Showing posts with label Joey Aiuppa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joey Aiuppa. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Was Lefty Rosenthal a Double Agent for the FBI and the Chicago Mob?

Retired FBI agent and author Gary Magnesen has changed his mind.

He no longer believes the late U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne was leaking materials from FBI search warrant affidavits to the mob in the early 1980s, as he wrote in his 2010 book, "Straw Men: A Former Agent Recounts how the FBI Crushed the Mob in Las Vegas."

He thinks Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal was a double agent, providing information to the FBI, then turning around and telling the Chicago mob what agents would be doing.

That way the good guys and the bad guys ended up protecting him while he played them.

In Magnesen's opinion, "Oscar Goodman, The Outfit and the FBI were all duped by the master oddsmaker and manipulator, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal." Goodman was Rosenthal's attorney.

One example of Rosenthal's double agent role came to be known as "the Cookie Caper" and proved to be a huge embarrassment to the FBI in January 1982 during an investigation into skimming at the Stardust.

Rosenthal, as a top echelon informant, provided information to the FBI about how millions of dollars were skimmed and transported from the Stardust when businessman Allen Glick owned four Las Vegas hotels between 1974 and 1979, but Rosenthal actually ran them. The ownership changed, but the skimming continued until the Boyd Gaming Group bought the hotels in 1985. Glick was just a front, a straw man, for the mob. But he testified against the mob in the Kansas City trials in 1985, portraying himself as an unwitting victim.

Rosenthal neither testified against the mob nor was indicted in the skimming investigations.

Rosenthal told the FBI how the money was moved from the Stardust to the Chicago mob.

Magnesen detailed how agents watched as Stardust casino manager Bobby Stella carried a grocery bag from the casino on Tuesday afternoons and met Phil Ponto, another Stardust employee, and gave him the paper bag, which he took to his apartment. On Sundays, agents watched as Ponto would put the bag in his car trunk and drive to church. Afterward, he traveled to another store parking lot and met Joe Talerico, a Teamster, who put the bag in his trunk.

Talerico then flew to Chicago via Los Angeles and met with mob boss Joseph Aiuppa in a restaurant. After dinner, the much traveled bag landed in Aiuppa's trunk.

Mob money on the move wasn't enough to build a case. The FBI applied for a search warrant for Talerico's car, and Claiborne gave his approval. Magnesen now believes Rosenthal tipped the mobsters about the upcoming search. In January 1982, agents moved in, only to find cookies and a bottle of wine. No cash. Plenty of embarrassment.

In "Straw Men," Magnesen suspected that the judge, who committed suicide in 2004, was leaking information from FBI search warrant affidavits.

Another time, based on Rosenthal's information, agents decided to bug the executive booth at a Stardust restaurant, Aku Aku, hoping to catch Stella talking about the skim. Again, they sought approval from Judge Claiborne. Once the listening device was installed, the executives talked about innocuous subjects. Women. Weather. Golf. Almost as if they were taunting the FBI, Magnesen said.

Who leaked the information about the Aku Aku bug and Talerico's travels is akin to the other never-answered question: Who planted the bomb under Rosenthal's car in October 1982?

Theories are rampant. It's almost a trivial pursuit question for locals to theorize on who did it. Was it Spilotro, who had an affair with Rosenthal's wife, Geri? Was it the Chicago Outfit? Once again, Magnesen has a theory.

He believes it was ordered by Nick Civella, the Kansas City mob boss, who was tired of all the trouble Rosenthal had been creating in Las Vegas with his TV show and his seemingly endless quest for a gaming license. "Civella was dying of cancer and didn't care what Chicago thought about Lefty," Magnesen wrote in an email summary of his views. The bombing was 1982, Civella died in 1983.

Magnesen said he interviewed mob figure Joe Agosto a few weeks before he died in August 1983. Agosto said he had told Civella in 1977, "That Lefty. He's getting out of hand. He's stirring up dirt all over Vegas. He's dangerous. He could cause big problems with his big mouth and his TV show."

My favorite story of the bombing was from retired UPI Correspondent Myram Borders, who was driving home from the UPI office and passed Tony Roma's restaurant on Sahara Avenue. She heard a boom and saw Rosenthal's car blow up. She quickly turned into the parking lot.

"He scrambled out of the car and was jumping up and down patting his clothes. His hair was standing straight up … I didn't know if it was because of his recent hair transplant or the explosion that made it stand up so straight," she wrote in an email. "When I ran up and asked him what was going on, Lefty said 'They are trying to kill me.' When I asked who, he shut up."

Rosenthal died a natural death in 2008 in Florida. He was 79.

Magnesen said he wouldn't have said these things publicly about Rosenthal, but now it is widely known that Rosenthal was an informant. (I was the first to report it after his death.)

Of course, when Rosenthal cooperated with author Nick Pileggi for the book "Casino," he didn't reveal his informant status. Nor did that make it into the 1995 movie.

When the movie came out, Rosenthal said, "The way you saw it in the movie is just the way it happened."

Well, not exactly. He left a few historical holes.

Thanks to Jane Ann Morrison.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia

Longtime business associates Allen Dorfman and Irwin Weiner frequently lunched together. On a day in January 1983, they emerged from Dorfman's Cadillac onto the icy parking lot of a suburban Chicago restaurant, ten minutes late for their one o'clock reservation. According to Weiner, they were walking between parked cars when two men ran up behind them and yelled, "This is a robbery." One of the men fired a .22 automatic at least half a dozen times. Only Dorfman was hit. He fell to the ground in a large pool of blood that quickly froze into red ice. When the paramedics arrived, he showed no signs of life.

At fifty-nine, Dorfman was a nationally known figure, and his death would be reported across the country. His murder was news, but it was not a surprise. He had been a key figure in the world of organized crime for more than thirty years. Beginning with Jimmy Hoffa, successive presidents of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) had allowed him to use his position as head of the pension fund to provide sweetheart loans to mob figures, money that bankrolled the Mafia's control of several Las Vegas casinos. The union itself, which had access to top business leaders and politicians right up to the White House, was run as a virtual subsidiary of the American Mafia. A month before his murder, Dorfman, Teamsters president Roy Williams, and a top Chicago mob figure, Joe Lombardo, had been convicted of attempting to bribe U.S. senator Howard Cannon of Nevada. After his conviction in December 1982, Dorfman was released on $5 million bail pending sentencing. He stood to receive as much as fifty-five years in prison.

In addition to the bribery case, the government was also conducting an investigation of money skimming in mob-backed Vegas casinos. Dorfman knew the secrets of both the Teamsters and Vegas. If he decided to cut a deal with prosecutors, talking in return for a more lenient sentence, many gangsters-and supposedly legitimate businessmen and officials-would end up in prison. The head of the Chicago Crime Commission told The New York Times, "There's no doubt in my mind that Mr. Dorfman was killed to keep him quiet ... if he ever coughed up to investigators ... this country would be shaking for a month." Someone with access to the crime scene apparently decided to ensure that at least some of Dorfman's secrets did not die with him. He made a photocopy of the dead man's memo book and sent it to the Chicago Crime Commission.

Though he was only an associate member, Allen Dorfman's life provided a window into the world of the American Mafia at its highest levels. Beginning in 1949, it took him just five years to rise from physical education instructor to millionaire, thanks to Hoffa's largess and the connections of his racketeer stepfather, "Red" Dorfman. At the time of his death he headed a financial empire that included insurance companies, condominium developments, resorts, and other projects, and he maintained homes in four states. He was a major contributor to various charities and was frequently honored by civic associations. Yet over his career he had been denounced by congressional committees and constantly pursued by federal law enforcement officers. He was indicted on several occasions, though he usually managed to win acquittals. In 1972 he was convicted of conspiring to facilitate a loan from the Teamsters Pension Fund in return for a kickback of $55,000, but he served only nine months in jail.

After his latest conviction, Dorfman should have been wary of his former associates. He might have known that the bosses of the Chicago mob would be worried that a man long accustomed to the affluent life might not be able to face spending the rest of his days in prison. True, Dorfman had not rolled over following any of his previous arrests. But in the Mafia world that was irrelevant. Chicago mob bosses Joey Aiuppa and Jackie Cerone, who were also caught up in the Vegas skim, had followed very different paths from Dorfman's. Their rise to the top had been slow, prefaced by years spent doing the dirty work with guns and blackjacks. Unlike Dorfman, they could not pose as businessmen and civic benefactors. Instead, they lived by a hard code that mandated that all doubts must be resolved in favor of the organization. They could not take the chance that someone who had so much potential to hurt them would stay silent. Since it was standard mob procedure to eliminate witnesses, Weiner's survival and his tale of attempted robbery caused some investigators to speculate that he had set Dorfman up.

The fact that Dorfman was not Italian had prevented him from becoming a "made" member of the Mafia. Still, he was well aware of its rules, though perhaps he did not think they applied to a big shot like him. The same lack of understanding had undoubtedly cost his old boss Jimmy Hoffa his life eight years earlier. Then again, a lot of people on both sides of the law had always found it hard to comprehend the culture of the American Mafia.

Books about mob life often end up on the true-crime shelves of bookstores, alongside biographies of serial killers and accounts of last year's "heist of the century." In some respects it is the appropriate place for the colorful criminals of the American Mafia. Each generation has brought forth an Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Sam Giancana, or John Gotti, all of whom have fascinated the public, as have their big and small screen counterparts: Scarface, The Godfather, and The Sopranos.

