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

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

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Deputy U.S. Marshal Trial to Begin on Monday

Once known as a tireless bloodhound who tracked down fugitive gang leaders, deputy U.S. marshal John T. Ambrose now faces years behind bars if he is convicted of betraying his oath and leaking secrets to the mob.

Ambrose, 40, is due to go on trial Monday for tipping off organized crime figures seven years ago that a so-called made member of the Chicago mob had switched sides and was now providing detailed information to federal prosecutors. Ambrose denies he ever broke the law in handling secret information.

"The feds are guaranteed to see this as the worst sort of treacheryThe Chicago Outfit," says mob expert John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit." ''I don't think I'm overblowing it. They're going to see him the way the military sees a Benedict Arnold."

U.S. District Judge John F. Grady has ordered extraordinary security including screens in the courtroom to conceal the faces of key witnesses from spectators.

Inspectors in the government's supersecret Witness Security Program operated by the U.S. Marshal's Service will testify behind the screens and also use pseudonyms.

The idea is to prevent anyone from identifying the inspectors, whose job it is to guard heavily protected witnesses from mob assassins, terrorists or others who might want to silence them.

Ambrose defense attorney Francis C. Lipuma objected to the screens and testimony under false names. "This is going to sensationalize the trial," Lipuma told a recent hearing.

Ambrose is accused of leaking information to the mob about an admitted former hit man, Nicholas Calabrese, who was the government's star witness at the landmark 2007 Family Secrets trial that targeted top members of the Chicago mob.

As a trusted federal lawman, Ambrose was assigned to guard Calabrese on two occasions when witness security officials lodged him at "safe sites" in Chicago for questioning by prosecutors.

Ambrose is charged with stealing information out of the Witness Security Program file and passing it to a go-between believing it would go to reputed mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

He's accused of leaking information about the progress of the investigation -- nothing about the whereabouts of the closely guarded witness. But prosecutors say it still could have put Calabrese in jeopardy, and Grady seemed to agree when the issue came up at a hearing last week.

"Anyone who has even occasionally read a Chicago newspaper in the last 20 years knows what the potential consequences of testifying against the so-called Mafia are," the judge told attorneys.

The Family Secrets trial was Chicago's biggest mob trial in years. Three of the top names in the mob including Calabrese's brother, Frank, were sentenced to life in prison and two other men received long terms behind bars.

Nicholas Calabrese admitted he was involved in the murders of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother, Michael. Tony Spilotro was the model for the Joe Pesci character in the movie "Casino."

Nicholas Calabrese also said one of the Family Secrets defendants, reputed mob boss James Marcello, was among those in a suburban basement the night the Spilotro brothers were strangled.

Calabrese agreed to cooperate in the Family Secrets investigation in 2002 after a bloody glove recovered by police yielded DNA evidence placing him at a murder scene. Rather than risk capital punishment, Calabrese agreed to become a witness. He was placed in the Witness Security Program.

Ambrose was charged with stealing and leaking the contents of Calabrese's file after federal agents bugged the visitors room at the federal prison in Milan, Mich.

James Marcello was an inmate there and was visited by his brother, Michael Marcello, the operator of a video gaming company who eventually was charged in the case and pleaded guilty to racketeering.

Authorities overheard the Marcello brothers discussing a mole they had within federal law enforcement who was providing security for Calabrese. They called him "the babysitter." They said he was also providing information on the investigation.

Agents quickly narrowed the suspects to Ambrose when one of the Marcellos said "the babysitter" was the son of a Chicago policeman who went to prison decades ago as a member of the Marquette 10 -- officers convicted of shaking down drug dealers.

Ambrose's fingerprint was later found on the file.

Thanks to AP

Friday, April 10, 2009

John Ambrose - The Mob's Babysitter?

Top Chicago Outfit bosses described a deputy wiith the U.S. Marshal service as the "Mob's Babysitter."

The deputy goes to trial next week on charges that he provided sensitive witness information to the Outfit.

When the court bailiff announces "United States versus John Thomas Ambrose" on Monday in a Chicago courtroom, history will be made. It will be the only time since George Washington swore in the first U.S. Marshals that a deputy has ever been charged with leaking inside information to a criminal organization.

When Chicago Deputy Marshal John Ambrose broke down doors for the Great Lakes fugitive squad, it was seen across the country during a CNN special report. But it was what Ambrose was doing behind closed doors, away from the cameras, that authorities say makes him a criminal.

According to federal charges that Ambrose will face beginning Monday, he leaked information about mob investigations.

"The breach could have put at risk the life of one of the most important witnesses ever developed in Chicago against the Chicago Outfit. It could have put at risk US Marshals, and family members of that witness," said Robert Grant, FBI agent in charge.

That witness was Nick Calabrese, mob hitman extraordinare. In 2002, Calabrese began secretly cooperating with the FBI in an investigation called Family Secrets.

One of the primary duties of the U.S. Marshal service is to protect government witnesses. The ultra secret, cloak and dagger style witness security program, or WITSEC as it's known, has protected 17,000 people since 1970 and officials claim not one has ever been harmed.

Calabrese was a protected witness. Deputy John Ambrose was assigned to protect him.

According to federal records, as a supervisor, Ambrose had access to confidential case information, including details of Calabrese's cooperation, where he would he housed, and when he would be moved.

It was during secretly recorded prison conversations between Chicago mob bosses that federal agents knew there was a leak.

The discussions between Outfit leader Jimmy Marcello and his brother Michael were in code. But on numerous occasions when they talked about "the babysitter," feds say that was their code name for Ambrose who was babysitting Nick Calabrese and allegedly leaking inside information to the mob through an Outfit connected family friend.

"No system is perfect. And much of what we do depends on trust and confidence and honor," said Gary Shapiro, first assistant U.S. attorney.

Federal authorities said they were shaken by what they said they found and Ambrose was called in and question by his superiors on several occasions. He denied having contacts with mob lieutenants John "Pudgy" Matassa and or with "Little Tony" Rizzo who had recently gone missing and has never turned up.

Records reveal Ambrose told investigators several conflicting stories including one that he leaked outfit information to curry favor with Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo but only for the purpose, he said, of helping to locate federal fugitives in the future.

"John Ambrose is not connected to the mob at all...it rests on impressions and opinions of an FBI agent," said Frank Lipuma, Ambrose' lawyer.

Ambrose lives in south suburban Tinley Park. He has never publicly spoken about this case. In a 2005 TV interview, Ambrose did discuss how his father motivates him to be a federal lawman. "As corny as it may sound, I feel like he's (my dad) nudging me in a direction or opens my eyes to something," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Ambrose.

Ambrose' father, Thomas, was a Chicago police officer, highly decorated and respected until he was snared in the notorious Marquette Ten police corruption scandal in the 1980's.

