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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Family Secrets Doctor is No McDreamy

"She's gotta get blood work, she's gotta get this before she sees the doctor."

"Oh, all right."

That's not some heated exchange on "House," because the doctor in this show isn't the sarcastic fellow with the cane on TV. And it's not "Grey's Anatomy" either, another doctor show favored by female viewers, where the male lead is nicknamed Dr. McDreamy by the steamy female staff.

No one would say the doctor referenced above is Dr. McDreamy. You wouldn't call him that. The Doctor McDreamy in "Grey's Anatomy" is a pretty boy. He would never sell pork chop sangwiches on 31st Street in the 11th Ward.

"The Doctor" is Outfit code in the historic Family Secrets federal criminal case against the Chicago mob. There've been so many nicknames lately, even I can't keep them straight, and neither can the witnesses.

Unlike other doctors, this one wasn't board certified. Law enforcement officials say he got his trauma license from Joe the Builder and from some guy named Johnny Bananas.

We'll hear more about the doctor in court on Thursday. He'll be identified as a certain Dr. Toots, who practices everywhere he wishes, when the exchange about the doctor and blood work will be played along with other FBI recordings.

The star of Thursday's show will be Anthony "Twan" Doyle, the former Chicago police officer and 11th Ward Democratic precinct captain who worked in the evidence room of the Chicago Police Department. He'll be cross-examined by federal prosecutors.

Doyle is accused of warning the Outfit's Chinatown crew that the FBI was seeking a key piece of evidence in the Outfit killing of mobster John Fecarotta. The tapes incriminate him. The key evidence was a glove that was worn by confessed hit man Nicholas Calabrese, the guy I told you about in this column years ago now, when the Family Secrets case began, as Nick slipped into the witness protection program to become the linchpin in this fantastic trial.

Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, Doyle said that he regularly visited Calabrese's brother and co-defendant, Chinatown no-neck Frank Calabrese Sr., in the federal prison in Milan, Mich. He felt sorry for Frank, who had family problems, and who helped him develop big muscles as a lad.

Doyle testified he'd drive up to prison with another of Chicago law enforcement's finest -- the late Michael Ricci -- a homicide detective who changed jobs to run the sensitive Cook County sheriff's home-monitoring program.

Who was it that said good government is good politics? It was probably some 11th Warder who knew how to find Chinatown.

On Wednesday, Doyle testified he suffered through these prison visits with Frank Calabrese, fetching sangwiches, listening to nonsensical coded talk he said he couldn't understand, for hour after hour, nodding dumbly but politely during the yapping about doctors and sisters and missing purses and "Scarpe Grande" finding those purses.

Scarpe Grande means "Big Shoes," Chinatown code for the FBI, and, you may have noticed, it's not Chinese. And "purses" probably means evidence.

Ralph Meczyk, Doyle's attorney, asked Doyle if he felt relieved once these prison visits were done. "I felt like I was paroled," Doyle told the jury. "Sitting in that chair, listening to gibberish I couldn't understand."

He sighed, seeking sympathy, a large man with muscles at 62, with a face like a stone and his voice a heavy door with old hinges. Doyle is not the Officer Friendly you would ask for directions for a pork chop sangwich. But he denied ever collecting juice loans for the Outfit, and insisted he never tipped off the mob about Scarpe Grande seeking the Nick Calabrese bloody glove from the police evidence room in January 1999.

Yet he proudly talked of working for the 11th Ward Democratic Organization, and hopping on the City Hall patronage payroll wagon, first at Streets and San, later running the parking lot at police headquarters and becoming a patrolman.

On Thursday, prosecutors will focus on the Chinatown code to explain their theory that Frank Calabrese was afraid someone close to him might be talking to the feds.

"What they should do is maybe bring her to see a psychiatrist," Calabrese says on tape, speaking of a sick sister, if a sick sister had hairy arms and killed people for money.

"Shock treatment," Doyle says, understanding the prescribed Outfit method to cure Feditis, a malady of the chattering mouth. "Probably needs a good prod."

I don't know how Doyle will deny all this -- and what he says about lead federal prosecutor Mitchell Mars, blaming him for their upset stomachs.

"I said I'll bet you it's that [four letter word]ing Mitch Mars, that's what I think," Doyle tells Calabrese.

"The doctor," says Calabrese.

"The doctor," says Doyle.

