Wednesday, May 30, 2007

US Marshall Tells US Attorney and FBI He F@#%ed Up

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese
Friends of mine: John Ambrose

As soon as the high-ranking deputy U.S. marshal sat down with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI Chicago chief Robert Grant, he knew he was in trouble, federal documents allege.

"I fucked up," John Ambrose reportedly told both officials as they questioned him about whether he leaked sensitive information.

Ambrose, a member of the regional fugitive task force who also did a brief stint in witness protection, is charged with passing government material about protected mob witness Nick Calabrese to a third party. That information made its way to the mob, federal authorities contend.

Calabrese is a major government witness in the upcoming Operation Family Secrets mob trial. Ambrose was stripped of his duties last year and charged in January.

The allegations were taken so seriously that Grant and Fitzgerald took the rare move of sitting down with Ambrose last September. Prosecutors say they told him he faced criminal charges and risked losing his job -- but they contend they also told him he wasn't under arrest. If he were in custody, a Miranda warning would have been required. Federal prosecutors say Ambrose never asked for a lawyer and was free to leave whenever he pleased. "Mr Ambrose at times appeared anxious while reviewing some of the evidence against him," Grant said in a court affidavit filed Tuesday. "Mr. Ambrose on a number of occasions shook his head and repeated that he had fucked up."

Their contentions come in response to a filing last month in which Ambrose claimed that he was pressured into giving incriminating statements. "The pressure was so extreme that my body was shaking and my mind was racing," Ambrose said in court papers.

Ambrose's filing says he believed he was in custody. He is trying to get his statements tossed.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Criminal Defense Attorney Compares Mob Work to Grocery Stocker

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr.,

Is working for a mob street crew like working for a corporate subsidiary -- or like working in a produce section?

Those analogies arose Tuesday as attorneys for two top mobsters, James Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr., tried to get federal appellate justices to dismiss racketeering charges against the men.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney, Joseph Lopez, argued it's unfair for the men to be charged with racketeering for being part of the Outfit now when they were charged years ago with the same crime for being part of mob street crews.

Federal prosecutor Mitch Mars said there's little overlap in the new and old cases.

While one appellate judge noted prosecutors can indict subsidiaries and then their parent corporations, Lopez compared mob employment with working for a grocery store -- whether you unload tomatoes or flowers, you're still working for the store.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Sopranos Sparks Interest in World of Gangsters

So you've ordered HBO and watched the first shocking episodes of The Sopranos, but how much do you really know about the show? Wondering what management style Tony Soprano uses to be an effective leader? What the symbolism is of the ducks in his pool? And did you ever wonder how Carmela Soprano makes her baked ziti? Lake Park reference librarian Karen Mahnk discusses Soprano-related books to help you get wise to everything you ever wanted to know about America's favorite Italian family. Mahnk, who is Italian, says she's been hooked since the second episode.

Q. Have you seen an increase in circulation of books related to the show?

A. Somewhat. Actually, we've noticed an increase in circulation of gangster movies such as Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco and, of course, the Godfather trilogy as well as earlier seasons of The Sopranos.

Q. Soprano-related books seem to run the gamut of topics from cookbooks to Tony Soprano-style management guides. What books about the show are most popular?

A. Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy by actor Joe Pantoliano with David Evanier and Wise Girl: What I've Learned About Life, Love, and Loss by actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler are the more popular of the related biographies.

The cookbooks seem to be the most popular. After all, food is an underlying theme throughout the series. In fact great food is an underlying theme for most Italians. Many of the scenes take place in front of a butcher shop. A few scenes, including a few unsavory ones, take place inside as well.

Baked ziti is featured and mentioned many times, as well as capicolla (spicy ham) and cannoli a crème-filled crunchy dessert item. It's a guess that many non-Italian viewers may become curious about these foods they see on the series. Many Italian viewers such as myself just get hungry for childhood favorites.

The latest cookbook, Entertaining with the Sopranos by Allen Rucker, is perfect to refer to if there's something you've seen in the show and would like to try yourself. Another is The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone.

Q. What are books about the show like? Do the focus on the plot or characters?

A. They range from a number of issues focusing in particular on the characters' place in the fictional family, such as the latest releases: Reading The Sopranos: Hit TV from HBO (Reading Contemporary Television); This Thing Of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos; The Sopranos: A Family History and Bright Lights, Baked Ziti: The Unofficial, Unauthorised Guide to the Sopranos.

Others zone in on the psychological aspects: The Sopranos on the Couch: The Ultimate Guide; The Psychology of the Sopranos: Love, Death, Desire and Betrayal in America's Favorite Gangster Family.

Another looks at leadership from a Soprano boss's point of view: Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss and Tony Soprano on Management: Leadership Lessons Inspired By America's Favorite Mobster.

Q. What attracts you to the show? Do you have a favorite character?

A. As a psychology minor in college, I'm intrigued by the metaphors, such as what the ducks are supposed to represent to Tony as well as the hypocrisy of the characters. Even Dr. Melfi, his shrink, is not without her moments of denial. I also find the dialect of the Italian words used interesting as the pronunciation varies not just from which part of Italy it is actually spoken but how many Italian words transform even further in the U.S. depending on region, such as New Jersey, Staten Island or New Orleans.

Q. Why do you think people connect with this show?

A. People have always been fascinated by gangsters and bad guys. The mix of glitz and guns is a safe escape on the screen vs. real life. While there is always the controversy that violence may be glorified, on The Sopranos, it seems everybody sooner or later gets their "just desserts." Some scenes, such as Tony's pronunciation and relating of Sun Tzu and the Art of War, are funny. Tony Soprano's America: The Criminal Side of the American Dream presents an interesting review of the sort of duality the Sopranos live and the way morality and family values are portrayed.

Q. What books would you recommend about the real Mafia?

A. There are several books discussing not only the history of the Mafia in New York and Italy but also closer to home:

Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld by Scott M. Deitche, and Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab. For a different perspective there's No Questions Asked: The Secret Life of Women in the Mob and On the Run: A Mafia Childhood by Gregg Hill. Hill, as many Goodfellas fans will recognize, is the son of real-life goodfella, Henry Hill. Also, I'd recommend American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power and Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob, the Mafia's Most Violent Family by George Anastasia.

Q. Several groups have spoken out against The Sopranos, saying the show unfairly stereotypes Italians. Are there any books that expound on that?

A. There are several that do a very good job of covering the issue: Were You Always an Italian?: Ancestors and Other Icons of Italian America by Maria Laurino and La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience by Jerre Mangione. Italian Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You're Italian by Federico Moramarco is particularly a nice read since it includes those great Italian food dishes as many of those 101 reasons.

Second City Cop

I wanted to showcase a new site that I have added to my list of Friends of the Chicago Syndicate. Growing up in a cop family and still having many friends "on the job", I immediately appreciated Second City Cop.

For those with similar backgrounds, you will recognize the sarcasm and wit that fill most posts. The comments section are also filled with that same "cop attitude" and jargon. If you are not from the Windy City, this site will give you a great window into the men and women in blue's view on what makes Chicago the so called "City That Works".

Monday, May 28, 2007

More Information on Mob Driver and Hit Man Gerry Carusiello?

Recently, I have been emailing with one of my readers regarding Gerry Carusiello. The reader included a link from Alan May over at American Mafia. In particular, he wanted to know more about Carusiello who is mentioned in the following excerpt.

September 18, 1976 – Gerald Carusiello was found shot seven times in the back in an apartment development in Addison, Illinois. Carusiello had served as a driver for Chicago Outfit boss Joey Aiuppa. Carusiello was believed to have been one of the torture slayers involved in the execution of several burglars who had the temerity to rob the home of Anthony Accardo.

The only thing that I could add is that I do not believe that the date above is correct. My understanding is that Carusiello was found dead in 1979. Earlier that year, the body of John Borsellino was found in a farm field near the Will-Cook Border. Both Borsellino and Carusiello were believed to have worked together on the burglar executions. Outside of that, I am not aware of much more regarding Carusiello.

