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

Friday, August 15, 2008

Reputed Mob Associate is Good Family Man and Neighbor, Bad Citizen

In the annals of Chicago organized crime, among "No Nose," "Joe Batters" and "The Lackey," mob underling Joe Venezia was never awarded a nickname.

Yesterday, the 65-year old Venezia may have earned his own mob moniker. Joe "The Family Man" Venezia.

That was the gist of Mr. Venezia's plea for mercy as he stood to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. Venezia contended that he should get a break because he was a good family man to his wife and kids.

The government contended that Venezia was a good member of another family: the Chicago Organized Crime family, where he worked for an illegal video poker racket in the suburbs.

In the end, Judge Zagel brushed aside Venezia's standing in the Venezia family. "He is a good family man and a good neighbor," Zagel said. "He is not a good citizen."

With that, Zagel sentenced the aging hoodlum to 40 months in federal prison and three years of probabtion once he is released.

Venezia pleaded guilty to gambling and tax offenses that were leveled against him in the landmark Operation Family Secrets mob case, but he was not implicated in any of the 18 murders allegedly committed by some co-defendants.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Joseph Venezia Says He Only Worked for the Mob and Was Not in the Mob

A low-echelon courier for the Chicago Outfit alleges that federal prosecutors are trying to throw the book at him because he is Italian.

Joseph Venezia of Hillside pleaded guilty to running a gambling business and hiding the his profits from the IRS. He was charged with more than a dozen Chicago hoodlums in the Operation: Family Secrets mob case.

In a court filing, Venezia attorneys state that the hoodlum "takes objection to the investigating agent's conclusion that he was an 'associate' of the Chicago Outfit. There is nothing other than his name ending in a vowel that distinguishes" him from other, non-Italian defendants, argue Venezia's lawyers.

Mr. Venezia, 65, was a runner for an Outfit gambling operation in Cicero. He admits having been "a route man who, among his other duties, collected the proceeds from the video poker machines. For this he was paid a salary of $2,400.00 per month. His tenure was from 1996 until his arrest."

Venezia is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The motion filed by his lawyers in advance of sentencing asks for probation, downplaying his role in the Outfit scheme and characterizing him as little more than a gopher.

"He is not a member of the 'Chicago Outfit.' He had no dealings with any of the co-defendants other than the owner and employees of M&M Amusement," states Venezia's motion for mercy filed by attorney Kevin P. Bolger. M&M is a business owned by Mickey Marcello, another defendant in the case who pleaded guilty, and the brother of Chicago Outfit powerhouse James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, so named as a play off of his pasta-infused mid-section.

Venezia isn't the first Family Secrets defendant to raise the issue of an Italian bias by prosecutors. During last summer's trial, lawyers for "Little Jimmy" Marcello flashed a pickup truck-sized shamrock on a screen for the jury to see. The show and tell by Marcello's attorneys was intended to prove that the gangster was really an Irishman because of his mother's heritage.

Another defendant, former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, actually changed his moniker from the Italian family name he was born with to the Irish name he now sports. Doyle changed his last name at the time he took the police exam, apparently to better fit in with a department that has been historically well-populated by Irish-American officers.

In Venezia's case, the government is asking a lengthy prison sentence for his role in the mob scheme. Venezia computes the applicable sentence range as 18-24 months but wants Judge James Zagel to adopt a downward departure from the federal guidelines. "He has no criminal record, no history of violence and but for this indiscretion is a law abiding citizen. A period of probation would not deprecate the seriousness of the instant offense," according to Venezia's motion.

Further, his motion states that the mob messenger "is married to a women who is in poor health and is dependent on him for financial support as well as assist her in her every day activities. He is also supporting his hearing impaired step son & he has lost his elderly mother, but his son Frank has had a mental breakdown an attempted suicide. He was hospitalized for treatment and now depends on Joe for strength in getting through a most difficult time in his life."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guilty Pleas on Eve of Family Secrets Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Nicholas Ferriola, Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph Venezia, Michael Marcello, James Marcello, Frank "The German" Schweihs

Two men accused of working with the Chicago mob pleaded guilty on the eve of the city's biggest organized crime trial in years.

