The Chicago Syndicate: Casey Szaflarski
Showing posts with label Casey Szaflarski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Casey Szaflarski. Show all posts

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno Found Guilty of Racketeering Conspiracy

Reputed Cicero mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno took a big fall Wednesday after he was convicted in federal court of a racketeering conspiracy charge that could put him behind bars for 25 years.

“God!” Sarno’s wife, Nicole, yelled out in the courtroom as a federal judge agreed to a prosecutor’s request that the mobster, out on bond, should be taken into custody immediately, just three days before Christmas. His daughter, Angelica, a college student who attended many days of the trial, broke down, sobbing loudly.

Sarno, 52, was convicted along with his friend, Outlaw motorcycle gang member Mark Polchan, 43, as well as the video poker king of the Chicago area, Casey Szaflarski, 52, mob bomber Sam Volpendesto, 86, and his son, Anthony, 48, a prolific thief.

The centerpiece of the case was the bombing in 2003 of a storefront in Berwyn, targeting a businessman competing with Sarno in the video poker business. No one was hurt in the pipe bomb blast, but it gutted the building.

Authorities say the case showed the Chicago Outfit outsourcing some of its dirty work — the bombing of a competitor and the later intimidation of a witness — to a motorcycle gang during a time when the Outfit was under keen pressure from the historic Family Secrets mob investigation.

Over a six-week trial, federal prosecutors Amarjeet Bhachu, Tinos Diamantatos and Michael Donovan called more than 80 witnesses, played more than 70 audio or video recordings and entered more than 300 exhibits into evidence to show a wide-ranging conspiracy, that included a slew of home robberies and jewelry store burglaries, that was investigated by the FBI, ATF and IRS.

The jury’s decision marks the third conviction for Sarno in an organized crime case. Sarno started his career in organized crime at 17 as an enforcer. Working his way up the ranks, Sarno — about 6-foot-3 and topping 300 pounds at his heaviest — has never been known as the brains of the mob but rather as a tough guy willing to inspire fear and snatch someone else’s profitable scheme. While Sarno oversaw the criminal group, he likely won’t face the most time in prison when the men are sentenced in May.

Polchan and Sam Volpendesto were convicted with taking part in the bombing of the Berwyn business and face mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years behind bars for that crime alone. Each man could be sentenced to more than 50 years behind bars — a death sentence for Sam Volpendesto.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Large Guy Trial Starts

An unusual organized crime case began Wednesday in Chicago federal court. Prosecutors say there was an alliance between the Outfit and the Outlaws. In this Intelligence Report: Why is this considered a "large" case for the government?

The Chicago Outfit has always been an insular organization, top hoodlums usually unwilling to welcome other criminal groups to the fold. So this alliance that federal prosecutors say was forged between the Outfit and the Outlaws motorcycle gang is considered unique in all of mobdom.

The largest part of this five-defendant case walked into the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday predicting victory. Michael Sarno, 52, known in mob circles as "the Large Guy," is a convicted west suburban rackets boss now on trial for allegedly ordering the 2003 firebombing of a Berwyn business that was competing against the mob's illegal video poker trade.

Standing trial with Sarno are 86-year-old Samuel Volpendesto, his son, Anthony, Mark Polchan, an admitted member of the Outlaws biker gang, and Casey Szaflarski, who allegedly ran illegal gambling operations.

According to the indictment, Sarno oversaw the Outfit-Outlaw joint venture and received a cut of the illegal wagering profits.

"I think that case provides a perfect illustration of why the Outfit is still dangerous and shouldn't be counted out," said T. Marcus Funk, former federal prosecutor. "Forming an alliance like that, being adaptable, being able to change with the circumstances, and also using being able to use violence when necessary. It may not be something done on a daily basis like it was in the 50s, but violence is still a tool for the Outfit."

The case took shape in 2008 when FBI agents raided several Outlaws clubhouses, seizing weapons, bulletproof vests and police badges-- at the same time executing search warrants on Sarno's suburban home.

As a budding hoodlum, Sarno once tipped the scales at about 400 pounds, and at that time went by the nickname "Fat Boy."