Can anybody add any new information on Carusiello? Feel free to drop me a line.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Operation Family Secrets Mob Murder Victims

I have been asked from time to time whether various individuals were among the 18 victims that were allegedly murdered by the defendants in the Operation Family Secrets indictments. Below you will find a list of the victims along with the dates of their respective murders.

Michael Albergo in Chicago in August 1970

Daniel Seifert in Bensenville on September 27, 1974

Paul Haggerty in Chicago on June 24, 1976

Henry Cosentino on March 15, 1977

John Mendell in Chicago on January 16, 1978

Donald Renno and Vincent Moretti in Cicero on January 31, 1978

William and Charlotte Dauber in Will County on July 2, 1980

William Petrocelli in Cicero on December 30, 1980

Michael Cagnoni in DuPage County on June 24, 1981

Nicholas D'Andrea in Chicago Heights on September 13, 1981

Richard D. Ortiz / Arthur Morawski in Cicero on July 23, 1983

Emil Vaci in Phoenix on June 7, 1986

Anthony and Michael Spilotro in DuPage Co. on June 14, 1986

John Fecarotta in Chicago on September 14, 1986

"Outfitician" to Testify at Family Secrets Chicago Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Jimmy Marcello, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese, Tony Spilotro, Frank Cullota, Paul Schiro
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, William Hanhardt

Can you have a mob trial without a mobologist? But because this is Chicago, can you have an Outfit trial without an Outfitician?

No, according to U.S. District Judge James Zagel, who ruled Thursday that James Wagner, current president of the Chicago Crime Commission and former chief of the Chicago FBI's organized crime section, may testify for the prosecution in the historic Chicago Outfit case called "Family Secrets" expected this summer.

Wagner brings 30 years of expertise to what should be a sensational trial. He'll define Outfit terms such as "street tax" (what criminals pay the Outfit for operating licenses) and "juice" (high interest with severe penalties for late payments). Wagner will also provide an intelligence analysis of organized crime's command structure.

The case involves 18 previously unsolved killings, and it offers multiple defendants, including Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Jimmy Marcello, Frank "The German" Schweihs, and alleged Chinatown crew boss Frank Calabrese Sr. It will be prosecuted by several assistant U.S. attorneys led by organized-crime section chief Mitchell Mars.

"I watch 'The Sopranos,' " wisecracked a young criminal defense attorney in the hallway. "I could be an expert."

But Zagel didn't see it that way.

"The fact that a lot of stuff is on a television show does not give [jurors] enough information to make a decision," said Zagel, a former federal prosecutor. "This command and control structure is not often understood by any individual that is not in its highest rank."

Other prosecution witnesses understand the structure, but their testimony will be on the earthy side.

The star witness is Nicholas Calabrese -- the Outfit turncoat who is the key to "Family Secrets."

In 2003, I reported that Calabrese had slipped quietly into the federal witness protection program. That disappearance rattled the Outfit from top to bottom, because they knew what he knew and they were terrified. Calabrese, a confessed murderer, will be attacked by defense attorneys. His Chicago slang will typecast him, as certainly as the actor James Gandolfini has been typecast on HBO.

Another expected witness is Frank Cullotta, Outfit hit man, burglar and technical adviser on the movie "Casino ."

A few years ago, I interviewed Cullotta about former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt, who was convicted of running an Outfit-sanctioned jewelry heist crew along with Outfit enforcer Paul Schiro, who is, coincidentally, also a defendant in "Family Secrets."

"Paulie [Schiro] was making pizzas when I met him," Cullotta said in that interview. "I took him out of the pizza shop and put him to work. We were sticking up bank messengers. That was big money."

Cullotta worked under Outfit middle-managers Tony and Michael Spilotro, whose highly publicized 1986 murders are also part of the trial.

Cullotta also testified against Tony Spilotro in a federal case in Las Vegas, but his testimony was undercut by none other than Hanhardt, who was portrayed as a bona fide Chicago police hero. The jury believed Hanhardt, not Cullotta, and jurors could not come to a verdict. Spilotro lawyer Oscar Goodman got a big payday, and he later became the mayor of Las Vegas for a happy ending.

And the Spilotros walked out of Vegas -- actually, they flew back to Chicago -- but there was no happy ending for them. Unlike the movie "Casino," they were lured to a suburban Chicago basement -- one theory is that they were lured there by Tony's sponsor, a little guy known as "The Saint." They were beaten to death and later dumped in an Indiana cornfield.

So you see how layered this is? Hanhardt just happens to testify. The Spilotros come marching home to the Saint. The connections are like ligaments, holding the muscle together. This is why Wagner's testimony is important.

Wagner held his own on the witness stand in Thursday's hearing before Judge Zagel.

Defense lawyer Thomas Breen, representing defendant James Marcello, asked Wagner if there was a decent Outfit reading list to be found. Wagner rattled off the titles to some books, which loyal readers have seen mentioned here previously.

" 'CAPTIVE CITY: Chicago in Chains.' by Ovid DeMaris," said Wagner, of the classic linking the Outfit to Chicago politics. He also mentioned non-fiction books by the late FBI supervisor William Roemer, but he disagreed with Roemer's contention that the late Outfit boss Anthony Accardo kept his soldiers away from narcotics trafficking.

Wagner also recommended the Gus Russo books, "The Outfit" and "Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Powerbrokers." If you really want to enjoy this trial, you'll read the Russo books and "Captive City" for context.

"Have you read any books by Judge Zagel?" Breen asked as Zagel smiled. "No, I have not, sir," said Wagner.

Outside the courtroom, Lombardo defense attorney Rick Halprin wisecracked that "you can't have a mob case without a mobologist."

Or an Outfitician.

Thanks to John Kass

New York Biased Against Food Vendors with Reputed Mob Ties?

Friends of ours: John Cagginao

A produce vendor with reputed mob ties has sued city regulators who banned him from a public food market on grounds that he lacks good character.

John Caggiano, a two-time felon indicted last year on charges he helped run a gambling ring at the Hunt's Point Market, argues in a suit filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan that the city had let his C&S Wholesale Produce Inc. operate for years despite knowledge of his prior convictions and alleged ties to organized crime.

A city lawyer, Gabe Taussig, said yesterday he is confident a judge would uphold the rejection.

According to a city Law Department spokeswoman, Connie Pankratz, 161 businesses are registered to operate in wholesale markets regulated by the city. Caggiano's registration is one of four applications the city has denied since 2002.

Thanks to The Sun

Undercover Cop Took Down the Mob by Fighting Fire with Fire

Thanks to the reader who directed me to this clip. It is certainly worth sharing with off my readers. This piece is part of the HBO Documentary, Confessions of an Undercover Cop, and various news clips. It tells the story of Mike Russell, subject of the movie script: "Fire With Fire" who was a leader of Newark's radical crime- fighting unit: "The Tactical Force" and later went Undercover to put away over fifty Mobsters.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Former FBI Agent, Now Head of Chicago Crime Commission and Mob Expert to Testify at Family Secrets Trial

Friends of ours: Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese

An organized crime expert will be allowed to testify at the trial of several alleged mob figures accused of taking part in a conspiracy that included 18 murders, a federal judge ruled Thursday in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said former FBI agent James Wagner can discuss how the so-called Chicago Outfit is structured and how it operates, but he can’t talk about individual members or the defendants.

That was a major concern of defense attorneys, who did not want Wagner — the one-time head of the FBI’s organized crime unit in Chicago — to link their clients to the mob. Wagner now heads the Chicago Crime Commission.

Zagel disputed the argument made by defense attorneys that because organized crime has been widely covered in the media such an expert is not necessary.

“This is not well understood,” he said about the way organized crime is structured.

Zagel’s ruling, which was expected by defense attorneys and prosecutors, is nevertheless significant. In Wagner, prosecutors have an expert on the mob in Chicago whose credibility cannot be easily questioned — unlike some reputed mob members who may be called to testify.

Wagner doesn’t have “the baggage of these witnesses,” Rick Halprin, Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo’s attorney said in arguing against allowing Wagner to testify.

