The Chicago Syndicate: Al Tornabene
Showing posts with label Al Tornabene. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Al Tornabene. Show all posts

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Chicago Mob Order

Last week's death of an old-line Chicago Outfit boss reveals some changes in the way the crime syndicate does business.

As Chicago organized crime figures die off or go to prison, authorities tell the I-Team they are being replaced by far less flamboyant Outfit bosses, men who conduct mob rackets quietly and collect the proceeds with skilled efficiency.

The new mob order has never been more apparent than at last Wednesday's wake for high-ranking outfit boss Alphonso Tornabene, who died on Sunday at age 86.

It looked just like any other wake for any other man who'd lived a long life. The friends and relatives of Alphonso Tornabene streamed into pay their last respects all day on the northwest side.

A few mourners apparently didn't want to be seen at the wake for a man who recently headed the Chicago Outfit, according to testimony from a top underworld informant.

Mob hitman Nick Calabrese told the FBI that Tornabene administered the sacred oath of the Outfit to new members, a position reserved for only top capos. It's a ceremony that Calabrese described just as Hollywood has depicted over the years with a blood oath and a flaming holy card.

On Wednesday night, at Chicago's Montclair Funeral Home, the ceremony was less fiery. The holy card had Tornabene's name on it.

The attendees included Tracy Klimes, who says Tornabene was a great man who once cared for her family after her own father died, and knew little of his Outfit ties. "People always judge a book by its cover and I know there's things that people say about people but he had a wonderful heart," said Klimes.

The scene on Wednesday was far different than the crowds that turned out at Montclair more than thirty years ago after flashy Outfit boss Sam Giancana was assassinated and where attendance by Giancana's underlings was considered mandatory.

In 1986, mob bosses from other cities and a Hollywood actor showed up for the wake and funeral of Anthony and Michael Spilotro who had also been murdered by their Outfit brethren. But by 1992 at the Montclair wake for godfather Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, only a few top hoodlums dared to attend such a public event.

The Accardo funeral and Tornabene's wake on Wednesday are evidence that the new mob order calls for discretion in business and in life.

There was one notable mourner on Wednesday night: suburban nursing home owner Nicholas Vangel.

During the Family Secrets mob trial, Mr. Vangel was shown to be a confidante of one time mob boss Jimmy Marcello. Although Vangel wasn't charged, the government showed undercover video of Vangel visiting with Marcello in prison and discussing the FBI investigation.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chicago Mob Boss Dies

One of Chicago's oldest, most powerful mob figures has passed away.

ABC-7's I-Team has learned that Alphonse Tornabene died on Sunday. ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie was the last reporter ever to question Tornabene.

In mob ranks Tornabene was known as "Pizza Al" because of the west suburban pizzeria that he'd owned for decades. But federal authorities say Al Tornabene was also into another kind of dough as an overseer of the crime syndicate's books.

By the time he died on Sunday at age 86, Pizza Al had risen to the upper crust of the Chicago Outfit.

When the I-Team first met the outfit octogenarian in 2007, he was a relative unknown to the public and even to federal agents. Authorities had been surprised to learn of Tornabene's high-ranking position in the mob hierarchy.

Former hitman and federal informant Nick Calabrese had told U.S. investigators that Tornabene was one of two men who administered the initiation rites of Outfit.

The so-called making ceremony was just like Hollywood showed it, complete with bloodmixing and burning holy cards, according to Calabrese, with Tornabene co-officiating the proceedings with Joey "Doves" Aiuppa, the late mob boss.

Such an assignment would have made Tornabene one of the mob's top men.

His house in Summit and a summer outpost in William's Bay, Wisconsin, were both modest by top hoodlum standards.

The pizzeria that Tornabene founded is open for business on Monday but a sign announces the sad news that "due to a death in the family" they will be closed Wednesday for the funeral.

Mobwatchers say Tornabene's true legacy is in another family, one that the ailing pizzaman laughed off in his final interview.

GOUDIE: "The Crime Commission is saying that you run the mob?"
TORNABENE: (laughs) "I can't even move..."

