The Chicago Syndicate: Gerald Scarpelli
Showing posts with label Gerald Scarpelli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gerald Scarpelli. Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2008

Frank 'The German' Schweihs - "A Killer, That's All, A Killer of a Girl"

Diane Pappas learned that Chicago isn't Camelot a lifetime ago when a tugboat captain found her sister's murdered body in the Chicago River. Eugenia "Becca" Pappas was only 18.

So last week, 46 years after Becca's death, when Diane heard the German was dead, she knew what to do: Drive out to the cemetery, to Becca's grave in the shade of a giant Norwegian pine, and talk to her little sister. "I'm going to the cemetery right now," Diane said. "I've got to be there. Now I want to tell Becca. The big, tough man. The big killer. The murderer of my sister. The German. The murderer of a girl."

If Frank "The German" Schweihs ever wondered about hell, he's not wondering now. He died last week, at 78, of cancer, waiting to stand federal trial in the Family Secrets case.

The FBI considers him the Babe Ruth of Outfit hit men, with dozens of Outfit victims, mobsters from New York to Los Angeles, murderous bosses and their turncoat business associates. Other hit men were terrified to be near him, even when he was sleeping. A glimpse of the German in Los Angeles, a chance sighting in a car window, frightened Jimmy "The Weasel" Frattiano so much that the mobster ran shrieking into the federal witness protection program.

Schweihs the enforcer was the reason those frail, old men could run things without worrying about ambitious underlings. He's the reason they made fortunes, and a president and mayors and judges.

The list of the German's dead is a history of organized crime in America. Except for Becca Pappas, a beauty, tall, slim, black eyes, black hair. "I know he killed her. I just know. She was in his car. She was driving his car the last time anyone saw her. His car disappeared. Then it was auctioned a month later, totally stripped clean, washed down," Diane said.

Becca's murder was investigated by corrupt Chicago lawman Richard CainThe Tangled Web: The Life and Death of Richard Cain - Chicago Cop and Mafia Hitman. This being Chicago, Schweihs was released without charges. Still, I agree with Diane that Schweihs killed her sister.

Why? Because, as explained to me by mob-watchers and former FBI agents, no man in Chicago, or anywhere else, would have dared approach the German's girlfriend. Not even to say hello. They wouldn't have allowed their brains to think of it. Not one. Schweihs would have skinned them alive with a paring knife.

The German is said to have later shotgunned Cain at Rose's Sandwich Shop. And killed Jimmy "the Bomber" Catuara. Teamsters lawyer Allan Dorfman died in a parking lot, shot in the head with a .22. Joe Testa was blown up in his car. Sam DeStefano's arms were shotgunned off in his garage. Patsy Riccardi, Chucky Nicoletti, the list continues.

The Chicago Outfit's flamboyant Hollywood connection, Johnny Rosselli, was found stuffed into an oil drum, floating at sea. Angelo Boscarino was shotgunned, though his son was later given a piece of the failed Rosemont casino deal.

If I've missed a few names, Schweihs didn't miss.

In the late 1980s, he was held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center at the same time as Outfit member-turned-federal informant Gerald Scarpelli. The official story is Scarpelli committed suicide. He must have seen the German in the day room and then decided to tie his own feet and hands and choke himself to death with a plastic bag in the shower. The German is also credited with torturing and killing several burglars who dared rob the home of Anthony Accardo.

"He never informed. He killed who they told him to kill. And if he was involved in the killing of that young woman—it sheds an entirely new light on his personality," said FBI Special Agent John Mallul, a supervisor of the Organized Crime Unit. "No criminal ever wanted to see this guy around. Even if they knew that Frank was coming around and knew why, they were still terrified."

Law enforcement says that just about his only friend was Chicago political figure Peter Schivarelli, currently the manager of the rock group Chicago and the former 43rd Ward supervisor of Streets and San. Schivarelli is reputed to have been around Outfit types all his life and is the nephew of late mobster Johnny "The Bug" Varelli.

One night, Schweihs was arrested after fighting with police. "Schivarelli came down to the station trying to get him out, throwing his political clout around, and all hell broke loose," former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke recalled a while back. "It was a madhouse."

"That's not my recollection," Schivarelli said when I tracked him down. He talked on the phone as if I held a subpoena. "But I'd rather not debate it. I'll respectfully decline to comment."

Too bad. I was waiting to hear that the German was kind to tiny children and animals and helped old women cross the street. None of it matters to Becca Pappas' sister. "Schweihs still lived 46 years when he shouldn't have. And people glorify him, and they glorify the mob with their movies and TV shows. But all he was, was a killer. That's all. A killer of a girl."