Yet the American Mafia is more than just another group of criminals. Since the 1920s it has been the heart and soul of American organized crime. As such it has exercised significant influence on the political and economic life of the country. In American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power, I told the story of the organization up to the early 1950s. I described how the Mafia managed to acquire all the trappings of an independent state, flouting the authority of the United States government. It promulgated its own laws, not infrequently imposing the death penalty; it even maintained diplomatic relations with foreign countries, such as Cuba. And perhaps most critically, in both politics and business it managed to link the underworld to the upper world. That an organization that never had more than five thousand full-fledged members could exercise such immense power is one of the most phenomenal accomplishments in the history of the United States. It was not, however, a lasting achievement. The present work, an account of events from the 1950s into the twenty-first century, is the story of a declining power. Essentially it is a domestic military history, in that it describes the fifty-year war that law enforcement has waged on the American Mafia.

Words like "organized crime" or "Mafia" lack precision. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who crusaded against the organization, told his subordinates, "Don't define it, do something about it." Over the years, "Mafia" has come to be used as a shorthand for the leading element of American organized crime. Like "Hollywood" as a synonym for the movie industry, or "Wall Street" for high finance, it has become so embedded in the national consciousness that it is impossible to avoid using it. Attempts by official bodies to define the Mafia often fell short, or were misleading. In 1950-51 a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Estes Kefauver of Tennessee exposed the face of organized crime in a score of American cities. In its final report the committee declared that a Mafia, descended from the Sicilian original, controlled the most lucrative rackets in many major cities and tied together criminal groups throughout the country. A 1967 presidential commission described organized crime as "underworld groups that are sufficiently sophisticated that they regularly employ techniques of violence and corruption to achieve their other criminal ends." They explained that the core group of organized crime in the United States consist[s] of 24 groups operating as criminal cartels in large cities across the nation. Their membership is exclusively Italian, they are in frequent communication with each other, and their smooth functioning is insured by a national body of overseers.

In fact the Mafia in the United States was not an offshoot of the Sicilian version. While only men of Italian lineage could be "made" full-fledged members, the organization was not entirely Italian. Nor was the national "commission," as its body of top overseers was called, ever as clearly defined or powerful as it was sometimes portrayed.

In the nineteenth century, some people blamed the newly immigrated Italians for the prevalence of vice and crime in urban areas. But organized crime was well established in the New World long before Italian Americans arrived. Gamblers, saloon keepers, brothel madams, and other criminals paid off the police, who in turn funneled a large share of the take to their political masters. A few immigrants who came to the United States had been members of Old World criminal bands, such as the Neapolitan Camorra and Sicilian Mafia. It is clear, though, that the Italians who would turn to crime in this country (a tiny fraction of the whole) simply took advantage of what they found when they arrived. Even after Mussolini's crackdown on the Mafia in the 1920s propelled some genuine Sicilian mafiosi to the United States, the forms of organized crime they adopted were essentially American.

The Mafia in America produced bosses like Calabrians Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia, as well as Neapolitans Al Capone and Vito Genovese. For practical purposes it also included Jews such as Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel of New York, Abner "Longy" Zwillman of Newark, and Morris "Moe" Dalitz of Cleveland, and these men often exercised power equivalent to that of the Italian bosses. Lansky (nÈ Maier Suchowljansky) was generally ranked among the top three or four mobsters in the country. His success was the result of his financial skills and his ability to forge alliances with key leaders such as Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. For similar reasons, Moe Dalitz would become a major figure in Ohio, Kentucky, and Nevada. Irish Owney Madden, though confined to the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, after his exile from New York City, managed to reinvent himself as an elder statesman of the American Mafia. Welshman Murray "the Camel" Humphreys (nÈ Humpreys) was always near the top of the Chicago mob hierarchy, as were Jake Guzik and Gus Alex, who were Jewish and Greek, respectively. To emphasize the organization's American origins and its frequently multiethnic makeup, I refer to it as "the American Mafia," though to avoid constant repetition of the term, I will usually refer to it simply as "the Mafia," sometimes only "the mob(s)," or in individual cities by its local equivalent, such as "the Chicago Outfit" or the name of a particular New York family.

One clear indicator that the American Mafia was homegrown was its organizational structure. The American gangs replicated the political machines in the areas where they operated. Chicago, for example, was dominated by the Democratic county organization, though certain ward bosses were given considerable latitude. The Chicago mob controlled the metropolitan area but allowed some of its leading figures to operate with a high degree of autonomy. New York was too large to be ruled by one political organization. Tammany controlled Manhattan, but Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens had their own machines. The New York Mafia's five-family structure dispersed mob power similarly across the five boroughs. In Tammany days, a "commission" made up of a powerful politician from Manhattan, another from Brooklyn, a boss gambler, and a representative of the NYPD regulated organized crime. After 1931, a local Mafia commission composed of the heads of the five families performed the same function. At the same time, a national "syndicate" also developed, directed by a commission that included the New York families and representatives from other cities. The national commission reflected prevailing political practices as well. The Republican and Democratic national committees were dominated by big states, such as New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. In the national syndicate, the New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit mobs called the shots (sometimes literally).

The internal arrangements of the families (borgattas or simply gangs) also resembled that of the political machines. The Tammany and Cook County party chairmen and the Mafia family heads were all called "boss." Both Tammany and the Chicago organization often had number two men; in the Mafia they were called underbosses. Tammany had leaders over every assembly district, while Chicago had a party committeeman in charge of each ward, and the Mafia had its middle managers too. In the post-Apalachin period, law enforcement began referring to mob sub-bosses by terms such as "capo" (head). While neat on paper, it did not always conform to local practice. In Chicago, instead of being called capos, sub-leaders were usually referred to by the territory they controlled: boss of the Loop, the Near North Side, the Far South Side, etc. In other places they might be known as captains or crew chiefs. The Tammany wise men were called sachems; the Mafia families' equivalent was consigliere, or counselor, though the job began as a sort of ombudsman to whom aggrieved gang members could appeal. Since "Tammany" was an Indian name, its rank and file were accordingly known as braves. On law enforcement charts, the lowest ranked members of the Mafia were called soldiers, a term that might also encompass crew members who were not "made." While it is sometimes claimed that any Italian made man outranked any non-Italian, this was not the case. A mob soldier, even a crew chief, had to be very respectful around "Bugsy" Siegel or "Shotgun" Alex, men whose nicknames alone indicated their temperament and propensities.

Even the boss title could sometimes be misleading. Some who bore it were no more than titular leaders. Gaetano Gagliano was formally boss of what became the Lucchese family from 1931 until his death in 1951, when he was succeeded by his underboss, Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese. Yet during the period when Gagliano was supposedly in charge, there was virtually no mention of him, while Lucchese was well known, just as European kings and presidents have often been overshadowed by their prime ministers. Sometimes it was unclear who was actually running a particular Mafia gang. In the 1980s the federal government prosecuted "Fat Tony" Salerno as head of New York's Genovese family even though he was actually the number two man.

The key to the American Mafia's success was its ability to buy or neutralize public officials. Until the 1920s, organizations such as Tammany Hall or Chicago's First Ward had the final say over organized crime. Then Prohibition- rich gangsters turned the tables and began to act as the partners or, in some instances, controllers of the politicians. As one criminal justice official told historian Arthur Sloane, "The mobsters have always been wedded to the political system. That's how they survive. Without that wedding they would be terrorists and we'd get rid of them." The decline of the Mafia began after the 1950s, when the mobs could not muster the political influence to protect themselves from the law enforcement assault led by the federal government.

In the present work I have adopted a broad approach, as opposed to a more narrow focus on a particular mob family or individual leader. Sometimes police or journalists have labeled gangs such as New York's Gambinos or the Chicago Outfit the premier mob families in America. Such assessments are like rankings of college football teams. The view of one expert is not always shared by another or borne out on the playing field. A similar practice is to designate an individual gangster such as Vito Genovese or Carlo Gambino "Boss of Bosses." For a long time, law enforcement followed the same narrow approach in its war on the Mafia: Go after an individual Mr. Big. The turning point in the war came in the 1980s, when the federal government broadened its targets and took down most of the leadership of all five New York families in one fell swoop.

Thanks to Thomas Reppetto

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr Called to Explain Ties to Reputed Mob Affiliated Union

In 1995 United States Congressman Mel Reynolds (D-IL), in the glorious tradition of Chicago Democrats, wound up in prison on corruption charges. There were also charges that the married Reynolds had an inappropriate relationship with an under-aged girl. Tsk. Tsk.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. was one of the candidates who threw his hat into the ring to fill the vacant seat left by Reynolds.

Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his job as a union “organizer” to run for Congress. Supposedly he “organized” hotel and restaurant employees through the National Rainbow Coalition, founded by his father, on behalf of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE).

HERE was one of the most politically powerful unions in Chicago. Its president, Edward Hanley was one of the most powerful and politically important men in Chicago. HERE and Edward Hanley were dominated, controlled, and owned by the Chicago Crime Syndicate.

Jackson’s fifty-six thousand dollar salary was paid by HERE. Reverend Jesse Jackson knowingly and willingly entered into a political partnership and alliance with a well-known notorious Mob union. The Mob union paid his son’s salary in exchange for “organizing,” whatever that is. Conveniently or coincidently, during the time Jackson was working for the union it was very publicly under fire by the government, again, for being dominated by the Mob.

Why would the good, upright, overly self-righteous reverend forge a political alliance and relationship with a notorious organized crime entity?

