Showing posts with label Albert Tocco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Tocco. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chicago Heights: Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana

In this riveting true story of coming of age in the Chicago Mob, Charles “Charley” Hager is plucked from his rural West Virginia home by an uncle in the 1960s and thrown into an underworld of money, cars, crime, and murder on the streets of Chicago Heights.

Street-smart and good with his hands, Hager is accepted into the working life of a chauffeur and “street tax” collector, earning the moniker “Little Joe College” by notorious mob boss Albert Tocco. But when his childhood friend is gunned down by a hit man, Hager finds himself a bit player in the events surrounding the mysterious, and yet unsolved, murder of mafia chief Sam Giancana.

Chicago Heights: Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana, is part rags-to-riches story, part murder mystery, and part redemption tale. Hager, with author David T. Miller, juxtaposes his early years in West Virginia with his life in crime, intricately weaving his own experiences into the fabric of mob life, its many characters, and the murder of Giancana.

Fueled by vivid recollections of turf wars and chop shops, of fix-ridden harness racing and the turbulent politics of the 1960s, Chicago Heights reveals similarities between high-level organized crime in the city and the corrupt lawlessness of Appalachia. Hager candidly reveals how he got caught up in a criminal life, what it cost him, and how he rebuilt his life back in West Virginia with a prison record.

Based on interviews with Hager and supplemented by additional interviews and extensive research by Miller, the book also adds Hager’s unique voice to the volumes of speculation about Giancana’s murder, offering a plausible theory of what happened on that June night in 1975.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Will Disbanded Chicago Police Gambling Unit Allow for a Mob Revival in the City?

The I-Team has learned that the Chicago Police Department's renowned gambling unit has been disbanded. It's a decision that some call a bad bet.

Here we are at the height of the football wagering season with the Bears on a roll and the Chicago Police Department has given up on its famed gambling unit.

The end of the line for the storied gambling squad came in a shake-up of the vice control unit six months ago. But only when the I-Team started asking questions was it revealed to the public.

Dial the number listed for the Chicago Police gambling squad and you get a recorded message saying the extension is not available.

"It was my decision," said Commander Ernie Brown, CPD Organized Crime Division.

Organized crime commander Ernie Brown says gone are the days of secret outfit wire rooms where sports bets were booked on banks of phones; mob bookies ran parlay cards for the weekend sports action; and customer records were kept on dissolving paper.

"That problem simply doesn't exist at the magnitude and at the level that requires a single purpose team for just gambling," said Brown.

Police say there is no longer a need for teams of specialty cops battering down doors and ending up on the front pages. "I just can't figure it out because those people are out there and they're always going to be out there. There's money in that stuff, you know, lots of money," said Don Herion, retired gambling detective.

The celebrated gambling squad was best known for it's for decades of deployment out of the old Maxwell Street station on the West Side.

When retired Sgt. Don Herion worked it in the 60, 70's and 80's, the squad had 35 or 40 officers. "How could you not work on the mob and gambling?" said Herion.

Herion spent four decades chasing mob bookmakers and their bosses for the Chicago police and the Cook County sheriff before retiring in 2000. Herion says the mob will never retire its gambling operation and the Chicago police shouldn't have closed theirs.

"It seems to me that they almost just legalized it by having no one chase bookmakers. If you don't have anybody chasing a dog you're not going to catch a dog are you?" said Herion. Police say officers absorbed by the vice unit will still chase illegal gambling if they see it or receive a complaint.

"Basically what it was is I would like to refer to it as being hybridized," said Brown.

Former IRS criminal investigator Phil DiPasquale says the feds would frequently depend on Chicago police gambling intelligence and that you can't work gambling cases part-time. "For three years I looked at a guy's phone records and knew he was doing it&most people don't want to spend three years going through phone records to catch somebody," said DiPasquale.

DiPasquale spent more than a year undercover working to nail south suburban outfit gambling boss Albert "Caesar" Tocco. DiPasquale says mob bosses like the late Caesar Tocco would love to know the CPD gambling unit has folded. "He'd probably have a party," said DiPasquale.

