The Chicago Syndicate: Frank Calabrese Sr.
Showing posts with label Frank Calabrese Sr.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Calabrese Sr.. Show all posts

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Defendants in the Operation Family Secrets Trial #TheyGotCaught



Defendants in the "Operation Family Secrets" trial included Frank Calabrese Sr. (clockwise from left), Joey Lombardo, Anthony Doyle, Paul Shiro and James Marcello. The men are pictured during an Aug. 15, 2007, court hearing in Chicago. Verna Sadock/AP


Friday, August 03, 2018

Is the Answer to Who Murdered Sam Giancana on the Family Secrets Organized Crime Tour?

A Mafia turncoat who ushered in one of the biggest Mob trials in US history is now sharing tales of his former life as a streetwise soldier for the infamous Chicago Outfit, during the fascinating two-hour Family Secrets tour around the Windy City.

‘It’s not just a Mob story, it’s a family story, too,’ says Frank Calabrese Jr., who became so desperate to escape life in organized crime that he ratted out his own father, the Outfit’s Chinatown crew boss, Frank Calabrese Sr., by wearing a wire for the FBI and testifying against him at trial in 2007.

‘Nobody likes to hear their family called dysfunctional and nobody likes to be called a rat, but it is what it is,’ says Frank Jr., 58. ‘I hope that people can get takeaways from it.’

The Family Secrets tour operates several times a week and kicks off from Chicago Chop House in the heart of downtown. Frank Jr., perched at the front of a 37-seat bus, doesn’t hold back on exposing what Mob life is like, warts and all, as he revisits scenes from his family’s crimes and other landmarks.

‘Some things are embarrassing, but in order for people to understand, I have to be straight up with everybody on everything,’ he notes. ‘It does take a lot out of me, because I’m seeing these stories as I’m telling them.

While the bus winds its way throughout the city, including Little Italy, Chinatown and other neighborhoods, Frank Jr. relates his tale of growing up here with a dad who could be kind and loving one minute, then ‘sociopathic’ and ‘explosive’ the next.

He starts the tour with recollections of how Frank Sr., a made man who went by the nickname ‘Frankie Breeze,’ began grooming him at a young age to become proficient in loansharking, gambling and the Chicago way.

One tale he spins is the day Frank Sr. appeared to get into an altercation with a man in the family’s driveway. Upset, Frank Jr., then a teenager, ran and grabbed a baseball bat from the garage and snuck up on the duo.

‘I could see my dad look, and he had this little smirk on his face, like he was all proud of me,’ says Frank, adding there was no fight that day. ‘I didn’t know what my dad was capable of at the time, but years later I was like, “Boy, that guy was lucky.”’

Soon the pair started going on father-son field trips so Frank Jr. could watch and learn. One of his final tests occurred when his dad came home from his ‘so-called work’ and brought him into the bathroom. Frank Sr. turned on the ceiling fan and faucets in case the government was listening.

‘Son, we just killed two guys,’ Frank Jr. recalls his dad telling him as he watched the teen’s face carefully to see what his reaction to the news would be.

All Frank Jr. could think at the time was how his buddies’ fathers probably weren’t having similar conversations in their houses. ‘I’m so excited about it, but I can’t run and tell anybody,’ he says.

Very quickly, recounts Frank Jr. as the bus winds its way through Chicago traffic, he graduated to ‘violence, arson, collections’ and other sketchy gangland behavior. ‘I eventually bought in to all of this, and I was good at it.’

The longer Frank Jr. spent under the tutelage of his ruthless dad, the more Outfit tactics he added to his growing arsenal.

One trick Frank Sr. and other Mob bosses often employed was to tell the aspiring Mafioso they were on their way to kill somebody, even if they had no intention of carrying out a hit.‘They’re just testing you to see if you’re really up to it,’ explains Frank Jr., who today credits his uncle, Nick Calabrese — his dad’s brother and fellow made man — with protecting him from committing the most terrible of crimes: murder.‘I didn’t realize it until years later, but he saved me from my father,’ says Frank Jr. ‘He saved me from crossing a line I couldn’t cross back over.’

That doesn’t mean Frank Jr. didn’t learn how to test his friends’ loyalty by producing a dead body.

On the Family Secrets tour, Frank recounts for his guests the day his dad instructed him to place some sandbags in the trunk of his car and throw a sheet and shovel over them. He then told him to pull up to his pals and tell them he accidentally hit and killed a guy and he needed help burying the body. ‘Let me know how many guys get in the car,’ Frank Sr. told his son.

Hollywood has always played a large role in glorifying Mafia life, and Frank Jr. takes time during the tour to spin some of his favorite related tales, including his memory of seeing Casino, the 1995 film based in part on the Chicago Mob.

“It’s funny, because when I’m watching the movie in the theater I could see that they’re wrong about a lot of stuff, but I had to sit there and shut up because who am I gonna tell?” he laughs.

Talking about the movie, which showcases the Tangiers Casino, the cinematic substitute for the Chicago Outfit’s preferred real-life Vegas hangout, the Stardust, sparks another of Frank Jr.’s recollections.

In 1972, when he was 12, says Frank Jr., he traveled with his dad to Sin City and loved spending his time at the Circus Circus Hotel & Resort’s video arcade. Proving he was developing the chops for manipulation, Frank Jr. says he would wait for his pop to join 20 or 30 of his associates at the dinner table before asking him for money to go play games ‘My dad would give me three or four dollars,’ recalls Frank. ‘Then the guys would say, “Come here kid.” I’d leave there with like $200 or $300 dollars in my pocket!’

On occasion, West Coast royalty would head to Chicago, and Frank Jr. takes his tour bus to Rush Street, once the place to see and be seen for major entertainers, like rumored Mob man Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra, says Frank Jr, had connections to the Mafia, and he claims the Calabreses had ‘direct ties’ to Ol’ Blue Eyes, a Chicago club-scene favorite in the ‘50s and ‘60s, because Frank Sr. was close to the crooner’s longtime comedic opening act, Pat Henry. However, he adds, ‘that doesn’t mean Sinatra was involved in doing illegal activities.’

