The Chicago Syndicate: Joseph Lamantia
Showing posts with label Joseph Lamantia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph Lamantia. Show all posts

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Code of Silence for Reputed Mobster at Daughter's Wedding

By the time many a man and woman get married, their families aren’t speaking to each other.

In the case of an upcoming mob wedding in Chicago, though, the silence is court- ordered. A federal judge laid down the law in the wedding of Frank Caruso and Brittany Szaflarski.

Brittany’s dad, Casey Szaflarski, is the reputed video poker king of Chicago. He’s under house arrest and wanted the judge to let him out to attend his daughter’s wedding on Aug. 21 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.

The judge decided Szaflarski can go, but there’s a catch.

He can’t talk to his boss, the reputed head of the 26th Street mob crew, Frank “Toots” Caruso, who happens to be the father of the groom, also named Frank.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ordered Casey Szaflarski not to utter one word to the elder Frank Caruso, or face jail. Federal prosecutors are concerned the men could talk mob business amid the nuptials.

Casey Szaflarski was arrested in March for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation. He was put under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He is charged in the case with seven other men, including the alleged head of the Cicero mob crew, Michael Sarno. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu allege Sarno ordered the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing with Casey Szaflarski’s.

The elder Frank Caruso has not been charged in the case.

Casey Szaflarski asked the judge to let him attend a host of wedding activities. He wanted to go to his daughter’s bridal shower luncheon at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue and then the rehearsal dinner at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel Aug. 18. Casey Szaflarski also hoped to spend the night in the Palmer House, so he could attend the post-wedding brunch there the next day.

The judge nixed those requests.

As part of the judge’s ruling, prosecutors will receive a list of everyone who attends the wedding. The guest list could be interesting since the bride and groom come from families with extensive ties to organized crime.

The groom, the younger Frank Caruso, made national headlines when he was arrested for the 1997 racially charged beating of 13-year-old Lenard Clark as Clark was riding his bicycle through Armour Square. Frank Caruso was sentenced to eight years in prison. He is the great-grandson of the late Bruno Roti Sr., one of the earliest leaders of organized crime in Chicago and the head of what would become the 26th Street mob crew. The groom’s father, Frank “Toots” Caruso, was listed by the FBI as one of the Chicago mobsters who posed a threat to the safety of star mob witness Nicholas Calabrese, the onetime Outfit killer who testified in the Family Secrets case.

The bride, Brittany Szaflarski, is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a well-known mob burglar, who was accused in court papers of once paying $20,000 to one of the most corrupt judges in state history, Thomas Maloney, to acquit his son in a murder case.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reputed Mob Poker King Out on Bail

The alleged video poker king of Chicago, who once said he wasn't sure who owned the Bridgeport home he lives in, saw that home pledged to make his $250,000 bond Friday for his release from jail.

Casey Szaflarski, 52, is charged with helping run a video gambling operation for the Chicago Outfit. His sister put up the house, which is held in a trust.

Szaflarski was equally vague when questioned by a court official on his finances, leading Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk to say "there are more questions than answers as to his income. We believe he has provided false information."

Szaflarski's attorney, Catharine O'Daniel, said Szaflarski wasn't being dishonest, just cautious, because he did not know what he should say because his lawyer wasn't present during the interview on his finances.

The bond hearing turned into a family affair when it was revealed that Szaflarski illegally had two guns. His ex-wife, who still lives with Szaflarski, handed them over to a relative, Chicago Police officer Mary Versetto, who said she is keeping them in her home.

Szaflarski is the son-in-law of the late Chicago mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia. Versetto is LaMantia's niece.

When Funk questioned her, Versetto had few details about Szaflarski's guns.

She said she didn't actually know whose guns they were.

She said she didn't know where the guns had been stored. But she did believe they weren't stored in the house where Szaflarski and his ex-wife live.

Versetto, who was not in court but questioned over a speakerphone, sounded impatient with the prosecution's questioning, at one point asking, "Is that it?"

