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

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Surviving Relatives of Mob Hits Feel Re-victimized by Mobster Books and Museums

The public's fascination with traditional organized crime didn't end with the Godfather movies, Casino, Goodfellas or the Sopranos on television.

Even after Chicago and New York crime families were decimated by federal prosecutions, there is a renewed public appetite for the mob. But some people aren't biting.

"It's something that never leaves your mind or your heart," said Bob D'Andrea whose father was killed by the mob.

"It destroys you, it destroys the inside of you, it destroys you as a person," said Joey Seifert whose father was also murdered by the mob.

Decades after their loved ones were murdered by the Chicago mob, sons and daughters and wives and parents say they continue to be victimized. Not by a pistol-whipping or the payment of protection money but by a new book by ex-Chicago Outfit thug Frank Calabrese Jr., who is beginning a promotional tour this week in the city where he turned on his own father and helped put him away for life. And they say they are revictimized by two mob museums opening soon in Las Vegas.

"What you see when you go there? You are going to see the mob guys laughing and holding their kids, like trying to humanize them. And they are not, they are monsters," said Seifert.

At age four, Seifert watched a masked mob hitman kill his father. It was Joey "The Clown" Lombardo.

Anthony Ortiz was 12 years old in 1983 when his father was killed in front of the Cicero tavern he owned, gunned down by the ruthless Outfit boss Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr.

"To me, a mobster is just a glorified gangbanger, am I wrong or am I right? They beat people up, they take their money, they threaten them," said Ortiz.

It was the Calabrese crew that committed a 1981 hit on suburban trucking company owner Michael Cagnoni by a remote-controlled bomb on the Tri-state Tollway after Cagnoni refused to be extorted by Outfit bosses.

In her first ever interview, Cagnoni's widow, Margaret, says hoodlum-turned-author Frank Calabrese Jr. should not be turning a profit off victims' grief. "Frank [Jr.] was not an innocent person...To him, to go out and make money on our loses and our sorrow and profiting from victims' families is disgraceful. We suffered enough," Cagnoni told the I-Team.

"I didn't kill anybody. OK, so if they're mad that I'm going to profit off of my story with my dad, I don't know what to do. I feel bad for them. I feel sorry for their losses. I can relate to them," said Frank Calabrese Jr.

"If he is really sorry from what he did and wants to do good and show that he is making amends for his past. Why don't you show that you're sorry by donating, if you are going to write a book donate the profits to a worthy charity," said Cagnoni.

The I-Team asked Calabrese Jr. if he thought about donating his profits to a victims' fund. "I haven't. That's definitely a possibility. I talked to some of the victims' kids, and I'm trying to form a relationship with them because I want to hear their stories too," he responded.

"It would be nice if he did something nice like donate a part of the proceeds to the families, it's not like he wasn't in the business," said D'Andrea.

"His dad and his uncle are the ones who killed my dad. Why should anyone benefit from that?" said Ortiz.

"We all went through something similar, in different ways...Unfortunately all the mob that put us together," said Seifert.

And now, mob victim and mobster have something else in common; Joey Seifert has written his own book and screenplay. "It's more of a survivors' book, a family survival of this is what happened, how it shredded our family and how it brought us back together," said Seifert.

Relatives of several Chicago mobsters are paid consultants to the mob experience opening this month in Lase Vegas including such names as Spilotro, Giancana and Aiuppa.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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

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

Politicians Reputed to Have Helped the Mob in Chicago

Chicago’s most famous mob informant is accusing some Illinois politicians of helping the mob thrive in Chicago and get protection from the police.

Frank Calabrese Jr. told CBS 2’s John “Bulldog” Drummond that the mob gets help from some local public officials.

Asked if the Chicago Outfit was getting a pass from some local politicians or protection from police officers, Calabrese said, “Yeah. The outfit couldn’t survive without politicians.” He admitted that his father, convicted mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr., used to make payoffs to several politicians.

“There was a lot of politicians. There was a lot of deals done,” Calabrese Jr. said. “One politician that I’ve talked about before was (former state Sen.) Jimmy DeLeo. The reason I talked about him is because I was directly involved with that.”

Calabrese also claimed that former Illinois Department of Transportation worker Ralph Peluso was “our go-to guy with Jimmy DeLeo.”

Calabrese also said he was friends socially with DeLeo and once took a trip to Florida with DeLeo.

