Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra's Former House Searched by the FBI

Chicago FBI agents are searching the home of the family of Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, the late and widely feared mob leader, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Authorities have said the house in Bridgeport was the target last month of burglars who believed a fortune had been stashed there — perhaps including the famed, 45-carat Marlborough diamond.

The search began this morning at the fortress-like home at 30th and Princeton. Agents appear to be looking for any stolen items.

Earlier this month, three men — including Joseph "The Monk" Scalise — were arrested as federal authorities said they cased the home for a burglary.

Scalise and one of his alleged partners, Arthur "The Genius" Rachel, were arrested in 1980 after stealing the Marlborough diamond from a London jewelry store.

They were convicted and sent to prison, but the diamond was never found. Its fate has been the subject of speculation ever since.

It was unclear if federal agents were executing a search warrant or if they were searching the home with the consent of the owner. LaPietra's daughter still lives in the home and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

The search comes after federal agents recently went through the home of another Chicago mobster, Frank Calabrese Sr. FBI agents found more than $1 million in cash and jewelry in that search last month — much of it hidden behind a secret storage area behind a family portrait.

Thanks to NewsRadio780

Chicago Gangland Tour iPhone App

When we think Chicago-centric iPhone apps, we usually think of the not-so-reliable CTA bus tracker. Yet there are lots of clever smartphone applications for Chicagoans on the market, and now there's one more to add to the list. Chicago Gangland Tour is a database of Chicago-area locations tied to Al Capone and his mob cronies. It includes photos and short essays for each place, unique ways to filter entries (such as "bodies found in car"), and Google map functionality. What results is a pretty comprehensive app as jam-packed with as much information as a thick history book, but is much easier to carry and is more dynamic.

Jonathan Eig, former executive editor of Chicago magazine and author of the soon-to-be-released book Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster, wrote and produced Chicago Gangland Tour. For his book, Eig used newly released government documents, interviews with Capone's family, and Capone's own letters to describe the gangster's rise and fall. Chicago Gangland Tour incorporates a lot of this same information. It just uses different format. By highlighting more than 100 locations and 600 photos related to Chicago's gang past, Chicago Gangland Tour is more like a digital guidebook.

We didn't think it'd be fair to recommend the Chicago Ganglang Tour app if we hadn't tried it ourselves, but unfortunately iPhones are not included in the Chicagoist benefits package. So we asked one of our dads, proud iPhone owner, ex-cop and moderate Chicago history buff, to check it out. His literal first words were "Wowwww!!!" We asked him to elaborate. He was especially impressed by the app's ability to tell him if a business linked to the Chicago mob was still open for business, and provide him with its hours of operation and website. And, he liked how easy it was to navigate.

One of the things I like about the app is how easy it is to filter the information down to just the few sites you want to investigate. For example, select “Restaurants” and “By Neighborhood." Now, instead of a zillion different choices, you have narrowed the information down to only six different locations! I think this is very slick. - dad aka Ed Mikel

We asked him if he would tell anyone to buy it.

Priced at $2.99, I judge it a real bargain. The information provided would easily fill several volumes of books, let alone if you add all the pictures. And, unlike a book, you hold all of this information in your hand and can filter it to your needs in a matter of seconds.

He went on to suggest that this could be a useful too for all sorts of people, including history buffs, Chicago area residents, and tourists. So there you have it. Our dad liked Chicago Gangland Tour. We think you might like it, too.

Thanks to Betsy Mickel

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Federal Judge Grants Bond Eligibility to Reputed Mob Burglars

They may have pulled off one of the most spectacular stick-ups in all of Chicago mobdom, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will skip out on their current court case, said a federal judge.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan ruled that Art "The Genius" Rachel and Jerry "Witherhand" Scalise pose no flight risk and are therefore eligible to be released on bond. Rachel, 71 and Scalise, 73 are charged with plotting a bank heist in west suburban LaGrange.

"The only reason that bank was not robbed was because of the FBI," stated assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk who was arguing the government's case for detention. "We have a bulletproof case against Mr. Scalise," Funk told Judge Nolan at Wednesday's bond hearing. "Mr. Scalise is probably one of the most inappropriate men for bond," said Funk.

Scalise and Rachel were convicted in the 1980 theft of the famous Marlborough diamond from a London, England jewelry store. The men used guns and grenades to swipe the 45 carat diamond, forcing employees and early morning shoppers into submission onto the floor.

The armed robbery went downhill from there, however, when witnesses caught glimpse of a license plate on the thieves' getaway car that had been rented at Heathrow Airport.

By the time Rachel and Scalise high-tailed it back to Chicago, Scotland Yard had notified the FBI and agents were waiting at O'Hare to greet the mobsters' jetliner. They were prosecuted and imprisoned in the UK.

Regardless, defense attorneys for the pair and for an alleged accomplice, Robert "Bobby" Pullia, said that all three were good family men who would not run out on their wives and children just because of their current legal problems.

"He's entitled to bond," said attorney Ed Genson who is representing Scalise, a career thief and Chicago mobster. "He's going to come to court, he always comes to court. He believes in the system. We're going to do the best we can to get him out on bond and try the case. And that's what we always do. I don't think there's an issue that these guys are going to run away. I think the judge can fasten conditions which would allow him to get out on bond and properly prepare his case and when we go to trial we'll see what happens."

Scalise, whose nickname "Witherhand" is in tribute to a few missing fingers, was asked by the judge to come up with more than his $690,000 suburban home to post as bond for his freedom. Lawyer Genson said he had no idea how much additional bond money Scalise could raise. "It depends on how rich the people who I ask to post their property are," said Genson.

