The Chicago Syndicate: Family Secrets

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Showing posts with label Family Secrets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Secrets. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Family Secrets Mob Trial Convictions Upheld


An appeals court has upheld the convictions of several reputed mobsters in a landmark trial credited with delivering a body blow to Chicago's mob. But Tuesday's opinion cited at least one trial error. And a dissenting judge argued two defendants' convictions should have been reversed.

The defense asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals for a do-over of the 2007 Family Secrets trial. Their grounds included that Judge James Zagel talked to a panelist privately who told him she felt threatened. He later dismissed her.

The court said Zagel should have told attorneys about the comment but found the error was harmless.

Dissenting in part, Judge Diane Wood said she would have overturned Frank Calabresse, Sr., and James Marcello's convictions on grounds they'd been tried previously for the same crimes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Appellate Judge Raises Concerns Over Family Secrets Mob Trial Judge

A federal appellate judge has expressed misgivings about a lower court judge's contact with jurors during Chicago's highest profile mob trial in decades — one credited with helping to weaken organized crime.

The judge commented Monday as attorneys for convicted reputed mobsters argued for a do-over of the 2007 Family Secrets trial before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jurors five years ago convicted reputed mob boss James Marcello and others of racketeering conspiracy that included 18 murders.

Appellate Judge Diane Wood told Monday's hearing she's concerned by accounts that trial Judge James Zagel seemed to have "private chats" with jurors that didn't become part of the official trial record.

Defense attorney Francis Lipuma singled out how Zagel dismissed one juror without consulting the trial lawyers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teamsters Get Former Mob Bookie Hired at The Illinois Department of Transporation Along with a Check for Over $100,000 from Taxpayers

FOX Chicago's investigators have learned that the state of Illinois has been ordered to re-hire a former mob bookie, and cut him a check for more than $100,000.

Ralph Peluso was fired in 2010 after we started asking questions about how he landed on the state payroll.

He is now back on the job, thanks to the powerful Teamsters union.

Peluso allegedly took plenty of bets during his long career as an outfit bookmaker. But even he may be stunned at how he beat the odds and scored a major payday at the expense of Illinois taxpayers.

The man who was supposed to kill Peluso certainly can't believe it. "It blew me away!” Frank Calabrese Jr. said. “This is something that the people of Illinois have to look at."

Frank Calabrese Jr., spoke with FOX Chicago News in an exclusive interview via Skype from his home in Phoenix, Ariz.

He said Pelsuo was a key part of his father's outfit street crew in the 1980s and 1990s. Peluso paid Frank Calabrese Sr. $1,000 a week in street tax, in return for the mob muscle to run one of Chicago’s largest bookmaking operations. "He handled juice loans. He handled gambling,” Calabrese Jr. said. “He was our go-to guy for politicians."

Peluso - nicknamed "Curly" for obvious reasons – later fell out of favor and Calabrese Sr. wanted him killed. His feelings are clear in this prison conversation secretly recorded by the FBI.

"Gotta watch Curly,” Calabrese Jr. said. “Curly's a very treacherous son of a b****."

Peluso was scheduled to testify against Calabrese Sr., in the historic family secrets mob trial in 2007. But he got cold feet at the last minute. Still, Peluso's name surfaced 24 times during the trial, which led to the convictions of several longtime outfit leaders for nearly 20 murders going back decades.

Just months after the trial ended, Peluso quietly landed a $76,000 a year supervisor's job at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In 2010, FOX Chicago broke the story of the ex-mobster's state job and Peluso was fired for "conduct unbecoming a state employee."

Well, guess who's back on the state payroll? "I'm shocked,” Calabrese Jr. said. “I'd love to know who's backing this guy."

The teamsters are backing Peluso. They appealed his termination and won.

According to IDOT, an arbitrator recently ruled the state did not have "just cause" to fire Peluso. The arbitrator ordered him reinstated to his job, including back pay totaling more than $103,000.

IDOT said in a statement that it is disappointed: "The department aggressively defended its position and strongly disagrees with the arbitrator's decision."

"Why would the collective bargaining agreements protect someone like this?” Rep. Ed Sullivan asked. The Republican state representative is asking for an investigation into Peluso's re-hiring, as well as how the ex-mobster got the job in the first place. "With unemployment at ten percent,” Rep. Sullivan asked, “how does someone with this questionable background get a job with the state of Illinois?"

The man whose father wanted him to kill Peluso said there's a simple explanation: "That's called clout,” Calabrese Jr. said.

FOX Chicago managed to reach Peluso by phone at the IDOT maintenance yard in Schaumburg where he works. He said he had no comment and hung up.

The teamsters aren't talking, either. Repeated calls to local 916 in Springfield, which appealed Pelsuo's firing, have gone unanswered.

Thanks to Dane Placko

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Meeting Frank Calabrese Jr.

It was a tattoo that almost got Frank Calabrese killed. He'd had it etched across his back while he was in Milan prison in Michigan: a large map of America over which prison bars have been superimposed with a pair of hands reaching out through them in handcuffs. He'd designed it himself, to make a point, he says, about "how you are free in America but somehow not free".

The tattoo was drawn by a fellow inmate, against prison regulations, with the connivance of a guard whom they bribed to look the other way.

Soon after he'd had it done, Calabrese was walking around the prison exercise yard. He was wearing a wire, his torso wrapped in recording equipment like a Christmas tree. Walking beside him was one of the world's most dangerous men – a killing machine from the Chicago mob whose preferred method of assassination was the rope and knife.

Calabrese had just succeeded in enticing the other man into telling him about a succession of murders he'd committed, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael, immortalised by the film Casino. The unwitting confession was captured by the wire and recorded for later analysis by the FBI.

Suddenly the older man stopped and asked to see Calabrese's new tattoo. "Why've you been covering it up? Let me see it," he said. It was an instant death warrant. If Calabrese lifted up his shirt and revealed the wire, the older man, who was shorter than him but immensely powerful, would know he had been betrayed and would kill him on the spot with his bare hands. It was 300 yards to the prison door and Calabrese calculated he wouldn't make it, deciding instead to stand his ground and bluff it. He pulled his shirt down and refused, saying it would get him into trouble. The older man looked puzzled for a second, then relaxed and backed off.

Should Calabrese have been exposed at that moment as an FBI informant, it would have put an end to the largest mafia investigation in American history. As it was, he went on to hold many more hours of taped conversations with the older man that helped to blow apart the Chicago mob. The Outfit, the organised crime syndicate of Al Capone that had terrorised the city for 100 years, had finally got its comeuppance.

That exchange in the prison yard was significant for another, more personal, reason. The older man whom Calabrese was secretly recording, condemning him in the process to spending the rest of his life in prison, had the same name as him: Frank Calabrese. Senior. His father.

Hollywood revealed to Frank Calabrese Jr the truth about his father. Until he saw his own domestic life play out on screen, he'd assumed he was from a normal family.

Home life in the heavily Italian and mafia-frequented neighbourhood of Elmwood Park was dominated by his father's Sicilian roots. Three generations of Italian-Americans – his grandparents, parents and uncles, brothers and cousins – were crammed into the house they called the Compound. Frank Jr was the eldest of three sons, and his father's favourite.

What his father did all day was a mystery to the young boy. When other kids at school asked him how his dad made a living, he was nonplussed.

"Tell them I'm an engineer," Frank Sr would say.

"What, like a choo-choo-train engineer?"

"No, tell them I'm an operating engineer."

Calabrese was 12 when The Godfather came out. The Corleone family it portrayed was strikingly similar to his own. Art was imitating life, or was it the other way round? His father was friendly with Gianni Russo, who played Carlo Rizzi, the Godfather's son-in-law, in the movie. One night, Russo was being interviewed on a show and pulled out a knife he said had been given to him by a mobster.