I know the doctor from Chinatown isn't McDreamy. But he's got to be mcsteamy right about now.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fear of Death Penalty Made Mobster "A Rat"

Friends of ours: Nicholas Calabrese, John Fecarotta, Jimmy LaPietra, John "Johnny Apes" Monteleone

A government witness said Thursday he sees himself as "a rat" for spilling mob secrets but added that he agreed to testify against his own brother to avoid getting capital punishment for murder.

"Did you think that you might be exposed to the death penalty in Illinois?" federal prosecutor Mitchell A. Mars asked Nicholas Calabrese, the star witness at the trial of his brother Frank and four other men. "Yes," Calabrese said.

He said a bloody glove he carelessly left in front of a North Side bingo parlor after the Sept. 14, 1986, murder of mobster John Fecarotta was used by the FBI to trace him to the crime.

He was serving a loan-sharking sentence at the federal prison in downstate Pekin 14 years after the killing when he was called to the medical unit and a DNA swab was taken from his mouth. The sample matched the DNA found on the glove that he dropped as he fled the Fecarotta shooting, Calabrese told the federal court jury.

The story capped a week of testimony in which Calabrese has described a parade of mob murders carried out by himself, his brother Frank and other members of the Chicago Outfit -- as the city's mob family is known.

Frank Calabrese, 69, is on trial along with James Marcello, 65, Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, 78, Paul Schiro, 70, and 62-year-old Anthony Doyle, a former police officer.

Frank Calabrese previously has been convicted of loan sharking, Lombardo of conspiring to bribe a U.S. senator, and Schiro of taking part in a gang of jewel thieves headed by the Chicago Police Department's former chief of detectives who is now in federal prison.

They are charged with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that included loan sharking, gambling, extortion and 18 long-unsolved organized crime murders including that of Fecarotta.

The defendants deny that they were part of such a conspiracy. Frank Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, argues that Nick Calabrese is lying.

Nick Calabrese testified that while he was in Pekin, he spent time with Marcello who arranged for his wife to receive $4,000 a month, partly to keep him from "flipping" and becoming a federal witness.

"So I wouldn't turn out to be a rat like I am," Calabrese said. But eventually he made an agreement with prosecutors to testify in exchange for assurances that he wouldn't be subject to the death penalty in the Fecarotta case, he said.

He said that he and his brother -- along with alleged mob capo Jimmy LaPietra and John (Johnny Apes) Monteleone -- decided to kill Fecarotta, a member of their own 26th Street of Chinatown street crew. The decision stemmed from a dispute arising from one of Frank Calabrese's loan-sharking customers.

The man complained he was being forced to pay off the high-interest "juice loan" owed by a former business partner to Frank Calabrese while at the same time paying off the mortgage on Fecarotta's house.

He complained to Frank Calabrese that the arrangement was unfair.

The witness testified his brother told the man to keep paying the loan -- emphasizing the point by pulling a knife -- and then got permission to murder Fecarotta who already had been on thin ice with the Calabreses.

Nicholas Calabrese testified that the mobsters told Fecarotta that on the night of the murder they were going to plant a bomb outside a dentist's office. The idea was for Nicholas Calabrese to reach into a bag containing a fake bomb, pull out a gun and shoot Fecarotta.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chicago's Mayor Friendly with Alledged Mob Associate?

Friends of ours: Nicholas Calabrese, Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, Frank Calabrese Sr., John Fecarotta, Anthony Doyle
Friends of mine: Fred Barbara

Will Chicago reporters ask Mayor Richard Daley about the Fred Barbara issue Wednesday? It came up Tuesday during the Chicago Outfit trial of reputed mobsters in the Family Secrets case.

Barbara, successful trucking boss, waste hauler, and mayoral fashionista, has made fortunes on city deals under Daley and is currently a consultant on the city's blue bag program. He's a friend of the mayor, and of the mayor's political brain, Tim Degnan, who, like the mayor, is a son of Bridgeport.

Tuesday's testimony of key Outfit witness Nicholas Calabrese also put Barbara with another son of Bridgeport: Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, the late boss of the Outfit's Chinatown crew. A key Outfit killer turned government informant said that LaPietra and Barbara were present at the arson bombing of Horwath's Restaurant in Elmwood Park in the early 1980s.

