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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Flashback: Prison Release of Betty Loren-Maltese Awakens Organized Crime Mystique of Cicero

Prohibition was the law of the land when Al Capone took over Cicero in 1924, muscling his way in with gun-toting hoodlums on Election Day. And many residents were happy to hear his beer wagons rumbling through the streets en route to speakeasies.

More than 80 years later, this sleepy-looking suburb of blue-collar bungalows and strip malls a few miles west of Chicago still hasn't shaken its reputation for mob influence, political scandal and corruption, even as leaders insist they've put it behind them.

"The organized crime mystique _ that's the reason for our image," says town spokesman Ray Hanania, insisting President Larry Dominick has "taken politics out of town government" since taking office in 2005. The story of Cicero and the mob, he said, is "a great story and it's easy to write but it's unfair."

Critics, though, say corruption still hangs thick in the air.

About a week ago, former town President Betty Loren-Maltese returned to Chicago after 6 1/2 years in prison for fleecing taxpayers of more than $12 million in a mob-related insurance scam. The money paid for an island golf course in Wisconsin, a horse farm and a summer home for reputed mob boss Mike Spano, who went to prison along with Loren-Maltese.

Loren-Maltese was boosted into politics by her late husband, former Cicero town assessor Frank "Baldy" Maltese, who was indicted on corruption charges in the early 1990s along with Rocco Infelice, reputed one-time boss of the Cicero mob. Maltese pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 1993 but died of cancer before going to prison. Infelice died behind bars.

No sooner had the once-jovial Loren-Maltese _ sporting her trademark flamboyant hairdo but grim and silent behind large dark glasses _ arrived Monday to start a four-month term in a halfway house, than news surfaced that she and her elderly mother were receiving health insurance benefits from the very town fund that Loren-Maltese was convicted of looting.

Hanania said Loren-Maltese received the benefits under a law she "rammed through" while still in office that provides coverage to all Cicero elected officials for life, and her mother got insurance for serving on the police and fire commission for 10 years.

By Tuesday, officials in the town of about 85,000 decided her mother wasn't entitled to the coverage because she never held elective office, and terminated it. But that wasn't the only problem, critics say. Dominick, a hefty ex-cop who served on the Cicero force for years, also has found jobs for a number of his relatives on the town payroll, including a son who works as the human resources director.

"I think they haven't really changed since the Al Capone era in their approach to government and politics and civic decency," says Andy Shaw, head of Chicago's Better Government Association. "This is the town that time forgot."

Not that some things haven't changed.

Scantily clad prostitutes no longer saunter in the neon haze outside the mob-connected strip joints that flourished along Cicero Avenue in the 1950s and 1960s. Gone are the no-name prize fighters who once slugged it out in a little arena in a cloud of colored smoke and flickering strobe lights.

"The place was crawling with vice and gambling," said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit," a history of the city's organized crime family. "It was the same story in some other little suburbs where the mob could get its hooks in, but Cicero was sort of the crown jewel, maybe because of its location close to Chicago and because Capone pushed his way in there."

Now it all seems comparatively tame. Almost.

In February 2003, a massive pipe bomb erupted on a quiet street in Berwyn, a neighboring suburb. The explosion blew away the front of a company that distributed the video poker machines that federal prosecutors say were used for illegal gambling throughout Chicago and its suburbs.

Prosecutors said it was organized crime's way of delivering the message that horning in on its monopoly on video poker machines was dangerous _ and at the time, the biggest distributor of the machines in the western suburbs was based in Cicero.

It was owned by Michael Marcello, whose brother, James Marcello, went to prison for life following the 2007 Operation Family Secrets trial, the biggest mob case in Chicago in decades. Michael Marcello also went to prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and other offenses for running a gambling business and paying the government's star witness in the Family Secrets case, Nicholas Calabrese, to keep mum.

Then in 2008, Cicero jewelry store owner Mark Polchan and Samuel Volpendesto, a tiny, white-bearded, 86-year-old former manager of a Cicero strip joint, were indicted on charges of blowing up the Berwyn video poker company.

