The Chicago Syndicate: Anthony Chiaramonti
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Showing posts with label Anthony Chiaramonti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anthony Chiaramonti. Show all posts

Friday, January 11, 2019


The Chicago Outfit's Greatest Hits from 1920 to 2001.

1920: Big Jim Colosimo is slain in his popular Wabash Avenue restaurant, making way for the rise of Al Capone. Largely credited with taking the steps to create what would become known as the "Chicago Outfit"

1924: Dion O'Banion is shot dead in his flower shop across from Holy Name Cathedral. Chief suspects are his beer war enemies, the Genna brothers. Started hijacking whiskey right before the start of prohibition kicked in.

1929: Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang are gunned down, allegedly on orders of Capone, at 2122 N. Clark in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Moran himself, lucky man, is late for the meeting at the S.M.C. Carting Co.

38 Detective Special1930: Jake Lingle, a Chicago Tribune reporter in the mob's pocket, is slain in the Illinois Central train station. He had crossed many mobsters, including Capone. Shot behind the ear with a 38 caliber detective's special on the way to the racetrack, Lingle was given a hero's funeral. It was only later that it was learned that he was really a legman for the mob.

1936: Capone gunman and bodyguard "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn is gunned down at a Milwaukee Avenue bowling alley, the day before Valentine's Day. Given the timing, the Moran gang was suspected. In addition to his skill with a machine gun, McGurn was also considered a scratch golfer who considered going pro and boxed as a welterweight where he was known as Battling Jack McGurn. He is credited with over 25 mob kills and McGurn was also suspected of being the principal gunner and planner of the St. Valentines Day Massacre.

1975: Mob boss Sam Giancana is killed, while cooking sausage, in the basement of his Oak Park home after he becomes a liability to the Outfit. "The Don" calls Giancana the Godfather of Godfathers - The Most Powerful Mafioso in America. Started as a hitman for Capone. Rose to boss of the Chicago crime family. Friend of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra & Marilyn Monroe. Rigged the Chicago vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Joe Batters1978: Six burglars who struck at mob boss Anthony Accardo's (AKA Joe Batters by the FBI and THE Big Tuna by the Chicago media) house are found slain across the city.

1983: Worried he will sing to the feds, mobsters gun down crooked Chicago businessman Allen Dorfman outside the Hyatt Hotel in Lincolnwood. Dorfman had already been convicted under operation Pendorf: Pentration of Dorfman, along with Teamsters President Roy Williams and Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, when he was hit by the Outfit afraid he would look to reduce his sentence.

1983: Mob gambling lieutenant Ken Eto is shot three times in the head. Miraculously, he survives and testifies against old pals.

1986: The mob's man in Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother Michael Spilotro are beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. Glamorized in the movie Casino in which Joe Pesci played "Tony the Ant". Opened up a gift shop at the Circus-Cirus Hotel and Casino where he based his operations. The Family Secrets Trial revealed that the two were originally murdered by a crew led by James Marcello in a house in Bensonville. 

2001: Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti, a vicious juice loan debt collector, is shot to death outside a restaurant in suburban Lyons by a man in a hooded sweat shirt. Chiaramonti had been caught on a tape played at the trial of Sam Carlisi, grabbing a trucking company owner, Anthony LaBarbera, by the throat, lifting him in the air and warning him not to be late in paying juice loan money. LaBarbera was wearing an FBI body recorder at the time. Interesting enough, the restaurant where he was shot was a Brown's Chicken and Pasta, where I have had lunch a handful of times.

Thanks to the Chicago SunTimes and additional various sources.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reviewing the History Behind Famous Mob Nicknames

A colorful nickname comes with the job when you are a reputed Chicago crime boss, often whether you like it or not.

The trial of Michael "Big Mike" Sarno is getting underway in federal court in Chicago, with prosecutors arguing that the 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound Sarno wasn't just imposing because of his size, but because he was the big man behind a violent mob jewelry theft and illegal gambling ring.

Imposing aliases have captivated the public and aggravated mobsters since the days of Al "Scarface" Capone, a fact that apparently was too much for one prospective juror. The juror, a suburban businessman, told U.S. Judge Ronald Guzman he would be biased by the repeated use of nicknames during the trial. So Guzman sent him home.

Defense attorney Michael Gillespie said he's not worried about his large client's nickname, which is pretty mild for an alleged mobster. "There's nothing nefarious about that nickname," Gillespie said. "But I do think (federal prosecutors) put the nickname in there for a reason. They could've just charged him as 'Michael Sarno.'"

A big appetite is a more benign way to get a pet name than, say, Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, the former reputed mob kingpin who earned his sobriquet for beating people with baseball bats. The story goes that after hearing of one such beating, Capone himself said, "That guy, (Accardo), he's a real Joe Batters." Throughout his life, everyone called Accardo "Joe," said Gus Russo, author of "The Outfit."

"They started to call (Accardo) 'Big Tuna' in the press, but no one ever called him that," said Russo. Mobsters' nicknames often were generated by the press or FBI agents eager to antagonize their targets, a favorite tactic of longtime Chicago FBI chief William Roemer. "(Roemer) was the one that referred to (Outfit Vegas boss) Anthony Spilotro as 'The Ant,'" Russo said. "That was (Roemer's) way of infuriating these guys."

Attorney Joseph Lopez said the press hung the nickname "The Breeze" on his loan-sharking client Frank Calabrese Sr. "That's a media nickname. No one ever called him that. He was 'Cheech,'" said Lopez. "Cheech is 'Frank' in Italian. It's a neighborhood thing. These guys get their nicknames like anyone else, as young kids in the neighborhood."

Of course, former Lopez client Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiaramonti was known for attacking juice-loan delinquents with a hatchet, the attorney acknowledged. "Hatchet earned that nickname," said Lopez, noting that jurors heard Chiaramonti strangle an informant — who was wearing a wire at the time — during a trial in the 1990s. "I called him Tony."

When reputed mobsters deny, or take offense to, their nicknames, it may be because they haven't heard them until someone plays them tapes of a wiretap. Wiretaps in Sarno's case will show that some of his lieutenants often called their boss "Fat Ass" behind his back. Not a good career move in most jobs, and a potentially deadly one in The Outfit.

"These are not guys you might want to call by a nickname to their face," said Markus Funk, one of the lead prosecutors in the Family Secrets trial that featured defendants Frank "the German" Schweihs; Paul "the Indian" Schiro; and Joseph Lombardo, who was listed with three nicknames: "the Clown," "Lumbo" and "Lumpy."

U.S. attorney's office policy is to include nicknames in an indictment only when the monikers are used in wiretaps or correspondence, said former prosecutor Chris Gair. However, modern mobsters are so paranoid about wiretaps and FBI surveillance that they seldom even risk using a nickname, Gair said. Their coded euphemisms get so vague, often it's clear the mobsters can barely carry on a conversation.

"Instead of a name or a nickname, they'll say something like 'You know that guy down by Grand and Ogden (avenues)?' 'You mean the guy who stands outside the grocery?' And the circumlocutions are so obscure, it's obvious they don't know who the other guy's talking about," Gair said. "But they're so paranoid, they still won't use a name."

Gair, for the record, said he seldom used nicknames in cases he handled.

"I would almost never put (nicknames) in an indictment. FBI agents and IRS guys have a nickname for everybody," he said. "For most guys, they use nicknames the way you or I do among friends."