It is important to note that Barbara has not been charged with any crime recently. We tried contacting Barbara on Tuesday to ask about Calabrese's testimony, only to be told that he wasn't available for an interview with me. And federal prosecutors and defense lawyers couldn't comment because of a gag order.

So, let's clear this thing up. Is the guy with "The Hook" at Horwath's the mayor's Fred Barbara or some cunning impostor? Who best to resolve this issue than Daley?

Surely, reporters will ask him Wednesday, if he doesn't bolt town for another fact-finding mission, not to Rio, but perhaps to trace the last steps of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, while the Outfit crew from his neighborhood turns under federal heat back home.

Barbara is a political donor who sold his South Side garbage-transfer station and landfill for $58 million. He knows his way around politics and business. But what's new today is that Nick Calabrese mentioned Barbara from the witness stand. Calabrese put him at the scene at one of the Outfit bombings of west suburban restaurants in the early 1980s, as the Outfit pressured businesses and sent unmistakable messages to them.

Some of the establishments Calabrese mentioned during questioning from assistant U.S. Atty. Mitchell Mars included the following: The bombings of the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Tom's Steakhouse in Melrose Park, Marina Cartage (the Chicago trucking company owned by another mayoral buddy recently turned Barbara rival, Mike Tadin) and Horwath's on Harlem Avenue.

Calabrese testified that Fred Barbara was with LaPietra and that the two men bombed Horwath's together. Nick testified that he and brother Frank Calabrese Sr., who is one of the Outfit bosses on trial in this case, bombed Tom's Steakhouse. All four and others met at mobster John Fecarotta's hot-dog stand in Melrose Park before the bombings, and afterward, to compare notes, Nick Calabrese said.

"It was me, my brother, and Johnny Fecarotta at Tom's," Nick Calabrese testified. "At Horwath's, there was Fred Barbara and Angelo LaPietra."

These two sentences will most likely be buried in news accounts of the larger Outfit case, because Nick also described four brutal murders in which he held people down while his brother strangled them with a rope. And Nick also testified about the severed heads of dogs thrown onto front lawns, and dead chickens, and a bizarre Outfit assignment:

To kill several pet shop mice, put tiny nooses around their tiny necks, and dangle them from the windshield of an extortion victim. But the sentences about Barbara are important sentences, if Calabrese was telling the truth, if "The Hook" took Barbara on the Horwath's bombing. The act of arson would bind a businessman to the Chinatown crew, as insurance of sorts against any future testimony.

After they met at the hot-dog stand, Calabrese said the groups went their ways. Fecarotta was known to his friends and "family" as "Big Stoop."

Fecarotta later lived up to the nickname when he botched the burial of the Spilotro brothers, forcing the Outfit to kill him on Belmont Avenue. In that killing, Nick got wounded and left a bloody glove at the scene. It was held in the police evidence room where alleged Chinatown juice collector and Chicago cop Anthony Doyle (also of Bridgeport) worked. The FBI asked about the glove. Doyle allegedly told the Outfit. And the historic case began.

I'll write about the Calabrese murders in other columns, I have the right to delay that, since you're getting that news anyway and because, well, I broke the story about Calabrese disappearing from prison and into the witness protection program, which caused a panic among the Outfit.

For now, let's remember what the mayor's friend, Fred Barbara, told the Sun-Times in 2004 about the federal juice loan charge of which he was acquitted in 1983.

"Show me my connection to organized crime," he said. "Did I turn the corner? You show me anything in the last 24 years that reflects to that nature."

I'd bet Nick Calabrese hasn't talked to the feds just about the Outfit in Bridgeport. I'd bet he's talked to them about politics too.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, June 22, 2007

How Do 18 Chicago Outfit Murders Remain Unsolved for Decades?

How do 18 Chicago Outfit murders remain unsolved for decades?

It might help to have the cops on your side.

This came out in the opening statement by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully in the historic Family Secrets trial, when Scully pointed at one of the accused, a fellow with the intriguing nickname of "Twan."

He's called Twan in the 11th Ward, in Bridgeport and Chinatown, where not only the wiseguys are nervous about this trial, but presumably some 11th Ward politicians, too, about information gushing from the mouths of Outfit informants.

Twan is a tough-looking fellow, with a muscly forehead and plates for eyebrows, a Chinatown Sammy Sosa in a nice suit, and the only one of five defendants not accused of being involved in the 18 murders.