He managed to get around for almost two more years after we met him that day.

The wake for Al Tornabene will be Wednesday and his funeral will be Thursday morning.

With Tornabene gone and wisecracking mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo in prison for life, that leaves the reigns of the Chicago Outfit in the hands of just one man, according to federal agents: John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene Named as Original Operation Family Secrets Targets

Reigning Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo was an original target of the Family Secrets investigation, according to these 2002 Justice Department records released on Tuesday, along with Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene, the Outfit's elder statesman.

"The objective in the case is to indict and convict...high ranking members of Chicago organized crime...including DiFronzo...and Tornabene," stated the government. But despite a case summary naming them as targets, neither DiFronzo nor Tornabene were among the fourteen Outfit members charged in 2005 with murders and mayhem.

As of 2007, Tornabene was still meeting with suspected Outfit figures and as of last month, the I-Team found DiFronzo still controlling Outfit rackets and meeting with mob underlings at a suburban restaurant.

The U.S. Marshal service files were made public on Tuesday night in the case of Deputy John Ambrose, now on trial for leaking information to the mob about Nick Calabrese, the highest ranking Chicago mobster ever to become a government witness.

According to the witness protection records, Calabrese said he and John DiFronzo planned and committed the most notorious mob hit in last 25 years: the gangland murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro, found buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Nick Calabrese's testimony was to be so spectacular, that 24 men were listed by the feds as threats, all of whom would want to kill him.

Nick Calabrese lived to testify and federal prosecutors won the Family Secrets case. But as the records show, there are still some secrets left.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Smaller Christmas Tree for Chicago Outfit

While under investigation in 2001, mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr. was captured on tape predicting what the Chicago Outfit's future might look like, describing the crime syndicate in coded language as, of all things, a Christmas tree.

"It's gonna be a smaller Christmas tree that's gonna have the loyalty that once was there," Calabrese, then in prison for loan-sharking, said on the undercover recording. "And the, the big Christmas tree ... it'll never hold up. It's gonna fall. Watch it," he said.

Thanks in part to Calabrese's own recorded words, the Christmas tree tumbled last week as the Family Secrets jury found three Outfit figures responsible for 10 of 18 gangland slayings. Earlier this month, the same jury convicted the three as well as two others on racketeering conspiracy charges.

As a result, Calabrese, 70, a feared hit man blamed by the jury for seven of the murders; James Marcello, 65, identified by the FBI in 2005 as the head of the Chicago Outfit; and legendary mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, 78, face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in prison. But as sweeping as the case was -- resolving some of the most notorious mob murders in modern Chicago history -- organized-crime experts say the Family Secrets prosecution won't derail an entrenched Outfit that dates to Al Capone.

After the trial Thursday, Robert Grant, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, said the Outfit remains a priority because of its propensity for violence and corruption. "They're much like a cancer," Grant said. "Organized crime, if not monitored and prosecuted, can grow, can corrupt police departments, can corrupt public officials."

"We have dozens of open investigations," John Mallul, supervisor of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago, said in an interview.

Calabrese's prison musings about a slimmer but more focused mob appear to be on the mark, the experts said.

Law enforcement officials and the Chicago Crime Commission say the mob is now run in northern and southern sections, with street crews consolidated from six geographical areas to four: Elmwood Park, 26th Street, Cicero and Grand Avenue. Mallul estimates the Outfit has about 30 "made" members and a little more than 100 associates.

Although the mob may be smaller and more tightly controlled, it remains a force with an ability to deliver its trademark illicit services as always, the FBI and experts said.

The mob continues to push its way into legitimate businesses and infiltrate labor unions, offer gambling and high-interest "juice loans," as well as extort "street taxes" from businesses, Mallul said. "In a lot of ways, it's still the same rackets -- 50 years ago, 25 years ago and today," Mallul said.

The Outfit still controls dozens of bookies who rake in millions of dollars a year in the Chicago area, he said, giving the mob its working capital for juice loans and other ventures.