Another one of the Marquette ten was William Guidie, John Ambrose' family friend, the one to whom he allegedly passed inside information.

Nothing happened as a result of the breach and Calabrese went onto help convict the top bosses.

Federal judge John Grady said that 40-year-old Ambrose isn't charged with being a member of the Outfit, of murdering anybody or being involved in the Family Secrets Trial and that he is concerned about sensationalizing the proceedings.

That said, Judge Grady is allowing some witnesses in the Ambrose trial to testify from behind screens so no one will see their faces.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mob Mug Shot Collection Exceeds 10,000 Photos

When mobster Lucky Luciano was being photographed by New York City police in 1936, he probably had no idea his mug shot would one day be sought after like a Babe Ruth baseball card. But to collectors like John Binder of River Forest, that's a valuable piece of... art?

These unglamorous shots and lineup photos are being accepted as art with more than just collectors seeking them. Binder said when the photos were taken, there was some consideration of composition and lighting, and the pictures were developed on photographic paper before police departments started using Polaroids and later digital cameras. Thus, he said, the art world has become more accepting of these photos as art, and there have been exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York.

"The art world has expanded dramatically in the last few years," Binder said. "The early ones used much better photography."

Binder, author of The Chicago Outfit, has amassed more than 10,000 mug shots and lineup photos of a range of crooks, from everyday petty criminals to mob bosses. Some get displayed in galleries, some get sold or traded, some never leave his collection, which includes some of the most infamous organized crime figures in history: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegal, Sam Giancana, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti.

His interest in mug shots and lineup photos began in the 1990s, when he started researching who the other people were in a photograph of Al Capone. It led to more research into the world of organized crime in Chicago and New York, which led to him purchasing crime photos.

"It's just a general interest in history," he said. "The photographs are interesting in their own right."

He started his collection with the purchase of 10,000 photos from a collectibles dealer, who bought them from a retired police officer's family. Binder has added to the collection with one or two photos at a time from various sources. He has one of the biggest collections of its kind in the United States.

He admits it's an esoteric collection. It's not like someone can just walk into a shop and say, "I'm looking for a mug shot of a ruthless criminal."

Binder said collectors of crime photos rely on word of mouth and, if they're lucky, someone will let them dig through their old photos. Sometimes police departments will have stored old mug shots and lineup photos, and put them up for sale on Ebay.

Binder sold an original 1927 Bugsy Siegal mug shot for well over $1,000, and has sold several photos of lesser-known criminals to cops and attorneys who want to use them to decorate their bars or offices.

"There is a price for most of what I have," he said. "But, some of the good stuff I keep for my own private collection."

But, he doesn't have everybody.

Wanted: An original Al Capone mug shot.

Thanks to J.T. Morand

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is John DiFronzo Now the Undisputed Boss of the Chicago Mob

With last month's life sentences for several top hoodlums, Outfit investigators say John DiFronzo is now the undisputed boss of the Chicago mob.

He's been called "No Nose" ever since part of his nose was sliced off while jumping through a window during a Michigan Avenue burglary.

After the I-Team was told by numerous organized crime sources that John "No Nose" DiFronzo holds a regular luncheon meeting at a west suburban restaurant, we took a look for ourselves. (Video of the meeting.)

A train whistle signals the approach of noon in west suburban River Grove. Also like clockwork on this Friday is the arrival of John DiFronzo to the Loon Cafe.

The 80-year-old convicted mob boss has driven his shiny new pickup truck a few blocks from the Grand Avenue home where he has lived for years.

He is the first one at the restaurant for "Lunch with No Nose."

"Mr. Difronzo's been there on a regular basisThe Chicago Outfit. The earlier story was that he was in there like clockwork every Tuesday night. It was his local watering hole just like a lot of guys in Chicago have their local wateringhole. Rumor has it that he's in there a bit more frequently these days," said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America)."

His nose long since re-cast from the old days and more likely to be called "Johnny Bananas" to his face, DiFronzo is the first to arrive.

His brother Peter shows up next. The owner of a suburban waste-hauling firm, Peter DiFronzo is a convicted warehouse thief who did time at Leavenworth. Mob investigators say, like his brother, Peter is a fully initiated "made" member of the Chicago Outfit and believed to be his brother's most trusted lieutenant and advisor.

Then comes Marco "the Mover" Damico, a one-time bricklayer and DiFronzo protoge. Damico is a convicted mob capo with a 50-year criminal history of gambling, racketeering and toug guy intimidation. "Marco at one time was running the Elmwood Park Street Crew. I wouldn't be surprised if they found him a higher stature position if one was available right after he got out," said Binder.

Next to arrive, another DiFronzo brother, Joe, a former juice loan boss, once convicted of running the nation's largest indoor marijuana farm.

Other DiFronzo chums walk in, until the table for nine is full, for what could be a command performance.

"Anybody in the Outfit would go when they're called. It's a very hierarchical organization. A lot of these guys would spit in the face of the devil walking through the doors of Hell," said Binder.

For decades the Chicago mob has been conducting business at restaurant dining tables. One of the most famous photos in Outfit history was snapped in 1976 and was later found by the FBI during a raid. It shows a group of mobsters at a table.

Except for Joey "the Clown" Lombardo who was just sentenced to life in prison, the crime syndicate leaders seen together in the photo are all dead.

But now, there is a new family photo, taken by the I-Team just last Friday as John "No Nose" DiFronzo dishes out pizza to the Outfit's upper crust.

After the two hour pizza and wine meeting, DiFronzo was first to leave.

GOUDIE: "John...
DIFRONZO: How ya doin' buddy?"
GOUDIE: "How was the meeting?
DIFRONZO: What meeting?
GOUDIE: The pizza lunch.
DIFRONZO: Oh, yeah. that was good. That was good."
GOUDIE: You come here a lot?
DIFRONZO: No, first time.
GOUDIE: Mr. Damico in there?
DIFRONZO: I have...I don't even know who he is.
GOUDIE: I thought I saw him going into your lunch.
DIFRONZO: No, I haven't seen him. He hasn't been around."


DiFronzo was not charged during the landmark Family Secrets trial in 2007 that took down major mob bosses and solved more than a dozen gangland murders. But key witness and hitman Nick Calabrese testified that DiFronzo had a hand in the grisly, 1986 murders of Las Vegas mob boss Anthony Spilotro and his brother Michael. During a sentencing hearing last month, Park Ridge dentist Dr. Pat Spilotro challenged the government to arrest DiFronzo for his part in killing of his brothers.

GOUDIE: "Pat Spilotro said he wanted to know why the government hadn't picked you up in connection with Family Secrets.
DIFRONZO: I, uh--don't know anything about it...sorry.'


"From the federal government's point of view, the jury believed Nick Calabrese, they believed everything he said. The government convicted everybody. One of the things Nick Calabrese said was that John Difronzo was one of the guys beating on the Spilotros. He's the one guy left still alive who was identified by Nick Calabrese who hasn't been indicted and tried," said Binder.