Despite his family’s familiarity with the glitz and glamour that comes with organized crime, Frank Jr. explains that working in the Mob actually required him to live life under the radar to keep the heat off his family and associates. 

‘You learn deception,’ he says. For instance, instead of three-piece suits, fedoras and flashy jewelry, he and his cohorts wore baseball caps, ski jackets and eyeglasses to blend in with their surroundings and not appear too flashy. ‘We didn’t drive Mercedes and BMWs, like you see in the movies. We drove Fords and Chevys.’

And when the older Mob bosses got together to discuss business, it wouldn’t be at a fancy social club.‘They would meet at McDonald’s,’ says Frank Jr. ‘If you walked past them you would think they must be talking about retirement, but they could have been planning a high-profile murder.’

Not that anyone would understand if they happened to overhear. ‘We were so aware of the FBI that everything we did was in code,’ he points out. ‘I could talk to my father in a conversation and he has four names and I have four nicknames. You’d think we were talking about six to eight people and we were really just talking about one another.’

In fact, a discussion about recipes could really be about a hit.

What’s not coded on the tour is Frank Jr.’s refusal to sugarcoat the Mob’s deadlier side, and he goes into detail about the rise and fall of the Outfit’s most infamous upper echelon of villains, including Sam Giancana, who ruled from 1957 through 1966 and was alleged to have played a part in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Giancana’s fatal mistake, says Frank Jr., was he became too high profile. In 1975, Giancana was supposedly meeting somebody he trusted in the basement kitchen of his home in Oak Park, Illinois. He wound up dead, shot multiple times in the head and neck. Frank Jr. claims he and the FBI ‘know who did it’ and it was somebody nobody would ever suspect — but he refuses to tell.

Frank Jr. does spill information on his father’s sordid history of hits. He says he found out later in life that Frank Sr. was part of a crew of hit man dispatched to take care of guys ‘causing problems.’ His preferred method of killing, says his son, was ‘to strangle you and cut your throat ear to ear,’ a method Frank Sr. liked to call the Calabrese necktie.

Despite the intense times, life in the Mafia was filled with just as many boring days and nights, especially when it came to casing targets.

According to Frank Jr., surveillance often included getting a windowed van and putting a refrigerator or dishwasher box inside with little holes poked through the cardboard. One of the Outfit’s henchmen would have the unfortunate task of sitting inside the box with two jugs — one for drinking water and another for waste — and staring out at their target to gather information for as long as 24-hour stretches.

Life in the Mob also meant always looking over your shoulder and making sure the FBI wasn’t on your tail. But if they were, Frank Sr. ‘had a sense of humor,’ and he once wrangled the unwitting owner of a Greek diner into helping him throw off the Feds.

Frank Sr. went into the man’s restaurant, sat at the counter and ordered a cup of soup. When he finished, he asked to speak to the owner, who he hugged and shook his hand. When the proprietor asked if they knew each other, the mobster told him no and that he just wanted to compliment him on his fine food. He then darted out the door.

The FBI quickly descended on the diner and its confused owner. Agents demanded to know why he was speaking to Frank Sr., but they refused to buy the man’s pleas of ignorance.

‘Poor guy,’ laughs Frank Jr. ‘My father always used to do that.’

Other times, the mobsters wouldn’t have to worry about police following them because they would head to an auto yard, steal license plates from a car of similar make and model to what they were going to use in a crime and swap them in. ‘If the cops run the number while we’re driving it matches the car and it matches the color so they’re not going to pull us over,’ explains Frank Jr.

One of Frank Jr.’s favorite stories he recounts on the tour is about how his ‘master thief’ father loved to rob weddings. Frank Sr. would take advantage of the fact everyone was drinking and not paying attention to steal the purses filled with cash set aside for the newlyweds. Other times, Frank Sr. would be more brazen and bring a crew to help line up guests against the wall and steal their jewelry.

‘I don’t talk about this like I’m proud of it, but it was what we knew,’ explains Frank Jr.

As time passed, the elder Calabrese became increasingly paranoid and violent, and his son grew desperate to escape the Outfit. ‘I feared my dad more than anything,’ he reveals of the man who once held a loaded gun to his head and threatened to kill him.

Salvation, Frank Jr. says, finally arrived in 1995 when the feds indicted him, his father, and several Outfit crewmembers. He pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, perjury and intent to defraud the IRS. The son and dad were eventually incarcerated together in Milan, Michigan, where Frank Jr., sentenced to serve 57 months, hatched a risky plan to free himself from his father’s omnipotence.

He mailed a letter to the FBI on July 27, 1998, and offered to help agents entrap the killer. In what became known as 'Operation Family Secrets', Frank Jr. agreed to wear a wire behind bars and tempt his dad into talking about several gangland murders.

‘I just wanted my father to leave me alone, and the only way I could figure out how to do that was to keep him locked up,’ he says of the life-changing realization.

Frank Jr. was released from prison in February 2000. Seven years later, the 'Family Secrets' trial he was responsible for sparking created a firestorm both in the press and behind the scenes. After testifying on the stand against his dad, Frank Jr. went into a private room, where he had tears rolling down his face because he realized their courtroom confrontation was probably the last time he would see the man alive.

Frank Calabrese Sr., found responsible for 13 murders — likely a fraction of the number he actually committed — died in solitary confinement of heart failure on Christmas Day 2012.

Confirmation he made the right choice by ratting on his dad came when Frank Jr., who wrote the 2011 memoir Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family, learned Frank Sr. tried to put out a $150,000 contract on his head before he died. He believes one of the big reasons he’s still alive to tell the tale is nobody trusted the cagey Mob boss to actually pay up once the job was completed.

Now ‘every day is like a gift,’ Frank Jr. says. ‘I try to be a good person and I try to surround myself with good people.’

And he gives tours and shares his story as a way to somehow make amends with his dark past.

‘I have to deal every day with what I know,’ Frank Jr. explains. ‘I’m not trying to glorify something. I want people to realize you can change your life around; I want to do something good.’

Thanks to Aaron Rasmussen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reports that John "No Nose" DiFronzo, AKA Johnny Bananas, Chicago's Top Mobster has Died

Days earlier a “message” had been sent by Chicago mobsters, federal agents believed, when a small bomb exploded outside the home of the daughter of Outfit turncoat Lenny Patrick.