Herion, who wrote a book about outfit gamblers and now consults on Hollywood crime movies, says bookies are more tech-savvy and it may be that they have just outsmarted Chicago police who last year made less than 100 gambling arrests.

"If they're going to wait for a phone call they may get one about three guys shooting dice in an alley or something but I can't see anything worthwhile Mob-wise," said Herion.

Police say they hope the new hybrid vice cops will be able to stop dogfight gambling and work illegal online betting cases.

"I just want the public to rest assured that we haven't abdicated or withdrawn ground on illicit gambling, what we've done is refocused our activities and allowed those officers who engaged in gambling enforcement to do other things along with enforcement of gambling laws," said Brown.

Illinois state police and Cook County haven't had a dedicated gambling unit for several years. The sheriff's vice unit focuses on internet sex crimes and human trafficking according to a spokesman. Now that Chicago is without one, only the FBI and IRS actually gather gambling intelligence here, usually in large organized crime cases. So with this weekend's kickoff a few days away illegal wagering may never have been easier.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, February 22, 2008

Family Secrets Mob Prosecutor Succumbs to Cancer

It may seem an odd compliment, but there is perhaps no better praise for the work Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars did than how mobsters referred to him.

"That (expletive) Mitch Mars," is what crooked Chicago cop Anthony Doyle called him on tape recordings he didn't know were being made.

"That is a real testament to the guy," said Markus Funk, one of Mars' co-prosecutors in the Family Secrets trial, which put Doyle and other mobsters away in September.

Over and over, said Funk, on wiretaps and prison eavesdropping recordings, the bad guys had one concern: what did Mitch Mars know and how close was he getting?

More often than not, Mars knew a lot about the Chicago Outfit and was very close.

In September, he got closer than many mobsters ever dreamed he would: convicting mob leaders James Marcello, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese and others on racketeering charges stemming from murders that were, in some cases, decades old.

It was a fitting exclamation point on the career of Mars, the chief of the organized crime section of the U.S. attorney's office.

Mars died of lung cancer Tuesday night. He was 55.

He had battled crime since 1978, when he joined the U.S. Justice Department. He arrived in Chicago in 1980 and joined the U.S. attorney's office in 1990 when it merged with the Justice Department's organized crime strike force.

Family Secrets was but the last hurrah in a long line of prosecutions. He also helped put away Cicero mayor Betty Loren-Maltese, Chicago Heights mob boss Albert Tocco and several others along the way.

"But we would do a disservice to remember Mitch only by what he accomplished as a prosecutor in the courtroom," said Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in a prepared statement.

"He is a complete gentleman," said Susan Shatz, one of the lawyers who represented Lombardo in the trial. "I hold him in the highest regard.

While Mars was all business in the courtroom, those who knew him outside of it said he was easygoing and a prankster.

After months of trial and working late nights and weekends, Shatz and Mars were forever calling one another, Shatz said.

On the last day of trial, Shatz arranged with Mars' wife, Jennifer, to have Jennifer wait until Mars wound down that evening and then ask him if he had remembered to call Shatz.

Mars apparently enjoyed the joke enough to return the favor, calling Shatz that night on her office phone, demanding trial papers in a mock-annoyed voice.

"I have not taken his message off my voicemail since then," said Shatz, who said she kept it when she learned Mars was sick.

Mars discovered his cancer shortly after the trial and took a leave of absence to spend time with his family.

He is survived by his wife, his mother, Constance, his sister, Deborah Berkos, his brother, Jeffrey, an uncle Raymond Oster and several other aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Visitation is Friday from 3-9 p.m. at Damar Kaminski Funeral Home, 7861 S. 88th Avenue in Justice. A funeral Mass will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Cletus, 600 W. 55th St. in LaGrange.

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Crimes are Organized, But are They Organized Crime?

All across the Calumet Region, shadowy men take cuts of profits from illegal gambling, drugs are imported from faraway lands and peddled on the streets, and bands of thieves cross state lines to ply their trades. It sounds like the heyday of organized crime, but investigators, prosecutors and people near the action say it's been a long time since Chicago Outfit mobsters controlled the region's criminal underworld.

