Emil Schullo, one-time head of the Cicero police department. Schullo was scheduled to be resentenced today.

Monday, January 23, 2006

St. Valentine's Day Massacre Reenactment

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Bugs Moran

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre is the crime that forever defined Chicago in the imagination of the world. On the morning of February 14th, Al Capone sent a Valentine to "Bugs" Moran and the north side mob ... a massacre leaving seven of Moran's men dead. Since Tommy Gun's Garage is Chicago's only south side speakeasy, and therefore part of the Capone gang, Tommy Gun's will reenact the massacre for audiences on February 9th - 14th.

This is not a romantic evening. After the dinner and show, guests are invited to watch what happened that morning at the garage of the SMC Cartage Company, 2122 North Clark Street. Vito, the MC, narrates the story, giving audiences a history of why this happened and who the seven unfortunate victims were.

Actors portray each of the seven victims, who believed that they were at the garage to pick up a shipment of hijacked Old Log Cabin Whiskey. After all the men "arrive" two of Capone's men pretend to be police officers and line up all the men to be handcuffed. In walk two more men and they all open fire on the actors. To achieve realism, each "victim" is equipped with blood bags that burst when the gun is fired.

This is Tommy Gun's 19th year reenacting the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Call 773-RAT-A-TAT for prices and reservations. Tommy Gun's Garage is Chicago's longest running audience interactive dinner theater show. A night at Tommy Gun's is a night in Prohibition-era Chicago, complete with singing, dancing, and musical comedy starring Vito and his gangsters and flappers. The evening of the massacres include the same dinner packages and show.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

6 Years in Prison for Embarrassed Riccitelli

Friends of ours: Victor Riccitelli, Gambino Crime Family, Anthony Megale

Prosecutors said he should have spent his old age planting gardens or visiting his grandchildren, but instead 72-year-old Victor Riccitelli was running gambling operations for the mob. Friday, a federal judge sentenced him to 6 years in prison for racketeering, flatly rejecting his argument that prosecutors sought to embarrass him by releasing transcripts of his conversations with an FBI informant.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton also found "somewhat preposterous" the argument that, when the convicted mobster was recorded discussing his Mafia induction ceremony and the hierarchy of the Gambino crime family, he claimed to have been repeating things he read in a book or saw on the HBO drama "The Sopranos."

Riccitelli, who has 29 convictions dating to the 1950s, became one of the most colorful characters in the landmark Mafia case federal prosecutors brought in 2004. He allegedly moved bulk cocaine - a fact prosecutors said he hid from his mob superiors - and was caught on tape negotiating deals while receiving treatment for colon cancer. "He started chemo in January of '04 and sold a kilo (of cocaine) in February of '04," Arterton said, later adding, "Mr. Riccitelli is a man of great stamina, it would seem."

He was also caught on tape trying to arrange a kidnapping, surprising prosecutors who said most criminals slow down in their old age. "Spend time with the grandkids, plant a garden - something other than plan a kidnapping," prosecutor Mike Gustafson said.

Riccitelli, who is already serving 13 years in prison on federal drug charges, told Arterton he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time." "All I know how to do is gamble. I had no education," Riccitelli said. "I leave my faith up to you."

While all of Riccitelli's co-defendants, including reputed Mafia underboss Anthony Megale, struck plea deals with prosecutors, Riccitelli became a thorn in the side of the Justice Department. He rejected plea deals, accused the FBI of selectively recording him and claimed no knowledge of the Gambino family. Only on the eve of trial, as prosecutors prepared to make public hours of taped conversations between Riccitelli and the informant, did Riccitelli admit his Mafia membership and plead guilty.

Soon after, prosecutors shocked Riccitelli when they released transcripts of his conversations anyway, revealing that he talked freely about the secretive world of the Gambino family. Riccitelli accused the Justice Department of overstepping its bounds and intentionally embarrassing him. "It's turning into something personal against Mr. Riccitelli or using him as a scapegoat to put on a dog-and-pony show against, as your honor calls it, the Mafia," attorney John Einhorn said.

Arterton agreed that he could serve the new prison sentence at the same time as his drug sentence but said she did not accept his argument of prosecutorial misconduct or his renewed efforts to distance himself from the crime family.

Reputed mobster, Schweihs, blames court absence on ill heart

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

Alleged mob hit man Frank "the German" Schweihs denied Wednesday that he refused to come to federal court in Chicago the day before as scheduled. Instead Schweihs said, he was unable to come to court because he was under the care of two doctors at the federal jail downtown. "They had me down in the dispensary with all kinds of wires hooked up to me. I was having trouble with my heart," he said.

Schweihs and 11 other men, including alleged Outfit bosses Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and James Marcello, are charged with a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors say was based in murder and extortion. Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before he was captured in December. During both of his court appearances in Chicago, he has complained of health problems.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Prosecutors deny mobster's "embarrassment" claim

Friends of ours: Victor Riccitelli

Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that they had every right to release transcripts of a Bridgeport mobster's incriminating conversations about the Mafia last month, rejecting the mobster's claim that they were trying to embarrass him. Victor Riccitelli, 72, who faces sentencing for racketeering Friday, broke the mob's honor code in October, admitting his Mafia membership and pleading guilty rather than have secret FBI tapes played in court.

Prosecutors surprised Riccitelli in December, however, when they included details of his conversations in a memo placed in the public court file. The conversations included descriptions of the Mafia induction ceremony and the mob's leadership structure.

Riccitelli accused prosecutors of intentionally embarrassing him and asked a judge to dismiss the case. Prosecutors rejected that argument Wednesday, saying they were just trying to prove that Riccitelli lied under oath when he said his conversations about the Mafia were just things he had read in a book. If the judge wants more evidence, prosecutors said, they're happy to play the secret recordings in open court and discuss them then.

Joey's a load of laughs ... or buckshot

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs, Paul Schiro
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt, Chris Spina

It must be difficult to tell jokes while you're wearing leg irons and an orange federal jumpsuit, facing the possibility you could spend the rest of your life sharing prison space with some Colombian drug dealer, a blue tattoo covering half his face. But Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 77, couldn't help but be amusing in federal court Tuesday after spending nine months as a fugitive from the FBI until his arrest late last week.

He pleaded not-guilty to a charge of conspiring in the 1974 shotgun murder of government witness Daniel Seifert. Then U.S. District Judge James Zagel asked Lombardo if a doctor had examined him. "I didn't see my doctor since nine months ago," said Lombardo. "I was--what do they call it? I was unavailable."

That got laughs. Even Zagel smiled. The criminal defense lawyers representing other Outfit figures in the federal government's Operation Family Secrets prosecution laughed too. One of them slapped Lombardo hard on the back.

Though he's pushing 80, Lombardo's runty and bandy legged in his jumpsuit, suggesting he had an active youth. His pantlegs are short, the cuffs rolled up several times, and he leaned on one foot, then the other, the leg irons connecting his ankles. And though he was joking and polite and cast as a colorful rogue, you could see something in him still.

You could see it in his back and in the way he folded his fingers together and held the hands up to his face while the judge was speaking, how he rubbed his lips with his thumbs, listening, eyes moving quickly in his head. Here's what you could see: You could still see the ape in the man.