Thanks to Andy Grimm

More Mob Nicknames

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo Murdered According to Fed Theory

It's a Chicago mob mystery that's still unsolved: Reputed Outfit boss Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo -- an aging, longtime survivor of mob intrigue and betrayal -- drove away from his Westmont home on Aug. 31, 2006, never to be seen again.

His abandoned Jeep turned up at a Melrose Park restaurant, and speculation ran rampant.

Was Zizzo, 71, cooperating with the feds?

Was he trunk music?

Now, new information in a court record obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times sheds new light on the circumstances leading up to Zizzo's disappearance.

Investigators think Zizzo was murdered. New information suggests he was clashing with another top mobster just before his disappearance, according to the court filing.

Zizzo was feuding with reputed Cicero street crew boss Michael "Big Mike" Sarno, 52, and "that came to a crescendo just before Zizzo was last seen," according to a confidential federal informant described in the court document as an upper-echelon member of the Outfit who has been providing information to the government for more than 25 years. The informant is not identified.

Sarno is charged with ordering the bombing of a Berwyn company in 2003 that was competing with an Outfit-sanctioned video poker business. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu have alleged that Sarno used his ties to a motorcycle gang leader to carry out the pipe-bombing.

Sarno has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Zizzo, and Sarno's attorney, Michael P. Gillespie, rejected Friday any suggestion that Sarno had anything to do with Zizzo's fate. "That's absolutely ridiculous," Gillespie said. The attorney also said that claims that Sarno is a mob leader are "just not true."

The dispute between Sarno and Zizzo is not specified in the court document, which quotes an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

Both men, though, have allegedly been involved in a highly profitable mob business that has resulted in violence before.

Zizzo, at one point, oversaw video gambling for the mob. He was the boss of Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, who was gunned down outside a Brown's Chicken and Pasta in suburban Lyons in 2001 in a dispute over video poker territory.

Sarno is also allegedly involved in the video poker business, along with illegal bookmaking and juice money collection, and is known for his fearsome reputation on the street.

Both Sarno and Zizzo were among the reputed mobsters listed as threats to the physical safety of Nicholas Calabrese, a mob killer turned star federal witness in the historic Family Secrets case against mob leaders.

Sarno, now under house arrest, recently made headlines when he was allowed to attend a family Christmas-time dinner last year at the swanky Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, July 12, 2009

John Dillinger Was Bad for the Business of the Chicago Outfit

After watching the excellent new Johnny Depp movie "Public Enemies" -- the story of romanticized desperado John Dillinger's murder in Chicago with the help of the Outfit -- Wings and I realized something.

We were hungry. So we walked over to Volare, the fine Italian restaurant at Grand and St. Clair on Wednesday evening, where three amazing things happened:

1. We had the most superb sausage and peppers in the universe. The sausage was beyond tasty, the peppers perfectly cooked, the sauce to kill for.

2. A group of people came in, the women in red dresses, the men in 1930s gangster outfits, fedoras for the guys, the women with much cleavage, feathered hats, tiny veils, red lips. It was a surprise party for Craig Alton, the fellow who runs Untouchable Tours, taking tourists to famous mob murder scenes, including where Dillinger fell facedown, near the Biograph Theater on Lincoln. We went over to say hello. He seemed like a nice fellow, dressed in a straw hat with suspenders, a fat, painted tie and a curly mustache. They were all going to the movie afterward. I asked: Don't you tour some of the newer sites, like the Melrose Park restaurant where Tony Zizzo disappeared a few years ago? Or the 2001 hit of street boss Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti in Lyons? "No," Alton said, sheepishly. "The guys who did that are still alive."

3. At another table nearby was a handsome Italian family. Mother, father, sons and grandsons, proud, straight backed, polite. They proved their good manners by quietly chanting "chumbolone" at us.

The father, who said his name was John, announced to his family and half the restaurant that he grew up on Chicago's Taylor Street and then in River Forest.

"You wrote about Al Capone, and you also wrote about the real boss, the old man," said John. "You went past Capone and wrote about the real boss."

Paul Ricca?

"Yes," said John. "Paul Ricca."

Capone got all the attention. Ricca, a quiet fellow, never wanted to be a star. He let Capone get the applause and wisecrack with reporters. Ricca made the decisions and built modern organized crime in America. Hollywood has never made a movie about Paul Ricca. That should tell you something.

The Ricca mention by a stranger in a nice restaurant brings me back to "Public Enemies," directed by Michael Mann.

Mann gets it. He was born in Chicago, and produced one of my favorite films, one that actually speaks truth about this city: "Thief," starring James Caan. In that film, real Chicago cops played gangsters, and real gangsters played Chicago detectives. In any other town this might be seen as ironic. Not here.

So in "Public Enemies," Mann allows truth to press up against the Dillinger myth, the one with which generations of Americans were led to believe that The Lady in Red caused Dillinger's demise.

All The Lady in Red got was deported back to Romania, if she got that far and didn't end up on the bottom of the Cal-Sag Canal. And the Chicago Outfit got what it wanted: happy cops and happy FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, who kept winning at the racetracks while insisting there was no organized crime in America.

Mann understands Chicago. I'm not going to spoil anything. Anyone with a room temperature IQ knows how this one ends. But it was Mann's method of revealing this real Chicago truth that I found fascinating. It was in a big speech, by one of the actors playing an Outfit guy, talking to Depp's Dillinger.

Big speeches are usually disasters and belong only in manipulative TV shows like "Law and Order," where the big speech is delivered before the final commercial by a wise old actor with crinkly eyes.

In a movie, the big speech can ruin things. It can pull you out of that willing suspension of disbelief directors work so hard to achieve, and it can plop you back into reality, tasting the stale popcorn and the stale message from the actor delivering the big speech.

You might guess that I'm not a big fan of the big speech. Except the one in "Public Enemies," with the Outfit giving the message to Dillinger.

It's set in a wire room, with bets coming in on the phone, and Dillinger is told that the old freelance days are done. Freelancers bring heat and embarrass the locals. Businesses don't need heat. It costs money.

"You're bad for business," Dillinger is told.

It was almost subtle by comparison to other big speeches. But it was necessary, because the romantic outlaw had to learn the truth from the guys who snap their fingers and have chiefs of detectives and mayors shine their shoes.

Freelancers were entertaining, once. But freelancers cost too much. They get crushed.

Like John Dillinger.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, February 06, 2009

Will Multiple Mob Murders be Solved by Operation Family Secrets - Part Two?

One of my loyal readers, Chicago mob boss James Marcello—captured on grainy federal recordings eating salty corn chips while discussing my column—will be sentenced in the "Family Secrets" case on Thursday.

Marcello, 66, may receive life in prison for his conviction of racketeering conspiracy in connection with previously unsolved Chicago Outfit murders.

The movie "Casino" incorrectly depicted Chicago mob brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. But the trial showed that Marcello drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville home, where Michael thought he was going to become a "made member" of the Outfit. Bosses from every crew waited in the rumpus room for the brothers, who were beaten, strangled, their bodies dumped in the corn.

Dr. Pat Spilotro—dentist brother of the slain men—is scheduled to give a statement before U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel. Dr. Pat has been secretly working with the FBI for years. He's expected to name other mobsters he believes should also pay for the killings.