Defendant Art Rachel will be allowed home incarceration with an electronic GPS monitor and a $10,000 bond, according to the judge. Rachel's lawyer, Terry Gillespie, called the government's case "pretty weak. I haven't heard anything compelling to link Rachel to the case," he said.

Gillespie also disputed that stated contention that Mr. Rachel has a drinking problem. Even though Rachel takes "four shots of whiskey a day," Gillespie explained to the judge that is "moderate drinking."

Defendant Pullia will also be afforded home incarceration with a GPS monitor and a $200,000 bond. "He has nowhere to go," said Pullia's attorney, Marc Martin. "He's not going to do that to his wife. He's been married for 28 years."

Judge Nolan agreed. "I don't think any of these fellas would walk out on their family," she said.

One piece of evidence against the three hoodlums did bother judge Nolan. She was shown an FBI photo of a van that agents said was to be used as a getaway vehicle after a bank robbery. It had been equipped with peepholes and gun slits, so that the trio could shoot their way past any obstacles, said federal authorities. "This van is disturbing," said Judge Nolan.

Regardless, she agreed that they were entitled to bond, although she said that she would order them held at the MCC while the government appealed her bond ruling. The appeal will be heard by Judge Harry Leinenweber, who has been assigned the actual trial.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Not Guilty Pleas in Armored Car Robbery Plot

Three men, two of whom were convicted years ago of stealing the 45-carat Marlborough Diamond from a London jewelry store, pleaded not guilty today in federal court in Chicago to charges they plotted to rob a suburban armored car.

Joseph Scalise, Arthur Rachel and Robert Pullia were arrested as they allegedly prepared to burglarize the South Side home of a deceased mob boss. They were indicted on charges they conspired to pull off a robbery as cash was being delivered to a LaGrange bank.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk explained to U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber how the three were preparing to try to steal shrink-wrapped cash that would be delivered to the bank but said they were thwarted "due to the good work of the FBI."

"And because our clients weren't there," answered lawyer Terrence Gillespie, who represents Rachel.

Lawyers on both sides told the judge a trial is likely.

Scalise, 73, Rachel, 71, and Pullia, 69, were under investigation for a 2007 holdup at another LaGrange bank when they allegedly were discovered planning their new bank job. They were taken into custody in burglary clothes as they allegedly planned to break into the home of the late Anthony "the Hook" LaPietra, a leader of the Chicago mob's Chinatown street crew.

Scalise and Rachel are reputed mob associates who served time for the Marlborough Diamond theft. More recently, Scalise acted as a technical adviser on the Johnny Depp film, "Public Enemies," about gangster John Dillinger.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Ex-Cop, James Formato, Pleads Guilty in Mob Case

A former suburban police officer admitted that he took part in a mob-related ring of criminals responsible for robberies, burglaries and setting off a giant pipe bomb that blew apart the offices of a video gaming company.

James Formato, 43, a husky, bearded former member of the Berwyn police department, appeared before U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman and pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Formato also gave federal prosecutors a potential witness with inside knowledge of the alleged crime ring, pledging to cooperate with the government's seven-year investigation in exchange for leniency when he is sentenced.

Seven other defendants, including reputed mob boss Michael Sarno, have pleaded not guilty to charges in the indictment.

The investigation began in February 2003 after a giant pipe bomb ripped through the Berwyn offices of a video gaming company. Prosecutors say it was a message from the mob to stop horning in on its highly lucrative video gaming monopoly in the western suburbs.

Formato admitted in his signed plea agreement that as a Berwyn officer he found out that federal agents were interested in a brown van that had been seen in the vicinity of the blast. He said that through a go-between he sent the information to Mark Polchan, a Cicero jewelry store owner and member of the Outlaws motorcycle club who is among those charged. Polchan has pleaded not guilty.

Formato also admitted that in the fall of 2002 he was paid $3,000 for transporting $150,000, some of it the proceeds of a burglary, across state lines to his father in Florida.

Formato also said he served as a lookout outside a west suburban residence while two men were inside burglarizing it. He said he warned one of the burglars later that police had an artist's sketch of him. He also said he took part in at least two other home burglaries.

The maximum sentence for each of the two charges to which Formato pleaded guilty is 20 years in prison and the maximum fine is $250,000. But under his plea agreement, his cooperation with the government could earn him a sentence of 60 percent of the low end of the sentencing range under federal guidelines -- 78 to 97 months by preliminary calculations.

Thanks to CBS2Chicago

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto on FBI Tapes in McCormick Place Case

The FBI recorded more than 50 conversations involving Chicago Outfit boss Rudy "The Chin" Fratto during an investigation of alleged big-rigging at the city's McCormick Place.

The existence of dozens of undercover tapes is disclosed in defense motions filed in federal court in Chicago.

Fratto, 66, the leader of the Mob's Elmwood Park crew according to federal authorities, was indicted with another man last month on charges that he used inside information to score a forklift deal at McCormick Place.

The Darien resident was due to report to prison on April 28 to begin serving a year-long sentence for income tax-evasion. Today's motion filed by his tax-case attorney Arthur Nasser asks for a delay in Fratto's reporting date. An attached affidavit from Donald Angelini, Jr., the attorney handling the sweetheart contract case, states that Fratto's defense would be "greatly hampered" if he was imprisoned and couldn't assist in the preparation.

Fratto is scheduled to serve the tax sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Kentucky. Angelini Jr., son of the late Mob bookmaker Don "the Wizard of Odds" Angelini, said that he had received a 1500-page transcript of FBI undercover recordings along with more than 50 tapes. Mr. Angelini, Jr. said that he was only able to listen to three and a half hours of secretly recorded tapes and that without Fratto's help in deciphering the conversations, the defense would suffer.

The filing by Mr. Fratto's legal team in federal court also stated that there is "noise interference" on the tapes, making them "extremely difficult to interpret or understand."