"I gave him that knife," Frank Sr said as they sat watching TV.

Years later, in one of the taped conversations Frank Jr had with his father, Calabrese Sr remarked that Mario Puzo's account in the original book of the initiation ceremony for "made men" was spot on. "Whoever wrote that book, either their father or their grandfather or somebody was in the organisation," said Calabrese Sr, who, as a "made man" himself, knew what he was talking about.

"So you mean they actually pricked the hand and the candles and all that stuff?" Frank Jr asked.

"Their fingers got cut and everybody puts the fingers together and all the blood running down. Then they take pictures, put them in your hand, burn them. Holy pictures."

A few years after The Godfather came out, Frank Sr began to draw his son into the family business. It was a slow, almost imperceptible process. "He started to involve me in little things," Calabrese said. "It was like, 'Hey, son, do this for your dad. Go take this envelope, go deliver this to a store.'"

Calabrese was encouraged to keep a low profile. "We were taught to blend, to fly under the radar. My father told me to drive Fords and Chevies, not Cadillacs or BMWs. Wear baseball caps, not fedoras, ski jackets, not trenchcoats."

At 19, Calabrese was allowed to take part in mob activities, starting with collecting money from peep shows and graduating into keeping the books. It was an education of sorts. "I learned all my maths through the juice loan business." As he became more central to his father's racketeering and gambling concerns, the lessons became more specific. Calabrese was shown by his father how to hug someone to see if they were carrying a gun or wearing a wire.

Calabrese embraced his new life. "When I bought into it, I bought into it strong. Whatever my father told me to do, that's what I did. I didn't fear law enforcement, or jail, or death. If my father told me to walk full-speed into that wall, I would."

Then, at the age of 26, Calabrese was invited to take part in an initiation ceremony all of its own – his first gangland murder.

For a key prosecution witness in a massive mob case that took down 14 top mafia bosses, Frank Calabrese Jr comes across as remarkably relaxed. He's not in a witness protection scheme, lives under his own name, and when I visit him in a condo apartment outside Phoenix in Arizona, he readily opens the door and welcomes me in without so much as a frisking. How does he know I'm not a hit man sent from Chicago to exact revenge? "I don't," he says.

Calabrese looks the part of a Chicago hard man. His head is shaved, accentuating his large ears and piercing blue eyes. He's wearing a sleeveless vest and slacks, which display the product of hours spent pumping iron. When he speaks, though, Calabrese does so with a surprising softness and introspection. It's a bit like listening to Tony Soprano talking to his therapist (Calabrese is a big Sopranos fan – he watched the whole series with his mother and ex-wife, wincing at the parallels with his own family).

Hanging on the wall of his apartment is a framed photograph of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr from the original Ocean's 11. His father, he explains, was friendly with Sinatra's bodyguard.

Frank Calabrese Sr – aka Frankie Breeze – was born in 1937 into a poor Italian family on the west side of Chicago. He left school at 13 and could barely read and write. By 16 he had begun to make money as a thief and later developed a "juice" loan business, extracting exorbitant rates of return. It was a lucrative enterprise: at its peak he had $1m out on loan with collections of up to 10% per week. After the trial ended and the elder Calabrese was given multiple life sentences, the FBI searched his home and found $2m-worth of diamonds and almost $800,000 in bills and property deeds.

In 1964, Calabrese Sr was "whistled in" to the Outfit by a much-feared mafia underboss called Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra. The nickname came from what LaPietra would do to anyone who fell behind with their loan repayments: hang them on a meat hook and torture them with a cattle prod or blowtorch. Cause of death – suffocation from screaming. The younger Calabrese grew up thinking of LaPietra as "Uncle Ang".

Together with LaPietra and his own brother, Nick, Calabrese Sr developed a specialist role as the Outfit's murder squad. Calabrese Jr was given an insight into that as a teenager one night when his father came home and hurried him into the bathroom. With the fan on and the water running so no one else could hear, he breathlessly recounted a hit he'd just carried out. "We got 'im… Our guy wasn't listening to the rules, so we shotgunned him."

Those who were "retired" by Calabrese Sr and his brother included Michael "Bones" Albergo; John Mendell, who rather foolishly robbed the home of the Outfit's consigliere, Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo; a business rival called Michael Cagnoni, who was blown up in his car; rogue mobster Richard Ortiz; and Emil Vaci, a Las Vegas-based gangster the Outfit feared might inform against them. Then there were the Spilotros of Casino fame. Tony Spilotro was head of the Outfit's Vegas arm, running a gambling and "skimming" business (skimming off casino profits without telling the tax authorities). He got too big for his boots, and when the bosses found out he was having an affair with another made man's wife, they wanted him gone.

Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were lured to Chicago under the pretext that Michael would be "made" and Tony would be promoted to capo. Instead, they had ropes thrown around their necks and were strangled – the legendary "Calabrese necktie".

The younger Calabrese's own brush with murder came in 1986 when he was chosen to take part in a hit on John "Big Stoop" Fecarotta. He was to sit in the back seat of the getaway car. "I was ready to murder for my dad," Calabrese says. "You always need two guys in the car, and I was to go with my uncle Nick. If I'd crossed that line, there would have been no coming back. But my uncle talks me out of it. He tells me, 'This ain't for you. You don't want this life.' He saved me."

That was a turning point for Calabrese, in both his relationship with the mob and, by extension, with his father. When he was young, his father was loving towards him, always ready with a hug. But as Calabrese Sr came increasingly under the influence of the murderous LaPietra, he changed, growing colder and more brutal towards his son. "His temper became shorter, he would be quicker with his hands, more controlling. He didn't think twice about cracking you in the face."

The younger Calabrese came to see how manipulative his father was, switching personalities at the click of his fingers. "If you were sitting with him here right now, you'd love him. He'd charm you. But when you'd gone, he'd turn into his second personality – a controlling and abusive father. And his third personality was the killer."

To try to wriggle out of his father's tight embrace, Calabrese set up in business on his own. He opened Italian restaurants, and later began dealing cocaine. He kept that hidden from his father, knowing that if he was found out "the old man would have killed me". He also kept secret his own intensifying addiction to the drug. In a desperate move to break free and to keep his habit fed, Calabrese began stealing from a cache of about $700,000 in $50 notes his father had tucked behind a wall in his grandmother's basement.

Not a good idea. When his father discovered the losses, and who was responsible, he issued a decree. "From now on, I own you," he told his son. "The restaurants are mine, your house is mine, everything is mine."

A few months later his father asked Calabrese to join him for a coffee. They met at a lock-up garage used by the crew. "As I opened the door I realised, oh shit! He's setting me up. He slams the door, turns and sticks a gun in my cheek. Then he says: 'I would rather have you dead than disobey me.'"

Calabrese started sobbing and begging for forgiveness. "Somehow I got out of that garage. As we got back in the truck, he started punching me and back-handing me in the face. My tears were rolling down and all I could think about was how I could never trust this man again. From that day on, I have never trusted anybody. Nobody."

The decision to turn informant against his own father was taken in 1998 inside Milan prison where both Frank Calabreses were sent after being found guilty of racketeering and illegal gambling. Imprisonment was the best thing that happened to the younger man. It allowed him to kick his cocaine addiction, and to become healthy once again. Most important, it freed him from his father's control.

He became determined that as soon as he was released he would make a new life for himself. "I decided that I was going to quit the Outfit. I'd wound up in prison, on drugs. That wasn't what I wanted any more. I had to find a way to go straight when I came out."

But he knew a huge hurdle stood in his way: his father. He had a choice. Either he could wait until they were both out, then confront his father and tell him he wanted to leave the family business, in which case there would almost certainly be a showdown and one of them would end up dead. Or he could cooperate.