Even though he appears to have dropped a few pounds, by whatever mob moniker Wednesday, the issue of nicknames was a factor in jury selection. Several prospective jurors were dismissed after saying mob nicknames might cause them to be prejudiced against the defendants.

Several casino employees were also dismissed. Six jurors were seated to hear the case.

The mob trial will be off Thursday for federal Veterans Day and jury selection resumes on Friday morning. It is expected to last about three weeks.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Code of Silence for Reputed Mobster at Daughter's Wedding

By the time many a man and woman get married, their families aren’t speaking to each other.

In the case of an upcoming mob wedding in Chicago, though, the silence is court- ordered. A federal judge laid down the law in the wedding of Frank Caruso and Brittany Szaflarski.

Brittany’s dad, Casey Szaflarski, is the reputed video poker king of Chicago. He’s under house arrest and wanted the judge to let him out to attend his daughter’s wedding on Aug. 21 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.

The judge decided Szaflarski can go, but there’s a catch.

He can’t talk to his boss, the reputed head of the 26th Street mob crew, Frank “Toots” Caruso, who happens to be the father of the groom, also named Frank.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ordered Casey Szaflarski not to utter one word to the elder Frank Caruso, or face jail. Federal prosecutors are concerned the men could talk mob business amid the nuptials.

Casey Szaflarski was arrested in March for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation. He was put under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He is charged in the case with seven other men, including the alleged head of the Cicero mob crew, Michael Sarno. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu allege Sarno ordered the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing with Casey Szaflarski’s.

The elder Frank Caruso has not been charged in the case.

Casey Szaflarski asked the judge to let him attend a host of wedding activities. He wanted to go to his daughter’s bridal shower luncheon at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue and then the rehearsal dinner at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel Aug. 18. Casey Szaflarski also hoped to spend the night in the Palmer House, so he could attend the post-wedding brunch there the next day.

The judge nixed those requests.

As part of the judge’s ruling, prosecutors will receive a list of everyone who attends the wedding. The guest list could be interesting since the bride and groom come from families with extensive ties to organized crime.

The groom, the younger Frank Caruso, made national headlines when he was arrested for the 1997 racially charged beating of 13-year-old Lenard Clark as Clark was riding his bicycle through Armour Square. Frank Caruso was sentenced to eight years in prison. He is the great-grandson of the late Bruno Roti Sr., one of the earliest leaders of organized crime in Chicago and the head of what would become the 26th Street mob crew. The groom’s father, Frank “Toots” Caruso, was listed by the FBI as one of the Chicago mobsters who posed a threat to the safety of star mob witness Nicholas Calabrese, the onetime Outfit killer who testified in the Family Secrets case.

The bride, Brittany Szaflarski, is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a well-known mob burglar, who was accused in court papers of once paying $20,000 to one of the most corrupt judges in state history, Thomas Maloney, to acquit his son in a murder case.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reputed Mob Poker King Out on Bail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, February 08, 2010

Is Casey Szaflarski the King of Mob-Controlled Video Poker Throughout Chicagoland?

Casey Szaflarski allegedly runs a multimillion-dollar video poker business for the Chicago mob. But he's the first to tell you he has a fuzzy memory.

When lawyers in a civil case tried to figure out how much he was worth, he forgot to bring any financial documents -- even though he had been ordered to do so.

"An oversight," Szaflarski said.

He also told lawyers he doesn't own the Bridgeport home he lives in -- and isn't sure who does. He transferred his interest in the home to a trust, but wasn't sure how or when. And although federal court records suggest he's the new king of mob-controlled video poker in the Chicago area, he says he doesn't know how much he owns of Amusements Inc., a Berwyn company that distributes video gambling machines.

"Yeah, I have a bad memory," Szaflarski, 52, said at the time.

Szaflarski's bad memory got him sanctioned by the Cook County judge overseeing Szaflarski's civil case a few years ago. But that could just be the start of his problems.

Newly unsealed court documents show Szaflarski is a target of an ongoing federal investigation of mob-controlled video poker machines across the Chicago area. The investigation comes as the state has recently legalized video gaming in an effort to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into its coffers. But bars can't legally have the machines pay out until a state agency sets rules to regulate the machines and distributes licenses. Top mobsters, meanwhile, have been caught on secret FBI recordings welcoming the legalization of video poker machines, a business they have dominated over the years.