HERE was started, owned and operated by the Chicago Crime Syndicate. For over three decades the union had been continuously and publicly investigated for being controlled by organized crime.

Chicago Crime boss Tony Accardo and underboss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa owned HERE president, Edward Hanley, lock, stock, and barrel. HERE also had ties to the Gambino and Columbo crime families in New York City as well as La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia.

As far back as 1958 the McClellan Committee revealed that the Chicago Mob had infiltrated the Chicago restaurant industry through domination and control of its unions, especially HERE. Accardo and Aiuppa had total control over HERE for over forty years. HERE president Edward Hanley was alleged to have been hand picked by Accardo to run the union through Aiuppa.

In 1977, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that HERE was a classic example of organized crime's domination of a major labor union. HERE was investigated for ties to organized crime again in 1984. Testifying before the United States Senate, union president Hanley took the Fifth Amendment 36 times.

In 1985, the President's Commission on Organized Crime claimed that HERE was one of the four most corrupt unions in the United States.

In 1995, the year Jackson Jr. worked for them HERE was investigated for racketeering and corruption. They finally agreed to take on a federal court appointed monitor to clean up the union.

When questioned by the media over his ties to the Mob union, candidate Jesse Jackson Jr. could not remember where, when, or how he did “organizing” for the union. He could not even remember the name of the union president who paid his salary.

People who work for the Mob have a propensity to develop extremely bad memories.

“Though not being able to supply specifics, the younger Jackson said, 'I organized at hotels, I organized at picket lines around this country, organized workers and fought to raise the minimum wage.' 'We have a very mutual and a very cordial relationship,' he said of the partnership between the Rainbow Coalition and the hotel workers union. Later, he said that even if he had known about the union's questionable history, he would still have taken the money because it helped him improve the lives of working people.” (Chicago Tribune/John Kass) 

Even if he had known about the union being controlled by the mob he still would have taken their money? That is a startling admission. More astounding, he claimed he did not know he was being paid by the Mob. Everyone in Chicago with half a brain knew who controlled and operated HERE.

During a media candidate’s forum, when Jackson’s judgment over taking Mob money was questioned, “Jackson shot back that as a magna cum laude undergraduate and a graduate of the University of Illinois Law School, 'I don't think my judgment is questionable.'" (Chicago Tribune/John Kass)

Maybe not, but his intelligence, ethics, integrity, and morals were beyond questionable.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. said in an interview that working to help people get better wages and benefits was more important than HERE’s known Crime Syndicate control. The ends justify any evil means when it comes to social and moral justice, whatever those are.

What did the Mob get from the Jackson Family in exchange for the “political alliance and relationship” and Junior’s generous salary? The Chicago Mob is not exactly known for its altruistic tendencies or social proclivities. If they give they expect something more, way more in return. In effect, they own you.

That is the way it is and always has been. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not live on this planet.

Why is all this important? The missing without a trace congressman is running for reelection. Being the Chicago Machine candidate means Jackson does not have to do anything except stay missing. Jackson will be reelected. He will reappear on the day congressmen are sworn in. Maybe he will disappear immediately afterward.

It’s not like anyone will notice or care anymore.

Since we never vetted President Obama and others, we learned a very important lesson; it is extremely critical that every single candidate, especially incumbents, be thoroughly vetted.

What exactly did Jesse Jackson do in return for being a paid Mob union “organizer”? What did the Jackson Family get in return for selling their soul to the Mob? What did they give in return?

Who did Junior organize, where did he organize, how did he organize, what did he organize, and when did he organize? How many known Mob associates assisted him in his “organizing” efforts?

Or, as is more likely and typical, was he just paid for a Mob union no show job, kicking back part of his salary to the boys? That is the way mob union “organizing” jobs usually work.

There are more questions than answers. Jesse Jackson Jr. needs to explain his Mob ties.

As soon as we find him.

Thanks to Peter Bella.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Patrick Tuite Settles Lawsuit Over Double Deal

The Reader received the other day a nearly blank sheet of paper passing itself off as a press release. At the top of the sheet PRESS RELEASE had been typed, and beneath that heading this message:

"The case of Tuite vs. harper Collins, Michael Corbitt and Sam Giancana has been resolved. All terms of the settlement are confidential. The reference to Patrick Tuite was removed from the paperback edition of the book Double Deal prior to its publication in 2003."

There was a cover letter, equally terse.

"Dear Sir or Madam: In that your publication previously reported on the litigation for defamation brought by Patrick Tuite, the enclosed Press Release may be of interest to your readers. The release is self-explanatory and no additional information is available."

It was signed by Paul M. Levy of the Loop law firm Deutsch, Levy & Engel.

The press release was self-explanatory in the sense that it said why it said nothing. Because the terms are confidential, that's why. I called Levy and, chancing an immediate hang-up, asked who he was. He said he represented Tuite. Why are the terms confidential? I asked. He did not have to answer such a prying question, but he did.

"By agreement of the parties," he said. "We felt it was an appropriate element of the settlement."

The Tuite suit was major litigation. I wrote about it frequently for the Reader, and at some length. Tuite is a prominent criminal defense attorney who believed he was slandered in Double Deal, a 2003 book written by a mobbed-up ex-cop, now dead, and by the godson of the former Chicago mob godfather. In the book, Corbitt, the cop, told a story about making a run out to Salt Lake City to pick up $1 million stuffed into a couple of duffel bags. Corbitt said he understood the money was needed to hire a "big-shot lawyer" — Tuite — to defend mob boss Joey Aiuppa against federal charges.

"After Tuite was on the case, all the guys were sort of semijubilant. Everybody figured Tuite had it all handled..." Corbitt wrote. "So you can imagine their reaction when they were all found guilty the following January...

"And what about Tuite? What kind of explanation could he possibly have given for this result? I can't think of one that would've satisfied me--not after advancing him a million bucks for his legal fees. And I guess that's why, for the life of me, I've never understood why Pat Tuite didn't get whacked. Go figure."

The theory Tuite advanced in his lawsuit for why he didn't get whacked was that there was no million dollars and he didn't even represent Aiuppa. His suit failed at the circuit court and appellate levels on the grounds that Illinois' "innocent construction rule" required the courts to measure arguably slanderous language by its most benign interpretation, which in this case was simply that the mob thought Tuite was one crackerjack attorney. Tuite appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. He went beyond arguing that the lower courts had misapplied the innocent construction rule. He called the rule an "anachronism" and asked the supreme court to abolish it.

First Amendment attorneys leaped to the rule's defense. The Reader, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, ABC, CBS, WLS, Crain Communications, the Copley Press, the Illinois Broadcasters Association, and Simon & Schuster joined in an amicus brief that called Tuite's request "profoundly ill-advised." The brief argued that the innocent construction rule "preserves writers, publishers and broadcasters from the chilling effect of having to mount a lengthy and expensive defense of marginal and abusive cases." If, occasionally, it's misapplied, "that...does not mean you throw it out; that is what appellate review is for."

I first wrote about Tuite's suit in 2006, when Tuite took his suit to the supreme court. A few months later I examined what was to me the tortured logic by which that court both ruled for Tuite but managed to keep the innocent construction rule alive. When defense attorneys asked the court for a rehearing, I wrote about the Tuite suit a third time. And that was that. A rehearing wasn't granted and Tuite's suit returned to circuit court for trial. But in the end — I was able to find this out — the two sides agreed to let a mediator work out terms everyone could live with.

Those are the terms that are none of our business.

The note from Levy wasn't quite as succinct or dramatic a message as a dead fish dropped on your doorstep. But it came close. The message: It's over; Fuhgeddaboutit!

Which I'm afraid I and the various parties to the amicus brief had begun to do as soon as the innocent construction rule was saved. It was unpleasant of Levy to tell us so little. But it was nice of him to remember that we once cared.

Thanks to Michael Miner

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chicago Mob Boss Dies

One of Chicago's oldest, most powerful mob figures has passed away.

ABC-7's I-Team has learned that Alphonse Tornabene died on Sunday. ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie was the last reporter ever to question Tornabene.

In mob ranks Tornabene was known as "Pizza Al" because of the west suburban pizzeria that he'd owned for decades. But federal authorities say Al Tornabene was also into another kind of dough as an overseer of the crime syndicate's books.

By the time he died on Sunday at age 86, Pizza Al had risen to the upper crust of the Chicago Outfit.

When the I-Team first met the outfit octogenarian in 2007, he was a relative unknown to the public and even to federal agents. Authorities had been surprised to learn of Tornabene's high-ranking position in the mob hierarchy.

Former hitman and federal informant Nick Calabrese had told U.S. investigators that Tornabene was one of two men who administered the initiation rites of Outfit.

The so-called making ceremony was just like Hollywood showed it, complete with bloodmixing and burning holy cards, according to Calabrese, with Tornabene co-officiating the proceedings with Joey "Doves" Aiuppa, the late mob boss.

Such an assignment would have made Tornabene one of the mob's top men.

His house in Summit and a summer outpost in William's Bay, Wisconsin, were both modest by top hoodlum standards.

The pizzeria that Tornabene founded is open for business on Monday but a sign announces the sad news that "due to a death in the family" they will be closed Wednesday for the funeral.

Mobwatchers say Tornabene's true legacy is in another family, one that the ailing pizzaman laughed off in his final interview.

GOUDIE: "The Crime Commission is saying that you run the mob?"
TORNABENE: (laughs) "I can't even move..."