"Sports bookmaking is still a huge moneymaker for them," Mallul said. "On the low end, that can include parlay cards in a tavern all the way up to players betting $5,000 or $10,000 or more a game across the board on a weekend."

James Wagner, head of Chicago Crime Commission, said his organization's intelligence from law enforcement sources indicates Joseph "the Builder" Andriacchi controls the north while Al "the Pizza Man" Tornabene runs the south.

Wagner, a former longtime FBI organized crime supervisor, said the Caruso family runs the 26th Street crew, Andriacchi leads the Elmwood Park crew, Tony Zizzo controlled the Cicero crew until he disappeared a year ago and Lombardo still held influence over the Grand Avenue crew before his arrest.

Authorities believe John "No Nose" DiFronzo also continues to play a prominent role for the mob. His name came up repeatedly in the Family Secrets trial as an Outfit leader, sometimes under another nickname, "Johnny Bananas."

Neither Andriacchi, Tornabene nor DiFronzo has been charged in connection with the Family Secrets investigation. None returned calls seeking comment. An attorney who has represented DiFronzo in the past declined to comment. Wagner said all three reputedly rose in the ranks of the Outfit through cartage theft and juice-loan operations and have since moved into legitimate businesses.

Authorities have said Andriacchi earned his nickname through his connections in the construction business. In the undercover prison recordings, Calabrese identified Andriacchi as the boss of the Elmwood Park crew.

DiFronzo has long had a reputation as a car expert who attended auctions and worked at dealerships, Wagner said. He was convicted of racketeering in the early 1990s for trying to infiltrate an Indian casino in California. He also had connections to waste hauling, Wagner said.

Tornabene, believed by some to be the Outfit's current elder boss, earned his nickname from his family's ownership of a suburban pizza restaurant, authorities said. Law enforcement has recently observed Tornabene, who is well into his 80s, being taken to "business" meetings at his doctor's office, Wagner said.

"Many of these guys are obviously trying to stay out of the limelight as much as they can," he said.

The Family Secrets convictions could further embolden prosecutors in their assault on the Outfit. The verdicts appear to vindicate Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, one of the most significant mob turncoats in Chicago history, who provided crucial testimony on many of the gangland slayings.

His testimony could still spell trouble for DiFronzo and others he named in wrongdoing but who were not indicted, said John Binder, a finance professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and mob researcher who wrote the 2003 book, "The Chicago Outfit."

Calabrese testified that DiFronzo was among the dozen men or more who fatally beat Anthony Spilotro, the mob's Las Vegas chieftain, and his brother Michael in 1986.

"This trial showed how many of these guys had jobs where they worked for the city or at McCormick Place," Wagner said. "When you look at the number that have been connected to the Department of Streets and Sanitation, the Water Department, it's hard to explain without the idea of clout being a factor."

In addition, a former Chicago police officer, Anthony "Twan" Doyle, was convicted of leaking inside information to the mob about the then-covert Family Secrets investigation.

"It's a problem Chicago has preferred to ignore," Wagner said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will Family Secrets Mob Trial Convictions Doom Chicago Mob?

Does Monday's conviction of four top mobsters mean the end of the Chicago Outfit?

Hardly.

The Outfit long has controlled illegal gambling operations -- from sports betting to video poker -- and has financed Chicago-area drug dealing, said Chicago Crime Commission President James Wagner, a former top FBI mob fighter. Money from those ventures often is invested in law-abiding businesses because "you've got to have somewhere to send that cash in order to legitimize it," Wagner said.

History has shown that when Outfit members get sent to prison, others take over. The most recent transfers of power happened long before the Family Secrets trial began, Wagner said. "This will solidify the positions of the people already out there," he said. The trial "hasn't eliminated anything."

Who runs the Chicago mob isn't clear. Reputed mobsters not charged in the Family Secrets case who are still powerful in the Outfit include John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi, Al Tornabene, Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso, Marco D'Amico and Michael Sarno, law enforcement sources said.

Al Egan, a former Chicago Police detective who investigated organized crime here for three decades, said the verdict wounded the Outfit but won't kill it.

