The Chicago Syndicate: John Ambrose
Showing posts with label John Ambrose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Ambrose. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Union Leader with Reputed Mob Ties “The only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.” Federal Judge “You pled guilty to a felony...That’s why you’re here"

Five months after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement, a onetime union leader with reputed mob ties told a federal judge, “The only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.”

Matassa faced sentencing Monday, more than two years after being hit with a 10-count federal indictment. He explained that he’d been targeted by the U.S. Department of Labor. But U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly saw things differently.

“You pled guilty to a felony to avoid going to trial,” Kennelly said. “That’s why you’re here right now. Not because your name is John Matassa.”

Then, the judge handed Matassa a six-month prison sentence and added six months of home confinement. The case stemmed from Matassa’s job as the secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Kennelly described that organization as “the weirdest union that I’ve ever seen.” He repeatedly mentioned that it collected barely enough dues to pay Matassa’s salary and expenses.

Matassa admitted last February to an embezzlement scheme in which he began in 2013 to split his weekly paycheck from the union with his wife. Prosecutors said she became the union’s highest-paid employee — despite not actually working for it. Matassa’s attorneys said she helped him do his job.

In 2014 and 2015, Matassa raised his wife’s salary without the approval of the union’s president or its executive board. Meanwhile, Matassa had applied for old-age insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration in 2013.

Those benefits would have been reduced if he made too much money. However, as a result of the arrangement with his wife, Matassa collected $75,108 in insurance benefits to which he was not entitled, according to his plea agreement.

The charges against Matassa followed a long career in which his name notably surfaced during the 2009 trial of John Ambrose, a deputy U.S. marshal who leaked details about mob hitman Nicholas Calabrese.

Calabrese became a key cooperator with federal investigators and was under the protection of the marshals. Matassa allegedly functioned as a go-between for the information that eventually made its way to then-imprisoned Chicago mob boss, James “Little Jimmy” Marcello.

Thanks to Jon Seidel.

Friday, March 05, 2010

John Ambrose Sent to The Prison Where His Father Died

A federal judge in Chicago said a former deputy U.S. marshal convicted of leaking information about the Operation Family Secrets mob investigation will have to serve his sentence in the same Texas prison where his father died.

In his ruling today, U.S. District Judge John F. Grady denied a request by John Ambrose to be assigned to any federal prison other than the one in Seagoville, Texas.

Ambrose was sentenced in October to four years in prison for leaking information that mob hit man Nick Calabrese was cooperating with authorities in the Family Secrets case.

Ambrose's father, Thomas, was a former Chicago police officer who was convicted of corruption in 1982 in the "Marquette 10" case.

Thomas Ambrose died in 1986 as he jogged around a track at the Seagoville prison.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rudy Fratto Sentenced to One Year and One Day in Federal Prison

Rudy Fratto, a reputed lieutenant in the Elmwood Park street crew of the Chicago Outfit, was sentenced in federal court today to a year and one day in prison for tax evasion.

Fratto, 65, of Darien, pleaded guilty last year to failing to report nearly $200,000 in income in 2005. Fratto, 65, admitted he had employers issue his checks to a defunct company that had an account he used for his expenses. Fratto said he did this between 2001 and 2007.

Fratto has been identified by authorities as an Outfit figure, and his name came up in recent years at the sentencing of corrupt Chicago police chief of detectives William Hanhardt and at the trial of former U.S. Marshal John Ambrose.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

John Ambrose, Former U.S. Marshal, Sentenced to Prison

A deputy U.S. marshal who was convicted of leaking secret information about a mob witness was sentenced today to four years in prison — a punishment a judge said is designed to deter others in law enforcement from ever contemplating similar crimes.

The marshal, John Ambrose, sat motionless as U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady handed down the sentence to a courtroom filled with his family, friends and onetime colleagues.

Ambrose, who was convicted in April, had sought probation. His lawyer said his client lived for his job and his conviction has likely stripped him of any future in law enforcement.

Prosecutors had recommended he spend more than six years in prison.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for Ambrose, a 41-year-old father of four, to spend between 12 and 18 months behind bars, but Grady said that wasn’t nearly enough time. “There is really no mitigating circumstance in this case as far as the evidence is concerned,” Grady said. “What we’re dealing with here is a very serious crime . . . that has virtually no likelihood of detection.”

Ambrose in 2002 and 2003 worked stints in the federal witness protection program guarding mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, whose testimony in 2007 helped convict several mobsters in the landmark Family Secrets trial.

Ambrose was convicted of leaking information about Calabrese to a family friend, William Guide, who had done prison time with Ambrose’s late father after their convictions in the “Marquette 10” police corruption trial in 1983. In a twist, Grady was the judge in that case.

Prosecutors have said that Guide, who was never charged with any crimes regarding the younger Ambrose’s case, had known mob ties.