Szaflarski is accused of sharing profits of his video gambling business with Michael Sarno, who is also charged in the case and is the reputed head of the mob's Cicero crew.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, February 08, 2010

Is Casey Szaflarski the King of Mob-Controlled Video Poker Throughout Chicagoland?

Casey Szaflarski allegedly runs a multimillion-dollar video poker business for the Chicago mob. But he's the first to tell you he has a fuzzy memory.

When lawyers in a civil case tried to figure out how much he was worth, he forgot to bring any financial documents -- even though he had been ordered to do so.

"An oversight," Szaflarski said.

He also told lawyers he doesn't own the Bridgeport home he lives in -- and isn't sure who does. He transferred his interest in the home to a trust, but wasn't sure how or when. And although federal court records suggest he's the new king of mob-controlled video poker in the Chicago area, he says he doesn't know how much he owns of Amusements Inc., a Berwyn company that distributes video gambling machines.

"Yeah, I have a bad memory," Szaflarski, 52, said at the time.

Szaflarski's bad memory got him sanctioned by the Cook County judge overseeing Szaflarski's civil case a few years ago. But that could just be the start of his problems.

Newly unsealed court documents show Szaflarski is a target of an ongoing federal investigation of mob-controlled video poker machines across the Chicago area. The investigation comes as the state has recently legalized video gaming in an effort to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into its coffers. But bars can't legally have the machines pay out until a state agency sets rules to regulate the machines and distributes licenses. Top mobsters, meanwhile, have been caught on secret FBI recordings welcoming the legalization of video poker machines, a business they have dominated over the years.

Last May, agents from the FBI, IRS and ATF simultaneously hit more than 20 Chicago and suburban bars, in one of the largest raids of its kind. Law-enforcement officials stripped the video gambling machines of their computer circuit boards, collected thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and took gambling records, according to court documents from the investigation overseen by prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

During the raids the afternoon of May 27, Szaflarski was stopped in his black H3 Hummer. He had $6,214 in cash on him. Szaflarski is accused in court documents of driving in his Hummer and making the rounds of bars where his video poker machines were located, then splitting the proceeds 50-50 with the bar owners.

The investigation of Szaflarski is part of a larger probe that has already resulted in charges against the reputed mob boss of Cicero, Michael "Fat Ass" Sarno, and an allegedly high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, Mark Polchan.

Sarno is charged with ordering a pipe-bombing in 2003 of a Berwyn video poker business that was competing with Szaflarski's company, court records show. Polchan allegedly organized the bombing and also worked to put Szaflarski's video poker machines in Outlaw clubhouses throughout the Chicago area.

To track the FBI investigation, Polchan allegedly received help from crooked suburban cops, whom he paid off with free sexual favors from prostitutes, court records show.

Szaflarski appears to have taken over the multimillion-dollar video poker distribution business of Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother Michael, court records show. James Marcello was convicted of racketeering and other crimes in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets mob trial, and his half-brother pleaded guilty to racketeering. Both are in prison.

Szaflarski told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello, court records show.

Szaflarski has allegedly contributed money from the video poker business to Sarno, who is also known as "Big Mike" and "The Large Guy," according to a federal search warrant affidavit. Sarno recently made headlines when he received permission from a federal magistrate judge to get out of house arrest so he could have Christmas Eve dinner at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

More indictments are expected in the Sarno case, but Szaflarski has not been charged with any crime.

Szaflarski could not be reached for comment, but an attorney who has represented many well-known Chicago mobsters, Joe "The Shark" Lopez, said Friday he was stunned by the allegations. "He's a businessman with a good reputation," said Lopez, who said he knows Szaflarski but does not represent him. "He's just a normal, everyday, Joe Citizen. I'm shocked to hear these allegations."

While operating a video gambling distribution business for at least 10 years, Szaflarski has managed to stay under the radar.