John DiFronzo was just one of a group of alleged mobsters for whom the Feds wanted to send a message back, immediately.

There was no hurry in DiFronzo that day as he breezed north on Dearborn as if it was a noon-time walk, declining to answer any questions.

DiFronzo climbed the ladder of the Outfit ranks from burglar to boss. Reporters nicknamed him “No-Nose” after he was cut jumping through a window in a Michigan Avenue burglary in the 1940s. But to his fellow organized crime brothers he was known as “Bananas” due to his complexion.

In January 1992, DiFronzo was indicted in California in a scheme to run a casino at the Rincon Indian Preservation near San Diego. He and fellow Chicagoan Donald Angelini, were convicted of fraud and conspiracy, though the conviction was over turned and he was released from prison.

By day DiFronzo worked as a car salesman at an Irving Park dealership and often by 4:00 he could be seen entering an Elmwood Park restaurant for his afternoon vodka.

DiFronzo’s name surfaced in the Operation Family Secrets trial in which mob heavy weights Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, Frank Calabrese, Sr. and James Marcello were convicted of taking part in a series of mob hits, including the murders of Tony Spilotro and Michael Spilotro.

During the trial, federal prosecutors named DiFronzo as part of the crew that killed “Tony the Ant” and his brother and buried them in an Indiana farm field. When asked during the course of the trial how prosecutors could name—and not charge—DiFronzo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars’ only response was “good question.”

The Elmwood Park mobster had reportedly been ill for some time. Within hours of the announcement of his death at the age of 89 his Wikipedia page was updated to list his birth as December 13, 1928 and his death as May 27, 2018.

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Moseley.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Examining the Crimes of the Calabrese Family #FamilySecrets

Why are we so fascinated by the mob? Well, there's violence: garroting, shooting, stabbing; the thrill of men hunting men. Money: While most of us sweat for our daily bread, gangsters take what they want. The unknown: Gangster stories give us special knowledge of dark, hidden places in the city and in the human heart.

That last point is important, because half the fun is pulling back the veil. The author strips away the pretenses and pleasantries of daily life and reveals how the world really is. Which is to say that force reigns supreme, not intelligence or character or merit. But part of the popularity of gangster lit is the assumption that the veil is only ever half-raised. Mob stories feed our most paranoid fears by implying that so much more remains to be told. Because we really can't see the subject whole, never know the limits of the mob's influence, we can imagine it as all-powerful, with cops, politicians and businessmen bought and paid for. Authors let us in on the secrets, but the thrilling question always remains, just how big is this menace?

That is one of the reasons that Chicago Tribune reporter Jeff Coen's "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" is so refreshing. He never reaches beyond his story, sticks close to his evidence, lets the carefully gathered wiretaps and eyewitness testimony and reporter's notes do the talking. Like Nicholas Pileggi's classic "Wiseguy," on which the film "GoodFellas" was based, Coen keeps it at street level, focusing on his distinct cast of characters, the gangsters and their victims, the federal agents, local cops and attorneys who played out the drama.

During the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Frank Calabrese Sr. operated a lucrative loan-sharking business on Chicago's South Side. He had ties to higher-ups in the "Outfit," as the Chicago mob is known, men like Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, and James "Jimmy Light" Marcello. Calabrese was not a nice man. In the late '90s, his son, Frank Jr., musing on his father's abusiveness, decided to turn state's evidence against the old man. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, young Frank's uncle Nick (Frank Sr.'s brother) also decided to cooperate with the feds.

With that the Outfit's cover unraveled, and the case finally came to trial in 2007. Coen gives us fine-grained pictures of the loan-sharking and extortion, and, above all, at least 18 killings.

Nick Calabrese, a reluctant hit man, committed multiple murders at brother Frank's behest. Nick told the feds that his sibling would willingly kill him had he failed to carry out a hit. Frank Calabrese himself specialized in garroting his victims, then cutting their throats to make sure they were dead. Coen gives us gruesome accounts of the murders and burials in corn fields and at construction sites.

"Family Secrets" isn't for everyone. It is a complex narrative of a long case that resulted in several convictions. The devil is in the details, there are a lot of them, and they thoroughly de-romanticize the mob.

This is a well-written and researched book, but its subject might disappoint some readers. Unlike the East Coast mob, Coen tells us, "Chicago had been unified for much of the century, since the days of the infamous boss Al Capone. ..." That statement is true but a bit deceptive. This late 20th Century crew seems a little pathetic. They're not exactly the gang that couldn't shoot straight, but they're certainly not Capone's Outfit either. When we pull back the veil, we get a strange blend of Don Corleone and the Three Stooges.

Thanks to Elliott Gorn, who teaches history at Brown University. He is author of "Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One," published this year by Oxford University Press.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Family Secrets Mob Book by @JeffCoen is Indispensable to Know How Chicago Truly Works

If you're interested in understanding the real Chicago—and there can be no serious understanding of this completely political city without examining the Chicago Outfit—then you'll soon have a great new book on your shelves:

"Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" (Chicago Review Press) by Chicago Tribune federal courts reporter Jeff Coen.

Yes, Coen is a colleague of mine who is well-respected in our newsroom. But the reason I recommend this book is that I've followed Coen's work chronicling this case. His careful eye and clean writing style have produced years of compelling Tribune stories and now this authoritative account of one of the most amazing Chicago Outfit cases in history.

It involves the FBI's turning of Chicago Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese into a top witness and informer. Calabrese's access and insight into unsolved murders, offered up at trial by the expert killer and brother of a Chinatown Crew boss, were more than astounding. And, in a creepy but necessary way, illuminating.

Calabrese, a deadly though perpetually terrified hit man, testified against the bosses about more than 18 gangland murders in the federal Family Secrets case. Now mob bosses including his brother Frank, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello, and fellow hit man Paul Schiro will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Later this week an Outfit messenger boy—Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who worked in the evidence section and who visited Frank Calabrese in prison to discuss the FBI's interest in an old bloody glove—also will be sentenced.

From the witness stand, Doyle gave Chicago one of my favorite words, "chumbolone," the Chinatown Crew's slang for idiot or fool. He deserves a long sentence. Federal mob watchers consider him to be close to the Outfit's current overall reputed street boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso.