The name Twan remains a mystery. If any of you know his longtime friend, Bridgeport's former labor boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso, and you ask Toots and he tells you, please call me. On a pay phone.

Scully's suggestion about how things work isn't in the name Twan, but in another, official name used by Twan: Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle.

According to Scully, Doyle was with the Outfit and a loan shark, but Doyle also worked in the evidence section of the Chicago Police Department for a time. If Scully's allegations are correct -- and Scully was correct a few years ago when he put former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt behind bars for running the Outfit's jewelry-heist crew -- the Outfit's reach into local law enforcement will be demonstrated once again.

Good cops who make small mistakes are often publicly humiliated, trotted out and yelled at by politicians who wag their fingers for TV cameras. Their families are ruined. But law-and-order politicians somehow always forget to wag their fingers at cops like Hanhardt or Twan.

If you're a loyal reader, you might remember that I wrote about Outfit tough guy John Fecarotta years ago, after reporting that Chinatown crew member Nicholas Calabrese had sought refuge in the federal witness protection program, which started Family Secrets. Fecarotta was implicated in many of the 18 murders by Scully on Thursday, including the 1986 beating deaths of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro. It was Fecarotta's job to bury them. He blew it by inserting them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield.

After the Spilotros' bodies were found, Fecarotta was invited to go on another crime, on Belmont Avenue. But he didn't know he was the intended target until Nick Calabrese pointed a gun at his face. There was a struggle, Nick was shot, and though Fecarotta ended up dead, a bloody glove was found, dripping with Nick's DNA. The glove ended up in the police evidence section where Doyle worked.

When the FBI began asking about the glove, Scully said Doyle became quite interested in this development, figuring that his Outfit superiors would be equally interested, if not more so. Scully alleged that Doyle told Nick Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., about the glove that could put the Calabrese family in the Fecarotta murder.

"He betrayed his oath to the public and decided to remain loyal to Outfit interests," Scully said.

There were other highlights in court Thursday, including Frank Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, the dynamic and splendidly dressed Joseph Lopez, the only lawyer in town tough enough to pull off pink socks and work for mobsters while remaining a loyal reader of my column.

He described his client as a man ruined by an ungrateful son, another informant witness, Frank Calabrese Jr. Junior was a drug addict who didn't want to go into the trucking business and who cared more about a tarty wife than his own father's love, Lopez said.

He pointed to his client, who allegedly strangled several people until their eyes popped out but who was so soft and kindly-looking in court, he could have been in a TV commercial for facial tissue.

"Who is this man in the powder blue suit who could be a cheese salesman from Wisconsin?" Lopez asked the jury about Frank Calabrese Sr.

Gentle Wisconsin cheese salesman? I wonder where he read that oneThief.

Other highlights included the lists of the Outfit soldiers allegedly in on the 18 killings. And the repeated mention of Bridgeport hit man Ronnie Jarrett, who worked for Bridgeport trucking boss/mayoral favorite Michael Tadin and was the model for the James Caan crime classic "Thief."

Jarrett was gunned down in 1999, about the time that Twan was getting worried about the glove. Jarrett's murder is not included in this case.

"Unfortunately," said Lopez, arguing that his client was not involved in other murders, "people get killed for various reasons all the time."

"The truth," Lopez said, quoting a lyrical Italian proverb, "is somewhere between the clouds."

But I think it's in the evidence room of the Chicago Police Department.

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Former Chicago Cop Reflects on Mob's Heyday

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Philip Tolomeo

A Chicago police detective walked into The Nest, an old Outfit nightclub, looking for a shooting suspect.

The cop found his suspect -- he just hadn't been accused yet of committing any murders.

It was March of 1958 on the city's Northwest Side, and the lounge was packed to hear singer Tony Smith and his band play some trendy new rock 'n' roll dance music.

Working the midnight shift, Detective James Jack, who now lives in Palatine, and his partner Frank Czech walked in around 2 a.m. looking for a guy they knew hung at the joint. Jack, as he tells it, stepped between two guys to look up and down the bar.

One of the guys next to him swiveled around in his chair and asked him, "What the [expletive] are you looking at?"

"Nothing much," Jack answered.

With that, the guy punched Jack square in the mouth, sending him reeling against the wall. His attacker had a few inches and pounds on Jack, but the detective, a former Gold Gloves boxer, recovered and grabbed the man in a head lock.