We asked Jack O'Rourke, a former FBI agent, what was so scary about the Clown. Jack was polite but sounded as if he thought it was a silly question. What was so scary about Lombardo? "Well, he had absolute power and he could get you killed, that's basically it," O'Rourke said.

I've heard that sometimes, if Lombardo's really in a clowning mood, he'll take a photograph of himself and cut his own head off, then stick his photograph head onto another picture, perhaps some gorgeous supermodel in a calendar or an athlete on a poster. That's funny, isn't it? Or he'll point to a fish on the wall, some bass that got caught and mounted, and he'll say, "Hey, he wouldn't get caught if he didn't open his mouth." That's funny too.

One of my favorite Lombardo jokes took place after he had served time in prison for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) and another conviction for plotting to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino. In 1992 he took an ad in the Tribune and other papers saying he wasn't a mobster anymore:"If anyone hears my name used in connection with criminal activity, please notify the FBI, local police, and my parole officer, Ron Kumke."

At that time, he was being driven around town on the taxpayer's dime by a $30 per hour city Streets and San foreman, Chris Spina. Chris, or Christy, had a trucking company, Spingee Trucking, and that firm received contracts in the mayor's Hired Truck program, and Spina's trucks may even have had engines. Former City Inspector General Alexander Vroustouris made all of this public in 1993 and tried to get Spina fired. But that's not the funny part.

The funny part is that after Vroustouris moved to fire him, and exposed the trucks and the Lombardo connection, the Illinois Appellate Court reinstated Spina and he got a raise, and Spina only recently retired with a full city pension. So Spina didn't get fired. It was Vroustouris who got fired later.

Then there was the time five years ago that I went looking for Lombardo at a nice little restaurant on Grand Avenue with my first legman, named Slim the Legman.

We were there to ask Lombardo about William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, who was just indicted and who would later plead guilty to running an Outfit-sanctioned jewelry theft ring.

One of Hanhardt's partners in the ring, Paul Schiro, has been indicted in the Operation Family Secrets case that has also indicted Lombardo, reputed hit man Frank "The German" Schweihs and others.

Lombardo was in the restaurant, and he had a gold St. Christopher medallion around his neck.

Sitting with Slim, I took out my notebook and tape recorder, to let Lombardo know I was coming over. He snapped his fingers and bus boys ran over to shovel his food into takeout containers. Then he left.

I asked the manger why Lombardo left so quickly. The manager said it wasn't Lombardo.

"No. That was Mr. Irwin Goldman. I think it was, yeah, Mr. Goldman," he said.

Irwin Goldman wearing a St. Christopher medallion? Are you kidding?

"You're funny," the manager said. "That's funny."

But I'm not the funny one. I keep hearing how Lombardo is funny. I'm sure he's a riot.

I'm just wondering how funny he'd be with a shotgun in his hands.

Thanks to John Kass

Joey the Clown turns court into a media circus

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Jimmy "The Man" Marcello, Vincent "Jimmy Boy" Mosccio, Guido Cicero Pelini, Al Capone

The joint was jumping and it was all for Joey. I got to federal court early Tuesday knowing there would be a crowd. Within minutes, in came my Sun-Times colleague Mark Brown, a raft of other newspaper reporters, followed by the Associated Press, WBBM's Newsradio 780, three courtroom artists and every TV station in town. We had all come to get a good look at the notorious Chicago mob kingpin who had outwitted the FBI for nine embarrassing months.

When he was finally grabbed by a team of agents in an alley in Elmwood Park on Friday night, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo sported long hair and bushy beard. This infamous federal fugitive looked like a cross between Howard Hughes and one of the Smith Brothers of cough drop fame. But by the time The Clown was escorted into court Tuesday morning, his beard had been shaved and his hair had been cropped by a prison barber. But that wasn't what was so striking.

Joey "The Clown" Lombardo is tiny. A little chunky around the midsection perhaps but a tiny man nonetheless. At 77, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and leg irons, he shuffled into court appearing almost dazed or bewildered. He wore a goofy little smile as he promised U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel that he would tell him "nuttin' but the truth." And got a laugh from the gallery when Zagel asked had he seen a doctor recently. "I was supposed to see him nine months ago," said The Clown, "but I was, ah, what do they call it, I was unavailable."

It was nine months ago the feds indicted Lombardo and 13 others in the landmark "Family Secrets" case that spans more than 40 years and encompasses 18 old, cold, mob murder cases as well as gambling, extortion, conspiracy and racketeering.

Right now, a number of the defendants are being held in the federal lockup downtown but are not allowed to see or talk to one another. Joe Lopez, attorney for the imprisoned defendant Frank Calabrese Sr., complained to Zagel that such isolation is a hardship for the men because they "can't go to church together or the law library together."

Lombardo's attorney, Rich Halprin, wasn't about to join Lopez in any effort to reunite the boys behind bars. "Joey has stated on the record he doesn't know the other defendants," Halprin said. Of course not.

The Clown, by the way, is broke. Busted with about $3,000 in cash, beyond that the cupboard is allegedly bare and so Lombardo is asking the judge to appoint Halprin as his federal public defender. Anybody who thinks Lombardo isn't smart doesn't know what they're talking about. And they haven't watched him as he whispers in his lawyer's ear. Then and only then do you see his eyes harden and narrow. And his bewildered "Gosh, I'm just not sure what's going on" demeanor replaced by an ice-cold intensity.

In all, I counted 11 defense attorneys crowding around the judge Tuesday. Like Halprin, many of them are well-known in their own right, expensive and experienced when it comes to not answering reporter's questions. Longtime attorney Arthur Nasser comes to mind. Who of the defendants, I asked him Tuesday, is the boss of the Chicago Outfit? Is Joey "The Clown" running it or, say, Jimmy "The Man" Marcello, another of the defendants? "I don't know what you mean by 'running it'?" Nasser deadpanned.

The last time I talked to Nasser was in 1994. I had just dropped by the Forest Park home of another of his clients, Vincent "Jimmy Boy" Mosccio, to ask if he would do an interview. Jimmy Boy was in his late 60s. He and a partner, Guido Cicero Pelini, who was 70-something, were reputed to be "The Pineapple Bandits." That is to say, they dealt in large quantities of merchandise known as "stuff that falls off the truck." These elderly mob cartage thieves managed to make off with about $7 million in cases of Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner, Drano, and Dole Pineapple. Hence, "The Pineapple Bandits."

While I sat in Mosccio's living room, he dialed his attorney, Mr. Nasser, to advise him of my visit which, after that call, abruptly ended. It wasn't too long after that that Mosccio and Pelini went off to federal prison.

I recount this little tale as just one, small example of how old mobsters don't retire. And from the days of Al Capone to the present, nobody, not Eliot Ness, not even U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, has put them out of business. At least, not yet.

Thanks to Carol Marin

Lombardo looks like a new man - but he's still The Clown

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

One picture would probably be worth more to you than the 800 words to follow. Even if I wrote an extra 200 words to make it an even thousand, that wouldn't solve the problem. You want to know what reputed mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo looks like these days, and I'm no substitute for the work of a photographer. But cameras aren't allowed in federal courtrooms, and it was the chance to see him for myself that drew me to the Dirksen Federal Building on Tuesday morning. So let me first report that, no, Lombardo doesn't look anything like that photo they snapped of him in a federal lockup after his Friday night arrest.Captured Lombardo

The unkempt gray beard and whiskers that he grew during nine months on the lam have already been shaved clean, revealing a 77-year-old man who looks much more like the character who once famously hid his face behind a copy of the Sun-Times that he'd doctored with an eyehole cutout.