Gangsters like Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo and Albert Tocco may have died in prison. But traditional organized crimes such as drug dealing, illegal gambling, prostitution and union corruption remain problems in Northwest Indiana and the rest of the country, despite efforts like last summer's Family Secrets trial that targeted some of the traditional mob organizations.

The crimes have just taken on a new face and structure, local experts say.

"When I was a kid, organized crime meant the mob. It doesn't mean the mob anymore," said Mark Becker, head of the FBI's region anti-gang task force and the Merrillville bureau's top official on organized crime. "Now organized crime does not necessarily mean Italian links. It can be Mexican cartels or street gangs like the Gangster Disciples."

Anthony Murphy, who is police chief in Chicago Heights -- the city from which the region's mob Outfit gangsters once hailed -- said he believes the FBI has "pretty much killed what was here in our city at one time" in terms of traditional organized crime.

David Capp, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, said cases including Family Secrets and the Taste of Italy prosecution in Northwest Indiana in the early 1990s helped to break the back of the traditional mob. In the trials, prosecutors alleged wide patterns of extortion and violence by Outfit associates.

A few Chicagoans aren't so optimistic. Former Chicago cop and organized crime expert John Flood said he believes the Chicago Outfit continues to control some criminal activity, such as the flow of drugs in the area from Milwaukee to South Bend.

James Wagner, director of the Chicago Crime Commission, said organized crime still thrives and could be more dangerous than ever because of the threat of international terrorism.

Gangs including the Latin Kings are selling sophisticated fake passports to buyers in Europe, and union longshoremen at some of the nation's largest East Coast ports stand accused of letting New York crime families run their organizations, he said.

Betting on crime

Gambling always has attracted organized criminals in the Calumet Region and elsewhere.

Experts say efforts to drive out organized crime by making gambling legal may have stopped some of the traditional ways the mob made its money. But new methods have developed. "There's so many different schemes, but they all center around checks, debit cards and credit cards," said Gary Scott, an Indiana State Police master trooper who spent nine years investigating fraud at Northwest Indiana's gambling boats. "It is organized crime to a certain extent."

Within two hours of stealing someone's wallet at a bar, the thieves can arrive at a casino cage with a newly minted fake ID to make a cash withdrawal on a credit card, Scott said.

Or take the case of James Hunt, who is charged in Hammond federal court with leading a group that would write large checks on bogus bank accounts and then withdraw the money at Northwest Indiana casinos before the banks realized what had happened.

Scott said groups of thieves from Nigeria and China and Chicago street gangs have perpetrated large credit fraud and identity theft schemes at Northwest Indiana casinos. Some have recruited white drug addicts, who can withdraw the cash with less suspicions and will accept narcotics as payment, he said.

"We've been doing dozens of check fraud cases over here on the casinos. It's nonstop," Capp said.

Illegal gambling in Northwest Indiana also persists.

Larry Rollins, director of the new Indiana Gaming Control Division, said illegal gambling still flourishes in Indiana bars, and some tavern owners continue to pay out on "entertainment only" video machines.

The bar owner typically takes a 50 percent cut of the profits on those machines, with the other half going to the "distributor," who regularly comes around to collect, experts have said.

Coca plants and poppies are not grown in Northwest Indiana, yet cocaine and heroin still make it to the streets of Lake and Porter counties. But if mob outfits aren't orchestrating the smuggling as they once did, how are the drugs getting here? Experts say local gang figures have been working directly with Mexican drug cartels and other illegal drug providers.

"We know of several (cartels), and almost all of them have ties either to Chicago or down in the Southwest border," said Dennis Wichern, agent in charge of Indiana for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "All roads lead back to the Southwest border."

And in recent years, federal drug agents have traced a circuitous route of drugs smuggled across the Mexican border to suspected narcotics warehousing operations in Merrillville.

In addition to that, more than two dozen members and associates of Gary's Renegades street gang have been convicted of buying and selling cocaine throughout the Midwest, federal authorities said. Among those convicted were boxing phenom Charles "Duke" Tanner and Mexican cartel member Arnulfo Castellanos.

Narcotics long have been tied to gangs, guns and the street violence that follows. The substances also have been tied to spikes in burglaries, robberies and other property crimes as addicts steal to feed their habits.

