Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feds Raid House of Frank Calabrese Sr. - Discover Hidden Recording Devices, Tapes, Notes, Cash, & Jewelry

Federal agents say they discovered potentially incriminating tapes and notes -- along with almost $730,000 in cash and about 1,000 pieces of apparently stolen jewelry -- stashed behind a large family portrait during a search of the family home of convicted mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr.

Authorities said they found recordings of what they believe could be "criminal conversations" that Calabrese taped with mob associates years ago.

They seized several recording devicesFamily Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob, such as suction-cup microphones used to tap into telephone conversations, and 10 to 15 used microcassettes -- one of which appears to bear the last name of a convicted Outfit member, agents said.

There also were "handwritten notes and ledgers" that could be records of extortion and gambling activities, authorities said.

In addition, authorities discovered seven loaded firearms they believe had been used in criminal activity because they were wrapped so no fingerprints would be left on them.

In a court filing this afternoon, federal authorities said they want to seize the property to satisfy some $27 million that Calabrese was ordered to pay in forfeiture and restitution following his conviction for a series of gangland slayings and sentence of life imprisonment.

Calabrese's lawyer Joe Lopez said he was surprised to hear about the search at his client's home on Tuesday. He said Calabrese's wife and their two sons, one of whom is in college most of the year, live in the home.

He said the home had been searched on other occasions over the years by the FBI and said he was surprised the items were not uncovered in the past. "Now that this is coming up it leads one to wonder what is really going on in this case,'' said Lopez. "I was surprised, I think everyone was surprised who heard of this."

He said he did not know if family members knew about the items found in the home because he has not had a chance to speak to Calabrese's wife or his client. He said Calabrese does not have access to telephones and is "kept under lock and key."

He said that among the items that were found at the home was at least one recording that he believed was made in 1998 after Calabrese was in custody. He said that Calabrese was in brief custody in 1995 and was released on bond, and then surrendered himself to authorities in 1997 and was in federal custody in Michigan. "He's been in custody since 1997," said Lopez. "I have no idea what those recordings are. For all I know it's Frank Sinatra singing."

He said that the money is going to the government because the government went into the home to search for any assets that would go to the government as part of Calabrese's outstanding forfeiture order. "There is no recourse. The money belongs to them. They can seize assets to satisfy judgment just like any other judgment creditor,'' said Lopez.

Calabrese, 71, was one of the five Outfit associates convicted in the landmark Family Secrets trial that riveted Chicago for weeks with its lurid testimony about 18 decades-old gangland slayings.

The code name for the federal investigation came from the secret, unprecedented cooperation provided against Chicago mob bosses by Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, and his son, Frank Jr. Their testimony peeled back layers of Outfit history as they detailed hits, bombings, extortions and other mayhem by the mob's 26th Street crew.

When he was sentenced to life in prison a year ago, Calabrese denied he was a feared mob hit man responsible for more than a dozen gangland slayings. "I'm not no big shot," said Calabrese, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with a strap holding his glasses on his mostly bald head. "I'm not nothing but a human being, and when you cut my hand, I bleed like everybody else."

A federal judge didn't buy it. Saying he had no doubt Calabrese was responsible for "appalling acts," U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced him to life in prison at a hearing marked by emotional testimony from victims' relatives and a heated exchange with his own son.

Another of Calabrese's sons, Kurt, stepped to a lectern to tell Zagel that his father beat him throughout his life. "In short, my father was never a father," said the younger Calabrese, describing him instead as an enforcer who hurled insults as regularly as he threw punches, ashtrays, tools or whatever else was within reach when his temper exploded.

The son asked his father whether he might want to apologize for his conduct. "You better apologize for the lies you're telling," the father barked back in the crowded courtroom. "You were treated like a king for all the things I've done for you."

"You never hit me and never beat me up?" Kurt Calabrese answered incredulously before glaring at his father and stepping from the courtroom a moment later.

In another dramatic courtroom scene, Charlene Moravecek, widow of murder victim Paul Haggerty, yelled at Calabrese for cutting Haggerty's throat and stuffing him in a trunk. Her husband had no connection to the mob, she told Calabrese. "You murdered the wrong person," she said. "That shows how smart you all are."

"God will bless you for what you say," Calabrese replied calmly from the defense table.

"Don't you mock me, ever," Moravecek responded through tears.

In September 2007, the same jury that convicted Calabrese of racketeering conspiracy held him responsible for seven murders: the 1980 shotgun killings of hit man and informant William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte; the 1981 car bombing of trucking executive Michael Cagnoni; and the slayings of hit man John Fecarotta, Outfit associate Michael Albergo, and bar owner Richard Ortiz and his friend Arthur Morawski.

Zagel, using a lower standard of proof than the jury, held Calabrese responsible for six additional murders, including Haggerty's, making him eligible for life imprisonment.

Nicholas Calabrese had testified in gripping detail about how brother Frank beat and strangled many of his victims with a rope before cutting their throats to ensure they were dead. Zagel said it was that family betrayal that stuck with him as he presided over the trial.

"I've never seen a case in which a brother and a son -- and counting today, two sons -- testified against a father," the veteran judge said. "I just want to say that your crimes are unspeakable," Zagel said later.

Allowed to address Zagel before he was sentenced, Calabrese rambled for half an hour about how his family had conspired to steal from him and then falsely blamed him for mob crimes to keep him behind bars. He called his brother a wannabe gangster who collected for Outfit bookmakers. Calabrese didn't deny being a loan shark, but he said his organization never resorted to violence to collect debts.

Cagnoni's widow as well as relatives of Morawski and Ortiz testified about dealing with decades of grief over the violent deaths of their loved ones.

Richard Ortiz's son, Tony, said he was 12 when his father was shot in a car outside his Cicero bar. Ortiz said he ran to the spot where the killing had occurred.

"I remember the crunching of the broken glass under my feet," said Ortiz, who recalled that his father's trademark cigar was still lying on the ground.

"I picked it up and held onto it, knowing it was all I had left of him."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mobsters in South Florida Use New Ways to Face New Rivals

Ever since the ruthless Chicago mobster Al Capone bought a mansion on Miami's Palm Island in 1928, South Florida has been a destination for organized crime figures who want to relax and do a little business.

The rackets have evolved over the years — loan-sharking, extortion and gambling have largely given way to stock scams, money laundering and white-collar fraud — and the Italians and Jews of yore have been joined by rival contingents from Russia, Israel and South America. But the culture of greed and violence has remained a constant.

Mobsters generally prefer to keep a low profile hereGangsters of Miami: True Tales of Mobsters, Gamblers, Hit Men, Con Men and Gang Bangers from the Magic City, but La Costa Nostra — "this thing of ours" — is once more in the headlines, this time connected with Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Upon his return from Morocco last November, Rothstein reportedly went to work for the FBI, even as agents were dismantling his $1.2 billion investment fraud.

Roberto Settineri, the alleged Sicilian mobster whom Rothstein is credited with bringing down this month, appears to have the same short fuse and propensity for violence, according to a Miami Beach police report, that has marked mob behavior for a century.

As Settineri lunched at Soprano Cafe on Lincoln Road in January, he got into a heated argument with a security guard, stood up, and pulled back his leather jacket to reveal a black semi-automatic pistol.

"I will put this gun in your f------ mouth now. I know where you live. I'll go to your f------ house and kill you and your family," Settineri told the guard, according to his arrest report.

The pending aggravated assault charge against Settineri, 41, is the least of his concerns. Federal prosecutors allege he was a key intermediary between a crime family in Sicily and the Gambino crime family in New York City.

Settineri and two of his reported associates — security firm operators Daniel Dromerhauser, of Miami, and Enrique Ros, of Pembroke Pines — were indicted March 10 on federal charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice for reportedly shredding two boxes of documents at Rothstein's request and laundering $79,000 for him.

The Mafia's traditions in South Florida date to the 1930s gambling heydays in Broward, when Meyer Lansky and his associates came south to claim a piece of the action in dozens of "carpet joints" — classy casinos that operated around Hallandale under the beneficial eye of a crooked sheriff.

"It goes back to the 1920s and Al Capone. Capone had a house on Palm Island … and that was his alibi for the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre," said Richard Mangan, a 24-year Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

"Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Hallandale was Las Vegas Southeast," said Mangan, who now teaches a class called "Organized Crime and the Business of Drugs" at Florida Atlantic University's School of Criminology. "Clubs like La Boheme were operating. A made [formally inducted] mob member named Anthony "Tony" Plates would set up shop in the Diplomat Hotel during the winters, plying politicians with booze and hookers."

The gambling generated so much cash that the gangsters suppressed their violent natures.

"The Mafia had an understanding that there would be no killings in Broward County because it was such a lucrative business," said Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University Law School and a gambling-law expert.