Mr. Nasser will appear in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly Tuesday morning to argue for an unspecified extension in Fratto's surrender date.

The plea for freedom seems far more somber than last month's swaggering courthouse performance by Fratto himself, that included a self-styled perp walk in the lobby, a couple of wise-guy wise-cracks on the sidewalk, and some special sound effects from his driver who was behind the wheel of the family Range Rover.

Fratto, considered by Mobwatchers to be one of Chicago's top five most powerful hoodlums, was indicted with Inverness businessman William "Billy" Degironemo. The men allegedly squeezed a consultant for inside information that helped then land a forklift contract. In exchange, Fratto allegedly offered to settle a $350,000 debt the consultant had with mafia bosses in Cleveland. Neither Fratto nor his partner knew that consultant was working undercover for the FBI.

Fratto's uncle, "Cockeyed Louis," testified at a 1950 Senate organized crime hearing. Another relative, Frankie "One Ear" Fratto, was a skilled loan shark.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reputed Chicago Outfit Jewel Thieves Arrested Outside of Former Home of Chinatown Boss

Two career jewel thieves in the Chicago Outfit, who are among the mob's most prolific pilferers, have been arrested again-- this time eyeing the home of their former boss, according to a federal complaint filed Friday afternoon.

During a short appearance in court, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan ordered Joseph Jerome "Jerry" Scalise, Art Rachel and another hoodlum, Robert "Bobby" Pullia, held at the MCC without bond until a detention hearing next week. They were represented by high profile attorneys Terry Gillespie and Marc Martin. After court, Mr. Gillespie said that all three defendants would enter pleas of not guilty. He said questions about the existence of the Marlborough diamond would best be asked of the federal authorities, who declined to comment.

The men were arrested as they tried to hit the one-time home of Chinatown boss Angelo "the Hook" LaPietra. "The Hook," known for a fondness of hanging wayward gamblers on meat hooks, died in 1999. The arrests reportedly happened late Thursday night in the 3000-block of South Princeton, near LaPietra's former estate. For years Scalise lived in the Bridgeport neighborhood and reported to LaPietra.

The three men, still attired in the dark clothes they were wearing while allegedly staking out LaPietra's home, looked more like they were ready for a shuffleboard game then a burglary. Scalise is 73, Rachel is 71 and Pullia is 69 - and they told the judge about medications they are on, to insure adequate treatment at the MCC.

"I'm not sure exactly what they were expecting to get when they broke into the residence. The residence was occupied last night so it would have been a home invasion. Whether it was a robbery, whether they hoped to get ransom money, a kidnapping, we don't know," said Ross Rice, FBI spokesman.

"I heard a blast, like an M80 going off, like a firecracker. I said, 'who the hell is shooting firecrackers off this time of year?'" said Dan Bujas, neighbor.

The suspects ran a three-man crime wave for the past several years, according to the FBI, whose agents began following the trio last December and listening in on their phone calls after obtaining wiretap approval from a federal judge. An FBI affidavit filed with Friday's criminal complaint reveals cell phone conversations between the men that were intercepted by federal agents.

According to the affidavit, Pullia says, "while we are there we will grab it." Authorities are uncertain if the "it" they were going to grab was the long-missing Marlborough diamond. One theory has been that Scalise and Rachel handed off the stone in London or actually mailed to someone in the U.S., possibly their mob crew boss at the time, LaPietra.

Authorities say they watched the men conduct surveillance on several banks, including the First National Bank of LaGrange where they were allegedly plotting to overtake an armored car delivery of cash by spraying mace in the face of the guards. That hold-up, and others allegedly planned by the Outfit crew, were not actually carried out during the time that federal agents watched the men.

They are, however, suspected of numerous other unsolved bank robberies since 2007, according the federal investigators.

Scalise and Rachel are best known for the Sept. 11, 1980 theft of the famous Marlborough diamond from Graff Jewelers in London. The men were arrested at O'Hare Airport returning on a flight from the UK. They both served long stretched on the Isle of White prison of the UK. The 45 carat stone, once one of the Crown jewels, was never found.

The attempted break-in at LaPietra's former home is certain to spark speculation that the 45 carat sparkler was stashed somewhere in the home. The three men were arrested late Thursday night outside LaPietra's former "fortress" on the south side, carrying an elaborate supply of burglary tools according the feds. Investigators also say they had discussed abducting LaPietra relatives who still reside in the home and taking them hostage.

"All my client has told me so far is it's nonsense. I don't know any of the particulars as of yet," said Terry Gillespiel, defense lawyer.

The Marlborough heist in 1980 was pulled off by Scalise and Rachel, armed with a revolver and a hand grenade. They got away in less than a minute with millions of dollars in gems.

No one was hurt during the morning raid, and customers on the other two floors of the three-story shop were unaware of anything taking place.

A security guard let the first well-dressed thief into the exclusive store shortly after opening, thinking he was a customer.

Once inside the man - dressed in blue check pants, a jacket and a hat- pulled out a gun and ordered the staff and customers to lie down on the floor.

The second robber then walked in brandishing a hand grenade.

The Marlborough diamond, was packed into a briefcase with other jewels by the robbers before they fled to a getaway car parked about 50 yards away.

One of the store clerks followed the men and noted the registration number of the Fiat Mirafiore they used to escape.

The profanity-riddled affidavit also reveals discussions between Scalise and Rachel about potential mob murders, including the killing of a key witness from the Operation Family Secrets prosecution two years ago that resulted in numerous convictions of top mob bosses.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Organized Crime Global Meeting Resolutions

More than 600 parliamentarians from 124 countries, among them 35 Speakers of Parliament, attending the 122nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) closed their meeting in Bangkok by adopting four key resolutions.