GOUDIE: Are you concerned that you may end up in Family Secrets two?
DIFRONZO: I'm not concerned at all...bye bye...nice talkin' to you."


The pleasantries may soon be finished for John DiFronzo.

In two weeks mob informant Nick Calabrese is scheduled to be sentenced . But Calabrese' work as a government witness will probably not end. His next appearance could come against the man they call "No Nose."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rosemont Mayor to Return Campaign Contribution from Alleged Mob-Linked Company

The mayor of Rosemont, whose suburb is among three finalists vying to land a casino, is returning a campaign contribution from an alleged mob-linked company after an inquiry by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association.

The company, D&P Construction, gave $400 in November 2007 to the Regular Republican Voters League of Leyden Township, which is headed by Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens. In 2001, the Illinois Gaming Board said the company was tied to "individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime."

Stephens said the Leyden Republican group's treasurer mistakenly deposited D&P's check, which was among hundreds of checks to come in after a fundraiser. "She was almost in tears when I questioned her, 'How did this get through the cracks?' " Stephens said.

The contribution - along with others examined as part of a Sun-Times/BGA analysis - is prompting new questions about an old subject - whether Rosemont is a suitable home for the state's last-available casino license.

In 2004, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan documented ties between Bradley Stephens' father, then-Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens, and persons connected to reputed mobsters.

D&P's owner, Josephine DiFronzo, did not respond to requests for comment. The company was a focus of a gaming board disciplinary case that stopped Emerald Casino from building a floating gambling barge in Rosemont in 2001. The board eventually revoked Emerald's gaming license, setting the stage for it to be re-bid this year.

Last week, the Chicago Crime Commission encouraged the state board to remove Rosemont from the casino race. "In our view, the inability of the Illinois Gaming Board to address the concerns about alleged mob ties is enough to disqualify their application," said J.R. Davis, the commission's president.

The gaming board's five members plan to award the license to one of three bidders by year's end. Trilliant Gaming, which wants to build in Rosemont, is widely seen as the leading contender. Its $435 million bid is more than double what others are offering to put the casino in Waukegan or Des Plaines.

Jim Wagner, formerly a top FBI mob investigator and gaming board investigations chief, said the $400 from D&P to the Stephens-run political group raises new concerns about Rosemont. "D&P is, to me, a company that has been so often in the news that there should be every attempt to disassociate themselves from that company," said Wagner, who recently stepped down as head of the Chicago Crime Commission. "The problems that are in Rosemont should be enough to disqualify putting the casino in that environment."

Stephens, who became mayor after his father's death last year, said any mob taint to his community is a thing of the past. And he scoffed at the idea he'd risk a lucrative casino project for a $400 political contribution.

He also said he has adopted his father's policy of rejecting campaign contributions from anyone whose integrity has been questioned by the gaming board.

"To keep throwing this stuff up is ridiculous," Stephens said.

The Sun-Times and the BGA examined campaign contributions from people and companies involved in the state board's disciplinary complaint against Emerald. In that March 2001 document, the gaming board said: "The owner of D&P, Josephine DiFronzo, is married to Peter DiFronzo and is the sister-in-law of John DiFronzo, individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime. Emerald's failure to exercise appropriate supervision resulted in work being performed at the site by D&P."

D&P also had done waste-hauling work in Rosemont, but Donald Stephens severed ties with the company after the gaming board's case was made public. The late mayor also donated to charity thousands of dollars in campaign cash he'd received from the company.

Besides its 2007 contribution to to the Regular Republican Voters League of Leyden Township, D&P gave $1,350 to the Rosemont Voters League on Jan. 17, 2000 and another $1,150 on Jan. 19, 2001.

The Voters League has supported the campaigns of several Rosemont village trustees, including Bradley Stephens before he became mayor, park district commissioners and school board members. Rosemont officials said they believe the organization gave the D&P contributions to charity but don't have records to show that.

D&P's contribution troubles Jay Stewart, the BGA's executive director. "Maybe Mayor Stephens' pledge to not take money from D&P is as sincere as the day is long," Stewart said. "But if this got through the cracks, what else might?"

Thanks to Chris Fusco

Friday, March 07, 2008

Did US Marshall Put Flipped Mobster at Risk?

In a brief but loud confrontation, the top FBI agent in Chicago, Robert Grant, underscored the deadly potential of a deputy U.S. marshal leaking information to the Chicago mob about a star government witness, as Grant verbally battled with the deputy marshal's attorney during a court hearing on Monday.

"This leak put at risk the most important witness in the Family Secrets case. It put at risk the agents guarding him. It put at risk his wife," Grant said, during questioning by Francis C. Lipuma, the lawyer for U.S. Deputy Marshal John Ambrose. "This leak was no small leak."

Ambrose is accused of leaking information about mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese, the star witness in the Family Secrets trial, which ended in September with the convictions of five defendants, including Calabrese's brother, mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr.

Chicago mobsters "protect their own because it's assumed they won't cooperate. Once that cooperation becomes known, it's fair game," Grant said.

A federal judge is holding a hearing to determine what statements by Ambrose, if any, should be allowed at his trial.

Ambrose contends when he was lured to FBI offices in September 2006 on a ruse, he was in custody but not initially read his Miranda rights.

Both Grant and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who paired up to talk with Ambrose initially, testified at the hearing that they told Ambrose he wasn't under arrest.

Ambrose's name came to light during secret FBI recordings of Chicago mob boss James Marcello while in prison.

Grant said that Ambrose admitted he knew two of his friends had connections to mob bosses Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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Monday, December 03, 2007

No More Snow Plowing at UIC for Alleged Mob Firm

A reputed mob-controlled company no longer holds a snow-removal contract at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

UIC officials say D&P Construction declined to bid for the contract -- after revelations surfaced during the "Family Secrets" mob trial last summer that reputed mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo took part in a double murder.

D&P, which has had numerous snow-removal contracts with UIC since 1998, on paper is run by Josephine DiFronzo -- the sister-in-law of John DiFronzo and the wife of Peter DiFronzo, who is purportedly a chief lieutenant to his brother John in mob affairs.

Authorities have said the two DiFronzo brothers really control the firm.

The new contract was awarded to a small minority-run company called Total Property Management and Engineering Services in September, according to UIC records.

D&P "did not submit a bid," said UIC spokesman Mark Rosati.

Rosati said university officials did not ask D&P to give up its contract.

Doing so would be illegal, he said.

When asked whether UIC officials were pleased that D&P and its alleged mob ties decided to move on, he declined comment.

Josephine DiFronzo did not return calls.

Although the school never witnessed nefarious tactics, an internal 2003 FBI memo alleged that D&P "obtained contracts through illegal payoffs or intimidation."