Some federal and region law enforcement officials said the narcotics pipeline from Mexico to Merrillville, Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest continues to perpetuate the crime for which millions of dollars are spent each year to battle.

Other crimes once associated with the mob also continue to flourish in the shadows of the Calumet Region, including prostitution. In some cases, the crime has taken on an international look.

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said the Mafia appears to have lost its grip on local prostitution rings, but the practice still persists on an independent basis.

Federal authorities recently broke up four so-called massage parlors in Dyer and Highland, claiming the business owners were harboring women imported from Korea who lived on site and worked as prostitutes.

From his vantage point at the Chicago Crime Commission, Wagner doesn't see organized crime fading with the mob.

"I've been telling everyone that I can talk to that (organized crime) is still a factor -- and is always going to be a factor -- as long as there is money to be made and there is power," Wagner said. "You're always going to find the younger generation willing to take the risks of prosecution in order to make that money and have that power."

Thanks to Joe Carlson

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Daughter of Late Mobster Arrested

Friends of ours: Albert Tocco, Clarence Crockett

The daughter of a former Southland mob lieutenant has been charged with stealing from a Frankfort country club.

Chicago Heights resident Sandra M. Andrade, 40, is the daughter of the late Clarence Crockett, a trusted aide of longtime Southland mob boss Albert Tocco, according to police and public records.

Andrade "obtained unauthorized control" of property valued at less than $100,000 at Prestwick Country Club between Dec. 29 and April 30, according to the charges. She is being held on $65,000 bail. An assistant public defender has been appointed to represent her.

Frankfort police refused to explain the charges, saying it's an ongoing investigation. "(Investigators) were hoping to talk to her, but they didn't have that chance," police Cmdr. John Burica said.

A spokesman for the Will County state's attorney's office also declined to comment, as did Prestwick's manager and an attorney for the country club.

The home address Andrade gave police is a single-story brick house on Campbell Avenue owned by Rose Crockett, who was identified as her mother. A phone message left there Wednesday was not returned.

Clarence Crockett for many years was involved in collecting the mob's "street tax," monthly payments to be allowed to operate illegal businesses, as a key aide to Tocco -- whom federal prosecutors later linked to nine murders, although he was never convicted in any slaying, according to news reports.

Crockett was convicted in 1989 with Tocco on federal racketeering, conspiracy and extortion charges and received a 20-year prison term. He was released in 2001 and died in March at 68.

Tocco received a 200-year sentence in 1990. His wife, Betty, was a key witness against him, testifying about his alleged involvement in the infamous murders of the Spilotro brothers who were shot and buried in an Indiana field. Tocco died of a stroke in prison 13 months ago at 76.

Federal prosecutors also went after a former mayor, three city councilmen and the deputy police chief of Chicago Heights. All were convicted on corruption charges.

Will County sheriff's police spokesman Pat Barry, a former sheriff's investigator who worked on the Crockett case, said the mob ran Chicago Heights for decades. "There was corruption from top to bottom," he said.

Today, people say the mob largely has been rooted out of Chicago Heights. When asked to comment about Crockett, Police Chief Anthony Murphy offered these words: "He's dead."

Thanks to Steve Schmadeke

Friday, September 23, 2005

Legendary Mob Boss Tocco Dies

Legendary south suburban Chicago mob boss Albert "Caesar" Tocco has died in prison at age 76.

He was just 16 years into his 200-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, extortion and tax fraud when he died, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

Tocco, whose estranged wife Betty testified he helped bury the bodies of the mob-associated Spilotro brothers in an Indiana corn field, died Wednesday at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

The preliminary cause of death appears to be complications from high blood pressure, said Carla Wilson, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons.

At the height of his power, Tocco ruled all the rackets south of 95th Street, federal officials said. Though he was never charged with any killing, prosecutors linked him to at least nine gangland-style killings, including those of the Spilotros, mob hit man William Dauber and vending machine operator Dino Valente.

Federal authorities nabbed Tocco in Greece in 1989.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Loan shark's tale in federal court has literary ring

What does Geoffrey Chaucer have in common with the Chicago Outfit's Frank Calabrese Sr.?