By the early 1950s, government scrutiny forced the mobsters out of their illegal casinos but not the county. They still had their hands in local dog and horse tracks and jai lai frontons, as well as in shakedown schemes. They expanded their gambling ventures to Cuba under the tutelage of Lansky, who lived for years in a canal home in Sunny Isles, a popular mob neighborhood.

"Many of the mob people — Chicago, New Orleans, New York — would come down here because they owned casinos in Havana, and [Cuban leader Fulgencio] Batista was more than happy to take bribes," Mangan said.

Hundreds of them made Broward their second or retirement home.

New York's five organized crime consortiums — the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese families — have always considered Florida to be "open," with no one family claiming exclusive rights to operate in the Sunshine State. "This is open territory for anyone with the mob for whatever they want to do," said Nick Navarro, a 30-year law enforcement official who was Broward's sheriff from 1984 to 1993. "It's a beautiful part of the country and this is where they like to come down."

With the dramatic expansion of air conditioning in the 1950s and cheap jet flights, Florida had a commercial building boom over the next decades, drawing more mobsters.

"The Mafia has long been involved in the rigging of construction contracts," Jarvis said.

By 1968, a state crime commission concluded, "South Florida, especially Dade and Broward counties, has become a haven for many known Mafia figures and associates, though their activities know no local boundaries within the state."

In more recent years, "The Teflon Don," Gambino boss John Gotti, maintained a residence in Fort Lauderdale. So did Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the brutal head of a Mafia family operating in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Underbosses, consiglieres and soldiers from all the families are well represented, from Palm Beach Gardens to the Keys.

They still get involved in gambling, loan sharking, strip clubs, prostitution, drug dealing and extortion, but have gravitated toward more sophisticated crimes — such as stock and Medicare fraud — that don't carry the same risks.

They have faced increased competition from Israeli organized crime and Russian mobsters.

"The biggest change has been the Russian mafia," Mangan said. "The Russians started moving in after the fall of communism. They primarily set up in South Beach. They started opening banks in Antigua and Aruba."

Federal prosecutors roll out indictments against the Italian Mafia every year, charging everything from murder to money laundering, but younger Mafiosi come up the ranks to fill the voids left by the prison sentences and old-age deaths of top family members.

"It's a funny thing — it's always said that the Mafia has been destroyed and all the old chieftains are dead or in jail; but every time you turn around, there is a story about the Mafia," Jarvis said.

"To the extent that the Mafia exists anywhere, it would have its hand in South Florida because it still has all the attributes that made it so attractive in the 1930s — warm weather, a lot of wealth, a lot of opportunity. Why wouldn't the Mafia be here? Everyone else wants to be in South Florida."

Thanks to Jon Burnstein and Peter Franceschina

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can Civil Racketeering Lawsuits Cripple the Chicago Political Machine and Others?

The $108 million judgment against former East Chicago mayor Robert Pastrick in Indiana's landmark racketeering lawsuit could be the start of a trend, says Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey.

Civil racketeering lawsuits could be used to win massive settlements from crooked politicians and to cripple political machines, much in the way the racketeering cases have been used to break up mob organizations and corrupt unions, said Blakey, who helped write the federal racketeering law and drafted the state's lawsuit against Pastrick.

The case was a first, Blakey said, but it should not be the last of its kind.

"It took 40 years for anybody to bring this kind of suit, but it finally happened," Blakey said. "Now we have a precedent. If you steal it, you have to give it back."

That precedent could easily be applied to former Illinois governors George Ryan or Rod Blagojevich, Blakey said. Or to incumbent East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, who was indicted in February by federal prosecutors who allege he had city workers renovate a home he owns in Gary.

"This establishes the principal of liability. It can be used in every other situation," Blakey said. "Why hasn't the attorney general in Illinois gone after George Ryan? I don't know."

A spokesman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan did not return a call from the Post-Tribune.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization statute, or RICO, was the foundation of the civil lawsuit against Pastrick and co-defendants James Fife III and Frank Kollintzas. It was created in the 1970s to prosecute complex organized criminal enterprises.

A civil lawsuit such as the East Chicago RICO case won't end in jail time for a defendant, but it does allow the plaintiff -- a city, county or state -- to recover damages equal to three times the amount stolen or misused.

"This is exactly what RICO was intended to do," Blakey said. "There are still political machines in lots of cities."

One advantage a civil prosecution has over a criminal one is that a lower burden of proof is required in a civil case. In criminal cases, a jury must find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But civil cases require a lower standard of guilt, and that a preponderance of evidence shows the defendant did what is alleged.

Tried on the criminal charge of murder in criminal court, O.J. Simpson was acquitted. Facing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court, he was found liable and ordered to pay $35 million to the families of his victims.

Valparaiso attorney Bryan Truitt, whose clients include public corruption defendants Robert Cantrell, Roosevelt Powell and former Pastrick administration official Ed Maldonado, said he supports civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutions. "But I don't think you're going to see the government getting paid these massive judgment amounts," said Truitt, who said Maldonado settled out of the Pastrick RICO case without paying part of the $108 million because he already was ordered to pay $24 million in restitution from his criminal conviction.

"Going to any great expense by the government to get a huge judgment no one is going to pay would be pointless," Truitt said. "But they're going to be better able to pay if they're not in jail."

Thanks to Andy Grimm

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Russian Mafia Expands to 300,000 Members

After avoiding any use of the term “Russian mafia” in the last few years, law enforcement personnel in Europe and elsewhere are now speaking about it again, noting that it includes “up to 300,000 people” and dominates the criminal world in many countries around the world, according to a Moscow investigative journalist.

In “Versia,” Ruslan Gorevoy says that law enforcement personnel in many countries -- including Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico, “and even the US” -- have been surprised by how “confidently” criminal groups consisting of people from the former USSR now dominate their national criminal worlds.

Indeed, the “Versiya” reporter continues, the Russian groups, which include “up to 300,000 of our compatriots,” have succeeded in pushing aside local groups and establishing their own “spheres of influence” to the point that they no longer need to “clarify relations with the help of arms.”

Gorevoy describes some of the most notorious cases involving Russian organized criminal groups abroad before using interviews with Russian officials to suggest some more general conclusions. He recalls the discovery that drug traffickers were using submarines to move their product from South America to Mexico.

These submarines, he points out, “were purchased as scrap metal” from a Ukrainian firm that was involved in decommissioning Soviet diesel subs, then repapered in the Romania city of Konstanza before sailing across the Atlantic. While they were ultimately discovered, it is impossible to say how many tons of drugs they carried or even what the situation is today.

The US navy, he notes, has taken great pride in reporting its interdiction efforts in this regard, but knowing” the abilities of Russian criminal groups, Gorvey continues, “it is possible” that such vessels may still be playing a role. The tone of his article suggests that he personally would not bet against these groups.

In Spain, the “Versiya” journalist continues, Russian criminal groups control 90 percent of the drugs and illegal arms flows and have been involved in the murder of Paddy Doyle, a leading Irish criminal who was operating there. His death and the ensuing trial led to the publication of numerous articles about Russian organized crime.

Russian officials have been dismissive of much of that coverage. Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the Duma’s legal affairs committee, told Gorevoy that “certain groups may have an ethnic character [there], but this still does not provide the foundation for claims about the presence of a specific national mafia of this or that country.”

Poland, Gorevoy continues, was “the first country of Europe into which organized crime from Russia began to penetrate,” pushing out, together with criminals from Ukraine and Belarus Romanian and Albanian criminal organizations that had dominated the situation there before the Russians arrived.

The Polish police have not been able to “liquidate” Russian organized crime, and “according to certain data, at the present time,” there are as many as 20,000 Russian criminals operating in that country, making it, in numerical terms at least, “the largest Russian criminal diaspora in the world.”

But it would be a mistake to focus only on Poland or Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary, where the Russian criminal presence is large. Over the last decade, the Russian mafia has reached around the world, including Australia where it has been involved in electronic crime, Singapore, London and various countries in the Western hemisphere.

Interpol, the international police agency, does not maintain the kind of files which allow for an even approximate assessment of the number of Russian criminals operating abroad. But last year, the National Prosecutor of Italy concluded that there are “up to 300,000” criminals from Russia operating in other countries.

One of the largest or at least most profitable activities of Russian criminals abroad, the Italians said, is money laundering, with the Russian mafia “laundering” funds in the US, in the Marianas, and Guam. In addition, they added, Russian criminals are charging Mexican drug lords 30 percent for laundering drug profits from sales in the US.

In Italy itself, prosecutors reported, “representatives of the Russian mafia in 2008 formed an alliance with local [criminal groups, including the Cosa Nostra]” and took under joint control “practically 100 percent of the agricultural enterprises of Italy and at the same time practically all shippers, both international and domestic.