Many of the murders involved Nick Calabrese, the hit man turned federal witness, who spilled what he knew on his family and others, giving this case the name "Family Secrets."

So, how do I know Jimmy Marcello reads this column? It came up in trial evidence and federal tape.

In late February 2003, at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., the imprisoned Marcello is sitting with a visitor, his close friend Nick "The Caterer" Vangel, a Greek businessman so nicknamed by wise guys because he once owned The Carlisle banquet hall in Lombard.

That was a day or so after my column of Feb. 21, 2003, about Nick Calabrese entering the witness protection program, prepared to testify about the Spilotro and other hits. Nick Calabrese killed dozens of men, but the prospect of his testimony terrified the Outfit and they were trying to find out more.

"I just saw this last thing in the Trib," Vangel tells Marcello on the FBI surveillance tape about the column.

Marcello responds in Outfit code, with winks and nods. He also does another strange thing: Since they're talking murder, Marcello begins chomping on a bag of tasty snack food: Fritos. That's a Super Bowl commercial if I ever saw one.

As Vangel tells Marcello of Nick Calabrese, of bosses swabbed for DNA, of the murders being investigated and speculates about the grand jury, Marcello makes furtive motions with his eyebrows and hands. But he can't stop gobbling his crunchy fried corn.

Family Secrets cleared many Outfit killings. But others remain unsolved, perhaps waiting for a "Family Secrets II."

One mystery is the disappearance of mob boss Anthony Zizzo in September 2006, as prosecutors prepared their case. Zizzo vanished. His car turned up in the parking lot of a Melrose Park restaurant. He had been scheduled to meet some guys on Rush Street, but never made it. Imagine that.

Another is the 2001 murder of mob boss Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, gunned down in a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Lyons, the sign out front inviting customers to eat their fill "The Chicago Way."

And the 1998 killing of Michael Cutler, who was scheduled to testify in the case against Frank Caruso Jr., the son of the current reputed Outfit street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso. Junior had been charged with the savage beating of Lenard Clark, a black teenager, in Bridgeport. Cutler saw it all. But before he could testify, Cutler was shot once in the chest in what was called a random West Side robbery.

Random? If you say so.

The unsolved 1999 murder of hit man Ronnie Jarrett, killed outside his Bridgeport home, was believed to have been ordered by mobster Frank Calabrese (brother of Nick Calabrese), who last week was sentenced to life, but was never charged with the Jarrett hit.

One incredibly puzzling death hasn't even been listed as a hit. Outfit bookie and city worker Nick "The Stick" LoCoco—tangled in the City Hall Hired Truck scandal—loved to ride horses. In November 2004, the bookie went for a canter in the woods, fell off his steed and died. On a Sunday, with NFL games under way and money on the line, a bookie goes for a horseback ride? Isn't that odd?

Marcello will have plenty of time to ponder all this and read my column while munching on his Fritos, day after day after day. Betcha Jimmy can't eat just one.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The "Other" Calabrese

He was just convicted in a string of armed robberies, but federal authorities now suspect him of committing several more serious crimes.

He's known as "The *Other* Calabrese."

This is the story of Anthony Calabrese, who carries the same last name as one of Chicago's most notorious mob families.

Anthony is not even related to the bloodthirsty Calabreses, who made news last summer during the operation Family Secrets mob murder trial. But Anthony Calabrese is in the same line of work as his infamous namesakes.

There have been 1,100 mob hits in Chicago since the Roaring Twenties. The last known gangland murder occurred in the entryway of a west suburban restaurant. Mobster Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiarmonti was chased and gunned down in 2001 by an assassin who escaped in a getaway minivan. Two months later, at Tony C's Auto Shop in Alsip, business owner Anthony "Tony C" Calabrese convened a meeting.

**Strip off your clothes," barked a twitchy Calabrese, concerned one of his underlings had turned on him and was wearing a hidden FBI tape recorder, which he was. But they never found it.

"You know to keep your mouth shut. I mean, you understand what'll happen?" asked Calabrese.

"Tony, do I look like I wanna be dead?" answered the associate.

Calabrese threatened to kill the associate if he went to the feds. Investigators believe Calabrese was paranoid that authorities would connect him to the parking lot murder of Chiaramonti two months earlier. At one point, Calabrese and one of his henchmen pounced on the suspected rat.

The tape was played last week by federal prosecutors, who had charged Calabrese in a series of suburban stick-ups. Calabrese's accomplice during the recorded attack, Robert Cooper, testified that it was a "stomping" with "steel-toe boots." Cooper helped convict Calabrese of armed robberies in Morton Grove, Maywood and Lockport. Judge Amy St. Eve allowed the violent tape to be played over Calabrese's objections.

Calabrese's lawyer admits the tape wasn't pretty and did-in the hoodlum in the eyes of the jury.

Cooper has also admitted to police that he was Calabrese's partner in the murder of Tony The Hatch. Cooper is now serving time for driving the getaway vehicle. Calabrese has never been charged with the Chiaramonti hit, although authorities are said to be building a murder case against him. At age 47, he faces a minimum 50 years behind bars just for the stick-ups.

Calabrese's lawyer says that amounts to a life sentence.

Federal agents hope such a bleak existence behind bars might entice Calabrese to cooperate and give up the names of top Chicago Outfit bosses who arranged Chiarmonti's murder.

Mob experts say Calabrese has reported to James "Jimmy I" Inendino. The I stands for ice-pick, which Mr. Inendino has been known to use for eye examinations. "Jimmy I" is considered a leader in the mob's 26th Street crew, a rigid organization where hoodlums like Calabrese are bred to go down with the ship.

Calabrese's lawyer says that Anthony believes he was brought into the world as a man and will go out as a man.

As meticulous as Anthony Calabrese was running his criminal ventures, and as paranoid as he was that someone might turn on him, Calabrese somehow missed the tape recorder that probably did him in. He even strip searched the guy, desperate to find a recorder. It was there somewhere, rolling and recording, even as Calabrese punched and stomped his way to mob infamy.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Alleged Mob Associate: "We Put the Boots to Him..."

The former right-hand man of reputed mob killer Anthony Calabrese had a simple explanation for jurors Tuesday about how the two men roughed up a suspected snitch.

"We both got to stomping," explained Robert Cooper, testifying against his former friend on the second day of Calabrese's trial.

"We put the boots to him. We both had steel-toed boots," Cooper said.

The victim, Edmund Frank, really was an informant and happened to be wearing a secret recording device for the feds while taking the beating. Jurors might hear a recording of the brutal attack today.

Calabrese is the chief suspect in the last known mob hit in the Chicago area, the 2001 shooting death of top mobster Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, as well as the 1997 attempted murder of a Naperville woman.

Cooper pleaded guilty to helping Calabrese in the 2001 mob hit and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. While Calabrese hasn't been charged with the murder and attempted murder, he's on trial for three armed robberies of suburban businesses, including the 2001 ripoff of a leather jacket store in Morton Grove.

Calabrese faces more than 50 years behind bars if convicted, and investigators hope that long prison sentence can persuade him to reveal who hired him for the mob hit and the attempted murder.

On Tuesday, Cooper told jurors that he and Calabrese took part in the leather goods store robbery.

Cooper began cooperating in 2002, saying he was motivated by threats against his family, not the reduced prison time he eventually received for the murder.