Last May, agents from the FBI, IRS and ATF simultaneously hit more than 20 Chicago and suburban bars, in one of the largest raids of its kind. Law-enforcement officials stripped the video gambling machines of their computer circuit boards, collected thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and took gambling records, according to court documents from the investigation overseen by prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

During the raids the afternoon of May 27, Szaflarski was stopped in his black H3 Hummer. He had $6,214 in cash on him. Szaflarski is accused in court documents of driving in his Hummer and making the rounds of bars where his video poker machines were located, then splitting the proceeds 50-50 with the bar owners.

The investigation of Szaflarski is part of a larger probe that has already resulted in charges against the reputed mob boss of Cicero, Michael "Fat Ass" Sarno, and an allegedly high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, Mark Polchan.

Sarno is charged with ordering a pipe-bombing in 2003 of a Berwyn video poker business that was competing with Szaflarski's company, court records show. Polchan allegedly organized the bombing and also worked to put Szaflarski's video poker machines in Outlaw clubhouses throughout the Chicago area.

To track the FBI investigation, Polchan allegedly received help from crooked suburban cops, whom he paid off with free sexual favors from prostitutes, court records show.

Szaflarski appears to have taken over the multimillion-dollar video poker distribution business of Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother Michael, court records show. James Marcello was convicted of racketeering and other crimes in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets mob trial, and his half-brother pleaded guilty to racketeering. Both are in prison.

Szaflarski told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello, court records show.

Szaflarski has allegedly contributed money from the video poker business to Sarno, who is also known as "Big Mike" and "The Large Guy," according to a federal search warrant affidavit. Sarno recently made headlines when he received permission from a federal magistrate judge to get out of house arrest so he could have Christmas Eve dinner at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

More indictments are expected in the Sarno case, but Szaflarski has not been charged with any crime.

Szaflarski could not be reached for comment, but an attorney who has represented many well-known Chicago mobsters, Joe "The Shark" Lopez, said Friday he was stunned by the allegations. "He's a businessman with a good reputation," said Lopez, who said he knows Szaflarski but does not represent him. "He's just a normal, everyday, Joe Citizen. I'm shocked to hear these allegations."

While operating a video gambling distribution business for at least 10 years, Szaflarski has managed to stay under the radar.

His wife, Denise, however, made the news during the city's Hired Truck scandal when the Chicago Sun-Times revealed she was one of the owners of a trucking firm that received more than $400,000 under the program.

Denise Szaflarski is the daughter of the late mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, who was a well-known Outfit burglar. Her brother, Rocco "Rocky" LaMantia, set up the trucking company, called Dialex Trucking. Rocky LaMantia is now in state prison, serving a six-year sentence for robbing a pawn shop.

Casey Szaflarski appears to have been making a profitable living from his business. From 2003 to 2005, he made an average of $142,000 in salary and other compensation from Amusements Inc., according to his tax records cited in a judicial order.

Szaflarski has a long history of legal battles. He was behind an unsuccessful lawsuit to throw out an Elmwood Park ban on video poker machines in town. And he's been involved in a series of lawsuits over legal bills stemming from that original case and a related one.

One of the attorneys who represented Szaflarski in the legal bill cases was Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Peraica, who is also a private attorney, said Friday he represented Szaflarski because he knew him from living in Bridgeport and from attending the same church, St. Jerome.

Peraica said he had "no idea" Szaflarski had possible connections to organized crime and has not represented him in any criminal cases.

While his client has made a good living off video poker, Peraica himself has been one of the most vocal opponents of allowing video gambling into unincorporated Cook County.

Last year, the County Board voted to ban such devices after state lawmakers decided to legalize them to fill Illinois' depleted coffers.

Szaflarski's business donated $500 in 2008 and another $500 in 2009 to Peraica's political campaign fund. Peraica said he saw no conflict in accepting the contributions. Szaflarski never mentioned the video poker ban to him, and Peraica, in fact, voted for the ban, he noted.

"This is all rather remarkable," Peraica said, pledging to return the contributions if Szaflarski is indicted.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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