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gangster Graveyard

Friends of ours: Joseph "Jerry" Scalise, Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto, Joseph Ferriola, Gerald Scarpelli, James Peter Basile, Harry Aleman

After learning his mobster brothers planned to kill him, the stocky bank robber figured his only way out alive was to turn FBI informant.

So, for 16 months, the self-professed soldier secretly recorded 186 conversations with his Chicago Outfit associates. He also detailed about 40 unsolved mob murders.

It was during one of those chats that FBI agent Jack O'Rourke said his informant nonchalantly mentioned a mob graveyard in southeast DuPage County near the former home of syndicate enforcer Joseph "Jerry" Scalise, imprisoned at the time for a London jewelry heist. "What are you talking about?" O'Rourke, now a private consultant, recalls asking. "He said it was common knowledge."

For five months, an elite FBI-led task force excavated many acres near Route 83 and Bluff Road, near Darien. They found bodies of two low-level wise guys before calling it quits in October 1988.

Nearly 20 years later, the group's early intelligence work remains significant. It laid part of the foundation for the Family Secrets trial under way in Chicago in which five defendants are accused of racketeering conspiracy in an indictment that outlines 18 murders, gambling and extortion.

A construction crew also resurrected the field's ominous past in March 2007 after unearthing a third body just north of the site.

It's unknown if more vanquished mobsters remain there undiscovered. A fabled 45-carat gem known as the Marlborough diamond that Scalise stole also was never found. Some theorize he hid it on his property. And, finally, just who is the turncoat who led FBI agents long ago to the burial site?

For decades, Chicago gambling kingpin Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto was a loyal soldier. That changed in February 1983 when he survived three gunshots in a botched hit. Eto played possum, and later turned informant. His would-be killers were later found dead in a trunk in Naperville - the price for not getting the job done right.

Eto proved to be a valued government witness before his Jan. 23, 2004 death, but he was not the one who led authorities to the graveyard. His attempted assassination, though, in part sparked the formation of the organized crime task force of FBI, Chicago, state and local officials in the mid-1980s to curb such mob violence.

An early goal was to bring down the crime family or "crew" of mob boss Joseph Ferriola of Oak Brook, who operated lucrative gambling rackets from Cicero to Lake County until his 1989 death.

Members of the task force said they focused on Gerald Scarpelli, who along with Scalise, known as Whiterhand because he was born minus four fingers, were Ferriola's busiest hitmen.

About this time, another mob guy started getting cold feet. O'Rourke identified him as James Peter Basile, a convicted Chicago bank robber best known as "Duke." Basile already had the FBI zeroing in on him for a 1983 race track robbery in Crete. So, after he also learned Scarpelli, his longtime associate, was planning to kill him, Basile realized he had no other choice but to break the mob's code of silence.

For 16 months, he helped the FBI listen in on his chats with Scarpelli and other associates before serving a few years in prison for the race track robbery and slipping into a witness protection program in the early 1990s.

Basile re-emerged briefly in June 1996 at a U.S. Senate judiciary committee hearing. "I finally decided to do something because it seemed there was no way out," he testified. "I began informing on the mob."

It was during one of his recordings of Scarpelli that the FBI first learned of the DuPage County graveyard. Basile later took them to the site, near Scalise's former home. The FBI heard there could be as many as seven bodies buried in the field.

It was painstaking work. For five months, task force members traded in suits, badges and guns for jeans, chain saws and shovels. They dug up acres of soil, trees and drained a pond. Members hand sifted truckloads of dirt through mesh screens for trace evidence. "We were meticulous," said Jerry Buten, a retired 30-year FBI supervisor. "This was way before CSI, but we knew the way you solve most major crimes was through physical evidence."

Authorities speculated the field held victims of the infamous chop shop wars of the 1970s, when the mob seized control of the stolen auto-parts trade and wiped out uncooperative dealers.

State police stood guard 24 hours a day. Large canopies were erected to block circling media helicopters. But they weren't the only pests. "I gave an order that anyone who came in was given a pair of work gloves because I got tired of all the suits showing up just to look at us," former DuPage Coroner Richard Ballinger said. "We'd spend 12 hours out there, come back to the office to do more work and sleep, then go back out the next morning."

On May 16, 1988, members unearthed the first skeletal remains. On June 9, a second shallow grave was found. Both men were shot to death.