That may be particularly important given that the prosecution’s star witness is Nicholas W. Calabrese, one of the defendants in what has been called the “Operation Family Secrets” investigation. Last week, Calabrese pleaded guilty to planning or carrying out 14 murders — including that of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, long known as the Chicago mob’s man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the film “Casino.”

Calabrese is expected to detail some of the very areas that Wagner likely will testify about the structure of the mob, but defense attorneys will surely try to attack his credibility.

The trial, expected to start next month, is the result of an investigation aimed at clearing up old, unsolved gangland slayings that date back decades. Among the 12 defendants are reputed major mob bosses James Marcello and Lombardo and Calabrese’s brother, Frank Calabrese Sr.

The case, expected to offer a glimpse into the workings of the Chicago mob, has already made the kind of headlines that might seem the stuff of novels and movies. In January, a federal marshal assigned to guard Nicholas Calabrese was charged with leaking information about Calabrese’s whereabouts to organized crime. He has pleaded not guilty.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Net Loss

This is not necessarily on the topic of organized crime, but a "Friend of Mine" has written a detective mystery that I think many of you will find a compelling read. Should be a good piece of fiction for you to puruse while at the beach this summer.

Frustrated small-town loan officer Kyle Schmidt turns to online chat for a brief escape from his bleak reality. His fleeting affair awakens his online partner, Shelly Ruzinski, from a life of abject loneliness, and unleashes a love that quickly evolves into a dangerous obsession. She leaves a trail of murders as signs of her undying devotion, forcing the beleaguered police chief and a boy with unique perceptive abilities to stop her before she commits the ultimate act of love.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Will Mob Family Secrets be Revealed?

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Nick Calabrese, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Louie "The Mooch" Eboli, James LaPietra, John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were heading to a meeting with top mobsters, and they were worried.

Tony Spilotro, already a made member of the mob and the Outfit's man in Las Vegas, was told he was going to be promoted. Michael was to become a "made" member. But they weren't acting like men in line for promotions, recently released court records show.

Michael gave his daughter his rings, a phone book and a cross to give to his wife. Tony gave the girl a briefcase containing money, rings and a phone book to pass on to his family in case he didn't return. The men never came back from the June 1986 meeting. It was a setup for them to be killed.

Fresh details about the murders could come to light this week when a federal judge will hold a hearing on evidence from the Spilotro murders that could become part of the Family Secrets trial.

It's one of 18 murders charged in the case, which involves some of the top mobsters in the Chicago area.

Top mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello doesn't want jurors to hear from a member of the Spilotro family, who would testify he called Michael Spilotro at home regarding the meeting where the brothers were killed. The family member has not been named in court records but apparently can recognize Marcello's voice.

Marcello also didn't want jurors to hear from one of the Spilotro brothers' widows, who can testify about statements the men made before they left for the meeting.

The brothers' brutal murders are easily the best known among the murders charged in the case. In the mob movie "Casino," the Spilotro brothers -- with Joe Pesci playing the character based on Tony Spilotro -- were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

In real life, they were slain in a basement in a Bensenville-area home and later buried in a cornfield.

Several top mobsters were waiting in the basement and attacked the Spilotro brothers as they entered. Among the attackers waiting downstairs were several mobsters, now dead, including top mob boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Louie "The Mooch" Eboli, James LaPietra and John Fecarotta.

The FBI learned the details of the murder from one of the men who was there, reputed mob hitman Nick Calabrese, who now is cooperating with the feds and is expected to testify at trial.

Marcello is charged in the murders and allegedly drove the Spilotro brothers to the Bensenville-area home and their deaths.

Tony Spilotro asked his killers if he could say a novena before he died. His request was denied, and the killers strangled the brothers.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Original Scarface

Loosely based on the life of Al Capone, Howard Hawks’s SCARFACE is one of the most shocking and powerful gangster films ever made, setting the standard for Hollywood screen violence for years to come.

Tony "Scarface" Camonte (Paul Muni) is an enforcer for Johnny Lovo, an ambitious gangster who wants to combine all the liquor rackets in Prohibition-era Chicago into one crime empire. To achieve this goal Tony embarks on a reign of terror, threatening citizens and clawing his way to power until he is the number one mobster in town. Muni’s fierce performance established the model for the Hollywood mobster, a violent yet charismatic figure. Censorship battles over the film delayed its release for two years, and resulted in additional moralizing scenes and an alternate ending. Visually dynamic and provocative, SCARFACE, produced by Howard Hughes, is one of the best films of the 1930s and the forerunner of the modern gangster film.

Did Chicago and New York Mobsters Make a Move into Wisconsin?

Friends of ours: Meyer Lansky
Friends of mine: Morgan Murphy

Wisconsin State gaming officials raised serious questions over whether to grant Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha a gaming license so he could develop a proposed Indian casino at the old Dairyland dog-racing track in that city, according to documents released Friday.

The more than 1,000 pages of documents, which were part of a background investigation of Troha's now-defunct Kenesah Gaming Development LLC, show that state officials were aware of Troha's alleged links to organized crime and his past efforts to sway top state politicians into approving an earlier casino plan at the same dog track site. But a 46-page summary report on the documents stopped short of determining the accuracy of those allegations or recommending whether Troha should be granted the license.

Instead, as Gaming Administrator Robert Sloey noted in a cover letter releasing the report, Troha withdrew his request for the gaming license before the state could prepare a final report.

"Consequently, the report does not represent (any) conclusions drawn by the (Gaming) Division," Sloey wrote.

In a statement, Troha spokesman Jeff Fleming called the report "a compilation of every unsubstantiated innuendo and rumor. The contents of the report have not been verified or subjected to the routine review that the state would ordinarily conduct before making formal findings.

"Because of the circumstances, it is neither fair nor practical for Mr. Troha to respond to specific statements in the report," Fleming said.

Troha was indicted in March on federal fraud charges for allegedly funneling more than $200,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Gov. Jim Doyle through several family members. Federal prosecutors allege that he gave the money in an attempt to win Doyle's approval of the $800 million casino project. Troha has denied any wrongdoing.

The records show that Troha invested at least $13 million of his own money into the project, which was also being funded by the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin and the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut. The two tribes bought out Troha's share of the project shortly before he was indicted.

Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for the Menominee, said he believes the report will not affect federal or state action on the project, but it could be used by casino opponents to try to build political opposition.

While the report did not recommend whether to grant Troha and his Kenesah firm a gaming license, Division of Gaming investigator Patrick O'Hern questioned Troha's role in the project based on the following "issues":

* Troha's role in an earlier effort by Nii-Jii Entertainment Inc. in the 1990s to develop an Indian casino at the site.

Troha was a partner in the project, which was headed by former U.S. Rep. Morgan Murphy of Illinois and businessman Joseph Madrigano. Murphy later came under federal investigation and had to abandon the project because of his partners' alleged ties to the Chicago mob.

In an interview with state investigators, Troha described himself as an "insignificant participant" who "gave Morgan Murphy the benefit of the doubt" because Murphy "seemed to be a nice guy ... (who) didn't seem to be anybody that would be involved in anything improper."

O'Hern said that other records, including testimony in a civil trial by other casino investors against Murphy, indicated Troha's role was much more significant, but did not reach any conclusions as to how significant that role was.

* Troha's "history of having business partners with ties to organized crime."

In the late 1980s, Troha was a partner in another firm seeking to manage the Dairyland dog track. Other investors in that firm were alleged to have been close associates of New York mobster Meyer Lansky. The report also recounted Murphy's alleged ties to the Chicago mob.

* Troha's reputed involvement "in using improper methods to influence public officials in order to obtain approvals needed to operate a gaming enterprise."

In the first such case, Troha and other business partners allegedly retained veteran lobbyist M. William Gerrard in the 1980s in order to get then-Gov. Tommy Thompson's to approve their management of the Dairyland dog track.

Troha, according to the report, allegedly asked Gerrard to see whether Troha could hire a Racing Board member to act as an attorney for Troha's trucking company. Troha also met with Thompson's top aides, including then Administration Secretary Jim Klauser and Thompson aide Nick Hurtgen, before the Racing Board acted on Troha's request. The Racing Board ultimately rejected that proposal.