His wife, Denise, however, made the news during the city's Hired Truck scandal when the Chicago Sun-Times revealed she was one of the owners of a trucking firm that received more than $400,000 under the program.

Denise Szaflarski is the daughter of the late mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, who was a well-known Outfit burglar. Her brother, Rocco "Rocky" LaMantia, set up the trucking company, called Dialex Trucking. Rocky LaMantia is now in state prison, serving a six-year sentence for robbing a pawn shop.

Casey Szaflarski appears to have been making a profitable living from his business. From 2003 to 2005, he made an average of $142,000 in salary and other compensation from Amusements Inc., according to his tax records cited in a judicial order.

Szaflarski has a long history of legal battles. He was behind an unsuccessful lawsuit to throw out an Elmwood Park ban on video poker machines in town. And he's been involved in a series of lawsuits over legal bills stemming from that original case and a related one.

One of the attorneys who represented Szaflarski in the legal bill cases was Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Peraica, who is also a private attorney, said Friday he represented Szaflarski because he knew him from living in Bridgeport and from attending the same church, St. Jerome.

Peraica said he had "no idea" Szaflarski had possible connections to organized crime and has not represented him in any criminal cases.

While his client has made a good living off video poker, Peraica himself has been one of the most vocal opponents of allowing video gambling into unincorporated Cook County.

Last year, the County Board voted to ban such devices after state lawmakers decided to legalize them to fill Illinois' depleted coffers.

Szaflarski's business donated $500 in 2008 and another $500 in 2009 to Peraica's political campaign fund. Peraica said he saw no conflict in accepting the contributions. Szaflarski never mentioned the video poker ban to him, and Peraica, in fact, voted for the ban, he noted.

"This is all rather remarkable," Peraica said, pledging to return the contributions if Szaflarski is indicted.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reputed Mob-Backed Video Poker Machines Under Investigation

A federal investigation of mob-backed video poker machines is now under way in the Bridgeport neighborhood, sources have told the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5 News. And tavern owners, in whose bars the poker machines were located, have been called to testify before a federal grand jury.

The raids, according to law enforcement sources, began over the summer.

“They hit several taverns, 10 or 12 of them maybe,” confirmed attorney Joseph Lopez, who said the FBI took all the circuit boards out of the machines.

One such raid, according to a knowledgeable source, took place at the Redwood Lounge at 3200 S. Wallace. Reached at home, the bar’s owner, Nick Spazio, declined to comment when asked if his tavern was the object of an FBI raid. “Sweetheart, I can’t really talk to you on the advice of my lawyer . . . we better leave it alone,” he told a reporter.

The bar is now closed.

Authorities believe the video poker machines, which produce illegal payouts, tie back to the operation of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a top lieutenant in the 26th Street Crew.

LaMantia, in turn, worked under Frank Calabrese Sr., who was convicted in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets trial, involving 18 unsolved mob murders. Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo and three others were found guilty on racketeering and conspiracy charges.

A jury ruled that Calabrese, 72, took part in seven outfit hits and ran an illegal gambling operation. He was sentenced to life in prison.

At the end of the trial, Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI office, said his agents’ work was not done. “It’s not the end of the Outfit,” he said. “I would declare to you right now we are actively investigating the Chicago Outfit.”

Video poker machines have long been a staple of Chicago taverns and a rich source of revenue for the Chicago mob.

Currently, it is the state that is desperate for revenue. And so in July, Gov. Quinn signed a bill to legalize video poker as a way to fund state construction projects. But those machines won’t be able to legally make payouts until the Illinois Gaming Board can hire sufficient staff to license them and enforce their operation. A Gaming Board official said the goal is to be up and running by the end of 2010.

The plans call for an estimated 45,000 to 60,000 legal video poker machines in bars and taverns statewide. So far, about 49 cities, town and counties, including Cook and DuPage, have opted to ban them. (The county bans apply only to unincorporated areas.)