Last year, the charges against the two men became part of a larger, racketeering indictment that added five other defendants, including a Cicero police officer. All have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in September.

Originally reported by Mike Robinson on 2/21/10.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New sentencing ordered in Cicero fraud case

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Michael Spano Sr., Frank Maltese
Friends of mine: Betty Loren-Maltese

This is the same Betty Loren-Maltese who fired her police chief, David Niebur, after he started working with the FBI in their investigation of corruption in Cicero. He was awarded $1.7MM by a federal grand jury as a result of the firing. The fraud case was the same scheme that prosecutors said was set up by the late Frank Maltese, a convicted mob bookmaker who was the husband of Betty Loren-Maltese.

Betty Loren-Maltese
Suburban Chicago Cicero's former town president and five others must be resentenced in the $10.6 million fraud case that sent them to prison, an appeals court ruled Thursday. Former town President Betty Loren-Maltese could get the same eight-year sentence she's now serving for swindling the suburban community, a stiffer one or a lesser one under the ruling.

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that U.S. District Judge John F. Grady, who presided over the three-month trial, made an error in imposing the sentences. The 15-page opinion written by Judge Richard A. Posner said that after Grady calculated the amount of the loss at $10.6 million he wrongly rounded the number down to below $10 million.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the greater the loss the harsher the sentence. Grady's decision cut 10 months or more off the sentences.

Grady said he rounded the number down by $600,001 because it was merely an estimate and an estimate could be unreliable. "But unless he thought the estimate biased, he had no basis for rounding down any more than he would have for rounding up," the appeals court said.

Betty Loren-MalteseLoren-Maltese, 55, was sentenced in January 2003 for presiding over a scheme in which millions of dollars were paid to an insurance consultant and siphoned off by the defendants. They used the money to buy a horse farm and a golf course among other things.

Federal guidelines that require longer time in prison for bigger monetary losses were mandatory when Grady imposed the sentences on Loren-Maltese and her co-defendants. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision has since made them advisory only and freed judges to impose sentences outside the guidelines as long as they are "reasonable." That means, the appeals court said, that Grady could impose the same sentences over again and they would most likely be upheld.

The appeals decision was a victory for federal prosecutors who have spent years investigating the small, blue-collar suburb just outside the Chicago city limits that has been known as a haven for corruption since the 1920s when Al Capone made it the hub of his bootlegging empire.

The appeals court affirmed all of the convictions and brushed aside defense arguments that they should be set aside. The court said attorneys for Loren-Maltese were wrong in claiming that she was unfairly convicted because she got little out of the scheme personally beyond increased health insurance coverage.

Michael Spano Sr.After the verdict, one juror was quoted in a published report as saying that co-defendant Michael Spano Sr.'s alleged mob ties had been discussed in the jury room. But the appeals court dismissed a defense claim that Grady should have held a hearing to determine if the jury's deliberations had been tainted by mention of Spano's alleged ties. Federal prosecutors have said Spano, now in prison, is the head of the Cicero mob.

Thanks to Mike Robinson.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Did feds kill off the mob?

Friends of ours: Fred Roti, Frank Maltese, Joe Ferriola, Sam Giancana, Bill Daddano, Tony Accardo, Vincent "Jimmy" Cozzo
Friends of mine: John D'Arco Sr., Pat Marcy, Betty Loren-Maltese, Robert Natale, John Serpico, Don Stephens, John Duff, Ed Hanley, William Hanhardt, James Vondruska, Bob Cooley

A mere decade ago, the Chicago Outfit's political wing still had an address: Room 2306 of the Bismarck Hotel, at Randolph and LaSalle, the 1st Ward offices of Committeeman John D'Arco Sr. and Ald. Fred Roti, a made member of the mob. Downstairs at Counsellors Row Restaurant, D'Arco and Roti held court with mob-friendly aldermen, judges and state legislators like John D'Arco Jr. The feds installed a hidden camera at Counsellors Row and wired lawyer Bob Cooley. They caught D'Arco and Roti discussing mob business such as rigging elections, bribing judges to fix cases and greasing zoning and license deals.