The guilty pleas leave five defendants in the racketeering conspiracy case, scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday. The case is based on an FBI investigation of 18 long unsolved murders that federal prosecutors tie to the Chicago Outfit, the city's organized crime family. Neither man was among the most prominent defendants.

Nicholas Ferriola, 32, pleaded guilty to racketeering, bookmaking and squeezing extortion payments from a Chicago restaurant. He admitted he was part of the mob's South Side or Chinatown crew and that he worked with Frank Calabrese Sr., a defendant and reputed to be one of the city's top mob bosses.

Joseph Venezia, 64, pleaded guilty to running a gambling business and hiding the proceeds from the Internal Revenue Service.

No sentencing date was set. The men are to return to court Aug. 10.

The federal indictment presents a panoramic picture of the Outfit, which it says consists of six "street crews," each with a franchise over organized crime in its respective sector of the city and suburbs. The indictment details murder, gambling, pornography, extortion and loan sharking among the Outfit's activities.

The number of defendants has dwindled steadily as the date for jury selection has drawn closer.

Last week, Michael Marcello — brother of James Marcello, described by federal prosecutors as one of the top leaders of the Outfit — and two other men pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel also tentatively dropped reputed mob extortionist Frank "The German" Schweihs from the trial last week for health reasons. (Sara Lee)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mobster May Avoid Trial Due to Health Issues

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Nicholas Ferriola, Joseph Ferriola, Joseph Venezia

A reputed prolific hit man for the Chicago Outfit, battling cancer, won't be going to trial with his fellow mobsters starting Tuesday in the historic Family Secrets mob case -- and may never face a jury at all.

Mobster, Frank 'The German' Schweihs, May Avoid Trial Due to Health IssuesFrank "The German" Schweihs was severed from the trial because of "physical incapacity," according to a decision by U.S. District Judge James Zagel. While Schweihs could be tried alone if his health improves, sources familiar with his prognosis doubt that will happen.

The turn of events Friday angered some family members of victims allegedly slain by Schweihs. "Now I won't feel closure," said Nick Seifert, a son of Bensenville factory owner Daniel Seifert, whom Schweihs allegedly killed in 1974 to prevent his testimony. "I want him in that courtroom. I don't care if he's on a respirator or on a gurney. I want him tried and convicted for the crime he did."

Schweihs is charged in the Seifert slaying -- one of 18 unsolved Outfit hits that are part of the Family Secrets case. But there are many more murders in which Schweihs was a suspect but never charged. One was the 1985 murder of Pasquale "Patsy" Ricciardi, the owner of the X-rated Admiral Theatre movie house, who was slain as the Outfit consolidated control over the lucrative pornographic movie industry.

When told Schweihs wouldn't be going to trial, Ricciardi's daughter Marianne said Friday: "If anybody has witnessed someone dying of cancer, all I can say is, 'God works in mysterious ways.'"

In other developments, two more men charged in the case, Nicholas Ferriola, the son of late mob boss Joseph Ferriola, and Joseph Venezia, an alleged worker in an illegal video gambling business, were expected to plead guilty Monday.

If that happens, it would bring the total guilty pleas to six and leave five defendants to stand trial.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Officials go after Lifeblood of Chicago Outfit

By targeting mob-owned video gambling and sports bookmaking operations in a grand jury indictment handed down Monday, federal authorities acknowledged the importance of illicit gambling to the Chicago underworld.

"The lifeblood of the Chicago Outfit is illegal gambling and the money and profits that it generates," Byram Tichenor, special agent in charge of the IRS in Chicago, said Monday at a news conference announcing criminal charges against 12 alleged local mobsters and two former police officers.

The indictments offer a unique glimpse into the inner workings of a video gambling ring that netted millions of dollars in proceeds inside bars and private clubs in Cicero and Berwyn over and eight-year period that ended last April.

Authorities did not say how much money was taken in by M&M Amusement Inc. of Cicero, but the business is reportedly very profitable. Proponents of a bill to legalize video gambling in Illinois two years ago estimated the state could rake in $375 million from the 47,000 machines operating in the state.