Another guy jumped Jack's partner, but the big detective threw him aside like a doll. A police officer who happened to be standing down the bar came to help, they identified themselves as police, and together they wrestled the two hotheads outside and into a police car -- the Tony Smith band playing without skipping a note.

The perpetrator turned out to be none other than Frank Calabrese Sr., then 20. At the time, he was on parole for auto theft.

As they drove to the police station, Jack recalls, Calabrese kept saying, "I didn't know you were a cop."

"I said if I were a normal person, you and your cronies would have killed me and laughed all the way home," Jack said. "He was an animal."

As it turned out, Calabrese was not wanted in the shooting Jack was investigating, and the detective never recalls Calabrese being convicted for punching him. Federal investigators, Jack said, were more interested in bigger cases than a bar fight.

Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, noted his client was only 20 and "just getting started," but suspected there must be more to the story, saying his client treated police with respect. "I find that hard to believe," Lopez said. "He's not a bully. Something else must've happened."

In recent years, Calabrese has been in prison after pleading guilty to taking part in a long-running juice loan extortion scheme. Now, Calabrese is ready to stand trial on charges of murder and racketeering with 13 other alleged members of the Chicago Syndicate.

Calabrese was far from Jack's only run-in with the mob. His first police partner was Philip Tolomeo, who used to make Jack wait in the car while he met with cronies at a mob hangout, before leaving the force, joining witness protection and getting convicted with Calabrese.

Ironically, Jack also once arrested one of the victims of an alleged Calabrese hit. Jack arrested John Fecarotta for sticking a gun in the mouth of a parking attendant at O'Hare International Airport in 1965. Fecarotta was found shot dead in an alley in 1986.

Jack has long since retired from the force, but he plans to attend the mob trial, which will be presided over by Judge James Zagel, who once worked with Jack on the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Council 25 years ago. Jack says he wants to see some of his old combatants.

"I want to see how they act now, compared to how feisty they were in their younger days, when they didn't care who they got involved in altercations with," he said. "Let the jury throw the dice, and let justice prevail."

Thanks to Robert McCoppin

Brigade Quartermasters, Ltd.-Outdoors

Monday, June 18, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, May 21, 2007

Will Mob Family Secrets be Revealed?

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, Nick Calabrese, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Louie "The Mooch" Eboli, James LaPietra, John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were heading to a meeting with top mobsters, and they were worried.

Tony Spilotro, already a made member of the mob and the Outfit's man in Las Vegas, was told he was going to be promoted. Michael was to become a "made" member. But they weren't acting like men in line for promotions, recently released court records show.

Michael gave his daughter his rings, a phone book and a cross to give to his wife. Tony gave the girl a briefcase containing money, rings and a phone book to pass on to his family in case he didn't return. The men never came back from the June 1986 meeting. It was a setup for them to be killed.

Fresh details about the murders could come to light this week when a federal judge will hold a hearing on evidence from the Spilotro murders that could become part of the Family Secrets trial.

It's one of 18 murders charged in the case, which involves some of the top mobsters in the Chicago area.

Top mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello doesn't want jurors to hear from a member of the Spilotro family, who would testify he called Michael Spilotro at home regarding the meeting where the brothers were killed. The family member has not been named in court records but apparently can recognize Marcello's voice.

Marcello also didn't want jurors to hear from one of the Spilotro brothers' widows, who can testify about statements the men made before they left for the meeting.

The brothers' brutal murders are easily the best known among the murders charged in the case. In the mob movie "Casino," the Spilotro brothers -- with Joe Pesci playing the character based on Tony Spilotro -- were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

In real life, they were slain in a basement in a Bensenville-area home and later buried in a cornfield.

Several top mobsters were waiting in the basement and attacked the Spilotro brothers as they entered. Among the attackers waiting downstairs were several mobsters, now dead, including top mob boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Louie "The Mooch" Eboli, James LaPietra and John Fecarotta.

The FBI learned the details of the murder from one of the men who was there, reputed mob hitman Nick Calabrese, who now is cooperating with the feds and is expected to testify at trial.

Marcello is charged in the murders and allegedly drove the Spilotro brothers to the Bensenville-area home and their deaths.

Tony Spilotro asked his killers if he could say a novena before he died. His request was denied, and the killers strangled the brothers.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, May 18, 2007

Calabrese, Government Star Mob Witness, Pleads Guilty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to

Spilotro Brothers Murder Not in a Cornfield?

