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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Police Sergeant Recalls Battles with Mobsters

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Jimmy Hoffa
Friends of mine: Richard Hauff

Among the observers paying close attention to the “Family Secrets” mob trial in Chicago is retired police officer John J. Flood who boasts about having one of the first law enforcement run-ins with two of the key defendants in the case.

“Joey Lombardo and Frankie Schweihs: in my lifetime and career as a police officer I have been fighting those guys in different matters of law enforcement over those years,” Flood told WBBM’s Steve Grzanich during a recent interview from his home in Las Vegas.

It is the first meeting with Lombardo and Schweihs that Flood remembers best back in 1964 when Sgt. Flood, with the Cook County Sheriff's Police, interrupted Schweihs and Lombardo and thwarted an attempted hit on mob associate Richard Hauff. “It was happening up on Mannheim Road and Lawrence Avenue at a hotel up there. I came upon it and almost got killed making the arrest,” Flood said.

That was back in the early days for Schweihs and Lombardo, before they hit police radar, said Flood. “I called into Chicago Intelligence and asked who is Frankie Schweihs and they didn’t know. I had to call a knowledgeable Chicago detective who told that’s Phil Alderisio’s bodyguard. He’s a bad guy. Find out who was in the car and who they were going to kill,” said Flood.

While the Family Secrets trial may close the books on 18 mob murders, Flood expects that other mysteries may go unsolved.

“The significant murders that Lombardo would know about would be the murders of Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. They were supposed to testify before the Church Commission on the assassination plot against Fidel Castro but they turned up dead. If Lombardo was talking, which I doubt he ever would because he lives by his code, he could tell you who killed (Jimmy) Hoffa and what happened.”

Will guilty verdicts mean the end of the Chicago outfit? "Someone will replace Lombardo. All you have to do is look at the fabric of the American system – corporate crime, white collar crime, organized crime. There is no way in the world organized crime people are going to be leaving gambling, going to be leaving pornography, the lending of money, prostitution – it is not going to happen,” Flood said.

According to Flood, the “Family Secrets” trial will likely be the final chapter for the likes of Lombardo and Schweihs. The retired police officer said the trial also brings to a close his own 40 year career as an organized crime fighter.

Flood is the founder of the Combined Counties Police Association, one of the most well-known and respected independent law enforcement unions ever formed in the United States. He is also one of the foremost experts on organized crime and an authority on the Chicago Outfit.

Thanks to Steve Grzanich

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saluting the Best Mafiosa Court Room Antics

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, John Gotti, Joey “Doves” Aiuppa, Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Judge Thomas Maloney

“The Sopranos” might have ended, but the first episode of Chicago’s latest mob drama begins Tuesday.

How fitting that the official festivities will take place in the feds’ ceremonial courtroom. The Outfit is big on ceremony, beginning with the oath that “made” guys take. They also take an oath of Omerta, promising never to talk about family secrets to the big bad wolf with the menacing initials: FBI. But how many of us can keep a good secret for life? So, between the gangsters who are desirous of saving their own hides and those who have or will be pleading guilty to high crimes and non-misdemeanors, only five wiseguys are expected to actually be sitting on their ceremonial behinds when jury selection begins Tuesday.

The lawyers for La Cosa Nostra have some serious work ahead of them in the next four or five months. I’m talking about the new, outlandish stunts the hoods will need if they expect to get a mention in the Mob’s Greatest Trial Antics.

It appeared as though Frank “The German” Schweihs might offer the first memorable moment. The German, who was one of the Outfit’s most feared and proficient hitmen, according to federal authorities, is said to be terminally ill.

There was a time when Schweihs would have come to trial with the rest of them, his skin pasty white and IV tubes plugged into his veins, a sad and pathetic character worthy of great sympathy from the jury. But now, Schweihs has been “severed” from the trial, which seems to be an apt legal description for somebody who federal authorities say cut short a few dozen lives himself.

Judge James Zagel didn’t want Schweihs dying one day during the case and creating a mistrial for the others, so he allowed him time to heal … a consideration that Mr. Schweihs himself allegedly would rarely grant those who begged him for mercy.

Schweihs could have followed the script written by Sam “Mad Sam” DeStefano back in the ’60s. The vicious mob enforcer would feign illness so he had to be wheeled into court on a gurney while wearing pajamas. Once, Mad Sam used a bullhorn in the courtroom so he was assured of being louder than prosecutors.

The crafty New York mafia boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante use to wear his bathrobe to court, mumble to himself and claim God was his lawyer in an effort to persuade jurors that he was deranged. It worked for many years until The Chin was eventually convicted. In 2003, two years before he died in prison, Gigante admitted it had all been an act.

The best courtroom performance by a mob lawyer was in 1986 by Bruce Cutler, who was representing John Gotti at the time. Cutler took the thick federal indictment against Gotti and stuffed it in a courtroom wastebasket. “It’s garbage,” Cutler shouted at prosecutors. “That’s where it belongs.”

Sickness and sympathy has been a favorite play by hoodlums for decades. When Chicago Outfit boss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa was on trial in Kansas City 20 years ago, Aiuppa hunched over a walker coming and going from court. Nevertheless, he managed to get in and out of a taxi and his hotel just fine.

During that same trial, Aiuppa’s vice consigliore Jackie “The Lackey” Cerone delivered a veiled threat to a Chicago news reporter while they were riding on a crowded elevator.

“How’s the wife and that new baby of yours?” Cerone asked the newsman, whose coverage he must have under appreciated. The question stunned the reporter, who certainly never had spoken to Cerone about his wife or his new daughter, Caylen Goudie.

Once, in 1983, I asked the infamous Outfit tough-guy Tony “The Ant” Spilotro a question that now seems prophetic.

“Tony, are you concerned for your personal safety?” I asked The Ant as he bailed out of Cook County jail.

Spilotro just sneered at me … a far different look than he must have displayed three years later when he and his brother were clubbed and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield.

When defrocked Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney was on trial for taking bribes to fix murder cases, the mob-connected Maloney tried his best every day to avoid TV crews staked out in front of the federal building.

Once, Maloney thought he had outsmarted news jockeys by sneaking into the federal building basement and walking up a ramp from the underground parking garage.

Not to be tricked, camera crews were waiting atop the ramp when Maloney strutted up dressed in a black trench coat and fedora. He began running across Adams Street in the Loop, pursued by TV crews until he tripped and did a belly flop onto the asphalt, staggering to his feet with a mouthful of gravel.

The finest out-of-court routine was put on by Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, who will go on trial again Tuesday. Years ago when he was free on bond, The Clown enjoyed living up to his nickname by shielding his face from photographers using a newspaper with cut-out eyeholes.