In one of them, a resolution prompted by the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, they call upon governments to make disaster-risk assessment an integral part of planning for post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction.

The resolution commended the efforts made by the national authorities of Haiti and Chile to cope with the crippling disasters. It also urged governments to assess all their critical public facilities, such as schools and hospitals, with a view to making them resilient to earthquake, floods and storms, and to make disaster-risk reduction a part of poverty reduction and of all planning and programmes aimed at ensuring long-term welfare of the people.

Governments, they said, should also pay close attention to the protection of women and children in post-disaster situations, which can leave them particularly vulnerable to abuse, including trafficking.

In a resolution on cooperation and shared responsibility in the global fight against organized crime, in particular drug, illegal arms and human trafficking, and cross border terrorism, the Assembly invited the United Nations to convene an international conference to analyze the impact of new forms of terrorism and determine whether national legislation meets international humanitarian and human rights standards.

The resolution calls on States to combat terrorism, in particular by refusing to allow their territories to be used for cross-border terrorism and by bringing to justice those on their territories who participate in acts of terror.

It also invites IPU Member Parliaments to strengthen their respective legal systems in accordance with the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism with a view to combating money laundering and financing of terrorist activities and to ensure that all measures taken are in line with their respective State's international obligations.

It calls for universal ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and asks parliaments to support the newly established UNCAC review mechanism. It urges national parliaments to legislate more stringent penalties for corruption and organized crime, and to apply standards of good governance, accountability and transparency in public institutions with a view to combating corruption. It also urges the IPU to promote international cooperation to combat financial safe havens.

Efforts should also be intensified to counter the illicit cultivation, production, manufacture, sale, abuse, transit, trafficking and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, especially heroin, cocaine and its derivatives.

The resolution also urges parliaments to mainstream gender equality concerns into all legislation to ensure that women and children are protected from abuse and that they are provided with legal, medical and other forms of assistances.

A resolution was adopted on the role of parliaments in developing South-South and triangular cooperation with a view to accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It invites southern and northern parliaments and governments to support and develop South-South and triangular cooperation and to align their South-South cooperation agenda with the MDGs. It also urges southern country parliaments and governments to see to it that the funds allocated to MDG-related programmes and sectors are effectively used for the targeted programmes.

It recommends that donor country parliaments and governments, in addition to the traditional bilateral and multilateral aid flows, contribute to the United Nations Fund for South-South cooperation to provide money for South-South projects and initiatives. It also urges parliaments to ask their governments to ensure that United Nations documents on South-South cooperation make mention of the important role that parliaments have to play in fostering South-South cooperation.

The resolution also invites northern country parliaments and governments to ensure that a substantial part of development assistance serves to promote South-South and triangular cooperation.

A fourth resolution invites parliaments, if they have not yet done so, to set up specialized bodies to streamline youth issues throughout parliament's work and to monitor the fulfilment of their government's obligations under the Convention of the Right of the Child to ensure children's right to be heard and express their views freely and without discrimination.

States, parliaments, legislators, political parties, the IPU and youth organizations are invited to encourage and promote the initiative, enterprise and creativity of young people.

The resolution also calls on the IPU and parliaments, youth organizations and others to strengthen efforts aimed at achieving appropriate representation and participation of youth in decision-making bodies, bearing in mind that girls, boys, young women and young men are all entitled to the same rights.

It also calls on Parliaments to ensure that young people with disabilities and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged are offered equal opportunities to participate fully in society.

Established in 1889 and with Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU – the oldest multilateral political organization in the world - currently brings together 155 national parliaments and nine associated regional assemblies. The world organization of parliaments also has an Office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer to the United Nations.

Thanks to News Room America

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Junior Gotti the Hollywood Scriptwriter?

He is one of the most feared men in New York, with a family history of bribery, tax evasion, extortion, and murder. But after his trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder ended in a jury deadlock two years ago, John Gotti Jr—son of the ‘Teflon Don’ John J. Gotti, and former head of the Gambino crime family—says he’s ready to give up a life of organised crime and finally go legit.

His new job after giving up the Mafia? Hollywood scriptwriter.

“He’s willing to go all the way, revealing as much as possible [in his screenplay] without hurting anyone who’s still involved in the street life,” Tony D’Aiuto, head of the New York production company Triplicity Entertainment, told the influential film industry website Deadline Hollywood this week. D’Auito is certainly familiar with the material: he used to act as the Gotti family’s defence lawyer.

It is thought that Gotti, 46—whose sister, Victoria, was until recently a reality television star and a columnist for the New York Post—hopes to turn his life story into a Goodfellas-style feature film, full-length documentary, and a book. He intends to pitch his story to major Hollywood studios as an epic father-and-son melodrama.

It’s unlikely, however, that Gotti will want to revisit the most notorious incident of his life, when the FBI searched the basement of one of his properties in Queens and found a list of ‘made’ members of his organisation, including the names of guests who attended his wedding—examples including Big Louie, Jackie Nose, Sammy Bull, Benny Eggs, Fat Andy, and Lil Funzie— and the dollar values of their gifts.

Agents also found a gun with a silencer, a semi-automatic rifle, and $348,700 in cash.

The bust inspired headlines such as “Like godfather, like son? Not quite” and an article in USA Today describing Gotti as a ‘dumbfella’, and Gotti was later sentenced to 77 months in prison.

NeverthelessWiseguy, If Gotti’s new career is successful, it could provide the general public with the most authentic inside account of the New York mob since an associate of the Lucchese family, Henry Hill, turned his life story into the book Wiseguy in the mid-1980s. The book was later adapted for the big screen, and became the Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas.

Hill’s crimes included participation in the notorious $6 million Lufthansa heist of 1978—the biggest robbery in US history at the time—fixing basketball games in Boston, and smuggling heroin and cocaine.