“I was down in Florida with him, but we were in a large group. It wasn’t just me and him. And what my father wanted me to do was, you know, get these guys close. You know, find out their weaknesses,” Calabrese said. “Everybody has weaknesses. Whether it’s women, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s gambling; people have weaknesses. Find their weaknesses. It was: they loved to find the bad politicians and find their weaknesses and make them need them.”

Calabrese said he never personally saw DeLeo take part in any illegal activity, but stood by his claim that DeLeo helped out the Outfit.

His allegations are part of his new book, Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family, the story of his decision to cooperate with federal investigators in a prosecution of 18 long-unsolved mob murders that put his father and other mob leaders behind bars for life.

DeLeo stepped down last year as an assistant Democratic floor in the Illinois Senate. Peluso was fired from his state transportation job six months ago.

Peluso got that job after he backed out of testifying at the Family Secrets mob trial, where his name was mentioned many times in testimony.

Neither DeLeo nor Peluso could be reached for comment regarding Calabrese’s statements.

Thanks to John “Bulldog” Drummond

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

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, March 11, 2011

Former State Sen. James DeLeo Tied to Chicago Outfit According to Frank Calabrese Jr.

In the Family Secrets Trial, the late prosecutor Mitchell Mars told jurors the Chicago Outfit could not exist without the help of another Chicago institution -- politics. Now, the former gangster who brought down the mob is talking about the intersection of politics and the outfit.

FOX Chicago's Dane Placko sat down with Frank Calabrese Junior, who says the Outfit knew how to get political clout.

"I went out there and tried to corrupt people. With girls, drugs, whatever. I was a bad person. I ain't like that no more," Calabrese Junior said.

Former ganster Frank Calabrese Junior, now living in Phoenix, is spilling mob secrets in his new book, Operation Family Secrets. It's the story of his wrenching decision to cooperate with the government and put his father, Frank Calabrese Senior, and other mob leaders behind bars for life.

Calabrese Junior said his father taught him how to capitalize on politicians' weaknesses. His father showed him early on how the Outfit would seek out and compromise politicians at City Hall and in Springfield with women, gambling or drugs.

According to Calabrese, it was important to "make them want you to protect them. Find out their weaknesses. Find out their vices. And that's what I did."

Calabrese says his dad always told him to avoid being seen in public with politicians. But there was one exception. "He wanted me to strike up friendships with a lot of politicians, and I did. I'll give you an example. Jimmy DeLeo," Frank Junior said.

Former State Sen. James DeLeo resigned his seat after 18 years last summer.

Frank Jr. said his dad told him to get close to DeLeo, and he got close enough that they vacationed and partied together in Florida.

DeLeo has not been reachable for comment.

"Ralph was the go-to guy between us and Jimmy DeLeo," Calabrese added, referring to Ralph Peluso, a top bookmaker and enforcer in the Calabrese crew. He was mentioned more than a dozen times in the Family Secrets trial, and was even scheduled to testify on behalf of the government. Peluso backed out at the last minute.

Months later, Peluso got a management job with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Peluso was fired in August after FOX Chicago News began asking how someone with an Outfit background got that job.

Calabrese said Peluso had long been his family's connection to the northwest side's powerful 36th Ward Democratic Organization. FOX Chicago News was unable to find Peluso for comment.

"I knew Ralph was close with the 36th Ward. Everybody in the 36th Ward. So it didn't shock me when he got a job like that. But it's funny because they waited right till after the trial to put him in that spot," Calabrese said. But getting jobs was never a problem for the Outfit, Calabrese said, especially jobs on the public payroll. He himself worked for Chicago's water department for several years and even used his expertise to fish a gun out of a sewer that had been used by his Uncle Nick during a hit.

While the Chicago mob was badly damaged by the Family Secrets convictions, Calabrese says lawmakers in Springfield just handed gangsters a get out of jail free card with the expansion of video gambling. "I mean, I laughed when I seen that. I mean, really. Why? I could go back there and show you how fast I could get in the middle of it," he said.

Lawmakers approved putting tens of thousand of video poker machines in bars, restaurants and truck stops as part of a $31 billion public works bill. That bill is tied up in the courts, but if it goes through, former FBI organized crime director Tom Bourgeois said it could be the jackpot the Outfit needs to re-organize. "You're just providing an avenue for organized crime to re-root itself and find ways to become more powerful. It's just too easy to do that and of course, the legislation provides opportunity for very little oversight," Bourgeois said.