Authorities linked the leaks to Ambrose based on video surveillance of two mobsters talking at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., and overhearing the words “Marquette 10.”

They also say Ambrose’s is the only security violation in the history of witness protection program.

Ambrose’s lawyer, Frank Lipuma, told Grady that his client did have talks with Guide and even “shot his mouth off,” but that “there was never any intent” to harm the program.

After court, Lipuma said he will ask that Ambrose stay out of prison pending appeal. If Grady rejects that, Ambrose is to report to prison Jan. 26.

“I think he relied a little too heavily on the deterrence factor,” Lipuma said of Grady’s sentence. “Mr. Ambrose is not sorry for what he did because what is claimed that he did has been, from day one, overstated.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk said prosecutor took no joy in sending a law enforcement officer to prison. “It’s obviously a sad day,” Funk said. “However, we want to emphasize from our perspective the judge’s sentence was fair and just.”

Thanks to Chris Fusco and Natasha Korecki

Monday, May 04, 2009

Unseen Victims from Mob Killings

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose -- convicted last week of passing information to the Chicago Outfit about a top mob witness -- was only 7 years old when Joe the janitor was found dead.

So he probably didn't read the small 1975 Tribune story about the body of the 33-year-old janitor found in the basement of Chalmers Elementary School on the West Side. Chicago detectives said the janitor suffered a massive heart attack. But a mortician at the Daniel Lynch Funeral Home in Evergreen Park made an amazing discovery along The Chicago Way.

There was a hole in the back of Joe the janitor's head. A heart attack didn't make that hole. A .22-caliber bullet was found lodged in the brain of the janitor.

His name? Joseph Lipuma.

A couple of weeks later, Lipuma's friend and alleged stolen-goods dealer Ronald Magliano, 42, was found shot to death in his South Side home. The home had been set ablaze, an Outfit practice to destroy evidence. Detectives figured the two murders were related, but no arrests were made.

Two years later, a friend of Joe's and Ronnie's was killed in a sensational daytime Outfit hit. Mobster Sam Annerino was chewed up by three men with shotguns outside Mirabelli's Furniture store in Oak Lawn. The Outfit had sway in Oak Lawn. The town's motto? "Be prudent, stay safe."

A few miles to the east in Evergreen Park lived Joe Lipuma's young nephew. A top student at Evergreen Park High School, an excellent athlete, he was so impressive that he was accepted as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. But he didn't like the military life, came home after a year, went to law school, and became a federal prosecutor before becoming a criminal defense attorney.

Recently, at John Ambrose's trial, I met that man. He was John Ambrose's attorney, Francis Lipuma, Joe's nephew. I disagree with him about Ambrose, but I couldn't help admiring his skill in the courtroom.

"I was just a kid -- a freshman -- when my uncle was killed," Frank Lipuma told me the other day after the Ambrose guilty verdict. "All I really remember about it was pain. Pain and sadness throughout my house, throughout my family."

Just in case you think I'm drawing some nefarious inference about Frank Lipuma, let me be clear: I'm not.

Lipuma was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. To become a federal prosecutor, applicants must undergo a rigorous FBI background check.

They reach back into your childhood, interview your friends from elementary school and scrub your family. If there were anything there, the FBI would have found it. But what they did find was a young man who felt the pain of his Uncle Joe's death but never learned why he was killed.

"I do remember the funeral home found he'd been shot, and that police thought it was a heart attack, but someone had put a gun behind his ear," Frank Lipuma told me. "It was terrible, all that pain in the family then. He was involved with people. There was just speculation. He knew Annerino, they said. I was just a kid playing baseball, trying to get to college."

Through weeks of testimony in Ambrose's trial, we heard about the Outfit informant he was supposed to protect: the deadly hit man turned star government witness in the historic Family Secrets case, Nicholas Calabrese.

Calabrese was in the federal witness protection program. Ambrose was convicted of leaking information to the mob about what Calabrese told the feds concerning dozens and dozens of unsolved Outfit murders.

One of the murders involved Annerino, the friend of Joe Lipuma and Ronnie Magliano who was known as "Sam the Mule."

The leaked information was contained in the FBI's 2002 threat assessment detailing Nick Calabrese's cooperation, a document prosecutors alleged was read by Ambrose before he leaked details of it to the mob through an Outfit messenger boy:

"Nicholas Calabrese will testify that he, along with Joseph LaMantia, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Frank Saladino, planned and attempted to murder Samuel Annerino. Ronald Jarrett, who is deceased [murdered], also participated in the planning. ... Though the attempt was unsuccessful, Nicholas Calabrese later learned that the murder was later carried out by Joseph Scalise. William Petrocelli and Anthony Borsellino also participated in the murder, but are deceased."

I asked Frank Lipuma if he became a federal prosecutor in part to find out who killed his Uncle Joe, but he wouldn't say: "I couldn't find any hard facts. I deal in facts."