The Legislature, according to the Gaming Board, allocated $3.3 million to the board in fiscal year 2009 and $4.7 million in fiscal year 2010, allowing it to double its existing staff. Half of the new hires will be dedicated to monitoring video poker machines.

Critics argue that even with additional personnel it will be a daunting, if not impossible, challenge to wire all the machines to a central location and ensure no criminal influence.

Then there is the question of what will the mob do? Jim Wagner, a former FBI supervisor and past head of the Chicago Crime Commission, believes video poker remains too lucrative for the Outfit to cede its profits to the state.

There’s “too much money to be made with those machines to turn their backs on it,” Wagner said. “They have their own equipment out there and that won’t change.”

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Mosely

Monday, May 04, 2009

Unseen Victims from Mob Killings

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

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

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

His name? Joseph Lipuma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Kass

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Son of Mob Boss Arrested

The politically connected son of a late Chicago mob boss is under arrest on armed robbery charges.

He has one of the most feared last names in the Chicago Outfit - Lamantia. His name is Rocky and his late father's name was Joe, but they called him "Shorty" for his squat stature. On Thursday, the I-Team learned that Rocky LaMantia is in big trouble.

Witnesses say four men walked into a pawn shop at 647 W. Roosevelt Rd. At lunchtime Wednesday and began smashing display cases with hatchets. They allegedly used the tools to hold off employees and customers and escaped with $175,000 in new diamond rings and gold chains. Among them, according to police: Rocco "Rocky" LaMantia, who has had a history of robbery and drug convictions and beat a murder rap 25 years ago.

LaMantia's lawyer, Joe Lopez, known as The Shark for his vigorous defense of mobsters, said in the pawn shop heist, Rocky is being railroaded. "My client was there to redeem some of the goods that were previously given to the shop owner and had the money to redeem the goods. While he was there, these other individuals came in and violently attacked the patrons that were there. They violently smashed the cabinets, from my understanding, and took jewelry out of there, ordered my client onto the ground," said Lopez.

Witnesses say LaMantia drove the hatchet-wielding thugs to and from the pawn shop and that the blades were actually left behind. Lopez maintains his client is an innocent victim and a witness.

LaMantia is the son of the late South Side rackets boss Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia and were linked to the city hall hired truck scandal. Rocky LaMantia once had city truck contracts, and his wife used to work in Mayor Daley's budget office, which ran the hired truck program. The LaMantias have not been charged in that case, but Rocky's lawyer said authorities will no doubt try to use his Italian heritage against him. "Of course they're going to use his family background to dirty him up," said Lopez.

The owner of the pawn shop said Rocky Lamantia had been a customer for six or seven years. LaMantia was arrested when he returned to the shop-after the armed robbery, supposedly to check on the victims.

Forty-eight-year-old LaMantia was a fixture in the gallery at this summer's Family Secrets mob trial. He said he was gathering material for a book on his mob family and even asked if the I-Team's Chuck Goudie wanted to write it for him. It was an offer Goudie refused.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Mob Ties Run throughout City Truck Program

When the FBI was trying to bring down the mob's 26th Street crew two decades ago, it was investigating men such as Chicago Alderman Fred Roti, his nephew, trucking magnate Fred Barbara, and Mickey "Gorilla" Gurgone, a city worker and noted safecracker.

Today, many of those men or their families are linked to trucking firms that get a big cut of a $40 million annual City of Chicago program where nothing goes out to bid. Business is done with a handshake, without any contracts.

Nick "The Stick" LoCoco was arrested in 1986 on a gambling charge which was later thrown out. At the time of his arrest, he was a city foreman overseeing truck drivers. He rose to be the city's official point man in the Transportation Department for the Hired Truck Program. Indeed, nearly one out of every 10 trucking firms in the city's Hired Truck Program is either owned by alleged mobsters or Outfit associates or by family members, often women, of reputed mob figures, the Sun-Times found.

