The Chicago Syndicate: Manny Skar
Showing posts with label Manny Skar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manny Skar. Show all posts

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chicago Brothers Discover their Father's Friends were #Mobsters. So, They Wrote a Book #MobAdjacent

Childhood is, or should be, a time of innocence, and for a while that is the way it was for brothers Michael Jr. and Jeffrey Gentile. And then a pistol fell out of a coat.

“We were taking the coats from people who had come over to visit our parents and this gun just dropped on the floor,” says Michael. “For us it wasn’t a matter of, ‘Oh my God, look, a gun!’ but, ‘Hey, we better figure out which coat this fell from and put it back.’”

The brothers were born 14 months apart in the mid-1950s, and grew up in the western suburbs and everything was just fine for a time, or as Jeffrey puts it, “just like episodes of ‘The Wonder Years’ until they started to get interrupted by episodes of ‘The Sopranos.’ ”

As they write in their book, “Mob Adjacent: A Family Memoir”: “Once Michael and I started paying attention, the veneer that wrapped around our family fiction cracked, and there was no putting it back together. One day you’re a kid learning to read; the next you’re reading the newspaper, and there’s an article about the man who came to dinner last week. Pictures, too. Yup, that’s him. The newspaper said he’d been indicted for running a suburban gambling ring and was looking at five years in prison.”

The man who came to dinner remains nameless but the names of many of the others who pepper the book’s pages and frequented the brothers’ lives read almost like an old most-wanted list.

“Through geography and happenstance, our father grew up and knew well the post-Capone generation of Chicago criminals and crime bosses,” says Michael Jr. “They were his friends.”

The names of those people, some with well-known nicknames, pop from the pages: Manny Skar, Richard Cain, Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, Frank “Skip” Cerone and his brother James “Tar Baby” Cerone and their cousin “Jackie the Lackey” Cerone.

The brothers’ grandfather came here as a 2-year-old from Italy in 1896, settling with his parents and siblings in the then heavily Italian neighborhood around Grand Avenue and Aberdeen Street. After he helped a neighbor fight off two men who were attacking him, that man, a crime figure named Vincent Benevento, conferred on him the sort of respect and supplied the connections that can go a long way in Chicago.

He had a son named Michael (in 1929), the father of Michael Jr. and Jeffrey, and together they worked in the produce business. Then the son went to war (Korea) and afterward, with the help of some by-then nefarious childhood friends, opened a bar. He married (a woman named Mary Ann) and started a family. The Gentile brothers have a sister named Lisa.

“My dad was kind of the go-to guy for his friends,” says Jeffrey. “He was always clean as a whistle and good at what he did and so when a place was in trouble, my dad was called in.”

And so it was that in the early 1960s, he was running a place called Orlando’s Hideaway, part of a notorious strip of entertainments along Mannheim Road in the near western suburbs. Those of a certain age are likely to remember the fancy hotels, nightclubs and restaurants of that strip, and perhaps some of the illegal gambling and prostitution activities too, that comprised what was known as “Glitter Gulch,” a sort of mini Las Vegas.

It was at Orlando’s where the brothers met “a small, quiet, balding man, always perfectly tailored.” The boys were told to address him as “Mr. Sam.” He was Sam Giancana, the head of the Chicago outfit from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

Giancana, often known as “Momo,” used Orlando’s as a meeting place. The brothers were there when Frank Sinatra came to call and, they write, “We heard an unforgettable explosion as Mr. Sam raged at Sinatra” — about a Nevada casino deal that supposedly involved Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, a Sinatra pal. “We have never seen anyone so angry before or since. Snarling, really. Spitting mad. Literally. Red face. Eyes bulging. Insane. Terrifying.”

That is but one of the lively anecdotes in “Mob Adjacent,” a book that came to life after Michael Jr., who has had a long career in the produce business, produced and hosted a 10-part series of short YouTube videos about his family.

These premiered in November 2016. “I thought that the videos were good but that they were only a half effort,” says Jeffrey. “I always wanted to write a book about our family and so Michael and I began to collaborate, to share memories and stories.”

The foundation for the book was letters and journal entries that Jeffrey had been keeping for decades. To flesh those out the brothers talked, often for more than 14 hours at a stretch, at Michael’s home here and Jeffrey’s in Pasadena, Calif.

“Mob Adjacent” is a fine and lively book, one that gives a solid and not overwhelming history of organized crime in these parts, and offers a very detailed narrative of their family and their own lives. It is frank and honest and surprisingly amusing.

“Our lives are the result of geography and happenstance,” says Jeffrey. Or, as he writes in the book, “Being mob adjacent meant we got the best seats in the house. It also meant we got to go home after the show.”

Their father died in 1995. At his wake, Jimmy Cerone approached the open casket, patted the corpse’s cheek and whispered into the coffin, “You were a good boy.”

His sons do justice to their father’s life and this project has made them appreciate one another. “Writing this book gave us a greater understanding of who we are and where we came from,” says Michael.

It has also given them something of a cottage industry. At their website mobadjacent.com, you will find a way to order the self-published book, see the video segments and purchase all manner of items, from an array of T-shirts to shot glasses, pens and mugs. The brothers have written a pilot episode for a television series that they are shopping around to agents and producers.

“It is a sitcom based on our lives,” says Michael. “But it could also be a drama.”

Thanks to Rick Kogan.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Family Secret Murders

The milestone mob case has solved many more Chicago Outfit killings than first thought. When the curtain went up on Operation Family Secrets, authorities said the plot involved 18 old gangland murders. But 18 is just the number of killings that were part of the court case.