Hill’s circumstances were very different to Gotti’s, however: when the publishing company Simon & Schuster bought the rights to his story in 1981 for a reported $96,250 (£63,000)—the equivalent of $230,000 today—he had already negotiated so-called ‘transactional immunity’ for his crimes in return for appearing as the FBI’s star witness in 10 trials, ultimately putting 50 of mobsters in jail, including 'Uncle Paulie' Vario and Jimmy ‘the Gent’ Burke (played by Robert De Niro in Goodfellas).

Authorities in New York later attempted to block Hill from being paid for Wiseguy under the Son of Sam law, which was first enacted to stop the serial killer David Berkowitz (who believed he was being controlled by a demon father-figure named Sam) from profiting from his crimes. The effort failed thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in Hill’s favour: it accepted Simon & Schuster’s argument that the ex-mobster's First Amendment rights should prevail, especially given that he had never even been arrested, never mind charged, for most of his crimes.

It’s unlikely that Gutty could make the same case, unless his life were heavily fictionalised.

During his most recent trial, in 2008, prosecutors attempted to link him to the murders of three men during the 1980s and 1990s. Ely Honig, an assistant United States attorney, told the court that Gotti was a dangerous man. “The defendant ordered and oversaw the three murders,” he said.

Regardless, the jurors failed to reach a verdict.

The previous case against Gotti came in 2005 when he was charged of ordered the kidnapping of Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels. As in the 2008 trial, the jurors deadlocked. Two retrials also failed.

Ironically, working on the screenplay of his life could prove to be the most dangerous thing the former mobster has ever done. When Hill was writing Wiseguy with the author Nick Pileggi, for example, a $2 million hit was put out on his life.

Contacted yesteday by The Times, Hill declined to comment on Gotti’s plans.

“He could care less,” said a representative for the ex-mobster, adding that Hill blamed the Gambino family for the execution of his former friend, Tommy ‘Two Gun’ DeSimone.

Thanks to Chris Ayres

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ivy League Gangster Now a Criminal Informant?

More than forty wiseguys who took an oath to take their Mafia secrets to the grave have later changed their minds and cut deals with the feds to tell all they knew. But while mob squealing was a growth industry in recent years, the elite Genovese family has managed to keep its members mostly in line. Known in mob parlance as "the Westside" because that was its traditional geographic base of power, the Genovese's are considered so good at what they do that admiring agents dubbed them "the Ivy League of organized crime."

Until recent weeks, the family had suffered only three known defectors. But is reporting that the feds have quietly won a key new recruit to their side.

Late last month, a Genovese soldier named Anthony "Bingy" Arillotta, who was being held in the federal lockup downtown to face a murder rap, was released from prison custody, destination untold. Arillotta, 42, had been running things for the family in Massachusetts. He was accused of masterminding the whacking of his predecessor, Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno who was gunned down in a Springfield, Mass. parking lot in 2003. His switch in loyalties is bad news for a lot of wiseguys, especially his former acting boss, Arthur "Little Guy" Nigro, who is also accused in Bruno's murder.

Actually, the Bruno hit showed signs of severely declining standards for the Genovese crew. The shooter recruited to carry out Big Al's murder, a tattooed ex-con named Frankie Roche, turned squealer himself a couple of years ago. They way he told the story, he waited for the mobster to finish his usual Sunday night card game. "I walked up to Bruno and said, 'Hey Al, you looking for me?' and I popped him." Nice line. Bad form.

Thanks to Tom Robbins

Skinny Joey Merlino Family Ruling Slammed by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement fired a verbal blast at a Casino Control Commission hearing examiner Monday, contending that the agency had "distorted" facts and ignored evidence in recommending that relatives of a jailed mob boss be granted a casino service-industry license.

The recommendation was "replete with distortions of testimony and proven facts and/or selective omission of critical facts and testimony," attorneys for the DGE wrote in a blistering 24-page list of exceptions to findings of William T. Sommeling.

Sommeling, who sits on the five-member Casino Control Commission, was appointed hearing examiner in the case.

Last month, he ruled that Joseph N. Merlino, his mother, Phyllis, and the Pleasantville construction company they own, Bayshore Rebar, were entitled to casino service-industry licenses.

Merlino is the cousin of jailed mob boss Joseph S. "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Phyllis Merlino is the jailed mobster's aunt. They and their company had twice before been denied licenses because of suspected mob ties.

Sommeling, who heard 14 days of testimony in a hearing that stretched over two months, found that the Merlinos and their company had severed ties to any organized-crime figures, including family members.

He blasted the DGE for its conduct during the hearing process, charging that it presented evidence that was "unreliable, uncorroborated and, in some instances, demonstrably false."

The pointed comments in Sommeling's findings and the DGE response are a marked departure from the usual tone of filings in licensing cases.

The full five-member commission is expected to hold a hearing next month to vote on Sommeling's recommendation. The commission can accept, modify, or reject it.

In a response that was at times dripping with sarcasm, the DGE urged the commission to again deny the Merlinos and their company the right to do casino-related construction work.

Sommeling's decision "manages to render meaningless" the standards and precedents established over the years by the commission to keep mob influences out of the casino industry, the DGE argued.

The DGE's response was presented in a document prepared by state Deputy Attorney General Alice Way and Assistant Attorney General Anthony J. Zarrillo Jr., prosecutors in the Merlino hearing.

The Merlinos' attorney, John Donnelly, has five days to respond.

In their filing, the DGE lawyers claimed that Sommeling came into the hearing with a preconceived notion of the case and that the DGE "lost . . . before its opening statement."

They chided Sommeling for showing favoritism, contending that "diplomacy has been afforded to the applicants, while derision has been saved for the Division."

