The Chicago Syndicate: Frank Schweihs
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Frank Schweihs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Schweihs. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mob Recipes

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Reputed mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. would chat about "recipes" over the phone with his wife while he was in prison in Milan, Mich.

In one recorded conversation between Calabrese Sr. and his second wife, Diane Calabrese, she asks the aging gangster, "You talking about the German chocolate one?"

"Yes," Calabrese Sr. replies. But it's not food they're talking about, the feds say.

They're talking about illegal money collections from mob activities.

The fresh details came to light Friday night as federal prosecutors responded to a slew of pre-trial motions filed by the defendants in what some observers call the most important prosecution ever against the Chicago mob.

Such mob heavyweights as James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs and Calabrese Sr. are on trial in a case that puts 18 hits at the Outfit's doorstep.

Calabrese Sr. and Marcello want any tape-recorded conversations between them and their wives while the men were in prison disallowed at trial because of marital privilege. The feds argue otherwise, saying both husbands and wives knew they were being tape-recorded during their prison phone chats and had no expectation of privacy.

In the case of Diane Calabrese, they suggest she helped further the illegal activity her loan-sharking husband allegedly was involved in. Diane Calabrese has not been charged with any crime.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney, Joseph Lopez, dismissed the government's filing as "just more nonsense."

The feds contend that Calabrese Sr., known for talking in code, would refer to various collections as "recipes."

In one Nov. 11, 1999, phone conversation, Calabrese Sr. asks his wife: "Miss Engel was supposed to give you a recipe that you were supposed to send me, with all the different size of the, of the ounces of, of a flour and stuff."

"Yeah," Diane Calabrese replies.

"What happened?" Calabrese Sr. asks.

"She's working on it. She's, you know, a little slow," his wife replies.

In short, the feds contend, Calabrese Sr. is asking where the money from a specific collection is.

In another motion, prosecutors argue against a defense request to have separate trials for the defendants in the case, arguing in part that some witnesses are in danger and that making them testify more than once at multiple trials only increases the risk against them.

Without providing specific numbers, prosecutors point out that "a number of witnesses" have been placed in witness protection, while the FBI has moved others who feared retaliation from the mob.

Some grand jury witnesses went to jail rather than testify in the investigation, while others changed their grand jury testimony after they were threatened, the feds contend.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lawyers Ask to Bar Wife Tapes in Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Frank "Frankie Breeze" Calabrese Sr., James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Lawyers for Frank Calabrese Sr. have asked a Chicago judge not to let prosecutors play tapes of the alleged mob boss talking to his wife.

The tapes, made while Calabrese was in prison in Milan, Mich., include conversations about "German chocolate cake" and other "recipes," which federal prosecutors say are code words for illegal money collections from organized-crime activities, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Lawyers for Calabrese, known as "Frankie Breeze," and other reputed mob heavyweights -- including James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs -- want the tape recordings disallowed because of marital privilege. Marital privilege protects the contents of private communications between husband and wife.

Federal prosecutors argue both husbands and wives knew they were being tape-recorded during their prison phone chats and had no expectation of privacy, the Sun-Times said.

The case attempts to tie the men to 18 hits in what some observers call the most important prosecution ever against the Chicago mob.

Thanks to UPI

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Reputed mobster, Schweihs, blames court absence on ill heart

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello

Alleged mob hit man Frank "the German" Schweihs denied Wednesday that he refused to come to federal court in Chicago the day before as scheduled. Instead Schweihs said, he was unable to come to court because he was under the care of two doctors at the federal jail downtown. "They had me down in the dispensary with all kinds of wires hooked up to me. I was having trouble with my heart," he said.

Schweihs and 11 other men, including alleged Outfit bosses Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and James Marcello, are charged with a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors say was based in murder and extortion. Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before he was captured in December. During both of his court appearances in Chicago, he has complained of health problems.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Joey's a load of laughs ... or buckshot

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs, Paul Schiro
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt, Chris Spina

It must be difficult to tell jokes while you're wearing leg irons and an orange federal jumpsuit, facing the possibility you could spend the rest of your life sharing prison space with some Colombian drug dealer, a blue tattoo covering half his face. But Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 77, couldn't help but be amusing in federal court Tuesday after spending nine months as a fugitive from the FBI until his arrest late last week.

He pleaded not-guilty to a charge of conspiring in the 1974 shotgun murder of government witness Daniel Seifert. Then U.S. District Judge James Zagel asked Lombardo if a doctor had examined him. "I didn't see my doctor since nine months ago," said Lombardo. "I was--what do they call it? I was unavailable."

That got laughs. Even Zagel smiled. The criminal defense lawyers representing other Outfit figures in the federal government's Operation Family Secrets prosecution laughed too. One of them slapped Lombardo hard on the back.

Though he's pushing 80, Lombardo's runty and bandy legged in his jumpsuit, suggesting he had an active youth. His pantlegs are short, the cuffs rolled up several times, and he leaned on one foot, then the other, the leg irons connecting his ankles. And though he was joking and polite and cast as a colorful rogue, you could see something in him still.

You could see it in his back and in the way he folded his fingers together and held the hands up to his face while the judge was speaking, how he rubbed his lips with his thumbs, listening, eyes moving quickly in his head. Here's what you could see: You could still see the ape in the man.

We asked Jack O'Rourke, a former FBI agent, what was so scary about the Clown. Jack was polite but sounded as if he thought it was a silly question. What was so scary about Lombardo? "Well, he had absolute power and he could get you killed, that's basically it," O'Rourke said.

I've heard that sometimes, if Lombardo's really in a clowning mood, he'll take a photograph of himself and cut his own head off, then stick his photograph head onto another picture, perhaps some gorgeous supermodel in a calendar or an athlete on a poster. That's funny, isn't it? Or he'll point to a fish on the wall, some bass that got caught and mounted, and he'll say, "Hey, he wouldn't get caught if he didn't open his mouth." That's funny too.

One of my favorite Lombardo jokes took place after he had served time in prison for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) and another conviction for plotting to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino. In 1992 he took an ad in the Tribune and other papers saying he wasn't a mobster anymore:"If anyone hears my name used in connection with criminal activity, please notify the FBI, local police, and my parole officer, Ron Kumke."