Cooper said he fears Calabrese to this day, even though Cooper is in witness protection while in federal prison.

When asked by Calabrese's attorney whether Calabrese is the only person he's afraid of, Cooper answered, "At the moment, yes, he is."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, January 07, 2008

Beating by Reputed Mob Killer Caught on Tape

Reputed mob killer Anthony Calabrese was upset with his alleged partner in crime, Edmond Frank. The hulking Calabrese wondered if Frank was ratting him out to the cops.

So Calabrese and another man allegedly began beating Frank. And all of it was captured on a secret audio recording made by the FBI.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Frank pleaded as he was beaten at Calabrese's car detailing shop in the south suburbs, according to a 17-page government transcript of the conversation obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

"C-------er," Calabrese swore at Frank.

"F---ing did everything for you, you're gonna act like that to me," Calabrese said.

"I'm sorry, Tony," Frank replied.

The beating began after Frank enraged Calabrese by refusing to say what hotel he was staying at, according to the transcript of the January 2002 conversation. Frank said he didn't feel safe giving Calabrese that information.

Calabrese had Frank strip-searched but didn't find any hidden recording devices.

"The recording device worn by Frank was in fact secreted elsewhere," a government filing notes, without specifying where the device was.

Calabrese allegedly threatened to kill Frank's wife and child and suggested his wife could be gang-raped, according to the transcript.

Frank walked out of the confrontation alive, but FBI agents took him to a hospital, where he was treated for his injuries from the beating.

Even after Frank left Calabrese's shop, the secret recorder was still running, and Frank could be heard complaining about his injuries.

"My head's killing me," Frank said.

"Are you dizzy?" an FBI agent asked him.

"My head hurts; it's numb over here," Frank complained.

Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Joel Hammerman want to introduce the secretly recorded conversation at Calabrese's trial next month on charges he took part in the armed robberies of three suburban businesses.

The prosecutors argue the beating and intimidation shows Calabrese's guilty state of mind.

Calabrese's attorney, Steven Hunter, is fighting introduction of the tape, saying it has nothing to do with the armed robberies and will prejudice the jury against his client.

Calabrese, 47, is no relation to Frank Calabrese Sr., who was found responsible for seven Outfit murders in the recent Family Secrets mob trial in Chicago.

Still, Anthony Calabrese is a suspected gunman in the Outfit murder of Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, a top mobster slain in 2001 at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta in south suburban Lyons, according to a federal court filing.

He is also a suspect in the 1997 attempted murder of the ex-wife of his friend, Randall Re, in west suburban Naperville, authorities said. Re is also a suspect in the case, which Naperville police continue to investigate.

Calabrese has not been charged with either crime. But he effectively faces life in prison if convicted on the armed robbery charges under federal sentencing guidelines. Federal authorities hope to use that leverage to find out from Calabrese who allegedly hired him for the Chiaramonti murder and the Re shooting, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Calabrese has ties to the Chicago Outfit and a motorcycle gang, sources said.

"I know him as a businessman," said attorney Joseph Lopez, who represented Calabrese in a case in which Calabrese was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in a baseball-bat attack on a man in Florida.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Bits and Pieces, Inc.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mobster's Son Testifies Against Dad at Trial

Frank Calabrese Jr. had barely introduced himself and testified that he lettered in football at Holy Cross High School before his father sneered and leaned over to whisper into his lawyer's ear.

The start of his testimony Tuesday was one of the most anticipated moments of the trial -- code named Family Secrets because defendant Frank Calabrese Sr.'s son and brother had done the unthinkable, squealing on a reputed mob brother and blood relative.

The 47-year-old Calabrese Jr., stricken with multiple sclerosis, limped into court on a cane, taking the witness stand a mere 10 yards from his father. Even though Calabrese Sr. swiveled his chair for a direct look at his son, the two did not appear to make eye contact.

He was on the stand for just 45 minutes before jurors were sent home for the holiday, but Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully led the younger Calabrese through a quick personal history: how he joined the family's mob business as just a high schooler and now operates a pizza joint. He said he's been living near Phoenix running a strip-mall restaurant that serves pizza "Chicago style."

The balding Calabrese testified in a white casual shirt with thin green stripes, his remaining hair buzzed close. He leaned into the microphone to answer each question and occasionally paused to take sips from a water bottle.

Calabrese testified he was a teenager when he joined the 26th Street crew, collecting quarters from peep-show booths in mob-controlled pornography shops with his uncle Nicholas. It is Nicholas Calabrese, Frank Calabrese Sr.'s brother, who is expected later in the trial to implicate his brother in as many as 13 decades-old gangland slayings.

Eventually, Calabrese Jr. said, he graduated to keeping the books -- gambling, juice-loan and street-tax records -- with his father.

Once, Calabrese said, his father took him along when he slapped around an associate nicknamed "Peachy" for spending Outfit gambling money. Another time, his father had him use a flare to ignite kerosene against the garage of someone who wasn't following orders. "He wasn't taking care of his obligations to us," Calabrese said.

The elder Calabrese, 70, sat with a sarcastic smile through much of the testimony, talking repeatedly to his lawyer, Joseph Lopez. His son appeared to focus mostly on the prosecutor asking questions from a few feet away. In the son's brief time Tuesday on the witness stand, no mention was made of the hidden recording device Calabrese wore to secretly tape conversations with his father while the two were imprisoned in Michigan in the 1990s.

That promises to be the highlight of the son's testimony in the trial's coming days. But Calabrese revealed how his relationship with his father soured.

Calabrese said he was moving from job to job and using powder cocaine when he went to one of his father's hiding spots and stole $200,000 in cash to help open a Lake Street restaurant. Later, he went back for hundreds of thousands of dollars more, he said. "I blew all the money," he said. "I just would spend it all wildly."

On discovering the thefts, his father slapped him and threatened him, Calabrese testified. At one point, his father drove him to an Elmwood Park garage where Outfit "work cars" were kept. "He pulled out a gun and stuck it in my face and said, 'I'd rather have you dead than disobey me,'" Calabrese said. "I started crying. I started hugging and kissing him.

"I said, 'Help me. Help me do the right thing,'" he said.

After court Tuesday, Lopez, the elder Calabrese's lawyer, told reporters that his client had not been fazed by the son's testimony. "He's happy to see his son," Lopez said.

Asked why the elder Calabrese appeared to be smiling during parts of his son's testimony, Lopez replied, "He's a happy-go-lucky fellow." But another government witness Tuesday painted a starkly different portrait of the elder Calabrese. James Stolfe, the soft-spoken co-founder of the well-known Connie's Pizza restaurant chain, said he made "extortion payments" to Frank Calabrese Sr. and the Chicago Outfit for 20 years beginning in the 1980s.

Stolfe said he sold his 1962 Oldsmobile Starfire to buy his first Connie's location on West 26th Street near Chinatown, and he operated for nearly two decades before the mob paid a visit. Stolfe said he thought the two men, one large and one small, were salesmen, but he quickly learned differently.

Stolfe didn't have time to talk, he said he told them. "They said, 'Find time,'" he said.

The two demanded $300,000 -- or else, Stolfe testified. "They said that it was no joke, and if I didn't pay that I was gonna get hurt," he said.