Authorities brought in experts from across the country, from archaeologists to soil scientists, including top forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow of Oklahoma. Snow had identified the remains of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele in Brazil and some victims of John Wayne Gacy and the 1979 American Airlines crash near O'Hare.

Using dental records and facial reconstruction, Snow relied mostly on computerized skull-face superimposition to identify the corpses. The second body, buried in a ski mask and with a cache of pornographic materials, was that of Michael S. Oliver, 29, a Chicago machinist who vanished November 1979.

In the FBI recordings, Scarpelli is heard saying that Oliver was a minor hoodlum shot during a syndicate raid on an independent porn shop near Elk Grove Village.

Not sure how to dump the body, in a scene similar to that in Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas," his underworld pals talked over a bite to eat as the corpse sat in the trunk.

It took more than one year to identify remains in the first grave as Robert "Bobbie" Hatridge, a 56-year-old Cincinnati man with a distinctive Dick Tracy square jaw, flat feet and a flair for fashion. The FBI said his girlfriend later told agents that Hatridge came to Chicago in April 1979 to meet with Scalise and Scarpelli about a big robbery. He never made it home.

Basile's graveyard tip was considered one of the task force's first big scoops. Nearly 20 years later, its intelligence work reverberates still.

The secret tapes Basile made led to Scarpelli's arrest in July 1988. He killed himself a year later, but not before making a 500-page confession that exposed many mob secrets. He also admitted to 10 murders, including some in the Family Secrets trial.

The task force also made history with another big bust. It brought down Ferriola's nephew, Harry Aleman, for killing a union steward in 1977. He was acquitted, then retried and convicted. Aleman, 68, and still in prison, is the only person tried twice for the same crime. Double jeopardy was discarded after it was learned his first judge took a bribe. "The entire (Ferriola) crew was prosecuted as a result of the task force," Buten said. "It marked the beginning of the Chicago Outfit's end."

The mob graveyard made news again in March when crews building townhouses unearthed a third body several blocks north of the field near 91st Street.

The remains were identified as Robert Charles Cruz of Kildeer, who vanished Dec. 4, 1997. Cruz, who was Aleman's cousin, had been on Arizona's death row just two years earlier until his conviction for a 1980 double murder was overturned.

The discovery of his body begs the question - Could more graves be found there?

Members searched far and wide, with one exception. At the time, a large drug rehab facility was being built there. Many wonder if beneath its foundation lie the bodies of more hoodlums. It's possible, task force members say, but unlikely. The bodies were unearthed in shallow graves less than 5 feet deep. They argue crews dug deeper when laying the foundation and probably would have found more graves if they existed.

Also still missing is the fabled $960,000 Marlborough diamond that Scalise stole during a 1980 London jewelry store heist. It was once owned by Sir Winston Churchill's cousin, the duchess of Marlborough.

Years ago, O'Rourke visited Scalise in his cell on England's Isle of Wight - the British version of Alcatraz - where he was imprisoned for the jewelry heist. "Scalise would do a lot of talking but never say anything," O'Rourke said. "Informants told us he shipped it to Chicago, where it was broken up and sold."

Scalise, 69, has kept a low profile since returning to the Chicago area after finishing an Arizona prison stint on drug charges. But, long ago, he was rumored to be working on his memoirs.

So far, though, he has upheld the mob's code of silence.

Thanks to Christy Gutowski

Friday, April 27, 2007

Beef from Mobster Who Says He is No Beefer

Friends of ours: Mario Rainone, Nick Calabrese, Gerald Scarpelli, Lenny Patrick, Gus Alex

It's so nice to talk to loyal readers, even an angry reader who's spent the last 15 years in federal prison for being a notorious juice loan collector for the Chicago Outfit. But I'd prefer not being hectored on an empty stomach. All those blunt Paulie Walnuts vowels make me hungry.

"I think you want to talk to this guy right away," said the young fellow who answers the phone around here. "He wants a correction. He keeps talking about beef."

5 Dollars a Steak SaleBeef?

"He insists that he's not a beefer and that you wrote in the column the other day that he's a beefer. 'Tell John I'm not a beefer,' he said. So I'm telling you."

What's his name? "Mario Rainone."

So I called him, out of respect for his ability to remain alive.

"I'm no beefer!" said Rainone, the Outfit tough guy who plead guilty to racketeering and extortion in 1992. "You keep saying I'm a beefer, and it's not true. You're ruining my life."