At that time, he was being driven around town on the taxpayer's dime by a $30 per hour city Streets and San foreman, Chris Spina. Chris, or Christy, had a trucking company, Spingee Trucking, and that firm received contracts in the mayor's Hired Truck program, and Spina's trucks may even have had engines. Former City Inspector General Alexander Vroustouris made all of this public in 1993 and tried to get Spina fired. But that's not the funny part.

The funny part is that after Vroustouris moved to fire him, and exposed the trucks and the Lombardo connection, the Illinois Appellate Court reinstated Spina and he got a raise, and Spina only recently retired with a full city pension. So Spina didn't get fired. It was Vroustouris who got fired later.

Then there was the time five years ago that I went looking for Lombardo at a nice little restaurant on Grand Avenue with my first legman, named Slim the Legman.

We were there to ask Lombardo about William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, who was just indicted and who would later plead guilty to running an Outfit-sanctioned jewelry theft ring.

One of Hanhardt's partners in the ring, Paul Schiro, has been indicted in the Operation Family Secrets case that has also indicted Lombardo, reputed hit man Frank "The German" Schweihs and others.

Lombardo was in the restaurant, and he had a gold St. Christopher medallion around his neck.

Sitting with Slim, I took out my notebook and tape recorder, to let Lombardo know I was coming over. He snapped his fingers and bus boys ran over to shovel his food into takeout containers. Then he left.

I asked the manger why Lombardo left so quickly. The manager said it wasn't Lombardo.

"No. That was Mr. Irwin Goldman. I think it was, yeah, Mr. Goldman," he said.

Irwin Goldman wearing a St. Christopher medallion? Are you kidding?

"You're funny," the manager said. "That's funny."

But I'm not the funny one. I keep hearing how Lombardo is funny. I'm sure he's a riot.

I'm just wondering how funny he'd be with a shotgun in his hands.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lombardo Clowns around in Court

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Sr., James "Little Jimmy" Marcello

After nine months in hiding, a clean-shaven Joey "the Clown" Lombardo appeared in federal court Tuesday wearing leg irons and offering wisecracks about his time on the lam. The reputed mob boss, who was captured Friday in Elmwood Park, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy that includes accusations of murder and extortion.

Asked if he had seen a physician recently, Lombardo's response to the judge to U.S. District Judge James Zagel was true to his nickname. "I didn't see my doctor since nine months ago. I was - what do they call it? I was unavailable," he said. Meanwhile, Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, requested, meanwhile, that the court appoint him to represent Lombardo because the reputed Outfit kingpin doesn't have the means to pay for his own attorney, he said. "He's been living off Social Security for years," Halprin said in an interview.

A former federal agent who investigated Lombardo expressed doubt about that. "That's another ruse - that's Joey the Clown. The guy was definitely making big-time bucks when he was still active," said Lee Flosi, a former FBI agent who supervised the organized crime task force in the early 1990s. Lombardo was part of the "ruling group" of Chicago's mob, Flosi said. "As far as being the boss, I don't think that was ever settled," he said.

Halprin said that during Lombardo's many years on parole for previous convictions, he has filed financial affidavits swearing he is on a fixed income. "He lived in a basement," Halprin said, referring to Lombardo's West Ohio Street home, not his location while on the lam.

Lombardo, 77, was dressed in the a standard orange jumpsuit of issued to federal jail inmates, Lombardo, 77, and had shaved a the thick beard he had grown while on the run. He joked in the courtroom lockup that the his fresh look was meant to impress a female deputy U.S. marshal assigned to guard him.

In court, Lombardo initially appeared confused, glancing around at lawyers for his 11 co-defendants, the packed gallery in the benches behind him, and the jury box filled with reporters. But despite some difficulty hearing questions put to him by U.S. District Judge James Zagel, Lombardo answered lucidly. (Does every reputed mobster lose their hearing?)

Lombardo is one of 14 men charged in a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors allege involved 18 unsolved Outfit murders. Two of Lombardo's co-defendants have died, leaving 12 to face the charges. Along with Frank "the German" Schweihs, Lombardo is charged specifically with the 1974 slaying of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman who had been scheduled to testify against him and others in a Teamsters pension fraud case. Halprin has said that Lombardo was in a police station, reporting stolen property, when Seifert was killed.

Schweihs, who was captured in December after 8 months as being a fugitive for eight months, refused to appear in court Tuesday after pleading not guilty January 7. Zagel said he will force Schweihs to appear and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. For his part, Lombardo seemed in good spirits during the Tuesday's hearing. He raised his right hand and promised to tell "nothin' but the truth."

He told Zagel he is under care for hardening of the arteries but didn't offer a long list of health woes like some of his co-defendants. Apart from telling Zagel that he was a high school graduate, the rest of Lombardo's statements were limited to yes and or no answers responses.

A federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets" led to the arrests of Lombardo and other Outfit figures, including Frank Calabrese Sr. and James Marcello. Included among the murders allegedly connected to the defendants are the famed 1986 beating deaths of Tony and Michael Spilotro. Federal agents believe Tony Spilotro, a mob enforcer who ran the Outfit's operations in Las Vegas, was slain for drawing too much heat. (This is one of the few articles that does not mention that Joe Pesci played this role in the movie Casino. I thought I would add it so youse do not go into shock from not seeing that comment.)

In a letter Lombardo penned to Zagel while he was in hiding, the alleged mob boss denied any knowledge of about any of the 18 killings. "I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you," the letter stated.

The Chicago Crime Commission says the crimes are nothing to laugh about. "These are brutal people. They resort to killing, and especially the murder that Joe Lombardo is accused of doing in this indictment, was extremely brutal, inasmuch as the man was killed in front of his own family. He was going to be a witness against several defendants, including Joe Lombardo," said Jim Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

FBI gets last laugh on 'The Clown'

He put on considerable weight, grew a full white beard, let his hair grow long and likely never left the Chicago area. Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, a fugitive for nine months, looked more like Saddam Hussein than a reputed mob boss when FBI agents found him. But it wasn't just Lombardo's change in appearance that kept him hidden in the feds' own backyard.
Joey "The Clown" Lombardo after his arrest.