He managed to get around for almost two more years after we met him that day.

The wake for Al Tornabene will be Wednesday and his funeral will be Thursday morning.

With Tornabene gone and wisecracking mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo in prison for life, that leaves the reigns of the Chicago Outfit in the hands of just one man, according to federal agents: John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will Chicago's Mob History and Clout Mentality Follow Obama to the White House?

The city of Chicago is one of the few major metropolitan areas that runs away from its past at every opportunity. Yet, indeed, the very construction of the city led to the term “underworld.” And with rampant corruption controlled by infamous individuals like “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, Murray “The Camel” Humphrey and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Chicago can hardly bury its past — no pun intended.

Since the turn of the 20th century, what Carl Sandburg referred to as the “City of Big Shoulders” was perhaps the center of organized crime in the United States. Though New York had its Syndicate and Detroit had the Purple Gang, many believe true power in America’s underworld was concentrated in something called the Outfit.

With the election of Barack Obama will come a great deal of history-laden baggage, which will make the movie “The Godfather” seem like a Walt Disney cartoon.

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago’s brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip. A failure to do so would quickly leave them on the outside looking in — without protection from the media, the law and any other threat which loomed on the horizon.

The question is not whether Obama will use the lessons he learned in Chicago as president. The question is: How much of that lesson will become the modus operandi for the Obama adminstration? Some say it might become Chicago on the Potomac, when referring to the political mechanism Obama may surround himself with. If so, it will be our nation’s darkest nightmare come true. And combined with the Clinton-brand of Arkansas politics, there may truly be a new day in our nation’s Capitol.

But how did the Daley Machine take root in Chicago? A book titled, The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern Americawritten by Gus Russo and published in 2001 gave Americans a frigthening glimpse into the Daley Machine and how it got its start.

After Capone left power, due to his conviction on tax evasion charges in the early 1930s, it was Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo who truly called the shots in what many refer to as the Mafia. Even “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, originators of organized crime in New York, would not make a move without consulting the Chicago Triumvirate whose innovation and power criminologists say was matched by none.

Since the hay-days of mob activity in Chicago, the city has done everything possible to shed its dark past. But its reputation lives on — despite the efforts of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. In the early century, individuals like “Big Jim” Colismo controlled gambling and prostitution in the city. With the advent of Prohibition, organized crime found its true calling through the sale of bootleg alcohol, combined with the pandering trade. Added profits were topped off by a very lucrative illegal gambling racket.

After Capone’s departure, the mob moved into the numbers game — which had made millions for underworld entrepreneurs in the African-American community. Union corruption — which was master-minded by Murray “The Camel” Humphrey — brought great fortune to the Outfit as well. Eventually, the mob moved into the illicit drug trade. Until the early 1960s, the Chicago Outfit was ruled with an iron hand by Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo.

Though in later years, more flamboyant underworld figures, such as Sam “Mooney” Giancano and lesser players, including Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, and the Spilotro Brothers of the movie “Casino” fame, controlled organized crime in Chicago, the FBI virtually wiped out mob activity in the city — although remnants of the Outfit still exist today.

Chop shops and vending machines (poker, cigarettes, etc.) are still reported to be controlled by criminal entities. But the glory days of the Chicago Outfit are said to be long gone. Yet, the public doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of those wild times gone by.

Indeed, Chicago’s current mayor may not hold that office if not for the influence the Outfit had when it came to the election of his father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the Daley link with organized crime is one of the reasons why the city does all it can to obscure Chicago’s dark and corrupt history. You will not find city-sponsored tours of famous gangland hang-outs. Even historical landmarks, like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at 2122 N. Clark St., though an empty lot, are nagging reminders of a bygone era which City Fathers would rather forget.

The Outfit played a significant role in Richard J. Daley’s coming to power. Hizzoner "The Boss" was the protégé of 11th Ward Committeeman, Hugh “Babe” Connelly whose ties to the mob go way back to the days of the “Moustache Pete’s” who included prominent underworld figures like Johnny Torrio who first brought Capone to Chicago. Daley took over Connelly’s 11th Ward seat in 1947. In league with people like 11th Ward Ald. “Big Joe” McDonough, by 1955 the Mob was grooming Daley to be Mayor and, with the help of the Outfit, his election became a reality.

For example, in the very mobbed-up 1st Ward, Daley won a plurality of votes by a staggering margin of 13,275 to 1,961. After his election, Daley moved to solidify the Outfit’s power in the city. In 1956, Daley disbanded “Scotland Yard” an intelligence unit which had compiled reams of detailed records about Chicago crime figures. All this was to the grief of the Chicago Crime Commission who believed Daley’s election had set the city back a decade -- as far as the prosecution of organized crime.

Perhaps Richard M. Daley received much of his education from his father whose political coffers were stuffed with mob cash, according to the FBI. And perhaps the free rein given to organized crime by the Father implanted ideas in the mind of the son regarding possible revenue expansion through alternative sources. It’s possible today’s Chicago mayor learned a very important lesson from Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, who secretly financed the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1955, the same year Richard J. Daley was elected mayor. For nearly a quarter of a century afterward, the Chicago mob skimmed literally hundreds of millions of dollars out of Las Vegas casinos while operating with near impunity in Chicago, their home base.

Richie Daley had to see the unlimited amounts of cash that could be directed into city coffers through the expansion of gambling in Chicago. And though most of what used to be underworld crime has been incorporated into white collar America, gambling becomes even more seductive, no matter what memories of Chicago’s past may be dredged up in the process.

Forensic Psychology programs can give you a great insight into the minds of the mob and also lead to a great career.

Thanks to Daniel T. Zanoza

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chicago-Style Clout in Winnebago County?

Attorneys representing Winnebago County’s interests in the nearly concluded federal jail lawsuit have already been paid $356,865 for legal services by the county from 2001 to 2007.

Attorney Paul R. Cicero of Cicero and France, P.C., also represented the county during Winnebago County’s first jail lawsuit, which spanned from 1994 to 1997. Figures regarding how much the firm was paid for the first jail lawsuit were not available at time of publication.

According to a source familiar with the selection process, Cicero was chosen to represent the county in the current jail lawsuit because of their “expertise,” and due to a lack of adequate staffing, time and resources in the county’s civil litigation division. The source wished to remain anonymous, due to their present occupation.

The source also said no county officials examined Cicero and France’s invoices before payment was made to verify the accuracy of the billings.

Clout counts?

In addition to expertise and lack of staff, clout may have also been a factor in the selection of Cicero as the county’s attorney in the two jail lawsuits.

According to the FBI file for Mob advisor Joseph Zito, Zito likely had interests in restaurant and bar known as the Playroom Lounge at 206 N. Church St. Cicero’s father, Mathew P. Cicero, who was also an attorney, was vice president and secretary of YDZ Corporation, which operated the Play Room.

Zito died in 1981. His funeral was attended by Chicago Mob boss Joseph Aiuppa, who died in 1997.

A July 17, 1969 article in the Rockford Morning Star indicated, Mat Cicero represented Anthony F. Calcione “in legal battles to keep the Play Room open after [former Rockford Mayor Benjamin] Schleicher refused to re-issue the lounge’s city license...until it obtain[ed] a state license.” The article indicated that YDZ’s corporation office was listed as Mat Cicero’s law office.

A different source familiar with the Rockford Mob structure alleged Calcione was a Mob associate who once operated two brothels in the Rockford area in the 1940s. Calcione died March 8, 1993 at age 79. A news article from the June 11, 1949 Rockford Register Republic regarding one of the brothels supports the sources’ assertion.

Paul Cicero did not respond to a question left at his office with his receptionist regarding why he believed the county chose him as their attorney. The receptionist said jail lawsuit questions are normally answered by the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office.

Thanks to Jeff Havens. Mr. Havens is a former staff writer and award-winning reporter for The Rock River Times, a weekly newspaper in Rockford, Ill.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

From Eating Oatmeal as a Boy to Earning for the Mob

Chicago Outfit loan shark and accused hit-man Frank Calabrese Sr. didn't have the gall to wear his First Communion suit on the witness stand. It wouldn't have fit, anyway.

Instead he wore a pale sports coat just on the edge of ivory, like an older bride with plenty of miles, still yearning for the white on her big day.

Calabrese testified in his own defense in the "Family Secrets" trial on Thursday, explaining that as a boy, his family was so poor they ate oatmeal most every night, that he had to leave school in the 4th grade to help deliver coal. And, how he grew up with an intense desire to protect the weak against the strong, even when the weak owed him money from his juice loans and couldn't pay him on time.

"I hated bullies and I still hate them today," said the knightly Calabrese, led through his story by crafty defense lawyer Joseph Lopez.

Yet when court resumes Monday, Calabrese will face cross-examination by federal prosecutors, so the jury won't see Sir Frank of Chinatown, but a different Frank, the Frank on federal tape giggling about murders.

The jury will hear about his many alleged victims, dumped into holes like so many goo-goo dolls, those yellow rubber toys of years ago. Put your thumbs on their throats, squeeze hard, and their eyes bug out, the tongues protrude, they make a strange noise, which is the way his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, described the effects of Frank's heavy work in earlier trial testimony.

"Murder? No way. No way," Frank kept telling Lopez, also resplendent in a pink shirt and electric yellow tie, as Lopez directed him through more than two hours of testimony designed to give context to Calabrese's life and have his client repeatedly deny he killed anyone.