The Chicago Outfit has many victims, and some might consider Ambrose to be one of them. He wanted to ingratiate himself with the bosses. He'll soon be fired from federal service and may even serve prison time. Joe Lipuma was a victim, too, and so was his family.

Murder isn't just between killer and target, especially Outfit murders. The victims are found among living survivors, legitimate folk spaced apart, often unknowing, as if on a vine reaching back through time, remembering.

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Highlights from the John Ambrose Trial

*Brother Patrick Martin was the last defense witness, called to tell of Ambrose's character. He had coached Ambrose on the wrestling team at St. Laurence High School in Burbank and had remained in regular contact with him. When Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur addressed Martin as "Father," he corrected her, saying "My name is 'Brother.'" She was about to resume questioning him, when he interrupted her with, "I'm sorry, I don't know your name." It might've been the one time MacArthur was thrown off her game.

*The jurors asked many questions during the trial via notes they submitted to U.S. District Judge John Grady, mostly wanting to ask something else of a particular witness.

*Grady is a judge who apparently thinks this is a good idea. One of the jurors' questions elicited one of the more interesting revelations of the trial - that two witnesses at a major mob trial in 2007 did not want to be protected by marshals after hearing of Ambrose's alleged security breach. They were guarded instead by FBI agents.

* Also, a juror requested a transcript from the opening arguments and closing statements of the trial. Grady laughed as he turned that one down.

* During his time on the witness stand, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald kept talking about his habit of not wearing a watch. "I should wear a watch," he concluded after the third reference.

* A large gray partition was used during the testimony of some deputy marshals to protect their identities from the public - even for one who retired in January and another who has a different job now. They were identified only as Inspector Four and Deputy Six.

* The trial did not have a lot of drama. No shouting by attorneys. During the prosecution's closing argument, Grady told Ambrose to stop "wagging his head" back and forth. When his attorney gave his closing arguments, Ambrose wept silently when his father, Thomas, was mentioned - a former Chicago police officer who was convicted in the famous "Marquette 10" police corruption trial in 1982 and imprisoned. The man to whom Ambrose allegedly leaked the critical information was a former Chicago cop who was convicted with Ambrose's father.

One of the Chicago mob's more colorful figures, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, was "smitten" with Ambrose's mother, who would visit her husband at a federal prison that also housed Lombardo, an FBI agent testified during the trial. He said she used to go to the prison in Milan, Mich., with the wife of Frank DeRango, a fellow "Marquette 10" defendant who was Thomas Ambrose's police partner and was incarcerated with him there. After Ambrose died in prison, his wife continued to travel with Mrs. DeRango, and one day Lombardo insisted on taking a photo with her, the agent said.

Thanks to Lauren Fitzpatrick

Video of U.S. Marshal Convicted for Leaking Secrets to the Mafia

Video of U.S. Marshal convicted for leaking secrets to the mafia. John Ambrose leaked info about a witness to the mafia, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Juror Dismissed with the Flu, Prior to Guilty Verdict in Trial of U.S. Deputy Marshal

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose was convicted today on charges that he leaked secret government information that made its way to the mob.

A federal jury found Ambrose guilty of one count of theft of information and one count of illegal disclosure of information but found him innocent on two counts of lying to federal agents.

Ambrose wiped away tears after the verdict and embraced his wife. Ambrose, 42, is a decorated deputy marshal who has hunted down national and international fugitives. He was the second highest ranking member of a regional fugitive task force. The verdict delivers Ambrose a similar fate of that of his father, who was convicted in the 1980s with police corruption in a case known as the Marquette 10. The elder Ambrose died in prison.

Both Ambrose and his father had the same judge.

Ambrose was acquitted of charges that he lied to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI chief Rob Grant. His lawyer, Frank Lipuma, raised questions about why Grant and Fitzgerald didn’t record their interview with the deputy marshal. Several character witnesses testified on Ambrose's behalf at the trial, including U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras, who said he knew Ambrose to be truthful.

The jury deliberated tor three full days. One juror sick with the flu — though not swine flu — was excused this morning after U.S. District Judge John Grady said the panel should continue without her. Grady said case law supports a jury moving forward with one fewer person.

There were alternate jurors chosen in the case. But if an alternate is called back, the entire panel must start its deliberations from scratch.

Ambrose is accused of leaking information after he worked two brief stints with the federal witness protection program in 2002 and 2003, watching over mob witness Nick Calabrese. Ambrose is accused of committing a “criminal betrayal of trust” by leaking highly secretive information about Calabrese’s cooperation and activities, prosecutors have said in the case.

The leaked information made its way to members of the Chicago Outfit at a time mobsters were looking for solid confirmation that Calabrese was cooperating so they could “act,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk said early in the trial.

Ambrose is charged with leaking sensitive government information about Calabrese and then lying to FBI chief Robert Grant and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald when they questioned him. Both Grant and Fitzgerald testified against him.