"Yes sir," the judges and aldermen--some still in office--told ward Secretary Pat Marcy, and rushed off to get him a liquor license or whatever he asked for.

Roti and D'Arco Sr. went to jail and have since died. Counsellors Row was torn down and the old 1st Ward mapped out of existence. Even the Bismarck has a new name: Hotel Allegro. At the same time, the feds took over some of the most mobbed-up unions to try to clean them.

So did the feds kill the mob? Are local pols right to call mob influence in Chicago "ancient history?" Have the mobsters gone straight and quit trying to cultivate friends in government? Mob-watchers and cops say, "No."

The mob has always wanted friendly judges on the bench for help on cases and cops on the force to keep some crimes unsolved. Controlling unions provides jobs for flunkies and money for pols. Friendships with legislators prevent bills cracking down on video poker, which some say nets $100 million a year for the mob.

Most of all, the mob wants friends in government for jobs and contracts. The mob doesn't offer health insurance--mob lackeys need day jobs for that. "It used to be you'd give him $200 a week to get the [illegal betting] books--now you get him a city job," a city worker said at a Northwest Side coffee shop as he looked around cautiously and sipped coffee on his 11 a.m. break. "There's a lot of power with jobs," said Terrance Norton, the Better Government Association executive director.

A slew of convictions this year shows the downsized mob has just diversified and moved west. And the video poker games stay in the bars.

Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale went to prison this year for taking mob bribes to allow illegal video poker gambling at mob-linked bars.

Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, widow of convicted mobster Frank Maltese, will be sentenced next month for an insurance scam that skimmed $4 million from employee policies. The firm behind the scam gave $21,000 to Gov. Ryan, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and others.

Union boss John Serpico--appointed and reappointed by Gov. Jim Thompson and Gov. Jim Edgar to head the state port authority even though Serpico testified in 1985 he regularly met with mob boss Joe Ferriola--was sentenced this year on a loan scheme. Serpico showered union money on pols.

Still, elected officials whose campaigns benefit most from the generosity of businesses the state Gaming Board or the Chicago Crime Commission call mob-tied say the mob is dead: "I don't think there's a mob around anyway to run anything," said state Rep. Ralph Capparelli (D-Chicago). "They're still talking about 1924 and 1930. I think you use the word 'mob' because some guy has an Italian name." Saviano and state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) have made similar statements.

If a mob-linked legitimate business does good work and offers the low bid, why shouldn't it get the contract, one west suburban mayor asked.

With no official address or go-to guy in local government, it's hard to know the mob's legislative agenda. Mob-watchers say a new casino in Rosemont, or better yet, downtown Chicago, tops the list, along with more video poker.

The state Gaming Board refused to allow a casino in Rosemont, finding mob-linked firms already working on the site. Former Crime Commission chief investigator Wayne Johnson blasted twice-indicted, never-convicted Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens for ties to men the commission says are associated with organized crime, such as Sam Giancana and Bill Daddano.

Stephens sued Johnson for libel but admitted the ties to Giancana and Daddano in court filings. Stephens' suit silenced Johnson, the most vocal mob-watcher in town. Johnson left the commission and has been advised by attorneys not to discuss Stephens' alleged mob ties.

Mayor Daley has not cut all ties to the mob-linked Duff family, which donated $8,875 to his campaigns and reaped $100 million in local government contracts. Patriarch John F. Duff Jr. was a character witness for mob boss Tony Accardo. "I just know them. That's all," Daley said. "I'm not personal friends with them. I know them. So what?" A federal grand jury subpoenaed records of Duff contracts with local governments.

Daley's main ally in pushing a downtown casino in the early '90s was Ed Hanley, who had to give up control of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers union amid a federal probe of mob ties.

William Hanhardt was convicted this year of running a jewelry theft ring that stole more than $5 million while Hanhardt climbed the ranks of the Chicago Police Department to deputy superintendent. Cooley warned officials more than a decade ago that Hanhardt was the mob's main plant on the force, getting mob lackeys hired and promoted.

Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez quit five years ago after admitting a close friendship with a mob-linked felon questioned in an oil executive's murder.

Chicago police have watched as powerful ward committeemen still in office today huddled with mob higher-ups such as Vincent "Jimmy" Cozzo.

"What does the mob want from government? No. 1, money, and No. 2, power," Cooley said. "Nobody could ever get a city job or a promotion without the approval of the 1st Ward. They had all the jobs in McCormick Place, all the city jobs, police, sheriff's, state's attorney."

Mobbed-up unions provide an entree for mob types to get jobs in departments like Transportation and Streets and Sanitation that hire union members. A raid at Streets and Sanitation found 37 employees AWOL, including Chucky Miller, who was robbing a Wisconsin jewelry store of $250,000 on city time.

Transportation Department 'worker' James Vondruska, whom the commission calls a mob associate, pleaded guilty this year to playing the horses on city time. WBBM-TV reporter Pam Zekman taped him and other mob-linked workers playing hooky.

Mob-watchers say the mob wants to unionize workers at any new casino that opens in Rosemont or Chicago to work their way into the operation there. "John Serpico was out there with John Matassa 'cause they were going to unionize all the workers at the casino," one mob-watcher said.

The feds have taken over one union after another, from the Teamsters to the Laborers and Hotel and Restaurant Workers' locals, to try to purge them. Serpico was kicked out of the Laborers Union, then committed his loan fraud at Central States.

"The attraction of a union to a mob organization is the union's pension fund investments and medical plans, which are supposed to go to benefit union rank and file, most of whom could never enter the same restaurants ... as Hanley and his syndicate friends," said Combined Counties Police Association President John Flood. "And the main attraction of a union like that controlled by Hanley to the politicians also is the ability to dish out cash contributions."

Thanks to ABDON M. PALLASCH

Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Is Cicero Still a Mob Town?

In the 1920s, Al Capone and his gangsters, looking for a safe and protected place, moved their headquarters from Chicago to Cicero, Ill., a small town just west of the city. Some people, including a recent police chief there, say the mob never left. Carol Marin reports for 60 Minutes II. Cicero is a blue-collar town: Very few people in this suburb of about 70,000 ever get rich. But one group there has made money, for the better part of 80 years: a group known simply as "The Outfit."

Since Capone, other big-name bosses controlled the Cicero rackets: Frank Nitti, Capone's enforcer and handpicked successor; Sam "Momo" Giancana, who befriended John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, among others; and Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, the most feared and respected of all mob bosses.

Nearly 40 years ago, Cicero was described by Cook County State's Attorney Dan Ward as "a walled city of the syndicate."

In 1989, that wall began to crack. The break began with Cicero native Bill Jahoda, who for 10 years was one of the mob's top bookies. He probably made about $10 million for the mob, he says. "I was in the gambling department," he says. "I [was] in the mob's hospitality wing, or the entertainment division. But let me tell you, gambling is a very dangerous and competitive line of work. There were three murders on my shift that I was aware of that related to gambling. In two of those cases I was what would be considered the setup guy. I steered the men to the place where they were ultimately killed."

Not long after that, Jahoda became a government informant, and his testimony helped convict 20 members of a gambling crew headquartered in Cicero. When his work was done, Jahoda left town a marked man. "The mob controlled town hall," Jahoda says. "It wasn't necessarily who was in there; it was who the mob put in there." The police department knew that it shouldn't interfere with the mob's businesses, Jahoda says.

"Any time there's a dollar there, the mob wants a piece of it," he says. "Whether it's coming out of protection, whether it's coming out of graft, whether it's coming out on contracts, whether it's coming out of unions, any time there's a dollar, the mob wants to get about 90 cents on it."

In the 1980s and 1990s the mob's man at town hall was Trustee Fank Maltese, according to Jahoda. Maltese and Betty Loren were married in 1988, with some of the mob's top men in attendance. Three years later a federal grand jury indicted Frank Maltese on gambling and racketeering charges. Maltese pled guilty to the federal charges.