Friends of ours: Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Nick Calabrese, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Rocco Lombardo, Joe Ferriola, James Marcello, Frank Cullotta, John Fecarotta
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, William "Slick" Hanner

It's been 21 years since Tough Tony Spilotro, the reputed rackets boss of Las Vegas, was murdered along with his brother, presumably by members of "The Outfit" in Chicago. But the best-known version of how the men were killed is simply wrong, according to federal prosecutors in Chicago, who are preparing to out away the men responsible.

Operation Family Secrets is the name of the FBI probe that led to the indictment of 14 Chicago mobsters, charged with 18 gangland murders, including those of the Spilotro brothers. The trial, slated to begin in two weeks, will challenge widely held views of what really happened to "Tough Tony."

Movie fans around the world are familiar with the bloody end met by Las Vegas mob boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael. In the film "Casino," the characters based the Spilotro brothers were taken to an Indiana cornfield, then were beaten to a pulp, one at a time, with baseball bats, and then buried while still alive.

In Chicago, federal prosecutors are prepared to make the Spilotro murders a centerpiece of the massive prosecution of 14 mob figures. The case that will be presented at the Dirksen Courthouse lists 18 murders in all, along with many other crimes, but because of their movie notoriety, the Spilotro's are likely to get top billing.

Rick Halprin, Chicago defense attorney, said, "The event is depicted in a movie, and anybody sitting on a jury, or most of the jury, is going to associate the two. The judge is going to have to deal with that when we select a jury."

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp: "But the movie version is wrong. Mobster-turned-informant Nick Calabrese is ready to testify that the Spilotro brothers were killed, not in Indiana, but instead, here in a quiet suburb of Bensenville."

Why should a jury believe Nick Calabrese about the Spilotro murders? Because Calabrese admits that he was one of the killers. He's also fessed up to participating in 14 other mob murders and is ready to tell all he knows about the Chicago outfit, including his own brother Frank.

This is the story told by Calabrese and corroborated by the FBI with other sources. Tony Spilotro, who was facing three indictments in Las Vegas, returned to Chicago in the belief that he might be in line for a promotion in his hometown.

Former mob associate "Slick" Hanner said, "The reason they got killed was because they were going back to Chicago to take over The Outfit. He was telling his crew we're going back to Chicago."

Acting boss Joe Ferriola, now deceased, saw it differently and ordered the murders. Spilotro's presumed boss, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, allegedly signed off on the hit. The Spilotro brothers were wary about going to a meeting, but changed their minds about taking guns along, presumably because someone close to them put their minds at ease.

According to Calabrese, the Spilotro's were picked up by James Marcello, currently listed as boss of The Outfit, and were driven to a house in the Bensenville suburb. Tony was supposed to get a promotion. Michael was to become a made member. When they got to the house, they were taken to the basement for the ceremony, and that's where Marcello, Calabrese, and four other men beat them to death.

At least two men, including hitman John Fecarotta, put the bodies in a car and jumped on the highway. As the I-Team learned, one of the first signs they would have seen directs them toward Indiana and the cornfield. Former Spilotro underling, hitman Frank Cullotta, tried to put Spilotro away, but is still bothered by the imagery.

Cullotta said, "If I had to kill him, I couldn't kill him that way. I'd a just shot him. I couldn't beat him to death like that, let his brother watch. I just assume they were showing one or the other, you're not such a tough guy after all."

The bodies were never supposed to be found, but were. For botching that job Ferracotta was murdered by Nick Calabrese. Years later, DNA evidence from that murder allowed the FBI to turn Calabrese into a witness, which led to the indictments of all the others.

Defense attorney Rick Halprin ridicules the government for going after men whose average ages are 75. He says his client, Joey Lombardo, was in prison when the Spilotro murders took place and had nothing to do with it.

It's decades later, but the trial will still be watched in Las Vegas where family ties run deep.

This year, when Rocco Lombardo, brother of Joey "The Clown," appeared in federal court, he was defended -- ironically enough -- by Attorney John Spilotro, the nephew of Tough Tony.

A lot of Spilotro family members still live in Las Vegas, including Tony's wife Nancy. They generally don't speak about those days long ago but have told the I-Team they feel some relief that the government is finally prosecuting someone for the murders.