Lombardo, 77, moved around the Chicago area often and likely used underworld connections to hide in so-called mob "spider holes" before he was arrested in Elmwood Park, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said Saturday.

To hide his appearance, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo grew a full beard and longer hair. The 77-year-old reputed mob boss managed to skirt the feds for nine months in the Chicago area by continually moving from one so-called mob “spider hole” to the next, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said Saturday. Lombardo told his prominent lawyer Rick Halprin he usually got around on foot. But the end of his run came Friday the 13th.

Lombardo was in the passenger seat of a 1994 silver Lincoln beside an elderly friend in an alley behind the friend's Elmwood Park home. About a dozen FBI agents descended on the two men as agents' cars blocked off the alley from all directions. "Both gentlemen were stunned," Grant said.

The FBI has been keeping known Lombardo associates under surveillance for the last nine months, Grant said. They began watching the man in Elmwood Park hoping to catch him with Lombardo - and they did, he said. Lombardo was carrying $3,000 cash, his attorney said. The feds said they also found business cards - they wouldn't say whose - and a suitcase stuffed with clothes. Lombardo was unarmed. Lombardo also carried his own driver's license, which listed him at his old Ohio Street address, Grant said.

The FBI did not arrest the other man, who is in his mid-80s and lives in the 2300 block of North 74th Avenue. Lombardo didn't resist arrest, but he wasn't compliant, either - refusing to exit the car at first, Grant said. Agents had to walk up to the car, open the door and ask him to get out. Then he did.

Grant said there are two schools of thought on fugitive lifestyles. One is to keep a distance from known associates. The other is to stick with people you trust. Lombardo took the second approach, Grant said. "Without a doubt, I think people assisted Mr. Lombardo in his efforts," Grant said. The investigation continues into who may have been "aiding and abetting" him, he said. The FBI has long believed Lombardo didn't stray far. In his time on the lam, he wrote letters to his attorney, and they carried local postmarks.

Lombardo was one of 14 people charged in a sweeping mob indictment last year, a result of the federal Operation Family Secrets investigation. Two of the charged have since died. The massive indictment ties 18 previously unsolved murders to the Chicago Outfit. But Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs both fled before the government announced its charges April 25, 2005. Schweihs was found last month in Kentucky.

Lombardo's capture brings closure to questions that arose over how both managed to escape arrest last April, particularly Lombardo, who is considered the big fish in the case. Grant said Saturday the two knew the indictment was coming for some time. Lombardo had already been swabbed for DNA in 2003. The two prepared for their departure and left well before the charges were unsealed.

In a superseding indictment, Lombardo was specifically tied to the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville. Seifert was preparing to testify against Lombardo and others in a pension fraud case when he was gunned down.

One reputed mob associate who has been following the news about Lombardo said Saturday that it's the end of an era with his arrest. "All of the old war horses are either dead or in jail or are pretty well close to being dead," said the man, who did not want to be identified. "In my opinion, organized crime is done." But Grant said anyone who believes that thinking is mistaken.

Halprin met with Lombardo for several hours early Saturday.He said Lombardo gained "considerable weight" since going into hiding. Lombardo was moved Saturday from the Chicago Police lockup at 17th and State into the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center. The delay in getting Lombardo into a federal lockup was likely due to complications getting Lombardo into a segregated unit, Halprin said.

Halprin said Lombardo, who has heart problems and other health issues, was given his medication while in custody Saturday, raising questions as to whether he was taking the same medicine for the last nine months, and if so, how he got it. Halprin didn't specify the type of medication.

Lombardo was very talkative, Halprin said. He joked with him and was in good spirits. Halprin said Lombardo didn't consider himself a fugitive and always expected to go to trial. He is expected to appear in court Tuesday. Halprin said he won't bother to ask for a bond hearing. "His chances of getting out are about the same as Pat Robertson conducting a gay marriage," Halprin joked.

The area where Lombardo was found is one street over from the Elmwood Park police station. Neighbors couldn't believe Lombardo was hiding in their community. Guillermo Rocha, who lives near where Lombardo was arrested, wondered if he and the reputed mob boss ever crossed paths. "If I saw him, I never knew it was him," he said. "Elmwood Park is notorious for mob activity, but I never thought he'd be so close," said Kathy Kukovec, another neighbor. "I didn't think he'd be that stupid."

There was a $20,000 reward offered for Lombardo's arrest. But Grant said it was good-old-fashioned agent work that helped nab the fugitive after continuing to watch Lombardo's known associates for nine months. "I wouldn't say we were lucky last night," Grant said in lauding his organized-crime team who tracked down Lombardo. "I would say we were good."

Thanks to Natasha Korecki.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

FBI captures Lombardo

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Paul Schiro

Fugitive mobster discovered in Elmwood Park
Lombardo Caught
After an international manhunt, FBI agents captured reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo Friday night in Elmwood Park, not far from where he disappeared nine months ago, officials said. Lombardo had changed his appearance, growing a beard, after becoming a fugitive in April, when federal prosecutors charged him and more than a dozen other defendants in 18 Outfit-related murders dating to 1970.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice said Lombardo was arrested without incident. Rice said Lombardo was arrested about 8:30 p.m. outside a home on 74th Avenue. A law enforcement source said Lombardo cooperated with arresting officers. "He was very compliant and just put his hands up," the source said. Authorities said they were planning to release a more complete account of Lombardo's apprehension at a news conference Saturday.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said the U.S. attorney's office notified him of the arrest Friday night. He said Lombardo was arrested with a friend. Halprin talked to Lombardo as he was being transported to a police lockup by FBI agents. "His spirits were good," Halprin said. "He said he had been treated very well by the FBI."

Prosecutors charged Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case. Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix. Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before being captured last month in a small town in Kentucky. FBI officials said Lombardo and Schweihs had apparently disappeared a "significant time" before the indictments in order to avoid capture.

The search for Lombardo included a number of federal agencies, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Leads had raised suspicions that Lombardo could be in the Caribbean or in Mexico. Ultimately, he was "right under our noses," the law enforcement source said.

Lombardo, a longtime resident of Chicago's West Town neighborhood, has two federal convictions in the 1980s--for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada for help in defeating a trucking deregulation bill and for scheming to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino.