The commissioner misunderstood or failed to adequately analyze scores of phone records that showed contact between the Merlinos and organized-crime figures, the DGE argued.

They included calls from Joseph S. Merlino and mobster Martin Angelina while the men were in federal prison in Philadelphia in 2000 and 2001 on racketeering charges.

The DGE cited more than a dozen calls from the inmates to the unlisted telephone of Joseph N. Merlino.

It also argued that Sommeling ignored the significance of calls to and from numbers listed in the names of the wives of mob figures, including the wife of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi.

Sommeling's ruling, the DGE argued, "contravenes the long established law enforcement intelligence technique that recognizes organized crime affiliates use their wives, mothers and girlfriends to circumvent detection of their criminal activities."

Finally, the DGE argued that Sommeling erred when he dismissed allegations that Anthony Giraldi, a longtime friend of Joseph N. Merlino's, was a mob associate.

Giraldi, a South Philadelphia plumber, was described by the DGE as a bookmaker and associate of the local crime family. Among other things, it cited social gatherings he had attended, such as weddings and funerals, where mob figures were present.

The Merlinos, who testified in their own defense, said they were never part of organized crime. But in order to satisfy the concerns of gaming regulators, they said, they made a decision about 10 years ago to sever all ties with the Merlino side of their family.

Thanks to George Anastasia

Organized Crime and the Las Vegas Sands

With just a week or two to go for the scheduled opening of the US $5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands integrated Resort, the global gaming company Las Vegas Sands (LVS) has been blighted with a fresh set of allegations linking them with organized crime.

The new allegation are concerned with Cheung Chi Tai, who was the person in charge of one of the VIP rooms at Sands Macau Casino. He has been implicated in a murder for hire case involving a dealer from the Sands Macau who was suspected in assisting a casino customer cheat to a value hitting a multi-million dollar total. Cheung Chi Tai has been accused of masterminding the plan to murder the dealer who was suspected of being part of the multi-million dollar cheat.

It has been said that Cheung Chi Tai has been an investor in the Neptune Group, a PLC company involved in casino junkets. Through examination of court record from Hong Kong, depositions for a former Las Vegas Sands president and interviews from both US and Macau law enforcement and security officials has revealed a connection between LVS and Mr Cheung.

An Las Vegas Sands Spokesperson has been reported in saying, “To our knowledge, Mr Cheung Chi Tai is not listed as a director or share holder with any of the gaming promoters that the company uses in Macau.” The new allegations have come just before Las Vegas Sands plans to open it’s new multi-billion dollar resort on the 27th of April this year.

Las Vegas Sands are not alone with the alleged organized crime links. MGM Mirage have found themselves with similar predicament with alleged ties to organized crime, as MGM Grand Macau is half owned by Pansy Ho. A Hong Kong Businesswoman whose father, Stanley Ho the billionaire entrepreneur has been accused of extensive ties to organized crime in China. No evidence has ever be provided that shows any links to Pansy Ho and such criminal enterprises.

Thanks to Casino Jessie

Monday, April 05, 2010

Organized Crime Investigator Dominic Catrambone Dies at 86

Dominic V. Catrambone, 86, formerly of Mayfair, who investigated organized crime for the IRS and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday, March 30, at Brittany Pointe Estates, a retirement community in Lansdale.

For 25 years, Mr. Catrambone was a special agent for the IRS in Philadelphia and New York, where he was part of a task force investigating fraud by organized crime members. "He was very aggressive," said a daughter, Maria Catrambone Rosen.

After retiring from the IRS in the mid-1970s, Mr. Catrambone established and directed the financial investigative division of the Revenue Department. In 1981, he recommended to his superiors that they investigate a "major organized-crime figure" allegedly operating a prostitution racket in Reading.

When his superiors rejected his recommendation, Mr. Catrambone shared information about the prostitution racket with the state police and State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks). When they learned he had been a whistle-blower, his superiors fired Mr. Catrambone for "insubordination . . . and continued defiance."

Caltagirone then hired him. "I wanted to right an injustice. Dom deserved to earn his pension," Caltagirone said.

Mr. Catrambone also worked for a state senator until the mid-1980s and then was a private investigator for several years.

A graduate of West Philadelphia Catholic High School, Mr. Catrambone served in the Navy aboard a PT boat in the South Pacific during World War II.

After his discharge, he earned a bachelor's degree from La Salle University.

In 1946, he married Clementine Celia Catrambone. Their families were from the same town in Italy, and they had known each other since childhood. She died in 1996.

Mr. Catrambone enjoyed bridge games at Brittany Pointe Estates, where he had lived for 10 years, and was also a member of the Brittany Pointe Songsters, a choral group, his daughter said.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Catrambone is survived by a son, Joseph; daughters Rosemary Fair, Anita LaBarge, and Loretta Lawson; and eight grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m., Monday, April 5, at Corpus Christi Church, 900 Sumneytown Pike, Lansdale. Friends may call from 9 a.m. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Thanks to Sally A. Downey

Will Calabrese Family Secret Stash Provide Insight into the Mob?

Nearly $730,000 in cash, about 1,000 pieces of jewelry and loaded handguns found hidden alongside recording devices in a mobster's suburban home show there are still plenty of mysteries to unravel about the notorious Chicago Outfit.

The discovery in a secret compartment behind a family portrait in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s home — a year after the massive Operation Family Secrets trial sent Calabrese and several others to prison — may trigger a fresh look at everything from unsolved shootings to a jewel theft ring once run by the former Chicago Police chief of detectives.

"I would say it's a treasure trove, really," James Wagner, one-time head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago and the Chicago Crime Commission.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice would not comment extensively on the investigation or search of Calabrese's home in Oak Brook, which was revealed in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. But he said investigators would run ballistics tests on the weapons and attempt to trace the jewelry and track down owners.