In the second case, the Nii-Jii project was shut down after it was reported that several of Thompson's closest confidants would have received shares of stock in the project worth more than $46 million. "Given Mr. Troha's significant level of activity in Nii-Jii matters, he could have known of this deal long before it hit the papers," the report stated.

The company also allegedly gave "gifts" of shares in Nii-Jii to Hurtgen's wife and other top officials in a manner "singularly characteristic of influence peddling."

* Troha's record of "bad business practices on several occasions." These endeavors included the failed Nii-Jii project in which other Kenosha investors lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The investors ultimately filed a class-action lawsuit against Murphy and other project leaders.

The report found that Troha also had disputes with the Teamsters union over his Kenosha-based trucking company over union representation of his drivers. The Teamsters claimed that Troha sought to circumvent union contracts "by transferring work to non-Teamster companies in a kind of shell game.'" And the report also stated that Troha's "right-hand man in the company's Kentucky location" was alleged to have told a subordinate to commit perjury in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by one of the company's employees.

* A "lack of due diligence" by Troha in some of his business dealings. Those failings include claims that Troha failed to learn about efforts by other partners in the 1980s dog track racing venture to bribe a member of the Wisconsin Racing Board.

* A failure to disclose previous law-enforcement contacts relating to the Dairyland dog racing application and the Nii-Jii venture on his application for the Kenesah license.

Thanks to David Callender

The Iceman Interviews

Friends of ours: Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski

The Iceman Interviews DVDAn abused young man. A hair-trigger temper. A trail of dead bodies. What makes a cold-blooded killer tick? THE ICEMAN AND THE PSYCHIATRIST is now available for the first time on DVD. Renowned forensic psychologist Dr. Park Dietz gets up close, personal and even confrontational with psyche of one of the most dangerous men who lived.

Genovese Mafia Crime Family Captain Returns to Prison

Friends of ours: Angelo "The Horn" Prisco, Genovese Crime Family

Reputed Genovese family capo Angelo "The Horn" Prisco pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to one count of extortion in connection with attempts to win electrical business connected to the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy.

Under the plea deal announced Thursday afternoon, federal prosecutors said Prisco must serve five years in prison.

Investigators said Prisco, 68, threatened violence to intimidate rivals out of the running for hanging lights and other electrical work associated with the summer outdoor festival. The threats were recorded by the FBI during a meeting at an Edgewater, N.J., restaurant back in July 2004.

Prisco has been at the center of controversy over his parole from state prison when James McGreevey was governor. Prisco had been sentenced to 12 years for arson and conspiracy back in 1988. But he was paroled after serving about one third of his state sentence.

Some questioned whether the reputed mobster received special treatment. McGreevey has denied any impropriety and denied he played any role in helping arrange Prisco's early release. But former Parole Board Director Kenneth Connolly had claimed that McGreevey's office demoted and transferred him in 2002 when he questioned Prisco's early release. Connolly claimed that a top McGreevey aide had intervened in the Prisco case.

Connolly's lawsuit was settled for more than $400,000. At the time, the deal permitted Connolly to transfer from the Parole Board, where he was a hearing officer, to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Thanks to Jonathan Dienst

Friday, May 18, 2007

Calabrese, Government Star Mob Witness, Pleads Guilty

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, James LaPietra, Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs

The government's star witness in its prosecution of top organized-crime bosses in 18 mob murders today admitted his role in a conspiracy to conduct the affairs of a criminal enterprise – namely, the Chicago mob.

Nicholas W. Calabrese, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and navy sweatpants, entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. Calabrese has long cooperated with the government, and pleaded guilty in advance of the trial of his co-defendants, expected to get under way this summer.

Zagel noted that Calabrese could face at least 24 years in prison according to federal guidelines, but federal prosecutors are expected to recommend a lesser sentence.

After the hearing, Calabrese's attorney, John Theis, said he could not say whether the 64-year-old Calabrese believes he eventually will be released from prison because of his willingness to aid federal investigators. But Theis said he expects his client to fully cooperate, including testifying in the upcoming trial of his former cohorts. "He will testify truthfully," Theis said.

According to today's plea agreement, Calabrese contributed to 14 of the murders previously charged in the case and was directly involved in the Sept. 14, 1986, killing of John Fecarotta.

The document states that Calabrese, on the orders of James LaPietra and under the direction of his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., lured Fecarotta to his death under the ruse of participating in a crime. "The defendant and the victim struggled over a gun in the car they were in, and the victim fled on foot," the document states. "The defendant admits that he chased Fecarotta and shot and killed him after the victim fled the vehicle."

The Tribune previously cited law-enforcement sources as saying Calabrese agreed to cooperate after he was confronted with DNA evidence linking him to at least one murder. He implicated an alleged Who's Who of the mob—James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs, brother Frank Calabrese Sr. and others—in connection with 18 long-unsolved mob murders, including the 1986 beating deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

The four reputed mob figures and nine others were indicted with Nicholas Calabrese on gambling, loan sharking and murder charges.

Thanks to

Spilotro Brothers Murder Not in a Cornfield?

Friends of ours: Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Nick Calabrese, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Rocco Lombardo, Joe Ferriola, James Marcello, Frank Cullotta, John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, William "Slick" Hanner

It's been 21 years since Tough Tony Spilotro, the reputed rackets boss of Las Vegas, was murdered along with his brother, presumably by members of "The Outfit" in Chicago. But the best-known version of how the men were killed is simply wrong, according to federal prosecutors in Chicago, who are preparing to out away the men responsible.

Operation Family Secrets is the name of the FBI probe that led to the indictment of 14 Chicago mobsters, charged with 18 gangland murders, including those of the Spilotro brothers. The trial, slated to begin in two weeks, will challenge widely held views of what really happened to "Tough Tony."

Movie fans around the world are familiar with the bloody end met by Las Vegas mob boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael. In the film "Casino," the characters based the Spilotro brothers were taken to an Indiana cornfield, then were beaten to a pulp, one at a time, with baseball bats, and then buried while still alive.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors are prepared to make the Spilotro murders a centerpiece of the massive prosecution of 14 mob figures. The case that will be presented at the Dirksen Courthouse lists 18 murders in all, along with many other crimes, but because of their movie notoriety, the Spilotro's are likely to get top billing.

Rick Halprin, Chicago defense attorney, said, "The event is depicted in a movie, and anybody sitting on a jury, or most of the jury, is going to associate the two. The judge is going to have to deal with that when we select a jury."

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp: "But the movie version is wrong. Mobster-turned-informant Nick Calabrese is ready to testify that the Spilotro brothers were killed, not in Indiana, but instead, here in a quiet suburb of Bensenville."

Why should a jury believe Nick Calabrese about the Spilotro murders? Because Calabrese admits that he was one of the killers. He's also fessed up to participating in 14 other mob murders and is ready to tell all he knows about the Chicago outfit, including his own brother Frank.

This is the story told by Calabrese and corroborated by the FBI with other sources. Tony Spilotro, who was facing three indictments in Las Vegas, returned to Chicago in the belief that he might be in line for a promotion in his hometown.

Former mob associate "Slick" Hanner said, "The reason they got killed was because they were going back to Chicago to take over The Outfit. He was telling his crew we're going back to Chicago."

Acting boss Joe Ferriola, now deceased, saw it differently and ordered the murders. Spilotro's presumed boss, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, allegedly signed off on the hit. The Spilotro brothers were wary about going to a meeting, but changed their minds about taking guns along, presumably because someone close to them put their minds at ease.

According to Calabrese, the Spilotro's were picked up by James Marcello, currently listed as boss of The Outfit, and were driven to a house in the Bensenville suburb. Tony was supposed to get a promotion. Michael was to become a made member. When they got to the house, they were taken to the basement for the ceremony, and that's where Marcello, Calabrese, and four other men beat them to death.

At least two men, including hitman John Fecarotta, put the bodies in a car and jumped on the highway. As the I-Team learned, one of the first signs they would have seen directs them toward Indiana and the cornfield. Former Spilotro underling, hitman Frank Cullotta, tried to put Spilotro away, but is still bothered by the imagery.