M&M Amusement, operated by James Marcello and his brother Michael Marcello, allegedly installed an unspecified number of video gambling machines inside Cicero and Berwyn bars, restaurants and fraternal clubs beginning in January 1996.

To the uninitiated or outsiders, these machines were just time-killing amusements like a pinball machine or jukebox. But to bar regulars and other trusted people, the video gambling machines allowed players to accrue electronic credits that could be cashed in for real dollars, the indictment alleges.

Two indicted M&M Amusement employees, Joseph Venezia and Thomas Johnson, allegedly taught bar, restaurant and fraternal group representatives how to pay off winners and how to clear accumulated credits off the machines after the cash payments were made, the indictment alleges.

Venezia and Johnson further "warned the owners, managers and representatives only to pay money to winning customers whom they knew well, and to beware of law enforcement efforts," the indictment says. "Those customers who were not known were to be told that the video gambling machines were for amusement only."

Electronic counters inside the machines kept track of the number of games played, winning credits accrued and total number of credits cleared off each machine. M&M Amusement allegedly divided the proceeds from the machines with bars, restaurants and fraternal groups and reimbursed them for payouts.

The federal indictment does not indicate exactly how much money M&M took in between January 1996 and April 2004, but officials are seeking the forfeiture of $10 million from the defendants. Officials are also seeking to seize M&M Amusement's Cicero office building, which is owned by Michael Marcello.

Authorities gave few details about a sports bookmaking operation allegedly run between 1992 and 2001 by defendants Frank Calabrese Sr. and Nicholas Ferriola. The indictments state it was run in northern Illinois, involved five or more people and was in continuous operation for more than 30 days.

According to previous court filings, M&M Amusement served 44 clients, primarily in the west suburbs. A listing of the customers was found on the body of mobster Anthony Chiaramonti after he was gunned down in Lyons in 2001. Several of the customers were called before the grand jury that handed down Monday's indictment.

According to the previous court filing, one video poker customer said he received between $150 and $400 a week from his machines.

No one answered the door Monday at M&M Amusement's 5533 W. 25th St. property, where there are no business signs. A neighbor said he has not seen anyone working at the property since December.

Thanks to Brett McNeil, Ray Gibson, and Matt O'Connor

Monday, April 25, 2005

With Operation Family Secrets, Prosecutors Boast of 'a Hit on the Mob'

In one of the biggest strikes in Chicago's history against the mob, federal authorities today began rounding up alleged organized crime figures—including outfit boss Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo—in connection with a string of 18 unsolved murders and one attempted murder dating back to 1970.

In the culmination of what officials dubbed "Operation Family Secrets," a federal racketing indictment unsealed this morning took direct aim at Chicago's three dominant mob chapters: The Grand Avenue crew of Lombardo; the Melrose Park crew of brothers Jimmy Marcello and Michael Marcello, and the 26th Street crew of imprisoned mobsters Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, who has turned mob informant.

Lombardo, 75, of Chicago, remains at large, authorities said. Lombardo previously was convicted in U.S. District Court in Chicago in another major mob investigation. He was released from prison in 1992. Another suspect was found dead of apparent natural causes— along with a substantial amount of cash and checks—in a Kane County hotel room, while a third is being sought in Florida. Everyone else named in the indictment is either under arrest or about to be arrested.

"This unprecedented indictment put a `hit' on the mob," said U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald. "It is remarkable for both the breadth of the murders charged and for naming the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise under the anti-racketeering law."

"The outfit maintained hidden interest in businesses, maintained hidden control of labor unions, corrupted law enforcement and acquired explosives," Fitzgerald said.

Fourteen suspects were named in the sweeping indictment, discussed at length by authorities at a news conference downtown this afternoon. The unsolved murders include those of the mob's top man in Las Vegas, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, and his brother, Michael Spilotro, according to the nine-count indictment. Tony Spilotro, 48, a Chicago mob enforcer, ruled Las Vegas in the 1970s and early 1980s. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 movie "Casino.'' Spilotro and his brother, 41, were last seen alive on June 14, 1986. Their badly beaten bodies were found buried in an Indiana cornfield eight days later.