Ambrose's lawyer, Frank Lipuma, said his client is a hard-working, good, honest man who made "a big mistake in his job ... but it was not with criminal intent." Lipuma admitted that Ambrose had discussions with a man he looked to as a father figure, William Guide, about Calabrese. Guide had done prison time with Ambrose's late father, who went to prison as part of the “Marquette 10” police corruption case. Ambrose’s father died in prison.

“John got caught up in this because he was boasting about what he was doing,” Lipuma said.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Guilty Verdict Against U.S. Deputy Marshal John Ambrose at Mob Leak Trial

A deputy U.S. marshal has been convicted in Chicago of leaking secret information to the mob about a protected witness in a federal organized crime investigation.

Deputy marshal John T. Ambrose stared straight ahead as jurors returned the verdict Tuesday following almost three days of deliberation.

Prosecutors say it was the first time in the 39-year history of the government's witness security program that its secrecy was deliberately violated.

Prosecutors say they realized there was a leak when two mobsters were overheard in a prison visiting room talking about having a "mole" inside federal law enforcement.

The 42-year-old Ambrose was acquitted of two charges of lying to federal agents.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Break for U.S. Marshal Trial Jury

Jurors will resume deliberations next week in the trial of a deputy U.S. marshal accused of leaking information about a witness to the mob.

The jury in John Ambrose's trial deliberated nearly seven hours before adjourning Friday afternoon. Deliberations will begin again Monday.

Ambrose, a veteran fugitive hunter, is accused of leaking confidential information about Nicholas Calabrese, whom he had been assigned to guard while the mobster was in Chicago talking to federal prosecutors in the "Family Secrets" mob trial. Ambrose denies he ever broke the law in handling secret information.

Ambrose is the only person in the 39-year history of the government's Witness Security Program to be accused of deliberately violating its security safeguards.

Thanks to AP

US Marshal's Office and FBI's Relationship is Icy at Mob Leak Trial

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose sat in federal court on Thursday to hear lawyers portray him two ways:

An honorable screw-up hoping to impress an Outfit-friendly father figure, or a criminal conduit to reputed Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Either way the jury decides, the relationship between the U.S. marshal's office and the FBI is at best icy these days, though they won't formally admit it. But you could see the two tribes in the gallery in U.S. District Judge John Grady's courtroom, sitting stiffly as if in church at a wedding, the in-laws glaring, already at war.

The marshals in their street clothes, shoulders hunched, not happy, sitting behind their man Ambrose. The FBI agents and prosecutors impassive, across the aisle, sitting behind their team.

The cause of the deep freeze? Ambrose himself.

Ambrose has been charged with leaking extremely sensitive information to the mob about the most important federal witness in Chicago's history -- turncoat Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese. And with lying about it to federal agents until he later confessed to the FBI about what he'd done. But according to his lawyer Frank Lipuma, all Ambrose really confessed to was screwing up, bragging to a family friend that he was protecting a major Outfit witness.

Ambrose's friend was William Guide, a former crooked cop with Outfit connections, who spent time in prison, convicted with Ambrose's father, Thomas, in the Marquette 10 police drug dealer shakedown scandal.

What Ambrose said about Calabrese ended up in recorded prison conversations beginning in January 2003 between Mickey Marcello and his Outfit boss brother Jimmy.

What also came out during the trial is that Ambrose apparently thought that by leaking a little information, he could win favor from the Outfit and use their street network as a source of information to find fugitives.

At least, that was his story as told to senior FBI agents Anita Stamat and Ted McNamara when they finally caught him in 2006.

The International Olympic Committee might not know this, so don't tell them, but Chicago has a history of law enforcement conduits to the mob. The job has been held by many -- a patrol officer in the evidence section, hit men in the Cook County Sheriff's office, even the chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department.

Since the time of Paul Ricca, the Outfit has had puppets, in politics, on the bench, in business and law enforcement. That's how it survives, while politically unsophisticated street gangs suffer legal troubles. And what was so unique about Ambrose is that he was a federal law enforcement officer guarding a federal witness.

"He screwed up ... shot his mouth off," said Lipuma, a former federal prosecutor himself, in a riveting closing argument, full of passion, trying to poke holes in the case. "John Ambrose admitted he broke policy. He broke procedure. It may have been a violation of policy. ... But he's an honest man."

Prosecutor Markus Funk was once the new guy on the federal organized crime team. But now he's the veteran, with the most significant convictions in Chicago history under his belt: Jimmy Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and others from the Family Secrets trial.

"This is straightforward theft," Funk told the jury. "The defense is throwing up these vast smoke screens to confuse you. He confessed. Not once, not twice, but three times. He shot his mouth off? There was no criminal intent? He admitted it. That's not a legal defense. That's a crime."

The defense also brought my column up again, the one of Feb. 21, 2003, that broke the story that Nick Calabrese had disappeared from prison and speculated (correctly) that he was in the witness protection program.