Don't worry, you are not having an English Lit nightmare. There are no "Loan Shark's Tales" in Chaucer. I hate to say it, but Calabrese and other members of the Chinatown Crew probably found something threatening in "The Canterbury Tales."

The Chinatown guys probably enjoyed a much later period, with all the wanton sex, food orgies, violence and corruption to be found in Henry Fielding, a writer who would have understood Chicago. Fielding (1707-1754) was a British writer, playwright and journalist, founder of the English Realistic school in literature with Samuel Richardson. Fielding's career as a dramatist has been shadowed by his career as a novelist. His aim as a novelist was to write comic epic poems in prose - he once described himself as "great, tattered bard." Fielding's sharp burlesques satirizing the government gained the attention of the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole and Fielding's career in theater was ended by Theatrical Licensing Act - directed primarily at him. Between the years 1729 and 1737 Fielding wrote 25 plays but he acclaimed critical notice with his novels. The best known are THE HISTORY OF TOM JONES, A FOUNDLING (1749), in which the tangled comedies of coincidence are offset by the neat, architectonic structure of the story, and THE HISTORY OF THE ADVENTURES OF JOSEPH ANDREWS (1742), a parody of Richardson's Pamela (1740)

Yet there might be a "Billy Dauber Tale" in federal court someday--about the icy hit man and his mouthy wife Charlotte. They were chopped to pieces by shotguns during a car chase in Will County years ago. Chaucer's pilgrims would have been horrified by the carnage. (Rumors suggest that Albert Tocco, then the head the Mob's Southland activities, was angered that Dauber had started a freelance string of chop shops and ordered the gruesome hit which occured during a daylight attack.)

Dr. Milt Rosenberg, the cultured and brilliant host of WGN-AM's "Extension 720" radio panel show, read Chaucer on the 50,000 watt station, as a few of us sat with him to talk about the Outfit and its relationship to Chicago politics. I'm a big fan of Rosenberg's program. One evening he'll have professors reading "The Iliad" in the ancient tongue, the next he'll moderate brawling foreign policy experts arguing Iraq policy. Naturally, to open our discussion on the Outfit, he read from "The Canterbury Tales":

"Murder will out, we see it every day. Murder's so hateful and abominable To God, Who is so just and reasonable, That He'll not suffer that it hidden be; Though it may skulk a year, or two, or three, Murder will out ..."


Milt smiled. His message was artfully put as always--this one being that murder is so objectionable that the Almighty causes it to be discovered.

Perhaps the Almighty causes murder to be discovered in English literature, but not in Chicago. There have been more than 1,100 Outfit hits and, until recently, only a little more than a dozen have been solved. That is, not until Frank's brother, Nick Calabrese decided to tell the FBI tales that led to Operation Family Secrets, the indictments of several mob bosses, including the fugitive Joe "the Clown" Lombardo in 18 Outfit murders.

The legendary WBBM-TV crime reporter John "Bulldog" Drummond, the Chicago Crime Commission's Tom Fitzpatrick and yours truly took interesting telephone calls from Milt's listeners.

One caller shocked me by insisting that a now-defunct suburban restaurant was an Outfit hangout--and that the bartenders were deadly--and I was too stunned to mention that it was once owned by a late relative who made great rice pudding.

Another caller said he'd call me later about serving as jury foreman in the Albert Tocco trial. Others asked about the relationship between the Outfit and City Hall, or wondered about relatives who'd been killed.

One who tried phoning in was the daughter of Sam "Momo" Giancana. Antoinette Giancana called me the next day. The author of "Mafia Princess: Growing Up in Sam Giancana's Family" was furious. "I like Milt's show and I know you and I know Drummond so I thought I'd call in and we could gab a bit on the air about the old days," Antoinette Giancana told me the next day. "But they wouldn't connect me. They said, `Sam Giancana's daughter? Oh yeah. OK.' Then the phone clicked off. Oh, I'm so angry! You know how angry I am? I'm angry!"

Antoinette? Please don't take it out on Milt. I enjoyed his Chaucer reading so much that I invited him to accompany Drummond and me to federal court on Friday. We were to watch Frank Calabrese answer charges of murder conspiracy and racketeering.