While he was a fugitive, Lombardo wrote a letter to Judge Zagel, who is hearing his case, stating that he was unfairly targeted by prosecutors who could convict “a hamburger” in federal court.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Guilty Pleas on Eve of Family Secrets Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Nicholas Ferriola, Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph Venezia, Michael Marcello, James Marcello, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Two men accused of working with the Chicago mob pleaded guilty on the eve of the city's biggest organized crime trial in years.

The guilty pleas leave five defendants in the racketeering conspiracy case, scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday. The case is based on an FBI investigation of 18 long unsolved murders that federal prosecutors tie to the Chicago Outfit, the city's organized crime family. Neither man was among the most prominent defendants.

Nicholas Ferriola, 32, pleaded guilty to racketeering, bookmaking and squeezing extortion payments from a Chicago restaurant. He admitted he was part of the mob's South Side or Chinatown crew and that he worked with Frank Calabrese Sr., a defendant and reputed to be one of the city's top mob bosses.

Joseph Venezia, 64, pleaded guilty to running a gambling business and hiding the proceeds from the Internal Revenue Service.

No sentencing date was set. The men are to return to court Aug. 10.

The federal indictment presents a panoramic picture of the Outfit, which it says consists of six "street crews," each with a franchise over organized crime in its respective sector of the city and suburbs. The indictment details murder, gambling, pornography, extortion and loan sharking among the Outfit's activities.

The number of defendants has dwindled steadily as the date for jury selection has drawn closer.

Last week, Michael Marcello — brother of James Marcello, described by federal prosecutors as one of the top leaders of the Outfit — and two other men pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel also tentatively dropped reputed mob extortionist Frank "The German" Schweihs from the trial last week for health reasons. (Sara Lee)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Murder, Juice Loans, Pornography, Street Gambling, All Part of Mob Family Secrets Trial

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul "the Indian" Schiro, Anthony Doyle, Tony Spilotro, Frank "the German" Schweihs, Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, Rocco Infelice, William Hanhardt
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

With the sweeping "Family Secrets" conspiracy trial just days from starting, reputed mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was looking pretty relaxed. If not for the orange jumpsuit and the federal courtroom, he could have been passing time in a coffee shop or one of his favorite Grand Avenue restaurants.

As he sat in a wheelchair with his legs crossed, he gestured and chatted with court personnel and lawyers about the clothes he'll wear when a jury hears allegations that he and several co-defendants ruthlessly steered the Outfit through years of vice and violence. "Do I get a haircut too?" he said with a smile, drawing a laugh.

Even in a city as heavy with mob history and lore as Chicago, the landmark trial set to begin Tuesday with the selection of an anonymous jury promises to be a spectacle.

There will be veteran prosecutors who have made careers targeting wiseguys. There will be flamboyant defense lawyers unafraid to make a joke in court and wear pink socks while doing it. And there will be Lombardo and at least four other defendants, a group accused of forming the backbone of the Chicago Outfit for much of the 1970s and '80s. The trial will lay bare secret ceremonies, 18 long-unsolved gangland slayings and the mob's grip on the city's dark side -- street gambling, juice loans and pornography.

They are now shadows of the men who have stared coldly out of mug shots. They have limped into court using canes, the 78-year-old Lombardo leading a geriatric assortment of characters that has complained of bad backs, poor eyesight and heart trouble in the months leading up to the trial.

Federal prosecutors have targeted individual Outfit street crews and their leaders in the past, but Family Secrets will essentially put on trial the structure and enterprise that was the Chicago mob during the last few decades.

Expected to go on trial with Lombardo for racketeering conspiracy will be James Marcello, named as the boss of the Chicago mob at the time of his arrest; Frank Calabrese Sr., a made member of the Outfit's 26th Street crew and once Chicago's reputed top loan shark; Paul "the Indian" Schiro; and former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle.

The case started with a bang when the indictments came down in the spring of 2005. Lombardo and reputed hit man Frank "the German" Schweihs -- now too sick to go on trial -- were on the lam for months.

While a fugitive, Lombardo wrote letters to the judge in the case, signing some "an innocent man" and promising to swallow truth serum to prove he wasn't involved in the murders. He vowed to turn himself in if he would be released on bail and tried separately. He was arrested in suburban Elmwood Park in January 2006.

As the case finally goes to trial, interest is expected to cause it to be moved to the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, the building's largest.

Prosecutors will tell the jury that Lombardo, Marcello and others helped control the organization born with Al Capone, which has persisted and flourished in all manner of illicit business, and has protected itself through murder when necessary. The most sensational of the 18 killings are the 1986 beating deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, who were found buried in an Indiana cornfield and whose murders were featured in the movie "Casino."

"This ranks up there with the great cases ... based on the number of people and the high-profile crimes involved," said Lee Flosi, a former FBI agent who was the supervisor of Chicago's organized crime task force in the early 1990s.

It could even be the last great mob case, Flosi said, as the FBI devotes fewer resources to taking on a somewhat downtrodden Outfit. "It'll be many years before there's anything that rivals it," he said.

Observers are calling the case the most important involving the Chicago mob since Lombardo and three bosses were convicted in 1986 of skimming millions of dollars from a Las Vegas casino.

The trial, expected to last as long as four months, will feature high-ranking turncoats, including a made mob member, Nicholas Calabrese, who will testify against his brother, giving the case its Family Secrets code name. It will include undercover recordings of prison meetings between the incarcerated Marcello and his brother, Michael, and even a government expert dubbed a "mobologist" by the defense to try to tie it all together. A parade of prosecution witnesses that includes hit men, pornographers, bookies, career burglars, gamblers and other mob associates are expected to testify about their dealings with the Outfit.

As the government attacks the mob as a racketeering enterprise, the case will attempt to close the books on the Spilotro killings and a series of other hits that for years sat among the hundreds of unsolved mob slayings in Chicago. Prosecutors will use the rarest of tools to take jurors inside organized crime -- a member of the Outfit's inner circle.

Billed as the most significant witness against the Chicago syndicate in decades, Nick Calabrese has the insider's knowledge to name names. Associated with the Outfit since 1970, he has admitted taking part in 14 Outfit killings and has information on many more, prosecutors have said.

A made member of the 26th Street crew, he began cooperating in 2002 after being confronted by authorities with DNA evidence that linked him to the 1986 killing of mob hit man John Fecarotta. Calabrese recently pleaded guilty.

He also will supply firsthand information about mob business, the Outfit's structure and its customs. And he will explain the backdrop and motives for many of the slayings. He is expected to directly link James Marcello to the murders of the Spilotros, according to prosecutors' documents. The brothers were beaten and strangled in a home near Bensenville after running afoul of the Chicago Outfit while heading its Las Vegas operation.