Calabrese says he's already heard some of his old friends from Chicago are lining up for a "video poker payday."

"It's math 101, okay? I'm not gonna go in there and put my name on a license and buy a bar and ask for three machines. I'm coming to you who's totally legit and say you're gonna buy the machines from this guy, and this is what you'e gonna pay him and that guy's gonna help me in some way," he said.

Thanks to Dane Placko

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reviewing the History Behind Famous Mob Nicknames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Andy Grimm

More Mob Nicknames

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Peeking Inside Chicago's Modern Day Mob

The trial of a reputed mob boss known for his wide girth and alleged penchant for violence will offer a peek into the inner workings of Chicago-area organized crime, laid low by prosecutions that sent older mobsters to prison for life.

Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno, whose racketeering trial starts Wednesday in Chicago, is considered — at the relatively young age of 52 — a different breed of mobster, someone whose talents as an enforcer normally would not have translated into a top mob job.

“I would say he is the perfect example of the new face of the mob,” said Art Bilek, a one-time mob investigator at the Cook County State’s attorney’s office. “He has street smarts — he’s not a dope. What he simply doesn’t have is the intelligence some of the earlier guys had.”

That goes to show how far the mob has fallen, he and other law enforcement experts said.

The 2007 Family Secrets trial, the biggest such trial in Chicago in decades, was a body blow to the Chicago-area mob, also known as the Chicago Outfit. It ended in life sentences for reputed bosses James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo.

With aging kingpins behind bars and others dying, a weakened Outfit has scaled back a network that in its heyday, around 1970, encompassed operations ranging from prostitution and drugs to multimillion-dollar scams involving corrupt unions or Las Vegas casinos. But racketeering laws designed to target organized crime, aggressive federal prosecutors and competition from big-city street gangs or biker syndicates have severely cut into mob-associated operations. Not surprisingly, mobster numbers are down.

There are now fewer than 100 people formally initiated into the Chicago-area mob compared with more than 200 ‘made men’ around 1970, estimated Scott Burnstein, co-author of a book on the Family Secrets trial.

In Chicago, the mob now focuses more heavily on running illegal video gaming, with approximately 25,000 machines in bars and restaurants, generating millions of dollars in revenue, according to some estimates.

It’s leaders allegedly include Sarno, who weighed as much as 300 pounds and was known for using his bulk to collect mob gambling debts as an enforcer. Bilek says he suspects Sarno may have taken over operations in the city’s western suburbs from one of the imprisoned bosses.

Sarno’s defense attorney, Michael Gillespie, said allegations his client is linked to the mob are “fanciful.”

“The associations he has are with his family — his mom and dad,” Gillespie said Tuesday.

Whatever the case, it is impossible to know just where Sarno would fit in. That’s partly because the mob’s old pyramid structure is coming undone and true leaders are eager to maintain a low profile, even endeavoring to keep violence at a minimum, Bilek said.

Burnstein said there are reasons to question what would be the extent of Sarno’s power. For one, mob bosses want to see crime organizations they built up over decades continue after their deaths, so it’s likely more savvy mobsters also are being promoted. “I don’t think it’s quite fair to say Sarno’s the new face of the mob, therefore the mob is dead because he’s an idiot,” Burnstein said. “If he is the new power, I agree it wouldn’t bode well. But I’m sure there are other competent mobsters who aren’t just thugs.”

Sarno is accused of ordering co-defendants Mark Polchan and Sam Volpendesto to set off a bomb that wrecked the offices of a gaming company in Berwyn, C&S Coin Amusements. The aim, say prosecutors, was to send a message: Stop horning in on a profitable mob business.

The indictment alleges the enterprise Sarno was a part of also was responsible for burglaries and jewel thefts. The armed robbery of the Marry Me Jewelry Store in LaGrange Park netted nearly $650,000-worth of jewelry and other valuables, according to the indictment.

Sarno, Volpendesto and Polchan all have pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other related charges.

Polchan’s attorney, Damon Cheronis, would only say Tuesday that trial observers will see “a different picture painted than the one painted by the government.” Volpendesto’s lawyer, Michael Mann, declined to comment.

Thanks to LCN

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

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Jewelery Inventory from Frank Calabrese Sr's House

Maybe it was the striped T-neck that flattered his he-man chest.