Outfit helpers like Doyle, placed in sensitive government posts, in politics, in law enforcement, in the judiciary, in city inspection and business licensing bureaucracies, have long allowed the Outfit to form the base of the iron triangle that runs things.

"Doyle was one of the most interesting aspects of the case," Coen told me this week. "Here you have a police officer as a mole telling the Outfit when evidence in a murder was being sought by the FBI. I don't think the public is aware of the effort that goes into placing people in low-key clerical positions that give them great access, people that can fly under the radar."

Doyle learned the FBI was interested in a glove worn by Nick Calabrese in the murder of John Fecarotta, who himself received an Outfit death sentence for botching the 1986 burial of brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro.

"If Nick doesn't drop that glove, the FBI doesn't have the physical evidence to tell him he'd be going away forever," Coen said. "Without the glove, they wouldn't have Nick."

Nick's testimony involved the planning and surveillance of his victims, and the final end that came to them, either by a remote-controlled car bomb on a suburban highway ramp, or shotguns from a van along a country road near Joliet, or the laying on of hands and feet and ropes in a suburban basement.

The movie "Casino" depicted Outfit brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield. That's how many of us thought they were killed, until Family Secrets revealed that they were actually beaten and strangled in a Bensenville basement.

In the gangster movies, the hit men are usually the roughest characters. But Calabrese wasn't a movie hit man, he was a real one, so frightened that he wet himself during his first killing.

On the witness stand and in the book, he comes off like what he is, a nerd of homicide, a man plagued by a sickening fear that settled on him at the first one and became like a second skin, and he found one way to deal with that fear—meticulous planning.

"He was nothing like a movie hit man," Coen said. "During testimony, he looked like somebody you'd bump into at a store in your neighborhood. But if the bosses pointed him at somebody, they could sleep, knowing the murder would be done."

On my shelf, there are books I consider to be indispensable to truly knowing how Chicago works. There is:


And now, there is Jeff Coen's Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob.


Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Attorney for Roman Catholic Priest Who Plead to Conspiracy with Mob, Cries Foul on Feds

The lawyer for a former prison chaplain awaiting sentencing for passing notes from convicted Chicago Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. accused federal prosecutors Wednesday of making "inaccurate and highly inflammatory" claims that the priest had also divulged the secret location of the mobster's turncoat brother.

Prosecutors alleged in a sentencing memorandum earlier this week that Eugene Klein had revealed secret information to Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas, who was in the federal witness protection program after his stunning decision to cooperate brought about the landmark Operation Family Secrets probe.

In a court filing Wednesday, however, attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin wrote that Klein never knew where Nicholas Calabrese was being held and never took any steps to find out, even though as an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he could have done so.

Durkin called the allegations "consistent with the hostile and over-the-top position the government has taken throughout this case." He asked U.S. District Judge John Darrah to strike the references to Nicholas Calabrese from the court record and possibly delay Klein's Thursday sentencing so the judge can hold an evidentiary hearing into the matter.

Klein, a Roman Catholic priest, admitted in a plea agreement with prosecutors that he violated the most restrictive prison security measures possible that had been placed on Calabrese by conspiring with the convicted hit man to recover a supposedly rare 18th-century Stradivarius violin said to be hidden in the mobster's vacation home.

In asking for the maximum of five years in prison, prosecutors alleged for the first time Monday that Klein had also revealed information about the location of Nicholas Calabrese despite knowing that he "was in grave danger" because of his cooperation with law enforcement. But Durkin included in his filing an FBI report that showed Klein had told agents in April 2011 that another inmate had told him he knew where Nicholas Calabrese was located. Klein relayed the message to Frank Calabrese Sr., who "asked Klein to find out all he could about the matter," the FBI report stated.

"Although Klein did not intend to do anything more, he told Calabrese that he would see what he could do," the report said. Klein, however, was never told which prison the inmate thought Nicholas Calabrese was in and he never took any other steps to find out, according to the report. Nicholas Calabrese was behind bars at the time for unrelated mob charges.

Nicholas Calabrese was the first made member of the Chicago Outfit to testify against his cohorts, and his testimony at the Family Secrets trial in 2007 led to life sentences for several Chicago mobsters, including his brother. Although he admitted to killing 14 people for the Outfit, Nicholas Calabrese was given just 12 years in prison because of his unprecedented cooperation.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was first placed under special administrative measures after he was allegedly seen in court mouthing, "You are a (expletive) dead man," at a federal prosecutor.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Did Father Klein Leak the Location of Mob Informant Nick Calabrese?

Federal prosecutors in Chicago want to send a Roman Catholic priest to prison for five years for a crime that involved the Chicago mob and a plot to steal a priceless violin.

Father Eugene Klein wore a Roman collar, but the story line is less God and more godfather. The elements resemble a mafia movie: secret messages from prison, a violin stashed in a vacation retreat, and a priest recruited by an outfit hitman. But the trailer is about to come to an end on Thursday, when Father Klein is sentenced for helping a late mob boss in solitary confinement.

For Chicago mob boss Frank Calabrese, killing was a breeze, hence his nickname "Frankie Breeze". In 2011, Calabrese was at a Missouri penitentiary doing life for 13 Chicago mob hits in the Family Secrets case. He was considered a security risk and held in solitary confinement when prison chaplain Father Klein became more than a spiritual advisor.

Klein plotted to help the outfit boss recover a rare, centuries-old violin that Calabrese had hidden years earlier here in his Wisconsin summer home. The plot was aimed to prevent U.S. authorities from finding the violin and selling it to pay off the mobster's debt to society. But that's not all he did. Now authorities say Father Klein told Frank Calabrese where Nick Calabrese - his brother and the key witness in the case - was living while he was in the witness protection program.

According to a court filing Monday, prosecutors want to send the priest to prison for the maximum five-year sentence because they say he had clear disregard for others and for the trust placed in him, and that new information Klein revealed to Frank Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas, "knowing that Nicholas had cooperated against his brother and was in grave danger as a result."

Father Klein's attorney Tom Durkin compared the priest's 60-month recommended sentence to that of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whom prosecutors recommend less than six months.