Calabrese is expected to tell jurors about an underworld ceremony in 1983 when he was welcomed into the mob's leading ranks with Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. Calabrese will describe how each inductee was joined by his crew boss and how the highest-ranking Outfit leaders had them pledge absolute allegiance.

To fight Calabrese and his testimony, defense lawyers said they will attempt to show the motives for many of the murders were unrelated to the mob, or that their clients were not directing the conspiracy. According to the defense, the government's case is built on the idea that the Outfit was structured from the top down. "In past cases, the government has shown all of this thuggery, and then asked the jury to reasonably infer that it was done on behalf of the mob," said Rick Halprin, Lombardo's lawyer and a veteran of the federal courthouse. "This case is the reverse. They will be proving that there was organized crime."

Halprin, an ex-Marine who was wounded in Vietnam, has a booming courtroom voice and is quick with a quip. Halprin intends to portray Lombardo as a lifelong working man. "He doesn't have a home in River Forest," he said. "He doesn't drive fancy cars."

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, Joseph Lopez, who has defended other mob figures as well, is known for his sharp suits, occasionally accented with pink socks. He said he agrees the team of prosecutors on the case must show that the orders for the killings came down the mob's chain of command.

It doesn't matter, Lopez said, that his client has previously pleaded guilty to being in the Outfit. Prosecutors have to prove the slayings were mob hits. "The question is, were these killings sanctioned by the mob," Lopez said. "People get killed for a variety of reasons."

Lopez said he will present evidence to show that two individuals who have no connection to the mob killed Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski, one of the mob hits with which his client is charged. "We're not charged with murder. We're charged with conspiracy," Lopez said. "If we were charged with murder down at 26th Street [the Criminal Courts Building], this would be a different story."

"They can't show these [murders] were done to protect the Outfit," he said. But leading the prosecution team are two of the most seasoned, savvy assistant U.S. attorneys, Mitchell Mars, the office's organized crime chief, who headed the prosecution in the early 1990s of mobster Rocco Infelice, and John Scully, who prosecuted William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives convicted of running a mob-connected jewelry theft ring.

To be sure, they won't be in a joking mood, even though Lombardo might be. "You know he doesn't want to just sit there silently with his hands folded," Flosi said of Lombardo, who once famously covered his face with a newspaper -- a hole cut out for him to see -- as he left a 1981 court appearance. "Maybe he'll come to court in his pajamas," Flosi said. "Who knows?"

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Spilotro's Daughter to Testify at Family Secrets Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, James Marcello, Joseph Lombardo, Frank Schweihs
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

The daughter of executed mobster Michael Spilatro will testify that the day her father disappeared, he received two calls from James Marcello of Lombard, the man prosecutors call the head of the Chicago Outfit, it was revealed in court today.

Michelle Spilatro’s identification of Marcello in a “voice line-up” was being opposed by Marcello’s attorney, Marc Martin, who called an expert in court to testify that the way the lineup was conducted was faulty and was suggestive to her that she identify Marcello.

Martin is opposing the use of the identification for use at trial. U.S. District Judge James Zagel held off on ruling on its admissibility after a hearing today.

Prosecutors contend Anthony and Michael Spilatro were lured to a DuPage area home - reportedly near Bensenville - and beaten to death on June 14, 1986. Their bodies were later found in an Indiana corn field.

That day, prosecutors said Michelle Spilatro will testify, she answered two calls from Marcello asking to talk to Michael Spilatro. They said she will also testify that she heard Marcello’s voice around 80 times over several years that way, and is “100 percent” certain it was Marcello who called that day.

Prosecutor Marcus Funk also intimated through questions of the defense witness that Michelle Spilatro can clearly ID Marcello’s voice because she at one point recognized it in a phone conversation and confirmed with him that he was the man who always called for her father.

Defense attorneys contend Michelle Spilatro cannot possibly identify the voice because she was asked to perform the voice lineup more than three years after the day her father was murdered.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in the mob case, which features not only defendant Marcello, but such legendary mob figures as Joey “The Clown” Lombardo and Frank Calabrese, Sr. Also Friday, Zagel granted a motion from lawyers for Frank “The German” Schweihs to release him from trial for now because he is severely ill and under the care of a doctor. Schweihs reportedly has cancer.

Opening arguments in the case are expected to begin June 25.

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

Mobster May Avoid Trial Due to Health Issues

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Nicholas Ferriola, Joseph Ferriola, Joseph Venezia

A reputed prolific hit man for the Chicago Outfit, battling cancer, won't be going to trial with his fellow mobsters starting Tuesday in the historic Family Secrets mob case -- and may never face a jury at all.

Mobster, Frank 'The German' Schweihs, May Avoid Trial Due to Health IssuesFrank "The German" Schweihs was severed from the trial because of "physical incapacity," according to a decision by U.S. District Judge James Zagel. While Schweihs could be tried alone if his health improves, sources familiar with his prognosis doubt that will happen.

The turn of events Friday angered some family members of victims allegedly slain by Schweihs. "Now I won't feel closure," said Nick Seifert, a son of Bensenville factory owner Daniel Seifert, whom Schweihs allegedly killed in 1974 to prevent his testimony. "I want him in that courtroom. I don't care if he's on a respirator or on a gurney. I want him tried and convicted for the crime he did."

Schweihs is charged in the Seifert slaying -- one of 18 unsolved Outfit hits that are part of the Family Secrets case. But there are many more murders in which Schweihs was a suspect but never charged. One was the 1985 murder of Pasquale "Patsy" Ricciardi, the owner of the X-rated Admiral Theatre movie house, who was slain as the Outfit consolidated control over the lucrative pornographic movie industry.

When told Schweihs wouldn't be going to trial, Ricciardi's daughter Marianne said Friday: "If anybody has witnessed someone dying of cancer, all I can say is, 'God works in mysterious ways.'"

In other developments, two more men charged in the case, Nicholas Ferriola, the son of late mob boss Joseph Ferriola, and Joseph Venezia, an alleged worker in an illegal video gambling business, were expected to plead guilty Monday.

If that happens, it would bring the total guilty pleas to six and leave five defendants to stand trial.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Long Unsolved Murders Focus of Chicago Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Tony Accardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Anthony Doyle, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Nicholas Calabrese, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A gang of burglars decided in December 1977 to break into the home of Tony Accardo, one of the most powerful men in organized crime history, and rob his basement vault. Accardo was not amused.

Six men Accardo blamed for the heist were swiftly hunted down and murdered, according to papers filed by federal prosecutors in preparation for Chicago's biggest mob trial in years, scheduled to begin Tuesday. And that's only one of the grisly tales jurors are likely to hear at the trial stemming from the FBI's "Operation Family Secrets" investigation of 18 long-unsolved mob murders allegedly tied the Outfit, Chicago's organized crime family.