Maltese died before he could be sent to prison, but not before pulling off what some consider his best political fix. In a closed-door meeting with other town trustees, Maltese had his wife, who had never been elected to any office, named Cicero town president. Betty Loren-Maltese, a tough politician with a penchant for big hair and false eyelashes, is still town president. When she took office, she would change Cicero's image, she said.

Cicero doesn't deserve its reputation, she says. "Every community has a problem but apparently we get the notoriety because everybody knows the name Cicero," she says. "Some people in Southern states say, 'Oh my God, Cicero.' They assume that there's hit men with machine guns on the street."

Since 1993 Loren-Maltese has closed down strip joints and taken on street gangs. Three years ago she set out to reform Cicero's police department, which by her own account was corrupt. After a nationwide search, she found David Neibur, at the time the police chief in Joplin, Missouri.

At first Neibur didn't want the job. But then Loren-Maltese promised him that he could root out corruption wherever he found it.

Neibur took the position and began trying to clean up the town. He took a look at Ram Towing, which had the exclusive, lucrative contract to tow cars in Cicero. Ram Towing got that contract after being in business just one week. Over the next two years Ram Towing, along with its sister company, gave more than $30,000 to the political campaign of Loren-Maltese.

Neibur says he had other questions, especially about how some companies were servicing police department vehicles. His department was paying to have cars tuned up that had just been tuned up weeks before, and paid for tires that never arrived, he says.

Neibur told Loren-Maltese about these allegations, he says. He also cited poker machines he says were making illegal payoffs in bars and restaurants. He asked his boss to outlaw the machines, which have been used by the mob as a way to make money. She refused, he says.

The FBI was also interested in the town's operations. It had bugged town hall as part of a corruption investigation with Loren-Maltese as one of the targets. The FBI wanted Neibur's help in its investigation, which is still going on, Neibur says.

Through an attorney, Ram Towing said it has done nothing wrong. When Neibur made his allegations of corruption, Cicero's special legal sounsel at the time, Merrick Rayle, investigated and said he found no wrongdoing. "I didn't hear about any, and I certainly didn't see it," Rayle says. "And it's not my sense, having worked with these folks, that they were corrupt in any fashion.

Rayle served as Cicero's special legal counsel for a year and a half. Besides investigating Neibur's claims, his other principal job was to catch and fire police officers who violated Cicero's residency requirements. His bill was $1.5 million. He did a lot of work for the money, Rayle says. He also contributed around $34,000 to Loren-Maltese's political fund during that time. There is no correlation between the donations and his hiring by the town, Rayle says. Rayle says Loren-Maltese fired him because his bills were too high. His replacement, a personal friend of the president, charged even more.

Even though he was fired by Loren-Maltese, Rayle says that he still likes her. "I think she has done a tremendous job as president of the town of Cicero," he says. "Lesser people would walk away from that job because of the constant turmoil, the constant bad press."

Four and a half months after Loren-Maltese hired Neibur to reform the Cicero police department, she fired him. Neibur is now suing. He was dismissed after turning over documents to the FBI alleging a pattern of fraud, he says. "[One] night, five members of the police department showed up at my house, seized my car, uniforms, ammunition and served me with a letter from Betty saying that I could no longer represent myself as a employee of the town of Cicero in any capacity," he says.

Loren-Maltese refused to comment on any of these matters. In a written statement the town's attorney said: "The exclusively negative nature of the topics submitted for discussion could only serve to harm the improving image of the town of Cicero." But in 1998, she did speak to a local TV station: "Does the town have a problem? Are there investigations going on? Yes. Will there always be? Yes, because we are Cicero."

Loren-Maltese dedicated the town's public safety building to the memory of her husband, the late mob felon.

Jahoda's testimony, which helped convict Maltese, was a blow to the outfit, but it was hardly fatal, he says. The man who now runs the day-to-day operation of the Chicago mob, is a former Cicero resident, Johnny "Apes" Monteleon, according to authorities. "I learned the hard way that Al Capone really never left Cicero," Neibur says. "I believe the organization still exists in Cicero.

Thanks to Carol Marin


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