The German newspaper “Suddeutsche Zeitung” reports, citing sources official and otherwise, that there are approximately 160,000 Russian criminals in Europe, compared to 70,000 of Italian origin, 40,000 of American background, and 37,000 from Asian countries. The Russians have corrupted at least some officials in order to cover their tracks, the paper said

The Munich paper’s Rudolph Himelli said that “Russian mafiosi are better organized and permit themselves to commit the boldest crimes, remaining in practice unpunished,” crimes that are “of a completely different order of magnitude than those committed by Turkish immigrants or criminals from countries in Eastern Europe,” including illegal arms sales to Libya and Iraq.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and vice speaker of the Russian Duma, says that none of this information justifies any suggestion that there is a Russian mafia operating abroad let alone implying that Moscow is somehow responsible for it.

“Yes,” Zhirinovsky acknowledges, “people from the republics of the former USSR really occupy an important position in the international criminal community, and in recent years this position can even be called a dominant one. But here is one ‘but’: many of these people already have been living abroad for a long time” and have exchanged Russian passports for foreign ones.

Consequently, he continues, they are now “more the representatives of Western and not our culture.” Indeed, the LDPR leader insists, “the fact that these people left Russia may testify only that our law enforcement organs do not allow them to make their way” in their homeland, while the police in other countries are not as successful.

That argument may convince some Russians or provide a justification to some in the West who would like to ignore this issue, but Gorevoy’s article suggests that Zhirinovsky’s claims will not be persuasive to justice officials in Europe or elsewhere who on a daily basis have to combat a larger and more active Russian mafia.

Thanks to Paul Goble

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Convicted Mob Bookie, Carl Dote, Obtains Liquor License for His Restaurants Despite Felony Record

When convicted mob bookmaker Carl Dote was interviewed on the popular WTTW-Channel 11 show "Check, Please!" about Danny's, the restaurant he runs in Melrose Park, there were a few things he made clear:

  • The Italian food there -- with specialties like neckbones and tripe and fried meatball sandwiches -- is delicious.
  • The price is right.
  • And Dote owns the place.

"I'm the owner," Dote said in the unedited version of the interview, adding that his wife, Paula, was the co-owner.

Then, when he and his wife opened a second Italian restaurant, called Cuzzin's, in Des Plaines, city officials welcomed the Dotes, calling them "co-owners." But when it came to the forms needed to get a liquor license, Dote -- a twice-convicted felon for illegal gambling -- isn't listed as owner. In fact, his name is nowhere to be found.

Felons typically can't obtain a liquor license. But officials in Melrose Park and in Des Plaines, which hopes to be home to a new casino, don't appear to be overly troubled.

"Quite honestly, if you're asking me if it bothers me, it doesn't," says Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.

It does bother James Wagner, a retired FBI supervisor who's an authority on organized crime.

"I cannot believe they are giving these people liquor licenses," says Wagner, who was the case agent overseeing a 1994 case involving Dote, his brother Anthony, Elmwood Park crew leader Marco Damico and the crew's multimillion-dollar gambling operation.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission, when informed of the "Check, Please!" interview, said it would open an investigation.

The issue of who can get a liquor license in Illinois is expected to be in the forefront in coming months, as state regulators craft rules on now-legalized video poker. Establishments with liquor licenses are eligible for the lucrative machines. Law enforcement officials say the state needs to hire enough investigators to look into whether what the paperwork says is actually true.

Dote, 61, shakes his head when asked about the possibility of video poker machines at the two restaurants. "No, no, no," he says.

Dote says he has nothing to do any more with bookmaking or any sort of gambling, much less with organized crime, after being convicted in a 2000 bookmaking case and sentenced to more than two years in prison. Dote was a fairly low-level player in both federal cases he was charged in, records show.

"That was the end of my career," Dote says of his 2000 arrest. "When people try to bring up my past, I resent it."

As for the restaurants, he says, "I am perceived as the owner of both of the restaurants. I know I am."

But he says he's not, that he's just the guy who promotes the business, buys the food and chats up the customers.

Restaurant owner? "I can't even scramble eggs," says Dote, who leaves the cooking to his wife, whose work at Danny's prompted Chicago Sun-Times restaurant critic Pat Bruno to rave in a 2008 review: "If I could, I would eat at Danny's . . . four times a week."

So if he's not the owner, how come he went on TV and said he is?

Dote says he might say he's the owner because "it's easier" when he's promoting the place.

"People don't want to deal with managers," he says. "They want to deal with the owner."

In Melrose Park, the name on the liquor license for the restaurant is Linda Scavo, who's married to the suburb's retired police chief, Vito Scavo. Last month, Vito Scavo was sentenced to six years in prison for muscling local businesses, including the now-closed Kiddieland, to hire his private security business.

Dote says it's actually the Scavos who own the place, even though Dote said in the "Check, Please!" interview with his wife: "You know, we decided, when we bought Danny's a couple years ago, that we were going to keep prices very reasonable."

In Des Plaines, the name on the liquor license is that of Dote's wife, Paula. He says she's the sole owner.

Dote acknowledges he signed the lease for Cuzzin's and also a personal guaranty on the place. But he says he did so at the request of the building's owner.

Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan says "proper procedures" were followed in granting the liquor license. But the city forwarded a recent citizen's complaint about the process to the Illinois attorney general's office, Moylan says.

In Melrose Park, the mayor says Dote's name isn't on the liquor license, so there's no problem.

Besides, Serpico says, "If Jan Schakowsky's husband got a second chance, Carl Dote deserves a second chance," referring to the Evanston congresswoman whose husband, Robert Creamer, pleaded guilty in 2006 to check kiting.

"I guess, at the end of the day, Carl will be judged on how good his food is," says Serpico.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Genovese Crime Family

This is a work in progress, but the table above will include Members of the Genovese Crime Family who appear in articles within The Chicago Syndicate. The reputed mobsters have been split into 2 categories: "Bosses" and "Friends of Mine". It is not intended to be an all-inclusive listing of Genovese Members and Associates, but rather it is to serve as an index for this site. As other members/associates are mentioned in articles, the list will grow. If you have information on any additions or changes that should be made, please send us an email.

Bonanno Crime Family

This is a work in progress, but the table below will include Members of the Bonanno Crime Family who appear in articles within The Chicago Syndicate. Eventually, each member will have a bio page with links to the articles in which he appears. The gangsters have been split into 3 categories: "Bosses", "Friends of Mine" and "Friends of Ours". It is not intended to be an all-inclusive listing of Bonanno Members and Associates, but more of an index for this site. As other members or associates are mentioned in articles, the list will grow. If you have information on any additions or changes that should be made, please let us know.
BossesFriends of OursFriends of Mine
Joe Bonanno
Joseph C. Massino
Baldassare Amato
Michael Cassesse
Michael Virtuso

"Mike the Electrician" Urciuoli
Agostino Accardo
Kenneth Dunn

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto's Dining Reviews

Reputed Chicago Outfit lieutenant Rudy Fratto sat in a federal courtroom, with reporters filling the jury box a few feet away.

His usual lawyer, the always snazzy Art Nasser, was unavailable. So Rudy had another attorney: Donald Angelini Jr., son of the late Outfit king of bookies, Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini.

Though Angelini was pleasant and professionally buttoned down on Friday, Fratto, 66, seemed a bit lonely at the defense table, waiting for his criminal hearing to begin.

That scraggly beard hid his chin, and he was comfortably dressed in the Rudy look: black shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, just like a Hopalong Cassadicci.

I didn't want him to feel lonely, so I said hello and asked about a line in the federal charges, in which he was described as Rudy "The Chin" Fratto.

Hey, Rud? What's with "The Chin"?

"I don't know," Rudy said. "I don't know where they got that,"

Did the FBI get you early?

"Not too early," Rudy smirked.

Like 6 a.m.?

"No, they came later, for coffee," Rudy said.

He'll need his sense of humor. I've heard that last week's new charges are just the beginning of a larger tsunami coming for the Chicago Outfit and its political messenger boys.

In January, Fratto was sentenced in a federal tax-evasion case. That was his first conviction ever.

On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to the new charge, which involves alleged bid-rigging in contracts at McCormick Place and leverage by the Cleveland mob.

McCormick Place has long been the Outfit's playground. In 1974, the Tribune reported the payroll read like a "who's who of the Chicago crime syndicate."

The 1974 payroll list included mobsters such as the late Rocco Infelice (natural causes), the late Ronnie Jarrett (unnatural bullet holes) and the 11th Ward's favorite Outfit bookie, Ray John Tominello (still alive, investing in Florida real estate).

Quiet hit man Nicholas Calabrese also was on the McCormick Place payroll. He killed dozens of men and decades later was the star government witness in the Family Secrets mob trial.

Another McCormick Place payrollee was the Outfit's Michael "Bones" Albergo. Nick Calabrese and his brother Frank got rid of "Bones." They buried his body in a pit a few hundred yards from Sox Park.