"This unprecedented indictment puts a hit on the mob," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in announcing the charges in April 2005. "It is remarkable for both the breadth of the murders charged and for naming the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise under the anti-racketeering law."

Reputed top mob bosses head the list of defendants -- James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and wisecracking Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo. Four co-defendants include a retired Chicago police officer, Anthony Doyle. All have pleaded not guilty.

Another defendant, alleged extortionist Frank "The German" Schweihs, has been tentatively dropped from the trial for health reasons.

Accardo, the notorious mob boss whose home was hit by the burglars, died in 1992 at age 86. He boasted that he never spent a night in jail.

The case has already made the kind of headlines that might seem the stuff of novels and movies. A federal marshal assigned to guard a star witness was charged with leaking information about his whereabouts to organized crime. The marshal has pleaded not guilty. That witness -- Nicholas Calabrese, brother of Frank Calabrese Sr. -- knows four decades of mob history from the inside and really does have a link to the movies. He is expected to testify against his brother.

Nicholas Calabrese pleaded guilty to several counts in May and admitted that he took part in 14 mob murders including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas. Spilotro, who inspired the character played by Joe Pesci in the movie "Casino (Widescreen 10th Anniversary Edition)," and his brother were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

Lombardo, 78, and Schweihs disappeared after the indictment was unsealed in 2005, setting off an intense FBI manhunt.

Crime buffs speculated that Lombardo was hiding out in the hills of Sicily or enjoying a life of ease in the Caribbean. In fact, after nine months on the run, FBI agents nabbed him in a suburban alley one frosty night in January 2006. Schweihs was captured deep in the Kentucky hill country in December 2005.

The Clown lived up to his nickname later when he appeared before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who inquired about the aging man's health and asked why he hadn't seen a doctor lately.

"I was supposed to see him nine months ago, but I was -- what do they call it? -- I was unavailable," Lombardo rasped.

In the 1980s, Lombardo was convicted in the same federal courthouse, along with then-International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams, of attempting to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada.

When Lombardo got out of prison he took out a newspaper ad denying that he was a "made guy" in the mob and disavowing any role in future organized crime activities. Lombardo defense attorney Rick Halprin scoffs at prosecutors' claims his client is a powerful organized crime leader. "Those things just aren't true," he said.

Experts say the Chicago crime syndicate is so deeply entrenched that it won't be decapitated even if the government gets a clean sweep of convictions.

Gus Russo, who describes the Chicago mob in his book "The Outfit," noted that the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act has helped crime-busting prosecutors make progress against the mob. "But, regretfully, greed is such a part of our culture that you're always going to have a criminal element and it will organize," Russo said. "This will hurt the mob but it won't end it."

The trial is expected to take four months. Among the security precautions, jurors' names are being kept secret and prosecutors say they have nine potential witnesses whose names have been kept secret out of concern for their safety.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Ruthless Rise of Mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

To neighbors, Joseph Lombardo was a beloved family man and respected boys baseball coach in his West Side neighborhood -- "more liked than the priest" in the community, according to one friend.

To the feds, Lombardo is the man who had a factory owner slain in front of the man's wife and 4-year-old son.

To investigators, he's the man who knows no loyalty, signing off on the murders of three close friends.

When he appears in federal court these days, for updates on the trial starting June 19 that could put him in prison until his dying days, he's the wisecracking senior citizen. At 78, he's the oldest of a mostly geriatric bunch of mobsters in what likely will be the last great Outfit trial in Chicago history -- the Family Secrets case.

He's "the Clown," known for his quick wit. When the cops stopped him once in the 1980s, after he fled a gambling raid, he had $12,000 in cash on him and a book filled with jokes. But the wisecracks, investigators say, only mask the brutality of one of the last of the old-time Chicago mobsters.

Interviews with people who have known and investigated Lombardo, as well as a review of thousands of pages of court records and law enforcement documents, reveal the story of the ruthless rise of Lombardo in the Chicago Outfit.

"He was vicious and a killer," said retired FBI Agent Jack O'Rourke. "He was their prime enforcer."

Lombardo has denied hurting anyone. Now behind bars at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, he declined an interview request.

In court in 1983, Lombardo said: "I never ordered a killing, I never OKd a killing, and I never killed a man in my life."

His attorney, Rick Halprin, says his client has never been a mob leader. But investigators say Lombardo was a top mobster for years, thanks to his criminal versatility.

He allegedly went from busting heads and two-bit burglaries to orchestrating a bribe attempt of U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon. He was convicted in that case in the 1980s, as well as another one for skimming millions from Las Vegas casinos for the mob. He allegedly controlled millions of dollars in Teamster pension funds through his friend, insurance magnate Allen Dorfman, and was responsible for getting the skim from Las Vegas casinos to Chicago mob bosses.

As a child, Lombardo never knew such wealth, growing up poor in Depression-era Chicago, one of 11 children, the son of a printer. A graduate of Wells High School, he worked as a paperboy, plucked chickens, shined shoes, loaded boxcars at Union Station for 69 cents an hour and handled room service at the Blackstone Hotel.

He was also quite the athlete, playing on wrestling, basketball, fencing and swimming teams and even taking square-dancing lessons. He found a passion for golf and caddied for top Chicago gangster Jackie Cerone. He was also quite the gin rummy cardshark. But he didn't have to rely on cards for cash. His criminal work was apparently quite profitable, authorities said. In recent years, while Lombardo pleads poverty, his family trust benefitting his ex-wife, son and daughter has sold real estate for millions. Authorities believe the trust was set up to keep the feds from seizing assets.

Lombardo's success was punctuated by violence. He has been a suspect in numerous murders but never convicted. What's more, authorities say, he had control over the most allegedly vicious hit man around, Frank "The German" Schweihs. Schweihs is charged in the Family Secrets case with Lombardo. Schweihs would talk about doing an Outfit killing like he was taking out the garbage, court records show.

Even before Lombardo was a somebody in the Chicago Outfit, he was "the Clown."

It was 1964, and Lombardo was on trial in Chicago with other alleged loan sharks for beating a man who owed the mob money. The case was making headlines, and so was Lombardo. When police took his mug shot, he opened his mouth into a cavernous yawn to stop the cops from getting a good photo of him.

Even then, Lombardo -- then going by a variation of his birth name, Joseph Lombardi -- was referred to in the press as the Clown.

The other notable twist: Lombardo was innocent of the charge. But he was part of a clever plot to scotch the case, authorities said. When police rounded up the loan sharks, they arrested the wrong Joseph Lombardi. At the time, two Chicago gangsters had that name and looked similar. Defense attorneys for the men realized the error but kept silent to spring a trap on prosecutors, authorities said. It worked. When the victim took the stand, he could identify all the defendants as his attackers, all except the Clown.