While Lombardo has been missing, he was apparently not silent. Two attorneys reported getting letters from Lombardo, which they turned over to federal authorities. In May, Halprin delivered a four-page letter to a federal judge purportedly written by Lombardo. The letter said Lombardo would surrender if he would be released on his own recognizance and prosecuted in a separate trial after the fate of his co-defendants had been decided. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel promptly rejected the offer. Halprin said he also got a letter in August that indicated Lombardo offered to take truth serum or a lie detector test if the FBI supervisor and its informant did too.

Thanks to Todd Lighty Matt O'Connor, and Michael Higgins

Joey 'the Clown" Lombardo caught

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was the big fish that slipped through the FBI's hands. On Friday, the feds had the last laugh. Lombardo, the notorious reputed mob boss, was caught in Elmwood Park after nine months on the lam, the FBI said Friday.

A stunned Lombardo was sporting a beard and was caught about 8 p.m. as the FBI ran surveillance on another "person of interest" and found the two meeting together. "He was a little bit shocked, to say the least," FBI Supervisory Special Agent John Mallul said. Lombardo did not say anything to authorities.

Lombardo, 77, was charged last year along with 13 others - two have since died - in a sweeping mob indictment as part of the Operation Family Secrets federal investigation. The indictment tied 18 previously unsolved murders to the Chicago mob and charged the Outfit itself as a criminal enterprise.

Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs, a fugitive until last month when he too was caught, are specifically named in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville.

Mallul said the feds had set up surveillance on the man Lombardo was found with, after suspecting he was in contact with Lombardo. "We had a person of interest we were looking at. . . . Then we got the both of them together and we effectuated the arrest," Mallul said. The other man was not arrested.

Authorities have said they always believed Lombardo didn't stray far. In his time on the lam, he wrote letters to his attorney, and they carried local postmarks. Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said he received a call late Friday from the U.S. attorney's office, notifying him that Lombardo had been caught while driving with an unidentified friend. His client was picked up on 74th Avenue in the western suburb.

Halprin said Lombardo was being housed at 17th and State, a police facility, after the Metropolitan Correctional Center refused to take him, possibly because of his age and a needed health waiver. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday. "His chances of getting bond are the same as Osama bin Laden's," Halprin said. "Maybe not as good."

The fact that Lombardo was caught due to surveillance is ironic because after he and Schweihs fled, questions arose as to why the two were not kept under surveillance before the April 25, 2005, arrests.

In a July interview with the Sun-Times, Mallul and Special Agent Michael Maseth, who leads the Family Secrets investigation, said the two left "well before" the mob indictments and their fleeing didn't come as a surprise to the FBI. The feds swabbed Lombardo for DNA in 2003. At the time, the agents said the FBI did everything it could to track them without tipping off the dozen others caught.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Joey the Clown Caught!!

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Reputed mob boss, Joseph Lombardo, charged along with 13 others with plotting several organized crime murders was taken into custody Friday after nine months on the run, the FBI said. Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 76, was caught in suburban Elmwood Park and was expected to spend the night in a Chicago jail, said FBI spokesman Ross Rice.

Lombardo's lawyer said his client will appear at a detention hearing Tuesday. "Osama bin Laden has a better chance of getting bond," said Rick Halprin, Lombardo's attorney. "So, it will be a formality."

Federal agents grabbed Lombardo after they caught him meeting with someone they had under surveillance, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday night on its Web site, citing FBI officials.

Lombardo and 13 others were indicted in April as a result of a long-standing investigation aimed at clearing unsolved mob hits. The indictment charges that Chicago hoodlums and mob associates conspired in at least 18 unsolved murders, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie "Casino."

Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs are specifically named in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert. Schweihs, a 75-year-old reputed mob enforcer, was captured in Kentucky last month after eight months as a fugitive.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Angry Son Knows the Mob's True Colors

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Nicholas Calabrese

Frank "The German" Schweihs played the tough guy in federal court, pleading not guilty to federal racketeering and extortion charges. Schweihs had been on the run, after top Chicago mobsters were indicted as part of the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation into more than a dozen unsolved Outfit murders.

So on Friday, resplendent in his orange prison jumpsuit and a cane, Schweihs decided to be amusing, to be funny like a clown, probably because "The Clown" wasn't there.

"Why's all the news media here?" asked the Outfit enforcer. "I dunno," said his lawyer. "Slow news day."

"Slow news day," Schweihs agreed. "They just like to [expletive] with me."

Not everybody laughed. The stocky man in the black shirt two rows away stared at the back of the German's head. He kept staring, and let the room know he was staring, by not sitting down when it was time. His hand clenched the bench in front of him. If eyes were baseball bats, Schweihs wouldn't have made it out of the courtroom alive.

The stocky man is Nicholas Seifert, a son of Danny Seifert. Schweihs also has been charged, along with fugitive mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, with the 1974 murder of Danny Seifert. And before Seifert left town over the weekend - to travel back home after the court appearance - he called me at the Tribune.

"I came to court to see Frank Schweihs, to see what he looked like, just to see him have his day in court. Because I know he's actually a participant in my father's murder ... I wanted to jump over that bench.

"He's crafty," Seifert said. "He portrays two different types of people. Once the judge walked in, he portrayed himself as a broken-down old man, but prior to the judge walking in, he portrayed a tough guy, making comments about the media. It was his demeanor."

You were staring? "Yes, I wanted him to look at me, so he could see the words that were coming out of my mouth."

What words? "I can't say that, because then the feds won't let me come to the trial."

So you wanted to let him know something that was on your mind. "Yes," Seifert said.

He called me years ago, after I wrote that mobster Nicholas Calabrese had disappeared from the federal prison in Milan, Mich., and had entered the witness protection program in what would become Operation Family Secrets. By then, the Chicago Outfit was in full panic. The bosses couldn't help their friends, the Chicago politicians, or be helped by them. And I hadn't talked with Seifert again until Friday night.

He hates Schweihs and Lombardo.

In September of 1974, Danny Seifert was about to testify as a government witness against Lombardo and six others, who were charged with bilking a Teamsters' pension fund of $1.4 million. Men in ski masks, carrying walkie-talkies, .38s and shotguns showed up at Seifert's plastics factory in Bensenville. A shotgun blast cut him down as he tried to run away. A hit man walked up, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. With Seifert dead, everybody walked.

