The Chicago Syndicate: Gambler, Yes; Bookie, Yes; Boss of Mafia Crew, No?
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gambler, Yes; Bookie, Yes; Boss of Mafia Crew, No?

Friends of ours: Colombo Crime Family, Joseph Colombo
Friends of mine: Soprano Crime Family, Chris Colombo, Anthony Colombo

Chris Colombo carries a famous gangster's name and "looks like he just walked off the set of 'The Sopranos' " - but he's really just a simple bookie and gambler, his lawyer said yesterday.

Defense lawyer Jeremy Schneider cut his losses as Colombo's racketeering trial got under way, conceding guilt on gambling charges, but denying that the son of murdered mob boss Joseph Colombo ran a renegade crew that used threats of violence to rake in cash.

"He looks like he just walked off the set of ' the Sopranos.' He's going to sound like he just auditioned for 'The Sopranos,' " Schneider said of Colombo, whose real-life try at stardom fell flat when HBO pulled the plug on his reality show, "House Arrest," in 2005. "He's a gambler. He's a bookie. He is not a boss of a crew," Schneider said as the barrel-chested Colombo, dressed in a flashy pinstriped suit and silver tie, listened from the defense table in Manhattan federal court.

The admission came after Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Baroni told jurors how Chris Colombo and his brother Anthony terrorized victims and lined their pockets as "bosses" of the "Colombo Brothers' Crew."

Prosecutors have conceded they invented the crew's name for the purposes of the indictment, but not the criminal organization itself. They claim the brothers were on the losing side of the Colombo crime family war in the 1990s and struck out on their own. Chris and his lower-key sibling Anthony, who leans on a cane and came to court in a plain gray suit, are on trial for a slew of racketeering charges, including gambling, loan-sharking, extortion and fraud.

The feds claim Anthony was double-trouble for DoubleClick - an Internet ad company that has serviced Microsoft, General Motors and Coca-Cola - after a cohort landed a job overseeing cleaning contracts during construction of the firm's new offices. Baroni said the insider ensured the contract went to a cleaning service under the crew's control and approved payment for "work that was done and work that wasn't done" to the tune of more than $100,000 in a "massive double-billing scheme."

Chris Colombo is accused of overseeing the crew's gambling operations in East Harlem and The Bronx and receiving cash deliveries at his Orange County compound. Meanwhile, Anthony allegedly shook down the owner of a small construction company, forcing him to write paychecks to his wife in a no-show job scheme.

Thanks to Kati Cornell

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