Ruining his life? What about mine? I was starving for the classic Chicago sammich, Italian beef with hot peppers on crusty bread. But he was using Chicago slang, employing the words "beef" and "beefer" to refer to a guy who complains about, then informs on, his associates.

"Enough is enough already!" he pleaded. "I got released 90 days ago. I don't know nothing."

Here's what Rainone was upset about. This week, I wrote a column about the upcoming "Operation Family Secrets" trial, involving top Chicago Outfit bosses and their hit men and 18 previously unsolved Mafia assassinations.

The case is largely built on the testimony of mobster Nick Calabrese, who beefed on his brother to the feds. But other mobsters have spilled their gravy on what they know, in other unrelated cases. And all these stories, cobbled together, have helped federal authorities develop extensive dossiers on the mob. Naturally, guys like Rainone are nervous.

"It's ridiculous," Rainone said. "I don't know nothing about 'Family Secrets.'
"

I never said you did.

"It's in the paper," he said.

Read it again. But he didn't, because he was upset, for good reason.

A few years ago, Outfit soldier Gerald Scarpelli told what he knew to the FBI. Later, Scarpelli strangled himself with plastic bags. In prison. So who wouldn't understand a man suffering from agita after beef?

Rainone's former supervisor, Lenny Patrick, another gangster, also beefed on his boss, Gus Alex, who years ago, according to news reports, put out a hit on my new friend Mario, who beefed on Patrick, which led to Alex.

It's confusing, but symmetrical, like that song, "Circle of Life," only think of it sung by Frank Sinatra instead of Elton John.

"I was locked up since 1990. I never testified," Rainone said. "Then you want to put my name in the papers with this. I never cooperated with the FBI. I have never been a witness. You know like I know, if a guy is going to beef, he is going to beef. But I didn't beef."

Yet according to news accounts, federal testimony, court documents and the FBI supervisor who worked on the Rainone case, Mario was a deluxe beefer with extra juice and peppers. "He's trying to rewrite history, and that's fascinating," said Jim Wagner, the FBI supervisor who interviewed Rainone and is now president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "He cooperated. Now he's putting out the word he never beefed? Obviously, he's feeling pressure."

After living a life collecting gambling debts the hard way, Rainone had an epiphany and decided to call the FBI. But instead of angels, he spotted two associates tailing him in another car. Outfit guys don't believe in coincidence. Rainone figured they weren't going to ask him for coffee and cake, not even poppy seed. He figured they were going to kill him.

So he flipped and told the FBI many things, and they put him on the phone with Lenny Patrick, and Patrick flipped on Alex. Then Rainone had another change of heart and tried to flip back again. He refused to testify in court. Yet by then, his beef was overcooked, and he did 15 years.

"In max penitentiaries," he said, "not those [easy] joints."

I asked about the two guys in the tail car, if their names were Rudy and Willie, and how he felt phoning Patrick with the FBI listening. "I've got no knowledge of that. It was all lies. I paid for my crimes, and I am not going to pay no more. I don't know those guys. I don't know none of them. This is ridiculous."

He also mentioned that it might have been a mistake to beef me on a column when I was hungry. "I shouldn't have called you. That's my mistake. Listen, I know that Friday's paper will be worse than Wednesday's," he said.

These days, Rainone said he's looking for a job, perhaps as a truck driver: "I'll take anything." But if he can't get a job driving trucks, perhaps he could ask a builder for meaningful, fulfilling work. Or you readers might know of something appropriate.

"All I want is to live a legitimate life," he said. And all I wanted was a legitimate lunch.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bones Likely from a Mob Hit

Friends of ours: Gerald Scarpelli
Friends of mine: Robert Hatridge, Michael Oliver

Visible injuries to bones found this week in west suburban Downers Grove Township have led investigators to believe the victim could have been the target of a gangland slaying, law-enforcement sources said Thursday.

The bones, which construction workers discovered Tuesday morning buried more than 5 feet underground, have not yet been positively identified, but are those of an adult male, the DuPage County coroner's office said. Investigators think the bones may have been in the ground for 20 years or more.

Law-enforcement sources said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is now involved in the inquiry, and that a possible connection to organized crime has arisen because of the manner of death and obvious injuries to the body.

Three of the deceased male's fingers were sheared off, possibly with a bolt-cutting type tool. The man also had suffered a broken shoulder and two gunshot wounds in he back of the head, law-enforcement sources said.

The coroner's office said only that authorities are working to identify the male, whose approximate age couldn't be determined. The man was not an "old person," however, said DuPage Coroner Pete Siekmann. Authorities are trying to identify the remains based on fingerprints and a tattoo visible on the body, he said.