The federal Family Secrets trial put mobsters in prison for life. Other reputed bosses who were not charged, such as John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, have gone underground.

Sources say DiFronzo refuses to see anyone. His only sit-downs take place in his Barcalounger, when he watches TV. And Andriacci has apparently been suffering from Fedzheimers, a malady that makes politicians and wiseguys forget lots of things, like how to find Rush Street.

Fratto has a scary reputation. Yet he's always been friendly and charming to me. Then again, I've never spotted him in my rear-view mirror. That happened to Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone. Mario didn't believe in coincidence and was so shaken by the sight of Rudy Fratto in his mirror that he ran straight to the FBI.

In the courtroom, Rudy's wife, Kim, dressed in a black shawl, said hello.

"It's always nice to see you, Mr. Kass," said Kim.

The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Fratto.

After Rudy was fitted with a home monitoring device, the couple took a long lunch in the newly remodeled second-floor federal cafeteria.

When they finally came down, they didn't want to talk to reporters. Then I asked Rudy a question he couldn't refuse:

Was the food in the federal building as good as it is at Cafe Bionda?

Rudy, always the jokester, couldn't resist.

"No," he said, "but it's better than Gene & Georgetti's, though."

Rudy knows how much I like Gene's, the best steakhouse in the city. Yet for years, Rudy had made Cafe Bionda, at 19th and State Street, a personal hangout. On her Facebook page, Kim Fratto lists Cafe Bionda as one of her favorites.

With such strong recommendations, my young friend Wings and I felt we had to stop there for lunch. Cafe Bionda is a short cab ride from the federal courthouse. And a long pistol shot from McCormick Place.

We were hoping to run into head chef/owner Joe Farina to ask him about Rudy's favorite dish.

Wings ordered the Linguini con Vongole. I had the signature Nanna's Gravy. It was all delicious. Sadly, Joe wasn't in, so I left a note with our server:

Dear Joe: Sorry I missed you. Rudy recommended your place to me. The food was great. John.

The coffee was great, too. And I thought of all that coffee Rudy and his friends will be drinking, and the Rush Street guys, and the politicians, buzzing on caffeine.

They might want to stay wide awake, and keep a pot of coffee on, just in case the feds come knocking some morning.

Thanks to John Kass

Department of Justice Comments on Rudy Fratto Arrest and Indictment

A west suburban man who allegedly represented himself as a member of the “Chicago Outfit,” was arrested on federal charges accusing him and a co-defendant of engaging in a contract bid-rigging scheme to provide forklift trucks for trade shows at McCormick Place Convention Center. A two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury yesterday was unsealed following the arrest of Rudolph Carmen Fratto by FBI agents. Fratto and William Anthony Degironemo, were charged with fraud for rigging a 2006 contract awarded by Las Vegas-based trade show general contractor Greyhound Exposition Services (GES), to Degironemo’s business, MidStates Equipment Rentals and Sales, Inc. Degironemo was also charged with lying to federal agents during the investigation, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Fratto, 66, of Darien, also known as “The Chin” and “Uncle Rudy,” who was charged with one count of mail fraud, was scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court. Degironemo, 66, of Inverness, also known as “Billy D,” who was charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of making false statements, will be arraigned at a later date in Federal Court.

Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Grant praised the valuable assistance of agents of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, and noted that GES has cooperated throughout the investigation.

According to the indictment, in 2001, unnamed Individual A started a trade show company in Chicago (identified as “Trade Show Company A”) in which purported members of a Cleveland organized crime family, as well as Individual B, a lawyer in Chicago (“the Investors”) invested approximately $350,000 in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, Trade Show Company A went out of business and the Investors began to re-characterize the investment as a “loan,” which they demanded Individual A repay. Unknown to anyone at the time, Individual A, in January 2004, reported these attempts to collect on the “debt” to law enforcement and began cooperating.

Also in 2001, Individual A began working for GES pursuant to a consulting agreement that precluded Individual A from disclosing confidential information and from negotiating with potential bidders vying for subcontracts with GES. Among GES’s clients who used McCormick Place for trade shows were the International Machine and Tool Show (IMTS) and the National Plastics Exposition (NPE). GES issued requests for proposals each year to potential vendors to submit bids to provide forklifts for one or more shows staged by GES. In his consulting role, Individual A and three GES managers were responsible for deciding which vendors would receive forklift subcontracts for the IMTS and NPE, the indictment states.

Between July 2005 and October 2008, Fratto allegedly made representations to Individual A about Fratto’s standing and association with the Chicago Outfit, and he promised to use his position with the Outfit to intercede on Individual A’s behalf concerning the debt Individual A purportedly owed to the Investors. In return, Individual A was to provide Fratto and Degironemo with non-public bid information concerning bids GES received for the 2006 IMTS and NPE forklift subcontracts and to use his position to help steer those contracts to Fratto and Degironemo. In attempting to obtain those subcontracts, Degironemo made false representations to GES about the ability of Midstates to perform the contracts, the indictment alleges.

More specifically, in July 2005, Fratto allegedly told Individual A, in essence, that if Fratto and Degironemo could get the 2006 forklift subcontract, then Fratto would assist Individual A with his “debt to Cleveland.” As part of the scheme, Fratto and Degironemo agreed to split all profits and proceeds from the subcontract between themselves and Individual A, with each receiving one-third of the proceeds, the charges allege. Fratto allegedly suggested that Individual A could use his share to repay the “debt” he owed. In December 2005, without the knowledge or consent of GES, Fratto and Degironemo allegedly received from Individual A non-public pricing information that they had requested concerning a competitor’s confidential bid. Around Dec. 8, 2005, Fratto and Degironemo discussed with Individual A leaving MidStates’ proposed rate figures blank so that Individual A could fill them in during the course of a GES meeting to decide the winning bid. In January 2006, Fratto and Degironemo allegedly used confidential information that they obtained from Individual A about their competitor’s bid to prepare their own bid for the forklift subcontracts for the 2006 IMTS and NPE. On Jan. 15, 2006, MidStates submitted its proposal to GES with rates lower than its competitors’ bids, according to the indictment.

As part of the scheme, Fratto and Degironemo asked Individual A to support MidStates’ claim that it was a reliable and trustworthy forklift company, and on Jan. 29, 2006, GES awarded MidStates the 2006 IMTS and NPE forklift subcontracts. In April 2006, Degironemo, through Individual B, sought to further bolster MidStates’ qualifications by causing four individuals to write reference letters falsely stating that MidStates had previously provided various forklift services to their full satisfaction when, in fact, no such services were ever provided. At a meeting with GES management, Degironemo provided flyers asserting that MidStates was a “leader in the rental material handling industry for over twenty years,” which “offer[ed] one of the most diverse fleets [of forklifts] in the industry,” when, in fact, MidStates was not actively involved in the forklift business, the indictment alleges.

Degironemo alone was charged with lying to FBI agents on Aug. 18, 2008, when he stated that he “had no idea what MidStates’ competitors’ forklift pricing was prior to submitting the MidStates bid for the IMTS forklift contract,” allegedly knowing that the statement was false.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Markus Funk and Marny Zimmer.

The mail fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and making false statements carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court would determine a reasonable sentence to impose under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Multiple Country European Mafia Round Up

Police across Europe arrested 69 suspected members of a Georgian-run mafia, including 24 in Spain, which was leading the investigation, a National Court spokeswoman told CNN Monday.

Other arrests were in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, whose prosecutors worked with their Spanish counterparts on the case. There were also a few arrests in France and Italy, said the spokeswoman, who by custom is not identified.

The suspects, wanted for drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering, and in a few cases for murder plots, were thought to have operated at a level close to the street, controlling local mafia networks, she said -- they are not thought to be high-style mafia kingpins living in mansions and surrounded by luxuries.

Some Spanish media reported the suspects were linked to a Russian mafia, but the court spokeswoman said investigators had told her it was Georgian-run.

In Spain, the national police worked with regional police in Catalonia and the Basque region to make the arrests, mainly in the Barcelona and Valencia areas, she said.

There has long been speculation that mafias were involved in money laundering through Spain's housing and real estate bubble along the Mediterranean coast, where second homes were built for vacationers from Spain and northern Europe.

Tens of thousands of these homes remain unsold or unfinished in the economic downturn.

Numerous local Spanish politicians have been arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes or kickbacks to permit rampant construction that far exceeded demand.

Thanks to Al Goodman

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rudy Fratto Indicted on McCormick Place Bid-Rigging Scheme

Reputed mob lieutenant Rudy Fratto was arrested this morning after being charged with using inside information to rig a bid and win a forklift contract at McCormick Place.

Fratto, 66, was charged along with William Anthony Degironemo, 66, of Inverness, who runs MidStates Equipment Rentals and Sale.

