The Chicago Syndicate: Angry Son Knows the Mob's True Colors

Montana West World

Montana West World

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

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