DuPage County State's Atty. Joseph Birkett said the case is being investigated as a possible homicide.

Construction workers laying sewer pipes for a new townhouse development found the bones near Bluff Road and Illinois Highway 83. The bones were wrapped in a blue tarpaulin.

The location of the bones had neighbors speculating this week that they could be linked to organized crime. The bones were found less than a half-mile from a purported mob victim burial ground, where two bodies were found in 1988 and later identified as low-level organized-crime figures. A task force formed in the 1980s to solve cold mob cases got the tip for the location from an informant, and at the time sources believed searchers might find as many as seven bodies. But after five months of digging, they found only two bodies—those of Robert Anthony Hatridge, a minor associate of Gerald Scarpelli, 51, a crime syndicate killer-turned-informant who later committed suicide; and Mark (Michael?) Oliver, another minor organized-crime figure.

Investigators said part of the process of identifying the body would include working off a list of missing persons with connections to the Chicago Outfit.

After the bones were found, Darien authorities considered that they might belong to Xu "Sue" Wang, a Darien doctor who disappeared in 1999.

Thanks to Jeff Coen and Angela Rozas

Monday, November 06, 1989

Mobster's Cooperation Revealed

The Chicago crime syndicate suffered a potentially devastating blow Thursday with the disclosure that jailed mob rackets figure Gerald Scarpelli apparently has defected and become a government informant. The information, in a nine-page government report filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors, said that Scarpelli has admitted having a role in mob killings and knowledge of at least one other murder. Some mob observers speculated Thursday that if Scarpelli is admitting his involvement in crimes, he probably is implicating others as well to improve his chances of making a deal with authorities. Prosecutors and Scarpelli`s defense lawyers have declined to discuss the contents of the document with the news media. In the past, however, defense lawyers have scoffed at suggestions Scarpelli had turned informant to help himself.

Scarpelli, 51, is believed to be one of the mob`s top killers. He was a close associate of several top mob figures, including Joseph Ferriola, until recently the Chicago syndicate`s operating chief. A burglar by trade, Scarpelli was not only a top hit man during Ferriola`s 1985-88 reign as boss, but became Ferriola`s chief gambling and juice loan collector on the Southwest Side and in the southwest suburbs, according to sources familiar with the Scarpelli case. Thus, they said, Scarpelli was familiar with the inner workings of the mob`s day-to-day activities under Ferriola and Ferriola`s chief henchman, Ernest Rocco Infelice.

Ironically, if Scarpelli turned informant, he did so after being arrested last summer on evidence provided by another gangland informant. Federal authorities haven`t named that informant, but he is believed to be Scarpelli`s longtime associate, James Basile, who is now in federal protective custody. In secretly taped conversations between Scarpelli and the informant, Scarpelli is heard talking about ``sitting down with`` bosses he identified as ``Joe, Rocky and Sam.`` The FBI said the three are Ferriola, Infelice and Sam Carlisi, who is believed to have succeeded the ailing Ferriola as the mob`s operating boss last fall.

The court document gave no hint that Scarpelli told secrets about them, limiting its revelations to the charges against Scarpelli that resulted in his arrest. In that regard, the document said Scarpelli had admitted taking part in the 1979 slaying of North Chicago nightclub operator George Christofalos, and the 1980 killing of mob assassin William Dauber, 45, and Dauber`s wife, Charlotte, 37. It said Scarpelli also provided information about the killing of mob associate Michael Oliver, whose body was found buried last spring in a field south of suburban Darien.

According to the document, all of the information allegedly given by Scarpelli was told to the FBI on July 16 and 17-the day of his arrest and the following day. The information is in a report filed by John L. Burley, a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department`s Chicago Organized Crime Strike Force concerning a meeting with Jeffrey Steinback, one of Scarpelli`s defense lawyers, to discuss the prosecution`s evidence.

Until now Scarpelli hadn`t been linked to the death of Christofalos, operator of a far-north suburban strip joint. But he has long been suspected by authorities of taking part in the slayings of the Daubers near Crete. Sources said Dauber was informing on Scarpelli to a variety of federal and state agencies. Dauber was an underling of Albert Tocco, the fugitive south suburban rackets boss who was captured by federal agents in Europe Thursday. Oliver is believed to have been buried in the Darien field by accomplices after he was slain during a botched attempt to rob a suburban pornography shop that competed with another porn shop.

Thanks to John O'Brien and Ronald Koziol

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