Robert Cooley, a former mob attorney who cooperated with federal authorities to destroy the Outfit, has told authorities that organized crime in the 1970s and 1980s controlled what is now called the Hired Truck Program. The late Alderman Roti, a made member of the mob, had influence over the program, Cooley has said.

The trucking companies often operate out of the owners' homes, and several lease a single dump truck to the city along with a driver. The firms are paid typically $40 an hour and up.

Trucking companies wanting work in the program for the city's transportation department had to deal with city employee Nick "The Stick" LoCoco, a reputed juice collector and bookie. Mayor Daley's administration put LoCoco in charge of hiring trucks for the no-bid program from 1994 until July 2002 when LoCoco retired.

When the Sun-Times told Daley's budget director, William Abolt, about its findings about the truck program and the mob, he said he was not at all surprised. Abolt is responsible for the Hired Truck Program. "It's something you find in trucking," he said. "I can't say that I'm shocked that you found connections to organized crime in the trucking industry."

"You need better standards for people coming in. There was far too much informality, far too much discretion, as to not enough things written down, how do people get in, how do they get kicked out, how they get put on probation," Abolt said, vowing reform.

The Daley administration is no stranger to embarrassing brushes with the Outfit. Last year, two members of the Duff family were indicted on charges they set up false minority- and women-owned firms to get $100 million worth of work. Family members have alleged ties to organized crime and are longtime political supporters of the mayor.

In 1995, the Daley administration backtracked on a $5.5 million loan to an allegedly mobbed-up deal for a movie studio project on the West Side.

Here are snapshots of some of the men with links to firms in the Hired Truck Program and the Outfit.

MICHAEL ‘THE GORILLA’ GURGONE: Gurgone drove a truck for Streets and Sanitation while moonlighting as a top-notch safecracker, authorities say. For more than 25 years, Michael "The Gorilla" Gurgone drove a truck for Streets and Sanitation while moonlighting as a top-notch safecracker, authorities say.

Gurgone, 67, of the South Side, has a history of arrests but only one significant conviction for a botched $600,000 heist at Balmoral Race Track in 1983.

Gurgone and another man were sitting outside in a vehicle, keeping a lookout for the cops, while their partners were inside, subduing the security guards. But the heist fell apart when a fresh shift of security guards arrived, and the burglars fled.

The men got busted years later when Duke Basile and Paul "Peanuts" Panczko, two men involved in the case, wound up squealing to federal agents. Gurgone was eventually convicted. Gurgone got seven years for the botched burglary, the first time he was convicted. It was a stiffer-than-normal sentence because the federal judge determined that Gurgone had spent much of his life as a burglar.

Gurgone is the brother-in-law of Carmen Schadt Gurgone, the president of Schadt's Trucking, which is in the Hired Truck Program.

Records show Schadt's was set up with the help of a man named Michael Gurgone who lived in the South Side Mount Greenwood neighborhood. It's the same address as the convicted burglar named Michael Gurgone, who has alleged ties to the mob, according to federal authorities. But Gurgone, the burglar, insisted in an interview he was not the Gurgone who helped create Schadt's. "I don't know nothing about it," the burglar said.

Carmen Schadt said in a written response that her company was created with the help of her nephew, Michael Gurgone, a CPA. He is the burglar's son and namesake.

The city paid Schadt's Inc. $396,562 for the first 10 months of 2003 in the Hired Truck Program, records show.

Schadt's is among many firms the city has designated as both a disadvantaged business and female-owned. The city certified Schadt's as a disadvantaged business because it is owned by a woman and it makes less than $17 million annually. So whenever the city hires trucks from Schadt's, it helps the Daley administration meet its goals to set aside business for disadvantaged and female-owned firms.

Schadt's leases eight trucks from Michael Tadin, whose firms make more money than any other in the Hired Truck Program. Tadin is a longtime political supporter of the mayor and grew up in the same neighborhood. Schadt's pays Tadin 88 percent of what those trucks gross, state records show. Schadt's and Tadin say those trucks are not used in the city Hired Truck Program.