Lombardo's full head of hair is still dark and bushy. He's got the same short, muscular build, the short sleeves of his orange prison jumpsuit revealing forearms that are still formidable.

The eyeglasses have changed. Lombardo's got wire frames to replace the big lenses that always look so 1970s in the few photos and videotapes that are available from his heyday in the upper echelon of Chicago organized crime.

"The Clown" had proved elusive long before he went underground as the feds came calling last April with an arrest warrant. (And I must add that I don't see any resemblance to the guy on the bicycle, you remember, the poor mope from Lombardo's Grand Avenue neighborhood who our friends at Brand X mistakenly identified on the front page as an accused mobster.)

As long as we're relying on your imagination, forget Friday's Saddam Hussein look-alike photo altogether and conjure up one of those images of Lombardo from the early 1980s, then mentally run him through one of those computer programs that adds age lines, wrinkles and jowls. But keep one other feature: that mischievous twinkle in the corner of his eyes that always helped explain how somebody with a reputation as a stone-cold killer could have his particular nickname.

Lombardo clowned around just a little Tuesday with U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who had asked about Lombardo's health and whether he'd seen his doctor as part of the routine inquiry before taking his initial "not guilty" plea. "I was supposed to see him nine months ago, but I was, ah, what do they call it - I was unavailable," Lombardo said with a smile.

That was the only time Lombardo intentionally drew a laugh, although much of the audience also got a chuckle when he was sworn in and promised to tell "nuttin but da troot."

Lombardo gave several indications that he was having trouble hearing Zagel, leaning in closer and turning his head when the judge was speaking.

He also peered quizically around the courtroom at the spectators in the gallery and at the lawyers of his many co-defendants. But Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said his client was neither confused nor agitated when I suggested otherwise in a question.

Halprin said Lombardo just didn't recognize all the lawyers for his alleged co-conspirators, who by coincidence were scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a regular status hearing. Halprin said Lombardo denies knowing all but one of his mob co-defendants, too.

I liked the fact that the FBI caught up to Lombardo in Elmwood Park, which is close to my home turf. The agents haven't given us any details on how long Lombardo had been in Elmwood Park, let alone how he passed the time, but I like to picture him slipping into the back room at Gene's Deli for lunch or sending his buddy to Johnnie's for a beef sandwich, except for Friday's when he'd get pepper 'n egg. Or maybe Lombardo would visit Caputo's on Harlem early in the morning to shop for his own groceries, and if anybody recognized him, they'd just wink.

If he wanted to come downtown, he'd just ride Metra, nobody being in the habit of looking for mob fugitives sitting across from them on the train.

I don't mean for the tone of this to minimize Lombardo's alleged crimes - which haven't exactly been spelled out with much specificity to this point - although I expect that to resolve itself now that he's in custody. (He must be forgetting about the murder charges against him.)

As he left the courtroom, Lombardo was engaging in some sort of banter with the federal agents who would escort him back to jail. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but they were smiling.

Thanks to Mark Brown

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Supreme Court Rejects Mobster's Appeal

Friends of ours: Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo
Friends of mine: Leonard Pelullo

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to decide whether defendants should get new trials when prosecutors withhold evidence. The court rebuffed an appeal by a reputed mob associate convicted of looting a small New Jersey printing company's pension fund.

In the 1990s, Leonard Pelullo, a Miami businessman, was investigated by federal authorities in Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Federal officials raided a large warehouse in Miami, where they seized 904 boxes, 114 file cabinets and 10 file drawers containing documents from Pelullo's 25 companies. Before his trial, prosecutors insisted they had not found any documents that would have helped Pelullo's defense to the New Jersey charges.

He was convicted and sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison in 1997 for siphoning $4.2 million from Compton Press' pension and retirement funds after he took control of the firm and put it out of business. Pelullo's lawyers later discovered what a federal judge described as "a mass" of evidence that could have helped Pelullo contradict several government witnesses. The judge ordered a new trial for Pelullo. But the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed, saying prosecutors had given Pelullo and his lawyers numerous chances to review the documents. The appellate court also said Pelullo should've know what was in the records because they were his.

Pelullo also was convicted in Philadelphia on fraud and racketeering charges. Mob informant Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, a former underboss of the Philadelphia Mafia, testified in that case that Pelullo was an associate of his uncle, convicted mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo.

Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo

Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo Joseph 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.

Lombardo Clowns around in Court

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Sr., James "Little Jimmy" Marcello

After nine months in hiding, a clean-shaven Joey "the Clown" Lombardo appeared in federal court Tuesday wearing leg irons and offering wisecracks about his time on the lam. The reputed mob boss, who was captured Friday in Elmwood Park, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy that includes accusations of murder and extortion.

Asked if he had seen a physician recently, Lombardo's response to the judge to U.S. District Judge James Zagel was true to his nickname. "I didn't see my doctor since nine months ago. I was - what do they call it? I was unavailable," he said. Meanwhile, Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, requested, meanwhile, that the court appoint him to represent Lombardo because the reputed Outfit kingpin doesn't have the means to pay for his own attorney, he said. "He's been living off Social Security for years," Halprin said in an interview.

A former federal agent who investigated Lombardo expressed doubt about that. "That's another ruse - that's Joey the Clown. The guy was definitely making big-time bucks when he was still active," said Lee Flosi, a former FBI agent who supervised the organized crime task force in the early 1990s. Lombardo was part of the "ruling group" of Chicago's mob, Flosi said. "As far as being the boss, I don't think that was ever settled," he said.

Halprin said that during Lombardo's many years on parole for previous convictions, he has filed financial affidavits swearing he is on a fixed income. "He lived in a basement," Halprin said, referring to Lombardo's West Ohio Street home, not his location while on the lam.

Lombardo, 77, was dressed in the a standard orange jumpsuit of issued to federal jail inmates, Lombardo, 77, and had shaved a the thick beard he had grown while on the run. He joked in the courtroom lockup that the his fresh look was meant to impress a female deputy U.S. marshal assigned to guard him.

In court, Lombardo initially appeared confused, glancing around at lawyers for his 11 co-defendants, the packed gallery in the benches behind him, and the jury box filled with reporters. But despite some difficulty hearing questions put to him by U.S. District Judge James Zagel, Lombardo answered lucidly. (Does every reputed mobster lose their hearing?)

Lombardo is one of 14 men charged in a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors allege involved 18 unsolved Outfit murders. Two of Lombardo's co-defendants have died, leaving 12 to face the charges. Along with Frank "the German" Schweihs, Lombardo is charged specifically with the 1974 slaying of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman who had been scheduled to testify against him and others in a Teamsters pension fraud case. Halprin has said that Lombardo was in a police station, reporting stolen property, when Seifert was killed.