Calabrese, 71, was one of several reputed mobsters convicted last year in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 decades-old murders. He was blamed for 13, sentenced to life in prison and was one of four defendants ordered to pay more than $24 million, including millions in restitution to the families of murder victims. Tuesday's search was tied to that order. But the discovery could mean learning even more about the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit.
Wagner said investigators will try to determine ownership of the seven loaded guns by tracking serial numbers and testing for ballistics matches on homicides and shootings nationwide.

As for the jewelry, some pieces still in display boxes or bearing store tags, Wagner suggested several likely investigative avenues. The first could be the Outfit-connected jewelry-heist ring run by William Hanhardt, the former Chicago Police chief of detectives. Hanhardt is in prison after pleading guilty to leading a band of thieves that stole $5 million in jewelry and fine watches in the 1980s and 90s. One of Calabrese's co-defendants, Paul Schiro, was sentenced to prison in 2002 for being part of Hanhardt's ring. And a witness at the Family Secrets trial testified that Hanhardt collected $1,000 a week and a new car every two years in return for making sure mobsters were not caught.

Wagner also said that before the murdered body of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro was found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, he was not only the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas but also operated a jewelry store there. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for a number of jewelry thefts, Wagner said. Investigators may try to determine if any jewelry from those thefts found their way to Calabrese's home, Wagner said. But he also noted that tracing the diamonds, particularly the loose ones, is a long shot. "I'm not aware of any ability to trace those," he said.

Still, the newly found recording devices — suction cups use to "tap" into telephone conversations and several microcassettes — could prove particularly intriguing. One had the name of a convicted Outfit member written on it.

"This could be important evidence for them, evidence against other people involved in some of the same activities" as Calabrese and the others who were convicted last year, said former assistant U.S. attorney Joel Levin.

The tapes could contain the kind of code words that came out during the Family Secret trial, Wagner said.

During the trial, Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., acted almost as an interpreter for jurors listening to secretly recorded tapes of conversations between the two. He told jurors, for example, that when his father was telling him to pick up "recipes" he was telling him to collect money and when he told him to "keep 10 boxes of Spam ham," he was instructing his son to keep $1,000 for himself.

Wagner does not know what is on the tapes. But if they feature Calabrese Sr.'s voice, "The possibility exists that he used code terminology on the tapes and I would expect them to reach out for (Frank Calabrese Jr.) for interpretation again," he said.

Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, said he doesn't know who stashed the items, saying Calabrese has not lived in the home since the mid-1990s when he was sent to prison for another conviction. Nor, he said, did he have any idea who was on the recordings.

Thanks to Don Babwin

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Michael "Jaws" Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos Receive Over $20 Million in Bank Loans From Giannoulias' Family Bank

Democrats are quietly worrying about whether Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias can win President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. His family's bank is believed to be on the verge of collapse and reportedly made $20 million in loans to two convicted felons.

Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is already accusing Giannoulias of lying to the voters about the loans, and his campaign is guaranteed to be pounding away at the bank's problems in millions of dollars worth of television ads. But the 34-year-old Giannoulias is still electable if he meets the bank embarrassment head on and strikes back at the Republican congressman as more conservative than this Democratic-trending state, Democratic insiders say.

Democrats brush aside any talk of getting Giannoulias to bow out of the race.

"Alexi Giannoulias is running a strong campaign on the issues that matter to the people of Illinois — like job creation and the economy," says Deirdre Murphy, national press secretary of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Giannoulias was not granting interviews Friday as the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story with the headline: "$20 MILLION IN BANK LOANS TO FELONS." The story detailed how Broadway Bank, a Giannoulias family-owned institution in Chicago, had lent large sums to convicted felons Michael "Jaws" Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos.

The fact that Broadway had loaned the men millions — Stavropoulos was convicted of running a multistate bookmaking ring and Giorango of promoting a nationwide prostitution ring — was a campaign issue when Giannoulias ran for state treasurer in 2006. But the Tribune reported it reviewed court files and other documents that showed millions more — a total of more than $27 million worth of mortgages to Giorango, his land trusts and companies since 1999, $20 million of which was loaned when Giannoulias was a senior loan officer.

Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said he had "no role with these two individuals nor did he sit on the loan committee with these loans." She sought to portray the story as old news, saying Giannoulias has been answering questions about the loans for years.

The bank is fighting to keep its doors open. It is holding some $242 million in bad loans, and in January, entered into a consent decree with the federal government and has 90 days to raise about $85 million. But Giannoulias recently told The Associated Press that he believes it would be "very tough" for it to survive.

Democratic insiders in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity so they could freely discuss their views, say they expect the bank to fail eventually but think that will be greeted as "old news" by voters.

The White House's political team, still smarting after the stunning loss of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's Massachusetts seat to Republican Scott Brown, has refocused its attention beyond the Beltway. Though not responsible for all Democratic campaigns, White House officials are aware any Democratic loss will be painted as a referendum on Obama.

The Democratic insiders said they learned lessons from Brown's election and have made sure Giannoulias' team would be unlikely to require a wave of Washington consultants to buttress a flailing campaign, as happened in Massachusetts. In that race, vans shuttled staffers from the Democratic committees around Washington northward for a final attempt to help Brown's Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley.

While the White House isn't keen on saying that Giannoulias stands to recoup only a few million dollars from the wreckage of the bank, internal polls and focus groups show he can win with that approach, according to these insiders.

They say Obama, who remains popular in his home state, will campaign for Giannoulias and top political adviser David Axelrod, a veteran of Chicago politics, is in constant touch with developments in Illinois.