D&P made headlines in 2001 after the Illinois Gaming Board criticized the company for hauling trash from the site of what was intended to be a Rosemont casino.

From 2003 to 2005, D&P made nearly $500,000 for snow removal at the university.

Thanks to Leonard N. Fleming

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Smaller Christmas Tree for Chicago Outfit

While under investigation in 2001, mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr. was captured on tape predicting what the Chicago Outfit's future might look like, describing the crime syndicate in coded language as, of all things, a Christmas tree.

"It's gonna be a smaller Christmas tree that's gonna have the loyalty that once was there," Calabrese, then in prison for loan-sharking, said on the undercover recording. "And the, the big Christmas tree ... it'll never hold up. It's gonna fall. Watch it," he said.

Thanks in part to Calabrese's own recorded words, the Christmas tree tumbled last week as the Family Secrets jury found three Outfit figures responsible for 10 of 18 gangland slayings. Earlier this month, the same jury convicted the three as well as two others on racketeering conspiracy charges.

As a result, Calabrese, 70, a feared hit man blamed by the jury for seven of the murders; James Marcello, 65, identified by the FBI in 2005 as the head of the Chicago Outfit; and legendary mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, 78, face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in prison. But as sweeping as the case was -- resolving some of the most notorious mob murders in modern Chicago history -- organized-crime experts say the Family Secrets prosecution won't derail an entrenched Outfit that dates to Al Capone.

After the trial Thursday, Robert Grant, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, said the Outfit remains a priority because of its propensity for violence and corruption. "They're much like a cancer," Grant said. "Organized crime, if not monitored and prosecuted, can grow, can corrupt police departments, can corrupt public officials."

"We have dozens of open investigations," John Mallul, supervisor of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago, said in an interview.

Calabrese's prison musings about a slimmer but more focused mob appear to be on the mark, the experts said.

Law enforcement officials and the Chicago Crime Commission say the mob is now run in northern and southern sections, with street crews consolidated from six geographical areas to four: Elmwood Park, 26th Street, Cicero and Grand Avenue. Mallul estimates the Outfit has about 30 "made" members and a little more than 100 associates.

Although the mob may be smaller and more tightly controlled, it remains a force with an ability to deliver its trademark illicit services as always, the FBI and experts said.

The mob continues to push its way into legitimate businesses and infiltrate labor unions, offer gambling and high-interest "juice loans," as well as extort "street taxes" from businesses, Mallul said. "In a lot of ways, it's still the same rackets -- 50 years ago, 25 years ago and today," Mallul said.

The Outfit still controls dozens of bookies who rake in millions of dollars a year in the Chicago area, he said, giving the mob its working capital for juice loans and other ventures.

"Sports bookmaking is still a huge moneymaker for them," Mallul said. "On the low end, that can include parlay cards in a tavern all the way up to players betting $5,000 or $10,000 or more a game across the board on a weekend."

James Wagner, head of Chicago Crime Commission, said his organization's intelligence from law enforcement sources indicates Joseph "the Builder" Andriacchi controls the north while Al "the Pizza Man" Tornabene runs the south.

Wagner, a former longtime FBI organized crime supervisor, said the Caruso family runs the 26th Street crew, Andriacchi leads the Elmwood Park crew, Tony Zizzo controlled the Cicero crew until he disappeared a year ago and Lombardo still held influence over the Grand Avenue crew before his arrest.

Authorities believe John "No Nose" DiFronzo also continues to play a prominent role for the mob. His name came up repeatedly in the Family Secrets trial as an Outfit leader, sometimes under another nickname, "Johnny Bananas."

Neither Andriacchi, Tornabene nor DiFronzo has been charged in connection with the Family Secrets investigation. None returned calls seeking comment. An attorney who has represented DiFronzo in the past declined to comment. Wagner said all three reputedly rose in the ranks of the Outfit through cartage theft and juice-loan operations and have since moved into legitimate businesses.

Authorities have said Andriacchi earned his nickname through his connections in the construction business. In the undercover prison recordings, Calabrese identified Andriacchi as the boss of the Elmwood Park crew.

DiFronzo has long had a reputation as a car expert who attended auctions and worked at dealerships, Wagner said. He was convicted of racketeering in the early 1990s for trying to infiltrate an Indian casino in California. He also had connections to waste hauling, Wagner said.

Tornabene, believed by some to be the Outfit's current elder boss, earned his nickname from his family's ownership of a suburban pizza restaurant, authorities said. Law enforcement has recently observed Tornabene, who is well into his 80s, being taken to "business" meetings at his doctor's office, Wagner said.

"Many of these guys are obviously trying to stay out of the limelight as much as they can," he said.

The Family Secrets convictions could further embolden prosecutors in their assault on the Outfit. The verdicts appear to vindicate Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, one of the most significant mob turncoats in Chicago history, who provided crucial testimony on many of the gangland slayings.

His testimony could still spell trouble for DiFronzo and others he named in wrongdoing but who were not indicted, said John Binder, a finance professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and mob researcher who wrote the 2003 book, "The Chicago Outfit."

Calabrese testified that DiFronzo was among the dozen men or more who fatally beat Anthony Spilotro, the mob's Las Vegas chieftain, and his brother Michael in 1986.

"This trial showed how many of these guys had jobs where they worked for the city or at McCormick Place," Wagner said. "When you look at the number that have been connected to the Department of Streets and Sanitation, the Water Department, it's hard to explain without the idea of clout being a factor."

In addition, a former Chicago police officer, Anthony "Twan" Doyle, was convicted of leaking inside information to the mob about the then-covert Family Secrets investigation.

"It's a problem Chicago has preferred to ignore," Wagner said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Friday, September 21, 2007

Difronzo Family Secrets

John DiFronzo was implicated in outfit murders and other crimes during the recent mob trial of the century, but he wasn't charged. The I-Team has learned more about the man they call "No Nose."

You can call him "No Nose," or you can call him "Johnny Bananas" as he is sometimes known. But to the thugs, hustlers and hoodlums who report to him in the outfit, federal authorities say 78-year-old John DiFronzo is known as the boss. And they say DiFronzo's top lieutenant has the same last name because it's his younger brother.

A finger to the nose: that's mob sign language for John "No Nose" DiFronzo, according to feds. The pantomime act was caught on covert jailhouse tapes of meetings between Chicago Outfit bosses that were used as evidence during this summer's Family Secrets trial.

Authorities say DiFronzo's position is so important to the mob, that his underlings don't want to implicate him by speaking his real name.

So, they signal his nickname "No Nose," awarded to DiFronzo decades ago after a Michigan Avenue fur heist when part of his sniffer was severed as he jumped through a plate glass window.

John DiFronzo cut his teeth with the mob's Elmwood Park crew. He and his wife once lived in a Grand Avenue apartment house that they own, where their name is still on the front mailbox.