Cullotta said, "If I had to kill him, I couldn't kill him that way. I'd a just shot him. I couldn't beat him to death like that, let his brother watch. I just assume they were showing one or the other, you're not such a tough guy after all."

The bodies were never supposed to be found, but were. For botching that job Ferracotta was murdered by Nick Calabrese. Years later, DNA evidence from that murder allowed the FBI to turn Calabrese into a witness, which led to the indictments of all the others.

Defense attorney Rick Halprin ridicules the government for going after men whose average ages are 75. He says his client, Joey Lombardo, was in prison when the Spilotro murders took place and had nothing to do with it.

It's decades later, but the trial will still be watched in Las Vegas where family ties run deep.

This year, when Rocco Lombardo, brother of Joey "The Clown," appeared in federal court, he was defended -- ironically enough -- by Attorney John Spilotro, the nephew of Tough Tony.

A lot of Spilotro family members still live in Las Vegas, including Tony's wife Nancy. They generally don't speak about those days long ago but have told the I-Team they feel some relief that the government is finally prosecuting someone for the murders.

Thanks to George Knapp

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ray Ruggiero, Genovese Crime Family Member, Sentenced to 168 Months in Prison on Racketeering Charges

Friends of ours: Renaldi "Ray" Ruggiero, Genovese Crime Family

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Division, and Michael E. Yasofsky, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Plantation, Florida, announce that defendant Renaldi (Ray) Ruggiero was sentenced to 168 months’ imprisonment after having pled guilty in February 2007 to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962(d). Ruggiero was also ordered to serve 2 years of supervised release, to pay a fine of $25,000 and to forfeit $10,000 previously seized by the government.

At the time of his plea, Ruggiero admitted that he was a soldier and then made a captain in the Genovese Crime Family and was in charge of its operations in South Florida. Ruggiero admitted that he supervised and directed the activities of members and associates committing criminal acts in the Southern District of Florida, and was employed by the Genovese Crime Family of La Cosa Nostra. He further admitted that he conspired to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity, including extortion, robbery, money laundering, making of extortionate extensions of credit, collection of extensions of credit by extortionate means, travel in aid of racketeering, possession of stolen property, and bank fraud.

This is the sixth defendant to have been sentenced in this case. Previously, co-defendants Colasacco, Steinberg, Weissman, Santoro and O’Donnell received sentences ranging from 41 months to 97 months after pleading guilty to one count of RICO conspiracy.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and United States Postal Service assigned to this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey N. Kaplan and Trial Attorney Cynthia Stone from the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the United States Department of Justice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

America's Most Wanted Teams with The Chicago Syndicate

The Chicago Syndicate has recently entered into a partnership with the hit TV show, America's Most Wanted. America's Most WantedAmerican's Most Wanted: America Fights Back is in its 19th season and airs Saturdays (9-10 p.m. ET/PT) on FOX with John Walsh is the host. As a result, you will periodically get a preview of upcoming episodes along with other related information. While not all of their stories and fugitives will focus on organized crime, I think the quality of the show and their impressive results will have me initially sharing most of the material that they provide me. Should it deviate too much from the overall focus of this site, I might cut back in the future. Feel free to weigh in on this new development or on anything else.

AMW's big story this week is Paul Jackson. This is a guy from Oregon who teamed up with his brother to lure girls back to their house. When they got them there, they trapped them in a homemade sex-chamber and did unspeakable things. You can check out our write up at Two Brother's Tale of Torture.

Also, AMW is excited about the capture of Lizzette Garvin. She’s a con-woman from New York who got the detective’s number working the case, and started calling her. (Kind of like the movie “Catch Me If You Can”) She was captured as a direct-result of AMW within a day of the show airing.

Finally, in a couple weeks, AMW will have a big announcement on the show for the winner of the AMW All-Star contest.

For the third year in a row, the All-Star Challenge sponsored by the television show “America's Most Wanted” and Sprint continues to honor extraordinary first responders – law-enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and others – who are first to assist and go beyond the call of duty. This year’s winner, Officer Carl Andolina with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Police Department, will receive the grand prize of $10,000 and an all-star weekend at the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge on May 19 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.

"We are very proud of all of this year’s eight finalists. They are extraordinarily dedicated people who put their hearts and souls into serving their communities, while risking their lives. We salute their valor and dedication," said program host John Walsh. "We're also thankful to Sprint for their commitment and for working and helping us to recognize and honor these heroes."

Last year Officer Andolina and his partner Officer Patricia Parete were seriously injured while responding to a fight in progress at a local convenience store. Both officers were shot and injured in this operation. While Andolina is recovering from his injuries, his partner was not so fortunate. Today, Officer Parete remains on a respirator undergoing a slow recovery. Andolina’s selfless actions are still evident as he assists in raising money and providing support for Parete’s family.

“This is such a great honor and I would like to thank the people of Buffalo, friends and family for their continuous generosity and support,” said Officer Carl Andolino. “There are not many programs out there that recognize law-enforcement officers for what they do in their day-to-day lives. Thank you to America’s Most Wanted and Sprint Nextel for supporting this contest and honoring the officers.”

“Sprint continues its efforts to support the public safety community and their mission of protecting our families,” says Leon Frazier, senior vice president of Enterprise and Public Sector for Sprint. “First responders rely on Sprint’s strong communication capabilities

- including the industry-leading Nextel Walkie-Talkie service, Priority Connect - for their day-to-day operations and also during emergencies. For us at Sprint, it is not an opportunity but an obligation to serve the first-responder community.”

An AMW All-Star is a sworn law-enforcement officer or a first responder who is dedicated to serving the public on the frontlines and has gone above and beyond the call of duty. This program recognizes eight all-stars in eight weeks selected by their peers and community by voting online at This year the voting period began in early February and concluded on May 8. The eight finalists selected this year were: Dale Farmer of the Kingsport (Tenn.) City Police Department; Manny Puri of the U.S. Marshals Service Manhattan (N.Y.); Carl Andolina of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Police Department; David James of the Richmond (Ga.) County Sheriff’s Office; Gary Toelke of the Franklin County (Mo.) Sheriff's Office Union; Jon Brough of the Belleville (Ill.) Police Department; Erik Workman of the Maryland State Police; and Thomas Colter of the Snipesville/Jeff Davis County (Ga.) Fire-Rescue. This year more than 2,000 nominations were received, including 617 submitted online.

Slick Hanner Challenges Frank Cullotta's Credibility on Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner, Michael Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Jr.

Chicago's still powerful Mafia family, known as "The Outfit," is about to be pummeled by Operation Family Secrets, an FBI probe aimed at fourteen top mobsters.

The Outfit once had considerable control of casinos and street rackets in Las Vegas. Now, the remaining bosses will be prosecuted for eighteen unsolved murders. Among the witnesses will be former mob soldiers, including one time Las Vegas hitman Frank Cullotta.

Will Cullotta be credible when he takes the stand? Other "wiseguys" aren't so sure.

Frank Cullotta told Chief I-Team Reporter George Knapp, "I would think it's the end. I don't think it will ever be as strong or as organized as it was."

Admitted hitman and thief Frank Cullotta was raised on the mean streets of Chicago. He robbed people, boosted cars, and ran with a bad crowd, including his future boss, tough Tony Spilotro. In the late '70s, Cullotta joined Spilotro in Las Vegas as part of a burglary ring known as The Hole in the Wall Gang.

Cullotta committed at least one murder on orders from Spilotro, eventually joined the witness protection program and testified against Spilotro and other former associates. Now, he is listed as a likely witness in the prosecution of what remains of the Chicago outfit -- 14 alleged mobsters charged with 18 murders -- including those of Spilotro and his brother Michael. "There's guys who killed guys that have been killed for murders. Jesus, there's a lot of guys," Cullotta said.

Defense attorneys found out what Cullotta might say in court by obtaining a preview copy of his soon-to-be released book about his life of crime. A former federal prosecutor who helped turn Cullotta thinks he's a credible witness.