Stolfe said he went to Calabrese, whom he knew from the Bridgeport neighborhood where the two had grown up, to intercede on his behalf. Strangely enough, Stolfe said, Calabrese had just been to his office for the first time in years, the only hint in Tuesday's testimony that Calabrese was in on the extortion from the beginning.

Calabrese said he would see what he could do, Stolfe said, and soon said the payment "only" had to be $100,000. Fearing that he could be beaten or his business burned down, Stolfe said, he agreed to pay. He said he handed over the first payment of $50,000 cash to Calabrese.

That prompted the prosecutor to ask Stolfe if he saw Calabrese in the courtroom. Calabrese, in a gray jacket over a black shirt, didn't stand up but stuck up a hand and waved toward the witness stand as Stolfe pointed him out.

The white-haired Stolfe, 67, said he confided in only his close associate, Donald "Captain D" DiFazio, about the payoffs, keeping even his wife in the dark.

Stolfe said he eventually put Calabrese on the payroll as a "spotter," ostensibly to keeptrack of pizza delivery trucks. In reality, it was to hide the monthly payoffs of about $1,000.

Stolfe acknowledged Tuesday that he had lied to a grand jury investigating Calabrese in 1990, concealing the nature of the payoffs to Calabrese and his relationship with the reputed mobster. He told jurors Tuesday that he had been intimidated by Calabrese. Stolfe said Calabrese even invited himself on his family vacations.

On cross-examination, attorney Lopez tried to portray the two as pals. "Did anyone put a gun to your head and say you had to go play handball with him?" Lopez asked.

The attorney pointed out that when Stolfe halted the payoffs in 2002 when the Family Secrets investigation became public, no one burned down a Connie's Pizza restaurant. Prosecutors also called DiFazio to the stand, who testified that he carried the payoffs to the mob for years. For the final payoffs, DiFazio said, he gave the cash-filled envelopes to Frank Calabrese Jr., who was already wearing a wire for the feds.

DiFazio, testifying with a gravelly voice and heavy Chicago accent, said he is still director of special events for Connie's. "I'm supposed to be at Taste of Chicago," he said.

He said he still lives in Bridgeport and described each mob figure he testified about as "another tough guy."

He said he was once confronted by Anthony "Tony the Hatch" Chiaramonti when Connie's sought to open a location in Lyons. Those plans were scrapped, DiFazio said. "The name speaks for itself," he said of Chiaramonti, who was gunned down at a chicken restaurant in the suburb in 2001.

On cross-examination, Lopez sometimes made small talk with DiFazio, who wore an expensive-looking suit. The attorney, who had exchanged his trademark pink socks for red ones Tuesday to match a blazing red tie, said he had heard DiFazio is a sharp dresser.

"You were a tough guy, too, weren't you?" Lopez asked. "The whole neighborhood was filled with tough guys."

DiFazio finally gave in. "Absolutely," he said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Up-and-Coming Mobsters Will Replace Old Guard

The Family Secrets prosecution was a heavy blow to the Chicago Outfit, but surely not a fatal one, longtime observers of the city's organized crime syndicate say.
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If it finally removes some of the mob's biggest names from the scene, younger players are in place to step in and take over, the experts said. There always have been, after all, even in the wake of a case such as Family Secrets, which implicated an unprecedented three "made" members of the mob.

Street "sins" such as gambling, prostitution and narcotics are profitable, and organized crime will be there to control them and collect a cut, they said.

Up-and-coming mobsters step over the old guys, known as "Mustache Petes," said former FBI agent Lee Flosi.

"There are always guys who are anxious to get up the ladder and take over," said Flosi, who now works as a consultant. "The Outfit's not dead.

"They're masters of changing colors. They're chameleons," he said.

Today's Chicago Outfit may be smaller and more spread out, experts said, with more members living in the suburbs than in the city. But the syndicate still has influence in vice, labor unions and political corruption, Flosi said.

Organized-crime observers said the Outfit has evolved and taken on a lower profile as prosecutions have mounted over the years. The Chicago mob has improved its methods, experts said, having become better at hiding its activities and laundering money through legitimate businesses.

"They'll stay in control of what they have always controlled, as long as they're willing to enforce it with an occasional body in a trunk," Flosi said.

The last known mob hit occurred in November 2001 when Anthony "Tony the Hatch" Chiaramonti was shot in a suburban chicken restaurant. His name has surfaced in the Family Secrets case as an associate of some of the men facing trial. But one Outfit figure whose name also has surfaced in the case has been missing for months. Anthony Zizzo, a reputed underboss, was last seen leaving his Westmont home in August. Days later his Jeep turned up abandoned at a restaurant in Melrose Park.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Federal Probe Alleges Mobster Involved in Naperville Hit

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, Anthony Chiaramonti

It was a crime in the heart of Naperville that had the markings of a mob hit.

Rosemarie Re was shot seven times in broad daylight July 16, 1997, outside Linden Oaks Hospital, where she was to meet her estranged husband to discuss one of their children. Police found Randall G. Re in the hospital lobby after the shooting, and the husband denied involvement. The gunman escaped, but detectives have suspected for almost 10 years Re was behind the attempted hit on his wife, who survived.

Their investigation sparked unrelated federal charges that landed Re and a reputed mob enforcer - who authorities say may be the gunman - in prison for extortion. As Re's accomplice, Anthony N. Calabrese, faces new allegations in the federal probe, authorities are hoping for a break in the long-unsolved attempted murder.

On Monday, Naperville police Detective Mike Cross met with top DuPage County prosecutors to discuss why there might now be enough evidence to indict the 52-year-old ex-husband on solicitation to commit murder charges. Rosemarie Re also met with the prosecutors.

The 51-year-old woman underwent 15 surgeries and still has three bullets lodged in her body. She lives in Venice, Fla., with the former couple's three children, now ages 21 to 16, and suffers from chronic pain. "I feel like it's close," she said after the meeting. "I'm real optimistic." Charges may come in the attempted murder by year's end, sources said.

Rosemarie Re filed for divorce six months before she was shot. The Lisle woman survived after spending three months in Edward Hospital, where she was guarded around the clock and registered under an assumed name. She remained in a coma for six weeks.

Police released Randall Re without charges after 24 hours of questioning, but they said he remained the prime suspect.

In April 2003, Re and Calabrese were sentenced to seven years in prison for trying to shake down a Florida businessman in 1997. Calabrese, a reputed member of the Chicago Outfit's Bridgeport-Chinatown Crew, beat the businessman with a baseball bat after he opened a warehouse in Florida next to one Re owned.

Rosemarie Re hasn't been able to identify her shooter. Law enforcement officials suspect Randall Re paid Calabrese at least $10,000 to do the hit.

Both men remain in federal prison. Re is scheduled for release in February 2009. Last month, prosecutors indicted Calabrese and four others in connection with three armed robberies in the Lockport and Morton Grove areas. Calabrese, 45, formerly of Lockport, is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Federal authorities also are investigating Calabrese in connection with an unrelated mob shooting, this one deadly. He surfaced as the suspected triggerman who killed loan collector Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti Nov. 20, 2001, in the vestibule of a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant on Harlem Avenue in Lyons, according to a federal indictment. The getaway driver who implicated Calabrese in the Lyons murder, Robert G. Cooper of Bridgeport, is serving a 22-year federal prison term after pleading guilty in 2003 to first-degree murder.