Schweihs, who was captured in December after 8 months as being a fugitive for eight months, refused to appear in court Tuesday after pleading not guilty January 7. Zagel said he will force Schweihs to appear and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. For his part, Lombardo seemed in good spirits during the Tuesday's hearing. He raised his right hand and promised to tell "nothin' but the truth."

He told Zagel he is under care for hardening of the arteries but didn't offer a long list of health woes like some of his co-defendants. Apart from telling Zagel that he was a high school graduate, the rest of Lombardo's statements were limited to yes and or no answers responses.

A federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets" led to the arrests of Lombardo and other Outfit figures, including Frank Calabrese Sr. and James Marcello. Included among the murders allegedly connected to the defendants are the famed 1986 beating deaths of Tony and Michael Spilotro. Federal agents believe Tony Spilotro, a mob enforcer who ran the Outfit's operations in Las Vegas, was slain for drawing too much heat. (This is one of the few articles that does not mention that Joe Pesci played this role in the movie Casino. I thought I would add it so youse do not go into shock from not seeing that comment.)

In a letter Lombardo penned to Zagel while he was in hiding, the alleged mob boss denied any knowledge of about any of the 18 killings. "I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you," the letter stated.

The Chicago Crime Commission says the crimes are nothing to laugh about. "These are brutal people. They resort to killing, and especially the murder that Joe Lombardo is accused of doing in this indictment, was extremely brutal, inasmuch as the man was killed in front of his own family. He was going to be a witness against several defendants, including Joe Lombardo," said Jim Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.

Lombardo May Still Head Chicago Mob

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

Joey Lombardo apparently was not clowning around while on the lam over the last several months. The feds picked up the mobster nicknamed ''the Clown'' over the weekend in west suburban Elmwood Park. As CBS 2's Mike Parker reports, Lombardo still appears to be calling the shots for the mob here.

CBS 2 News has learned that Lombardo is now being held at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, in what authorities call "segregation." Lombardo is in a cell of his own and unable to mingle with the rest of the inmate population.

"It’s a constant fight between good and evil," said Jim McGough, organized crime expert. A veteran mob watcher and an expert in the outfit's infiltration of labor unions, McGough says he believes the feds want to protect Lombardo from his own kind. "To make sure he's not assassinated, killed because he does have secrets, which I don't expect him to reveal, but a dead witness for organized crime is a good witness," McGough said.

McGough says potential witnesses against Lombardo in his upcoming trial for more than a dozen unsolved mob murders are in more danger than "the Clown" himself. "One of the reasons Lombardo is going to be tried is for the murder of Daniel Seifert, who was going to be a witness against him in the teamsters’ pension scandal, and he was killed two days before his testimony," McGough said.

Crime experts believe Lombardo did not flee the country after his indictment because he is still a top man - perhaps the top man in the Chicago mob - and was making decisions while he was in hiding. "He knows who all the corrupt attorneys are or the corrupt judges or the corrupt politicians, where the money is, how to do this or that," McGough said.

Also Monday, the head of the Chicago crime commission said that for too long, TV and the movies have romanticized the mob. Former FBI Special Agent James Wagner believes that once Lombardo and his co-defendants go on trial, the public will be stunned by the brutal nature of their murders.

Lombardo’s lawyer said Tuesday’s bond hearing may be the shortest on record. He knows his client won't be released.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

FBI gets last laugh on 'The Clown'

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

He put on considerable weight, grew a full white beard, let his hair grow long and likely never left the Chicago area. Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, a fugitive for nine months, looked more like Saddam Hussein than a reputed mob boss when FBI agents found him. But it wasn't just Lombardo's change in appearance that kept him hidden in the feds' own backyard.
Captured Joseph Lombardo
Lombardo, 77, moved around the Chicago area often and likely used underworld connections to hide in so-called mob "spider holes" before he was arrested in Elmwood Park, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said Saturday.

To hide his appearance, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo grew a full beard and longer hair. The 77-year-old reputed mob boss managed to skirt the feds for nine months in the Chicago area by continually moving from one so-called mob “spider hole” to the next, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said Saturday. Lombardo told his prominent lawyer Rick Halprin he usually got around on foot. But the end of his run came Friday the 13th.

Lombardo was in the passenger seat of a 1994 silver Lincoln beside an elderly friend in an alley behind the friend's Elmwood Park home. About a dozen FBI agents descended on the two men as agents' cars blocked off the alley from all directions. "Both gentlemen were stunned," Grant said.

The FBI has been keeping known Lombardo associates under surveillance for the last nine months, Grant said. They began watching the man in Elmwood Park hoping to catch him with Lombardo - and they did, he said. Lombardo was carrying $3,000 cash, his attorney said. The feds said they also found business cards - they wouldn't say whose - and a suitcase stuffed with clothes. Lombardo was unarmed. Lombardo also carried his own driver's license, which listed him at his old Ohio Street address, Grant said.

The FBI did not arrest the other man, who is in his mid-80s and lives in the 2300 block of North 74th Avenue. Lombardo didn't resist arrest, but he wasn't compliant, either - refusing to exit the car at first, Grant said. Agents had to walk up to the car, open the door and ask him to get out. Then he did.

Grant said there are two schools of thought on fugitive lifestyles. One is to keep a distance from known associates. The other is to stick with people you trust. Lombardo took the second approach, Grant said. "Without a doubt, I think people assisted Mr. Lombardo in his efforts," Grant said. The investigation continues into who may have been "aiding and abetting" him, he said. The FBI has long believed Lombardo didn't stray far. In his time on the lam, he wrote letters to his attorney, and they carried local postmarks.

Lombardo was one of 14 people charged in a sweeping mob indictment last year, a result of the federal Operation Family Secrets investigation. Two of the charged have since died. The massive indictment ties 18 previously unsolved murders to the Chicago Outfit. But Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs both fled before the government announced its charges April 25, 2005. Schweihs was found last month in Kentucky.

Lombardo's capture brings closure to questions that arose over how both managed to escape arrest last April, particularly Lombardo, who is considered the big fish in the case. Grant said Saturday the two knew the indictment was coming for some time. Lombardo had already been swabbed for DNA in 2003. The two prepared for their departure and left well before the charges were unsealed.

In a superseding indictment, Lombardo was specifically tied to the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville. Seifert was preparing to testify against Lombardo and others in a pension fraud case when he was gunned down.

One reputed mob associate who has been following the news about Lombardo said Saturday that it's the end of an era with his arrest. "All of the old war horses are either dead or in jail or are pretty well close to being dead," said the man, who did not want to be identified. "In my opinion, organized crime is done." But Grant said anyone who believes that thinking is mistaken.

Halprin met with Lombardo for several hours early Saturday.He said Lombardo gained "considerable weight" since going into hiding. Lombardo was moved Saturday from the Chicago Police lockup at 17th and State into the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center. The delay in getting Lombardo into a federal lockup was likely due to complications getting Lombardo into a segregated unit, Halprin said.

Halprin said Lombardo, who has heart problems and other health issues, was given his medication while in custody Saturday, raising questions as to whether he was taking the same medicine for the last nine months, and if so, how he got it. Halprin didn't specify the type of medication.