"This put an extremely huge dent in it," said Egan, who worked on the federal Organized Crime Task Force. However, "It's not going to be stopped."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Chris Fusco

New for the Fall at CharlesKeath.com

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chicago Mob Consigliere Revealed?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, Alphonse "Al the Pizza Man" Tornabene, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Anthony "Little" Zizzo
Friends of mine: Leo Caruso

Federal documents reveal a new name in the upper crust of the Chicago outfit, a man that some mob experts believe may have become the mob's "elder statesman."
Documents filed by federal prosecutors in the case against 14 top mob figures revealed the identity of what some mobwatchers say is the Chicago outfit's current consigliere. The man's name was blotted out -- redacted --from the government filing. But, the ABC7 I-Team reveals the name behind the black mark.

Mafia initiation ceremonies are not open to the public. The only pictures are cheesy Hollywood reenactments. So when Chicago wiseguy Nick Calabrese started deep dishing outfit details to federal authorities a few years ago, one story stood out. It is explained in a government filing known as a proffer, or play-by-play, of the case that federal prosecutors plan to put on against Chicago hoodlums charged in Operation Family Secrets. The proffer states that Nick Calabrese will testify that a number of individuals were "made" (or inducted) with him in 1983, including co-defendant James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello.

During the "making ceremony," each 'inductee' was accompanied by his crew boss or "capo," according to the government. Two men "conducted the ceremony, which included an oath of allegiance to the organization."

One of the concelebrants was the late Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, then considered the top ranking boss of the mob. Aiuppa's partner in the blood ceremony was blacked out in publicly filed documents. But, the ABC7 I-Team has seen an un-redacted copy of the filing. We can reveal the name under the black mark: Alphonse Tornabene.

Tornabene is now 84 years old. He is known in mob circles as "Al the Pizza Man." A suburban pizza parlor is still in his family. Even though he owns a summer home in William's Bay, Wisconsin, the I-Team found Tournabene at the front door of his suburban Chicago house and asked him whether he was the grand mobster at an outfit initiation.

GOUDIE: "Know about that?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You don't remember?"

TORNABENE: "No."

GOUDIE: "You and Mr. Aiuppa?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You administered the oath of the Outfit according to the feds?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

"Well, it shows significance, one that they took him under their trust to make such a significant ceremony, in making some mob guys," said Robert Fuesel, former federal agent.

Former IRS criminal investigator Bob Fuesel says Tornabene grew up as an outfit bookie but was apparently being groomed for higher office. With the three elder statesman of the outfit all dead, Joey Aiuppa, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo and Sam "Wings" Carlisi, some federal lawmen believe that the role of consiglieri has fallen on Carlisi's cousin, Al Tornabene, who may have a hard time getting around these days, but is still meeting with known outfit associates.

GOUDIE: "The Crime Commission is saying that you run the mob?"

TORNABENE: (laughs) "I can't even move..."

On several days I-Team surveillance spotted Leo Caruso at Tornabene's home. Seven years ago Caruso was permanently barred from the Laborers' International Union after a federal investigation linked him to the mob's 26th Street crew. A Justice Department report stated that Caruso was "deeply involved with organized crime figures in a substantial manner."

TORNABENE: "He's just a friend..."

GOUDIE: "Mr. Caruso is a friend?"

TORNABENE: "Yes."

The FBI is currently investigating the disappearance of Tornabene's top lieutenant, Anthony "Little" Zizzo. The two men met frequently until last August, when Zizzo mysteriously vanished after leaving his west suburban condo for a meeting on Rush Street.

"Well, these indictments through the US attorney's office, just put everything in disarray, and so do they know what happened to Zizzo. I'm sure somebody does. It's hard for me to believe based upon his reputation that he has not been uncovered and/or is probably deceased," said Fuesel.

"Pizza Al" has no criminal record but comes from a mob family. His late brother Frank was convicted of vote fraud and prostitution and authorities say was active in outfit vice rackets.