The FBI called their investigation Operation Family Secrets. The 2007 trial lasted three months and took into account 18 murders. In addition to his father's life sentences, long prison sentences were eventually handed out to seven other Outfit bosses. It was an extraordinary result given the history of the Chicago mob. In its 100 years, the Outfit had committed more than 3,000 murders, yet before this only 12 convictions had been secured. Until Calabrese took the stand, backed up by his uncle Nick, who had also turned prosecution witness, not a single made member had been held accountable.

During the trial, the younger Calabrese gave evidence against his father standing just feet away from him in the courtroom. "The one thing I wasn't ready for was the emotional part. I walk into the courtroom and it's the strangest feeling I've ever had. There was my dad. Part of me wanted to go over to him and hug him and say, Dad, I'm going to take care of you. It's going to be OK. Man, I wasn't prepared for that."

As he left the courtroom at the end of his testimony, "the tears just started streaming. An agent asks me, 'Are you OK?' And I say, 'No, I've just realised that's the last time I'll ever see my dad.'"

He was right about that. The elder Calabrese, now 74, is being held in a maximum security institution in Missouri where he has been kept for the past two years in almost total isolation. He is permitted no visitors, nor any contact with other prisoners in a regime reserved for a handful of the most serious terrorists and serial killers.

Calabrese left Chicago after the trial and moved to Phoenix, partly to get away from his past and partly because the hot, dry air of Arizona is good for his health. A few years ago he discovered he had MS and though he keeps it at bay with exercise, it causes him to limp.

He lives with his two children, Kelly and Anthony, and makes a living as a motivational speaker, telling law-enforcement conferences and self-help groups how he has turned his life around. He is unmarried, but his former wife Lisa lives nearby and they remain close. She is still deeply afraid, he says, that his father will seek retribution and she has pleaded with him to enter witness protection. But he continues to refuse. As he writes in his book: "I'm pragmatic. If people can kill presidents, they can kill me. Nobody is invincible and completely safe in today's world."

When I ask to see the tattoo that nearly got him killed, he pulls up his shirt to reveal that his back carries not only the drawing of the map of America with prison bars, but also seven small tattoos depicting bullet holes – like the ones you get on cowboy posters. "I feel I'm always going to have to watch my back," he explains, "so those bullet holes are a reminder to me to be alert every day."

Regrets, he has a few. He still finds it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he committed the mobster's ultimate sin by ratting on another. And though he is convinced he made the right decision, he is still deeply troubled by the outcome. "At this stage in his life, as my dad gets old, I wanted to be there for him. I wanted to be his protector, not his executioner."

Can there be forgiveness between them, the Frank Calabreses? "I can forgive him. I love my dad to this day, I just don't love his ways. But I don't think he can forgive me. I really don't. I wish he could."

Calabrese says he's resigned to the grip his father has, and will for ever have, over him. "I know in my heart that the day my father dies he'll haunt me," he says. "This will go on for eternity. I don't know what to expect in the next life, but I do know that wherever it is he will be waiting there for me. And he's not going to be happy with me."

Thanks to Ed Pilkington

Friday, March 18, 2011

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez Back on Mob Case

A new order came out yesterday and Attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez is not permanently banned for future appointments. This was after a review of a motion that Lopez and filed on March 15th and includes a letter from Frank Calabrese Sr. that was written to the judge.

Lopez will continue to still represent Calabrese on the SAMS issue.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Frank Calabrese Jr to Speak at Arlington Heights Library Tonight, The Union League Club on Friday

Ex-mobster Frank Calabrese Jr. will have the same level of security Thursday night that the Arlington Heights library provided Harry the Humpback Whale last Saturday.

Calabrese, the former organized crime figure turned informant, will speak to 200 people at 7 p.m. Thursday. He and his three co-authors are promoting his book, “Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster’s Son Brought Down Chicago’s Murderous Crime Family.”

And despite threats of violence that caused bookstores in Oak Brook and Chicago to cancel his appearances, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is going ahead — using the same two security staffers who help with crowd control at all their popular programs, said library spokeswoman Deb Whisler.

Calabrese, however, does travel with a personal bodyguard. Co-authors Keith Zimmerman, Kent Zimmerman and Paul Pompian are also expected to be there. And while Harry the Humpback drew more than 700 people, Calabrese’s talk is limited to 200 because of space. All 200 tickets have been handed out, Whisler said, so don’t show up at the door without a ticket.

Calabrese, 50, returned to the Chicago area this week to promote his book about the Chicago Outfit. But two Borders appearances were scrubbed after phoned-in death threats, so Calabrese kicked off his tour Tuesday on a slightly smaller stage at Elmhurst College. About 100 people attended.

Calabrese isn’t worried that his life, or those of his audience, are in danger at the Arlington Heights library.

The library hasn’t been threatened, Whisler said Wednesday, and Calabrese doubts the calls Borders got were really from the mob, anyway.

“If they wanted to do something to harm me they wouldn’t call,” Calabrese said.
“You take everything seriously but in my experience, a phone call is not something those involved in organized crime do,” he said.

Kate Niehoff, the library’s programs manager, booked Calabrese a few months ago because his book is popular with library patrons.

“When I contacted (Calabrese’s) co-authors, I assumed Frank wouldn’t be a part of the program but they followed up a month later and said Frank wanted to come,” Niehoff said. “I guess he’s a big fan of downtown Arlington Heights.”

Calabrese confirmed it’s true — he does like the development in downtown Arlington Heights.
In his book, Calabrese talks about growing up as the son of a violent mobster, his own entrance into the Outfit at 18, and the chain of events as he worked to put his father, Frank “The Breeze” Calabrese Sr., away for good.

Calabrese Sr. is presently in a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life, for murdering at least 13 people. It was through Calabrese Jr. wearing a wire that the convictions were possible, authorities say.

Calabrese is speaking at the Union League Club on Friday before returning home to Arizona this weekend.

Being back in Chicago has been “mentally exhausting” for Calabrese, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002 and walks with a cane today.

“I live a normal life, I work two jobs and like to spend time with my kids,” he said. “I’m a plain Joe now.”

Calabrese may embark on a national book tour later, he said.

Thanks to Shelia Ahern

Attorney Removed from Family Secrets Trial Appeal by Chief Judge

Update: The Shark is back on the Case.

Chicago mob boss Frank "The Breese" Calabrese Sr., sentenced to life in prison for seven gangland slayings in 2007's Operation Family Secrets, has lost his appeals lawyer.

Attorney Joe Lopez, who represented Calabrese in the landmark mob case, was to handle his appeal. On March 4th, the chief judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Frank Easterbrook, ruled that he will appoint another attorney because Lopez "left his client in a lurch."

After requesting numerous extensions to file his opening brief, Lopez missed the final deadline offered by the court. When the court asked Lopez why he should not be relieved from representing Calabrese, Lopez responded that he had delegated the opening brief to attorney Robert Caplin, who was retained as trial council.

Caplin told the court that due to economic strains, he could not put the brief ahead of paid work. Judge Easterbrook called the men "unprofessional" and as a result relieved Lopez and Calplin as appellate lawyers on the case. Both men will be ineligible for future appointments and will be placed on a list of lawyers who, when handling paid appeals, will not be allowed more than two extensions of time to file openings.

The court will appoint a replacement to represent Calabrese, 74, who is been held in solitary confinement or "special administrative measures" (SAMS) since 2008.

Thanks to Ann Pistone and Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Anonymous Threat Results in Cancelled Mob Book Signing for Frank Calabrese Jr.

Two Chicago area book signings scheduled at Borders Books involving former Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese Jr. were canceled after an anonymous threat, a Borders official said today.