"I'm sorry," Milt said, "but I have another engagement." Too bad, Milt. You missed it.

In U.S. District Judge James Zagel's courtroom, Frank Calabrese Sr. pleaded not guilty. But he didn't look like himself. For one thing, the convicted Outfit loan shark remains a prisoner, and was in an orange prison jumpsuit. He wasn't wearing the uniform of the Chinatown Crew--black T-shirt, porkpie hat and smirk.

So he didn't seem like a guy who'd sneak up behind you at a bar and make a friendly gesture to remind you to pay your debts--say, stabbing his cigarette out into your bare forearm, or squeezing your head in a car door.

Instead, Calabrese was the picture of a timid old man in an orange jumpsuit, whining about ailments. "I've only got 10 percent of my pituitary gland," Calabrese told Zagel, who has probably heard every excuse, even the pituitary gland. "... I'm on nine medications ... It's a very serious thing. "And, plus a septic in my nose for which I have to take a nasal spray," Calabrese said, hands folded behind him, trigger fingers free to wiggle, sadly.

It's too bad Milt didn't hear a Chicago tough guy complain about his sinus cavity. It's not fiction. Even Fielding, a judge who could have thrived in Cook County, couldn't make this stuff up.

Thanks to John Kass (Bold comments have been added)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Reputed ex-mob leader for south suburbs dies

Friends of ours: Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo, Anthony Spilotro, Albert Tocco, Nick Guzzino
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro


Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo, the reputed organized crime boss of the south suburbs until his 1991 conviction for extorting protection money from northwest Indiana bookmakers, has died in a federal prison hospital. The former resident of South Holland and Orland Park was 88.

Palermo, who also was suspected of having a role in the 1986 murders of crime syndicate figure Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, died Friday in the Federal Prison Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., a spokesman said Tuesday. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Palermo and five members of his reputed crime family were convicted Aug. 16, 1991 by a federal jury in Hammond of racketeering charges arising from a scheme to extort protection money from vice and gambling operators in northwest Indiana. He was sentenced in 1992 to 32 years and 3 months in prison and fined $250,000. Palermo was due to be released from prison Aug. 10, the medical center spokesman said.

John Hoehner, the U.S. attorney in Hammond at the time, predicted Palermo's conviction would have "a substantial impact on organized crime in northwest Indiana."

In fact, syndicate crime has diminished considerably in the region south and southeast of Chicago, federal authorities and organized-crime observers said. But the reduction, they said, probably has more to do with changes in society than with the imprisonment of many people who had controlled vice in the area,

"The world has changed from the 1950s and 1960s when organized crime still thrived," said John Binder, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who wrote "The Chicago Outfit," a book detailing the history of the crime syndicate.

"Gambling, which was the lifeblood of the mob's operations in the south suburbs, has been legalized as a result of the riverboat casinos," Binder said. "Furthermore, people have become a lot more knowledgeable about organized crime. Consequently, they no longer put up with mobsters infiltrating local labor unions or operating in their communities the way they used to."

Not much was known publicly about Palermo's activities until his trial and sentencing. "The guys that controlled the south suburbs kept a low profile because they had everything locked up in their neck of the woods," Binder said.

Federal authorities said Palermo, who worked as a Laborers International Union field representative, became the reputed head of the south suburban mob after former rackets boss Albert Tocco, a one-time Chicago Heights sausage-maker, was convicted in 1989 of ruling a crime family through acts of murder and extortion.

Attorney Kevin Milner, who represented Palermo during his 1991 trial, remembered his client Tuesday as "a grandfatherly type of guy, soft-spoken and friendly." But prosecutors saw Palermo, then in his 70s, as something else, describing him as a "top mob capo" who, along with his underlings, employed terror tactics, including threats of bodily harm and arson, to collect "street taxes," or protection money, from vice and illegal gambling operators.

At Palermo's trial, 11 people testified that they paid the money rather than risk harm to themselves, their families or their businesses. And two FBI agents who developed evidence against Palermo's shakedown operation testified that they secretly recorded the group regularly counting extortion money in a Calumet City restaurant.