Durkin told the I-Team: "They recommend no more than six months for Dennis Hastert and ten times that amount for Fr. Klein. That is absurd."

"This latest revelation that the priest, the defendant, tried to help identify the location of a witness that's a bombshell and that can explain why the government is seeking so much time because it undermines the witness security program," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer.

During trial, Frank Calabrese threatened to kill a U.S. prosecutor. The mobster was considered a ruthless killer and a dangerous prisoner.

Soffer says Father Klein used his religious position to help Calabrese communicate with the outside world - conduct he says resulted in the government asking for such a lengthy sentence.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chicago Calabrese Mob Family Saga Movie to Be Scripted by #BlackMass Writer

Black Label Media has set Black Mass scribe Mark Mallouk to script a film about Frank Calabrese Sr and the crime family he ran out of Chicago that was known as The Outfit. The story will be driven by Kurt Calabrese, the son who was brought into the crime game by his father, and watched as his brother, Frank Jr., volunteered to become an FBI informant — and didn’t ask for compensation or a sentence reduction — helping to bring down his father when the made man implicated himself in 13 gangland murders. Black Label Media will fully finance and Eric Shepherd and Jeff Chianakis will produce with Black Label’s Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill and Trent Luckinbill.

Frank Calabrese Sr was an extortionist, loan shark and hitman, and brought his kids into the business when Kurt was just 12 years old, his brother a year older. He was by accounts a brutal person, and that and continual threats prompted Frank Jr. to wear the wire. Frank Sr was convicted and sentence to life in prison and he died behind bars in 2012.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Frank Calabrese Jr. Wrote Tell-all Chicago Mobster Book

"I had a choice of two titles, right? Rat, or cold-blooded murderer. And I chose rat," said Frank Calabrese Jr., former heir to the Chicago Outfit's Chinatown Crew and the author of a tell-all mob book. "Neither is a title good to have. But I had to make a decision."

Calabrese Jr. was dressed in dark clothes, sitting at a table with his back against a restaurant wall. He is not in the federal witness protection program, and he talked about that choice in a flat, quiet voice.

It was a voice that weighs things out, an unemotional voice, and if a meat scale could talk, it would have a voice just like that. Calabrese Jr. says he's changed his life, and made amends, but I could picture him years ago, using that voice on some bust-out gambler who owed his father Outfit juice, the son collecting, asking, "You're late this week. Where's my $5,000?" as he neutrally sized up the meat in front of him.

"I don't feel like a rat," he told me. "And afterward, I didn't go run and hide. But I'm not going to stand on the corner and flex my muscles.

"My father had these multiple personalities. There was the good dad and the evil dad. One minute, you're dealing with the caring, loving father who hugs and kisses you, and looks out for you. Then it changes. You see it in his eyes. I think he lost his soul," said Frank Jr. "I would have followed this guy anywhere. I didn't buy into the Outfit. I bought into my father. All I cared about was my father being proud of me. And he didn't watch out for me or my brothers."

Thus Frank Jr.'s book, "Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family". I get the feeling it is a must-read among Outfit types and their political puppets. And it is a story of fathers and sons.

Frank Jr. kicked off the famous Operation Family Secrets investigation of the Chicago Outfit. While in federal prison in 1998, he wrote a letter to the FBI volunteering to help them against a fellow inmate: his own father, Chinatown Crew boss Frank Calabrese Sr.

He wore a wire and recorded his father, and that led to the cooperation of hit-man uncle Nick Calabrese. By the time the Family Secrets trial was done, more than a dozen Outfit hits were solved, and his father, other hit men and bosses like Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello were given what amount to life sentences.

I remember Frank Sr. as stumpy old man in court, the one credited with strangling his victims before stabbing them in the head with a knife, a brutal loan shark and the hammer for the real boss of Bridgeport and Chinatown, the late Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra.

"Here's what he taught his son," said Frank Jr. "To manipulate. To find a guy with a business, with money, and he'd say, 'Make him feel close to you. Make him feel secure. And then somebody's going to come and scare the guy and he'll run to me. And then we'll get a piece of his business. And once we get a piece, there will be a little more, and a little more. If it's a bad week, I don't care, where's my money? And we'll slowly drain the business.'

"What happens is that you start getting numb to having feelings. And it becomes normal to threaten. These are the things my father taught me."

Calabrese's publicity tour this week began with Monday's story about Borders canceling his book-signing events after receiving anonymous threats. He's scheduled to be at the Union League Club for lunch Friday, discussing the case with former federal prosecutor T. Markus Funk, a member of the prosecution team whose own life was allegedly threatened by Calabrese Sr.

In the book there is talk of murders and beatings, extortion and treachery. But that is standard fare. What makes this book different is the dysfunctional family. The sons are in mortal fear of the patriarch. That's what will sell it as a movie.

Frank Sr. isn't receiving many visitors these days in federal prison. So I called Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, criminal attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, who isn't impressed by the son.

"I think there are some people who would blame the father for the sins of the son," Lopez said. "Some might say the father was out of order by talking to the kid. But the father was angry. He beat up his son because the son admitted to using and selling drugs. And the son stole a lot of money from his father."

In the book, the son admits to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling proceeds from hiding places. During the trial, the father claimed the son stole millions more, a charge the son denies.

"The son has always wanted to be in the movies," said Lopez. "Now he's written this book, he's done the publicity stunt about the threats although he's not in danger from anyone, and now his book will probably become a movie."

I can see it as a movie that begins in sentimental fashion, a father and his sons spending quality time together. But they're not tossing a ball and having some boring game of catch. Instead, they spend time together, collecting.

Collecting politicians, collecting gambling debts, collecting victims.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, February 13, 2015

Catholic Priest Pleads Guilty to Passing Messages for Convicted Mob Hit Man Frank Calabrese Sr.

In a case that reads like a movie script, a Catholic priest on Wednesday pleaded guilty to trying to help a convicted mob hitman recover a purported Stradivarius violin hidden in the wall of a house.

Eugene Klein, who had been a federal prison chaplain, admitted to conspiring in 2011 to defraud the United States by passing messages from mobster Frank Calabrese to an unnamed associate on how to get the violin out of Calabrese`s Wisconsin home.