No Nose's rap sheet stretches back to the 1950s and features dozens of arrests and convictions. During the Family Secrets trial, federal prosecutors portrayed DiFronzo as a top outfit leader, and for the first time, said he was involved in the 1986 gangland murders of Anthony Spilotro -the mob's Las Vegas boss - and his brother, Michael, who were found six feet under an Indiana farm field.

The only evidence of DiFronzo's role in the Spilotro hit was from mob snitch and star witness Nick Calabrese. Law enforcement sources say they didn't want to risk losing a case against DiFronzo.

In one 2003 conversation between mobster brothers Jimmy and Michael Marcello, feds say they discussed No Nose.

James: "it quieted down on this guy, they didn't have what they thought they were gonna have or something like that?

Michael: I guess. That's what we heard. They thought they had something now they're not so sure."

DiFronzo is now atop the mob's flow chart that started with Scarface and continued through the Big Tuna, according to former federal agent and ex-Chicago crime commission director Bob Fuesel. "Their spots change, but they're still the same outfit that we know about from the days of Capone through Accardo for 50 years up until John DiFronzo today," Fuesel said.

DiFronzo was unreachable in River Grove or at his corner lot vacation home in Lake Geneva. His longtime lawyer, Carl Walsh, declined to comment Wednesday.

The FBI said a gag order prevented them from answering why DiFronzo hasn't been charged with the murders that prosecutors say he committed.

Do they even know where he is? "There is no reason for us to know his whereabouts because he hasn't been charged with anything," said Ross Rice, FBI spokesman.

Mob investigators say No Nose will lean on his brother, Peter DiFronzo, to help manage outfit rackets. Peter DiFronzo is a convicted warehouse thief who did time at Leavenworth. He and his brother are both fully initiated "made" members of the Chicago Outfit, according to the Chicago Crime Commission.

FBI records state that Peter and No Nose operate a west suburban construction and waste hauling firm, a politically connected company that "obtained contracts through illegal payoffs or intimidation."

When the I-Team visited D and P Construction Tuesday, Peter DiFronzo thought we were there to survey for new sewer lines. When told that the I-Team was there on an outfit investigation, he claimed to no know nothing and drove off in a new Cadillac Escalade.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Chicago Mob Still Influential

Jurors have heard testimony about a Judas kiss like the one Michael Corleone gave his brother Fredo in "The Godfather."

They're heard about mobsters initiated as "made guys" by getting their fingers cut and having holy pictures burned in their bare hands in secret ceremonies. And they've heard about how those who crossed the "Chicago Outfit" sometimes ended up in the trunk of a car.

The city's biggest mob trial in years, involving five men in their 60s and 70s accused of crimes ranging from loan sharking to 18 long-unsolved murders, has lifted the curtain on the secrets of the mob - as it was decades ago. Most of the allegations date to the 1970s and '80s. But what about today? Experts say the mob is alive and well in the town that was once Al Capone's.

"People sayThe Chicago Outfit, 'Look at how old these guys are on trial, it's a geriatric organization,' " said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America)."

"What you're seeing is just part of the organization," he said. "They're still doing gambling, they've still got some labour racketeering, they've got their hooks into some unions (and) they're still doing juice lending."

A few years ago, plans for a casino in the suburb of Rosemont were derailed amid concerns about mob ties in the village. And in the late 1990s, one of the largest unions in the United States, the Laborers International, publicly launched an effort to drive organized crime out of its Chicago District Council.

Jurors in the latest trial heard a secretly recorded tape of one of the defendants, Frank Calabrese Sr., talking about collecting "recipes," code for payoffs, in the late 1990s - while he was behind bars.

"What the trial has made clear is even when they are in prison they continue to exert influence and control," said James Wagner, the head of the Chicago Crime Commission, who investigated the mob for years when he was an FBI agent. And although the current trial's defendants are aging, others point out that the Outfit still has people ready to step in and take over for the old mobsters, known as "Mustache Petes."

"They're still there, there's still young guys coming up," said Jack O'Rourke, a retired FBI agent who also spent years investigating the Chicago mob. "And they're still powerful enough to kill guys."

Binder compared the mob to a corporation. "It's important in management to groom people," he said. "The Outfit is good at it; they've shown the ability to bring people up."

Still, the Chicago Outfit is showing its age, say some who have studied it.

"The Chicago mob used to be big timeThe Outfit, and now it's just local thugs like Tony Soprano," said Gus Russo, author of a best-selling book about the Chicago mob titled simply "The Outfit."

"There's no doubt they still have some cops on the take, some lawyers, a judge here and there and labour unions. But now they are just a local mob," he said.

Chicago's mob probably lost some of its power because many of the illegal activities it once made money from are now legal, like casinos and state-run lotteries.

In addition, Russo said: "They had pornography, and now that's big business."

The Outfit has other opportunities, however.

"They've still got the sports betting," O'Rourke said. "They've controlled that forever and it is illegal."

But even that business has changed, O'Rourke said, because they way they collect the money has got a bit more genteel than in the old days.

"Now with the gamblers, they don't get tough any more and extort them," he said. "Instead, they're saying, 'You can't play any more.' To the gamblers, that's worse than getting beat up."

Even though some of its influence may be waning, the trial suggests the mob can still pull off the kind of tricks that made it infamous.

After rumours that he would testify at the trial, reputed mobster Anthony Zizzo vanished last year.

Then in January, a deputy U.S. marshal was charged with leaking information to reputed mob boss John (No Nose) DiFronzo about the co-operation and travel plans of Nicholas Calabrese, a key government witness and the brother of defendant Frank Calabrese Sr.

"Now they are more surreptitious than ever before, more cunning and intelligent in the way they operate," Wagner said. "They're not less dangerous or influential."

Thanks to Don Babwin

Sunday, June 10, 2007

When it Comes to the Chicago Mob: Who's the Boss?

Friends of ours: Al "Pizza Man" Tornabene, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Michael Marcello, Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese

Who will be the new Tony Soprano of the Chicago mob?

With so many mob leaders on trial or dead, the Chicago Outfit is in disarray, law enforcement sources say.

It could be the "Pizza Man" acting as caretaker.

Or "No Nose" could still be pulling the strings, some Outfit watchers believe.

The "Pizza Man" is Al Tornabene, the 84-year-old former owner of a suburban pizza parlor. He has kept an extremely low profile for a reputed mob leader and has never been arrested by the FBI. Recently, his name has come up in conversations the FBI secretly recorded in prison between reputed top Chicago mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and his younger brother, Michael Marcello.

Tornabene has been seen eating in Rush Street restaurants with another top reputed mobster, Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, who was last seen leaving his Westmont home in August last year and hasn't been heard from since. Zizzo was responsible for overseeing one of the Outfit's most lucrative enterprises, the illegal video poker machines in bars throughout Chicago.