Thanks to George Knapp

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stool Pigeon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Steve Warmbir Staff Reporter Sun-Times

Friday, February 21, 2003

Outfit bosses dive for cover as enforcer talks

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Nick Calabrese, Jimmy Marcello, Tony Spilotro, John Fecaratta, Billy Dauber
Friends of mine: Frank Calabrese, Michael Spilotro, Frank Cullotta

Editor's note: John Kass broke the story of the federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets" in February 2003.

Until recently, the bosses of the Chicago Outfit felt relatively safe, with their connections in politics and local law enforcement. But now, they're on the verge of FBI-inspired paranoia.

They're not concerned where fellow mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo is hiding these days. There's a good reason for The Clown to keep a low profile: Formerly imprisoned mob loan shark and enforcer Nick Calabrese is talking to the FBI, sources said.

Investigators are being given a road map through crime and time, including unsolved Outfit murders going back over decades.

FBI agents have spread out across the country armed with search warrants to collect DNA evidence, hair cuttings and oral swabs, from dozens of Outfit bigwigs. Sources familiar with the investigation said search warrants for the mob DNA have been sealed.

This must aggravate some folks, including imprisoned Chicago street boss Jimmy Marcello, convicted of bookmaking and loan sharking. Marcello hopes to be released from a 12-year federal prison term in a few months.

Marcello, Calabrese and Calabrese's brother, Frank, a convicted loan shark, spent years together inside. When old friends talk in prison, they reminisce about dis and dat and dat other ting, don't they?

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Thursday that Nick Calabrese's federal prison records had disappeared. My highly educated guess is that he is now in the witness protection program.

"No comment," said the U.S. attorney's office. "No comment," said the Chicago FBI.

Some of the victims of unsolved Outfit hits being discussed with FBI agents might be familiar to you.

They include Anthony and Michael Spilotro, the vicious gangster brothers beaten to death and dumped in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. If you saw the movie "Casino," you know how it happened. Joe Pesci, one of my favorite actors, played Tony. And if you're a faithful reader of this column, you know why the Spilotros were available to be murdered. A few weeks earlier, they beat a federal criminal case against them in Las Vegas.

The key federal witness against them had his testimony undercut by a then-heroic former Chicago police chief of detectives, William Hanhardt.

Hanhardt's surprise testimony as a top cop and defense witness undercut the credibility of hit man-turned-government informant Frank Cullotta. (Frankie got a bit part in "Casino," too, as a hit man).

During the Spilotro trial, Hanhardt was a hero cop, with friends in the newspapers and in Hollywood, where he was glorified in the TV show "Crime Story."

Now, though, Hanhardt is serving a long federal prison term for running an Outfit-sponsored jewelry theft ring. Still, Hollywood may make a movie about him. But nobody made a movie about hit man John Fecaratta. He was killed outside Brown's bingo parlor on Belmont Avenue three months to the day after the Spilotros' bodies were found. The Spilotros weren't supposed to be found. Federal investigators figured Fecoratta was punished for botching the planting of the Spilotros.

Outfit enforcer Billy Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, left a Will County courtroom in 1980. They were hacked to pieces by shotgun blasts during a high-speed chase along a lonely country road.

Daniel Siefert was murdered in front of his family at his plastics manufacturing plant in 1974. Siefert was a key government witness in a federal case against Lombardo, in connection with a scheme that bilked the Teamsters Union pension fund out of millions of dollars.

Siefert was with his wife and 4-year-old son when the Outfit came for him. He ran a short distance after the first shot, but it knocked him down. A gunman walked up to the fallen Siefert, pressed a shotgun against his head, pulled the trigger.

Lombardo and six others were acquitted two months after Siefert's murder.

Nick Calabrese is not as flashy and as loud as his brother, Frank. Nick is quiet. He was to be released this year. Then a strange thing happened. His prison records disappeared. They don't exist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Carla Wilson, a bureau spokeswoman, was helpful Thursday in finding Frank Calabrese, and prison records on his sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt. But no Uncle Nick.

"If he were in the witness protection program, then we would not be able to access that information," she said. Then she said she had to check something and later had a different story about Uncle Nick's vanished records.

"I really can't speculate about that," she said. "All I can tell you is that I don't have any public information on him."

That's OK. We'll wait.

Thanks to John Kass

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