Lipuma said the column was the "linchpin" of the defense because after it ran, Calabrese's cooperation was common knowledge. But a month before the column was published, Jimmy and Mickey Marcello were already talking about Calabrese's federal "baby-sitter" funneling information to them.

If Ambrose were, say, a plumber, you might excuse him for screwing up and talking about a federal witness to an Outfit messenger boy.

A plumber might be excused, because a plumber wouldn't be expected to know about witness protection. But Ambrose is no plumber, is he?

He's a deputy U.S. marshal.

For now.

Thanks to John Kass

Deliberations Begin in Mob Leak Trial

As federal jurors began deliberating Thursday in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, one of many questions they faced was the value of a revealed secret.

In their final pitches of the nine-day trial, attorneys argued over whether Ambrose shared minimal information while bragging to a family friend or spilled sensitive details that might have crippled the Family Secrets mob investigation in its infancy.

Ambrose is charged with leaking details about the secret cooperation of hit man-turned-witness Nicholas Calabrese that ended up in the hands of the Chicago Outfit. Calabrese's crucial testimony in the 2007 Family Secrets trial resulted in murder convictions and life sentences for several Chicago mobsters.

In a series of FBI interviews in 2006, Ambrose admitted telling family friend William Guide about Calabrese's cooperation after twice working on his witness protection security detail in 2002 and 2003.

"Any release of information is critical. It puts people at risk," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Diane MacArthur. "A person doesn't know the world into which that information is being released. There's no way to judge its impact and what harm it may cause."

But Ambrose's attorney, Francis Lipuma, argued Thursday to the jury that his client had no criminal intent in telling Guide about "the big OC guy" he was guarding and had merely "shot his mouth off" to impress a man he looked up to as a father figure. "Police officers are humans like the rest of us," Lipuma said. "They make mistakes."

Criticizing the investigation as full of "major holes," Lipuma attacked the trial's highest-profile witnesses -- U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Grant -- for inconsistent testimony about Ambrose's initial, unrecorded FBI interview.

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pizza King Phone Call Highlights Testimony in U.S. Marshal Mob Witness Protection Program Trial

A 14-minute phone call by Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose to a pizza restaurant owned by a family friend with reputed organized-crime ties highlighted the final day of prosecution testimony at Ambrose's trial Tuesday.

FBI Special Agent Edward McNamara testified that phone records showed Ambrose placed a call to The Pizza King, a South Side restaurant owned by his friend William Guide, hours after his second secret detail protecting mob witness Nicholas Calabrese ended. But Ambrose told agents in two 2006 interviews that he didn't speak to Guide until he happened to bump into him weeks after that detail ended, McNamara said.

Ambrose is accused of leaking Calabrese's secret cooperation early in the Family Secrets investigation to Guide, knowing organized crime would learn the details.

McNamara testified that Ambrose admitted telling Guide about Calabrese's visits to Chicago in the hope that Guide would help him track organized-crime fugitives in the future.

At a 2002 wrestling meet, Ambrose told agents, he "boasted" to Guide about protecting a prominent organized-crime witness, McNamara testified. On the second occasion, he told Guide that investigators had driven Calabrese to sites of several decades-old mob slayings.

The first two defense witnesses, Ambrose's colleagues in the Marshals Service, said they had used The Pizza King as a "staging area" for operations while Ambrose served on the fugitive warrant unit. Both praised Ambrose's honesty. "I would trust my life with him," said Supervisory Deputy Marshal Matt Block.

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top FBI Agent in Chicago Testifies that U.S. Marshal Admited He "Made a Huge Mistake"

Chicago's top FBI agent testified today that a deputy U.S. marshal accused of leaking secrets to the mob admitted to federal lawmen that he "made a huge mistake."

Robert Grant is the special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office. He testified in the trial of John T. Ambrose, who's on unpaid leave.

Grant says that Ambrose made the admissions in an emotional confrontation.

He says Ambrose initially denied the allegations, then decided he wanted to cooperate and admitted he was friends with people he shouldn't have been.

The 42-year-old Ambrose is charged with leaking information about a key witness in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation - the biggest Chicago mob case in years.

The trial is now going into its second week.

Thanks to WBBM 780

Monday, April 20, 2009

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitgerald Testifes at Trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitgerald Testifes at Trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrosetestified today that the carotid artery in Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose’s neck was pulsating with stress when he was told in 2006 that he was suspected of leaking sensitive information to the mob.

Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, director of the FBI’s Chicago office, confronted Ambrose after getting him to come to the FBI’s office on a ruse.

They told Ambrose they were trying to catch a fugitive terrorist and needed his help. But their actual plan was to let him know he was a suspected leaker, show how seriously they took the security breach in the Witness Security Program and then have Ambrose speak to FBI agents.

"I understood this was the first compromise of the witness protection program," Fitzgerald testified in Ambrose’s trial on charges of leaking information from mob informant Nicholas Calabrese’s secret files.