Although Calabrese has not been charged with killing Chiaramonti, authorities hope the two ongoing federal probes will lead to a break in the Naperville case. Cross recently interviewed Randall Re, and Calabrese and his co-defendants in the three armed robberies.

This development is just the latest in the twisted saga. The investigation was complicated in 1998 when a DuPage County judge allowed Randall Re's divorce lawyers to question Cross. Cross, whose work led to the federal charges, was forced to reveal some of the details of the attempted murder investigation during the deposition. Both former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan and DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett unsuccessfully fought the court order requiring Cross to testify.

Also, one of Randall Re's divorce attorneys was disbarred for stealing $2.5 million from his clients, including money from the sale of Re's warehouse meant for his children. Rosemarie Re has since recouped most of her losses. But in a development that netted some progress in the case, police in August 2002 recovered at the bottom of the Cal-Sag Channel in Alsip the .22-caliber gun used in the Re shooting. Police said the gun was found just a block from a business owned by Calabrese, who an informant involved in the Florida case said was known to toss his weapons in the channel. A ballistics test done at the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Va., later confirmed it was the one used in the Re shooting, officials said.

Despite all of the twists, Rosemarie Re said she remains hopeful and is indebted to the Naperville Police Department, especially Cross, for never giving up on her case. "When I remember those nanoseconds of the shooting, I still feel the searing pain, like it was yesterday," she said. "Victims never forget.

"I'll always suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and will probably always be in counseling, but at least (with charges) my kids and I will have closure. We can move on with our lives."

Thanks to Christy Gutowski

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Missing Mobster?

Friends of ours: Anthony Zizzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Anthony Chiaramonti, Anthony Spilotro, James Marcello
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Phillip Goodman

Westmont police Wednesday asked the public for information about the whereabouts of Anthony Zizzo, an elderly organized crime figure who was last seen Aug. 31 driving away from his home in the suburb.

While the Police Department is taking the lead in the investigation, which was launched after Zizzo's wife filed a missing person report, federal authorities are now also participating in the investigation, law enforcement sources said.

Westmont officials confirmed Wednesday that Zizzo's vehicle was recovered Saturday in the parking lot of a restaurant in Melrose Park. Police said he suffers from kidney failure and did not take medication with him when he left home.

Zizzo's wife reported him missing Friday morning. She had last seen him the day before as he drove away from their home in the 5700 block of South Cass Avenue, police said. When last seen, Zizzo, who is 5-foot-3 and 200 pounds, was wearing a gray shirt, black pants, a black windbreaker and black athletic shoes. He has thinning gray hair, blue eyes and wears metal-rimmed glasses.

It is unclear what his plans were when he left home, but some sources familiar with the case said he may have been headed for a meeting in the Rush Street area of Chicago.

Zizzo, 71, was a major figure in the organization of mob kingpin Sam Carlisi and went to prison with his boss and several others in 1993. He was released in 2001.

Zizzo, who lived in Melrose Park before his conviction, was described as the No. 3 person in command of the late Carlisi's crew. He supervised loan sharking and gambling operations, prosecutors said.

According to court records, Zizzo was the former boss of a Carlisi crew enforcer and debt collector, Anthony Chiaramonti, who was gunned down outside a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Lyons in November 2001. That killing was the last-known hit in the Chicago mob world.

At the time of Zizzo's conviction, federal authorities said he and some co-defendants were believed to have information about several unsolved mob murders. Each was named in connection with events that preceded the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro and bookmaker Phillip Goodman, according to a prosecution filing in the Carlisi case. It did not link anyone to the actual crimes, however.

Last year, federal prosecutors charged several reputed Chicago mob leaders in connection with a number of unsolved murders. Zizzo was not named, but one of his 1993 co-defendants, James Marcello, was charged in the massive federal conspiracy case.

Thanks to David Heinzmann and Jeff Coen

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Family Secrets Crackdown Just the Latest Hit on the Mob

Among the 14 alleged mob bosses and associates indicted last week by a federal grand jury were three "made" members who enjoy lofty status in the organized crime underworld.

Prosecutors said the indictments were historic for Chicago because never before had so many high-ranking bosses of La Cosa Nostra been taken down in a single criminal case. The mob, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said, had taken a hit. But the truth is the Outfit has been wounded for some time.

A series of successful federal prosecutions over the years have put many bosses behind bars and have forced mobsters and their associates into much lower profiles. "Over the last 20 years, it's been one blow after another," said Lee Flosi, a former FBI agent who supervised the organized crime task force in the early 1990s.

The mob has downsized from six street crews to four. The number of organized crime associates--individuals the crews need for muscle, loan sharking, debt collecting and sports betting--also has dwindled.

"Made" members, who are typically of Italian descent and have committed one murder on behalf of the mob, have become an endangered species.

The Como Inn
The last known induction into the mob took place in 1984 at the Como Inn, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, although there may have been other induction ceremonies since, according to former organized crime investigators.

The FBI estimates that Chicago now only has 25 "made" members and another 75 organized crime associates. Federal authorities said that 15 years ago the mob had 50 "made" members and as many as 400 associates.

Mob violence has dropped off, as well.

The last known successful mob hit occurred in Nov. 20, 2001. That's when Anthony "Tony the Hatch" Chiaramonti, a top figure in the Outfit's South Side rackets, was gunned down in the vestibule of a west suburban chicken restaurant. The 67-year-old Chiaramonti's murder remains unsolved.

The hit, or rub-out, was used to command loyalty, to take out rivals or to silence witnesses. According to the Chicago Crime Commission, 1,111 gangland slayings have been committed since 1919.

The latest arrests of alleged mobsters generated widespread media interest and calls from overseas talk show hosts who recall the St. Valentine's Day massacre of 1929, which led to the end of Prohibition, made Al Capone a household name and solidified Chicago as the gangster capital of the world. But the Chicago Police Department's definition of organized crime has shifted during recent decades from the Outfit to street gangs like the Latin Kings and the Black Gangster Disciples that control drug sales in the city.

"When you look at who's a bigger threat to the public, it's clear," said Cmdr. Steve Caluris, who runs the Deployment Operations Center, which coordinates all of the department's intelligence gathering. "These aren't just punks hanging out on street corners. It's organized crime." Chicago police statistics show that 1,276 murders were tied to street gangs from 2000 through 2004.

The 41-page racketeering indictment provided fresh insights into the mob's enterprise of illegal gambling, loan sharking and murder. Prosecutors charged that La Cosa Nostra bosses and "made" members were responsible for 18 gangland slayings from 1970 through 1986.

While the Outfit is still active in embezzling from union pension and benefit funds, illegal sports bookmaking, video poker machines and occasional violence, its heyday of influence passed long before Monday's indictments of James Marcello, the reputed boss of the mob; fugitive Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo; and 12 others.

Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Nicholas Calabrese were the three "made" mob members indicted, according to court records.

"Once `made,' the individual was accorded greater status and respect in the enterprise," the indictment said. "An individual who was `made' or who committed a murder on behalf of the Outfit was obligated to the enterprise for life to perform criminal acts on behalf of the enterprise when called upon."

Prosecutors had begun weakening the Chicago Outfit with a series of successes, though few of the convictions have involved mob murders.

Among the more recent major cases have been that of William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police deputy superintendent, for running a mob-connected jewelry theft ring and reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Spano Sr. for looting $12 million from town coffers.