If found and authenticated as made by 18th-century instrument maker Antonio Stradivari, such a violin would have been worth millions of dollars. Calabrese had also claimed the violin had once been owned by pianist Liberace, according to local media accounts.

Calabrese, also known as "Frankie Breeze," was serving a life sentence at the federal prison in Springfield, Missouri, in connection with more than a dozen gangland slayings.

Federal authorities were selling his property to compensate the families of victims, and he wanted the violin recovered before the house was sold, court documents said.

Klein, 66, had been permitted to meet with Calabrese regularly to provide religious ministries, like giving communion. He knew that he was not supposed to pass messages to and from Calabrese, prosecutors said. But Klein agreed to be a messenger, the plea agreement said. The communications included a letter concealed in religious reading materials and passed to Klein through a slot in the door of Calabrese`s prison cell, the plea agreement said.

The letter had instructions on how to find the violin, and how to get into the home. Klein didn`t turn over the letter but admitted to telling the unnamed person what it said.

Federal authorities had found paperwork about a 1764 violin in another of Calabrese`s homes. A certificate describing the violin bore an emblem with the word "Stradivari," but it said the violin was made by Giuseppe Antonio Artalli, court documents said.

No violin was found.

Thomas Durkin, Klein`s attorney, questioned whether the violin ever even existed, and he compared the hunt for it to "looking for a unicorn," according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Durkin was not immediately available for comment.

Klein, of Springfield, Missouri, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on June 23.

Calabrese died in prison in 2012.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Joseph Andriacchi, Reputed Mob Boss, Lists Mansion for Sale for $2.15 Million

Reputed mob boss Joseph Andriacchi, who for more than two decades has been reported by law enforcement organizations and the Chicago Crime Commission to be a high-ranking member of the Chicago Outfit, has listed his four-bedroom, 6,350-square-foot mansion in River Forest for $2.15 million.

Joseph Andriacchi, Reputed Mob Boss, Lists Mansion for Sale for $2.15 Million


In 1990, the commission identified Andriacchi, now 81, as a member of the Outfit’s Elmwood Park street crew, and then in 1997, the group concluded that Andriacchi, was the chief of the Outfit’s North Side street crew.  In 2007, the Tribune reported that commission leaders’ intelligence from law enforcement sources had indicated that Andriacchi was controlling the mob’s north region and heading its Elmwood Park crew. That was consistent with information that officials had gleaned in 2001 when they secretly taped now-deceased mob enforcer Frank Calabrese Sr. identifying Andriacchi as the boss of the Elmwood Park crew.

Now, Andriacchi has placed his longtime mansion on the market.

Through a bank trust, Andriacchi paid $765,000 in 1992 for the land that the property sits on. Almost immediately, he turned around and sold a three-bedroom vintage house on the property for $590,000 to a local physician, who now has that home on the market for $1.399 million.  Andriacchi then set about building his French Country-style mansion on the vacant portion of the land that he purchased in 1992.

According to court records, Andriacchi’s mansion was the subject of a foreclosure action in 2012 after his lender initiated foreclosure proceedings against more than 20 commercial and residential properties Andriacchi owned after the reputed Outfit boss stopped making payments on a more than $4 million loan that used those properties as collateral. In late 2013, Andriacchi reached a settlement agreement with his lender and the foreclosure case was dropped.

Sherree Krisco of Gagliardo Realty Associates has the listing. In a brief interview, she said she was unaware that Andriacchi owns the mansion, stating that to her knowledge, it is owned by a trust.

Built in 1993, the mansion has a gated iron fence entry, 4-1/2 baths, a two-story marble foyer, an open floor plan with spacious rooms, a kitchen with built-in appliances and a breakfast bar, a three-car attached garage and a master suite with a dressing area, two walk-in closets and a separate marble bathroom.

“It’s a very unique home that was custom built and has had just one owner,” Krisco said. “There are fabulous marble accents throughout the house, spacious bright rooms and enough room in the dining room to put in a banquet-style table. The interior also has contemporary influences, including big open spaces and a two-story foyer. It’s a lovely, lovely home.”

Thanks to Bob Goldsborough.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Frank Calabrese Sr Dies in Federal Prison

Authorities say Chicago mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. died this week in federal prison. He was 75.

According to NBC Chicago, Calabrese Sr., one of several reputed mobsters convicted in 2007 in a racketeering conspiracy that included murder, extortion and loansharking, died Tuesday at the Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina.

A spokesman for the prison said while no cause of death has been determined as of yet, Calabrese suffered from several ailments, including heart disease. The former mobster’s body is expected to be delivered later Wednesday to the chief medical examiner’s office at the University of North Carolina where an autopsy can be performed.

Prior to his death, Calabrese was serving a life prison sentence for his involvement as a hit man with the Chicago Mafia.

Known as “the Outfit,” the most heinous of the Chicago mob’s crimes investigated were the 18 murders and one attempted murder that took place over the span between the years 1970 and 1986. Calabrese was blamed for 13 of the Chicago Outfit murders.

All of the murders and other crimes were allegedly committed to further the Outfit’s illegal activities such as loansharking, bookmaking and protecting the enterprise from law enforcement.

In addition to the jail-time, Calabrese was ordered to pay over $24 million, including millions in restitution to the families of murder victims.

Speaking on his father’s death, Frank Calabrese Jr. ­— who risked his life and secretly recorded Calabrese Sr. in prison as he bragged about mob murders — told Fox Chicago News he had “a lot of emotions” running through him.

“I believe he was taken on Christmas Day for a reason,” Calabrese Jr. said. “I hope he made peace. I hope he’s up above looking down on us.”

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, March 06, 2012

Frank "The German" Schweihs' Daughter to Star on "Mob Wives: Chicago"

During his long career as a mob enforcer, Frank “The German” Schweihs gained a reputation as a fearsome hit man relied upon by the Chicago Outfit to eliminate its enemies, including potential government witnesses who might talk out of school.

Schweihs, who was said to be so psycho scary that even other tough guy mobsters went out of their way to avoid him, died of cancer in 2008 while waiting to go on trial in the landmark Operation Family Secrets case.