The files were kept in a safe location where Calabrese was being held in 2002 and 2003 to provide information about mob murders. Ambrose guarded Calabrese on those occasions.

Fitzgerald said he and Grant asked Ambrose to meet them at the FBI headquarters near Roosevelt and Damen to get him away from the federal building downtown. They knew the FBI would ask him to surrender his gun and cell phone when he entered the building. They were concerned what his reaction might be to the investigation — since his own father was convicted in federal court in the 1980s in the Marquette 10 police corruption scandal, Fitzgerald said.

Sitting in a large conference room, Fitzgerald recalled Grant telling Ambrose that his fingerprints were on a secret Calabrese witness file.

"I remember he was very stressed," Fitzgerald said. "The carotid artery on his neck was throbbing."

Initially, Ambrose told Fitzgerald and Grant that he did not know what they were talking about.

Later, he said he would never sell out his badge — and did not take any money. But he did tell them he spoke about his witness security details with a family friend, William Guide, who also went to prison in the Marquette 10 scandal with Ambrose’s late father, according to Fitzgerald.

After Calabrese had visited the Chicago area in 2002 while under witness protection, Ambrose called Guide and told him, "I was working with a witness who was in the Outfit at a very interesting time," Fitzgerald testified.

Ambrose recalled that Guide answered, "Is there anything I need to know?" Fitzgerald testified.

Fitzgerald said Ambrose thought Guide wanted to know if Calabrese was giving up any information on reputed mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Ambrose recalled telling Guide he did not know, Fitzgerald testified.

Ambrose then told Fitzgerald and Grant that he had spoken to Guide again after Calabrese’s second visit to Chicago in 2003 when he was taken around the Chicago area to point out crime scenes. Among those places was a parking lot near Sox Park where Calabrese said bodies were buried by the mob.

Ambrose allegedly admitted that he told Guide he took Calabrese to Sox Park — even though Ambrose did not handle that part of Calabrese’s security detail, Fitzgerald said.

Afterward, Ambrose said: "I broke all the rules... but I had no criminal intent," Fitzgerald said.

He also said, "I f----- up I shot my mouth off, but not like you think," Fitzgerald testified.

After the confrontation with Fitzgerald and Grant, Ambrose asked to meet with an uncle who works security for the federal courthouse downtown, as well as two top marshals officials.

He was allowed to speak to those three men. Then Fitzgerald left Ambrose at the FBI building and went back to the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago.

Fitzgerald said he sat in the spectators’ section of a courtroom where Gov. George Ryan was being sentenced in his corruption case. As he watched the sentencing, Fitzgerald took down the notes from his interview with Ambrose, he said.

Thanks to Frank Main

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Not the Hollywood Mob, It's the Chicago Outfit

In the mobster movies, a car pulls up and heavy men in hard shoes get out. And in the quiet suburban house, the wiseguy turned government witness stands foolishly in his new kitchen, oblivious in his bathrobe, scratching, boorishly guzzling milk from the carton.

The guns come up. The milk spills. The feds lose another witness.

Happily, it didn't happen in real life to Nicholas Calabrese, the Chicago Outfit hit man turned star government witness in the Family Secrets trial that sent mob bosses, soldiers, even a corrupt cop to prison. Calabrese is very much alive. Yet in federal court this week, the story of Outfit penetration of witness security is playing out in the case of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, accused of leaking sensitive information about Calabrese—including his movements—to Chicago's mob.

It's a difficult case to prove, since U.S. District Judge John Grady tossed out key evidence on Thursday. He invited an appeal by telling the jury "I made a mistake" in allowing secret prison tapes to be played linking Ambrose's late father, a Chicago cop convicted in the Marquette 10 police drug scandal, with other crooked cops connected to the Outfit.

Whether Ambrose is found guilty or not, it's obvious that imprisoned Outfit boss Jimmy Marcello and his sleepy brother Michael—who testified in a rumpled orange jumpsuit Thursday—believed they'd cracked the security around Calabrese.

The Marcellos knew of Calabrese being driven around town to murder locations where he briefed the FBI on unsolved hits that formed the basis of Family Secrets, which sent Jimmy and others to prison for life. They knew Calabrese called his wife from a phone dialed as Ambrose guarded Calabrese.

The Marcello brothers knew all about it in January 2003, weeks before I revealed in a Feb. 21, 2003, column that Calabrese was talking to the FBI about a series of unsolved homicides—including the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro—and that his federal prison records had disappeared.

Though I'm flattered the Marcellos are loyal readers, and that Ambrose's defense would try to use my column to argue that the leak could have come from just about anywhere, Mickey Marcello testified Thursday that he knew about Calabrese because a law-enforcement source was spilling.

