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Showing posts with label Dominick Palermo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dominick Palermo. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Crimes are Organized, But are They Organized Crime?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betting on crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illegal gambling in Northwest Indiana also persists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Joe Carlson

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chicago Mob Time Line: January 1, 1985

Friends of ours: Sal DeLaurentis, Chuckie English, Sam Giancana, Joe Ferriola, Fifi Buccieri, Turk Torello, Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Fat Tony Salerno, Genovese Crime Family, Dominic Palermo, Tony Spilotro, Rocco Infelise, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Michael Carracci, Jackie Cerone
Friends of mine: Hal Smith, Dom Angelini, Chris Petti


IN THE YEAR 1985: Sal DeLaurentis was strongly suspected of playing a role in the torture murder of a bookmaker named Hal Smith. A few months before federal investigators caught Solly D on tape telling Smith that he would be "trunk music" unless he made a $6,000 a month street tax payment to him.

- Chuckie English, Sam Giancana's top aide, died with vast interests in the Phoenix area, real estate and construction.

- Joe Ferriola, AKA Joe Negall, was now the boss over the Chicago mob. He had been with Fifi Buccieri's crew until Buccieri died, and Turk Torello took over. When he died, Ferriola took over and eventually assumed control of all the gambling in Chicago.

It was widely assumed that Tony Accardo was still in charge of the organization, just as Paul Ricca had been in charge when Accardo and Giancana were running things.

- Tony Accardo sold his condo on Harlem avenue and moved into affluent Barrington Hills, to live on the estate with his daughter Marie, Mrs. Ernie Kumerow. Mr. Kumerow is a union official.

- Fortune magazine declares that Tony Accardo is the second ranked boss in the country behind Fat Tony Salerno in New York of the Genovese family.

- According to Dominic Palermo's wife, who was an FBI informant, her husband Dominic got the order to kill the Spilotro brothers at a meeting he attended at the Czech Restaurant in Chicago. Palermo said that Joe Ferriola ordered the hit and Rocco Infelise gave it his okay.

Palermo, who worked for the very mobbed up Chicago Laborers local 5, was left behind in the cornfield by the other killers after they took the Spilotro's out. Palermo walked five miles to a phone both and called his wife, told her what happened and had her pick him up.

From that information, the FBI was able to locate the Spilotro bodies. The corpses were not, as the story so often goes, discovered when a farmer plowed them up. Rather, the Chicago office of the FBI probably spread that story to cover its informants.

- The Chicago mob's new boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo decided to try and skim money out of legalized gambling at the Rincon Indian resort, on a federal reservation in San Diego County, California. It was a last ditch attempt to keep their grip on the Nevada gambling scene but the entire scam was a disaster.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The first time the reservation scam was discussed was in July of 1985, between DiFronzo, Dom Angelini, who, at the time was Chicago's man in Vegas, and underboss, Sam "Wings" Carlisi at a meeting held at Rocky's Restaurant in suburban Melrose Park, Illinois.

The plan was to finance the tribe's venture into gambling, take over the operations, skim money from the casinos as well as use it to launder money from narcotics sales. Dom Angelini placed Chris Petti, the outfit's man in San Diego, in charge of the takeover. Petti was ordered to deal directly with Angelini's brother-in-law, Michael Caracci, a soldier in the DiFronzo crew.

To work the scam, Caracci called Petti at the same San Diego pay phone they had been using for years, which, unknown to them the FBI had tapped years before. They decided that although the Rincon deal looked good, Chicago didn't want to sink any money into it.

But that they would, however, get involved if an outside source wanted to put up the financing to take over the Indian gambling resort. Petti made contact with Peter Carmassi, whom he had been told was a money launderer for a Columbian drug cartel.

Carmassi, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, showed interest in the Rincon casino deal. In several tape recorded and filmed meetings with undercover agent Carmassi, Petti laid out the entire scam to take over the Rincon reservation gambling concession.

On January 9, 1992, the government indicted Petti, DiFronzo, Carlisi and the reservation's lawyer, on 15 counts of criminal conspiracy. DiFronzo and Angelini were convicted and got a 37-month sentence, with fines approaching one million dollars.

- Corbitt joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department, and was assigned to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. However, he was indicted and convicted for racketeering and obstructing justice in 1988.

- Jackie Cerone got nailed on federal charges for skimming $2,000,000 from the Stardust Casino in Vegas and was sent to prison in Texas.

Thanks to Mob Magazine

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Reputed ex-mob leader for south suburbs dies

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The murders remain unsolved.

Thanks to Stanley Ziemba

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