In the 1990s, convictions included mob leaders Gus Alex, chief political fixer for decades; Lenny Patrick, a gangster for 50 years who became the highest-ranking mobster to turn government informant; Sam Carlisi, former head of the mob's day-to-day operations; Ernest "Rocco" Infelice, convicted of murdering a bookmaker who refused demands to pay "street tax"; and Marco D'Amico, a top gambling boss.

With each aging mobster who dies or goes to prison, the Outfit has not been fully successful in recruiting leadership. Still, law enforcement officials and mob watchers caution that Monday's arrests do not mean the Chicago La Cosa Nostra is near death. La Cosa Nostra--"this thing of ours" or "our thing"--is used to refer to the American mafia.

The mob controls most of the illegal sports betting in the Chicago area, remains stubbornly entrenched in the Teamsters Union and remains disturbingly effective at collecting "street taxes" as a cost to operate businesses such as strip clubs.

While federal authorities, took down alleged members and associates from the Grand Avenue, the 26th Street and Melrose Park crews, the Elmwood Park street crew was untouched. That crew, perhaps the most powerful of the four mob crews in the Chicago area, reputedly is led by John "No Nose" DiFronzo. And even though they are imprisoned, mob bosses have remained adept at running their enterprise from their cells. "They still continue illegal activities through conversations with relatives and associates. It's not going to put them out of business," said James Wagner, a 30-year FBI veteran who retired in 2000.

Court records show that Frank Calabrese Sr., a leader with the mob's 26th Street crew, did just that. Two retired Chicago police officers allegedly delivered messages between Calabrese and mobsters on the outside, including messages to determine whether Calabrese's younger brother, Nicholas, had become an mob turncoat and was cooperating with government. Frank Calabrese Sr. was right to worry; his brother had become an informant, federal authorities said.

The indictment provided sketchy data about a sports bookmaking operation that allegedly was run between 1992 and 2001 by Frank Calabrese Sr. and Nicholas Ferriola. The indictments stated that it operated in northern Illinois and involved five or more people.

Thomas Kirkpatrick, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, said illegal gambling is the mother's milk of the mob.

Kirkpatrick said he had seen one estimate from several years ago that about $100 million was bet with the Chicago mob on the NFL's Super Bowl. "That's where the money is for the mob," Kirkpatrick said. "No one else has the ability to move the money, to cover the bets, to keep the records and to collect debts. That takes an organization."

And, the chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board last week raised concerns that the current board's low staffing of investigators could let organized crime sneak into the state's nine operating riverboat casinos. Gaming officials fear that mob figures would work the casinos in search of desperate gamblers and offer them "juice loans," lending money at rates that can reach 520 percent a year.

The Chicago mob allegedly has its tentacles deep into at least six Teamsters Union locals, according to a report prepared last year by the union's anti-corruption investigators. They turned up allegations of mob influence, kickback schemes and the secret shifting of union jobs to low-wage, non-union companies.

A copy of the report had been provided to the Justice Department after the investigators alleged that union leaders acting at the direction of the Chicago mob had blocked their probe into alleged wrongdoing. "The Chicago area, more than anywhere else where Teamster entities are concentrated, continues to furnish the conditions that historically have made the union vulnerable to organized crime infiltration and systemic corruption: an organized crime family that still has considerable strength, a corrupt business and political environment and resistance to anti-racketeering reform efforts by key Teamster leaders," the report said.

In fact, the FBI's organized crime unit already is investigating some of the allegations in the report.

Agents are looking into whether hundreds of thousands of dollars were siphoned from a Teamsters benefit plan that provides dental care to Chicago-area undertakers and valets, according to sources. "The mob is the same as it always has been," said FBI spokesman Ross Rice, "just on a smaller scale."

Thanks to Todd Lighty and Matt O'Connor.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

The new 'Outfit'

In a secretly recorded conversation between two Chicago mobsters, the late "Singing Joe" Vento croons a love song of sorts about a top Outfit leader.

"You know the guy we met?" Vento asks mob enforcer Mario Rainone.

"Yeah," Rainone says.

"You think he's a nobody?" Vento asks.

"No, I know he's somebody," Rainone says.

"You better believe he's f------ somebody," Vento says.

That somebody is James Marcello.

James "Little Jimmy" Marcello has climbed his way to the top of organized crime in Chicago through murder and mayhem, law enforcement sources say. But Marcello’s biggest edge in getting the top job may simply be his age - he's only 58, a full 15 years younger than the gray old men thought to be running the show while Marcello waits to get out of prison.

At the moment, "Little Jimmy," as Marcello is known, is sitting in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., serving out his 12-1/2-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. But when he gets out next year, mob watchers say, he's expected to take on a big new job--head of the Chicago Outfit. But if Marcello is a somebody, he's still not a really big somebody--and he never will be--at least not when compared with the infamous men who ran the mob before him, powerful hoods like Al Capone, Anthony Accardo, Sam Giancana and Joseph Aiuppa.

Marcello is doomed to be a lesser mob boss because the Chicago mob itself today is less of a power, squeaking along with much less money, far fewer members and a fraction of its old political influence.

In Capone's day, his boys raked in more than $100 million a year--more than $1 billion in today's dollars. Today, the Chicago Outfit pulls in just $100 million, according to law enforcement estimates.

In the 1980s, the Chicago mob had roughly 200 "made" members, each of whom ran his own various illegal businesses. Today, according to the FBI, the mob is down to about 50 made members--not enough hoods to fill up a small prison cellblock. And in the mob's heyday, the tentacles of organized crime in Chicago, like organized crime families across the nation, reached deep into labor unions, city and suburban police departments, city halls and the Statehouse.

The mob at its most powerful was impressively diversified, drawing hundreds of millions of dollars from loan-sharking, pornography, bookmaking, prostitution, extorting legitimate businesses, looting union pension and insurance funds, ghost payroll jobs in government, burglary, profit skimming at casinos, robbing jewelry salesmen, bankrolling drug dealers and whatever else somebody could dream up to grab a buck.

Who's the MOB BOSS lite of the Chicago underworld?

For generations, there was seldom any question. Capone was the man. Then Nitti. Then this guy or that guy. Some were unfamiliar names to the public, but ask anybody paying attention—the cops, the U.S. Justice Department, some punk breaking into houses trying to make his Outfit "bones" - and they could tell you exactly who was boss of the mob. No longer. If there is a top boss now, he's more of an underworld boss lite. Law enforcement sources, disagreeing even among themselves, say one of these three men is in charge. (Some mob experts believe Lombardo runs the mob now. He's 73. Other mob watchers say John ''No Nose'' DiFronzo runs the show. He's also 73. Still others say it's Joe ''the Builder'' Andriacchi. He's 69.) Today, the mob is still into a lot of that stuff, at least along the edges, but it relies heavily on a single source of income--illegal gambling. The Chicago Outfit is simply too decimated to be doing much more, brought low by relentless federal prosecutions and changing times.

In the last 20 years, federal prosecutors in Chicago, armed with evidence produced by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, have put mob leader after mob leader behind bars--more than 150 made members, associates and workers.