"Talk about having your jaw drop and your case collapse," said attorney Louis B. Garippo, who prosecuted the case. Lombardo walked out a free man. His fellow mobsters walked too, after a jury acquitted them.

Lombardo's antics would be only his first of many public displays.

After he was arrested in 1980 for leading police on a chase, he left the courthouse one day, past the press corps, hidden behind a newspaper with a peephole cut out for his eyes. He was tripped up, though, as he went through the revolving door.

When Lombardo got out of prison in 1992, the FBI in Chicago began getting strange phone calls from a man identifying himself as Long John Silver. The caller would let agents know when he was going to call through newspaper ads.

The caller provided good info about the Outfit's hierarchy but was anxious to steer agents away from one person -- Lombardo's son, Joseph Jr., whom agents were investigating but never charged. Agents traced the calls as coming from pay phones near Lombardo's home, sources said.

The phone calls never amounted to much, and the agents never proved they were coming from Lombardo. But there was a tantalizing clue. Flip the initials for Long John: you get J and L. Short for Joseph Lombardo? Lombardo could pull that stunt, agents figured.

To get into the Chicago Outfit as a made member -- to have the full rights of membership -- a candidate must murder for the mob. Lombardo's qualifying kill was allegedly the 1965 hit of mob associate and hotel owner Manny Skar, according to court records. Lombardo allegedly shadowed Skar for two days before Skar was killed as he exited his car to enter his apartment on Lake Shore Drive.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Lombardo was on the move, wearing multiple hats for the Outfit and allegedly signing off on the murders of three close friends.

The first was in 1974 -- the slaying of businessman Daniel Seifert. Seifert ran a fiberglass business in the suburbs and was an unwitting front for Lombardo. Lombardo and Seifert were so close that Lombardo baby-sat Seifert's kids. But when the feds came calling and Seifert decided to cooperate, Lombardo decided his friend had to go, authorities charge. On Sept. 27, 1974, Seifert was gunned down outside his Bensenville factory as his wife and 4-year-old son watched. With Seifert dead, the charges against Lombardo evaporated. Lombardo is charged in connection with Seifert's murder in the Family Secrets case along with racketeering.

The next to go was insurance magnate Allen Dorfman, who went on Hawaii golf vacations with Lombardo. Lombardo was close to Dorfman, a clout-heavy insurance broker. Lombardo and Dorfman allegedly schemed to control the Teamsters' pension funds, which loaned millions to build Vegas casinos. Lombardo would allegedly muscle people for Dorfman.

In one conversation, secretly tape-recorded by the feds, Lombardo spoke to mob lawyer and casino investor Morris Schenker, who wasn't coming up with the money Dorfman believed Schenker owed the Outfit.

"Now, it's getting to the point now where you either s - - - or get off the pot," Lombardo said to Schenker, who was 72 at the time of the 1979 conversation. "If they come back and tell me to give you a message and if you want to defy it, I assure you that you will never reach 73," Lombardo said.

Schenker died of natural causes. Dorfman did not, getting gunned down in 1983 in Lincolnwood after Outfit leaders worried he'd turn stool pigeon.

Three years later, another Lombardo friend, mob killer Anthony Spilotro, was beaten to death along with his brother, Michael Spilotro. Lombardo allegedly oversaw Spilotro, who was the Outfit's man in Las Vegas. The Spilotros and Lombardo were close. Their families came over on the same boat from Italy.

In the end, though, Anthony Spilotro had to die, Outfit leaders decided. He was causing too much heat in Vegas, including taking out a contract on an FBI agent.

The Spilotro brothers were lured to a Bensenville area home on the ruse they were getting promotions. Instead, when they went down to the basement, several mobsters surrounded them and beat them to death. They were buried in an Indiana cornfield.

In recent years, Lombardo has kept a low profile. He has been seen hanging out more at the Italian restaurant La Scarola than with other mobsters.

His defense -- unique but possibly workable -- is that he has moved away from the mob life.

In short, he's retired.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, May 18, 2007

Calabrese, Government Star Mob Witness, Pleads Guilty

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, James LaPietra, Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs

The government's star witness in its prosecution of top organized-crime bosses in 18 mob murders today admitted his role in a conspiracy to conduct the affairs of a criminal enterprise – namely, the Chicago mob.

Nicholas W. Calabrese, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and navy sweatpants, entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. Calabrese has long cooperated with the government, and pleaded guilty in advance of the trial of his co-defendants, expected to get under way this summer.

Zagel noted that Calabrese could face at least 24 years in prison according to federal guidelines, but federal prosecutors are expected to recommend a lesser sentence.

After the hearing, Calabrese's attorney, John Theis, said he could not say whether the 64-year-old Calabrese believes he eventually will be released from prison because of his willingness to aid federal investigators. But Theis said he expects his client to fully cooperate, including testifying in the upcoming trial of his former cohorts. "He will testify truthfully," Theis said.

According to today's plea agreement, Calabrese contributed to 14 of the murders previously charged in the case and was directly involved in the Sept. 14, 1986, killing of John Fecarotta.

The document states that Calabrese, on the orders of James LaPietra and under the direction of his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., lured Fecarotta to his death under the ruse of participating in a crime. "The defendant and the victim struggled over a gun in the car they were in, and the victim fled on foot," the document states. "The defendant admits that he chased Fecarotta and shot and killed him after the victim fled the vehicle."

The Tribune previously cited law-enforcement sources as saying Calabrese agreed to cooperate after he was confronted with DNA evidence linking him to at least one murder. He implicated an alleged Who's Who of the mob—James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs, brother Frank Calabrese Sr. and others—in connection with 18 long-unsolved mob murders, including the 1986 beating deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

The four reputed mob figures and nine others were indicted with Nicholas Calabrese on gambling, loan sharking and murder charges.

Thanks to

Friday, April 13, 2007

Will Book Shed New Light on Old Gangland Tales?

For a guy considered a pariah by his old friends, mob hit-man-turned-government informant Frank Cullotta suddenly finds himself, or at least his bloodstained memories, quite popular these days.

After spending the past two decades in the shadows as a protected witness after his cooperation with the FBI and U.S. attorney against mobster Anthony Spilotro and members of his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Cullotta is close to bringing out his memoirs of time in and out of the Chicago Outfit. Published by Huntington Press, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness" is scheduled to officially hit bookstores July 1. The book is co-authored by the 68-year-old Cullotta and Dennis N. Griffin with credited contributions from former FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy. Arnoldy was Cullotta's handler after his defection from the heart of Spilotro's criminal crew.