According to Marcello, a fat reputed Chicago mobster, Johnny "Pudgy" Matassa Jr., would tell him what the source learned. Then Marcello would drive to federal prison to tell Jimmy. Then, unbeknownst to the Marcello brothers, the FBI would tape what they said.

"John says his source was giving him a list of names," the balding Mickey testified. "... I had John. He had who he had, who I presumed was a law-enforcement officer."

Matassa and Marcello would meet, but not over checkered tablecloths, candles stuck in bottles of Chianti.

"One time it was Dunkin' Donuts, various restaurants, places like that," Marcello said.

He said Matassa told him about others Nick Calabrese was helping the FBI to investigate, including the boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo—implicated but not charged in the sensational Spilotro murders. And about Anthony "The Trucker" Zizzo, who later disappeared from a Melrose Park restaurant lot and has never been found.

Mickey Marcello, a font of information, developed a severe case of Fedzheimers when asked about Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, and those two brothers from Bridgeport, Bruno and Frank "Toots" Caruso. Andriacci and the Carusos were not charged.

"Andriacci. 'The Builder,' " said Ambrose lawyer Frank Lipuma during cross-examination. "Is he a mob boss?"

"I don't know," Marcello deadpanned.

"Are you aware of the Carusos who run Chinatown/Bridgeport?" Lipuma asked.

"No," Marcello said. "I'm not aware of that."

"Aren't they associated with organized crime?"

"They know a lot of people," sighed Marcello. "I guess you could say that. That they know a lot of people."

So do the Marcello brothers. They knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Nick Calabrese was taking the FBI to places where murders were committed.

That's not Hollywood.

It's Chicago.

Thanks to John Kass

Mob's Secret Language Revealed

Rub your stomach? That's code for John Matassa, also known as "Pudge" for his love of the sweets.

Brush your nose? Must be talking about boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Rubbing fingers together denotes hush money paid out to a moulieri, or wife.

For the benefit of a federal jury hearing the case against accused turncoat federal agent, Michael "Mickey" Marcello on Thursday deciphered the gestures and phrases he and his brother used to discuss mafia business while behind bars.

Marcello told jurors the information he discussed with his brother, Outfit street crew leader Jimmy Marcello, in a Michigan prison came from "the baby sitter," the guy whose father died behind bars and who dialed phone numbers for a wanted hit man-turned-witness in protective custody. But Mickey Marcello, reluctantly testifying Thursday in his prison-issue orange togs and laceless shoes, said he never knew the source's real name or how he got access to the secrets.

Prosecutors fingered deputy U.S. marshal John T. Ambrose as the man who leaked word to the mafia about Nick Calabrese, the protected witness Ambrose guarded.

The FBI got smart to the leaks in 2003 when they caught the Marcellos on tape talking about Calabrese's covert cooperation with federal investigators. But the brothers talked in code and used a slew of gestures to disguise their conversations about criminal Outfit business. And they almost never named names.

One tape in particular was played twice for jurors Thursday before U.S. District Judge John Grady then decided to strike it from the record. On it, Jimmy asked where the news of Calabrese's cooperation came from.

"The guy who is giving it to you?" James asked.

"The guy who is his babysitter," Michael responded.

"Oh yeah?"

"Baby sitter guy. Same guy."

"Same guy that was at the other place with him?"

"(Nods affirmatively) Same guy that took him the first time."

Baby sitter guy, Marcello said, is a law enforcement source whose father was part of the "Marquette 10" police corruption case and since has died, which describes Ambrose's father.

Marcello, 58, pleaded guilty in 2007 to racketeering charges in the Family Secrets mafia case and is now serving his sentence. Thursday the judge had to constantly remind Marcello to sit up and speak into the microphone.

Marcello's answers came in short bursts, rarely in full sentences, as if he never got over a lifetime of communicating in code to foil eavesdropping investigators and evade wiretaps. Granted immunity by Judge Grady, Marcello didn't balk at any of the questions, but punctuated his answers with lots of "whatever you call it, I don't know."

Mickey Marcello's source was John Matassa, who Marcello said was still separated by several sources from the leaker.

"But you didn't know the information was coming from the marshal's office, right?" defense attorney Frank C. Lipuma asked.

"Right," Marcello said.

"There's no indication you know where Matassa got the information from, right?"

"Right."

Thanks to Lauren Fitzpatrick

Witness Testifies Behind Large Screen to Protect His Identity at Deputy US Marshal Trial

A witness in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose was heard, but not seen, by courtroom observers as he testified from behind a large screen erected to protect his identity.

The witness, identified only as Inspector 1, is an officer of the U.S. Marshals Witness Security Program, and was in charge of a security detail when mobster Nicholas Calabrese came to Chicago on two occasions in 2002 and 2003 to cooperate with a federal investigation.

Proceedings took place behind an eight-foot-high gray wall that was erected this morning along the front row of the courtroom's gallery. About 15 spectators, including two disappointed courtroom sketch artists, stared at one side of the wall while listening to questioning about security procedures in place during Calabrese's two visits.