"It's something I've never gotten over," Nicholas Seifert told me. "Growing up without a father is very rough for any child. Obviously, being in that kind of atmosphere, where everything was good, before the actual indictments, and then all of a sudden, things were going wrong and our so-called Uncle Joe [Lombardo] wasn't our uncle anymore. Then my father ended up getting killed.

"He [Lombardo] would take us to the circus, to ballgames, he was part of our family, he'd come over or we'd go over there for barbecues and stuff," Seifert said.

"My father wasn't afraid of the Outfit. They were friends. You're really not afraid of your friends, even if it comes to war, or whatever it comes to, my father wasn't afraid of those people, and thought ultimately that he didn't need government protection," Seifert said.

He miscalculated, I said. "Yeah," he said.

I told Seifert what the son of a murdered hit man told me a while back, that his father did their dirty work, that they killed him, perhaps to send a message to Calabrese, and that the son felt he was owed something.

Is that how you feel? Do you think they owe you anything? "They owe me my life," Seifert said.

"They destroyed our lives. My family's life. And in all reality, I pretty much want to do the same."

Will you attend Schweihs' trial? "A team of wild horses couldn't keep me away."

So why did you call me? "Because you don't make them out to be Hollywood stars, and they threatened your family and you still went after them," he said. "And I can't wait for this trial."

And the other ones. "And the other ones," he said. "I want to see justice done."

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, January 09, 2006

Feds, family come out to see 'The German'

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, James Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Aging reputed Outfit hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs could once inspire shudders of fear by entering a room. On Friday, as he hobbled with a cane into a federal courtroom in Chicago after eight months on the lam, he was more of a curiosity. A row of FBI agents observed him from the back row. His daughter, Barbara, gave him an anxious smile from her courtroom seat. And sitting beside her were two men who eyed him with disgust. The men were family members of a man Schweihs is accused of killing more than three decades ago - government witness Daniel Seifert, who was shotgunned to death in front of his family. The family members declined to comment later, not wanting to jeopardize the case.

Schweihs, who turns 76 next month, was arrested last month, found living with his girlfriend in a small town outside Lexington, Ky. He had been in hiding since April, when federal prosecutors charged him and other alleged mobsters, including the reputed head of the Chicago Outfit, James Marcello, in a racketeering conspiracy involving 18 mob hits. Still at large is Joey "The Clown" Lombardo.

Schweihs, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, sat down and wisecracked to his attorney, feigning puzzlement over how many reporters were packed into the courtroom. "Slow day for news," quipped his prominent Loop attorney, Dennis Berkson.

Schweihs pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He is being held without bond and faces life in prison if convicted. "First I'm seeing this judge," Schweihs said as he looked over the indictment against him. "I've never seen this before."

The man once considered an alleged rising star in the Outfit cupped his hand to his ear at times to hear the judge better. Besides bad hearing, Schweihs has skin cancer, a bad heart and diabetes, his attorney said. But his mind is still sharp. "There are a lot of things said about him," Berkson said outside the courtroom. "There's a lot of rumor and innuendo which are absolutely ridiculous. He believes when all the evidence comes in, he'll be acquitted."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Natasha Korecki

Initial Court Appearance for "The German"

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

After eight months on the lam, reputed mob enforcer Frank "the German" Schweihs appeared in federal court in Chicago today to plead not guilty to federal racketeering charges. It was Schweihs' first court appearance since his Dec. 16 capture. The 75-year-old ex-fugitive pleaded not guilty to a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors allege was carried out through murder and extortion.

In all, 14 men are charged in the sweeping mob case that sprung from a federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets." The case links the men to 18 long-unsolved Outfit murders tied to loan sharking and illegal gambling.

Schweihs disappeared in the days before the federal grand jury indictment was unsealed. An FBI agent eventually tracked him to Berea, Ky., where Schweihs had been staying for about two months, and arrested him as he left his apartment.

Federal agents are still seeking Schweihs' co-defendant, purported mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, who went underground at the same time as Schweihs.

As part of the federal conspiracy charges, Lombardo and Schweihs are accused of the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman who had been scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fraud case.

Schweihs, walking with a wooden cane and dressed in a standard jail-issue orange jumpsuit, appeared animated if hard of hearing during today's court hearing. He asked his lawyer, Dennis Berkson, about U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys and inquired why so many reporters were in the gallery. When his lawyer told him it must be a slow news day, Schweihs offered a salty opinion of the press.

When the defendant stood up to answer the charges against him, Schweihs held his right hand to his ear. "I can't hear, judge," he said. Keys spoke up, telling Schweihs that he could choose to represent himself at trial if he was competent. Schweihs smiled and shook his head as if to say, no thanks, drawing laughs from the judge and gallery.

Outside court, Berkson said Schweihs is looking forward to trial. Questioned why a person eager to face the allegations would flee, Berkson said that Schweihs may not have been on the run at all. "I don't believe he was hiding," the defense counsel said. "We can't talk about that because at some point in time it could become an issue at trial."

Thanks to Rudolph Bush

Friday, January 06, 2006

Court Appearance for "The German"

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

A reputed enforcer for the Chicago mob who eluded capture for seven months after being indicted on murder charges is expected to appear in court today. Frank "The German" Schweihs was captured two weeks ago in Kentucky.

Prosecutors say Schweihs has been moved to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. He'll appear today before a federal magistrate judge for an initial appearance.

Schweihs is one of eleven defendants charged in a federal indictment with conspiring to commit 18 murders. The murders include the June 1986 hit on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's man in Las Vegas for two decades.

One other defendant remains at large. F.B.I agents are still hunting for Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, who is thought to be one of the senior figures in the Chicago mob.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wintry grave may be part of mob's legacy

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, William Hanhardt, Paul Schiro, Richard Cain, Sam "Momo" Gianacana

In a few days, U.S. marshals will drive the fugitive Chicago Outfit enforcer Frank "The German" Schweihs from Kentucky back to Chicago. Here, he will stand trial for two gangland murders that are part of the FBI's Family Secrets investigation of unsolved mob killings. But once in the Chicago area, on the way to the federal lockup, the marshals might think about taking a short detour to Elmwood Cemetery in suburban River Grove.