Lopez's theory is that Frank's son and his brother Nick conspired to rip off Frank's money and keep him in prison. It's an interesting theory. But on Monday, as those tapes are played, the tapes his son Frank Jr. recorded in prison conversations with his father for the FBI, the theory will have a side effect.

Calabrese's co-defendants -- Joseph Lombardo, Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle and James Marcello -- will look up and feel the fork in them and know they're done.

Some of my colleagues have been tempted to say that the Chicago Outfit is done, too, but it is not. Today's web was woven long ago, when Paul "The Waiter" Ricca moved here from New York and quietly allowed Al Capone to play the loud baboon in the shiny suit.

Calabrese is an example of this influence, a portly squire from the Chinatown crew, which still reaches into the 11th Ward, home of mayors. His brother-in-law was the late Ed Hanley, president of the powerful international hotel workers union, who dabbled in wiseguys and politics from Chicago to Las Vegas.

Hanley got him a city job, and later Frank got Nick a city job running McCormick Place, and depending on what testimony you believe, they either killed a lot of people together or they didn't, but they made a lot of money.

Calabrese explained on Thursday that the Outfit is dedicated to money, composed of two kinds of men, those who earn, and those who do the heavy work.

"And what is the heavy work?" Lopez asked.

"Killing people," Calabrese said, "but I didn't kill people, I was an earner ... I earned millions ... I didn't have time to do that other stuff."

He did this, he said, by loaning money at high rates to gambling addicts who couldn't go into a bank and apply for loans.

Listening to him, I wondered how lousy he must feel, in prison now, with so much opportunity outside, as City Hall pushes quietly for a giant city-run gambling casino, one that would have its own "independent" gaming commission controlled by the mayor, so it won't be subject to bothersome state regulations.

Loan sharking is part of gambling, in casinos or on Rush Street, though scary collectors aren't featured in the commercials. Calabrese testified that in his loan-sharking business, he never threatened or hurt anyone, but they paid anyway, but not from fear.

Yet it was instructive, with Calabrese explaining the meaning of "the sit down," a meeting designed to settle disputes, like the time Butch Petrocelli (one of the alleged victims) "kept sticking his nose in there" to try and take away Calabrese's card games, Calabrese said.

"It was all done diplomatically," Calabrese said. "The head of this group sits there, the head of that group sits there. And someone very important, like [late Outfit boss] Joey Aiuppa sits there."

Lopez asked: "Was there any swearing or cursing?"

"Swearing or cursing? Oh, no. It was diplomatic," Calabrese said. The way he said "oh, no" was quite odd. It was something a PTA mom would say, not some Chinatown bone-crusher who sat meekly before the boss.

The jury stopped taking notes, and stared, transfixed, as if a penguin from the zoo were sitting in front of them reading "The Divine Comedy." And Calabrese faced them, in his almost white ivory jacket, blinking.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, August 17, 2007

Frank Calabrese Sr. Takes Witness Stand

In the Family Secrets mob trial Wednesday there was testimony from "Joey the Clown." Thursday, it was "Frankie the Breeze." In an unusual strategy, the two top defendants in the federal case have now taken the witness stand.

We know from his testimony that mob boss Joe Lombardo fancies himself as one of those movie gangsters played by Jimmy Cagney. In the Hollywood vein, then Frank Calabrese's testimony Thursday qualifies Calabrese as the flimflam man. For three hours in the witness chair Thursday afternoon, Calabrese admitted to being a part of the Chicago mob, explained how the Chicago mob operates and who else is in it, then tried to convince the jury that he had nothing to do with any mob murders.

Frank Calabrese Senior's education was on display Thursday in court. Frank "the Breeze," as he's known, was a fourth grade drop out who twice went AWOL from the military. Now, at age 70 and claiming to be hard-of-hearing, the convicted outfit boss is fighting to stay out of prison for the rest of life in operation family secrets.

Calabrese is charged with 13 gangland murders as part of the mob conspiracy. Calabrese denied them all, saying "No way, I loved that guy" when asked about them. He appeared in court well groomed and dressed in a Palm Beach-style sportcoat fit for a croquet match. His lawyer Joe Lopez dazzled the jury with a pink shirt and banana-colored tie. Calabrese peppered his testimony with a sorrowful tale of his poor upbringing. "We ate oatmeal many nights," he said, "because we had no money."

Calabrese admitted to being a streetfighter: "I hated bullies and I still hate them today." Then he boasted, "I was very good with my hands." he was also well connected, he said, to the late, corrupt 1st Ward Alderman Fred Roti, Calabrese's brother-in-law was hotel restaurant union boss Ed Hanley, whom Calabrese claimed once offered him a job as president of the union local in Las Vegas.

Despite claiming he couldn't do arithmetic and barely literate, Calabrese admitted to a career as a mob loanshark, illegally lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who couldn't get bank loans at interest rates sometimes 10 times the going rate and keeping the accounting books. But Calabrese claimed: "There was never a time that anybody got a beating from me for not paying...I'd sit and talk to them."

In a remarkable confession, Calabrese talked about the structure of the outfit: There are "heavy workers" who do the killing, he said, and there are "money makers" who control the finances. Said Calabrese: "I was a money maker, I mean millions. When would I have time for" the killing?

Calabrese said Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa was the outfit's top boss who oversaw what were called "sit downs," meetings to solve mob problems. "It was all done diplomatically," stated Calabrese. "At the head was someone very important, usually Joey Auippa."

We know from his testimony Wednesday that mob boss Joe Lombardo fancies himself as one of those old Hollywood gangsters played by Jimmy Cagney. Judging by the jury's reaction to Frank Calabrese's testimony, Calabrese might be better suited for a role in the old classic movie "Born Yesterday."

Jurors who have been taking non-stop notes the past eight weeks, Thursday took down nothing that Calabrese said. One juror spent the afternoon doodling on the back of his notebook.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cop Stories About The Chicago Outfit

Jim Jack and I are watching the world's biggest mob trial from a back bench, where he can whisper to me while pointing to this thug and that one.

All these decaying Chicago Outfit guys, they look like uncles and grandpas now. But Jack knew a few of them when they just looked mean. They hide it better now.

Jack, 79, was a Chicago cop. He got on the force in 1955, made detective a year later, and worked the old Gale Street District on the Northwest Side -- last stop before the suburbs. He and his longtime partner, Frank Czech, knew all the hinky joints and liked to poke their heads in.

Jack points across the courtroom to a balding fellow slumped in a chair. That's Frank Calabrese Sr., alleged hit man in love with his work.

Jack tells me about the first time he met Calabrese. It was 1958 and he and Czech were cruising around, looking for a suspect in a shooting. They stopped at a mob-connected joint called The Nest, in the 3800 block of North Central.

"It was like 2 o'clockish in the morning, a swinging place, Tony Smith playing on stage," Jack says. "And me and my partner walk in and it was jammed. I was lucky I had my feet on the floor. I take two steps to the bar and there's a space between two guys. I'm bothering nobody, just sticking my head in there to look down at the end of the bar."

One of the two guys swiveled on his stool, as Jack recalls, and offered a traditional Chicago greeting: "What the f--- you lookin' at?" Jack replied, "Nothing much."

"Evidently he took offense to that, because first thing I know he whacked me right in the mouth," Jack tells me now. "Later on, when he's under arrest, he says he's sorry -- he didn't know we were cops. Like if I were a regular patron, it's OK to do a tattoo on my face."

I look across the courtroom again at Calabrese. He still looks like somebody's uncle. But I wonder if he's wondering what the f--- I'm looking at.

James A. Jack has been attending the Family Secrets mob trial at the Dirksen Federal Building since it began June 21. He's thinking of writing a book about his cop days, and the trial fits in.

Jack already has written one award-winning bookThree Boys Missing: The Tragedy That Exposed the Pedophilia Underworld, Three Boys Missing: The Tragedy That Exposed the Pedophilia Underworld, just published by HPH Publishing. The book is Jack's account of his dogged police work in the days immediately after one of Chicago's most notorious crimes, the 1955 Peterson-Schuessler triple murders.

Jack didn't solve that crime. Decades would pass, in fact, before an aging pedophile would be convicted of the murders and tossed in prison. But in the course of working on the case, Jack and his partner rooted out two or three other sex offenders, and they discovered something that was almost like a secret in the more innocent 1950s -- pedophilia is frightfully common.

That's what happens when you're a cop: You learn the world is a darker place than most people know.

I ask Jack for another story, another tale from those jolly formative years. He tells me about his first partner as a detective, a cop who dressed in Gucci on a Florsheim salary.

"Phil Tolomeo -- the Outfit put him in there," Jack tells me. "The first month I was working with him, I didn't even know. I was new and just married.

"We're working midnights and he's driving, and he stops at a place on Harlem called Meo's," Jack continues. "He says, 'Wait here, I'll be right back,' and he goes in and it's like 45 minutes, then an hour. He comes out and I say, 'Jesus, where the hell you been?' He says, 'Oh, I just went to see a few guys.'"

Jack didn't like Tolomeo's Gucci shoes. He didn't like that Meo was the last three letters in Tolomeo. He didn't like what he had heard when he started asking around -- that Meo's was a favorite mob hangout.

"They're all in there, every day and every night -- Tony Accardo, Aiuppa, Cerone, Murray the Camel," Jack says. "I'm not Charlie Chan, but I'm beginning to figure it out."