The Tournabenes are also related by marriage to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Frank Tournabene was a great uncle to Blagojevich's wife Patty. A spokeswoman for the governor's wife says that while she is aware of her late uncle Frank Tornaebene, she doesn't recall a relative named Al and has no memory of ever meeting such a person.

The I-Team attempted to reach former union boss Leo Caruso about his relationship with pizza l Tornabene. A woman who answered the phone at Caruso's Bridgeport home said he wasn't interested in talking.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, June 10, 2007

When it Comes to the Chicago Mob: Who's the Boss?

Friends of ours: Al "Pizza Man" Tornabene, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Michael Marcello, Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese

Who will be the new Tony Soprano of the Chicago mob?

With so many mob leaders on trial or dead, the Chicago Outfit is in disarray, law enforcement sources say.

It could be the "Pizza Man" acting as caretaker.

Or "No Nose" could still be pulling the strings, some Outfit watchers believe.

The "Pizza Man" is Al Tornabene, the 84-year-old former owner of a suburban pizza parlor. He has kept an extremely low profile for a reputed mob leader and has never been arrested by the FBI. Recently, his name has come up in conversations the FBI secretly recorded in prison between reputed top Chicago mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and his younger brother, Michael Marcello.

Tornabene has been seen eating in Rush Street restaurants with another top reputed mobster, Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, who was last seen leaving his Westmont home in August last year and hasn't been heard from since. Zizzo was responsible for overseeing one of the Outfit's most lucrative enterprises, the illegal video poker machines in bars throughout Chicago.

Tornabene has long been a mob leader, authorities say. In 1983, for instance, he presided over a ceremony at which several mobsters were inducted into full membership rights of the Outfit, court records show. Among the men who were made were Zizzo, reputed mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother, Nick Calabrese, who has admitted in a plea agreement with the feds that he killed at least 14 people for the Chicago Outfit. He is cooperating with the FBI.

"No Nose" is the much better known John DiFronzo, who is in his late 70s and has long been reputed to be a respected elder of the Chicago Outfit. DiFronzo is known for his business acumen and wide range of investments, including car dealerships. Some mob watchers think DiFronzo has long been rivals with James Marcello and is not overly upset over his arrest.

Tornabene hung up during a phone call Friday when asked if he was running the Outfit.

DiFronzo could not be reached for comment.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

FBI Looking for Missing Reputed Mobster, "Little Tony"

Friends of ours: Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, Al "The Pizza Man" Tornabene, Anthony "Big Tony" Chiaramonti

Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today that the FBI was joining local authorities in the search for missing Westmont resident ANTHONY ZIZZO, a reputed top Chicago mobster.

The 71-year old ZIZZO was last seen on August 31, 2006, when he left his residence is his 2005 Jeep Laredo for an appointment with unknown individual(s). ZIZZO has not been seen or heard from since and there has been no reported use of either his credit cards or cellular telephone since that date.

ZIZZO's Jeep Laredo was found abandoned, two days later, in the parking lot of Abruzzo's Restaurant in Melrose Park. The vehicle was undamaged and no signs of foul play were noted. ZIZZO has an extensive criminal history, including a 1993 conviction for Racketeering, for which he was imprisoned for eight years, being released in 2001. ZIZZO is a suspected associate of the Chicago LCN crime family. As such, it is possible that his disappearance might be tied to this association.

ZIZZO is an associate of Al "The Pizza Man" Tornabene, who has been referred to in court documents as the man running the Chicago mob. ZIZZO allegedly became a made member of the mob in 1983. ZIZZO was involved in the lucrative but violent, mob-controlled world of video poker machines. A close associate, Anthony "Big Tony" Chiaramonti, was slain in 2001 in the last known Chicago area mob hit, in a dispute over video poker revenue

ANTHONY ZIZZO is described as a white/male, 71 years of age, 5'3" tall, 200 pounds, heavy build, gray hair and blue eyes with prescription eyeglasses. When last seen, ZIZZO was wearing a gray shirt, black pants and a black jacket.

Anyone having any information regarding ZIZZO's current whereabouts is asked to call the Chicago FBI at (312) 421-6700.

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