Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mob All-Star Lineup for Family Secrets Trial

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Frank Calabrese Sr.. James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese, Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, Richard Mara, Daniel Bounds, Alfred Pilotto, Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, James LaValley
Friends of mine: Frank Calabrese Jr., Michael Talarico

One man is a reputed Outfit killer and master thief who stormed jewelry stores with a crew so skilled it's been called "the New York Yankees of robbers." Another served as intermediary between illegal Asian gambling and an alleged Outfit hit man, Frank "The German" Schweihs. Still a third has run a well-known Bridgeport restaurant and was allegedly connected to the crew of brutal loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr. All three are expected to testify in what will be the most important mob trial in Chicago in decades.

Prosecutors have put the mob's top leaders on trial and tied them to 18 unsolved Outfit murders. Facing charges that could put them behind bars for life are reputed Chicago Outfit chief James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and top mobster Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, among others.

The star witnesses at trial will be the brother and son of Frank Calabrese Sr. The brother, Nick Calabrese, has admitted to 16 mob hits, many committed with his brother, he says. Calabrese Sr.'s son, Frank Calabrese Jr., secretly recorded his father while they were both in prison.

Details of other key witnesses expected at trial are in a federal court filing that is under seal. But the Sun-Times has learned who some of those witnesses will be.

Limoges JewelryAmong the top witnesses will be Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel. Siegel was part of a crew of mobbed-up robbers who hit jewelry stores across the country -- mainly in California and Florida -- taking in millions of dollars in loot over the years.

The robbers wore Halloween masks and body armor, used automatic weapons and performed their robberies with military-like precision, authorities said.

"We prosecuted them to the fullest. But we recognized they were the New York Yankees of robbers," said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmund Searby, who prosecuted Siegel and his cohorts in 1993 for a series of jewelry store robberies. A heavy prison sentence prompted Siegel to flip and spill all he knew to the feds, including several murders he allegedly committed or knew about, authorities said.

Another witness at the upcoming trial is expected to be Yu Lip Moy, a former head of the National On Leong Trading Association and a former Pittsburgh restaurant owner who was a key witness in the On Leong gambling case in Chicago the early 1990s. Moy has testified he paid off Schweihs as part of an agreement with the Outfit to allow illegal Asian gambling in Chicago to continue.

Another restaurant owner, Michael Talarico, is listed as a potential witness. Talarico has run the well-known Bridgeport restaurant Punchinello's for years and allegedly worked as a bookmaker. The Sun-Times has previously reported he was held in federal jail in Chicago for not testifying before a Family Secrets grand jury, but was later released.

While Talarico is still listed as the license holder for the restaurant, a phone message at the restaurant said it is under new management. Talarico is a part of the influential Roti family by marriage and once was married to Schweihs' daughter.

When asked about Talarico, Joseph Lopez, the attorney for Frank Calabrese Sr., said he expected Talarico's testimony to deal more with Nick Calabrese than Frank Calabrese Sr.

Lopez blasted Nick Calabrese as "a mass murderer."

"Instead of going after off-duty cops for fighting in bars, [Cook County State's Attorney] Dick Devine should be going after a mass murderer who has killed more people than the Brown's Chicken massacre and Richard Speck combined," Lopez said.

Nick Calabrese is cooperating with federal prosecutors but does not have a deal with them yet.

Prosecutors would not discuss witnesses, and defense attorneys declined to discuss the contents of the sealed court filing.

When asked about some of the potential witnesses, Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin said: "It's just round-up-the-usual-snitches, who have been telling the same stories for 20 years."

Other witnesses expected at trial include Outfit burglar Richard Mara; failed Outfit assassin Daniel Bounds, who turned himself into the FBI after botching the hit of south suburban mob boss Alfred Pilotto; Outfit killer and burglar Frank Cullotta, a close associate of Tony Spilotro; mob leg breaker James LaValley, and former adult bookstore owner, William "Red" Wemette, who was shaken down by Outfit thugs.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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