Or it could have been the unshaven jowls, a look that would one day define actor Patrick Dempsey of TV's Grey's Anatomy.

Whatever Chicago hoodlum Frank Calabrese Sr. had on Dec. 6, 1990 _ the day the FBI snapped his portrait _ it must have been quite an aphrodisiac.

Maybe the dolled-up 40-somethings who used to populate Giannotti's piano bar back then knew what made Frank such a ladies' man. But common civilians like me didn't have a clue until the U.S. Marshal's Service and the FBI found solid proof in his Oak Brook house.

Solid gold, silver and platinum mostly.

Lots of it.

Forty-four diamond engagement rings.

Unless your name was Donald Trump, who would need that many engagement rings?

Besides, Calabrese himself is in prison until the end of time or his heart gives out, whichever comes first. But when federal agents showed up at the home where his wife still lives to collect items that could pay off his government debt, they found all those engagement rings. And the feds found some other pieces of jewelry that would tickle a few fancies, most of them stored in a hollowed-out basement wall behind a photo collage of Calabrese's kids and grandkids.

According to U.S. Marshal's inventory records, there were hundreds of other items, including wedding and cocktail rings _ each set with expensive gemstones; diamond necklaces and pendants; diamond earrings and specialty women's jewelry featuring anniversary and birthday greetings.

Also found were boxes full of loose stones that appeared to be diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Apparently Mr. Calabrese offered custom jewelry to the ladies as well. Not bad for a fourth-grade dropout who twice went AWOL from the military.

Some of the expensive trinkets inventoried by federal marshals are a mystery however, such as the single earring that was found... unless of course it was intended for the wife of Frankie "One Ear" Fratto as some kind of inside-Outfit joke.

Or maybe that was all Calabrese could grab off the ear of a mob murder victim as the sirens got closer. The mob hitman was found responsible for 13 gangland slayings during Operation Family Secrets. He did however deny them to the end, testifying in court that he "loved" each and every victim. And some of the jewelry found in his stash indicates he was indeed a man of peace and love. Deputy marshals found pendants of "Jesus at the cross," another sporting "Jesus face with stones" along with several cross necklaces and a rosary.

Most attention after the raid was focused on $750,000 in cash, seven guns and some secret tapes that Calabrese recorded of conversations with other wiseguys. The jewelry haul got short shrift. But it may have said more about Frank Calabrese Sr. himself than the rest, although his lawyer maintained that Calabrese knew nothing about any of it.

The feds also recovered a handful of those obligatory Italian horns in gold that were seen hanging from neck chains on the Sopranos. There were some fur coats, three knives, two money clips and just one bracelet. Either Calabrese exhausted his supply of wrist-wear or bracelets weren't real popular with his lady friends.

In an industry where the top leaders all have nicknames, such as the Clown, Wings and No-Nose, Calabrese's moniker always seemed a little soft for such a big shot.

"Frank the Breeze" is how he is known. That hardly befits a reigning Chicago Mob boss who, at the dangerous age of 71, has been in solitary confinement for more than a year because of a vile death threat uttered at a federal prosecutor.

Calabrese is at a federal prison medical center in Springfield, Missouri, and didn't even find out for days that the government took all of his jewels. But now that we know he was really just a misunderstood master of passion; a man who simply enjoyed romancing with the stones, perhaps it is time to decorate him with a more suitable nickname.

Frank "Mcdreamy" Calabrese.

Patrick Dempsey, eat your heart out.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto's Dining Reviews

Reputed Chicago Outfit lieutenant Rudy Fratto sat in a federal courtroom, with reporters filling the jury box a few feet away.

His usual lawyer, the always snazzy Art Nasser, was unavailable. So Rudy had another attorney: Donald Angelini Jr., son of the late Outfit king of bookies, Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini.

Though Angelini was pleasant and professionally buttoned down on Friday, Fratto, 66, seemed a bit lonely at the defense table, waiting for his criminal hearing to begin.

That scraggly beard hid his chin, and he was comfortably dressed in the Rudy look: black shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, just like a Hopalong Cassadicci.

I didn't want him to feel lonely, so I said hello and asked about a line in the federal charges, in which he was described as Rudy "The Chin" Fratto.

Hey, Rud? What's with "The Chin"?

"I don't know," Rudy said. "I don't know where they got that,"

Did the FBI get you early?

"Not too early," Rudy smirked.

Like 6 a.m.?