Don Campbell explained, "Certainly Frank knew what was going on in Chicago. How intimate his knowledge might have been on any particular crime, it depends on the crime. Clearly he was in the loop on an awful lot of criminal activity."

But others, including Spilotro's defense attorney, now Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, have complained for years that Cullotta isn't believable. Oscar Goodman said, "He's a liar, he's a pimp, he's a thief."

Another Cullotta critic, former mob associate, William "Slick" Hanner said, "What can he say that they don't know?"

Hanner, who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhoods, ran with the same crowd, but even before Cullotta. Hanner said, "I ain't saying I'm better than him. I'm not a killer, but I don't embellish things. He said Tony sent for him. Tony never sent for him. He came out here to put a girl to work. She was a prostitute. Then he went to Tony and said he's gonna bring his crew out."

Hanner, who ended up working in licensed casinos despite his long criminal record, has written his own book about the bad old days, entitled "Thief." He admits to being a participant in skimming millions from the mob-tainted Stardust casino but feels Cullotta is exaggerating his own importance "I would have never given him witness protection, never. He's as bad as the ones he's testifying against," Hanner continued.

Cullotta is expected to testify that his boss, Spilotro, reported to longtime reputed outfit kingpin Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, the best known of the fourteen defendants in the Operation Family Secrets case. Two other mobsters, Frank and Nick Calabrese, are ready to tell what they know about the other defendants. Lombardo's lawyer thinks those two will be tough witnesses, but he sounds like he will be ready for Cullotta.

Rick Halprin, Lombardo's defense attorney, said, "Even though I've seen tapes of Cullotta, I don't know what he's gonna be like until I see him on the stand. I don't think he'll be what I've seen on the tapes. I really don't."

Anyone who's seen the movie "Casino" probably believes the Spilotro brothers were murdered in a cornfield. Not so.

Thanks to George Knapp

Pizza Connection Mobsters Cooking New Dish?

Friends of mine: Rosario Gambino, John Gambino, Joseph Gambino, Lorenzo Mannino, Carlo Gambino, George DeCicco, Dominic "Italian Dom" Cefalu, Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Vito Rizzuto
Friends of ours: Louis Eppolito, Frank Sinatra, Donnie Brasco

Sicilian mobsters - with their infamous history of violence and drug trafficking across several continents - are re-emerging as major powers in the Big Apple, The Post has learned. And their ranks within New York's crime families are only expected to grow with the recent release of notorious "Pizza Connection" Mafiosi, including a convicted heroin trafficker once linked to "Mafia Cop" Louis Eppolito.

The hardened mobsters giving the feds the most agita include the heroin-trafficking Gambino brothers Rosario, John and Joseph, who were once the Sicilian mob's chieftains here. They had been cooling their heels in jail since the mid-1980s and 1990s, refusing to squeal in exchange for deals with the feds and reputedly waiting to reclaim their lucrative organized-crime slots.

Now they're free to get back in the game.

The Post has learned that the resurgence of the Sicilian-led mob has been so strong that the FBI and the Italian government have established a special "cooperative venture" that involves stationing U.S. agents in Rome and having cops from the Italian National Police working at FBI Headquarters in Washington.

The initiative - dubbed "The Pantheon Project" - guarantees that the FBI and its Italian counterparts share surveillance and intelligence on developing cases and track the connections between La Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the United States, officials said. "Despite convictions and crackdowns both here and in Sicily, the Sicilian mob is still part of the Mafia culture and have been reconstituting their power bases in the U.S. and abroad," a top Mafia expert said.

Given that the Sicilian Mafia's single greatest asset is its ability to move narcotics, federal agents believe that the jail-hardened Pizza Connection-era gangsters - who had been trafficking heroin through pizza parlors around the country - will likely return to the narcotics trade now that they're out. But they will be shifting their enterprises into moving huge amounts of marijuana.

Selling pot is just as lucrative as heroin, sources said, but the penalties are far less severe than the decades-long sentences meted out to the Gambino brothers and rising crime-family star Lorenzo Mannino, who once tried to get Frank Sinatra to help crooner Al Martino find work in Las Vegas - evoking images from the book and movie "The Godfather." Martino, incidentally, played Johnny Fontane, a character loosely based on Sinatra, in the movie.

"Mafia Cop" Eppolito, whose father and other relatives were mobsters, was related to Rosario Gambino, an old-world mob figure. In 1984, Eppolito was brought up on departmental charges for allegedly passing confidential NYPD files to Gambino, but beat the rap. He's now in jail for carrying out hits for other big mobsters.

The trio of Gambino brothers, all relatives of the crime syndicate's namesake, Carlo Gambino, have been freed. Joseph was deported back to his native Sicily.

"Do you think they have been rehabilitated by prison?" a federal official asked sarcastically. Federal officials suspect these Gambinos, as well others due for release soon, will return to doing what they know best. "Narcotics is something they understand, they have the network and, as importantly, they have the respect," the federal source said.

Numerous Sicilian gangsters and associates - many targeted recently by the FBI and federal prosecutors - not only trace their heritage to the lush mountains of towns like Borgetto and Castellammare Del Golfo, their fathers and close relatives are key "Godfather"-like figures running the Mafia in their native land.

For example, Sicilian brothers-in-law Vito Rappa and Francesco Nania are presently under federal indictment for paying $70,000 to bribe a U.S. immigration official to keep Nania from being deported. The case also snared Gambino crime-family members, including mob captain George DeCicco, 78.

According to federal court records, Rappa's father is the "official head of the Mafia based in the Borgetto region of Sicily."

Nania, a fugitive wanted for mob-related crimes in Italy, is the son of an "influential member of the Mafia based in Partinico, Sicily," a long-established mob stronghold in Italy, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf's prosecutors wrote in a detention memo.

And then there is Vito Rizzuto - dubbed the John Gotti of Canada and a leading figure in the Bonanno crime family. The 70-year-old Rizzuto is related by marriage to the godfather of the agrarian town of Cattolica Eraclea, where Rizzuto was born.

Rizzuto accepted a 10-year, plea-bargained sentence last week for his role in the spectacular 1981 rubouts of Bonanno captains Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera. The slayings were a murderous trifecta immortalized in the movie "Donnie Brasco" and carried out to stem an internal coup.

Despite these indictments and convictions, law-enforcement sources say the Sicilians still hold sway over a string of key New York spots.

Dominic "Italian Dom" Cefalu is currently considered the reputed underboss of the Gambinos, the largest crime syndicate in the nation, sources say. Cefalu, 60, a convicted heroin trafficker, was "made" by John Gotti 17 years ago.

Thanks to Murray Weiss

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Chicago Mafia Figures on Trial For Spilotro Murders

Friends of ours: Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Al Capone, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

Federal prosecutors are ready to drive what may be the final nail into the coffin of the country's most powerful Mafia family. It's the most significant prosecution of the Chicago outfit in history.

Fourteen suspected Mafia leaders are charged with numerous crimes, including the murders of suspected mobsters who controlled street rackets in Las Vegas.

This week marks what would have been Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro's 69th birthday. He was a feared man in the '70s and '80s, but was murdered in 1986 along with his brother Michael. Murders that were made famous by the movie "Casino." The case was never solved but now federal prosecutors are going after some of the men they believe were involved, men whose criminal enterprises are inextricably linked to Las Vegas.

On the wall of defense attorney Rick Halprin's Chicago office is a newspaper cartoon, which pokes fun at how Joey "The Clown" Lombardo got his nickname. While in federal court one day, and to avoid being photographed, Lombardo made a mask out of a newspaper. People thought it was clownish.

In the big-shouldered city of Chicago, where organized crime has been a fact of life since before Al Capone, everyone knows Lombardo's name. For more than 30 years, the word "reputed" has been attached to it.

Rick Halprin, Lombardo's defense attorney, said, "Without question, when you walk down the street, if you ask a citizen about the case, the mob case, the only name they know is Joey Lombardo." Defense attorney Rick Halprin knows that overcoming Lombardo's longstanding reputation, as a top boss of Chicago's outfit will be his major challenge in the upcoming trial based on the FBI's "Operation Family Secrets."