After Michael Gurgone got out of jail for the botched Balmoral burglary, he got a job as a truck driver with Tadin's Marina Cartage, police records show. Gurgone said he still works for Tadin.

Out of Schadt's came another female-owned firm owned by a Gurgone, Rhonda Vasquez-Gurgone. She created her company, STR Enterprises, in August 2001, while she was a dispatcher for Schadt's. The growth of her business has been remarkable.

In 2001, when her business started, she made $3,000 from private business, records show. The next year, STR took in a total of $438,949, including about $117,000 from the Hired Truck Program. STR got into the program that year. Last year, the city paid STR $132,875 during the first 10 months, according to the most recent figures.

JAMES INENDINO: Jimmy Inendino’s JMS Trucking firm was approved for the program seven months after he was convicted of ripping off the Town of Cicero in a kickback scheme. Another Outfit figure, once described as a whiz at stealing stuff off trucks, owns a trucking firm that got into the Hired Truck Program.

James "Jimmy I" Inendino has been linked to planning at least one murder and threatening to kill debtors who are behind in their juice loan payments. But his most recent criminal conviction would seem to make him an unusual candidate for the program.

In March 2002, Inendino was convicted with the reputed Cicero mob boss and the town's crooked police chief in a kickback scheme to rip off the town. Inendino is now serving 6 1/2 years behind bars.

While he was awaiting trial, federal prosecutors tried to revoke his bond when they alleged he bribed a city building inspector, with $1,000 tucked inside a Chicago Sun-Times, for occupancy permits for town homes Inendino was building in Little Italy.

Despite that highly publicized background, Inendino's firm, JMS Trucking, got into the Hired Truck Program in November 2002, after he had been convicted. That's despite city rules that can ban from the program people who have been convicted of bribery or other crimes involving the government. City records show Inendino operated the business out of his Darien home. JMS has taken in about $3,200 from the Hired Truck Program. The city just started using JMS last year, after Inendino was convicted.

Inendino, a convicted loan shark, has a history of threatening to hurt people. When one debtor didn't pay up $250, Inendino, who has been investigated by the FBI and IRS, warned that the man "will never ride a . . . horse the rest of his life."

When another man failed to make his payment, Inendino told a colleague to tell the man "he doesn't owe anything, because when I see him, and I am going to see him, I'm going to break his f------ head."

One of Inendino's friends is Harry Aleman, the infamous hit man who was sentenced to 100 to 300 years in prison for a murder in which he was originally acquitted because the Outfit bribed the judge in the case, authorities said.

Aleman, Inendino and another partner in crime, Louis Almeida, planned the murder of a fourth associate, Robert William Harder, but the hit didn't go through because they couldn't find him, according to a federal judge's ruling.

Another Inendino friend, Greg Paloian, a convicted bookmaker, also found a sideline in the Hired Truck Program, with his firm Ruff Edge Inc.

Like Inendino, Paloian ran a small trucking company out of his home in Elmwood Park. The money came at a good time for Paloian. He was indicted in January 2001 on bookmaking charges, the same year the city began hiring about five trucks from him. That year, the city paid Paloian about $182,800.

In March 2002, Paloian pleaded guilty in the case and later was sentenced to nearly 3-1/2 years in prison in July in an IRS case. His company was paid nearly $181,500 by the city in 2002. The city stopped using Paloian's trucks after he went to prison.

ROBERT COOLEY AND FRED ROTI: Robert Cooley, a onetime mob attorney, maintains that the late Alderman Fred Roti, a made member of the mob, had influence over the Hired Truck Program. Family members of the late Chicago Ald. Fred Roti have one of the most extensive networks of trucking firms in the program.

Roti was convicted of extortion and racketeering and was called a "made member" of the mob by the FBI. He was also accused of packing the city's Streets and Sanitation Department with mob members and associates. He died in 1999 after serving a four-year prison sentence.