“We can confirm that our Oak Brook store received a voice mail threatening violence should Mr. Calabrese’s scheduled book signings take place,” said Mary Davis, spokeswoman for Borders. “Given the controversial nature of the content of the book, we viewed this as a legitimate threat. The safety of our employees and our customers is of the utmost importance and that is why we made the decision to cancel Mr. Calabrese’s events.”

Oak Brook Police Chief Thomas Sheahan said that a male caller who disguised his voice threatened anyone responsible for the Frank Calabrese Jr. book signings. According to Sheahan, the unidentified caller said that “no rats can sign books here.”

“We take any threats seriously,” Sheahan said. “This is an ongoing investigation, and we’ll take appropriate action.”

Calabrese is a co-author of “Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family.”

Calabrese volunteered to help the FBI bring down the infamous Chinatown Crew run by his father, Frank Calabrese Sr. The son’s offer to cooperate with federal authorities led to his uncle, admitted Outfit hitman Nicholas Calabrese, becoming the FBI’s main witness in the storied trial that led to life sentences for Outfit bosses and the solving of more than a dozen mob murders.

“My publicist told me that Borders had canceled because they’re concerned about their employees and patrons,” Frank Calabrese Jr. said today. “I want people to know that this stuff still exists. There was a threat that if I did my book signing at the Oak Brook store, that patrons and employees of Borders would be harmed.

“Somebody doesn’t want people to read my book, or somebody doesn’t want me in Chicago talking about this stuff. …People get scared. Even a big corporation like Borders.”

Calabrese Jr. has recently opened up about the relationship between the Outfit and the city’s political class, and has been naming names.

Now living in another state, Calabrese Jr is in Chicago on a publicity tour. The Tuesday book signing was scheduled for the Border’s store at 1500 16th Street in Oak Brook . Wednesday’s scheduled signing was at the store at 150 North State Street in downtown Chicago. Davis said both events have been canceled.

Thanks to John Kass

Excerpt from Frank Calabrese Jr's 'Operation Family Secrets'

I set myself up in the corner of the prison library at the Federal Correctional

Institution in Milan, Michigan, and banged out the letter to FBI Special

Agent Thomas Bourgeois on a cranky old Smith-Corona manual typewriter. My mobster father, Frank Calabrese, Sr. — who was serving time with me in FCI Milan — had taught me to be decisive. So when I typed the letter, my mind was made up.

I didn't touch the paper directly. I used my winter gloves to handle the sheet and held the envelope with a Kleenex so as not to leave any fingerprints. The moment I mailed the letter on July 27, 1998, I knew I had crossed the line. Cooperating with the FBI meant not only that I would give up my father, but that I would have to implicate my uncle Nick for the murder of a Chicago Outfit mobster named John "Big Stoop" Fecarotta. Giving up my uncle was the hardest part.

When I reread the letter one last time, I asked myself, What kind of son puts his father away for life? The Federal Bureau of Prisons had dealt me a cruel blow by sticking me in the same prison as my dad. It had become increasingly clear that his vow to "step away" from the Outfit after we both served our time was an empty promise.

"I feel I have to help you keep this sick man locked up forever," I wrote in my letter.

Due to legal and safety concerns, it was five months before Agent Thomas Bourgeois arranged a visit to meet with me at FCI Milan. He came alone in the early winter of 1998. In 1997 the FBI and Chicago federal prosecutors had convicted the Calabrese crew, netting my father, Uncle Nick, my younger brother Kurt, and me on juice loans. Bourgeois seemed confused and wanted to know what I wanted.

I'm sure Bourgeois also wondered the same thing I had: What kind of son wants to put his father away for life? Maybe he thought I was lying. Perhaps I had gotten into an argument and, like most cons, was looking to get my sentence reduced. Yet in our ensuing conversation, I told Tom that I wasn't asking for much in return.

I just didn't want to lose any of my time served, and I wanted a transfer out of FCI Milan once my mission was accomplished. By imprisoning us on racketeering charges, the Feds thought that they had broken up the notorious Calabrese South Side crew. In reality they had barely scratched the surface. I alerted Bourgeois that I was not looking to break up the mob. I had one purpose: to help the FBI keep my father locked up forever so that he could get the psychological help he needed. The FBI didn't know the half of his issues or his other crimes.

When asked by Bourgeois if I would wear a wire out on the prison yard, I promptly replied no. I would work with the FBI, but I would only give them intelligence, useful information they could use, and with the understanding that nobody would know I was cooperating, and I would not testify in open court. Outfit guys like my dad called that "dry beefing." Frank Calabrese, Sr., was one of the Outfit's most cunning criminals and had been a successful crew chief and solid earner for the Chicago mob for thirty years.

He could smell an FBI informant a mile away. If he hadn't talked about his criminal life in the past, why would he do so now?

I searched my soul to make sure I wasn't doing this out of spite or because Dad had reneged on taking care of me and Kurt financially in exchange for doing time. This couldn't be about money! After Agent Bourgeois's first interview with me at Milan, he reported back to Mitch Mars, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Chicago Organized Crime Section. Mars wanted to know if there was enough to present the case to a grand jury and gather a bigger, more inclusive case against "the Outfit," Chicago's multitentacled organized crime syndicate, which dated back to the days of "Big Jim" Colosimo and Al Capone.

As I lay in my cell bunk, I thought about my refusal to wear a wire. Suppose I gave the Feds information, but my father got lucky and walked? I'd be screwed, Uncle Nick would be stuck on death row, and after my dad's sentence ran out he would bounce right back out on the streets to continue his juice loan business and murderous ways.

What if what I was doing was wrong? How could I live with myself? I loved my dad dearly, and I love him to this day. But I was repulsed by the violence and his controlling ways. I had to decide between doing nothing and cooperating with the Feds, two choices I hated.


I knew that if I did nothing, my father and I would have to settle our differences out on the street. One of us would end up dead, while the other would rot in prison. I would be incriminating myself, and I didn't want an immunity deal. If I needed to do more time to keep my dad locked up forever, so be it. After I sent the letter, I was determined to finish what I started. I contacted Agent Bourgeois one more time to tell him I had changed my mind. I would wear the wire after all. All the deception my father had taught me I was now going to use on him.

My father's own words would become his worst enemy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Frank Calabrese Sr Not a Happy Camper in Prison

It's been two years since Chicago mob boss and hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. was put into solitary confinement in a federal prison. Calabrese's lawyer says the treatment is unfair and unjust.

The United States Bureau of Prisons calls them "Special Administrative Measures." Federal authorities will not talk about who is placed under those provisions or why.

By definition the special measures -- or SAMs -- are intended for terrorists to prevent them from threatening national security by communicating plans to the outside. According to his lawyer, at age 73, Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. doesn't qualify.

"He's in more like an old mop room that they keep him in," said Joe Lopez, Calabrese's attorney. "He's in this large room because its the only place they can keep him. It's not really a room, it's more of an old storage room that was converted just to house him as an inmate."

Frank "the Breeze" Calabrese is being held at the Springfield Correctional Center in near isolation at the request of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The special incarceration is being used on terrorists, including shoe bomber Richard C. Reid who was arrested in 2001 for attempting to blow up a jetliner.

Calabrese got himself in trouble while playing mob boss behind bars in Milan, Mi., resulting in FBI undercover tapes that helped convict him and five Outfit associates during the 2007 Family Secrets trial.

"Based on other conduct that occurred while he was in prison, some of the things you heard at Family Secrets, some of the tapes that were being made by his son, they put him into this special administrative measure," said Lopez.

It didn't help that Calabrese allegedly threatened to kill former Family Secrets prosecutor T. Markus Funk.