Among those convicted with Palermo in 1991 was Nick Guzzino of Chicago Heights, whom the FBI identified as Palermo's underboss in the south suburbs. Guzzino, who was 50 when he was convicted, was sentenced to 39 years and 6 months in prison and fined $185,000.

Guzzino, Palermo and Tocco, who is serving a 200-year prison term, were suspected of taking part in the Spilotro murders after Tocco's estranged wife, Betty, testified in 1989 that her husband told her that he and the other two were involved.

At the time of their deaths in 1986, Anthony Spilotro, 48, was the reputed overseer of the Chicago mob's Las Vegas gambling operations and was awaiting trial on racketeering charges in Nevada. His brother, Michael, 41, was under indictment in Chicago on federal extortion charges. Their bodies were unearthed in a Newton County, Ind., cornfield.

The murders remain unsolved.

Thanks to Stanley Ziemba

Monday, November 06, 1989

Mobster's Cooperation Revealed

The Chicago crime syndicate suffered a potentially devastating blow Thursday with the disclosure that jailed mob rackets figure Gerald Scarpelli apparently has defected and become a government informant. The information, in a nine-page government report filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors, said that Scarpelli has admitted having a role in mob killings and knowledge of at least one other murder. Some mob observers speculated Thursday that if Scarpelli is admitting his involvement in crimes, he probably is implicating others as well to improve his chances of making a deal with authorities. Prosecutors and Scarpelli`s defense lawyers have declined to discuss the contents of the document with the news media. In the past, however, defense lawyers have scoffed at suggestions Scarpelli had turned informant to help himself.

Scarpelli, 51, is believed to be one of the mob`s top killers. He was a close associate of several top mob figures, including Joseph Ferriola, until recently the Chicago syndicate`s operating chief. A burglar by trade, Scarpelli was not only a top hit man during Ferriola`s 1985-88 reign as boss, but became Ferriola`s chief gambling and juice loan collector on the Southwest Side and in the southwest suburbs, according to sources familiar with the Scarpelli case. Thus, they said, Scarpelli was familiar with the inner workings of the mob`s day-to-day activities under Ferriola and Ferriola`s chief henchman, Ernest Rocco Infelice.

Ironically, if Scarpelli turned informant, he did so after being arrested last summer on evidence provided by another gangland informant. Federal authorities haven`t named that informant, but he is believed to be Scarpelli`s longtime associate, James Basile, who is now in federal protective custody. In secretly taped conversations between Scarpelli and the informant, Scarpelli is heard talking about ``sitting down with`` bosses he identified as ``Joe, Rocky and Sam.`` The FBI said the three are Ferriola, Infelice and Sam Carlisi, who is believed to have succeeded the ailing Ferriola as the mob`s operating boss last fall.

The court document gave no hint that Scarpelli told secrets about them, limiting its revelations to the charges against Scarpelli that resulted in his arrest. In that regard, the document said Scarpelli had admitted taking part in the 1979 slaying of North Chicago nightclub operator George Christofalos, and the 1980 killing of mob assassin William Dauber, 45, and Dauber`s wife, Charlotte, 37. It said Scarpelli also provided information about the killing of mob associate Michael Oliver, whose body was found buried last spring in a field south of suburban Darien.

According to the document, all of the information allegedly given by Scarpelli was told to the FBI on July 16 and 17-the day of his arrest and the following day. The information is in a report filed by John L. Burley, a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department`s Chicago Organized Crime Strike Force concerning a meeting with Jeffrey Steinback, one of Scarpelli`s defense lawyers, to discuss the prosecution`s evidence.

Until now Scarpelli hadn`t been linked to the death of Christofalos, operator of a far-north suburban strip joint. But he has long been suspected by authorities of taking part in the slayings of the Daubers near Crete. Sources said Dauber was informing on Scarpelli to a variety of federal and state agencies. Dauber was an underling of Albert Tocco, the fugitive south suburban rackets boss who was captured by federal agents in Europe Thursday. Oliver is believed to have been buried in the Darien field by accomplices after he was slain during a botched attempt to rob a suburban pornography shop that competed with another porn shop.

Thanks to John O'Brien and Ronald Koziol


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