They should drive about a half-mile past the cemetery office and start looking for a giant Norwegian pine that throws shade on the gravestones in the afternoon. From the road, with that tree as a marker, it is only a few paces to Section 47-Lot 15-Grave 2.

After that long drive up from Kentucky, it might be good for Schweihs to stretch his legs a bit, to take a short walk on the snow and stand at the grave I have in mind, one of those graves in the shadow of the big pine tree. That's where Eugenia Pappas, also known as "Becca," is buried. She's been there a long time now. She wasn't a tough guy. She wasn't a jewel thief or an iceman, wasn't a burglar or extortionist. She wasn't a puppet master, giving politicians orders. She was young and beautiful, with big brown eyes, only 18 years old when she dated Schweihs, a bodyguard for mobster Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio.

Her father, Christopher, and her mother, Helen, didn't like it that one of Chicago's most fearsome and untouchable hoodlums had taken a fancy to their daughter. Christopher moved the family to Arizona, to start a new life, to give his daughter a chance away from Schweihs. Eventually, though, she returned to Chicago. A few weeks later, she stopped dating Schweihs. She stopped dating him about the time a bullet pierced her heart.

I spoke to Pappas family members, but they were too afraid to be quoted in this column and declined to be interviewed. I also spoke to a family friend who told me about Pappas on the condition her name was not used. I understand. Every so often, some writer announces that the Outfit is dead. But if it's so dead, why are people in Chicago still afraid?

"The whole family, they were so close, so loving," the family friend told me Tuesday. "When Becca was found, it was so horrible, devastating. It was like somebody scooped their insides out and left the shells. Her mother, Helen, was a strong woman, she was American, but she wore black from that day on. She died later, but she really died the day Becca was found."

Becca was last seen a week or so before Christmas of 1962. Her distraught father went to the newspapers for help in mid-January. An article in the Tribune, under the headline "Girl Sought" ran in the Jan. 12, 1963, editions. "Left behind in the apartment, Pappas said, were all her clothes, except those she was wearing," the story said.

On Feb. 9, a tugboat captain found her body floating in the Chicago River. She'd been in the water about two weeks. Authorities surmised she was killed while sitting in the passenger's seat of an automobile. She was buried on Feb. 15, 1963. "You've seen those wakes where people get emotional and loud," the family friend told me. "This wasn't like that. It was silent, completely silent. That was worse."

Schweihs was hauled in for questioning by a celebrated crime fighter, Richard Cain, the homicide chief of the Cook County sheriff's police. After much questioning and investigating--or simply the appearance of questioning and investigating--the case against Schweihs, if there ever was one, fizzled. He was let go and no charges regarding the Pappas murder were ever filed against him. Schweihs, the papers noted, had a long police record, but no convictions. That's not hard to figure, since he was usually being investigated by one of those celebrated crime fighters.

It's a Chicago thing. The relationship between mobsters and top local cops isn't new, and it isn't old. William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, was recently convicted of running the Outfit's interstate jewelry theft ring, using police information to set up the victims. One of Hanhardt's convicted accomplices in the jewel ring is Paul Schiro, an Outfit enforcer. Schiro and Schweihs have been charged by the feds with an Outfit killing in Arizona.

When the victim is another mobster, Chicago shrugs. But this victim was a girl, a civilian, whose family had no power. So the local law spit on her and the Outfit spit on her and the investigation was dropped.

I said that Richard Cain, the detective who cleared Schweihs of the Pappas killing, was a celebrated crime fighter. He was celebrated, sure, the way Hanhardt was celebrated, in gushing media accounts as some heroic tough guy, ready-made for Hollywood. Cain was a bodyguard for Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. On Dec. 20, 1973, Cain was in Rose's Sandwich Shop on the West Side when two men entered with shotguns. He took two blasts to the face. The second one was just to make sure.

Schweihs is an old man, now, at 75, and Cain is dead. And Eugenia Pappas' grave was silent in the shadow of that pine tree in the snow. "Elusive in life," reads the inscription on her gravestone. "Elusive in death."

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, December 18, 2005

End of the Run for Fugitive Mobster

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese

The union boss slipped into a booth in a restaurant on Jackson Boulevard. He was wearing a federal wire, trembling, as the waitress brought over some ice water. The man he was to meet entered the restaurant, sat down and started glaring at him. The meeting didn't last long.

"The union boss, our potential witness, got scared. He started talking quickly, he started rushing, he blew it he was so scared. Frank Schweihs figured something was wrong. He got up, leaned over and said `I'll see you later' to our witness. The guy almost had a heart attack right there. He was that terrified. That's Frank Schweihs for you," said former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke. "He was a scary guy."

That's the effect Schweihs, known in Chicago Outfit circles as "The German," had on almost everybody he met professionally. He not only terrified witnesses; even Outfit bosses were afraid of him. But someone wasn't afraid of $20,000 and tipped the FBI on Friday that Schweihs, 75, was hiding out in Berea, Ky., some 35 miles south of Lexington. The tipster likely will accept the reward in private.

"Our people drove over to assist, but by the time they got there, the FBI agent had arrested him without incident," said Berea police Lt. Ken Clark. "I guess when the agent asked if he was Frank Schweihs, he said he wasn't, then he played some old mob trick and started grabbing at his chest, saying he had chest pains. But he refused transport to a medical facility. I guess he'll be back in Chicago before long."

The German had been running since before he and 13 other top Outfit figures were indicted in April as part of the FBI's Operation Family Secrets, the most significant and far-reaching investigation of organized crime in the city's history.

With Schweihs' capture, there's only one clown remaining out there. Mob boss Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo still has not been found, though he has the use of his fingers, since he's written letters to his attorney, Rick Halprin, and those letters have all been postmarked in Chicago.

I told you about Family Secrets as it broke, almost three years ago now, when imprisoned mobster Nick Calabrese was quietly whisked into the federal witness protection program and began connecting the dots on at least 18 unsolved mob murders. Calabrese's decision to turn government informant stunned the Outfit and the Outfit's allies in local law enforcement and politics, the three sides of the iron triangle that has strangled this region since the 1920s. When word began trickling out that Calabrese had started talking, the bosses panicked, went underground and weren't about to help their allies in politics.

