The Chicago Syndicate: Prosecutors: Alleged Chicago Mob Figure Should Stay Behind Bars

Magee 1866 Heritage Month

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prosecutors: Alleged Chicago Mob Figure Should Stay Behind Bars

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese, William Dauber William "Butch" Petrocelli

Federal prosecutors used secretly recorded tapes Monday to bolster their argument that alleged mobster Frank J. Calabrese Sr. should stay behind bars while he awaits trial on murder conspiracy charges.

The government played for U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel tape recordings of conversations between Calabrese and his son, Frank Calabrese Jr., that they say show the elder Calabrese's involvement in several murders.

The younger Calabrese wore a recording device and made about 20 tapes while he was serving time in the same prison as his father and while visiting the prison after his release, FBI agent Michael Maseth testified Monday.

Frank Calabrese Sr. can be heard on the tapes talking about a secret induction ceremony of the Chicago crime organization called the Outfit. The ceremony signified becoming "made," that is, rising in the organization's ranks. Only mob associates who had taken part in a murder could be made, Maseth testified.

On the tape played in court, the elder Calabrese told his son how during the ceremony mob leaders placed holy pictures into the cupped hand of the newly made member and lit the pictures on fire. "And they look at you to see if you'd budge ... while the pictures are burning. And they, and they wait 'til they're getting down to the skin," Calabrese said.

Defense attorney Joseph Lopez argued that Calabrese is unlikely to flee if released on bond and won't obstruct justice by contacting witnesses. Lopez said Calabrese also would be avoided by anyone connected with organized crime. "He's the hottest potato in town," Lopez said. "There is not anyone who is going to go near him."

In a tape recording made April 10, 1999, in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., the federal government alleges Calabrese confirmed his role in the 1980 killings of Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski.

Prosecutors allege Ortiz had committed a murder not authorized by the Outfit and was killed in retribution. Morawski was not an intended target, but was killed because he happened to be with Ortiz when the murder was carried out, prosecutors say.

On the tape, Calabrese tells his son he was driving two other men in a car and told them when to approach the victims: "And I said, take your time now. Don't rush. Walk up to that car." He goes on to describe in detail how he pulled his car up next to the victims' car to ensure there could be no witnesses to the murders. "I'm shielding them from the street so nobody could see what they're doing," he says on the tape.

Calabrese also described in the recording the shotguns the two other men allegedly used to kill Ortiz and Morawski. "Tore 'em up bad," he said of the shotguns. "Them'll tear your body up. They're called double-oughts."

Convicted in a federal investigation of loan sharking and other crimes, Calabrese was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and was due to be released this year before he was indicted on the murder conspiracy charges in April 2005.

Prosecutors have asked that he be denied bond and held in prison pending trial, but defense attorneys have sought Calabrese's release on medical grounds. Last year Calabrese told Zagel he suffers from an array of health problems, including arthritis, nose problems and the loss of 90 percent of his pituitary gland. Zagel said the bond hearing would continue Thursday, and he hoped to make a decision Friday.

The government alleges Calabrese was a member of the South Side/26th Street crew and, with others, murdered 13 people in Chicago and surrounding suburbs between August 1970 and September 1986.

According to prosecutors, Calabrese's victims included reputed mob enforcer William Dauber and reputed mob hit man William "Butch" Petrocelli.

He is among 14 alleged mobsters and mob associates indicted in the federal government's Operation Family Secrets, a long-running investigation of at least 18 mob killings. Each of the men faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Calabrese's brother, Nicholas W. Calabrese, also was charged but has been cooperating with prosecutors.

Thanks to Carla K. Johnson

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