The timing of Cullotta's project couldn't be more intriguing for those who have followed the rise and fall of traditional organized crime groups, especially the infamous Chicago Outfit. Cullotta is telling his story at the same time attorneys for reputed Chicago mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and a gaggle of co-defendants will be searching for outs and alibis in a sweeping criminal case in federal court in Chicago.

Reporters there are openly speculating that Cullotta, a former Lombardo associate, will be called as a witness. The trial is expected to start in May.

Word of the Cullotta manuscript's existence recently had both sides of the Lombardo case contacting Huntington Press publisher Anthony Curtis to request a copy. First, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars called. Then, FBI agent Michael Maseth contacted Curtis. Not long after, Lombardo defense attorney Rick Halprin called.

When Curtis declined to provide the manuscript on the advice of lawyer Andrew Norwood, on April 2 the feds came through with a promised subpoena. On Monday, Curtis said he would comply with the subpoena.

Although Halprin expressed doubt the manuscript would produce new information, the defense attorney admitted to Curtis, "There are things only Frankie knows." (That sentiment is a far cry from Halprin's wisecrack about Cullotta during a pre-trial hearing in a Chicago courtroom last week: "For all I know, he's Ann Coulter.")

Are the things that only Frankie knows in the book?

What can Cullotta say that he hasn't previously testified to under oath?

At 78, Lombardo has been around the track too many times to get nervous about the memories of an admitted killer and thief. But Cullotta's story already has a proven appeal with readers. His perspective was sprinkled throughout Nicholas Pileggi's best-seller "Casino," and Pileggi has provided the foreword for Cullotta's memoir. In fact, Cullotta is said to have received a handsome fee as a consultant on the Martin Scorsese movie that followed Pileggi's book.

What will Cullotta's own book reveal?

Hopefully, he'll give readers his authentic and disturbing eyewitness accounts of his own criminal activity and the countless felonies that swirled around his life in Chicago and Las Vegas. The fact he's detailed a lot of that bloody stuff as a government witness shouldn't diminish its impact on the public more than two decades after Spilotro's murder, as long as he's candid.

Considering he's admitted killing in cold blood, it's the least he can do.

When the FBI and Las Vegas police finally caught up with Cullotta after the botched Bertha's store heist in 1981, his lifelong friend Spilotro was under enormous pressure from law enforcement. Even Spilotro's former defense attorney, Mayor Oscar Goodman, admitted his client's failure to provide legal assistance to Cullotta helped lead to his defection.

More than two decades after the murders of Spilotro and his brother, Michael, their homicides are part of 18 killings, some dating to the 1970s, outlined in the indictment against Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, current reputed Outfit leader James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and a dozen others.

Cullotta was a participant and front-row associate during the twilight of the Outfit's dominance in Chicago and influence in Las Vegas. He has a rare perspective on a lifestyle that has killed dozens of his pals as well as a number of government witnesses and innocent bystanders.

The last thing Lombardo and the gang should want is for Frank Cullotta to take a stroll down memory lane.

Thanks to John L. Smith

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mob All-Star Lineup for Family Secrets Trial

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Frank Calabrese Sr.. James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese, Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, Richard Mara, Daniel Bounds, Alfred Pilotto, Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, James LaValley
Friends of mine: Frank Calabrese Jr., Michael Talarico

One man is a reputed Outfit killer and master thief who stormed jewelry stores with a crew so skilled it's been called "the New York Yankees of robbers." Another served as intermediary between illegal Asian gambling and an alleged Outfit hit man, Frank "The German" Schweihs. Still a third has run a well-known Bridgeport restaurant and was allegedly connected to the crew of brutal loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr. All three are expected to testify in what will be the most important mob trial in Chicago in decades.

Prosecutors have put the mob's top leaders on trial and tied them to 18 unsolved Outfit murders. Facing charges that could put them behind bars for life are reputed Chicago Outfit chief James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and top mobster Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, among others.

The star witnesses at trial will be the brother and son of Frank Calabrese Sr. The brother, Nick Calabrese, has admitted to 16 mob hits, many committed with his brother, he says. Calabrese Sr.'s son, Frank Calabrese Jr., secretly recorded his father while they were both in prison.

Details of other key witnesses expected at trial are in a federal court filing that is under seal. But the Sun-Times has learned who some of those witnesses will be.

Limoges JewelryAmong the top witnesses will be Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel. Siegel was part of a crew of mobbed-up robbers who hit jewelry stores across the country -- mainly in California and Florida -- taking in millions of dollars in loot over the years.

The robbers wore Halloween masks and body armor, used automatic weapons and performed their robberies with military-like precision, authorities said.

"We prosecuted them to the fullest. But we recognized they were the New York Yankees of robbers," said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmund Searby, who prosecuted Siegel and his cohorts in 1993 for a series of jewelry store robberies. A heavy prison sentence prompted Siegel to flip and spill all he knew to the feds, including several murders he allegedly committed or knew about, authorities said.

Another witness at the upcoming trial is expected to be Yu Lip Moy, a former head of the National On Leong Trading Association and a former Pittsburgh restaurant owner who was a key witness in the On Leong gambling case in Chicago the early 1990s. Moy has testified he paid off Schweihs as part of an agreement with the Outfit to allow illegal Asian gambling in Chicago to continue.

Another restaurant owner, Michael Talarico, is listed as a potential witness. Talarico has run the well-known Bridgeport restaurant Punchinello's for years and allegedly worked as a bookmaker. The Sun-Times has previously reported he was held in federal jail in Chicago for not testifying before a Family Secrets grand jury, but was later released.

While Talarico is still listed as the license holder for the restaurant, a phone message at the restaurant said it is under new management. Talarico is a part of the influential Roti family by marriage and once was married to Schweihs' daughter.

When asked about Talarico, Joseph Lopez, the attorney for Frank Calabrese Sr., said he expected Talarico's testimony to deal more with Nick Calabrese than Frank Calabrese Sr.

Lopez blasted Nick Calabrese as "a mass murderer."

"Instead of going after off-duty cops for fighting in bars, [Cook County State's Attorney] Dick Devine should be going after a mass murderer who has killed more people than the Brown's Chicken massacre and Richard Speck combined," Lopez said.

Nick Calabrese is cooperating with federal prosecutors but does not have a deal with them yet.

Prosecutors would not discuss witnesses, and defense attorneys declined to discuss the contents of the sealed court filing.

When asked about some of the potential witnesses, Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin said: "It's just round-up-the-usual-snitches, who have been telling the same stories for 20 years."

Other witnesses expected at trial include Outfit burglar Richard Mara; failed Outfit assassin Daniel Bounds, who turned himself into the FBI after botching the hit of south suburban mob boss Alfred Pilotto; Outfit killer and burglar Frank Cullotta, a close associate of Tony Spilotro; mob leg breaker James LaValley, and former adult bookstore owner, William "Red" Wemette, who was shaken down by Outfit thugs.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Joey the Clown Denies He was a Fugitive to Avoid Mob Arrest

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

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo pleaded not guilty today to a charge that he went on the lam to avoid arrest.