The last straw came the third or fourth night Tolomeo left Jack waiting outside Meo's. All of a sudden, as Jack sat there in the dark, flashbulbs began popping in the weeds from a vacant lot across the street. Somebody was taking pictures.

Back at the police station, Jack finally had a talk with Sgt. George Murphy, the supervisor of detectives. "Sarg, what's going on?" he said. "I'm gonna get myself fired."

Murphy nodded and clued Jack in. Yeah, he said, that was probably the FBI taking surveillance pictures from the weeds. And he already knew all about Tolomeo.

"Somebody had to be his partner, Jim," Murphy said, "and you're new and we didn't think you'd get in trouble with him."

"Get me off," Jack said.

The next month, Jack had a new partner, Frank Czech. And 35 years after that, long after leaving the police force, Phil "Philly Beans" Tolomeo -- who was, indeed, related to the owner of Meo's -- entered the federal witness protection program. He explained to the FBI exactly how Frank Calabrese's extortion racket worked.

Jack wasn't a Chicago cop for long. He left the police force in 1968 and became head of national security for Toys R Us. He had a family to support, and he was tired of moonlighting to make ends meet. One good-paying job made more sense than two or three poor paying jobs. Not bad for an ex-boxer from the West Side who grew up in an orphanage. But before turning in his badge, Jack gathered enough great cop stories for a lifetime.

Like the story about getting into a huge bar fight with Tony Spilotro, the vicious mob boss of Las Vegas who wound up dead in an Indiana cornfield.

Jack's story about Spilotro is a long one, starting in 1961 and ending in 1963. It's also a good one, involving a nightclub singer, a pretty girl and a grudge that wouldn't go away. But in the space I've got left here, I could never do it justice.

"You really should write that book," I tell Jack, whispering to him at the Family Secrets trial.

Up on the witness stand, a forensic pathologist is describing how Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were beaten to death with nothing but fists, knees and feet.

"I just might," Jack says. "It was something."

Thanks to Tom McNamee

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chicago Mob Consigliere Revealed?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, Alphonse "Al the Pizza Man" Tornabene, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Anthony "Little" Zizzo
Friends of mine: Leo Caruso

Federal documents reveal a new name in the upper crust of the Chicago outfit, a man that some mob experts believe may have become the mob's "elder statesman."
Documents filed by federal prosecutors in the case against 14 top mob figures revealed the identity of what some mobwatchers say is the Chicago outfit's current consigliere. The man's name was blotted out -- redacted --from the government filing. But, the ABC7 I-Team reveals the name behind the black mark.

Mafia initiation ceremonies are not open to the public. The only pictures are cheesy Hollywood reenactments. So when Chicago wiseguy Nick Calabrese started deep dishing outfit details to federal authorities a few years ago, one story stood out. It is explained in a government filing known as a proffer, or play-by-play, of the case that federal prosecutors plan to put on against Chicago hoodlums charged in Operation Family Secrets. The proffer states that Nick Calabrese will testify that a number of individuals were "made" (or inducted) with him in 1983, including co-defendant James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello.

During the "making ceremony," each 'inductee' was accompanied by his crew boss or "capo," according to the government. Two men "conducted the ceremony, which included an oath of allegiance to the organization."

One of the concelebrants was the late Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, then considered the top ranking boss of the mob. Aiuppa's partner in the blood ceremony was blacked out in publicly filed documents. But, the ABC7 I-Team has seen an un-redacted copy of the filing. We can reveal the name under the black mark: Alphonse Tornabene.

Tornabene is now 84 years old. He is known in mob circles as "Al the Pizza Man." A suburban pizza parlor is still in his family. Even though he owns a summer home in William's Bay, Wisconsin, the I-Team found Tournabene at the front door of his suburban Chicago house and asked him whether he was the grand mobster at an outfit initiation.

GOUDIE: "Know about that?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You don't remember?"

TORNABENE: "No."

GOUDIE: "You and Mr. Aiuppa?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You administered the oath of the Outfit according to the feds?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

"Well, it shows significance, one that they took him under their trust to make such a significant ceremony, in making some mob guys," said Robert Fuesel, former federal agent.

Former IRS criminal investigator Bob Fuesel says Tornabene grew up as an outfit bookie but was apparently being groomed for higher office. With the three elder statesman of the outfit all dead, Joey Aiuppa, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo and Sam "Wings" Carlisi, some federal lawmen believe that the role of consiglieri has fallen on Carlisi's cousin, Al Tornabene, who may have a hard time getting around these days, but is still meeting with known outfit associates.

GOUDIE: "The Crime Commission is saying that you run the mob?"

TORNABENE: (laughs) "I can't even move..."

On several days I-Team surveillance spotted Leo Caruso at Tornabene's home. Seven years ago Caruso was permanently barred from the Laborers' International Union after a federal investigation linked him to the mob's 26th Street crew. A Justice Department report stated that Caruso was "deeply involved with organized crime figures in a substantial manner."

TORNABENE: "He's just a friend..."

GOUDIE: "Mr. Caruso is a friend?"

TORNABENE: "Yes."

The FBI is currently investigating the disappearance of Tornabene's top lieutenant, Anthony "Little" Zizzo. The two men met frequently until last August, when Zizzo mysteriously vanished after leaving his west suburban condo for a meeting on Rush Street.

"Well, these indictments through the US attorney's office, just put everything in disarray, and so do they know what happened to Zizzo. I'm sure somebody does. It's hard for me to believe based upon his reputation that he has not been uncovered and/or is probably deceased," said Fuesel.

"Pizza Al" has no criminal record but comes from a mob family. His late brother Frank was convicted of vote fraud and prostitution and authorities say was active in outfit vice rackets.

The Tournabenes are also related by marriage to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Frank Tournabene was a great uncle to Blagojevich's wife Patty. A spokeswoman for the governor's wife says that while she is aware of her late uncle Frank Tornaebene, she doesn't recall a relative named Al and has no memory of ever meeting such a person.

The I-Team attempted to reach former union boss Leo Caruso about his relationship with pizza l Tornabene. A woman who answered the phone at Caruso's Bridgeport home said he wasn't interested in talking.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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

Monday, June 18, 2007

Family Secrets Mob Trial Capsule

The judge

U.S. District Judge: James B. Zagel

A Reagan appointee, Zagel is generally considered a good draw for the prosecution and one of the brightest judges on Chicago's federal bench. He is also among the most experienced, marking his 20th year on the federal bench this month. Zagel, 66, was once married to TV investigative reporter Pam Zekman, wrote "Money To Burn," a fictional thriller about a plot to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, and played a judge in the 1989 movie "Music Box."

Who's on trial

Fourteen alleged mobsters and associates were indicted in the case in 2005, but only five are expected to go on trial. Two of the original defendants died, one is too ill to face trial, four have pleaded guilty and two more are set to plead guilty as soon as Monday.

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

A reputed capo in the Grand Avenue street crew, Lombardo has been alleged to be a mob leader who committed murder while controlling pornography and other Outfit business in the city. Known for his alleged penchant for violence and an odd sense of humor, he once took out a newspaper ad to publicly announce that he was officially retired from the mob. He is charged in connection with the murder of Daniel Seifert in September 1974. He was separately convicted of attempting to bribe a U.S. senator and conspiring to skim $2 million from the Stardust casino in Las Vegas along with mob bosses Joseph Aiuppa, John Cerone, and Angelo LaPietra.

James Marcello

Marcello, 65, was described by Chicago's top FBI agent as the boss of the Chicago Outfit when the Family Secrets indictment came down in the spring of 2005. The Lombard resident had previously been convicted in 1993 on federal charges of racketeering, gambling, loan-sharking and extortion. Authorities have alleged he passed on money to the family of mobster Nicholas Calabrese to try to buy his silence on gangland slayings. Federal agents recorded conversations he had with his brother, Michael, while James was in a federal prison in Michigan. The men allegedly discussed gambling operations and Calabrese's possible cooperation with law enforcement.

Frank Calabrese Sr.

The one-time street boss of the mob's South Side or 26th Street crew, the 70-year-old Calabrese once was alleged to be the city's top loan shark. He is charged in connection with the 1980 murder of hit man William Petrocelli in Cicero as well as a dozen other slayings. Calabrese pleaded guilty in 1997 to using threats, violence and intimidation to collect more than $2.6 million in juice loans. He was in prison when the Family Secrets indictment came down. His brother, Nicholas, is the key turncoat witness in the case, and Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., also is expected to testify against his father.

Paul "the Indian" Schiro

A 69-year-old mob enforcer who is charged in one of the gangland killings, Schiro was an alleged associate of murdered mobster Anthony Spilotro. At the time of his Family Secrets indictment, he was in prison for taking part in a jewelry-theft ring headed by William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives.

Anthony Doyle

Doyle, also known as "Twan," is a former Chicago police officer. He is charged in the conspiracy for allegedly passing messages from the imprisoned Frank Calabrese Sr. to other members of the Outfit. Calabrese was trying to find out if his brother was cooperating with authorities, and Doyle allegedly was keeping him up to date on a law enforcement investigation into the murder of mob hit man John Fecarotta, authorities alleged. The 62-year-old was arrested at his home in Arizona as federal prosecutors and the FBI were announcing the Family Secrets case.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, May 28, 2007

More Information on Mob Driver and Hit Man Gerry Carusiello?

Recently, I have been emailing with one of my readers regarding Gerry Carusiello. The reader included a link from Alan May over at American Mafia. In particular, he wanted to know more about Carusiello who is mentioned in the following excerpt.