"No, they came later, for coffee," Rudy said.

He'll need his sense of humor. I've heard that last week's new charges are just the beginning of a larger tsunami coming for the Chicago Outfit and its political messenger boys.

In January, Fratto was sentenced in a federal tax-evasion case. That was his first conviction ever.

On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to the new charge, which involves alleged bid-rigging in contracts at McCormick Place and leverage by the Cleveland mob.

McCormick Place has long been the Outfit's playground. In 1974, the Tribune reported the payroll read like a "who's who of the Chicago crime syndicate."

The 1974 payroll list included mobsters such as the late Rocco Infelice (natural causes), the late Ronnie Jarrett (unnatural bullet holes) and the 11th Ward's favorite Outfit bookie, Ray John Tominello (still alive, investing in Florida real estate).

Quiet hit man Nicholas Calabrese also was on the McCormick Place payroll. He killed dozens of men and decades later was the star government witness in the Family Secrets mob trial.

Another McCormick Place payrollee was the Outfit's Michael "Bones" Albergo. Nick Calabrese and his brother Frank got rid of "Bones." They buried his body in a pit a few hundred yards from Sox Park.

The federal Family Secrets trial put mobsters in prison for life. Other reputed bosses who were not charged, such as John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, have gone underground.

Sources say DiFronzo refuses to see anyone. His only sit-downs take place in his Barcalounger, when he watches TV. And Andriacci has apparently been suffering from Fedzheimers, a malady that makes politicians and wiseguys forget lots of things, like how to find Rush Street.

Fratto has a scary reputation. Yet he's always been friendly and charming to me. Then again, I've never spotted him in my rear-view mirror. That happened to Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone. Mario didn't believe in coincidence and was so shaken by the sight of Rudy Fratto in his mirror that he ran straight to the FBI.

In the courtroom, Rudy's wife, Kim, dressed in a black shawl, said hello.

"It's always nice to see you, Mr. Kass," said Kim.

The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Fratto.

After Rudy was fitted with a home monitoring device, the couple took a long lunch in the newly remodeled second-floor federal cafeteria.

When they finally came down, they didn't want to talk to reporters. Then I asked Rudy a question he couldn't refuse:

Was the food in the federal building as good as it is at Cafe Bionda?

Rudy, always the jokester, couldn't resist.

"No," he said, "but it's better than Gene & Georgetti's, though."

Rudy knows how much I like Gene's, the best steakhouse in the city. Yet for years, Rudy had made Cafe Bionda, at 19th and State Street, a personal hangout. On her Facebook page, Kim Fratto lists Cafe Bionda as one of her favorites.

With such strong recommendations, my young friend Wings and I felt we had to stop there for lunch. Cafe Bionda is a short cab ride from the federal courthouse. And a long pistol shot from McCormick Place.

We were hoping to run into head chef/owner Joe Farina to ask him about Rudy's favorite dish.

Wings ordered the Linguini con Vongole. I had the signature Nanna's Gravy. It was all delicious. Sadly, Joe wasn't in, so I left a note with our server:

Dear Joe: Sorry I missed you. Rudy recommended your place to me. The food was great. John.

The coffee was great, too. And I thought of all that coffee Rudy and his friends will be drinking, and the Rush Street guys, and the politicians, buzzing on caffeine.

They might want to stay wide awake, and keep a pot of coffee on, just in case the feds come knocking some morning.

Thanks to John Kass

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) Extended Against Frank Calabrese

"When Enough is Enough"

I have been informed that the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois has requested that the Attorney General of the United States extend the SAMS (special administrative measures) to Frank Calabrese for an additional year. Frank has been kept in almost complete isolation from his family and friends since November of 2008. He is allowed very limited contact with the outside world. He cannot talk to any prisoners or staff. The SAMS program is supposed to be reserved for terrorists both Foreign and Domestic. Matt Hale the white supremacist has been under SAMS along with Mid-Eastern Terrorists. This is sad news for Frank and his family. Otherwise it is my understanding that he is a model prisoner.