Tornabene has long been a mob leader, authorities say. In 1983, for instance, he presided over a ceremony at which several mobsters were inducted into full membership rights of the Outfit, court records show. Among the men who were made were Zizzo, reputed mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother, Nick Calabrese, who has admitted in a plea agreement with the feds that he killed at least 14 people for the Chicago Outfit. He is cooperating with the FBI.

"No Nose" is the much better known John DiFronzo, who is in his late 70s and has long been reputed to be a respected elder of the Chicago Outfit. DiFronzo is known for his business acumen and wide range of investments, including car dealerships. Some mob watchers think DiFronzo has long been rivals with James Marcello and is not overly upset over his arrest.

Tornabene hung up during a phone call Friday when asked if he was running the Outfit.

DiFronzo could not be reached for comment.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Thursday, April 19, 2007

U.S. Marshal Coerced to Reveal Leaks Regarding Mob Informant?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: John Ambrose

A deputy marshal accused of leaking sensitive information about a valuable mob informant is claiming that Chicago's U.S. attorney and FBI chief coerced statements from him.

John Ambrose is asking that a judge toss out statements he made last September to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Chicago's FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant. Ambrose claims he was pressured into talking and was never read his rights.

"I felt extreme pressure because of . . . the stature of the men who were confronting me and the intimidating nature of the confrontation," Ambrose wrote in a court-filed affidavit. "The pressure was so extreme that my body was shaking and my mind was racing."

Ambrose, 38, was charged in January with theft of information after the government said he leaked confidential material about protected mob witness Nick Calabrese to "Individual A." Calabrese will be a top government witness in this June's Operation Family Secrets mob trial. Ambrose watched Calabrese in a brief stint with witness protection. The feds say the information Ambrose leaked about Calabrese made its way to the mob.

Last September, Ambrose said he was told to come to the FBI to talk about white supremacists and fugitives. Once there, Grant and Fitzgerald allegedly accused him of compromising the government and pushed him to talk.

At one point, Ambrose claims Fitzgerald referenced his father, Thomas, who was convicted in the Marquette 10 cop corruption case. "I told Mr. Fitzgerald that they took a cheap shot bringing my father into this," Ambrose wrote.

Ambrose said Grant told him to "think of your family. Think of your job. You don't want to go to prison."

He alleged Fitzgerald told him: "You've got two choices, either fill in the blanks and cooperate, or possibly face charges and lose your job." Ambrose claims he talked because he felt he "had no choice."

The government has claimed that Ambrose gave conflicting statements. They say in one he admitted giving sensitive information to a third party, who knew reputed mobster John "No Nose" DiFronzo. Ambrose allegedly said he hoped DiFronzo's "good will" would help him capture onetime mob fugitive Joey "The Clown" Lombardo. In another interview, Ambrose allegedly denied intending to pass information to DiFronzo or mob members.

Spokesmen for the FBI and U.S. attorney's office declined to comment. Prosecutors are expected to respond in future court filings.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Monday, March 19, 2007

Waste Hauler with Alleged Mob Ties Doing State Work

Friends of mine: Peter DiFronzo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo

A waste-hauling firm that's repeatedly been accused of having ties to the mob is still doing taxpayer-funded work and has surfaced on a government-produced list of environmentally friendly businesses.

In recent days, a Dumpster from D&P Construction was on site at a Metra station construction project in Edison Park. D&P also saw a longtime snowplowing contract it has with the University of Illinois at Chicago renewed last year.

Besides that, D&P and a sister company, JKS Ventures, are listed in a state government "Green Your Space Database," which helps people find "environmentally friendly building products you may use to improve your home or office."

D&P was widely publicized as having alleged mob links in 2001, when the Illinois Gaming Board took issue with it hauling trash from a casino site in Rosemont. "The owner of D&P, Josephine DiFronzo, is married to Peter DiFronzo and is the sister-in-law of John DiFronzo, individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime," board officials wrote at the time.

In November 2005, a Gaming Board hearing officer -- citing a memo from the FBI -- wrote D&P was "controlled" by the DiFronzo brothers. Josephine and Peter DiFronzo declined to return messages left at D&P's Northwest Side office. John DiFronzo's lawyer did not return a call.

D&P's continued involvement in government work angers the president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "I can understand if it's a private company, but we're dealing here with taxpayer money," said Jim Wagner, who headed the Chicago FBI's organized-crime squad and was the Gaming Board's investigations chief before being hired by the crime-fighting group in 2005. "Is it in the best interest of the public to do business with people who have a history of intimidation as reported by law enforcement?" he said.

Metra officials didn't know D&P had a Dumpster at the Edison Park station site until being contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times. Neither Metra nor its general contractor were aware of the firm's alleged mob links, spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

D&P was hired recently to haul bricks left by a subcontractor "and it doesn't sound like a lot of taxpayer dollars have gone toward them," Pardonnet said. The rail agency plans to investigate whether future dealings with D&P should be prohibited, she said.

UIC officials last year renewed D&P's longtime snowplowing contract because the firm was the low bidder and met all legal criteria, UIC spokesman Mark Rosati said. UIC paid D&P $55,169 under the deal last winter. The final tally for this winter is pending.

Susan Hofer, a state spokeswoman, said the Green Space Database makes clear that all firms named, including D&P, are not being endorsed by the state.

Thanks to Chris Fusco

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ex-Cop Denies He Passed Info to the Mob

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Michael Marcello, Nick Calabrese, John "No-Nose" DiFronzo
Friends of mine: William Guide, John Ambrose

Speaking publicly for the first time, a former cop accused of receiving sensitive information about the mob from a deputy U.S. marshal denied he did anything wrong.

William Guide became agitated Tuesday when asked if he passed on to a reputed mobster sensitive information he got from deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose. "I didn't do anything," an emphatic Guide told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. "I didn't do anything wrong. You don't know the whole story. You're making me out to be the bad guy in this whole thing."

Guide was responding to a story in Tuesday's Sun-Times in which Ambrose's lawyer, Frank Lipuma, said if the government's allegations were true, Guide "may or may not have taken advantage of Mr. Ambrose."

Ambrose, 38, was charged last week with theft of information after the government said he leaked confidential material about protected mob witness Nick Calabrese to "Individual A." Sources say that is Guide. Guide has not been charged in the case.

His lawyer, Rick Beuke, said Guide looks at Ambrose as a son. Beuke said he doesn't believe there was anything sinister going on between Ambrose and Guide, two longtime friends. If Ambrose talked about anything sensitive, he may have just been bragging, Beuke said. "He wanted to impress Guide like he'd want to impress a father," Beuke said. "It's like a kid coming home and saying: 'Dad, I hit a home run.' "

Ambrose twice briefly guarded Calabrese, who is set to testify in a mob trial this spring, when he was in Chicago. Shortly after, the feds say Ambrose revealed to Guide confidential facts he obtained from a file on Calabrese.