Ambrose, 41, was assigned to those security details and is on trial on charges he leaked information about Calabrese's cooperation to a family friend who allegedly passed the sensitive details on to organized-crime figures.

Prosecutors in the case successfully argued in pre-trial hearings last week that the identities of personnel from the Witness Security Program should be protected as they testify in court. Attorneys for Ambrose opposed the measures, saying that the presence of unusual security precautions would "sensationalize" the trial. But U.S. District Judge John Grady ruled that there were valid reasons to keep the identities of Witness Security Program personnel secret and ruled that a wall should separate courtroom observers seated in the gallery from the judge, jury, attorneys and witness. More hidden witnesses are expected to testify this afternoon from behind the screen.

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Mickey Marcello is Reluctant Witness in Deputy US Marshal John Ambrose Trial

FBI recordings caught brothers James and Michael Marcello anxiously discussing information in 2003 that their Chicago Outfit associate Nicholas Calabrese might testify against them and others.

On Thursday, Michael "Mickey" Marcello was on the witness stand in Chicago's federal courthouse, reluctantly reliving those undercover recordings in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose.

Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and thick glasses, Marcello, 58, squinted at transcripts of several recorded conversations with his brother and deciphered the vague codes and signals they used to furtively discuss Calabrese's enrollment in the witness protection program.

Marcello testified that he learned of Calabrese's cooperation with law enforcement from reputed mob figure John "Pudgy" Matassa Jr.

Ambrose is on trial on charges that while twice guarding Calabrese, he leaked Calabrese's cooperation to a family friend with alleged mob links, knowing the sensitive information would end up in the Outfit's hands.

Marcello denied directly knowing Ambrose or knowing that Ambrose was allegedly the source to the mob of Calabrese's cooperation.

When asked who he was referring to on one undercover recording when he identified the source as Calabrese's "baby-sitter," Marcello said, "The guy that watches him."

Marcello testified that Matassa indicated that the original source was in law enforcement. But Matassa said he himself was receiving information from another man named "Billy," Marcello said.

Marcello said that he presumed that referred to William Guide, a former Chicago police officer convicted in the Marquette 10 police corruption trial in the 1980s. Guide was a close friend of Ambrose's father, Thomas, who was also convicted in that prosecution and died in prison. But a key 2003 video recording in which the Marcello brothers discuss the source's ties to the Marquette 10 defendants, the initial clue that led authorities to investigate Ambrose, was belatedly removed from evidence Thursday by U.S. District Judge John Grady.

Grady reversed his earlier decision to allow the videotape as evidence even though the jury had already viewed it twice during the trial. "I apologize for making a mistake," said Grady, ordering the jury to ignore that particular videotape and hand in transcripts of that tape.

Prosecutors have argued that Ambrose leaked details of Calabrese's cooperation to Guide with the knowledge that it would reach organized-crime figures. Ambrose's attorneys have admitted that Ambrose talked to Guide about protecting Calabrese but contend he had no criminal intent.

Marcello, serving an 8 1/2-year sentence on racketeering and conspiracy convictions, spent more than five hours on the stand, responding to most questions with clipped, one-word answers. When questioned about his own organized-crime ties or the rank or status of other Outfit figures, including his brother James, he became visibly uncomfortable, stammering answers and pleading ignorance.

Outside the courtroom, Marcello's lawyer, Catharine O'Daniel, said that her client had testified only because he was granted immunity and threatened with an additional sentence for contempt if he did not appear. "He is not here willingly," O'Daniel said. "He's as willing as I am whenever I go to get a root canal."

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene Named as Original Operation Family Secrets Targets

Reigning Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo was an original target of the Family Secrets investigation, according to these 2002 Justice Department records released on Tuesday, along with Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene, the Outfit's elder statesman.

"The objective in the case is to indict and convict...high ranking members of Chicago organized crime...including DiFronzo...and Tornabene," stated the government. But despite a case summary naming them as targets, neither DiFronzo nor Tornabene were among the fourteen Outfit members charged in 2005 with murders and mayhem.

As of 2007, Tornabene was still meeting with suspected Outfit figures and as of last month, the I-Team found DiFronzo still controlling Outfit rackets and meeting with mob underlings at a suburban restaurant.

The U.S. Marshal service files were made public on Tuesday night in the case of Deputy John Ambrose, now on trial for leaking information to the mob about Nick Calabrese, the highest ranking Chicago mobster ever to become a government witness.

According to the witness protection records, Calabrese said he and John DiFronzo planned and committed the most notorious mob hit in last 25 years: the gangland murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro, found buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Nick Calabrese's testimony was to be so spectacular, that 24 men were listed by the feds as threats, all of whom would want to kill him.

Nick Calabrese lived to testify and federal prosecutors won the Family Secrets case. But as the records show, there are still some secrets left.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

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