Rudy Fratto Indicted on McCormick Place Bid-Rigging SchemeFratto was taken into custody at about 7:45 a.m. He joked with the Chicago Tribune's John Kass that it was "not too early" and that he was able to have his coffee.

Wearing jeans and a black jacket, he entered a plea of not guilty.

Prosecutors say Fratto and Degironemo were able to squeeze information from a worker at Greyhound Exposition Services (GES) of Las Vegas to win a forklift contract in 2006. The contract covered two shows at McCormick Place.

The worker owed a debt to members of the Cleveland organized crime family and a Chicago lawyer, and Fratto promised to use his "standing and association with the Chicago Outfit" to help him, prosecutors allege. Fratto told the worker he would help with the worker's "debt to Cleveland," authorities said. Fratto, Degironemo and the witness were to split the profits equally, they said.

Using the information, Fratto and Degionemo submitted the lowest bid and landed the contract, according to an indictment handed down Thursday.

Degironemo also had the Chicago lawyer arrange for four people to write reference letters on behalf of MidStates, according to the charges. And Deironemo provided GES with materials claiming his company was a leader in the forklift industry when the company wasn't actively involved in such work, authorities said.

The new charges against Fratto -- a reputed lieutenant in the Elmwood Park street crew of the Chicago Outfit -- comes more than a month after he was sentenced for tax evasion.

Fratto had admitted he failed to report nearly $200,000 in income in 2005. Federal authorities had said Fratto brought in income for several years by directing payments to him to come through a defunct company he ran.

In 2005, an FBI agent said Fratto was one of five high-ranking organized crime figures who met with Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens to discuss what control the mob would have over contracts at a casino Stephens wanted to build in the town.

Sitting with Stephens at Armand's restaurant in Elmwood Park were Fratto, reputed mob leader Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, his brother Peter, and Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi, according to John Mallul, head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago.

Mallul said agents learned of the May 29, 1999, meeting just days after it occurred from a longtime FBI informant who also was there. Stephens denied he had met with the men.

In January, Fratto was asked by a Tribune reporter about his alleged status in the Outfit. He said he was a "reputed good guy" and said he had no prior criminal history.

After the new charges were announced in court today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez ordered Fratto released on $200,000 bond and on home confinement. He is to report to custody April 27 to begin serving time in the tax case.

A lawyer for Fratto, Donald Angelini, asked Valdez to allow Fratto to attend his son's high school hockey games, and the judge agreed.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Biography of Sam Giancana

Born Gilormo Giancana, upon May 24, 1908, in Chicago, Illinois. Baptized Momo Salvatore Giancana and good well known as Sam, he grew up in a severe area upon the West Side of Chicago, as the son of Sicilian immigrants. As a teenager, Giancana led a travel squad called “The 42s,” who carried out low-level tasks for members of the absolute Chicago Mafia of the 1920s, led by the scandalous mafiosi Al Capone. Giancana got a pursuit as a “wheelman,” or driver, in the Capone organization, and was arrested for the initial time in 1925, for automobile theft. He shortly graduated to “triggerman,” and by the age of twenty had been the budding theme in 3 attempted attempted attempted murder investigations, though was never tried.

In 1933, Giancana tied together Angeline DeTolve; the integrate had 3 daughters. (Their daughter Antoinette published a memoir, Mafia Princess, in 1984.) Giancana climbed the host ranks via the rest of the decade, as the care in Chicago altered with the jailing of Capone in 1931 (he died in 1947). He initial served prison time starting in 1939, for illegally production whiskey. After his recover in the early 1940s, Giancana set out to take over Chicago’s bootleg lottery gambling operations, quite those in the city’s primarily African-American neighborhood. Through a heartless fibre of events, together with beatings, kidnappings, and murder, he and his associates won carry out of the numbers racket, augmenting the Chicago Mob’s annual income by millions of dollars.

A clergyman who interviewed Giancana during his Selective Service earthy hearing during World War II personal the mafiosi as a “constitutional psychopath” who showed “strong eremitic trends.” As a result, Giancana perceived 4-F standing and was unfit from troops service. He profited from the fight upon the homefront, creation a happening production tawdry allotment stamps. By the finish of the war, the Giancana family had changed from the city to a residence in the abundant Chicago suburb of Oak Park.

When Anthony “Tough Tony” Accardo stepped down as the conduct of the Chicago Outfit (as the city’s bend of the Mafia was known) in the mid-1950s, Giancana ascended to the tip spot. By 1955, he tranquil the gambling and harlotry operations, narcotics trafficking, and alternative bootleg industries in his hometown. Under his leadership, the Chicago Mafia grew from a comparatively small-scale pole to a bone-fide rapist organization. He after told an representative for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which he “owned” not usually Chicago, though Miami and Los Angeles as well.

In 1959, FBI agents planted a microphone in a room at the Armory Lounge in the suburb of Forest Park, which served as Giancana s headquarters. For the subsequent 6 years, they were means to eavesdrop upon the workings of the Mafia and benefit hold of most rapist activities in Chicago and around the country. Though Giancana s power as Chicago’s preeminent crime trainer was already streamer towards the finish by the tighten of the 1950s, his trail in the 1960s would cranky with dual of America’s most absolute men: Robert and John F. Kennedy.

After Angeline s death in 1954, Giancana became scandalous for his decorated amicable hold up and visit womanizing. He was a crony of the thespian and singer Frank Sinatra, and reportedly used Sinatra as a go-between with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was alienating the Mafia with his relentless debate opposite orderly crime in America. (The intervention was assumingly unsuccessful, as Robert Kennedy swayed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to place Giancana’s home in Oak Park underneath 24-hour notice in 1963.) Giancana’s countless lovers enclosed Phyllis McGuire, of the McGuire Sisters singing group, and Judith Campbell Exner, an singer who would couple Giancana to an even some-more absolute man: President John F. Kennedy, with whom Exner became concerned when she was still saying Giancana.

Giancana’s assorted ties to JFK have prolonged been the theme of speculation. Many historians hold which list seasoned mixture in Chicago (then underneath the carry out of old-school Democrat Mayor Richard Daley) helped safeguard Kennedy’s choosing in 1960. Giancana himself reportedly claimed which he had helped run a vote-stealing fraud in Cook County, Illinois, a district which had been the determining cause in Kennedy’s victory. On the alternative hand, there have been additionally determined rumors of Mafia impasse in JFK’s 1963 assassination, maybe as punish for what they saw as the ingratitude of the Kennedys in the form of RFK’s electioneer opposite orderly crime.

Whatever Giancana’s specific couple to JFK was, the dual group had a nemesis in common: Fidel Castro, whom Mob leaders hated since he had taken over Cuba, with the endless gambling rackets. The Kennedy Administration, obviously, noticed Castro’s Communist system of administration as a hazard to inhabitant security, as evidenced by the barbarous Bay of Pigs advance in Apr 1961. The tie between Giancana and Kennedy would again be the theme of conjecture when report after flush which the Mafia and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assimilated forces someday in the 1960s to tract Castro’s assassination.

In 1965, Giancana was put upon hearing for refusing to attest prior to a Chicago grand jury questioning orderly crime. He was condemned to a single year in jail. Upon his release, Giancana trafficked to Mexico, where he lived in self-imposed outcast until 1974. He was extradited which year by the Mexican authorities to attest prior to an additional grand jury. He was postulated shield from sovereign charge and appeared prior to which jury 4 times, though supposing small report of use.

Giancana was subsequent called to attest prior to a United States Senate cabinet questioning Mafia impasse in a unsuccessful CIA tract to attempted murder Castro. Before he was scheduled to testify, Giancana flew to Houston, Texas, and underwent gall bladder surgery. He returned to his Oak Park home upon Jun 17, 1975. Two days later, Sam Giancana was shot once in the back of the conduct and multiform some-more times up by the chin with a .22-caliber pistol whilst in progress in his basement. Though theories abounded as to who killed him (rival Mafiosi, CIA operatives shaken about his destiny testimony, a single of most former girlfriends), no a single was ever arrested in tie with the murder.

Thanks to Full Issue

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Jimmy DeLeo Era Begins

An important Illinois political story took place on Wednesday.

It didn't happen in Springfield or at Chicago's City Hall.

It took place on a quiet street in Oak Park. There were no TV cameras, no press aides. It was a somber ritual marking the transfer of power.

Sam Banks, the longtime political boss of the 36th Ward on the Northwest Side of Chicago, was laid to rest. He passed away after a long bout with cancer. The funeral was held at St. Giles Roman Catholic Church.

One of Sam's pallbearers was his former political apprentice, State Sen. James DeLeo, D-How You Doin'?