Later this week, sources tell me, the television network VH-1 is planning to announce Schweihs’ daughter Nora will be one of the stars of the new Chicago spinoff of its hit reality series, “Mob Wives.”

Is there still any doubt in your mind that The Outfit isn’t what it used to be? “Mob Wives,” which bills itself as a docu-soap, has never purported to spill any mob secrets during its now two season run following the exploits of a group of Staten Island women with familial ties to New York organized crime figures. “Mob Wives: Chicago” isn’t expected to be any different.

Instead, the program explores the lives of the women with the goal of showing how their mob surroundings have affected them personally—as mothers, daughters and wives. For anybody who has seen the prolific catfighting among the New York cast, the affect would appear to be pretty straightforward: it’s made them crazy.

Nora Schweihs, 48, is said to be a piece of work herself. I’ve only managed to get her on the phone a couple of times — both occasions resulting in her angrily yelling at me that she didn’t know what I was talking about and to never call again. Still, I can respect that. That’s how a real mobster’s family member is supposed to react when a newspaper reporter calls, not schedule a press conference.

The German’s daughter certainly has the bona fides for the show. Her ex-husband, Michael Talarico, was a mob bookmaker and nephew of mob boss Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra. In fact, when Talarico testified for the prosecution against Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Family Secrets trial, he told the jury he was still working as a bookie.

There’s Nora Schweihs of Mob Wives Chicagoa rather unflattering mugshot of Nora Schweihs on the Internet arising from a 2004 DUI arrest in Florida, where she and her father both used to live. She was also charged in the incident with resisting arrest and felony possession of cocaine. She was convicted on the DUI, but the other charges were dropped.

Joining Schweihs on the show will be her good friend, Renee Fowler Russo, the niece of mob loan shark and killer John Fecarotta, whose own 1986 assassination provided the break that set the Family Secrets dominoes in motion. Nicholas Calabrese, the hit man whose cooperation with authorities was at the heart of the Family Secrets case, is said to have flipped in large part because he left a bloody glove behind when he killed Fecarotta, which years later provided a DNA match.

What qualifies Russo for the show, we’re told , is that she and her mother Barbara, Fecarotta’s sister, lived with “Big John” while she was growing up. Russo, 44, now operates an eye care business in Ukrainian Village and has numerous other past entanglements that could add to the drama.

The other two women in the four-member cast are Pia Rizza, 40, daughter of Vincent Rizza, a dirty Chicago cop who doubled as a bookmaker and juice collector before he turned government witness, and Christine Scoleri, 41, daughter of a small-time Cicero-area hood described to me as a “knockaround guy.”

Rizza’s father was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1982 for drug dealing and ended up in the federal witness protection program. Perhaps most notably, he testified against Harry “The Hit” Aleman, maybe the only Chicago mob guy of his generation more feared than Schweihs.

Scoleri’s father shows up so infrequently in our news clippings that I’m not quite comfortable mentioning him by name with the rest of this crowd. Scoleri, by the way, is her married name.

I’m told there are another one or two Chicago mob women, as yet unrevealed, who aren’t part of the regular cast but might make cameo appearances during the season with an eye toward a bigger role in the future — if our mob women prove as popular as New York’s.

Might there be a “your daddy killed my daddy” story line sometime in the future?

Thanks to Mark Brown

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Mobster Confessions

Discovery will premiere MOBSTER CONFESSIONS on Monday, January 9 at 10 PM ET/PT. Andrew DiDonato, John Veasey, Frank Cullotta and Frank Calabrese Jr. are featured in the initial wave of episodes:

MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2011:

10 PM ET/PT - MOBSTER CONFESSIONS - Andrew DiDonato

New York street thug is seduced by the power and protection of the Gambino crime family. Yet once the family turns on him, he must choose between being hunted by the mob or working with authorities to bring them down.

10:30 PM ET/PT - MOBSTER CONFESSIONS - John Veasey

A troubled teen turned hitman kills for the Philadelphia mob but is later targeted by his own mafia family. After surviving an attempted hit, he testifies against the men he once swore to protect.

MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 2011:

10 PM ET/PT - MOBSTER CONFESSIONS - Frank Cullotta

The riches of a glittering life in Las Vegas tempt a man to do anything, even kill, for the Chicago Outfit. His world is turned upside down when an FBI sting brings him in to warn him that he's about to be whacked by his own mafia family.

10:30 PM ET/PT - MOBSTER CONFESSIONS - Frank Calabrese Jr.

A son, desperate to escape the grip of his brutal mafia father, faces a difficult decision: turn on his own dad or be forced to continue a life of crime.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feds Turn Profit on Auction of Mob Money

An unusual government auction of some cash once held by a Chicago mob boss is over.

In this Intelligence Report: Dozens of $500 and $1,000 bills owned by Frank Calabrese Sr. have fetched a small fortune.

It is rare to get money from the Outfit without having to pay it back -- plus some sizable interest. That's what they call a juice loan. Federal authorities, though, not only took some mob money found hidden in the walls of a home where boss Frank "the Breeze" Calabrese lived, they have sold it all at auction for a profit.

Three-quarters of a million dollars in cash was found stashed inside a basement wall, behind a Calabrese family montage at the Oak Brook home where Frank "the Breeze" once lived.
The money was seized as part of the famed Operation Family Secrets case, during which Calabrese was convicted of numerous gangland killings and is now serving a life sentence.

Over the past two weeks, an auction site has conducted online bidding for 125 of the bills, rare denominations of $500 and $1,000.

Federal officials say the U.S. Marshals service sold all 82 $500 bills and 43 $1,000 bills for more than face value. That means the government made at least $84,000 from the sale and likely hauled in more than $100,000.

On the open market today, such rare bills often sell for more than the face value, and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney said some of Calabrese's currency went for considerably more than the $500 or $1,000 face value denomination.

Authorities now have four days to confirm bids and two weeks to file a court notice of exactly how much was made in gross sales, which minus auction expenses, will be used to reduce Calabrese's hefty court-imposed fines and restitution.

Other Calabrese property seized from his home, including 1,000 pieces of diamond jewelry, is to be auctioned as well.

The feds say they hope to have all the final figures from the cash auction tallied by Labor Day. It is unclear where Frank Calabrese obtained the exotic bills.