Unfortunately we do not have access to the request to determine why Frank should be subject to SAMS but many speculate it is the way he moved his lips during closing argument. Two anonymous jurors who apparently are expert lip readers claimed that they saw Frank move his lips in such a manner that they flapped in the wind "you are a fucking dead man". This was reported 2 weeks after the trial ended. There may be other reasons why Frank is subject to SAMS but its not because Frank Jr wants to visit his father. Frank Jr. the "gutless wonder" inflicted pain on a lot of families for his own agenda mostly to become famous since he was a nobody in a world full of somebodies. Now he can go down in the history books as the most famous traitor in Chicago without a red dress! Frank no doubt will want to challenge the SAMS but its probably a losing battle. Stay tuned for more as this story develops.

Thanks to Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family Secrets Jury Deliberations Were Systematic, Often Contentious

The anonymous jury that decided the Family Secrets case was exhausted.

After methodically working through stacks of evidence to convict four mob figures and a former Chicago police officer of racketeering conspiracy, jurors had become bogged down during a second round of deliberations.

For the first time in three months, personality conflicts flared and jurors snapped at one another as they tried to decide if the four mobsters could be blamed for 18 gangland slayings stretching back decades.

"There were times when we all looked out the window for a while and no one talked to each other," one juror recalled.

Two years after the landmark Family Secrets mob trial gripped Chicago with its lurid details of mob mayhem, jurors who sat in judgment have finally broken their silence.

Two of the jurors -- a man and a woman -- spoke last week to a Tribune reporter at a Loop restaurant, insisting their identities remain secret out of continued concern for their safety.

Even two years after the summerlong trial in 2007, few of the jurors know the names of one another, they said. Their identities had been publicly concealed to protect them from possible retaliation by the Chicago syndicate and to shield them from the news media.

Instead, jurors addressed one another by nicknames. Some took on names of characters in the trial, while others won monikers that might have been passed on by the mob itself. A tall juror became "Shorty" and another was called "Puzzles" because he often sat solving them during trial breaks.

As they began their deliberations, jurors pored over their notes -- one juror filled 16 pads of paper -- and sorted through carts of prosecution evidence -- documents, photos and even ski masks worn by hit men.They wrote questions on large "post-it" notes and stuck them to the wall. When they ran out of space, jurors took down decorative pictures to make more room for their notes.

The two jurors said the panel began the initial deliberations by deciding whether a criminal enterprise known as the Chicago Outfit existed. Then they considered the alleged role of each of the defendants they had spent months staring at from the jury box.

"I found them all to look mild-mannered and pleasant and grandfatherly," the female juror said of defendants James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul "the Indian" Schiro, and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, the ex-Chicago cop.

The man said most of the jurors began to figure out the importance of the trial after hearing about the infamous murders of mobster Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, whose bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

The jurors said the first round of deliberations went smoothly. If anyone was uncertain, others would calmly go back over the testimony, according to the two. The evidence was strong, they said, and jurors took four days to convict all five defendants on a host of counts, voting by a show of hands.

The jury was surprised, though, to find out that their work was not over after three months, the two said.

They again placed notes on the wall, building a chart with the 18 murder victims on one side and the four mobsters on trial across the top. They placed check marks by the defendant's name if they felt he could be held responsible for a particular murder.

"There was a lot more talking and a lot more disagreement," the female juror said. "People were passionate about Round 2."

The jurors said the panel delved more deeply into the centerpiece of the prosecution case -- the testimony of mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese. The former hit man admitted committing 14 murders himself and linked the four mobsters -- including his own brother -- to many of the gangland killings.

To some jurors, Calabrese was a tortured man who calmly named names as he recounted murders he was forced to commit with other Chicago Outfit members, but others on the jury wouldn't rely on his word alone to find blame in a killing. "Fundamentally, Nick was himself just like one of those guys in the room," the female juror said. "Some people just weren't able to get past it."

The result, the jurors said, were strained arguments and frazzled tempers.

The male juror was among the leaders who thought Calabrese was believable because other evidence corroborated his testimony. He recalled one instance when Calabrese fought tears on the witness stand as he recounted how an attempt to blow up the car of a businessman targeted by the mob almost resulted in killing the man's wife and child. "That was either the best acting job ever or somebody who's facing some serious demons," the juror said.

The jury wound up finding Lombardo, Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. responsible for 10 of the murders, but deadlocked on the other eight slayings. The two jurors said the jury deadlocked on murders that relied only on the word of Nicholas Calabrese.

The jury found Marcello responsible for the Spilotro killings, but it was close, they said. Calabrese testified Marcello drove him to a house where the brothers had been lured by the promise of mob promotions and helped beat them to death in the basement.