Sam was the guy for years. But there's a new guy now, reaching beyond the ward, from Rush Street to Rosemont and beyond:


The night before, at Salerno's Galewood Chapels on North Harlem Avenue, thousands of clout-heavy people attended the wake in rooms crammed with flower arrangements.

Attendees included trucking barons, asphalt kings, Republican and Democratic officials from across the state, right down to Christy Spina, the former driver for imprisoned Outfit boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo. And there were plenty of judges, who along with the lawyers, helped form Sam Banks' network.

Criminal defense lawyer Tom Breen delivered the eulogy in church.

"If I were writing a newspaper column about Sam Banks," said Breen, "my newspaper column would be about a man who worked hard all his life, who loved his family, his career. That's the Sam Banks I would write about.

"He was a good person, he was a generous person. And I think we will miss him terribly."

Banks did love his family, and Breen is a fine lawyer. But he's no newspaper columnist. You can't write a column about the 36th Ward without asking some FBI types about the Chicago Outfit.

Almost two decades ago now, the old mobbed-up 1st Ward was scattered to the winds by federal prosecutions. The late Ald. Fred Roti, 1st, was sent to prison. With City Hall's official position that there is no Outfit, the old 1st Ward boundaries were erased on the city political maps.

"Once Roti was out of business, they did have other people to assume the same power and control in the 36th Ward," said Jim Wagner, the former head of the Chicago Crime Commission and longtime chief of the FBI's organized-crime section.

"If you're in organized crime, you're not going to give up the position of influence and authority," Wagner said. "You're going to turn to a replacement. That's what they are thought to have done."

Banks was low-key. He wasn't a showoff, no spaccone, like some. Again, remember, despite federal theories, there have been no Outfit-related charges. Sam was never charged. It's not illegal to know guys who know guys.

"What does that mean, ‘mob-associated?'" said DeLeo years ago, when the Sun-Times asked about political contributions he received from businesses connected to reputed Outfit boss John DiFronzo.

"In the year 2001, is there really a mob in Chicago?" DeLeo asked then, perhaps rhetorically.

Jimmy can be amusing. He's a funny guy.

Shortly after that witty comment, Chicago was treated to the most significant Outfit investigation in history. The "Family Secrets" case led to what amounts to life prison terms for top mob bosses and hit men.

In the "Family Secrets" trial, DeLeo and Sam's son, zoning lawyer and banker James Banks, were named in testimony by Ann Spilotro, widow of slain gangster Michael Spilotro, as the buyers of a business she owned. In other testimony, Sam Banks was named by a convicted burglar as an alleged conduit for protection money to corrupt cops.

Then in 2008, pressure on the 36th Ward organization increased. The Chicago Tribune investigative series "Neighborhoods for Sale" documented how clout influenced the politics of zoning in Chicago. While Sam Banks was strong, the Banks family was the first family of zoning in the city.

His brother William Banks was the alderman. For decades, Billy was chairman of the powerful City Council Committee on Zoning. Back when I covered City Hall, every time James Banks appeared before Uncle Billy's committee with a zoning matter, Uncle Billy would stand up and loudly excuse himself, saying he wanted no conflict of interest.

Then Billy would walk into the back room, perhaps have a sandwich, and wait while the other aldermen approved his nephew's zoning request. They probably didn't want a conflict of interest with Sam.

Recently, things have changed. With the feds interested in the 36th Ward, Billy has retired from the City Council. Jimmy might let him keep the Democratic committeeman's job and play with the precinct captains and pretend he's got power, but that's about it.

In his eulogy Wednesday, Breen said that moments after the family asked him to speak in church, his phone rang. It was the guy. It was Jimmy.

"He (DeLeo) said, ‘Tom, you know there is a time limit and you know that it's in a church, right?'" Breen recalled, getting some laughs. "So the golf jokes were out the window. The dinner jokes were out the window."

Jimmy is now retiring from the state Senate. He'll become a lobbyist. He still has his title insurance company business partner, Senate President John Cullerton, D-DeLeo, running things in Springfield.

Like Sam before him, it's time for Jimmy to go low-key. After all, he's the guy.

Thanks to John Kass

Reputed Mob Lawyer Sam Banks Succumbs to Cancer

Whether he was prosecuting comic Lenny Bruce on obscenity charges, defending a client, or fending off talk that he was a mob mouthpiece, lawyer Samuel V.P. Banks was a bulldog in the courtroom.

"Sam" Banks, who questioned witnesses with the force and cadence of a jackhammer, died of cancer Saturday at age 73 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

He was a member of one of Chicago's most politically connected families. His brother, former Ald. William J.P. Banks (36th), headed the City Council zoning committee until he retired last year; his son, James, is a zoning lawyer; his brother, Ronald J.P. Banks, was a judge, and his daughter, Karen, married state Rep. John A. Fritchey (D-Chicago).

Some of the city's most colorful federal probes -- and characters -- were braided through Mr. Banks' career.

Ronald Banks said his brother believed everyone deserved a strong defense. "He was good," Ronald Banks said. "He was not afraid to try any case. He believed you're innocent till proven guilty."

Sam Banks represented 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti in 1989 after "Operation Kaffeeklatsch" broke wide open when a busboy found hidden recording equipment at a favorite pols' haunt: the old Counsellor's Row restaurant. Roti was a "made member" of the mob, according to the FBI.

In the 1991 "Gambat" probe of 1st Ward corruption, Mr. Banks defended Pasquale "Pat" Frank De Leo against charges he bribed Judge David J. Shields to fix a case.

At the 2007 "Family Secrets" trial of mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, a former burglar testified he believed he'd passed bribes to police through Sam Banks. But the man admitted he never saw money change hands.

In 1989 at the Operation Greylord trial, former mob gambling boss Ken Eto -- who entered protective custody after a botched "hit"--linked Mr. Banks to a ticket-fixing scheme.

Mr. Banks was never charged with any wrongdoing.

"Sam used to say 'I take 'em as I find 'em," his brother Ronald said. "Insinuations, they do it all the time."

Mr. Banks loved the chess game of a trial, and never stooped to anything untoward because of his courtroom skill, his brother said. "Sam had too much dignity and class for that -- he was a talented man."

He grew up in the Austin neighborhood and graduated from Austin High and Loyola University. He worked his way through school as an investigator for what was then the city Welfare Department. His specialty was tracking deadbeat dads.

"One time, they knocked on a door and said they were with the Department of Welfare," his brother said. "Four bullet holes went through the door."

Mr. Banks had to call police to arrest the man inside.

Mr. Banks received his law degree from DePaul University, where he impressed Dan Ward, who was dean of DePaul's law school before becoming chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

When Mr. Ward became Cook County state's attorney, he asked Sam Banks to join him.

Mr. Banks successfully prosecuted comic Lenny Bruce on allegations of obscenity in his act at the Gate of Horn nightclub in 1963.

He was proud that he was Mr. Ward's protege, said retired defense attorney Patrick Tuite, who was sworn in as a prosecutor on the same day as Mr. Banks. "Some assistant or secretary was giving him some guff," Mr. Tuite recalled, "and he said, 'I didn't get this job through the Tribune want ads.' ''

"When I started out, he sent me a case and he gave me some encouragement and kind words," said defense attorney Terry Gillespie. "He was an aggressive, determined lawyer in the courtroom, but he had a compassionate side, especially with young lawyers."

To avoid anti-Italian bigotry, Mr. Banks' father, currency exchange owner Vincenzo Giuseppe Panebianco, anglicized his name to James Joseph and added "Banks" to their surname, said Ronald Banks. All his sons continue to use "P" or "Panebianco" in front of "Banks."

A resident of River Forest, Mr. Banks loved golfing at La Grange's Edgewood Valley Country Club and Riverside Golf Club.

He is also survived by his wife, Dorothy, his sister Marlene Panebianco, and two grandchildren. Visitation is from 3 to 9 p.m. today at Salerno's Galewood Chapels, 1857 N. Harlem. A funeral mass is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Giles Church, Oak Park. Burial is at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside.

Thanks to Maureen O'Donnell

Las Vegas Mobster Presentation at the Far West Popular Culture and American Culture Association Annual Conference

Organized crime and Las Vegas have a long, complex history that is well-known. But the extent of the mob’s actual involvement in the conception and development of the city is debatable.

This month, a professor and a graduate of Missouri University of Science and Technology will present their research on the subject at a popular culture conference that just happens to take place in “Sin City” itself.

Dr. Larry Gragg, chair and Curators’ Teaching Professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T, and Amanda Kamps, a 2009 history graduate of the university, will present papers at the Far West Popular Culture and American Culture Associations’ annual conference, which will be held from Friday, March 12, to Sunday, March 14, in Las Vegas.

“This will be our first opportunity to present at a popular culture conference,” says Gragg. “Our papers are certainly relevant to the conference’s location.”