"You look at a guy like Frank Senior, who I have a history with, and I'm not going to be on his Christmas card list, and he certainly isn't going to be on mine. But he did things, he was cruel, he went out of his way to brutalize people," said Funk.

In a 2008 court motion, Calabrese's lawyer compared him to Hannibal Lecter, the fictional psychopath in the movie Silence of the Lambs and predicted the Hollywood-style facemask was coming. Even though that hasn't happened, Lopez says just about every other freedom has been revoked.

"I know it's jail, and I understand he's not at the Four Seasons. Still there are other inmates in there who have committed mass murders, who have killed informants, have obstructed justice and they aren't put through the same type of stringent conditions he is in," said Lopez.

The special prisoner designation is good for one year, then prosecutors must petition the U.S. Attorney General if they want it to continue for another 12 months. There is no public record of prisoners who are placed in these harsh conditions so it is unclear whether the federal prosecutor in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, has renewed his Calabrese request. Fitzgerald's spokesman declines to comment.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, April 05, 2010

Will Calabrese Family Secret Stash Provide Insight into the Mob?

Nearly $730,000 in cash, about 1,000 pieces of jewelry and loaded handguns found hidden alongside recording devices in a mobster's suburban home show there are still plenty of mysteries to unravel about the notorious Chicago Outfit.

The discovery in a secret compartment behind a family portrait in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s home — a year after the massive Operation Family Secrets trial sent Calabrese and several others to prison — may trigger a fresh look at everything from unsolved shootings to a jewel theft ring once run by the former Chicago Police chief of detectives.

"I would say it's a treasure trove, really," James Wagner, one-time head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago and the Chicago Crime Commission.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice would not comment extensively on the investigation or search of Calabrese's home in Oak Brook, which was revealed in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. But he said investigators would run ballistics tests on the weapons and attempt to trace the jewelry and track down owners.

Calabrese, 71, was one of several reputed mobsters convicted last year in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 decades-old murders. He was blamed for 13, sentenced to life in prison and was one of four defendants ordered to pay more than $24 million, including millions in restitution to the families of murder victims. Tuesday's search was tied to that order. But the discovery could mean learning even more about the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit.
Wagner said investigators will try to determine ownership of the seven loaded guns by tracking serial numbers and testing for ballistics matches on homicides and shootings nationwide.

As for the jewelry, some pieces still in display boxes or bearing store tags, Wagner suggested several likely investigative avenues. The first could be the Outfit-connected jewelry-heist ring run by William Hanhardt, the former Chicago Police chief of detectives. Hanhardt is in prison after pleading guilty to leading a band of thieves that stole $5 million in jewelry and fine watches in the 1980s and 90s. One of Calabrese's co-defendants, Paul Schiro, was sentenced to prison in 2002 for being part of Hanhardt's ring. And a witness at the Family Secrets trial testified that Hanhardt collected $1,000 a week and a new car every two years in return for making sure mobsters were not caught.

Wagner also said that before the murdered body of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro was found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, he was not only the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas but also operated a jewelry store there. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for a number of jewelry thefts, Wagner said. Investigators may try to determine if any jewelry from those thefts found their way to Calabrese's home, Wagner said. But he also noted that tracing the diamonds, particularly the loose ones, is a long shot. "I'm not aware of any ability to trace those," he said.

Still, the newly found recording devices — suction cups use to "tap" into telephone conversations and several microcassettes — could prove particularly intriguing. One had the name of a convicted Outfit member written on it.

"This could be important evidence for them, evidence against other people involved in some of the same activities" as Calabrese and the others who were convicted last year, said former assistant U.S. attorney Joel Levin.

The tapes could contain the kind of code words that came out during the Family Secret trial, Wagner said.

During the trial, Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., acted almost as an interpreter for jurors listening to secretly recorded tapes of conversations between the two. He told jurors, for example, that when his father was telling him to pick up "recipes" he was telling him to collect money and when he told him to "keep 10 boxes of Spam ham," he was instructing his son to keep $1,000 for himself.

Wagner does not know what is on the tapes. But if they feature Calabrese Sr.'s voice, "The possibility exists that he used code terminology on the tapes and I would expect them to reach out for (Frank Calabrese Jr.) for interpretation again," he said.

Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, said he doesn't know who stashed the items, saying Calabrese has not lived in the home since the mid-1990s when he was sent to prison for another conviction. Nor, he said, did he have any idea who was on the recordings.


Thanks to Don Babwin

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feds Raid House of Frank Calabrese Sr. - Discover Hidden Recording Devices, Tapes, Notes, Cash, & Jewelry

Federal agents say they discovered potentially incriminating tapes and notes -- along with almost $730,000 in cash and about 1,000 pieces of apparently stolen jewelry -- stashed behind a large family portrait during a search of the family home of convicted mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr.

Authorities said they found recordings of what they believe could be "criminal conversations" that Calabrese taped with mob associates years ago.

They seized several recording devicesFamily Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob, such as suction-cup microphones used to tap into telephone conversations, and 10 to 15 used microcassettes -- one of which appears to bear the last name of a convicted Outfit member, agents said.

There also were "handwritten notes and ledgers" that could be records of extortion and gambling activities, authorities said.

In addition, authorities discovered seven loaded firearms they believe had been used in criminal activity because they were wrapped so no fingerprints would be left on them.

In a court filing this afternoon, federal authorities said they want to seize the property to satisfy some $27 million that Calabrese was ordered to pay in forfeiture and restitution following his conviction for a series of gangland slayings and sentence of life imprisonment.

Calabrese's lawyer Joe Lopez said he was surprised to hear about the search at his client's home on Tuesday. He said Calabrese's wife and their two sons, one of whom is in college most of the year, live in the home.

He said the home had been searched on other occasions over the years by the FBI and said he was surprised the items were not uncovered in the past. "Now that this is coming up it leads one to wonder what is really going on in this case,'' said Lopez. "I was surprised, I think everyone was surprised who heard of this."

He said he did not know if family members knew about the items found in the home because he has not had a chance to speak to Calabrese's wife or his client. He said Calabrese does not have access to telephones and is "kept under lock and key."

He said that among the items that were found at the home was at least one recording that he believed was made in 1998 after Calabrese was in custody. He said that Calabrese was in brief custody in 1995 and was released on bond, and then surrendered himself to authorities in 1997 and was in federal custody in Michigan. "He's been in custody since 1997," said Lopez. "I have no idea what those recordings are. For all I know it's Frank Sinatra singing."

He said that the money is going to the government because the government went into the home to search for any assets that would go to the government as part of Calabrese's outstanding forfeiture order. "There is no recourse. The money belongs to them. They can seize assets to satisfy judgment just like any other judgment creditor,'' said Lopez.

Calabrese, 71, was one of the five Outfit associates convicted in the landmark Family Secrets trial that riveted Chicago for weeks with its lurid testimony about 18 decades-old gangland slayings.

The code name for the federal investigation came from the secret, unprecedented cooperation provided against Chicago mob bosses by Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, and his son, Frank Jr. Their testimony peeled back layers of Outfit history as they detailed hits, bombings, extortions and other mayhem by the mob's 26th Street crew.

When he was sentenced to life in prison a year ago, Calabrese denied he was a feared mob hit man responsible for more than a dozen gangland slayings. "I'm not no big shot," said Calabrese, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with a strap holding his glasses on his mostly bald head. "I'm not nothing but a human being, and when you cut my hand, I bleed like everybody else."

A federal judge didn't buy it. Saying he had no doubt Calabrese was responsible for "appalling acts," U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced him to life in prison at a hearing marked by emotional testimony from victims' relatives and a heated exchange with his own son.