That information made its way to mobsters, the government alleges. The feds released transcripts of prison surveillance tapes in which reputed mobsters -- Jimmy and Michael Marcello -- can be heard discussing specifics about Calabrese's movements in Chicago and his cooperation. In coded language, they refer to both Guide and Ambrose, the FBI said. Information about Calabrese came from a file Ambrose had accessed, the feds allege.

The Marcellos refer to getting information from the "baby-sitter," whose father was a cop convicted in the Marquette 10. Federal authorities say that's specific information identifying Ambrose.

They allege that a third party passed the information to mobsters and do not allege that Ambrose disclosed sensitive information intending it to go to the mob. Ambrose denies wrongdoing.

Guide briefly served prison time with reputed mobster John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Guide was a Chicago Police officer when he was convicted in the Marquette 10 scandal in the 1980s along with Ambrose's father, Thomas. Thomas Ambrose died in prison at age 37. Since then, Guide and John Ambrose have been close friends, talk often and share a love for wrestling, both of their attorneys said. "John was seeking out Bill's approval. He wanted Bill to be proud of him as a marshal," Beuke said.

Beuke said Guide and DiFronzo know each other. But he doesn't believe there's an ongoing friendship. Beuke said Guide, a South Sider, runs a pizza business and is too busy working to be a mob associate. "I don't think there's any evidence of Bill passing along any information to the mob," Beuke said.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Was Arrest of a US Marshall a Terrific Mistake?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Aldo Cardellicchio
Friends of mine: John Ambrose, William Guide

Like his late father, John Ambrose was a distinguished, decorated law enforcement officer, respected by his peers. And also like his dad, Ambrose doesn't believe he should be facing criminal charges.

The elder Ambrose, Thomas, was a decorated Chicago cop before he was prosecuted as one of the Marquette 10, a police corruption case in the 1980s. At age 37, Thomas Ambrose died of a heart attack in prison -- just seven days after John's 18th birthday.

John Ambrose, 38, grew up to become a deputy U.S. marshal known for hunting down violent fugitives, including gang-bangers, and hauling them in to face a judge. But last week, it was Ambrose who had to face a judge's questions after he was accused of leaking sensitive government information. With short-cropped hair, Ambrose, well-built and intense, answered in an almost military style -- "Yes, your honor" -- to each of the questions.

His intensity, tenacity and strong work ethic made him such a successful law enforcement officer, colleagues say.

Despite what the FBI and federal prosecutors allege, Ambrose doesn't believe he should face prison time and plans vigorously to fight the charges, said his lawyer, Frank Lipuma. "I think they've made a terrific mistake," Lipuma said. "I think it's going to come out that other people's names have been identified, other people could have been the source of the material . . . not John."

Ambrose is accused of leaking information about what mob witness Nick Calabrese was telling the feds. After guarding Calabrese during short stints with the federal witness security program in 2002 and 2003, Ambrose allegedly leaked information from a sensitive file to a longtime family friend, William Guide. His fingerprints were found on the file, but his lawyer said the file was not secured and Ambrose was allowed to review it.

Guide, also one of the Marquette 10, allegedly passed on the information -- including details about Calabrese's movements and his cooperation -- to the mob. It caught authorities' attention when two reputed mobsters under surveillance were heard discussing the information and referred to Ambrose as "the babysitter," according to charges.

If the allegations are true, what was Ambrose's motivation? The feds do not allege Ambrose was paid. In fact, transcripts of conversations between the reputed mobsters indicate Ambrose refused money.

"Perhaps Mr. Ambrose had a father figure in this person [Guide] who may or may not have taken advantage of Mr. Ambrose," Lipuma suggested. "John did not knowingly disclose any confidential information to Guide. Whether Guide conveyed that information to someone else, we don't know."

Lipuma said Ambrose was open with his superiors about his longtime friendship with Guide, who shares Ambrose's interest in wrestling.

Ambrose, married and a father of four, grew up on the South Side and was an avid wrestler while attending St. Laurence High School. He went to Lewis University in Romeoville. Ambrose is a wrestling coach today.

Ambrose allegedly told investigators he was just bragging to Guide, described only as "Individual A" by the feds. He said he hoped his goodwill with Guide would ingratiate Ambrose with reputed mobster John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

DiFronzo and Guide are reportedly friends. That relationship could help Ambrose track down Joey "the Clown" Lombardo if he were to become a fugitive, Ambrose allegedly told investigators last September. The alleged leaks to Guide happened in 2002 and 2003. Lombardo was charged in April 2005 and then became a fugitive.

Ambrose was in his mid-teens when he saw his father go to prison. "It was very painful and hurt him a great deal when his father was convicted," Lipuma said. "He missed having his father in his life since then."

The Marquette 10 prosecution was considered ground-breaking because it was among the first to put drug dealers on the stand to testify against police officers. Some saw it as a slap in the face to local law enforcement. "I think there was a certain element of the community that resented it," said former prosecutor Dean Polales.

Lipuma dismissed any notion that Ambrose harbored resentment against the FBI or prosecutors for charging his father.

He pointed to dangerous fugitives Ambrose has hunted down, including gang-bangers on the most wanted list and mobster Aldo Cardellicchio, wanted by Italian authorities. "His job meant everything to him, to the point where he sacrificed his time with his family to do his job," Lipuma said.

Ambrose, a supervisory inspector with the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, was involved in the hunt for six Cook County jail escapees last year. He also helped capture a man whose disappearance in the federal courthouse caused it to be shut down for hours last year. "John was so highly regarded," said attorney Thomas C. Royce, who represented Ambrose's father. "I would see him in the courthouse and he would say, 'I haven't slept in two days because I've been chasing a fugitive to Milwaukee.' "

There's a reason federal authorities are taking the Calabrese matter so seriously. Calabrese is among one of the most significant witnesses developed in Chicago's history, Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said at a news conference.

Calabrese is poised to testify this May in the Operation Family Secrets trial as a witness to 16 mob killings that he allegedly carried out with others. But his cooperation is delicate; Calabrese has allegedly admitted to taking part in slayings, has promised to testify against family members but has no deal with prosecutors to do so.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lawyer Says US Marshall is no Hoodlum

A deputy US marshal is charged with revealing information about a mob informant in the witness protection program. The ABC7 I-Team has learned there are serious questions about the deputy's background. He has family ties to the Marquette 10 Chicago police scandal back in the 1980s.

The deputy charged is John Thomas Ambrose. His father Tom Ambrose served prison time in the Marquette 10 police scandal.