Kamps is looking forward to the conference. “I have spent the last two years writing about mobsters in Las Vegas,” she says. “This will be my first chance to actually visit ‘Sin City’ and see the places I’ve detailed in my work.”

Gragg has had a longtime interest in the connections between organized crime and Las Vegas. “My paper, ‘Film Depictions of Organized Crime in Las Vegas,’ deals with the ways motion pictures contributed to the general beliefs Americans had about the mob’s role in the development of Las Vegas after World War II,” he says. He is also writing a book on the subject.

Kamps’ paper, “Exploiting Stereotypes: Benjamin Siegel’s Reliance Upon Reputation in Las Vegas,” focuses on the notorious mobster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

“Amanda’s paper highlights the ways that Siegel was able to use his various personae to open his Flamingo Hotel and Casino in 1946-1947,” says Gragg.

Kamps says her study of Siegel offers a great insight into the interactions between the community of Las Vegas and the mobsters who descended upon the frontier town. “My paper focuses on Siegel’s use of his reputation as a brutal killer to accomplish his business goals,” she says. “This not only demonstrates Bugsy’s own deviousness, but also sheds light on how the perception of mobsters was perpetuated.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

City of Chicago Honors Al Capone

Chicago seems finally to be ready to honor its most famous gangster.

For years, everyone knew where Al Capone's infamous hangouts were, but the city wouldn't dare put up an official sign acknowledging him. But now, that's changed. The Chicago Department of Transportation has put up a sign at the site of the old Lexington Hotel, which stood until 1995 at 2135 S. Michigan Ave.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports the sign at the site acknowledges the Lexington and Metropole hotels, which were built next to each other on the site in the early 1890s, and says they were "outfitted for Capone's needs with secret stairwells, doors and passages, underground tunnels and every amenity required by their primary resident."

Capone came to Chicago from Brooklyn in 1919, and soon began working for Johnny Torrio, who at the time ran the Chicago mob – called the Outfit – and operated its bootlegging, gambling and prostitution operations. But soon after Torrio was shot and injured and left Chicago, Capone took over, and began raking in millions a year in both illegal and legitimate industries, according to the Chicago History Museum.

Prosecutors finally got Capone on tax evasion charges in 1931, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He died in 1947. But the Lexington Hotel gained its greatest notoriety nearly four decades after that, when Capone's vault underneath the building was blasted open as part of a television special hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

The vault was blasted open on April 21, 1986, in what CBS 2's John Drummond called the biggest excavation since archaeologists dug up King Tut's tomb. But the effort ended up being fairly futile, given that all workers found behind the brick-and-concrete wall was a few bottles of Prohibition-era liquor, and a lot of dirt and rubble.

The Lexington Hotel had been granted landmark status in 1985. Nonetheless, it was demolished in the fall of 1995, after repeated attempts to renovate it failed.

The Lexington Park Condo building now stands on the site.

Thanks to WBBM 780

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Vintage Playboy Covers and Centerfolds to be Featured in MAFIA II

Ah, the 1950s -- an era when Elvis Presley ruled the radio waves, Senator Joseph McCarthy helped fuel Cold War paranoia, and the internet hadn't yet made Playboy magazine totally irrelevant. That's precisely the point in American history that 2K Games hopes to capture with Mafia II, and they're partnering with Playboy to help lend a little authenticity to the game's '50s mobster atmosphere.

The licensing deal allows developer 2K Czech to place more than 50 vintage covers and centerfolds from the magazine's early history throughout the world of Mafia II. According to the announcement, players will be able to collect these in-game copies of Playboy magazine as they progress through the game.

"For more than 55 years, Playboy has been a part of America's pop culture landscape, engaging its readers with insightful features, interviews, and fashion spreads, as well as pictorials of some of the world's most beautiful women,? reads a statement from Playboy magazine editorial director Jimmy Jellinek. "Mafia II is set when Playboy first came into vogue and features characters whose style and attitudes mirror content from our early issues. We're excited to bring an element of authenticity to the game that is unmatched in the men's publishing category."

Mafia II is currently scheduled for release sometime between August and the end of October this year.

Thanks to Dustin Quillen

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reputed Mob Poker King Out on Bail

The alleged video poker king of Chicago, who once said he wasn't sure who owned the Bridgeport home he lives in, saw that home pledged to make his $250,000 bond Friday for his release from jail.

Casey Szaflarski, 52, is charged with helping run a video gambling operation for the Chicago Outfit. His sister put up the house, which is held in a trust.

Szaflarski was equally vague when questioned by a court official on his finances, leading Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk to say "there are more questions than answers as to his income. We believe he has provided false information."

Szaflarski's attorney, Catharine O'Daniel, said Szaflarski wasn't being dishonest, just cautious, because he did not know what he should say because his lawyer wasn't present during the interview on his finances.

The bond hearing turned into a family affair when it was revealed that Szaflarski illegally had two guns. His ex-wife, who still lives with Szaflarski, handed them over to a relative, Chicago Police officer Mary Versetto, who said she is keeping them in her home.

Szaflarski is the son-in-law of the late Chicago mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia. Versetto is LaMantia's niece.

When Funk questioned her, Versetto had few details about Szaflarski's guns.

She said she didn't actually know whose guns they were.

She said she didn't know where the guns had been stored. But she did believe they weren't stored in the house where Szaflarski and his ex-wife live.

Versetto, who was not in court but questioned over a speakerphone, sounded impatient with the prosecution's questioning, at one point asking, "Is that it?"

Szaflarski is accused of sharing profits of his video gambling business with Michael Sarno, who is also charged in the case and is the reputed head of the mob's Cicero crew.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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Friday, March 05, 2010

John Ambrose Sent to The Prison Where His Father Died

A federal judge in Chicago said a former deputy U.S. marshal convicted of leaking information about the Operation Family Secrets mob investigation will have to serve his sentence in the same Texas prison where his father died.

In his ruling today, U.S. District Judge John F. Grady denied a request by John Ambrose to be assigned to any federal prison other than the one in Seagoville, Texas.

Ambrose was sentenced in October to four years in prison for leaking information that mob hit man Nick Calabrese was cooperating with authorities in the Family Secrets case.

Ambrose's father, Thomas, was a former Chicago police officer who was convicted of corruption in 1982 in the "Marquette 10" case.

Thomas Ambrose died in 1986 as he jogged around a track at the Seagoville prison.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Casey "Whole Nervous System's Shot" Szaflarski Remains Behind Bars

The new alleged king of video gambling for the Chicago mob told a federal judge Tuesday that his "whole nervous system's shot" -- but it wasn't because the feds had just arrested him.

Casey Szaflarski told the judge at his initial court hearing that he had just had spinal cord surgery.

"I take a lot of medicine, your honor," Szaflarski said. "My whole nervous system's shot."

Despite his medical conditions, Szaflarski, 52, who lives in the Bridgeport neighborhood, will be held behind bars at least until his bond hearing Friday, after federal prosecutor T. Markus Funk said he could pose a danger to the community or might flee before trial.

Szaflarski was charged as part of the criminal case against alleged Cicero mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno, reputed high-ranking Outlaw motorcycle gang member Mark Polchan and five other men.

As one possible indication of how lucrative the video gambling business can be, federal prosecutors are seeking $3.6 million in illegal gambling proceeds from Szaflarski, Sarno and Polchan as part of the criminal case against the men, according to a new forfeiture allegation added to the case.

Szaflarski also is charged with failing to report more than $255,000 in income on tax returns from 2004 to 2006.

Szaflarski apparently took over the video gambling business run by the onetime head of the Chicago mob, James Marcello, and his half-brother, Michael. Szaflarski allegedly told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello.

Szaflarski is accused of sharing proceeds of his gambling business with Sarno, a reputed mob leader who's also been dubbed "Big Mike" and "Fat Ass," according to court documents filed in the case.

Sarno, in turn, is charged with ordering the pipe bombing of a Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003 that was competing with Szaflarski's business.

Investigators from the FBI, IRS and ATF gathered evidence against Szaflarski when they raided more than 20 bars and restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs last year with illegal video gambling machines. They seized thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and stripped the video poker machines of their circuit boards.

State lawmakers recently legalized video gambling, but bars and restaurants can't legally operate the devices until state regulators fashion rules overseeing what will be the largest expansion of gambling in Illinois history and distribute licenses.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

James Marcello Cleared of Parole Violation

Reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello won a court skirmish with federal prosecutors Wednesday when a judge cleared him of an old charge of parole violation, but the victory did not win him his freedom.

Marcello left court to return to federal prison where the sexagenarian must continue to serve a life sentence for his part in an almost-two-decade organized crime wave that included a series of 18 long-unsolved murders.

U.S. District Judge William Hibbler ruled that federal prosecutors had failed to show that after Marcello's release from prison in 2005 he had violated the terms of his supervised release.