Calabrese had alone put Marcello at the murder scene, but the jurors said there was just enough evidence to buttress his account. Relatives of the Spilotros had testified that Marcello called their home the day the brothers were killed and that Michael Spilotro worried enough about the meeting to have left his jewelry at home. But there were discrepancies in the government evidence, the jurors noted. Calabrese had put a mobster at the murder scene who was actually under FBI surveillance at the time, making his presence there impossible. But the jurors said they chalked it up to a memory lapse and moved on, confident they had made the right decision.

The jurors said they weren't surprised to see Marcello, Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr. each sentenced to life in prison this year. Both said they supported the controversial 12-year prison sentence that U.S. District Judge James Zagel imposed on Nicholas Calabrese.

The male juror said he thought the judge had done a good job explaining his decision, even though some family members of victims found the sentence unfair. No one would dispute that Calabrese was a killer, he said. "You have to look at what he was able to bring forward on all of this -- he gave people answers," the juror said. "But I'm glad I didn't have to make that call."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Sunday, July 12, 2009

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, June 26, 2009

Convicted Family Secrets Cop to Petition Police Pension Board to Keep Pension

Chumbolone (pronounced chum-buh-LOAN), my favorite Chicago political word that explains exactly what politicians think of us taxpayers, has finally made it to the big time, with its own listing on And as a bonus, today there's even more chumbolonian news.

The corrupt cop Anthony "Twan" Doyle -- who first uttered the word from a federal witness stand and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for being a messenger boy for bosses of the Chicago Outfit -- will petition the police pension board on Thursday in the hopes of keeping his pension.

"I'm not going to diminish his conviction and say it's insignificant, because it's not," said Twan's lawyer, the criminal defense whiz Ralph Meczyk. "But one event erased the career of a hardworking copper, and as far as his pension goes, it shouldn't be a complete loss.

"It's not going to be easy, I know."

Meczyk is scheduled to appear before the police pension board, one of the groups that mysteriously gave Mayor Richard Daley's nephew $68 million of city pension cash to invest, and the mayor says he knew absolutely nothing about it. The mayor thinks we're chumbolones.

Twan's gambit, that he was a good cop despite the Outfit messenger boy stuff, probably won't work. But given precedent, it's worth a try.

Just last February, convicted serial arsonist and former Chicago Fire Department Lt. Jeffrey "Matches" Boyle sought to recover his $50,000-a-year city pension despite the arson convictions.

Boyle's legal theory? When he set the fires, he was off duty, not on city time. The city fire pension board asked Boyle what his years as a firefighter taught him about being a good arsonist. "The hotter it got, the more it would burn," Boyle said. A clean answer without ambiguity. But he didn't receive his pension.

The reason I called Meczyk was to inform him that "chumbolone" had made it to, and to ask Meczyk to get all his friends and clients to go online and vote a jolly "thumbs up" for the word.

"I like chumbolone," Meczyk said. "You popularized it. And it's such a Chicago thing, it's part of Chicagoese now. I haven't met anyone, almost, who doesn't like the word, except for one person."




Twan was known as the big silent guy with the big biceps who hung around with reputed mob street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso in Chinatown.

Twan had been picked up on federal recordings, visiting convicted Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. in prison and talking about murder evidence while joking about using a cattle prod on mafioso cooperating with the FBI. But Twan testified he had no idea what Calabrese had been saying. He said he only kept nodding and agreeing out of good manners.

"I gave him lip service," Twan said from the witness stand, shrugging. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I don't wanna look like a chumbolone, an idiot, stupid."

Search for the word on, and you'll see it right next to the condom ad and the photo of a curvy young woman selling T-shirts that say: "Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War."

Here's the Web site's definition:

Chumbolone -- idiot, stupid -- Popularized by Chicago newspaper columnist John Kass after first hearing the word spoken in testimony by mob messenger boy Anthony "Twan" Doyle during a 2007 federal trial. While working for the mob, Doyle got himself hired into the Chicago Police Department evidence department in order to remove or destroy DNA and other evidence of mob homicides.

Some readers insist that chumbolone is not a proper word. Others say it refers to a tasty Italian cake. One reader in particular really doesn't want me to use it.

"Twan doesn't like you using the word," Meczyk said. "He really doesn't like it."

Really? Why?

"He never said. He's quite stoic in this regard," Meczyk said. "He's in prison, but he's no chumbolone."

Thanks to John Kass


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