By then, the politicians had their own problems, with unprecedented federal investigations into City Hall corruption, from trucking and phony affirmative action contracts to political hiring. For the first time in decades, the sides of the triangle couldn't support each other as they had when they were strong. And that alone makes Family Secrets important.

Unlike corruption, there is no statute of limitations on murder. Schweihs has been charged with two killings, and Lombardo was charged with one.

The life they allegedly had in common belonged to Danny Seifert, whose testimony in a federal case on the bilking of Teamsters pension funds could have put Lombardo in prison. But Seifert didn't testify, because he was shotgunned to death in front of his wife and 4-year-old son in 1974. When the gunmen approached him outside his Bensenville plastics factory, he started running and was knocked to the ground by the first blast. One of the killers walked up to him, put the shotgun muzzle against Seifert's head, and pulled the trigger. The federal government's pension fund case fell apart.

O'Rourke recalled that in the 1980s, he was contacted at home by a worried Chicago police officer in the East Chicago Avenue District, after two other cops arrested Schweihs for battery. He allegedly kicked their car because it was parked too close to his home.

"The young cops were full of muscles and Schweihs was angry and they all went at it and took him in, but Schweihs had political people in the station, some guys involved in Streets and Sanitation," O'Rourke said. "And they were arguing to let him loose and police dropped the charges.

"Those two young cops were angry. That was typical Chicago," he said, meaning that the Outfit was taken care of by politicians and cops when it was necessary.

I can't say things have changed much since. A white-owned company with Outfit connections gets $100 million in fake affirmative action contracts and the mayor says they're a hardworking family. The city's budget director said he wasn't surprised that the city's Hired Truck Program was mobbed up, and for that bit of truth, he was canned for poor management.

But it's encouraging when guys like Schweihs are brought in, when Lombardo and 12 others get indicted for unsolved killings. It tells me that things are changing, as the triangle is slowly pried apart.

Thanks to John Kass

Kentucky Residents Shocked by Mobster

Friends of ours: Frank 'the German" Schweihs, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello

Residents in Berea, Kentucky, are shocked at the news that an alleged Chicago mobster was arrested Friday at an apartment complex in their town by the FBI. Gas station cashier Sue Morton says the biggest news up until now was when Cracker Barrel moved to the small town of about ten thousand in the Appalachian foothills.Frank Schweihs

Frank "the German" Schweihs was allegedly part of the top echelon of the Chicago underworld and had been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since April. He and co-defendant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo slipped away from federal prosecutors just before an indictment was unsealed against Chicago mob boss James Marcello and 13 others in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation.

FBI agents are still hunting for Lombardo.

Landlord Chat Leads FBI to Mob Slaying Suspect

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs

An FBI agent arrived at the sprawling Blakewood Apartments complex in Berea, Ky., Friday with a photograph and a question for the landlord. Had she seen the old man in the picture? Her answer was yes--he was the polite gentleman who had been sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a woman for the last two months, the landlord and FBI officials said.

The agent, who was from the FBI's small office in Lexington, Ky., did not tell her she was renting an apartment to Frank "The German" Schweihs, the reputed Chicago Outfit hit man and enforcer. Schweihs had been one of the bureau's most wanted fugitives since he was charged in April in connection with 18 unsolved organized crime murders.

"I assisted only in that they asked me if I could see him in a photograph," the landlord said. "They showed me a picture, but I didn't know anything about him."

After talking to the landlord, the agent parked his car where he could see the front door of the two-bedroom townhouse apartment and called for backup from fellow agents in Lexington and local Berea police, said FBI spokesman David Beyer. But help was still at least five minutes away when Schweihs and a woman emerged from the apartment and got into the sport-utility vehicle parked out front, Beyer said. Afraid of letting the fugitive slip through the FBI's fingers if he drove off, the agent swung his car forward and blocked the path of the SUV, got out and made the arrest alone.

Schweihs, 75, was being held Saturday at the county jail in Lexington. He waived extradition proceedings and would be taken back to Chicago by U.S. marshals, Beyer said. The FBI in Chicago developed a lead that Schweihs might be in southeastern Kentucky, and asked local agents to search the area, Beyer said Saturday.

Berea, a scenic college town of more than 12,000 people about 40 miles south of Lexington, was one area of interest, but Beyer would not elaborate on the information that aroused the FBI's attention. "He went to Berea to check various addresses, and the agent learned of this address," he said.

The complex's owner and manager, who spoke on condition that her name not be published, said she had spoken to Schweihs "on three or four occasions" but had no idea who he was. She had visited the apartment recently to give him a new furnace filter, and as usual he was a "very, very nice guy. Very respectful," she said.

After the arrest, FBI agents interviewed the woman Schweihs was living with but she was not in custody or charged with a crime, Beyer said. The landlord said all she knew about the woman was from a reference sheet the woman provided when she rented the apartment. The woman has a one-year lease for $425 a month, the landlord said. FBI officials said the couple had paid the rent in cash.

The landlord described the nine-building complex as a mixture of families, retired people and students at Berea College.

Thanks to David Heinzmann

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mob Fugitive Arrested in Kentucky

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul Schiro

A 75-year-old man reputed to be a longtime mob enforcer was arrested Friday at an apartment complex in a small Kentucky town, eight months after being charged with two murders in a federal indictment in Chicago.

Frank "The German" Schweihs had eluded authorities since April when he and 13 other defendants, including reputed mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, were indicted in connection with 18 long-unsolved Outfit-related murders, loan sharking and illegal gambling. But local police said Friday that Schweihs apparently had been staying in the Blakewood Apartments in 12,000-resident Berea, Ky., for only two or three days. "I would say this is probably the biggest fish we ever got in our little pond," Berea police Lt. Ken Clark said of the capture.

A special agent from the FBI's Louisville office found Schweihs at the apartment complex and, at about noon Friday, the FBI called local police for backup, Clark said. "With his past history, they were sort of figuring it could get ugly," Clark said. But backup wasn't needed.