Another of Calabrese's sons, Kurt, stepped to a lectern to tell Zagel that his father beat him throughout his life. "In short, my father was never a father," said the younger Calabrese, describing him instead as an enforcer who hurled insults as regularly as he threw punches, ashtrays, tools or whatever else was within reach when his temper exploded.

The son asked his father whether he might want to apologize for his conduct. "You better apologize for the lies you're telling," the father barked back in the crowded courtroom. "You were treated like a king for all the things I've done for you."

"You never hit me and never beat me up?" Kurt Calabrese answered incredulously before glaring at his father and stepping from the courtroom a moment later.

In another dramatic courtroom scene, Charlene Moravecek, widow of murder victim Paul Haggerty, yelled at Calabrese for cutting Haggerty's throat and stuffing him in a trunk. Her husband had no connection to the mob, she told Calabrese. "You murdered the wrong person," she said. "That shows how smart you all are."

"God will bless you for what you say," Calabrese replied calmly from the defense table.

"Don't you mock me, ever," Moravecek responded through tears.

In September 2007, the same jury that convicted Calabrese of racketeering conspiracy held him responsible for seven murders: the 1980 shotgun killings of hit man and informant William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte; the 1981 car bombing of trucking executive Michael Cagnoni; and the slayings of hit man John Fecarotta, Outfit associate Michael Albergo, and bar owner Richard Ortiz and his friend Arthur Morawski.

Zagel, using a lower standard of proof than the jury, held Calabrese responsible for six additional murders, including Haggerty's, making him eligible for life imprisonment.

Nicholas Calabrese had testified in gripping detail about how brother Frank beat and strangled many of his victims with a rope before cutting their throats to ensure they were dead. Zagel said it was that family betrayal that stuck with him as he presided over the trial.

"I've never seen a case in which a brother and a son -- and counting today, two sons -- testified against a father," the veteran judge said. "I just want to say that your crimes are unspeakable," Zagel said later.

Allowed to address Zagel before he was sentenced, Calabrese rambled for half an hour about how his family had conspired to steal from him and then falsely blamed him for mob crimes to keep him behind bars. He called his brother a wannabe gangster who collected for Outfit bookmakers. Calabrese didn't deny being a loan shark, but he said his organization never resorted to violence to collect debts.

Cagnoni's widow as well as relatives of Morawski and Ortiz testified about dealing with decades of grief over the violent deaths of their loved ones.

Richard Ortiz's son, Tony, said he was 12 when his father was shot in a car outside his Cicero bar. Ortiz said he ran to the spot where the killing had occurred.

"I remember the crunching of the broken glass under my feet," said Ortiz, who recalled that his father's trademark cigar was still lying on the ground.

"I picked it up and held onto it, knowing it was all I had left of him."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Jimmy DeLeo Era Begins

An important Illinois political story took place on Wednesday.

It didn't happen in Springfield or at Chicago's City Hall.

It took place on a quiet street in Oak Park. There were no TV cameras, no press aides. It was a somber ritual marking the transfer of power.

Sam Banks, the longtime political boss of the 36th Ward on the Northwest Side of Chicago, was laid to rest. He passed away after a long bout with cancer. The funeral was held at St. Giles Roman Catholic Church.

One of Sam's pallbearers was his former political apprentice, State Sen. James DeLeo, D-How You Doin'?

Sam was the guy for years. But there's a new guy now, reaching beyond the ward, from Rush Street to Rosemont and beyond:

Jimmy.

The night before, at Salerno's Galewood Chapels on North Harlem Avenue, thousands of clout-heavy people attended the wake in rooms crammed with flower arrangements.

Attendees included trucking barons, asphalt kings, Republican and Democratic officials from across the state, right down to Christy Spina, the former driver for imprisoned Outfit boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo. And there were plenty of judges, who along with the lawyers, helped form Sam Banks' network.

Criminal defense lawyer Tom Breen delivered the eulogy in church.

"If I were writing a newspaper column about Sam Banks," said Breen, "my newspaper column would be about a man who worked hard all his life, who loved his family, his career. That's the Sam Banks I would write about.

"He was a good person, he was a generous person. And I think we will miss him terribly."

Banks did love his family, and Breen is a fine lawyer. But he's no newspaper columnist. You can't write a column about the 36th Ward without asking some FBI types about the Chicago Outfit.

Almost two decades ago now, the old mobbed-up 1st Ward was scattered to the winds by federal prosecutions. The late Ald. Fred Roti, 1st, was sent to prison. With City Hall's official position that there is no Outfit, the old 1st Ward boundaries were erased on the city political maps.

"Once Roti was out of business, they did have other people to assume the same power and control in the 36th Ward," said Jim Wagner, the former head of the Chicago Crime Commission and longtime chief of the FBI's organized-crime section.

"If you're in organized crime, you're not going to give up the position of influence and authority," Wagner said. "You're going to turn to a replacement. That's what they are thought to have done."

Banks was low-key. He wasn't a showoff, no spaccone, like some. Again, remember, despite federal theories, there have been no Outfit-related charges. Sam was never charged. It's not illegal to know guys who know guys.

"What does that mean, ‘mob-associated?'" said DeLeo years ago, when the Sun-Times asked about political contributions he received from businesses connected to reputed Outfit boss John DiFronzo.

"In the year 2001, is there really a mob in Chicago?" DeLeo asked then, perhaps rhetorically.

Jimmy can be amusing. He's a funny guy.

Shortly after that witty comment, Chicago was treated to the most significant Outfit investigation in history. The "Family Secrets" case led to what amounts to life prison terms for top mob bosses and hit men.

In the "Family Secrets" trial, DeLeo and Sam's son, zoning lawyer and banker James Banks, were named in testimony by Ann Spilotro, widow of slain gangster Michael Spilotro, as the buyers of a business she owned. In other testimony, Sam Banks was named by a convicted burglar as an alleged conduit for protection money to corrupt cops.

Then in 2008, pressure on the 36th Ward organization increased. The Chicago Tribune investigative series "Neighborhoods for Sale" documented how clout influenced the politics of zoning in Chicago. While Sam Banks was strong, the Banks family was the first family of zoning in the city.

His brother William Banks was the alderman. For decades, Billy was chairman of the powerful City Council Committee on Zoning. Back when I covered City Hall, every time James Banks appeared before Uncle Billy's committee with a zoning matter, Uncle Billy would stand up and loudly excuse himself, saying he wanted no conflict of interest.

Then Billy would walk into the back room, perhaps have a sandwich, and wait while the other aldermen approved his nephew's zoning request. They probably didn't want a conflict of interest with Sam.

Recently, things have changed. With the feds interested in the 36th Ward, Billy has retired from the City Council. Jimmy might let him keep the Democratic committeeman's job and play with the precinct captains and pretend he's got power, but that's about it.

In his eulogy Wednesday, Breen said that moments after the family asked him to speak in church, his phone rang. It was the guy. It was Jimmy.

"He (DeLeo) said, ‘Tom, you know there is a time limit and you know that it's in a church, right?'" Breen recalled, getting some laughs. "So the golf jokes were out the window. The dinner jokes were out the window."

Jimmy is now retiring from the state Senate. He'll become a lobbyist. He still has his title insurance company business partner, Senate President John Cullerton, D-DeLeo, running things in Springfield.

Like Sam before him, it's time for Jimmy to go low-key. After all, he's the guy.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

James Marcello Cleared of Parole Violation

Reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello won a court skirmish with federal prosecutors Wednesday when a judge cleared him of an old charge of parole violation, but the victory did not win him his freedom.

Marcello left court to return to federal prison where the sexagenarian must continue to serve a life sentence for his part in an almost-two-decade organized crime wave that included a series of 18 long-unsolved murders.