Lombardo is one of fourteen Windy City Mafia figures charged with a vast assortment of serious crimes, including eighteen unsolved murders. More than 1,000 murders have been attributed to the Chicago outfit over the years. Fewer than twenty have been solved. This massive indictment represents the most serious assault on the mob since Capone was put away.

Rick Halprin continued, "The interest is intense, and the pressure -- it's very, very big 'cause you're talking about Chicago. You're talking about an indictment that goes back 63 years."

A document known as a Santiago Proffer outlines the government's case. It reads like a Mario Puzo novel. Much of the information is so sensitive, involving protected witnesses, which the government blacked it out. What's clear from the case is the symbiotic relationship between mob bosses in Chicago and their emissaries in Las Vegas.

Loans from the Mafia-controlled Teamsters pension fund built much of Las Vegas. The loans came with strings attached. The mob not only used Nevada casinos to launder money from illicit businesses, they skimmed tens of millions of dollars from the countrooms, money that found its way back to Chicago. In the 1980's, Joey Lombardo was one of several mobsters convicted in a federal skimming case. Those prosecutions spurred many of the murders that only now might be resolved.

John Flood, a former Chicago lawman, said, "Any outfit murder out of Chicago, Lombardo would have been involved in it."

John Flood spent more than 30 years chasing mobsters in Chicago. He says Lombardo once tried to kill him by running him down with a car. He and others believe that Lombardo would have had to okay all of the murders mentioned in the indictment, including those of brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro.

Tony was Chicago's main man in Las Vegas. He protected the skim and allegedly oversaw a criminal operation known as the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. The murders of the Spilotro brothers were immortalized in the movie "Casino." One man who agrees that Lombardo played a role is Frank Cullotta, a Spilotro soldier who turned government witness and who is likely to be called in the Chicago trial. Cullotta gave the I-Team an exclusive interview earlier this year.

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp: "Joey Lombardo?"

Frank Cullotta: "He was Tony's boss and he was my boss."

George Knapp: "You guys reported directly to him."

Frank Cullotta: "Tony did. I reported to Tony, so Joe relayed messages to Tony. Do I think Joe Lombardo was involved in it? I think they would have to go to him for an okay."

Cullotta has written a book about his life with the mob. It's due out in a matter of weeks. Rick Halprin thinks Cullotta is a flawed witness. However, he admits the government has stronger witnesses, including two members of the Calabrese family, made members of the mob who agreed to testify.

They've already given tips that led to the search for buried remains of murder victims. But don't count the Cagey Lombardo out. He's ready to spring a unique strategy called the withdrawal defense. After his release from prison in the '90s, he took out an ad in a Chicago paper announcing his formal withdrawal from the mob. It's not a joke.

Rick Halprin said, "So, ultimately we have to let the jury decide whether: a) Lombardo was involved in a conspiracy at all, which we say he wasn't, and b) if he was, did he withdraw from the conspiracy? And the government would like to prove that he did not."

The trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday, May 15th but has been delayed for another two weeks. The notoriety of the Spilotro murders means those slayings will play a central part in the government's case. But the version we've all seen is not how the murders went down at all.

Thanks to George Knapp

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Widow Wants Jewelry from Top Chicago Outfit Cop Returned

Friends of mine: William Hanhardt

Marlene Rolecek wants her stolen jewelry back. It's worth more than $100,000.

The jewelry was not stolen from her. It was stolen from unsuspecting salesmen targeted by a highly sophisticated theft ring, overseen by former Chicago Police chief of detectives William Hanhardt, now in prison.

Dynamic Auto Updating Coupon BannerIn an unusual twist in the Hanhardt case, Rolecek, 75, filed court papers recently asking for 22 pieces of jewelry, including gems and watches, to be returned to her. The federal government seized the jewelry as evidence in 2000. The items include a gold Rolex watch, a three-carat pearl-shaped pendant, and a diamond and ruby cocktail ring, court records show.

Rolecek's husband, Charles Rolecek, a onetime Chicago Police officer, bought the pieces over several years from Hanhardt's right-hand man in the jewelry theft ring, Joseph Basinski, according to court records.

Marlene Rolecek did not return phone messages but said in court papers neither she nor her husband had any idea the jewelry was stolen, so she deserves it back.

Federal prosecutors argue Marlene Rolecek knew full well her husband wasn't buying the baubles at Tiffany's. Prosecutors point to her grand jury testimony in June 2000 as part of the investigation.

Rolecek said she didn't question where the jewelry was coming from or how her husband afforded it.

Charles Rolecek bought jewelry from Basinski for as little as one-fourth its appraised value.

"My husband says mind your own business. It's a gift. It's a gift for you. And that was it. And if I wanted more gifts, I shut my mouth," Rolecek said, according to the grand jury transcript.

Now, it's up to a judge to decide if she gets the jewelry back.

Thanks to NBC5

"Better Off Dead: In Paradise" - A Mafia Novel to Die For!

Just when you think you are safe, all Hell breaks loose! That's what has happened to Frankie Granstino and his fiancée, Alicia.

"Better Off Dead: In Paradise", is the new fiction Mafia thriller, and sequel to "Better Off Dead". "Better Off Dead" told the story of Frankie Granstino, the young life insurance salesman from Brooklyn New York, who got trapped by the Vongemi Mafia Family into writing life insurance policies on people who ended up dying mysteriously.

Frank was in line to get killed to keep him quiet. The FBI managed to save him and Alicia in the nick of time whereby they became FBI witnesses and placed in the Witness Protection Program. The Vongemi Family Mob leaders were sent to prison for life. But prison doesn't weaken a powerful Mob Family. They continue to rule, but with a newfound vengeance, an intense urgency for revenge.

Better Off Dead In Paradise, now takes us to the pristine Cayman islands in the Caribbean, where Frank and Alicia, a former FBI agent, believe they are safely hidden away from the powerful Vongemi Family, safe in the Witness Protection Program.

Something goes terribly wrong when Frankie and Alicia's witness protection location is suddenly compromised, and Mob associates are suddenly in the Caymans blowing up cars and shooting up victims in their mad pursuit of Frank and Alicia.

The story takes us through all three Cayman Islands, to New York City, and back to the Caymans. All the while, lives are lost, bullets fly, and Frankie and Alicia are on the run for their lives, once again, from the ruthless Vongemi Mob Family.

Author, John Paul Carinci, in his fifth novel, gets inside our heads as we feel, taste, and fully visualize the intense fear Frank and Alicia sense from an all out imminent Mafia hit on their lives, where no one stands in the killer's way in the pursuit of the two.

Dramatic events keep unfolding chapter by chapter, which makes the exciting Better Off Dead: In Paradise a page turner of a book!

Hanhardt Seeks to Overturn Conviction

Friends of mine: William Hanhardt

A legendary former Chicago police deputy superintendent serving 12 years in prison for heading a sophisticated jewelry theft ring is seeking to overturn his 2001 conviction, arguing he was mentally unfit to plead guilty days after a suicide attempt.

In a federal lawsuit, William Hanhardt contends his lawyers at the time were incompetent for pushing him to plead guilty despite the fact that "my emotions were completely overwhelmed."

Hanhardt, 78 and said to be suffering from a long list of medical woes, also sought to be moved to a prison camp closer to his family.

U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle sentenced Hanhardt to almost 16 years in prison in 2002 for heading a mob-connected crew that used pinpoint timing and meticulous planning to steal millions of dollars of jewels from traveling salesmen. After a federal appeals court took issue with a part of the sentence, Norgle resentenced Hanhardt in 2004 to 11 years and 9 months in prison.

Hanhardt's guilty plea was postponed after he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on prescribed painkillers. The following week, Hanhardt pleaded guilty "blind" -- without a plea agreement with prosecutors.

In the federal lawsuit, filed Monday, Hanhardt's lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, argued that Hanhardt was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel when his lawyers pressed ahead with the guilty plea despite the suicide attempt. The suit contends that the lawyers ignored the concerns of Hanhardt's family that he needed psychological help and didn't want to plead guilty.