Lombardo was very talkative, Halprin said. He joked with him and was in good spirits. Halprin said Lombardo didn't consider himself a fugitive and always expected to go to trial. He is expected to appear in court Tuesday. Halprin said he won't bother to ask for a bond hearing. "His chances of getting out are about the same as Pat Robertson conducting a gay marriage," Halprin joked.

The area where Lombardo was found is one street over from the Elmwood Park police station. Neighbors couldn't believe Lombardo was hiding in their community. Guillermo Rocha, who lives near where Lombardo was arrested, wondered if he and the reputed mob boss ever crossed paths. "If I saw him, I never knew it was him," he said. "Elmwood Park is notorious for mob activity, but I never thought he'd be so close," said Kathy Kukovec, another neighbor. "I didn't think he'd be that stupid."

There was a $20,000 reward offered for Lombardo's arrest. But Grant said it was good-old-fashioned agent work that helped nab the fugitive after continuing to watch Lombardo's known associates for nine months. "I wouldn't say we were lucky last night," Grant said in lauding his organized-crime team who tracked down Lombardo. "I would say we were good."

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Monday, January 16, 2006

Soprano's Teach Life Lesson to Boss

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

Tony Soprano can be tough on James Gandolfini, too. "It's a dark, dark world and you're in it a lot," the star of "The Sopranos" said of his career-defining character. "However, if you're in a dark world, I can't think of any other to be in. There are a lot of pluses. It just takes a heavy toll sometimes."
Boss Tony Soprano
Gandolfini was reflective on Friday talking about "The Sopranos," which returns to HBO on March 12 after a hiatus three months shy of two years. Fans are eager for something new, yet Gandolfini is in the midst of filming the last several episodes.

Seated on a stage with co-stars Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli, Gandolfini noted that only Bracco had much success prior to the series and many of the show's actors went through the whirlwind of sudden fame. "It's been an incredible life lesson that a lot of us wouldn't have had without this opportunity," he said. "It teaches you about what's important."

The actors, and series creator David Chase, did a delicate dance with reporters in trying to say something but ultimately reveal nothing about the final season. Twelve new episodes will start in March, and a final eight in January 2007.

Repercussions from the jailing of New York mob boss and rival Johnny Sack will define the new season, along with Tony's reconciliation with Carmella. Julianna Margulies, who plays a real estate agent; Hal Holbrook, who plays a businessman ensnared by the mob; and Ben Kingsley, who plays himself, are among this season's guest stars.

Although there have been false alarms about "The Sopranos" ending in the past, "it does feel like the end this time," Gandolfini said. "It's made me think of how I approach work and make sure that you work just as hard now as you did in the beginning," he said.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Murdered man's mother files $150M suit against city, 'Mafia Cops'

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

The mother of a Brooklyn man shot dead on Christmas Day 1986 in a case of the mob mistakenly killing the wrong man is suing the so-called "Mafia Cops" and the city for his murder. Pauline Pipitone, whose son Nicholas Guido, 26, was killed as he sat in a car after a holiday dinner, has charged in her lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court that former detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were part of the mob blunder that led to Guido's death.

Pipitone, who is executor of her son's estate, is suing for $150 million. She alleges that the NYPD failed to aggressively investigate allegations that Eppolito and Caracappa had been linked to criminal activity. Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, were indicted last year on charges they moonlighted as hit men and intelligence moles for the mob while they were cops. The indictment charged that as many as 10 murders are linked to their activities for former Luchese crime family acting boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

In the case of Guido, federal prosecutors have alleged that Eppolito and Caracappa funneled information to Casso, who was seeking revenge after being targeted in a failed assassination plot. Casso and his cohorts were seeking a reputed Gambino associate named "Nicholas Guido," 29, for being part of the the plot to kill the Luchese leader. Investigators have charged that Eppolito and Caracappa accessed NYPD databases to locate Guido for the mob, but erroneously came across Pipitone's son, a telephone company employee who had no criminal affiliations.

Pipitone's court complaint, which is seeking damages for Guido's wrongful death and deprivation of his constitutional rights, was filed last Thursday and appears to incorporate the allegations contained in the federal charges.

Eppolito and Caracappa, who are currently free under house arrest conditions on $5 million bail, have denied all the charges. They are scheduled to go to trial next month in Brooklyn federal court before Judge Jack B. Weinstein, although defense attorneys are seeking an adjournment.

Last week, federal officials in Las Vegas secured a tax evasion indictment against Eppolito and his wife, Francis. Investigators allege Eppolito didn't report income he made from various book and film deals.

"It was a terrible, terrible crime, but it isn't possible Caracappa could have committed it," said Edward Hayes, the lawyer representing Caracappa, about the Guido murder.

Hayes said the NYPD knew very early on the correct name of the "Guido" allegedly involved in the Casso assassination plot and that presumably that name was in the NYPD databases.

Defense attorney Bruce Cutler, who is defending Eppolito, couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

Mob figure dies, taking 'a lot of secrets' with him!

Friends of ours: Chris Petti, Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero, Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno, Bonanno Crime Family

San Diego mob figure Chris Petti, whose attempts to earn money for the Chicago mob ultimately led to convictions of several underworld bosses as well as financier Richard Silberman, has died, the FBI confirmed yesterday. A close associate of slain Las Vegas rackets boss Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Petti had lived in Chula Vista and reportedly had been in poor health.

Born Christopher George Poulos in Cicero, Ill., Petti died on New Year's Eve, according to an obituary notice published Friday. He was 78. Petti was long regarded as a low-level hood - a law enforcement official once suggested his lack of respect made him the Rodney Dangerfield of the mob - but his expletive-laced phone conversations, picked up in FBI recordings, led to major federal convictions here.

According to the FBI, Petti sought to fill the void created by the 1986 murder of Spilotro, who was beaten to death, along with younger brother, Michael, and buried in an Indiana cornfield. Petti was in frequent contact with Spilotro's bosses in Chicago and was directed to collect money still on Spilotro's books and to scout out earning opportunities.

According to court records, his extortions included threats to chop off one man's legs; in another, he told a victim that he owed the mob $87,000 and needed to come under Petti's wing. "When you eat alone, sometimes you choke," Petti threateningly told the man, according to court records.

One potentially major venture caught his bosses' attention: a scheme to infiltrate a casino planned in North County by the Rincon tribe.

During that late 1980s investigation, Silberman unexpectedly showed up in FBI surveillance, plotting with Petti and an undercover FBI agent to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars. Silberman had been a top aide to former Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. and was married to then-county Supervisor Susan Golding. Silberman was convicted in 1990 and sent to prison. He and Golding divorced, and she went on to serve two terms as San Diego mayor.

With the Silberman trial out of the way, federal prosecutors returned to the Rincon case. Top leaders of the Chicago mob were indicted in 1992; two were convicted the next year and sentenced to three years in prison. Petti pleaded guilty that year in a deal calling for 9½ years in prison but no requirement to testify against his bosses. When U.S. District Judge William B. Enright asked if Petti was indeed guilty, he at first replied: "I guess so." Petti gave a firmer answer when pressed by the judge. He also served a concurrent term in prison for a Las Vegas federal drug offense.

Petti's lawyer in the San Diego case was famed criminal-defense attorney Oscar Goodman, known for his defense of mobsters such as Spilotro. Today, he is mayor of Las Vegas. The prosecutor was Carol Lam, now U.S. attorney for San Diego and Imperial counties.