In a brief hearing in federal court, Lombardo pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice. The charge was tacked onto a sweeping indictment of several defendants in a federal investigation of long-unsolved mob murders and other crimes.

Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs allegedly went on the run to avoid FBI agents after prosecutors unveiled the first version of the Operation Family Secrets racketeering indictment in April 2005.

Schweihs was captured in Kentucky in December 2005, and Lombardo was caught in Elmwood Park in January 2006. Schweihs was not in court Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said the government could not charge Lombardo with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution because it could not prove that he had crossed state lines -- a key provision of the law. He said the second choice was charging Lombardo with attempting to "impede and obstruct" efforts to arrest him. But Halprin said that at no time did Lombardo's absence from court impede and obstruct the case.

Reputed mobsters Lombardo, Schweihs, Frank Calabrese, James Marcello, and Paul Schiro and nine others are charged with conspiring to commit 18 murders going back three decades. The murders include the 1986 hit on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's man in Las Vegas.

The charges grow out of a decades-old federal investigation known as "Family Secrets." Jury selection is expected to start in May, and the trial is expected to last four or five months.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A-List Could Testify about Mob Family Secrets

Friends of ours: James LaValley, Lenny Patrick, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Sal Romano, Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro

A former adult bookstore owner and an ex-juice loan enforcer who once threatened to cut off the remaining arm of an amputee are among the witnesses who could testify in the upcoming blockbuster Family Secrets mob trial in Chicago, the Sun-Times has learned.

Federal prosecutors are expected to put forward a parade of former wiseguys in the trial, beginning in May, that aims to solve 18 mob hits and puts some of the top reputed mobsters in Chicago on the hot seat.

Former enforcer James LaValley, who once belonged to the street crew of one-time top mobster Lenny Patrick, has cooperated with the government for more than 15 years after a career in which he specialized in so-called "hard-to-collect" debts.

LaValley, an intimidating, sizable man, testified in an earlier mob trial that he cut the hand of one deadbeat gambler and threatened to cut off the arm of a bookie who was an amputee.

Another potential witness in the Family Secrets case is former adult bookstore owner William "Red" Wemette, according to sources familiar with the matter. Wemette repeatedly helped record one defendant in the case, reputed mob killer Frank "The German" Schweihs, who was convicted of extorting Wemette during the 1980s.

Also on tap as potential witnesses are two former members of the burglary crew run by Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas. Both Sal Romano and Frank Cullotta have testified previously at mob trials.

It's unclear exactly what the witnesses would testify about at trial, but they could provide jurors with expansive views of their slice of mob life in Chicago.

Attorney Joseph Lopez, who represents reputed mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Family Secrets case, said he had seen LaValley testify in another case years ago and did not share the government's estimation of him. LaValley is "a real character," Lopez said. LaValley "loves himself to death. If he could look at himself in the mirror all day, that's all he'd do."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Clown and the German Face Obstruction of Justice Charges

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

Federal prosecutors say reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and another alleged organized crime figure have been charged with going on the lam to avoid arrest. The obstruction of justice charges were approved by a federal grand jury Thursday and tacked onto a sweeping indictment of 14 defendants.

The 78-year-old Lombardo and 77-year-old Frank "The German" Schweihs allegedly went on the lam after prosecutors unveiled the racketeering indictment in April 2005.

Schweihs was captured in Kentucky hill country in December 2005 and Lombardo was cornered in an Elmwood Park alley in January 2006.

Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said the government could not charge Lombardo with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution because it could not prove he had crossed state lines.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reputed Chicago Mob Boss 'Joey the Clown' Could Face Fresh Charges

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

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and another man could face new charges for going on the lam after a major indictment against them was unsealed, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

"We may seek to add charges to the indictment based on their fugitive status," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell A. Mars told federal Judge James B. Zagel at a hearing in a racketeering case known as Operation Family Secrets.

Fourteen alleged mobsters and mob associates were charged in the indictment alleging that leaders of the Chicago Outfit were involved in 18 murders, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's onetime top man in Las Vegas who was killed and buried in an Indiana corn field.

Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film "Casino."

Lombardo, 77, was captured by FBI agents in a suburban Elmwood Park alley in January 2006 after nine months on the run.

The other runaway defendant, alleged mob enforcer Frank "The German" Schweihs, 76, was captured by FBI agents in December 2005, hiding in the hills of Kentucky south of Lexington.

Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said that an unlawful flight to escape prosecution charge would add little to the case compared to the racketeering count his client is charged with. "Given the breadth and scope of the case, I don't believe I'm going to lose any sleep over it," he said. Schweihs attorney Ellen R. Domph had no comment.

Zagel told attorneys Tuesday that he likely would order a hearing to determine exactly what jurors might hear from prospective government witness James Wagner, a former FBI mob investigator who now is president of the Chicago Crime Commission.

Prosecutors want Wagner to tell the jury the story of the Chicago Outfit based on his decades of experience investigating the mob.

Halprin has asked Zagel to limit what Wagner would be allowed to say. Zagel told Mars to provide the court with a written explanation of what the former agent would tell the jury.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chicago Crime Commission Subpoenaed by Clown

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

Reputed Chicago mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo is looking to an unusual source for possible help in his defense at one of the most important mob trials in Chicago history: the Chicago Crime Commission.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, had a subpoena served on the Outfit-fighting organization Tuesday for all the supporting documents the commission used to justify putting Lombardo on a mob hierarchy chart the group created in the 1980s. The chart shows Lombardo as a top Chicago mobster. "I can think of no privilege they have with those files," Halprin said. "If they do, I'm sure we'll hear about it in court."

The commission's general counsel, Jeannette Tamayo, called the subpoena for the documents "fairly unusual" and said officials are determining what documents the commission has that are responsive to the subpoena and what the commission is legally obligated to provide.

It's unclear whether the subpoena will spark a legal showdown in federal court in the Family Secrets case. Prosecutors have charged Lombardo and other reputed Outfit leaders in a wide-ranging racketeering case that aims to solve 18 slayings.

Halprin said the late, well-known, former FBI agent William Roemer worked as a consultant for the crime commission in putting together the chart outlining the hierarchy of the Chicago mob.

Halprin is particularly interested in any documentation relating to the prosecution of Lombardo and several others in a scheme to embezzle more than $1 million from a Teamsters pension fund.

In 2005, authorities charged Lombardo, alleged mob hit man Frank "the German" Schweihs and others with the September 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman who authorities say was to be the key witness against Lombardo at the embezzlement trial.