At the time of his guilty plea and sentencing, Hanhardt had little to say publicly. But in a four-page affidavit made part of his lawsuit, he said he participated in and witnessed "many dreadful and horrific" events in his more than three decades on the police force. "I regularly experience flashbacks to this day, which evoke powerful and, at times, overwhelming emotions," he wrote.

Since he was imprisoned, Hanhardt has been diagnosed by a psychologist as suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.

In his early days on the force, when counseling wasn't available after a deadly incident, Hanhardt states in the affidavit that he regularly drank after work to "take the edge off."

Eventually, he mixed alcohol and prescription painkillers and then began seeing a psychiatrist, Hanhardt states.

A few years ago, Hanhardt said he learned on separate occasions from the FBI that certain members of the Chicago Police Department and organized crime wanted him killed. "The pressures, past and present, overwhelmed my cognitive and emotional faculties," Hanhardt's affidavit states. "In short, my internal defenses were breaking down. I was unable to make rational decisions as to my future."

Steinback also said Hanhardt has battled testicular cancer and congestive heart failure, prostate and chronic back problems and an arthritic knee and severe hearing loss, virtually immobilizing him and leaving him in severe pain.

Steinback asked Norgle to review a ruling he made that has kept prison officials from moving Hanhardt to a federal prison camp in Oxford, Wis., so he can be closer to his family. Hanhardt is incarcerated in Minnesota.

Thanks to Matt O'Connor

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Real Sopranos Were More Brutal and Less Stylish Than Tony's Crew

"The Sopranos," the HBO series now in its final season, won fame by depicting a Mafia crew whose members had begun assimilating into middleclass suburban life -- moving into McMansions, raising kids who attend Ivy League schools, discovering the psychiatrist's couch (or armchair).

Interestingly, it was HBO, nearly 20 years ago, that first gave us a look at what the real mob was like when it started to go suburban -- and the picture is nothing like "The Sopranos." The now-forgotten "Confessions of an Undercover Cop," a fascinating 1988 documentary, traced the decline and fall of the very Jersey crew that inspired "The Sopranos" -- the crime family of Ruggerio "Richie the Boot" Boiardo, whose gang was less introspective, even more violent, and a lot less glamorous than Tony's fictional mob.

"Sopranos" creator David Chase had learned about this Jersey mob as a child. Visiting relatives in Newark's predominantly Italian-American North Ward, he met a cousin with "fuzzy connections to a prominent mob family in Livingston," an exclusive suburb where Boiardo had moved. Though Chase says in a 2002 interview in New Jersey Monthly that "90 percent of [the show] is made up. . . . it's patterned after this [family]."

Boiardo, known simply as the Boot around Newark, began running numbers while working as a milkman before Prohibition, and he quickly figured out that crime paid better than dairy. He moved up the racketeering ranks and during Prohibition competed with another prominent Newark mobster, Abner "Longy" Zwillman, to smuggle booze through Newark. Working independently, the pair supplied much of the eastern half of the United States.

There was little mystery about the Boot's rise. Like the fictional Vito Corleone, he was brutal and had a knack for surviving. He earned his nickname from his habit of stomping his enemies to death, and he consolidated his power in Newark after withstanding a hit by a rival gang that left him full of bullets but defiantly alive. The Boot, moreover, passed his viciousness on to his son Anthony "Tony Boy" Boiardo and recruited other like-minded hoods. Not only did these guys dispose of their enemies as sadistically as anyone in "The Sopranos," but rather than brood over their bad deeds as some characters in the TV series do, the real Sopranos recounted their nastiest killings with relish.

In one FBI surveillance tape, for instance, Tony Boy declares, "How about the time we hit the little Jew." An associate adds, "As little as they are, they struggle." Then Tony Boy finishes describing the scene: "The Boot hit him with a hammer. The guy goes down and he comes up. So I got a crowbar this big. . . . Eight shots in the head. What do you think he finally did to me? He spit at me." In another tape, the mobsters recall with equal delight locking a victim in a car trunk and setting it afire. "He must have burned like a bastard," one mobster says.

As in "The Sopranos," the Boot joined the flight of Italian Americans out of Newark to the Essex County suburbs, where he built an opulent walled-in retreat in Livingston. But unlike Tony Soprano's modern McMansion, the Boot's estate was more like some European fortress, described by Life as "Transylvanian traditional" in its architectural style, with busts of famous Romans dotting its grounds. Another particularly noteworthy feature: a large furnace, rumored to be where the Boot's crew disposed of his enemies' remains.

By the time "Confessions" takes up this gang's story in the mid-1980s, Boiardo had recently died, as, unexpectedly of a heart attack, had his son and heir apparent, Tony Boy, leaving what remained of the crew to their lieutenants. Most of these hoodlums had also by now decamped to Newark's suburbs -- places like North Caldwell, Roseland and Bellville, all mentioned frequently in "The Sopranos." But unlike Tony's crew, the real Sopranos still used Newark's decidedly unglamorous and gritty North Ward as their base of operations.

The investigation at the center of "Confessions" begins by chance, when a retired East Orange, New Jersey cop named Mike Russell is driving down Bloomfield Avenue in North Newark and sees two young guys attacking an older one. Russell goes to the aid of the older man, driving off the attackers. He discovers that the guy he helped is Andrew "Andy" Gerardo, now head of Boiardo's old gang. Gerardo invites Russell into his hangout, a coffee shop on the avenue just a few steps from a monument to Christopher Columbus and the Italian American contribution to America. There, Russell meets other key members of the crew, who treat him like a hero and befriend him.

Russell then contacts a friend in the state police, who asks him to begin surveillance on the crew. Incredibly, the mobsters invite Russell to move his oil delivery business into a storefront adjoining their Newark headquarters, figuring he's friendly, and from there the investigation takes off. But unbeknownst to the state police, Russell enlists a cameraman and begins his own videotaping of the Jersey crew, which provides most of the material for the HBO documentary.

The footage illustrates the gap between Hollywood and mobster reality. Like most celluloid gangsters, Tony Soprano's crew carries itself with a certain "mob chic," evident in everything from Silvio's elaborately coiffed jet-black mane to Paulie's meticulously delineated gray sideburns to the expensive Italian suits that Tony and the boys favor. Their headquarters is the baby boomer's fantasy of bad-boy living, the Bada Bing strip club. But the real-life evil is more banal. The Boot made his headquarters inside a candy shop on Roseville Avenue in North Newark, transformed by the time of "Confessions" into a rinky-dink pizzeria and dimly lit adjoining cocktail lounge called the Finish Line. One look inside the Finish Line and it's clear that for this real mob crew, style took a back seat to earning money.

Most of the action that Russell investigates takes place in even less glamorous social clubs around North Newark -- little more than storefronts sporting linoleum floors, faux wood paneling, folding chairs and card tables. From these motley locations, the crew ran nightly card games that netted about $1 million a week. The earnings were big, though these games were nothing like those in "The Sopranos," where mob-run gambling sessions take place in hotel suites and occasionally feature big name "guest" players like Lawrence Taylor.

"Confessions" makes it clear that few real mobsters could ever score a bit part on "The Sopranos" or any other gangster show -- they simply look too ordinary. The "Confessions" crew runs around North Newark in Bermuda shorts, white T-shirts and knee-high socks, or in cheap polyester slacks and Ban Lon shirts -- a look that would never get you a photo shoot in Vanity Fair or on the cover of Cigar Aficionado, where James Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, has appeared.

The investigation recounted in "Confessions" resulted in 48 indictments and more than 30 convictions or guilty pleas for gambling, loan sharking and racketeering, which effectively broke the back of the Genovese family in Jersey. At the end of "Confessions," we see the crew making a "perp" walk as they head to court, and it's clear just how unsympathetic and crude such mobsters really were -- nothing like the strangely appealing Tony Soprano. As the reporters badger them for a statement, one of the crew's top soldiers tells the newsmen: "Fugettaboutit. Go get a job." That's about the level of sophistication of the real mob.

Hollywood will no doubt continue to find new and innovative ways to package the Mafia, as Chase did brilliantly in his series. But for a sobering dose of reality, get your hands on a copy of "Confessions of an Undercover Cop."

Thanks to Steven Malanga

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