"We probably had people down there within 10 minutes, and by the time we got there [the agent] had already taken Mr. Schweihs into custody," Clark said. "Evidently [Schweihs] exited the apartment as if he was going to leave... So the FBI agent really had no choice. He had to [make the arrest]."

After the indictments in April, Schweihs and Lombardo became fugitives. FBI officials said both had disappeared before the indictments. Lombardo is still at large.

Federal prosecutors charged the two with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case. Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix.

"I'm sure the agents are pleased," FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. "They're going to be able to devote more resources now to finding Mr. Lombardo."

Schweihs appeared Friday before a federal judge in Lexington, Ky., FBI officials said. He is being held in Lexington until he can be brought back to Chicago to face charges, officials said.

According to Clark, an apartment manager at the complex said Schweihs and a woman had been staying there for two or three days and were in the process of trying to lease an apartment.

Thanks to Michael Higgins and Matt O'Connor

FBI Nabs Reputed Runaway Mob Enforcer

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, James Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

A reputed mob enforcer who has been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since federal prosecutors unsealed racketeering-murder charges against the alleged top echelon of the Chicago underworld was arrested Friday, the FBI announced. Frank "The German" Schweihs, 75, was captured without incident when agents swooped down on an apartment he had recently rented in Berea, Ky., a hilly area 40 miles south of Lexington.

Schweihs was one of two defendants who slipped away just before federal prosecutors in April unveiled the long-sealed indictment against reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello and 13 others in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation. FBI agents are still hunting Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 76, known as one of the senior figures in the Chicago mob.

The indictment charges that Chicago hoodlums and mob associates conspired in at least 19 unsolved deaths, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie "Casino."

The indictment charges Schweihs with taking part in the racketeering scheme, in which the participants allegedly agreed to commit a number of killings. It also charges him with extorting "street tax" on behalf of organized crime by using "force, violence and fear" against the owners of adult entertainment clubs in Indiana and the Chicago suburbs in 2001.

Schweihs had an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Lexington at which he waived extradition. He will be held there until he can be returned to Chicago, officials said. When he returns, Schweihs will be arraigned before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over the Family Secrets case.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said Schweihs first leased the Berea apartment two weeks ago and paid cash. His previous known residence was in Dania, Fla.

Federal law enforcement officers have been baffled in their search for Lombardo. They offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the two men.

Lombardo wrote a letter to Zagel last May, offering to turn himself in if he were guaranteed a trial separate from the other defendants. He later wrote a second letter, taking issue with news reports in the case.

Lombardo went to federal prison in the 1980s after being convicted along with then-International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams in a bribery conspiracy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Come out, Joey, wherever you are

Friends of Ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, Mike Swiatek, John "No Nose" DiFronzo

Dear Joey, It happened again this week. Somebody called to say they had spotted you in a restaurant on Grand Avenue. "Swear to God," the tipster told me, "it was the Clown."

As you know, a lot of folks are spending a lot of time looking for you. Chief among them, of course, is the FBI. They're still pretty embarrassed about the fact that you weren't home in bed last spring when they came early one morning to wake you up and haul you away.

It certainly didn't help matters that your co-defendant, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, has also given them the slip. For a couple of guys in their late 70s, you two are really "The Sunshine Boys" of the federal fugitive list.

Monday in Chicago, U.S. District Judge James Zagel is going to set a trial date for you and other defendants in your case. I know from the letter you sent to the judge last summer that you said you're an innocent man. And that you had nothing to do with those 18 unsolved mob murders. The feds don't buy that, of course, and really wish you'd attend your own trial. Because of all the attention you're getting, Joey, I think you should know your friends are getting just a bit jittery.

I say that because of another tip I got a couple of weeks ago. It seems there was an anniversary party at the Victoria Banquet Hall in Norridge last month. I'm sure you've been there many times over the years for weddings and parties and funeral lunches. It's a great place. Good food.

Anyway, this party was in full swing. And according to the tip, among those in the room was Mike Swiatek. You know Mike, of course. The feds list him as a member of your Grand Avenue crew. Like you, he's done time in the joint but is out on parole now. Also at the party supposedly was the infamous mobster, John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Right in the middle of this party, I'm told, the weirdest thing happened! Quoting the tip I received, "During the event an individual's foot came through the ceiling of the room, and when the partygoers investigated, they discovered that it was the foot of an FBI agent who was filming and recording the event. Needless to say, the partygoers departed rapidly."

They fled, according to the tipster, believing that the feds had come looking for you. Well, Joey, I just had to find out if this was true. So first I called the FBI. Special Agent Frank Bochte told me he had "no knowledge that that had occurred." If it had, he said, he would have heard.

Then I called Mike Swiatek. He wasn't home, but the woman who answered (she didn't think it was a good idea to give me her name) said, "Oh, my God!" when I explained why I was calling. She took my number and said she'd have Mike call me. He must be busy because he hasn't called back.

Finally, I called the Victoria Banquet Hall and talked to the manager. He was very nice but also not eager to read his name in the paper. "Oh, my God!" he said in a now familiar refrain. "That's a false rumor tip," he said.

Well, yes and no.

"We did have an incident where a dishwasher [was up in the attic and] stepped on a heater vent . . . and pushed a ceiling tile down from the ceiling, yes, we did have that happen." He went on, "There was something [a foot] through the ceiling, but that's the only part that's correct. The FBI were never in the building unless they were here unbeknownst to any of us. There were no cameras in the ceiling, I can guarantee you that."

Oh, by the way, Joey, I asked him if by any chance John DiFronzo or Mike Swiatek was at that party."One of those names was at the party," he told me.

Can you say which one? "I don't think I should," he said. "You're putting me on the spot."

He was a very nice man, Joey, and I didn't want to be pushy.

All of this is to say we haven't heard from you lately. Your last letter, mailed to your attorney, Rick Halprin, in August, was postmarked Chicago and included several clippings from the Sun-Times in which you noted the FBI had done you wrong.

So since there is a chance that you might be reading this, how about a call or a letter? I won't even put in for the $20,000 reward the FBI has offered for information. Or better yet, why not show up in person? You've had your fun with the feds, scared your friends and lived up to the reputation for being "The Clown."

It's time to turn yourself in.

Thanks to Carol Marin


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