U.S. District Judge William Hibbler ruled that federal prosecutors had failed to show that after Marcello's release from prison in 2005 he had violated the terms of his supervised release.

Marcello was arrested and put back behind bars a year later when prosecutors unsealed their sweeping Operation Family Secrets indictment of alleged leaders of the Chicago Outfit - the name of this city's organized crime family - and their followers.

He was convicted of murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors wanted Hibbler to revoke Marcello's supervised release. That way, there would still be a way to keep him behind bars if his conviction in the Family Secrets case were reversed.

Two other big-name reputed mobsters - Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo - are serving life sentences as a result of their convictions in the Family Secrets case.

Thanks to NewsRadio 780

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Former Crooked Cop with Ties to the Mob is Accused of Running a Sex Party Room at an Adult Bookstore

A Melrose Park pornography bookstore -- run with the help of a former crooked cop with ties to the mob -- offers a party room in the back where couples and singles have multiple sex partners as part of organized, late-night sessions.

It costs $30 or more per person to get in to the party room at 15th Avenue Adult Books, run for months out of a nondescript building in an industrial area.

Guests can linger at chairs and tables or get up on a stage and partake in the activities, according to people familiar with the business.

Finger foods, such as chicken wings, are provided. They also offer drinks. And despite months of investigation by local and county officials, there's apparently nothing illegal about it.

One of the people behind the business is Robert Urbinati, a former Franklin Park police officer, who runs the business with his wife. Urbinati was sentenced in 2002 to 33 months in prison for taking $500 in bribes each month from the mob to protect a lucrative video poker gambling operation.

Urbinati, 68, also allegedly was an Outfit message man, reportedly passing communications between two high-ranking mobsters, the late Anthony Centracchio and the onetime head of the Chicago Outfit, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, now in prison after being convicted of racketeering and other crimes in the historic Family Secrets mob case.

Centracchio made the news in 2001 when it was revealed the geriatric mobster was caught on a secret FBI video recording having sex with a younger employee at the abortion clinic he ran.

As for Urbinati, "my client has done his time, and now he's moved on to the second phase of his life," said well-known criminal defense attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, who has represented many alleged mobsters.

Urbinati could not be reached for comment.

Lopez stressed that there was no prostitution at the business, and no illegal drugs, just consenting adults doing their own thing. The party room is used for other activities too, Lopez said, like bachelor parties. "No different than the Sybaris, except more people," Lopez argued, referring to the motel chain where couples go for romantic weekends.

Since last year, the Cook County sheriff's police has sent in undercover officers on several occasions and found nothing illegal happening, a spokesman said.

Melrose Park Mayor Ronald M. Serpico said he'd rather not have the business in his town but there's nothing he can do about it. His own police have investigated it and called in the Cook County sheriff for assistance. The Cook County Department of Public Health investigated and found no issues, Serpico said.

"Is it fun for us? Absolutely not," Serpico said. "Do I want to be having this conversation with you?" the mayor asked. "I'd rather be talking about the Super Bowl."

The pornography bookstore meets village zoning requirements for such businesses, which were set up after Melrose Park was sued in federal court over the issue.

Serpico argued that the vast majority of Melrose Park residents don't even know the business is there or what goes on there, given its location.

"It couldn't be further away from civilization," Serpico said. "Not one resident has called to complain."

The mayor said he did not know who was running the bookstore until recently.

When asked if he had qualms about a onetime associate of organized crime helping operate a business in his town, Serpico said no, adding, "I can't control what somebody has done in the past."

The bookstore "is what it is," Serpico said. "I can't regulate morality."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, January 22, 2010

James "Little Jimmy" Marcello is Moving Back to Chicago

Mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello gets to stay in Chicago...for now.

Judge James Zagel granted a motion this morning in federal court that allows Marcello to remain at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago while he appeals his Family Secrets conviction. He had been serving his life sentence in the maximum security penitentiary in Atwater, California, but was brought back to the MCC because of a petition filed against him by the United States Probation Office. Inexplicably, the government wants to cite Marcello for a long ago probation violation, even though he is serving a life sentence from the Family Secrets case.

If Marcello's appeal is denied then Judge Zagel will recommend the Bureau of Prisons assign Marcello to an institution such as Oxford, Wisconsin, instead of being sent back to California so he will be closer to his family. "Mr. Marcello has no family in California. His wife, three children and grandchildren reside in the Chicagoland area," states the Marcello motion.

Oxford has long been the prison of choice for Chicago Outfit figures, crooked politicians, white collar criminals and other cigar chomping convicts-because of its close proximity to Chicago.

Originally, Judge Zagel had recommended Marcello spend the rest of his life locked up in the fed's crossbar hotel in Terra Haute, Indiana. But Marcello's guilty co-defendant, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, is already assigned there. "It is our understanding that a 'seperatee' order prevented Mr. Marcello's designation to Terre Haute since Co-Defendant Joseph Lombardo was designated there" wrote Marcello's attorney Marc Martin.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

James Marcello Requests Prison Transfer Closer to His Family

When top Chicago Outfit boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello was sentenced in the fed's Family Secrets mob murder case, he expected to do his time at a prison somewhere close to home.

To make it easy for family visits.

Judge James Zagel even "designated James Marcello to the maximum-security prison in Terra Haute, IN." according to a motion filed by Marcello's lawyers Monday in U.S. District Court. But the Bureau of Prisons had other plans for Little Jimmy and now he is trying to make things right.

BOP officials last year assigned the long-time Chicago hoodlum to a cell in the maximum security penitentiary in Atwater, California. Atwater is more than 100 miles from San Francisco.

"Mr. Marcello has no family in California. His wife, three children and grandchildren reside in the Chicagoland area," states the Marcello motion that will be heard Tuesday morning by Judge Zagel.

The problem may be that Marcello's guilty co-defendant, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, is assigned to the fed's crossbar hotel in Terra Haute."It is our understanding that a 'seperatee' order prevented Mr. Marcello's designation to Terre Haute since Co-Defendant Joseph Lombardo was designated there" wrote Marcello's attorney Marc Martin.

Marcello's motion asks that he be held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago while he appeals his Family Secrets conviction-or at least until the filing of the opening brief.

Then, the motion asks Judge Zagel to "recommend that the BOP designate Mr. Marcello to an institution closer to his family, e.g., Oxford, WI."

Oxford has long been the prison of choice for Chicago Outfit figures, crooked politicians, white collar criminals and other cigar chomping convicts-because of its close proximity to Chicago.

Marcello does have one thing going for him: he's already been brought back to the MCC in Chicago because of a petition filed against him by the United States Probation Office. Inexplicably, the government wants to cite Marcello for a long ago probation violation, even though he is serving a life sentence from the Family Secrets case.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Family Secrets Mob Prosecutor, John J. Sully, Now Serves on the Bench

For John J. Scully, who closed out his 25 years of fighting organized crime as a federal prosecutor in Chicago with the Operation Family Secrets trial before ascending to the bench last year as an associate judge in Lake County, some boasting may be in order. But Scully — a retired U.S. Navy captain who served on a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam in combat operations and later as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve — isn't one to toot his own horn, according to his current and former colleagues.

"He's accomplished a lot in his lifetime, and you wouldn't know it. … He's very humble," said fellow Lake County Associate Judge Jorge L. Ortiz.

Some highlights of Scully's career in the U.S. Department of Justice include the investigation and prosecution of former Chicago Police chief of detectives William Hanhardt, who pleaded guilty to running a Chicago Outfit interstate jewelry theft crew, and the prosecution of the On Leong gambling ring based in South Side Chinatown, a complex case that exposed payoffs to the mob, Chicago police and a Cook County judge.