There is a hit movie out right now called "The Departed" starring Jack Nicholson as a mob boss. It centers on a cop who is actually working for the mob. It is fictional story. But in Chicago that same scenario is playing out in real life, with a 9-year veteran lawman accused of helping the outfit by secretly leaking information that might have compromised the biggest outfit case in Chicago in 20 years. "No system is perfect. Much of what we do depends on trust and confidence and honor," said Gary Shapiro, US. state's attorney.

According to federal prosecutors, 38-year-old John Thomas Ambrose broke the trust, compromised that confidence and dishonored his oath to uphold the law. Ambrose appeared Thursday afternoon before US Magistrate Michael Mason on federal theft charges.

According to the FBI, Ambrose fed Chicago organized crime bosses, including Jimmy "the Man" Marcello, a steady diet of "highly sensitive, confidential information" about a key witness in the federal investigation of more than a dozen unsolved Chicago mob killings. "The breach could have put at risk the life of one of the most important witnesses ever developed in Chicago against the Chicago Outfit. It could have put at risk US Marshal's, and family members of that witness," said Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge.

Conversations between Marcello and his brother at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, had been secretly recorded by the FBI. The conversations included coded references to "the status, substance of cooperation and travel" of Nicholas Calabrese, a defendant and key witness in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets.

Federal agents say they had to break the mob code, deciphering that Ambrose was "the babysitter." The FBI was "polizia." Mob leader Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was Pai-Achi, the name of a clown in a famous Italian opera. The Spilotro brothers who had been tortured and buried alive in a cornfield were "shivago," and the code for wife, "moolieri."

Ambrose's lawyer contends, he's no hoodlum. "He is not connected to the mob at all. It rests on impressions and opinions of an FBI agent who wrote that affidavit. She said so herself and she is interpreting what they are saying," said Frank Lipuma, Ambrose's attorney.

Ambrose's father Thomas was a disgraced Chicago cop, a key figure convicted in the Marquette 10 police corruption case 20 years ago.

Authorities believe that while the father was serving time at the downstate Marion penitentiary, he renewed a boyhood friendship with Chicago mob king John "No Nose" DiFronzo , and that after Thomas Ambrose died, his son john, the deputy US marshal, struck up a relationship with DiFronzo , all leading to questions about why Ambrose was hired in the first place.

When interviewed by the FBI, Ambrose said he understood he made a mistake but that his intention was to ingratiate himself to DiFronzo and others to help his career. He thought they might help him locate fugitives including the recently captured Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.

Ambrose has been on leave from the US Marshal's Office since September and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. He is out on $50,000 bond.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, January 11, 2007

U.S. Marshal Charged with Leaking Information to Chicago Mob

Friends of ours: John "No-Nose" DiFronzo, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Tony Spilotro
Friends of mine: Nick Calabrese

A federal deputy marshal was charged Thursday with leaking information about a reputed mobster's cooperation with prosecutors as they investigated the top echelon of Chicago's organized crime family.

John Thomas Ambrose, 38, a former supervisory inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service's Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, surrendered Thursday at the FBI's Chicago office, officials said. Ambrose has been on leave since September. He is charged with theft of government property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Ambrose is accused of revealing information concerning the cooperation and travel plans of Nicholas Calabrese, expected to be a key witness in the government's Operation Family Secrets murder conspiracy case. Prosecutors said Ambrose told them in a Sept. 6 interview that he passed the information to an associate of reputed mob boss John DiFronzo in hopes of getting information on the whereabouts of then-fugitive organized crime figure Joseph Lombardo.

Prosecutors said that in later interviews Ambrose said he never believed the information would be passed to organized crime figures.

Lombardo, among those charged in the Operation Family Secrets indictment, was subsequently captured and is due to stand trial starting in May along with the others accused in the case.

Calabrese, 63, of Chicago and his brother, Frank Calabrese, 68, of Oak Brook are among 14 defendants charged in a sweeping indictment alleging a long-term conspiracy by Chicago mobsters to commit at least 18 murders. Victims include Tony Spilotro, the mob's one-time man in Las Vegas, who was beaten to death and buried in a corn field.

Prosecutors said Ambrose leaked information concerning Nicholas Calabrese while Calabrese was in the witness security program operated by the Marshals Service. They said in court papers that the information was given to members of the Chicago mob.

Gary Shapiro, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, said the alleged leak "constitutes an egregious breach of his law enforcement duties." There was no evidence that Calabrese or other witnesses were ever in danger, Shapiro said.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Intelligence Report: Operation Family Secrets

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo

It has been nearly a year since the upper echelon of the Chicago outfit was indicted in the biggest mob murder case in US history, Operation Family Secrets. In our intelligence report, ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie has new details about one of the mobsters charged and one who isn't, at least not yet.

The one who is charged, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, may be the reason that top hoodlum John Difronzo hasn't been charged as mobwatchers and many defense lawyers figured. You may remember that Joe Lombardo was a federal fugitive since being indicted last spring.

Early this year, just as federal prosecutors were looking to add Difronzo to the indictment, Lombardo was finally caught, temporarily interrupting the government's plan to expand the indictment.

Eighteen murders have been pinned on the who's who of gangland Chicago that was indicted in Operation Family Secrets. When Joe Lombardo was finally arrested in January, after the FBI couldn't find him for nine months, he was the highest ranking reputed member of the Chicago mob to be charged in the case.

Notable by his absence from the indictment was John Difronzo, the same age as Lombardo, 77.

If law enforcement considers Lombardo to be chairman of the board, then Difronzo is the outfit's chief operating officer.

Difronzo claims to be a used car salesman, but federal authorities believe he had a supervisory role in many of the crimes that have been charged against 14 outfit defendants in operation family secrets. Investigators say that Difronzo is a key link His rap sheet lists 26 arrests. Most recently he was convicted in a mob scheme to take over an Indian casino in Southern California and did federal time.

Difronzo is nicknamed "no nose," but not because police once shot him in the proboscis as mob lore has it. Actually, half of Difronzo's nose was sliced off as he jumped through a window during a fur store robbery.

Police caught him at the end of the blood trail and gave his nose back to him. The trail connecting Difronzo to Operation Family Secrets has been more complicated, according to investigators, in a case that has been 30 years in the making.

While researching this intelligence report, the I-Team found a painting of Lombardo for sale on the internet. The North Carolina artist, Gerhardt Isringhaus, tells us his girlfriend has a "clown phobia" and that's why he painted it. Isringhaus says he painted bullet holes in the background, figuring Lombardo has dodged gunfire most of his life. The artist grew up in St. Louis and says his next door neighbor was a seamstress who made wedding gowns for Chicago mob families.

Lombardo is housed at the federal lockup in the Loop, where Operation Family Secrets defendants have been abuzz at talk that Difronzo may be cooperating with the government, an unlikely scenario that defense lawyers deny.

Difronzo's attorney Carl Walsh says that he knows nothing of a pending indictment against his client. The US attorney's office declined comment.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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