Calabrese and the other bosses convicted in Family Secrets still have appeals pending in federal court.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father Eugene Klein Pleads Not Guilty


Former prison chaplain Eugene Klein has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he plotted with convicted Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese Sr. to recover a violin reportedly hidden in a hit man's Wisconsin house.

Authorities say Klein, 62, of Springfield, Mo., was released on $20,000 bond after he appeared in a federal courtroom in Chicago on Wednesday.

Klein administered daily communion to Calabrese at the Missouri prison where he's serving a life sentence for 13 murders. He's accused of passing messages with Calabrese and conspiring with two others to try to steal the violin the mobster believed was a Stradivarius worth millions of dollars.

Defense attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin says the case against his client is "preposterous."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roman Catholic Priest Reputed to Assist Mobster in Hiding Violin from Federal Repossession

There are new developments in the case of a ruthless Chicago mobster, a Roman Catholic priest and a priceless violin. That unusual combination is the focus of this Intelligence Report.

Chicago Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. enlisted the help of a prison chaplain to get around jailhouse security rules intended to stop him from communicating with associates on the outside. Now the Roman Catholic priest is facing federal indictment in Chicago and has been suspended by the church.

The purpose of Calabrese's mission from God wasn't to put out a murder contract, according to federal authorities; it was to retrieve an expensive violin.

"It was suppose to have been a Stradivarius violin, and at one time it was supposed to have been owned by Liberace," said ex-Calabrese lawyer Joe "The Shark" Lopez. Probably not the flamboyant Lee Liberace, because he played the piano, more likely his brother George who frequently accompanied on the violin.

It was such a million-dollar instrument that Frank "the Breeze" Calabrese somehow obtained on a trip to Las Vegas-- not that the gruff Outfit enforcer is thought to have been particularly musical, but the violin was an item of value that Calabrese did not want federal authorities to seize and apply to his $4 million forfeiture bill.

So, as Calabrese serves a life sentence in Springfield, Missouri, in solitary confinement for his role in mob murders and racketeering, he was allowed face-to-face meetings only with doctors, social workers and the prison chaplain, Catholic priest Father Eugene Klein.

According to the federal indictment, Father Klein agreed to help Calabrese retrieve the valuable violin from a secret hiding place inside a summer home that Calabrese owned in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

But there was no unholy alliance between Father Klein and Calabrese as the feds have charged, according to Lopez, the attorney who represented Calabrese during Operation Family Secrets.

"I think Frank wasn't conning the priest, I think Frank was just asking the priest to help him," Lopez said. "I think it's kind of an unholy thing, but I'm not the federal government, and if I were I wouldn't indict the priest... I would give him a pass. He really didn't do anything wrong."

Nevertheless, the priest charged in Chicago has now been suspended by his home diocese. Winona, Minnesota, Bishop John Quinn on Friday afternoon issued a statement ordering Father Klein onto administrative leave, suspending his priestly faculties while asking that Klein be kept in prayer.

Father Klein is accused of traveling to north suburban Barrington, where he met with a friend of Frank Calabrese, a 72-year-old, former Italian restaurant owner, and wanted him to help get the violin back. It is believed that Barrington resident ended up cooperatingwith the FBI.

Attempts by the I-Team to contact the Barrington resident have been unsuccessful.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Frank Calabrese Assisted in Prison by Catholic Priest, Father Eugene Klein

A prison chaplain has been charged in an alleged scheme to help imprisoned Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese, who is serving a life sentence for 13 murders, recover a valuable violin reportedly hidden in a Wisconsin house to keep the government from selling it, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Catholic priest Eugene Klein, 62, of Springfield, Mo., was indicted late Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and attempting to prevent seizure of Calabrese's personal property, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago said.

Prosecutors said Klein ministered to Calabrese at a federal prison in Springfield, Mo., where he allegedly agreed to illegally pass messages to people outside of the prison and then participate in a scheme to recover the violin, which Calabrese claimed was a Stradivarius worth millions of dollars, from a home Calabrese once owned in Williams Bay, Wis.

A spokeswoman with the Springfield Diocese says Klein is a priest of the Diocese of Winona in Minnesota and under contract with the federal prison system as a chaplain in Springfield. She said he served as an assistant pastor within the Springfield Diocese from 2004-2005.

It was not clear whether Klein had an attorney. An arraignment date has not yet been set. Each of the two counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Calabrese told Klein in March that he had hidden the violin in the house and passed notes to Klein through the food slot in his cell with questions that Klein was to ask an unnamed third person, called Individual A in the indictment, and disclosing the location of the violin.

Klein drove to Barrington, Ill., in April to meet with Individual A, who told Klein the government was selling the house as part of an attempt to recover $4.4 million in restitution that Calabrese owed to his victims' families, according to the indictment. Klein then allegedly met with Individual A and a second person, called Individual B in the indictment, to plot a way to get the violin.

Klein allegedly called the real estate agent posing as a potential buyer, with the plan that one person would distract the agent while Klein and the other person looked for the violin.

Prosecutors say the government has since searched the Wisconsin residence but found no violin. They also say that during a March 2010 search of Calabrese's home in Oak Brook, Ill., a suburb west of Chicago, they found a certificate for a violin made in 1764 by Giuseppe Antonio Artalli, not Antonius Stradivarius.

It was during that same search that federal agents found loaded guns, nearly $730,000 in cash and tape recordings that officials said could contain "criminal conversations" hidden in a basement wall behind a large family portrait. The stash also included jewelry, recording devices and handwritten notes.

Agents also found about $26,000 in bundled cash in a locked desk drawer in the bedroom of his wife, Diane, according to court documents.

Calabrese, 74, was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 after being convicted with several other reputed members of the Chicago Outfit in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 murders that had gone unsolved for decades; Calabrese himself was found responsible for 13 mob murders.

Calabrese's brother, Nicholas Calabrese, was the government's star witness. He testified that his brother carried out mob hits, sometimes strangling his victims with a rope and then slashing their throats to make sure they were dead. Two victims were killed in a darkened Cicero restaurant while the Frank Sinatra record of "Strangers in the Night" was playing on the jukebox, he said.

Thanks to Forbes

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