His achievements were recognized by the U.S. attorney general in 2008, when Scully, along with two fellow prosecutors, was honored with a top national award, the DOJ's John Marshall Award, for his work in the Family Secrets case. The case targeted members of the Chicago Outfit and resulted in convictions involving 18 unsolved organized crime murders dating to 1970.

"He didn't even tell any of his friends about it [the top national award]. I found out about it by reading about it in the newspaper," Ortiz said. "That's just how he is."

Aside from practicing as an in-house attorney for Illinois Bell for three years in the late 1970s and early '80s, Scully, 62, has spent his professional life in public service.

His judicial service began in February 2009, when he was appointed to an associate judgeship in the 19th Judicial Circuit. He started out in the traffic division at Lake County's Park City branch court and is carrying out an assignment in misdemeanor court in the county's main courthouse in Waukegan.

"He's taken an amazing path to get to where he is," said Lake County Associate Judge Michael J. Fusz, a longtime friend. "It's incredible firepower on the bench, having somebody with his experience."

That path was carved out from Chicago's South Side, where Scully grew up in an Irish household as the eldest of seven children. The son of a World War II Navy veteran who worked as a steel estimator in Chicago factories, Scully attended De La Salle High School and became the first member of his family to attend college when he was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy.

"I always assumed, when I was in high school, that I would, one way or another, be in the service. It's something that one should do if you can — serve your country," Scully said.

If the military or college weren't an option, Scully said, he had thought that "maybe I'd be a police officer or a firefighter."

"I figured I was going to go into the service and try to get an education," he said.

After graduating from the academy in 1969, he married his high school prom date, Pat, whom he had met when the two were teenagers working at a National Tea grocery store on the city's Southwest Side. He was a stock boy; she was a cashier.

As a newly commissioned naval officer, Scully asked to be assigned to a destroyer out of San Diego. He served on the USS Hull, off the coast of Vietnam from May 1970 to August 1971, providing assistance to carriers in the South China Sea, and providing naval gunfire support in close proximity to the shore, assisting either Army or Marine Corps spotters.

After his Western Pacific deployment, he headed for law school at the University of San Diego School of Law.

"I had always been the kind that read the paper, front page to the last page, and realized that so much of what was part of American life dealt in one way or another with the law," Scully said.

After nine years of active duty, which included prosecuting and defending sailors and Marines as an officer in the JAG Corps, Scully served an additional 20 years in the Navy Reserve, most of that time as an intelligence officer. He was ultimately in charge of about 170 intelligence officers and specialists in the Midwest.

Scully's career as a civilian prosecutor began in Lake County, as an assistant state's attorney prosecuting felonies for 14 months in the early 1980s. By 1982, he joined the Department of Justice as a special attorney with the U.S. Organized Crime Strike Force, which merged with the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1990.

"Growing up in Chicago, I think I had a fair sense of how much influence the Chicago Outfit had on various aspects of life in and around Chicago, and I felt I wanted to assist in investigating and prosecuting," Scully said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk worked alongside Scully as part of the three-prosecutor trial team in the Family Secrets case.

Funk described his former colleague as "unflappable," and "comfortable in his own skin," with a strong sense of empathy and a knack for gaining the trust of people from all walks of life — from the victims of violent crimes to a "murdering mobster."

"I've never seen him come unraveled, never seen him lose his cool," Funk said.

"He's not a guy who needs to talk tough or get accolades from other people," Funk said. "He's not a political being; he doesn't strive for some sort of public acclaim. He just wants to do the right thing. That seems to be what has been guiding him, and that's a great thing for a judge."

Criminal defense attorney Edward M. Genson opposed Scully in numerous cases during the judge's years with the DOJ.

"He was an extraordinarily good lawyer, an extraordinarily principled lawyer," Genson said. "His word was his bond.

"A fair prosecutor is going to be a fair judge," he said. "I'm sure he'll be fair."

Scully's colleagues on the bench say the judge's life experience, coupled with his personality traits, make for an "ideal" judge.

"He's a person of compassion, humility, industriousness, patience. And he is a grinder, someone who just keeps working at it," Ortiz said. "I think he's a perfect combination for a judge."

After 25 years of making the long commute from his home in Lake County to the federal courthouse in Chicago, Scully retired from the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2007.

"I had done most aspects of what I set out to do — to combat the Chicago Outfit," he said.

Around Christmas 2008, he submitted his bid for a judgeship.

"I've always enjoyed being in court, and I missed being in court from '07," Scully said.

For Scully, a father of four grown children and the grandfather of four whose name has followed the titles of captain, assistant U.S. attorney and now judge, "I'm a husband, dad and a grandpa first."

Looking back on the path that led him to the bench, Scully is quick to mention his high school sweetheart and wife of 40 years.

"I've had experiences that a lot of other people are not able to have, and that's mainly been made as a result of going to the Naval Academy. A lot of it flowed from there," Scully said. "But so much of it is as a result of having a wife who was supportive."

Thanks to Maria Kantzavelos

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reputed Mob-Backed Video Poker Machines Under Investigation

A federal investigation of mob-backed video poker machines is now under way in the Bridgeport neighborhood, sources have told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News. And tavern owners, in whose bars the poker machines were located, have been called to testify before a federal grand jury.

The raids, according to law enforcement sources, began over the summer.

“They hit several taverns, 10 or 12 of them maybe,” confirmed attorney Joseph Lopez, who said the FBI took all the circuit boards out of the machines.

One such raid, according to a knowledgeable source, took place at the Redwood Lounge at 3200 S. Wallace. Reached at home, the bar’s owner, Nick Spazio, declined to comment when asked if his tavern was the object of an FBI raid. “Sweetheart, I can’t really talk to you on the advice of my lawyer . . . we better leave it alone,” he told a reporter.

The bar is now closed.

Authorities believe the video poker machines, which produce illegal payouts, tie back to the operation of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a top lieutenant in the 26th Street Crew.

LaMantia, in turn, worked under Frank Calabrese Sr., who was convicted in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets trial, involving 18 unsolved mob murders. Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo and three others were found guilty on racketeering and conspiracy charges.

A jury ruled that Calabrese, 72, took part in seven outfit hits and ran an illegal gambling operation. He was sentenced to life in prison.

At the end of the trial, Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI office, said his agents’ work was not done. “It’s not the end of the Outfit,” he said. “I would declare to you right now we are actively investigating the Chicago Outfit.”

Video poker machines have long been a staple of Chicago taverns and a rich source of revenue for the Chicago mob.

Currently, it is the state that is desperate for revenue. And so in July, Gov. Quinn signed a bill to legalize video poker as a way to fund state construction projects. But those machines won’t be able to legally make payouts until the Illinois Gaming Board can hire sufficient staff to license them and enforce their operation. A Gaming Board official said the goal is to be up and running by the end of 2010.

The plans call for an estimated 45,000 to 60,000 legal video poker machines in bars and taverns statewide. So far, about 49 cities, town and counties, including Cook and DuPage, have opted to ban them. (The county bans apply only to unincorporated areas.)

The Legislature, according to the Gaming Board, allocated $3.3 million to the board in fiscal year 2009 and $4.7 million in fiscal year 2010, allowing it to double its existing staff. Half of the new hires will be dedicated to monitoring video poker machines.

Critics argue that even with additional personnel it will be a daunting, if not impossible, challenge to wire all the machines to a central location and ensure no criminal influence.

Then there is the question of what will the mob do? Jim Wagner, a former FBI supervisor and past head of the Chicago Crime Commission, believes video poker remains too lucrative for the Outfit to cede its profits to the state.

There’s “too much money to be made with those machines to turn their backs on it,” Wagner said. “They have their own equipment out there and that won’t change.”

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Mosely

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