Retired FBI agent Charlie Walker, who had tracked Petti for years, said the Rincon case revealed Petti's ambitions. "A lot of law enforcement thought he was a two-bit punk, that he didn't have any connections, but he did," Walker said yesterday. Walker said he gained "a bit of grudging respect" for Petti for his refusal to turn informant. "You hate to say you respect anyone (in the mob)," said Walker, "but the one thing about Chris . . . when we arrested him, he had plenty of opportunities to cooperate, if he wanted to, but he steadfastly refused. "He went to his grave with a lot of secrets. I would have loved to have talked to him," said Walker, now assistant federal security director for the San Diego branch of the Transportation Security Administration. No doubt it would have been an interesting story.

Petti was listed in Nevada's "black book" of people - many of them mob figures - banned from Silver State casinos. In a confidential, 1975 intelligence report, the California Department of Justice listed Petti as a "close associate" of San Diego mob boss Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero, who would be gunned down, gangland-style, in 1977 while walking to his home in Pacific Beach from a nearby pay phone. It was later learned that Bompensiero had been an FBI informant.

Infamous mob turncoat Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno claimed during San Diego federal court testimony in 1982 that Petti and Spilotro had plotted to kill him. Fratianno, who collaborated on an autobiography titled, "The Last Mafioso," went on to earn millions of dollars testifying against Mafia figures. He died in 1993.

Petti co-founded P&T Construction in the 1970s; at one time the company was believed to be involved in aluminum-siding schemes involving Bonanno crime-family figures. He had multiple arrests - for theft, extortion, gambling and other crimes - but few convictions. Among them: a 1970s conviction for a baseball-bat assault in La Jolla.

Thanks to Philip J. LaVelle

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Arrest Details for Joey the Clown

Friends of ours: Joseph Lombardo

Authorities described Joseph Lombaro's arrest as tense as FBI and other agencies SWAT teams prepared for a possible violent confrontation as Lombardo is known to possess a violent nature. Agents stated at the news conference that an "anonymous tip" lead them to the neighborhood where Lombardo was arrested. Agents identified him by the report on the clothing he was wearing, a white suit with green polka dots, a squirting flower, a spinaround green bow tie and fluorescent green fright wig. After agents frisked him and found 250 silk handkerchief's, a folding floral bouquet and a .38 caliber "Honk-Honk" horn, he slyly told the arresting agent; "Pull my finger."

Mobster embarassed after Justice Department releases secret tapes

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Victor Riccitelli, John Gotti, Anthony "the Genius" Megale

An elderly Mafioso who was caught on tape discussing the Gambino crime family hierarchy asked a federal judge to dismiss his racketeering case this week, saying prosecutors unfairly embarrassed him by making his incriminating conversations public. Victor Riccitelli, 72, broke the mob's honor code in October, admitting his Mafia membership and pleading guilty to racketeering rather than have the FBI's tapes played in court.

Prosecutors surprised Riccitelli in December, however, when they included details of his conversations in a memo placed in the public court file. The Associated Press reported on the conversations, which included descriptions of the Mafia induction ceremony and the mob's leadership structure.

"The government's conduct in this regard was for the sole purpose of embarrassing the defendant and obtaining an outlet for the public disclosure of otherwise nonpublic materials," defense attorney Jonathan J. Einhorn wrote this week in a motion to dismiss the case. Einhorn said the disclosure amounted to prosecutorial misconduct. Justice Department spokesman Tom Carson said prosecutors would respond to Riccitelli's motion before he is sentenced Jan. 20.

In their December memo, prosecutors said they released the conversations to prove that Riccitelli had lied when he said his conversations about the Mafia were just things he had read in a book. "That was a weak excuse as a way to put on a show," Einhorn said Friday. "It was just a back-door opportunity for the government to show all the information it had."

Riccitelli is one of more than a dozen men arrested in a landmark Connecticut organized crime case in 2004. Prosecutors said the Gambino family, the crime syndicate once run by John Gotti, ran gambling and extortion rackets throughout Fairfield County.

Riccitelli's conversations pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding the family. He talked openly with a Stamford strip club owner, not knowing the man was working for the FBI. In those conversations, Riccitelli identified Stamford sanitation worker Anthony "The Genius" Megale as the No. 2 man in the organization. Megale also pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

Thanks to Matt Apuzzo

FBI captures Lombardo

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

Fugitive mobster discovered in Elmwood Park
Lombardo Caught
After an international manhunt, FBI agents captured reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo Friday night in Elmwood Park, not far from where he disappeared nine months ago, officials said. Lombardo had changed his appearance, growing a beard, after becoming a fugitive in April, when federal prosecutors charged him and more than a dozen other defendants in 18 Outfit-related murders dating to 1970.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice said Lombardo was arrested without incident. Rice said Lombardo was arrested about 8:30 p.m. outside a home on 74th Avenue. A law enforcement source said Lombardo cooperated with arresting officers. "He was very compliant and just put his hands up," the source said. Authorities said they were planning to release a more complete account of Lombardo's apprehension at a news conference Saturday.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said the U.S. attorney's office notified him of the arrest Friday night. He said Lombardo was arrested with a friend. Halprin talked to Lombardo as he was being transported to a police lockup by FBI agents. "His spirits were good," Halprin said. "He said he had been treated very well by the FBI."

Prosecutors charged Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs 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. Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before being captured last month in a small town in Kentucky. FBI officials said Lombardo and Schweihs had apparently disappeared a "significant time" before the indictments in order to avoid capture.

The search for Lombardo included a number of federal agencies, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Leads had raised suspicions that Lombardo could be in the Caribbean or in Mexico. Ultimately, he was "right under our noses," the law enforcement source said.

Lombardo, a longtime resident of Chicago's West Town neighborhood, has two federal convictions in the 1980s--for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada for help in defeating a trucking deregulation bill and for scheming to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino.

While Lombardo has been missing, he was apparently not silent. Two attorneys reported getting letters from Lombardo, which they turned over to federal authorities. In May, Halprin delivered a four-page letter to a federal judge purportedly written by Lombardo. The letter said Lombardo would surrender if he would be released on his own recognizance and prosecuted in a separate trial after the fate of his co-defendants had been decided. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel promptly rejected the offer. Halprin said he also got a letter in August that indicated Lombardo offered to take truth serum or a lie detector test if the FBI supervisor and its informant did too.

Thanks to Todd Lighty Matt O'Connor, and Michael Higgins

Joey 'the Clown" Lombardo caught

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

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was the big fish that slipped through the FBI's hands. On Friday, the feds had the last laugh. Lombardo, the notorious reputed mob boss, was caught in Elmwood Park after nine months on the lam, the FBI said Friday.

A stunned Lombardo was sporting a beard and was caught about 8 p.m. as the FBI ran surveillance on another "person of interest" and found the two meeting together. "He was a little bit shocked, to say the least," FBI Supervisory Special Agent John Mallul said. Lombardo did not say anything to authorities.

Lombardo, 77, was charged last year along with 13 others - two have since died - in a sweeping mob indictment as part of the Operation Family Secrets federal investigation. The indictment tied 18 previously unsolved murders to the Chicago mob and charged the Outfit itself as a criminal enterprise.

Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs, a fugitive until last month when he too was caught, are specifically named in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville.

Mallul said the feds had set up surveillance on the man Lombardo was found with, after suspecting he was in contact with Lombardo. "We had a person of interest we were looking at. . . . Then we got the both of them together and we effectuated the arrest," Mallul said. The other man was not arrested.

Authorities have said they always believed Lombardo didn't stray far. In his time on the lam, he wrote letters to his attorney, and they carried local postmarks. Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said he received a call late Friday from the U.S. attorney's office, notifying him that Lombardo had been caught while driving with an unidentified friend. His client was picked up on 74th Avenue in the western suburb.

Halprin said Lombardo was being housed at 17th and State, a police facility, after the Metropolitan Correctional Center refused to take him, possibly because of his age and a needed health waiver. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. "His chances of getting bond are the same as Osama bin Laden's," Halprin said. "Maybe not as good."

The fact that Lombardo was caught due to surveillance is ironic because after he and Schweihs fled, questions arose as to why the two were not kept under surveillance before the April 25, 2005, arrests.

In a July interview with the Sun-Times, Mallul and Special Agent Michael Maseth, who leads the Family Secrets investigation, said the two left "well before" the mob indictments and their fleeing didn't come as a surprise to the FBI. The feds swabbed Lombardo for DNA in 2003. At the time, the agents said the FBI did everything it could to track them without tipping off the dozen others caught.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Joey the Clown Caught!!

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Reputed mob boss, Joseph Lombardo, charged along with 13 others with plotting several organized crime murders was taken into custody Friday after nine months on the run, the FBI said. Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 76, was caught in suburban Elmwood Park and was expected to spend the night in a Chicago jail, said FBI spokesman Ross Rice.

Lombardo's lawyer said his client will appear at a detention hearing Tuesday. "Osama bin Laden has a better chance of getting bond," said Rick Halprin, Lombardo's attorney. "So, it will be a formality."

Federal agents grabbed Lombardo after they caught him meeting with someone they had under surveillance, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday night on its Web site, citing FBI officials.

Lombardo and 13 others were indicted in April as a result of a long-standing investigation aimed at clearing unsolved mob hits. The indictment charges that Chicago hoodlums and mob associates conspired in at least 18 unsolved murders, 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."

Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs are specifically named in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert. Schweihs, a 75-year-old reputed mob enforcer, was captured in Kentucky last month after eight months as a fugitive.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Alleged mob cop's wife arrested for tax evasion

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

The wife of "Mafia Cop" Louis Eppolito was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas on federal tax evasion charges, defense attorney Bruce Cutler said. Fran Eppolito was taken into custody by federal agents on the basis of a complaint that accused her of not paying taxes, Cutler said. Cutler, who is representing Louis Eppolito in a Brooklyn federal indictment, said details of Fran Eppolito's case were not available late Wednesday. Officials at the Las Vegas U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment on any case pending the unsealing of court documents.

Eppolito's husband, a former NYPD detective, was indicted last year on charges he and his partner, Stephen Caracappa, worked as hit men for the Luchese crime family while they were police officers in the the 1980s and '90s.

Federal prosecutors allege that they took tens of thousands of dollars from former acting Luchese boss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso to carry out gangland hits and funnel confidential law enforcement information to the mob. In total, prosecutors have charged the pair with involvment in 10 homicides.

Both Louis Eppolito, 57, and Caracappa, 64, have been free on $5 million bail and are under house arrest in the New York City area. They are scheduled to go on trial next month in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

Cutler characterized the arrest of Eppolito's wife as "a low-blow thing." Rather than handling tax matters with "civility," the government engaged in "federal thuggery" by using an indictment in such fashion.

The Brooklyn-born Eppolito and his wife moved to Las Vegas after he left the police force in early 1990 after suffering a heart attack. He had been highly decorated during his 21 years as a cop, earning more than 100 medals of recognition and two medals for valor, his attorney said.

Fran Eppolito has been a regular spectator at her husband's Brooklyn court appearances.

Thanks to Anthony Destefano

Documenting The Nicer Side Of Al Capone

Friends of ours: Al Capone

Did gangster Al Capone really have a kinder, gentler side? In this age of makeovers, CBS 2's Mike Parker reports one area man hopes to re-make the image of public enemy number one. "Like everybody there's another side to somebody."

Meet Nino Cruz, self-described magician and one of the guiding lights behind a new independent movie called, "The Other Side of Al Capone." The gist of the story is that the killer, bootlegger and king of the Chicago Mob was not such a bad guy after all. "He would give hundreds and thousands of dollars at Christmas time when it came to the less fortunate."

To help finance the still uncompleted film, Cruz is selling a tiny fragment of one of the original bricks from the now demolished Capone headquarters, the Lexington Hotel at 22nd and Michigan, along with a copy of Capone's death certificate. The price: $15. They're being sold at PJ's trick shop on rand road in Prospect Heights.

Nino Cruz says a key element of the revisionist movie will be Capone's Loop soup kitchens that fed the hungry in the early days of the depression. "After donating the food to the kitchen, because he had a kind heart which nobody knew about, he'd actually put the apron on and started serving."

"I guess he was a good guy who had a bad side to him."

Backers hope to sell their production to one of the cable channels. Maybe with that "Scar Face in an apron" scene, the Food Network will be interested. The producers say mob boss daughter, Antoinette Giancana will narrate their production.

Thanks to Mike Parker

Development of the Vegas Poker Mafia Family; Mid-1980's Golden Nugget

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro

The below is from an email that someone sent me that seems to pick up in the middle of a story. I have requested some answers to some questions that I had for the reader who sent this to me, but I wanted to provide this to all my readers to see if anyone else had some information on this.

The "Honored Society" as the Mafia is commonly known among its members is structured much like a modern corporation in the sense that duties and responsibilities are disseminated downward through a "chain of command" that is organized in pyramid fashion.

1. Capo Crimini/Capo de tutti capi (super boss/boss of bosses)
2. Consigliere (trusted advisor or family counselor)
3. Capo Bastone (Underboss, second in command)
4. Contabile (financial advisor)
5. Caporegime or Capodecina (lieutenant, typically heads a faction of
ten or more soldiers comprising a "crew.")
6. Sgarrista (a foot soldier who carries out the day to day business of
the family. A "made" member of the Mafia)
7. Piciotto (lower-ranking soldiers; enforcers. Also known in the
streets as the "button man.")
8. Giovane D'Honore (Mafia associate, typically a non-Sicilian or
non-Italian member)

In the early 1980s the Vegas family of the Poker Mafia was in place. The "real Mafia" was losing its hold on the casinos. Soon after Tony Spilotro was killed Mike O'Connor and David Cutter were sent to the joint for extortion and blowing up a car. The "real" Mafia was out, but a new "Poker Mafia" took its place. All had been cheating for approximately 10 years when they went into the Golden Nugget. Thus the Vegas family line survived to take full control.