September 18, 1976 – Gerald Carusiello was found shot seven times in the back in an apartment development in Addison, Illinois. Carusiello had served as a driver for Chicago Outfit boss Joey Aiuppa. Carusiello was believed to have been one of the torture slayers involved in the execution of several burglars who had the temerity to rob the home of Anthony Accardo.

The only thing that I could add is that I do not believe that the date above is correct. My understanding is that Carusiello was found dead in 1979. Earlier that year, the body of John Borsellino was found in a farm field near the Will-Cook Border. Both Borsellino and Carusiello were believed to have worked together on the burglar executions. Outside of that, I am not aware of much more regarding Carusiello.

Can anybody add any new information on Carusiello? Feel free to drop me a line.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cullotta

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello
Friends of mine: Frank Cullotta, Michael Spilotro

Frank Cullotta first met Anthony Spilotro when they were rival shoeshine boys on Grand Avenue in Chicago.

Spilotro's introduction went something like this: "What the f--- are you lookin' at?"

The volatile pair nearly brawled that day, but they became friends after realizing Cullotta's gangster-father had helped Spilotro's dad out of a jam once. The boys also became associates in crime, beating up enemies, sticking up bank messengers and -- as Spilotro rose to power as the Chicago mob's Las Vegas overseer -- robbing and killing people.

Cullotta's life is the subject of a soon-to-be-released autobiography titled Cullotta, from Nevada's Huntington Press Publishing.

The book is slated to hit stores this summer, possibly during the Family Secrets trial. The case aims to solve a host of old mob hits, including the 1986 murders of Spilotro and his brother Michael.

By the time of the Spilotros' demise -- they allegedly were killed by reputed mob boss James Marcello and others -- Cullotta already had flipped for the government, entered witness protection and begun testifying against fellow hoodlums, including Spilotro.

Cullotta, a hit man and burglar who ran Spilotro's infamous "Hole in the Wall Gang," left the mob 25 years ago this May as the law was bearing down and his relationship with Spilotro deteriorated to the point that Cullotta feared getting whacked.

Now, Cullotta might be called by the government to testify in the Family Secrets trial, expected to get under way in May.

Cullotta's book -- co-written with former cop Dennis Griffin with help from Cullotta's former FBI handler, Dennis Arnoldy -- is light on many details but does offer some nuggets for mob buffs, saying:

• • Cullotta had a strong inclination that associate Sal Romano was a snitch, and didn't want him along on the 1981 heist of Bertha's furniture and jewelry store that led to the gang's capture. But Spilotro reportedly insisted, and Romano indeed was an informant. Then Spilotro didn't bail out Cullotta or help him much in his legal troubles, slights that further soured Cullotta on Spilotro.

• • Reputed mob leader Joey "The Clown" Lombardo allegedly settled a dispute between Cullotta and another alleged mobster by letting the man beat Cullotta with a brick. Lombardo allegedly handled the matter this way because he feared the retribution would be worse when mob boss Joseph Aiuppa returned from vacation. Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, however, called the story "fantasy" and said it had been discredited at a long-ago court hearing.

• • Cullotta befriended members of the Blackstone Rangers while in jail, and Spilotro once considered enlisting the gang to kill Las Vegas cops in retaliation for an earlier police shooting, the book says. The scheme never materialized, but Cullotta says he was hired by the gang to blow up a South Side business so the owner could collect insurance.

• • When Cullotta was in prison and wanted a plum assignment, he reached out to then-Chicago cop William Hanhardt to intervene because they knew each other from the street and Hanhardt was friendly with the warden. Cullotta ended up getting the assignment, he said. Years later, Hanhardt was convicted of running a jewelry theft ring with alleged ties to the mob.

• • Cullotta's father, Joe, a now-dead robber and getaway driver, allegedly helped Spilotro's restaurateur-dad Patsy out of a "Black Hand" extortion scheme. The elder Cullotta "and his crew hid in the back room of the restaurant until the Black Handers came in for the payoff," according to the book. "Then they burst out and killed them. After that Patsy wasn't bothered anymore."

If the book gets across one point, it's that Cullotta, 68, is a survivor -- because of his cunning, and luck. At least 44 pals or cohorts were killed by the mob or police.

Today, he has a new identity and lives out "west." He owns a business that leaves him "well off," although the book doesn't go deeply into the present day. He also is a partner in a new Las Vegas tour group that -- what else -- visits old mob haunts. He'll be making cameo appearances on the tour bus, but they won't be announced in advance.

Thanks to Robert C. Herguth

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reputed Former Mob Leader 'Tony Ripe' Civella Dead

Friends of ours: Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella, Nick Civella, Carl "Cork" Civella, Joseph Auippa

Anthony Civella, said by federal investigators to have headed organized crime in Kansas City in the late 1980s and 1990s, is dead at 75.

Passantino Brothers Funeral Home said Thursday that it was handling arrangements and that rites for Civella were pending, but that it did not have information on when he died or on his survivors. There was no phone listing for a Civella in the Kansas City area, and the city's vital statistics office said it had not yet received a death certificate for him.

Civella once told a judge he had undergone seven heart bypass operations. Civella, whose nickname was "Tony Ripe," was the nephew of Nick Civella, the reputed leader of the Kansas City mob at a time when it allegedly worked with other organized crime families in Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland in schemes to skim money from Las Vegas casinos.

Tropicana Hotel and Casino Las VegasAfter Nick Civella's death in 1983, leadership was said to have passed to his brother, Carl "Cork" Civella, father of Anthony. Nick Civella died while under indictment as one of 12 people accused in a skimming case involving the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Subsequently, his brother Carl was among those charged in another Las Vegas skimming case involving the Argent Corp., which owned the Stardust and Fremont casinos. Carl Civella was one of five who pleaded guilty in that case. Five other defendants, including Joseph Aiuppa, described by the government as head of the Chicago mob, were convicted at a trial in Kansas City.

That trial included testimony from Roy Lee Williams, former president of the Teamsters Union, who said Nick Civella paid him $1,500 a month from late 1974 to mid-1981. He said the money was in return for his vote as a trustee of the union's Central States Pension Fund for a $62.75 million loan that enabled Argent Corp. to buy the two casinos.

Anthony Civella was convicted of bookmaking in the 1970s and served 3 1/2 years in prison. He had business interests that included automobile sales, restaurants, insurance and property ownership.

After his father and other reputed Kansas City mobsters went to prison, Civella was reported to have moved up to the leadership. In 1991, he and two associates were convicted on eight counts of fraud related to the resale of prescription drugs. They were accused of having brought more than $1 million worth of drugs at deep discounts, claiming they were intended for nursing homes, then re-selling them to wholesalers on the West Coast.

After his release from prison in 1996, Civella was barred from entering casinos in Missouri and Nevada. Gaming commissions cited his convictions, which included driving a vehicle without the owner's consent in 1964, conspiring to run interstate gambling in 1975 and running a sports bookmaking operation and continuing criminal business in 1984.

In his 1984 plea, Civella signed a statement acknowledging that prosecutors could prove his role in other crimes, including casino skimming, stealing from charity bingo games and setting up front companies to hide his ownership. He also acknowledged prosecutors could prove he conspired to commit murders and other violence to punish underlings, silence government witnesses and eliminate competing mob factions.

"His death reflects a passing of an era in Kansas City's colorful history," said David Helfrey, a St. Louis attorney who headed the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force at Kansas City during the casino skimming trials.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

FBI Mob Files Deal with Garbage

Friends of ours: Joseph Zito, Joseph Auippa, Joseph Zammuto, Frank Buscemi

Eye-popping allegations are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) records concerning Joseph Zito, a reputed Rockford Mafia counsuleri, who reportedly had interests in the City of Rockford's garbage collection and disposal. Zito died of natural causes in 1981. Included in Zito's FBI file are allegations of bribery and intimidation during a time when a new garbage contract was being negotiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also during that time, the city closed the municipally-owned People’s Avenue landfill and began dumping its trash at the privately-owned Pagel Pit, which opened in July 1972.

The dump, which was formerly known as Pagel Pit, received approval from the Winnebago County Board Dec. 8 to expand Winnebago Landfill. The 18.7 million cubic-yard expansion is expected to serve 11 northern Illinois counties between 2010 and 2031. In 2004, the county also approved spending millions of taxpayer funds on two roads that lead to the landfill. The money will pay for 8 miles of road upgrades on Baxter Road and 5 miles on South Perryville Road.

According to the FBI file, Zito was allegedly part owner of the City of Rockford’s former waste hauler—Rockford Disposal Service Co. A March 31, 1970, FBI bulletin from Zito's FBI file reads that a male source "said [redact] for the Rockford Disposal Company and is also [redact] the Greater Rockford Airport Authority. "He said the site, which was under consideration as a new landfill site to be used for dumping garbage was under control of the airport authority and although unsuitable, in [redact] opinion, as a landfill site was being pushed in the City Council when the Illinois State Health Department advised that it would not be approved by that department as a landfill site.

"[Redact] advised that the City furnished the landfill site for the contractor who has the garbage disposal contact for Rockford, Illinois. "[Redact] said that in conversation with [redact] they stated no matter which site was selected for the landfill and no matter who the current contractor might be they would 'have to make their peace with Rockford Disposal Company.'

"He said he asked what was meant by that statement but received no answer. "He said when he was showing opposition to the airport landfill site, he was approached by [redact] Rockford Disposal Company, in approximately October 1969, was asked, 'What does it take to get you to leave us alone?'" wrote the unidentified FBI agent.