The Teamsters embezzlement case is more than 30 years old, and documentation from it is scarce. Halprin is curious to find out if the crime commission has any historic FBI documents from the case or other matters involving Lombardo.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, January 08, 2007

Did the Clown Leave a Fingerprint Behind?

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

Jurors in the coming Family Secrets mob trial might hear newly revealed government evidence that a fingerprint of Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo links him to the slaying of suburban businessman Daniel Seifert in 1974.

Seifert was set to be a key witness against Lombardo in a Teamster pension fund embezzlement case when masked gunmen shot him down in front of his wife and young son.

In 2005, more than 30 years after the slaying, prosecutors charged Lombardo and another reputed mob hit man, Frank "the German" Schweihs, with killing Seifert. It's one of 18 Outfit rubouts the feds have charged in an indictment against some of the top alleged mobsters of Chicago -- all part of the Family Secrets trial set for May.

The fingerprint was referred to publicly, for the first time, in a court motion that Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, filed Friday. Halprin wants information on the methodology the government's expert used in linking the print to Lombardo so he can plan a possible challenge. Halprin said Friday he's interested in finding out whether any testing used on the fingerprint destroyed part or all of it. Still, Halprin dismissed the importance of the fingerprint Friday, arguing Lombardo has a strong alibi. Lombardo was at a Chicago police station making a report on another matter at the time of the Seifert slaying.

The print was on the title application for a Ford linked to the Seifert murder but purchased several months earlier, Halprin said. The masked gunmen drove the Ford to the Bensenville plastic factory that Seifert ran, police said.

Seifert's wife and 4-year-old son had accompanied Seifert to the factory that morning. The mother and son went into the factory first, where the gunmen accosted them, telling them it was a robbery and no one would get hurt. Moments later, Seifert came into the factory and was shot in the face.

Seifert ran for his life, blood streaming from his face. He was gunned down outside the factory in front of his family as his wife begged for mercy for him, press accounts say.

The gunmen fled in the Ford, which they soon abandoned for a 1973 Dodge. Police pursued the gunmen in a high-speed chase but eventually lost them.

The Ford was bought in the name of a fictitious security company with an address on Grand Avenue in Chicago. Notarizing the application was the secretary of Irwin Weiner, a mob-connected bail bondsman also charged with Lombardo in the pension embezzlement case.

Lombardo was convicted in 1982 in a conspiracy to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, and the Seifert slaying came up as part of his sentencing.

A hoodlum associate of Lombardo's, Alva Johnson Rodgers, testified for prosecutors and told jurors of Lombardo's reaction the day after Seifert's murder. "That S.O.B. won't testify against anybody now, will he?" Lombardo allegedly boasted, according to Rodgers' testimony.

When given his chance to address the judge, Lombardo pleaded innocence. "I never ordered a killing, I never OK'd a killing, and I never killed a man in my life," he said.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Accused Heads of Chicago Outfit Due in Federal Court

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro, Frank Schweihs, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro

Reputed leaders of Chicago's organized crime family have status hearings scheduled today in federal court. Frank Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro and Frank Schweihs (SHWYS) are charged with conspiring to commit 18 murders going back three decades.

They're among 14 reputed mob figures charged in a racketeering indictment stemming from the F-B-I's "Operation Family Secrets."

The murders include the June 1986 hit on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's man in Las Vegas for two decades.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Chicago Outfit or Chicago Hope?

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

Like the old grey mare, the Chicago outfit isn't like it used to be.

"You are dealing with a bunch of old men. So they are going to have problems. I mean they are not unlike other senior citizens. They have problems," said Joe Lopez, Frank Calabrese's lawyer.

Defense attorneys noted in court Thursday that a number of the dozen or so remaining defendants in the "Family Secrets" case have a myriad of health problems, and they urged Uncle Sam to pick up the tab.

The outfit's aches and pains range from possible back surgery to new choppers. Calabrese has a bad back, needs an MRI and probably will have surgery. James Marcello needs dentures and is suffering from gum disease. Joe Lombardo has heart problems and Frank Schweihs is hard of hearing and needs hearing aids.

Calabrese's lawyer outlined his client's woes at the federal jail. "He's taking 15 pills a day, and its having an effect on him up there on 21 because he's very uncomfortable where he's at," Lopez said.

Meanwhile lawyer Rick Halprin argues that 77-year-old Joe Lombardo was not involved in any criminal conspiracy and never has been a member of the mob. In fact Lombardo once took out an ad in a newspaper denying any membership in the outfit. "There is no allegation in that indictment that Joe Lombardo is a made member or a boss or an underboss," Halprin said.

Some of the defendants claim they are not able to listen to or watch FBI video and audio tapes in jail due to poor equipment. They want occasional visits to their lawyers' offices to screen the material there.

Thanks to John "Bulldog" Drummond

Monday, September 18, 2006

Deputy US Marshal Investigated in Operation Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Frank Calabrese Sr.
Friends of mine: Anthony Doyle, Michael Ricci, Frank Sinatra

A deputy U.S. marshal has been placed on paid administrative leave while the FBI investigates whether he was involved in leaking information in the federal Operation Family Secrets mob case, law enforcement sources said Thursday.

The deputy, a member of the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, was required to surrender his badge and gun last week, sources said. He is not identified because he is not charged with a crime.

His role in the Operation Family Secrets case is unclear. In 2005, federal authorities charged 14 people in the sweeping mob indictment. The investigation, which is continuing, pinned 18 previously unsolved murders on the Chicago Outfit.

The deputy marshal has spearheaded several high-profile fugitive arrests, including the capture of an Italian mobster living in the west suburbs and a Chicago street gang member named as one of the country's 15 most-wanted fugitives. "Everyone realizes this is a good guy, and in some ways heroic," one law enforcement source said.

The deputy's father was a Chicago Police officer who was convicted in a corruption scandal and died in prison, sources said.

The Family Secrets case is set to go to trial next May. High-profile defendants, including Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs, were charged in the case, and both initially fled and were fugitives.

Schweihs was found late last year in Kentucky. The FBI tracked down Lombardo in Elmwood Park in January after he was on the lam for about nine months. Sources say Lombardo's flight and his apprehension remain closely guarded details.

Two former Chicago Police officers -- Anthony Doyle and Michael Ricci, a onetime bodyguard for Frank Sinatra -- were also charged in the case. Doyle and Ricci allegedly provided inside information or passed along messages from mob loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr. to the Chicago Outfit while he was in prison. Ricci died in January after undergoing heart surgery.

The deputy marshal could not be reached for comment Thursday. Spokesmen for the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI declined comment. Kim Widup, the U.S. marshal in Chicago, also declined comment.

Thanks to Frank Main


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