Roti's family members are linked to six companies in the Hired Truck Program, two of them certified as female-owned firms.

One nephew, Frank Roti, has three family members who each have trucking companies in the program. In turn, all three companies lease trucks from a firm owned by Frank Roti, city records show.

One of those three companies, Miffy Trucking, is owned by his daughter, Mary. There are no state or city records showing that Miffy owns any trucks. The firm leases its fleet from FMR Leasing, the firm owned by Mary's father. The city has certified Miffy as both a female-owned business and a disadvantaged business. Miffy, which was created in 1996, is one of the top firms in the Hired Truck Program, making $447,058 for the first 10 months in 2003, city records show.

Together, the Frank Roti family firms were paid about $1.4 million in 2002, trailing only Tadin's companies as the top earners in the program.

Another nephew of the late alderman, businessman Fred Barbara, has a father, wife and mother-in-law with firms in the Hired Truck Program.

Fred Barbara, 56, once owned a huge trucking firm that did business with the city, but he sold it several years ago. His wife, Lisa Humbert, owns Karen's Kartage, a firm she started in 1986 when she was Fred Barbara's secretary at his trucking company. The city paid Karen's Kartage more than $520,000 in 2002.

Fred Barbara says his brother now runs Karen's Kartage, not his wife, and it's no longer certified as a female-owned firm.

Fred Barbara's mother-in-law, Geraldine Humbert, owns a small trucking company that has been in the Hired Truck Program since 1999. She has hired out one truck and driver to the city for $38,720 during the first 10 months of the year.

Fred Barbara's father, Anthony, has one truck in the program.

Fred Barbara owned his trucking company when he was arrested on loansharking charges in 1982 along with Joseph "Shorty'' Lamantia, then a reputed top aide to mob boss Angelo "The Hook'' LaPietra. Also arrested were LaMantia's adopted son, Aldo Piscitelli Jr., and Barbara's cousin, Frank Caruso, another Roti nephew. Caruso's father was the reputed mob boss of Chinatown; his son Frank was convicted in the beating of Lenard Clark, a black teen who was riding his bike through Bridgeport.

Fred Barbara and the others were accused of trying to collect a $20,000 juice loan from an undercover FBI agent posing as a commodities broker. Barbara and his co-defendants were acquitted.

Barbara said those allegations are more than 20 years old and are "old news." "Show me my connection to organized crime. Did I turn the corner? You show me anything in the last 24 years that reflects to that nature," Barbara said.

Carl Galione, an associate of LaPietra's former bodyguard and driver, Ronald Jarrett, owns one company in the Hired Truck Program, while his daughter owns another. Both companies share common addresses on Chicago's Southwest Side and in Downers Grove.

Galione's company, CPS Trucking, started leasing trucks to the city in 2001. The following year, his daughter's company entered the Hired Truck Program.

Galione and Jarrett were indicted on charges of rape and kidnapping in 1980, but a Cook County judge found them not guilty.

Galione, 54, spent six months in a federal prison in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to income tax evasion.

Galione said he was a childhood friend of Jarrett's but that they went their separate ways. When asked if he had any ties to organized crime, Galione laughed and said: "I've got ties to my shoes."

Other companies owned by relatives of organized crime figures also provide trucks to the city:

*Andrich Trucking is owned by Donald Andrich, also known as Donald Andriacchi. He is a nephew of Joseph "Joe the Builder" Andriacchi, who authorities say is a reputed top crime boss. The city has done business with Andrich Trucking for decades.

*Chica Trucking is owned by Patricia Cortez, sister-in-law of Chris Spina, a former city worker once fired for chauffeuring reputed mob boss Joseph "the Clown'' Lombardo on city time. Spina later got his job back. Cortez started hiring out trucks to the city water department in November 2002.

The city paid Greg Paloian about $182,800 for trucks in 2001, the same year he was indicted on bookmaking charges.

Thanks to STEVE WARMBIR AND TIM NOVAK

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