Less than two months after issuing that memorandum, the FBI issued another bulletin on May 13, 1970. The document concerned alleged "bribery negotiations relative to [the] Cherry Valley Landfill site." The bulletin reads: "[A source] states he was told it would cost $100,000 to obtain Rockford City Disposal contract. "It has been previously reported that sources believe Rockford Disposal Service, Inc., utilizes Joe Zito in quieting labor disputes when Rockford Disposal first obtained the Rockford City contract [in 1956]. ...

"Rockford is presently attempting to locate a landfill site which would then be used by Rockford Disposal in performance of its trash removal contract. ... The site most likely to be chosen is located in Cherry Valley Township, adjacent to Rockford."

During a Dec. 1 interview, Dave Johnson, Winnebago County clerk and former long-time Rockford alderman, said he thought the site referred to in Zito's FBI file was the City of Rockford's 155-acre composting facility at the northeast corner of South Mulford and Baxter roads. Johnson raised questions about the city’s garbage contract in 1974, which led to an investigation conducted by the Rockford Police Department.

According to a 1975 Rockford Police Department report, Browning Ferris Industries, the city' garbage hauler at that time, was also known as Rockford Disposal Service Co. State records indicate Rockford Disposal changed its name to Laidlaw Waste Systems (Illinois) Inc., on March 25, 1982.

When Zito died in 1981, an FBI surveillance photo shows Zito' funeral was attended by Chicago Mafia boss Joseph Aiuppa, Joseph Zammuto, head of the Rockford Mob, and Frank J. Buscemi, who took control from Zammuto after his retirement, according to a March 4, 1984, Rockford Register Star article.

Thanks to Jeff Havens

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stool Pigeon?

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Sam Carlisi, Joseph Ferriola, Joey Aiuppa, Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, Tony Spilotro, Michael Spilotro, Billy Dauber, Ronald Jarrett

Reputed mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. was taking a walk with his son in the prison yard at the federal detention center in Milan, Mich., uttering words that should never have left his lips. During that walk and others, Calabrese Sr. spoke of mob slayings -- ones the FBI says he was involved in, according to sources familiar with the matter. He discussed who was a made members of the Outfit and who wasn't. And he described his own initiation rites into the Chicago mob, where he was a reputed "made" man.

Under Outfit rules, talking about any one of those topics would be enough to get a mobster killed. But what was worse for Calabrese Sr. was that his statements were being secretly tape-recorded, by own his son, Frank Jr., who was in prison with him at the time, several years ago.

During those strolls around the prison yard, Calabrese Sr. spilled decades of mob secrets, details he should have never told anyone, even his own flesh and blood. Now those indiscretions are coming back to haunt him. Calabrese Sr.'s secretly recorded statements helped federal prosecutors build their case against him and other alleged mobsters, including the reputed head of the Chicago Outfit, James Marcello. "Wings" Jim Marcello started in the Chicago Syndicate as the driver of "Black Sam" Carlisi who was the powerful underboss under Joe Ferriola. Carlisi himself started as the driver for Joey Aiuppa when Aiuppa was boss.

The tape recordings are vital to the case and expected to be played at the trial next year of Calabrese Sr., Marcello and others, and should be a highlight. The trial will mark the culmination of the most significant prosecution federal authorities have brought against the Chicago Outfit, charging top leaders with 18 murders. Frank Calabrese Sr. alone has been accused of taking part in 13 of the slayings.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney, Joseph Lopez, downplayed the importance of the tape-recorded conversations on Friday and questioned how the feds could properly interpret them. "My client doesn't know anything about any murders," Lopez said. The feds "gave the son the script, and he followed it. It's all very good theater."

Lopez contended that no fresh details about the slayings pop up on the tapes, and some conversations show "a father puffing up his chest for his son." "They are talking about facts that people 'in the know' would know," Lopez said. "When you hear the tapes in court, everyone will be able to draw different conclusions as to what was said."

Frank Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., put his life on the line every time he secretly tape-recorded his father, who was always cagey, always suspicious. The men were in prison together on a loan-sharking case the feds had brought against Calabrese Sr. and his crew. Calabrese Sr., who ran the crew, got nearly 10 years in prison. His son, Frank Jr., who had much less involvement in the matter, got more than 4 years.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was known for his brutality and ruthlessness, both on the streets and at home, ruling his family with fierce intimidation. To this day, Calabrese Sr. still tries to reach out and rattle family members, whether by getting messages passed out to relatives from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where he is being held, or having rats put on the porch of another family member, sources said.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was extremely leery of even his closest associates, much less family, making it that much more of a challenge for the younger Calabrese to get him talking. Frank Calabrese Jr. not only had to get his father chatting about matters that his father would be extremely reluctant to talk about. The son also had to get his father to discuss those matters clearly, with enough detail, to be useful to federal prosecutors.

If Calabrese Sr. or any other prisoner found out the younger Calabrese was wearing a listening device in the prison yard, his life would have been in peril. But somehow, Frank Calabrese Jr. exceeded all expectations.

Despite all the danger to Calabrese Jr., he received no major benefits from the FBI. His main motivation was trying to ensure his father would stay behind bars for the rest of his life, law enforcement sources said. Calabrese Jr. was released from prison in 2000.

One recording Calabrese Jr. made even helped persuade his uncle Nick to cooperate with the feds. Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother Nick Calabrese had a long history together and were tight. They would often do mob killings together, authorities said. But what was once a close partnership is now a blood feud, with Nick Calabrese confessing to 15 mob hits and helping the FBI. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s own words helped turn his brother Nick into one of the FBI's most valuable informants.

The key conversation came one day when Frank Calabrese Sr. and Frank Jr. were in prison and discussing Nick Calabrese and whether he was cooperating with the feds. Nick Calabrese was not cooperating at the time, but relations were tense between the two brothers. Frank Calabrese Sr. was refusing to have his underlings send money to help support his brother's family, according to court testimony. And Nick Calabrese was still sore over how Frank Calabrese Sr. had treated his own sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt, in the loan-sharking case, effectively hanging them out to dry.

Frank Calabrese Sr. assured his son on the recording that he had gotten word out of the prison that if Nick Calabrese was helping investigators, then he would have no objection to his brother being killed. Frank Calabrese Sr. said that this was the life he and his brother had chosen. When the feds played that tape for Nick Calabrese, he began cooperating. But that wasn't the only factor contributing to Nick Calabrese's change of heart.

On another recording with his son, Frank Calabrese Sr. scoffed about a mob hit that his brother Nick nearly botched and talked about it in detail. Calabrese Sr. told his son how Nick Calabrese had been assigned to kill fellow mob hit man John Fecarotta in 1986.

Fecarotta had messed up an attempt to kill Tony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and mob bosses decided that Fecarotta had to go.

According to court records and law enforcement sources, Fecarotta was set up on the ruse that he and other mobsters were going to drop off a bomb. Fecarotta apparently never figured out that the device they were carrying was fake, made up of flares taped together to look like dynamite. Nick Calabrese and Fecarotta were heading to the job site in a stolen Buick. As they pulled up near a bingo hall on West Belmont, Calabrese pulled his gun to kill Fecarotta. But Fecarotta fought him off, struggling with Calabrese until the gun went off, wounding Calabrese in the forearm.

Fecarotta ran for his life, and Nick Calabrese bolted after him, knowing if Fecarotta escaped, it would mean Nick Calabrese's own death sentence from the mob.

Nick Calabrese shot and killed Fecarotta, but Calabrese made a critical error. He left behind a bloody glove, which investigators recovered and kept. Years later, DNA tests tied Nick Calabrese to the glove and the murder.

On the secret tape recordings, Frank Calabrese Sr. spoke of other murders involving him and his brother. In one instance, Frank Calabrese Sr. bragged how he had orchestrated a shotgun slaying in Cicero of two men, Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski. They were sitting in a car outside Ortiz's bar on Cermak when eight shots were pumped into the 1983 Mercury, killing both men. Ortiz was killed over drugs, law enforcement sources say. Ortiz's family has denied Ortiz had anything to do with drug dealing. Morawski was killed by accident.

Calabrese Sr. also discussed his role in the 1980 slayings of mob hit man William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, in Will County. Calabrese Sr. implicated his righthand man, the late Ronald Jarrett, as being involved, too. Jarrett was slain in a mob hit in 1999. I was living near Jarrett at this time. Calabrese Sr. even talked about mob hits he had no involvement in -- the murders, for instance, of Tony and Michael Spilotro.

Martin Scorsese's celebrated Las Vegas gangster movie, "Casino," had the men being beaten to death with baseball bats in an Indiana cornfield. But the movie got it wrong. Tony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, had been lured back to the Chicago area. Spilotro, a made man, was told he was going to be promoted and that his brother was going to be made into the Outfit.

James Marcello, now the reputed head of the Chicago mob, allegedly drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville-area home and their deaths, according to court testimony. Although, it was not like this in the movie, several sources within the FBI have already suggest this from their CI's.
On tape, in the prison-yard conversations with his son, Frank Calabrese Sr. names the mobsters who were there to kill the Spilotro brothers, including his brother, Nick. As the men surrounded Tony Spilotro, he begged for time to say a prayer, a novena, sources said. His killers declined and proceeded with their work. I find it dubious that Tony "the "Ant" would have begged anybody for anything, especially to say a novena.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir Staff Reporter Sun-Times

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