Other events contributed to the ascent of the Vegas family. In 1982 the Los Angeles Times came out with a front-page article that revealed cheating in California cardrooms. Gardena lost its hold on poker in California. The Vegas family was more than happy to fill the void. Steve Wynn had Jimmy Knight running the casino and after the Silverbird closed in 1981 hired Eric Drache in 1982 to run the Nugget cardroom. Then in 1984 Wynn renovated the Golden Nugget. [In 1984 Steve Wynn revamped the Golden Nugget casino with funding raised by Mike Miliken and Drexel Burnham Lambert, provided jobs for more than 5,000 employees. The 44 million Spa Tower's foyer resembled the Garden Room of the Frick museum.]

With Jimmy Knight as the casino manager, Eric Drache as was the cardroom manager, and Doug Dalton running the floor, the door was wide open. This group consisted of Mike O'Connor's right hand man Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Jimmy Shehady and a few others. They spilt up the games. It became very well organized and the Las Vegas group controlled everything.

Doyle and Chip were business with Jack Binion. Doyle had been one of Benny Binion's boys and Jack Binion had grown up with this racket. Doyle was like an older brother to him. The Golden Nugget was the same as the Horseshoe. Eric Drache had control of the Golden Nugget and with Jimmy Shehady as his take off man, millions were made. Archie Karas, Lou Olejack and more cheats than you can count were in the casino.

I can only speculate when Bobby Baldwin [President of the Golden Nugget] became apart of this. But he did become a major part of this "cheating conspiracy". With no one having a chance to win in the Hi-levels of poker in Vegas the cheats also took advantage of cheating the casinos in many different ways. Management connections through poker provided dice cheats to "shoot the shot" and "marker scams" to go on. John Martino was implicated in a marker scam. With a bribe to a NSGCB agent [$25,000] he was able to avoid going to jail. This is discussed in the tapes [The Cheating Tapes]. It is also documented as this went to court.

Eric Drache was put in charge of the WSOP. What a joke this was. Poker was now controlled by cheats. It was always controlled before, but it was not this well organized. Eric Drache was a compulsive sports better and soon was losing more at sports than he could steal or cheat. On the occasion that he was let go from the WSOP after running it for years, he had sold many seats for a discount for a quick monetary fix. He must of sold twenty to thirty WSOP $10,000 seats for $8,000 cash before the event. After losing the money he was in a bad situation. Jack Binion covered the loss and nothing was told to the public. However, Eric Drache was no longer running the WSOP. This is the reason that Eric Drache was no longer in charge of the WSOP.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Angry Son Knows the Mob's True Colors

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

Frank "The German" Schweihs played the tough guy in federal court, pleading not guilty to federal racketeering and extortion charges. Schweihs had been on the run, after top Chicago mobsters were indicted as part of the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation into more than a dozen unsolved Outfit murders.

So on Friday, resplendent in his orange prison jumpsuit and a cane, Schweihs decided to be amusing, to be funny like a clown, probably because "The Clown" wasn't there.

"Why's all the news media here?" asked the Outfit enforcer. "I dunno," said his lawyer. "Slow news day."

"Slow news day," Schweihs agreed. "They just like to [expletive] with me."

Not everybody laughed. The stocky man in the black shirt two rows away stared at the back of the German's head. He kept staring, and let the room know he was staring, by not sitting down when it was time. His hand clenched the bench in front of him. If eyes were baseball bats, Schweihs wouldn't have made it out of the courtroom alive.

The stocky man is Nicholas Seifert, a son of Danny Seifert. Schweihs also has been charged, along with fugitive mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, with the 1974 murder of Danny Seifert. And before Seifert left town over the weekend - to travel back home after the court appearance - he called me at the Tribune.

"I came to court to see Frank Schweihs, to see what he looked like, just to see him have his day in court. Because I know he's actually a participant in my father's murder ... I wanted to jump over that bench.

"He's crafty," Seifert said. "He portrays two different types of people. Once the judge walked in, he portrayed himself as a broken-down old man, but prior to the judge walking in, he portrayed a tough guy, making comments about the media. It was his demeanor."

You were staring? "Yes, I wanted him to look at me, so he could see the words that were coming out of my mouth."

What words? "I can't say that, because then the feds won't let me come to the trial."

So you wanted to let him know something that was on your mind. "Yes," Seifert said.

He called me years ago, after I wrote that mobster Nicholas Calabrese had disappeared from the federal prison in Milan, Mich., and had entered the witness protection program in what would become Operation Family Secrets. By then, the Chicago Outfit was in full panic. The bosses couldn't help their friends, the Chicago politicians, or be helped by them. And I hadn't talked with Seifert again until Friday night.

He hates Schweihs and Lombardo.

In September of 1974, Danny Seifert was about to testify as a government witness against Lombardo and six others, who were charged with bilking a Teamsters' pension fund of $1.4 million. Men in ski masks, carrying walkie-talkies, .38s and shotguns showed up at Seifert's plastics factory in Bensenville. A shotgun blast cut him down as he tried to run away. A hit man walked up, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. With Seifert dead, everybody walked.

"It's something I've never gotten over," Nicholas Seifert told me. "Growing up without a father is very rough for any child. Obviously, being in that kind of atmosphere, where everything was good, before the actual indictments, and then all of a sudden, things were going wrong and our so-called Uncle Joe [Lombardo] wasn't our uncle anymore. Then my father ended up getting killed.

"He [Lombardo] would take us to the circus, to ballgames, he was part of our family, he'd come over or we'd go over there for barbecues and stuff," Seifert said.

"My father wasn't afraid of the Outfit. They were friends. You're really not afraid of your friends, even if it comes to war, or whatever it comes to, my father wasn't afraid of those people, and thought ultimately that he didn't need government protection," Seifert said.

He miscalculated, I said. "Yeah," he said.

I told Seifert what the son of a murdered hit man told me a while back, that his father did their dirty work, that they killed him, perhaps to send a message to Calabrese, and that the son felt he was owed something.

Is that how you feel? Do you think they owe you anything? "They owe me my life," Seifert said.

"They destroyed our lives. My family's life. And in all reality, I pretty much want to do the same."

Will you attend Schweihs' trial? "A team of wild horses couldn't keep me away."

So why did you call me? "Because you don't make them out to be Hollywood stars, and they threatened your family and you still went after them," he said. "And I can't wait for this trial."

And the other ones. "And the other ones," he said. "I want to see justice done."

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bad Cop Dies

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr.

A former Chicago police officer charged with conspiring with organized crime to commit 18 murders has died, his attorney said. Michael Ricci, 76, of Streamwood had been in a coma since undergoing heart surgery in November, said attorney John Meyer. Ricci died last week when his family chose to remove him from life support, Meyer said Monday.

Ricci was among 14 people charged with various crimes in an April 2005 indictment federal officials at the time described as the most far reaching they'd obtained against the Chicago mob. He and another retired police officer were accused of informing alleged mob figure Frank Calabrese Sr., also charged in the indictment, about possible mob members who helped federal investigators.

Ricci had pleaded not guilty and said at the time of the indictment that he had known Calabrese "as a person" since 1964. Meyer said Monday that a tape recording FBI officials made of a conversation between Ricci and Calabrese while Ricci visited Calabrese in federal prison proved only that the two men were good friends. "It's unfortunate that he had to die with this cloud hanging over his head," Meyer said. "Especially since he had a very winnable case."

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