Mob boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi, for whom Marcello worked as a chauffeur, died in prison in 1997. (Carlisi was sentenced to serve 13 years for convictions on mob racketeerings, loan sharking and arson in connection with an illegal gambling business in the Chicago area and the West suburbs.) Mob boss Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa went to prison in 1986 and died in 1997, a year after his release. (Joey Doves started as a gunman for Capone. He served time for skimming profits from the Mob's interests in its Las Vegas casinos.) Top mob counselor Angelo "the Hook" LaPietra went to prison in 1986 and died in 1999, shortly after his release. ("The Hook" was a member of the Mob's 26th Street Crew that patrolled South of the Eisenhowser Expressway including the gambling dens of Chinatown and Chop Shops on the Southside.) Top mob lieutenant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo went to prison in 1982 and was released in 1992.

What's left of the mob's leadership is getting old. This, of course, assumes that anybody is really in charge. Adding to the Outfit's problems, many top mobsters moved from the city to the suburbs years ago, abandoning those tough old Chicago neighborhoods that were always the mob's best recruiting grounds. New talent can be hard to find.

The Chicago Outfit today makes most of its money from illegal gambling. Those video poker machines in the back of local bars and social clubs feed millions a year to the mob. Illegal sports gambling, whether through a neighborhood bookie or an offshore betting operation somewhere in Central America, feeds millions of dollars more to the mob.

The mob also continues, though at a slower pace, to finance drug deals, engage in loan-sharking--lending money at exorbitant rates to those people no bank will touch--and to wield influence in organized labor, despite a strong federal effort to purge the mob from such unions as the Laborers and the Teamsters.

Indeed, the mob's continued influence within unions remains so strong that it--along with the mob's influence in politics--will be the subject of a future installment of the Chicago Sun-Times' "Crime, Inc." series.

As the sons of old-time mobsters pick up law degrees and MBAs, the new Chicago mob also has developed a fondness for setting up quasi-legit companies, such as insurance firms, designed to rip off clients at the first opportunity.

One example the feds point to is Specialty Risk Consultants, a reputed Outfit insurance company that is accused of siphoning more than $12 million out of the town of Cicero.

That scheme, though, didn't fare well on two fronts. Eight reputed players in the scam, including Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, are on trial in federal court, and the jury in the case is expected to start its seventh day of deliberations Monday. (On January 9th, 2003, Betty Loren-Maltese revieved a sentence of eight years in prison from U.S. District Judge John Grady)

While the scam showed some sophistication, the profits from it weren't invested well. Key members of the scheme are accused of plowing millions of dollars into an isolated Wisconsin golf course that they had hoped to turn into a casino. The feds dubbed it the mob's "Fantasy Island," and that's all it ever was. No casino ever opened, and a white elephant remains.

Though the Chicago mob's top leadership has been decimated, young Turks have begun to turn more to violence, threatened and real, according to FBI experts and other law enforcement sources. Most obviously, two men have been shot dead in mob hits in recent years, but there's also the cheap day-to-day viciousness.

Consider, for example, the business tactics of the Giuliano brothers, Thomas and Christopher, who were convicted in 1999 of using muscle--beating a man up--to force the man to pay gambling debts. The victim owed Thomas Giuliano $75,000 and was told that amount would skyrocket to $200,000 in about 30 days if he didn't pay up. Thomas Giuliano, 33, allegedly warned the victim that he should show up to one meeting or "I'm gonna come through the window and grab you." When the brothers finally did track down their man, at his place of work, Christopher Giuliano, 29, grabbed the man's neck with both hands and began pushing his head into the wall. Fortunately, FBI agents, who had the business under surveillance, rushed in and saved him.

Or consider the case of alleged mob soldier Anthony Giannone, from suburban Bartlett, who made this colorful threat to a man who owed him $55,000: "When I find you, every day it rains, I'm gonna make you remember me." The implied threat, authorities explained, was that Giannone would break the man's bones. And even after the victim healed, his mauled body would ache when it rained.

Who's the boss?

Is it Joey the Clown?

Or No Nose?

Or the Builder?

The fact that mob watchers are not even sure who's running the Chicago Outfit these days--Lombardo, DiFronzo or Andriacchi--is seen by some as a sign of great sophistication.

"That very fact that you need to ask that question shows how effective the Outfit is," argues St. Xavier University Professor Howard Abadinsky, who has written on Chicago organized crime.

Or it could mean there is no clear leader willing to step up and take the heat from the feds, other observers argue.

The Chicago mob, Abadinsky points out, wisely keeps a low profile, especially compared with the New York mob, which has a way of gathering headlines through gunplay. Or as then mob boss Tony Accardo once told FBI agents in the early 1970s, "We're gentlemen in Chicago. They're savages in New York." But there have been those two mob hits in the last three years. In 1999, mobster Ronald Jarrett was shot dead outside his Bridgeport home. Two years later, Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti was shot outside a Brown's Chicken & Pasta in south suburban Lyons. And so, some observers wonder if the violence will escalate over turf disputes.

Abadinsky, for one, doubts it. "They've been successful, they've been controlled, they are much more hierarchical," he said. "They've been able to control the kind of violence that would generate attention."

To rise to the top of any organization, you have to build an impeccable resume and pay your dues. And it helps to have family in right places.

By these standards, law enforcement sources say, James Marcello is perfectly positioned to take command of the Chicago Outfit. Especially given his relative youth--he's 58.

He worked for Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation as a laborer from 1960 to 1973, but it has been his other jobs, like working as the No. 2 man for "Wings" Carlisi, that spoke to his true talents.

Marcello, who lived in the Lombard area, has shown he's crafty and paranoid about surveillance. He's feared. And stone-cold ruthless.

At his trial, prosecutors said Marcello took part in planning the hit of a mob associate, Anthony "Jeeps" Daddino, which never took place, and was a prime mover behind the unsuccessful torching of the Lake Theatre in Oak Park. But Marcello is best known in mob circles for his alleged part in the slayings of the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and Spilotro's brother Michael.

In 1986, the Spilotros were stripped to their underwear, beaten senseless and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. No one has ever been charged in the case, but investigators have long believed Marcello helped set up the brothers for the hit.

Marcello's brother-in-law is former Chicago police officer William Galioto, whom the Chicago Crime Commission named a mob lieutenant in its 1997 organization chart.

Galioto was an investor in a new movie studio being planned on the West Side in 1995. The project attracted front-page headlines--and fell apart--when Mayor Daley killed a $5.5 million low-interest loan for the studio after learning about the mob ties. And Marcello's nephew is John Galioto, business manager of Laborers' Local 225 in Des Plaines until it was forced into trusteeship in the late 1990s because of alleged ties to organized crime and extravagant spending. Both Galiotos have denied any connection to organized crime.

Even without such impressive connections, Marcello's name is enough to invoke dread. Take, for instance, this secretly recorded conversation between Richard Spizziri, who worked for Marcello, and a man behind on juice loan payments.

"I don't want to give this to Little Jimmy," Spizziri says. "If I give this to Jimmy, he's gonna send somebody. He's gonna send f------ . . . f------ nine guys out, and they will find you."

During another chat, Spizziri describes the talents of the dedicated professionals to be dispatched.

"I don't want youse to get hurt," he tells the debtor. "I really don't want you to get hurt, 'cause they don't send f------ people like Sean," Spizziri says, referring to a big guy who works for him.

"Sean's a f------ goof. . . . Sean does what you tell him to do, a couple of slaps and it's over.

"These people, when they send these people, they like what they're doin'. This is their job.

"They love it."

Reported by Steve Warmbir


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