Marcello was arrested and put back behind bars a year later when prosecutors unsealed their sweeping Operation Family Secrets indictment of alleged leaders of the Chicago Outfit - the name of this city's organized crime family - and their followers.

He was convicted of murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors wanted Hibbler to revoke Marcello's supervised release. That way, there would still be a way to keep him behind bars if his conviction in the Family Secrets case were reversed.

Two other big-name reputed mobsters - Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo - are serving life sentences as a result of their convictions in the Family Secrets case.

Thanks to NewsRadio 780

"King Rudy" Acosta and 2nd Amendment Rights in Chicago

In its wisdom, the U.S. Supreme Court finally took up Chicago's ridiculous 27-year-old handgun ban on Tuesday.

Why is it ridiculous? Because only three classes of people are comfortable with handguns in the anti-handgun city: Cops, criminals and the politically connected.

Mayor Richard Daley sure is upset that the ban might be overturned. But he probably has more armed guards protecting him than the president of Venezuela.

Chicago aldermen are allowed to carry handguns. I wanted to ask the chairman of the City Council's police committee about those gun-toting aldermen. But there was no chairman. The last one just resigned after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, so he wasn't around.

If the Supreme Court really wanted to know why some folks in Chicago have guns and others don't, they should have called an expert witness:

Rudy Acosta, the former "gangsta" rap impresario, or King Rudy, as he likes to be known.

King Rudy, 34, lives in Chicago. He's had lots and lots of handguns.

"Oh, leave Rudy alone," said his wily and high-profile criminal defense lawyer Joseph "The Shark" Lopez. "Rudy's just another hard-working average American trying to make a dollar."

King Rudy has been arrested at least twice with guns. But he's never been convicted of a felony.

He once told police he's a former member of the Satan Disciples street gang. He now has a video portraying him as a kingpin, a "man of respect," with fine cigars, sweet rides and power.

"That's a video from a long time ago [2008]," Lopez said. "He's a self-promoter. It's the American way."

Back then, I wrote a few columns about Acosta and his monstrous castle on the Northwest Side overlooking the Kennedy Expressway.

Although the neighbors objected to the construction, King Rudy understands the Chicago Way. His father was a Democratic machine precinct captain. Rudy hired a member of the political Banks family — the first family of zoning — to win castle approval from City Hall.

Back then, I wrote he'd been arrested by Chicago police, who said they found four illegal handguns and $112,000 in cash in a wall safe. But all charges were dropped because the elite politically connected unit that arrested King Rudy was itself the target of a federal corruption probe. Is that Chicago or what?

In a recent development, Rudy's guns got him in trouble again. On Oct. 11, 2009, he was arrested at his River North condo. Officers arrived in the lobby just before 6 a.m. to find building security guards cowering "behind a concrete wall."

According to police reports, Rudy was waving a loaded 12-gauge shotgun and screaming that there were robbers in his condo.

Rudy was pointing at security monitors, saying, "They're coming from the side! They're coming after me!"

"Rudy, put the gun away, it's a shadow," a security guard told Rudy.

The report also noted that Rudy relinquished the shotgun before accompanying police up to his condo, scene of the alleged robbery. Police found two men inside, who said they were much too relaxed for such hijinks.

They were Rudy's guests, and had been "drinking and doing lines of coke," the report said.

"Further observation of the offender's apartment revealed an open wall cabinet containing eight handguns and several boxes of ammunition," the report said. And where was the robber? Acosta explained, "There was a guy who climbed off my balcony using a rope." Employing the famous dry sarcasm of Chicago cops, officers noted in the report that Acosta's condo was 46 stories above the ground.

So Acosta was charged with breaking the city's handgun law and reckless conduct — both misdemeanors. But those charges were also dropped, when police failed to appear in court.

Lopez told me his client didn't plan on recovering his guns, but that he "has every right to have guns" in Chicago.

Pardon me?

"The police got their facts wrong," Lopez said. "He was in fear of his safety. And has a PERC card, he's fully licensed. He's not a convicted felon."

PERC stands for Permanent Employee Registration Card. The state government gives these out to private investigators so they can carry guns in the anti-handgun city.

We checked state records. Before the second arrest, Acosta became fully licensed to carry through May, 2012.

Lopez said Acosta has left the gangsta rap business and is now in the private security business and dabbles in real estate.

Whew. That will make the new neighbors feel safe. With Rudy packing all that heat, what criminal would be foolish enough to rob him and try to escape on a rope down the castle walls?

Sadly, Lopez said his client isn't going to move into the castle.

"He's putting it up for sale," Lopez said. "You forced him to sell his house with what you wrote about him. It's too hot now. He can't move in. The neighbors don't want him. He's just a hard-working guy."

The Chicago residents who appealed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday are hard-working, too. But they don't make videos portraying themselves as "gangstas."

All they want is to be able to protect themselves like the boss of Chicago and the politically connected, which is their constitutional right.

And Rudy?

He's just a hard-working guy with the right to bear arms, in the anti-handgun city that works.

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Berwyn Businessman Casey Szaflarski Arrested on Federal Illegal Gambling and Tax Fraud Charges; Added as Eighth Defendant in New Indictment

A Chicago man who allegedly helped a criminal organization run its illegal gambling activities was arrested today on federal gambling and tax fraud charges, federal law enforcement officials announced. The defendant, Casey Szaflarski, acting through his Berwyn business, Amusements, Inc., was charged with conducting an illegal gambling business since 2002, along with two other men—among seven total—who were charged previously. The gambling and tax charges against Szaflarski were brought in a superseding indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury last week and unsealed today following his arrest. The charges allege that Szaflarski failed to report more than $255,000 of business income between 2004 and 2006, and that he failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007.

Szaflarski, 52, was scheduled to be arraigned at 2:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in Federal Court in Chicago. He was charged with one count of conducting an illegal gambling business, three counts of filing a false federal income tax return, and one count of failing to file a federal income tax return, for a total of five counts in the 16-count superseding indictment.

The new indictment was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal officials commended the assistance of the Berwyn Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.

The charges against Szaflarski were brought in a superseding indictment in United States v. Polchan, et al., 08 CR 115, in which seven other defendants were indicted in May 2009 on racketeering conspiracy charges alleging eight years of criminal activity, including armed robberies and thefts, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, and arson, including the pipe-bombing of a competing Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003. Szaflasrki was not charged in the racketeering conspiracy or arson counts. He was charged with conducting an illegal gambling business, ongoing since at least 2002, with co-defendants Michael Sarno and Mark Polchan.

Today’s indictment adds a new forfeiture allegation seeking at least $3,607,201 from Szaflarski, Sarno, and Polchan as proceeds of the alleged illegal gambling activity. The indictment results, in part, from federal search warrants that were executed at more than two dozen suburban locations, including bars and restaurants, on May 27, 2009.

The three counts of filing false federal income tax returns allege that Szaflarski failed to report the following income from his closely-held business, Amusements, Inc.:

* at least $78,417 for 2004 when he reported total income of $373,736;
* at least $82,355 for 2005 when he reported total income of $262,842;
* at least $94,593 for 2006 when he reported total income of $286,071.

The indictment further alleges that Szaflarski failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007 when he received gross income of at least $95,911.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

The counts against Szaflarski alone carry the following maximum terms of incarceration: operating an illegal gambling business—five years; filing false federal income tax returns—three years; and failing to file a federal income tax return—one year. In addition, each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, except the failing to file count, which is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $100,000. Defendants convicted of tax offenses must be assessed mandatory costs of prosecution and remain liable for any back taxes, interest, and penalties owed. If convicted, the Court must determine a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. Szaflarski and the defendants charged previously are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Casey Szaflarski, Suspected Mob Video Poker King, Arrested on Gambling and Tax Fraud Charges

A Chicago man suspected of running a video poker business linked to the Chicago Outfit was arrested today on federal gambling and tax fraud charges, authorities said.

Casey Szaflarski, 52, was added to an indictment brought last year against Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno, a reputed mob figure accused of running a ring that pulled jewelry heists and bombed a competitor's video poker business.

Court records show authorities suspect that Szaflarski, who owned Amusements Inc. of Berwyn, entered the video poker business with the help of Mickey Marcello, a member of the mob's Melrose Park street crew who pleaded guilty in the landmark Family Secrets case.

Federal authorities carried out searches last year at businesses suspected of keeping machines run by Szaflarski's business, court records show. Agents also searched a 2007 black Hummer allegedly used by Szaflarski while making visits to businesses that used his machines. Authorities believe the machines could bring in more than $2,000 a day.

The charges against Szaflarski alleged he failed to report more than $255,000 of business income to the Internal Revenue Service between 2004 and 2006 and also failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007.

He was charged with one count of conducting an illegal gambling business, three counts of filing a false federal income tax return and one count of failing to file a federal income tax return.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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