At the Statehouse in Springfield, the hallway whispers are that top Democratic leaders would have preferred Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, is party chairman. But she didn't run and some say she probably would prefer to go for governor if she had her choice.

Meanwhile, Kirk capitalized on the fresh attention to his opponent's woes, saying in a statement Friday that Giannoulias has falsely claimed that he didn't know about the criminal backgrounds of Giorango and Stavropoulos.

"Alexi Giannoulias misled voters to get elected state treasurer and continued to mislead voters in an effort to win election as a United States senator," he said.

Chicago political consultant Don Rose said that if the election were now he thinks Kirk would win but sees a good opportunity for Giannoulias make up for lost ground, especially if the economy improves.

"They have to make Kirk unpalatable politically and level the playing field," Rose said. "Of course the best thing would be if they could get him (Giannoulias) to resign and replace him." But that isn't going to happen, Democrats say.

Thanks to Mike Robinson and Phillip Elliot

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Jewelery Inventory from Frank Calabrese Sr's House

Maybe it was the striped T-neck that flattered his he-man chest.

Or it could have been the unshaven jowls, a look that would one day define actor Patrick Dempsey of TV's Grey's Anatomy.

Whatever Chicago hoodlum Frank Calabrese Sr. had on Dec. 6, 1990 _ the day the FBI snapped his portrait _ it must have been quite an aphrodisiac.

Maybe the dolled-up 40-somethings who used to populate Giannotti's piano bar back then knew what made Frank such a ladies' man. But common civilians like me didn't have a clue until the U.S. Marshal's Service and the FBI found solid proof in his Oak Brook house.

Solid gold, silver and platinum mostly.

Lots of it.

Forty-four diamond engagement rings.

Unless your name was Donald Trump, who would need that many engagement rings?

Besides, Calabrese himself is in prison until the end of time or his heart gives out, whichever comes first. But when federal agents showed up at the home where his wife still lives to collect items that could pay off his government debt, they found all those engagement rings. And the feds found some other pieces of jewelry that would tickle a few fancies, most of them stored in a hollowed-out basement wall behind a photo collage of Calabrese's kids and grandkids.

According to U.S. Marshal's inventory records, there were hundreds of other items, including wedding and cocktail rings _ each set with expensive gemstones; diamond necklaces and pendants; diamond earrings and specialty women's jewelry featuring anniversary and birthday greetings.

Also found were boxes full of loose stones that appeared to be diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Apparently Mr. Calabrese offered custom jewelry to the ladies as well. Not bad for a fourth-grade dropout who twice went AWOL from the military.

Some of the expensive trinkets inventoried by federal marshals are a mystery however, such as the single earring that was found... unless of course it was intended for the wife of Frankie "One Ear" Fratto as some kind of inside-Outfit joke.

Or maybe that was all Calabrese could grab off the ear of a mob murder victim as the sirens got closer. The mob hitman was found responsible for 13 gangland slayings during Operation Family Secrets. He did however deny them to the end, testifying in court that he "loved" each and every victim. And some of the jewelry found in his stash indicates he was indeed a man of peace and love. Deputy marshals found pendants of "Jesus at the cross," another sporting "Jesus face with stones" along with several cross necklaces and a rosary.

Most attention after the raid was focused on $750,000 in cash, seven guns and some secret tapes that Calabrese recorded of conversations with other wiseguys. The jewelry haul got short shrift. But it may have said more about Frank Calabrese Sr. himself than the rest, although his lawyer maintained that Calabrese knew nothing about any of it.

The feds also recovered a handful of those obligatory Italian horns in gold that were seen hanging from neck chains on the Sopranos. There were some fur coats, three knives, two money clips and just one bracelet. Either Calabrese exhausted his supply of wrist-wear or bracelets weren't real popular with his lady friends.

In an industry where the top leaders all have nicknames, such as the Clown, Wings and No-Nose, Calabrese's moniker always seemed a little soft for such a big shot.

"Frank the Breeze" is how he is known. That hardly befits a reigning Chicago Mob boss who, at the dangerous age of 71, has been in solitary confinement for more than a year because of a vile death threat uttered at a federal prosecutor.

Calabrese is at a federal prison medical center in Springfield, Missouri, and didn't even find out for days that the government took all of his jewels. But now that we know he was really just a misunderstood master of passion; a man who simply enjoyed romancing with the stones, perhaps it is time to decorate him with a more suitable nickname.

Frank "Mcdreamy" Calabrese.

Patrick Dempsey, eat your heart out.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime Enforcement on Schedule

One of the most controversial sightseeing experiences in Las Vegas is moving along on schedule. Plans have been drawn and approved, and construction is underway on the $42 million Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime Enforcement. It’s set to open next spring and has already been nicknamed The Mob Museum.

It’s a throwback to the Mafia days of the 1940s all the way up to the 1980s before organized crime was kicked out of the Strip and Wall Street bankers moved in to provide investment dollars for savvy hotel operators. Dennis Barrie, who created Washington, D.C.’s Spy Museum and Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, is the brains behind our new 41,000-square-foot Mob Museum.

Dennis has just announced three major 16,400-square-foot exhibit components: the Mob Mayhem, complete with the bullet-ridden wall of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago that took out Las Vegas gangsters; the Skimming Exhibit that shows how the Mob took their profits illegally off the top; and Bringing Down the Mob, which features federal wiretapping tricks that ended Mafia control of our gaming city.

It’s not just about Las Vegas organized crime because the spotlight also is turned onto today’s Russian organized crime figures and the Mexican drug cartels that also affect Las Vegas. It cost the City of Las Vegas only $1 to acquire the unused Federal Services Administration building for the museum, and Mayor Oscar Goodman hopes the attraction will welcome 500,000 visitors each year.

Thanks to Robin Leach

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