Eleven defendants formed the backbone of the Chicago mob by allegedly participating in illegal conduct such as extorting "street taxes" from businesses to allow them to operate; running sports betting and video poker machines; loan sharking; extortion; threats and violence.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of $10 million in alleged racketeering proceeds from the 11 men and the Marcello brothers' business, M&M Amusement. Three suspects were not indicted for racketeering conspiracy, but instead face charges of illegal gambling or tax fraud conspiracy.

The mob of Al Capone and Frank Nitti has long been entrenched in Chicago with its tentacles reaching into hallways of unions, casinos and police departments. In fact, the indictment alleges that two retired Chicago police officers aided the outfit

Retired officer Anthony Doyle, known as "Twan," is accused of being a mob mole inside the police department. He allegedly worked for Frank Calabrese Sr., keeping him informed of law enforcement's investigation into the murder of John Fecarotta, according to the indictment.

The other retired officer, Michael Ricci, is accused of working for the mob while he was a Cook County Sheriff's officer, passing messages from the jailed Frank Calabrese Sr. to other members of the mob. He is accused of lying to the FBI on behalf of the mob.

After a lengthy investigation, FBI and the IRS agents today began arresting the 14 suspects in Arizona, Florida and Illinois.

The indictment gives chapter and verse on the structure and chain of the mob's chain of command and how the crews carried out its criminal activities. The crews are known by their geographic locations and included Grand Avenue, Melrose Park, 26th Street, Elmwood Park, Rush Street and Chicago Heights.

The nine-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury Thursday and unsealed today. The investigation started with 18 previously unsolved murders and one attempted murder between 1970 and 1986, all in the Chicago area except for one slaying in Arizona.

"What makes this indictment significant to us is for the first time we have the heads of multiple crews indicted in one indictment," said Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.

Referring to the mob as "LCN," for La Costa Nostra, Grant said, "This is the first indictment that I can recall that involved so many murders, which really gets at the heart of what LCN is, which is a bunch of murderous thugs."

Today's arrests, he added, will have a "significant impact" on organized crime by cutting its numbers in the region.

"From everything we've learned, the LCN has been reduced to six crews from four," Grant said. "We now believe there are four crews operating in the Chicago area—the Elmwood Park crew, the South Side 26th Street crew, the Grand Avenue crew and the Melrose Park-Cicero crew. Current membership from what we can estimate is over 100 members and associates."

Arrested in Illinois were:

James Marcello, 63, of Lombard, and his brother Michael Marcello, 55, of Schaumburg.

Nicholas Ferriola, 29, of Westchester.

Joseph Venezia, 62, of Hillside.

Thomas Johnson, 49, of Willow Springs, and his nephew Dennis Johnson, 34, of Lombard.

The defendants were expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Another defendant, Frank Saladino, of 59, was found dead of apparent natural causes in a hotel room in Hampshire, in rural Kane County. About $25,000 in cash and $70,000 in checks were found with the man's body, officials said.

Ricci, 75, is currently living in Streamwood and was expected to voluntarily surrender to the FBI. Doyle, 60, of Wickenburg, Ariz., was arrested in Arizona.

Frank "The German" Schweihs, 75, of Dania, Fla., and formerly of Chicago, is at large and being sought in Florida, authorities said.

Three other defendants—Frank Calabrese Sr., 68, of Oak Brook, his brother Nicholas W. Calabrese, 62, of Chicago and Paul "The Indian" Schiro, 67, of Phoenix—already were in federal custody.

Eleven of the defendants were charged with conspiracy, including conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, in connection with illicit organized crime activities including loan sharking and bookmaking.

All 11 also face charges including obstructing justice, extorting "street taxes" from businesses, sports bookmaking, operating video gambling machines, making "juice loans" charging ruinous interest rates and using extortion, threats, violence and intimidation to collect on those loans.

Thanks to Todd Lightly


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