The I-Team has learned that federal authorities consider as many as 40 mob murders now solved because of their investigation.

The mob's hit parade has been rolling since 1919 with corpses in cars and alleys; on street corners, sidewalks and alleyways; even in back yards and barber chairs. And in almost 90 years of keeping the stats, just a few Outfit murders have ever been solved.

"Whenever we had an organized crime homicide in Area 4, they were some of the hardest cases to work because even their own family members wouldn't talk to you," said Steve Peterson, Chicago police.
Charles Tyrwhitt
When you're a contract killer for La Cosa Nostra, or the LCN, part of the deal is, you don't get caught.

"This is the first investigation that I can recall where so many murders are charged...it goes to the heart of the LCN and that is a bunch of murderous thugs," said Robert Grant, FBI.

One man was *the* most murderous of the thugs: Nick Calabrese, mob hitman-turned-government informant.

During the summer-long trial, Calabrese admitted that he personally took part in more than a dozen gangland killings. But the I-Team has learned that during months of interviews with Chicago FBI agents, Nick Calabrese identified the Outfit triggermen in many additional murders that were never revealed in court.

"About 20 or so that Nick Calabrese provided information on," said John Scully, Family Secrets prosecutor. "I haven't looked at it in a while, but there are a number of murders beyond the ones that he testified about. Again, that he was not involved in, but through conversations with other mobsters."

Retired federal prosecutor Scully revealed the information during a recent interview about the Family Secrets case. While Scully declined to provide details, the I-Team has learned that the case of one mob murder victim is atop those cleared by Calabrese.

Manny Skar, a mob gambling functionary was mysteriously shot dead in 1965 as he emerged from his car near the garage of this Lake Shore Drive apartment house where he and his wife lived. Skar was about to snitch on the Outfit.

According to FBI interview reports, known as 302's, Nick Calabrese told agents that the hit man who rubbed out Skar was none other than Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.
Mob investigators believe it was Lombardo's first hit, carried out as a requirement of The Clown's induction into the outfit.

Skar's murder and the numerous other "bonus killings" cleared by Nick Calabrese, will be used by prosecutors at the upcoming sentencing of Lombardo, Nick's brother Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese and "Little Jimmy" Marcello.

"At some point, if they haven't done it already, the FBI will be advising the police departments that have an interest in those murders now that this case is done," said Scully.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirms that the bureau is providing local authorities with details of the old mob murders, but he says in some cases, informant Nick Calabrese didn't even know the name of the victim.

However, from court records and law enforcement sources, these are among the secret murders also believed cleared by Calabrese:

-Sam Annerino, 1971. A top south suburban enforcer, taken out by masked gunmen in the middle of an Oak Lawn street.

-Anthony Reitinger, 1975. Mob bookie, gunned down in Mama Luna's restaurant on the Northwest Side.

-Tony Borsellino, 1979. A mob assassin shot five times in the back of the head and dumped in a Frankfort farm field.

-Sam Guzzino, 1981. Outfit bodyguard found mangled in a southwest suburban ditch.

-Ronnie Jarrett, 1999. South Side mob lieutenant ambushed on his Bridgeport doorstep.

Besides Nick Calabrese lifting the veil of secrecy on as many as 20 additional Outfit murders, he has also disclosed details of a number of botched gangland shootings, where the target survived.

Defense lawyers declined to comment on Calabrese' additional statements, saying that his FBI records are still under a court-protective order.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Ruthless Rise of Mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

To neighbors, Joseph Lombardo was a beloved family man and respected boys baseball coach in his West Side neighborhood -- "more liked than the priest" in the community, according to one friend.

To the feds, Lombardo is the man who had a factory owner slain in front of the man's wife and 4-year-old son.

To investigators, he's the man who knows no loyalty, signing off on the murders of three close friends.

When he appears in federal court these days, for updates on the trial starting June 19 that could put him in prison until his dying days, he's the wisecracking senior citizen. At 78, he's the oldest of a mostly geriatric bunch of mobsters in what likely will be the last great Outfit trial in Chicago history -- the Family Secrets case.

He's "the Clown," known for his quick wit. When the cops stopped him once in the 1980s, after he fled a gambling raid, he had $12,000 in cash on him and a book filled with jokes. But the wisecracks, investigators say, only mask the brutality of one of the last of the old-time Chicago mobsters.

Interviews with people who have known and investigated Lombardo, as well as a review of thousands of pages of court records and law enforcement documents, reveal the story of the ruthless rise of Lombardo in the Chicago Outfit.

"He was vicious and a killer," said retired FBI Agent Jack O'Rourke. "He was their prime enforcer."

Lombardo has denied hurting anyone. Now behind bars at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, he declined an interview request.

In court in 1983, Lombardo said: "I never ordered a killing, I never OKd a killing, and I never killed a man in my life."

His attorney, Rick Halprin, says his client has never been a mob leader. But investigators say Lombardo was a top mobster for years, thanks to his criminal versatility.

He allegedly went from busting heads and two-bit burglaries to orchestrating a bribe attempt of U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon. He was convicted in that case in the 1980s, as well as another one for skimming millions from Las Vegas casinos for the mob. He allegedly controlled millions of dollars in Teamster pension funds through his friend, insurance magnate Allen Dorfman, and was responsible for getting the skim from Las Vegas casinos to Chicago mob bosses.

As a child, Lombardo never knew such wealth, growing up poor in Depression-era Chicago, one of 11 children, the son of a printer. A graduate of Wells High School, he worked as a paperboy, plucked chickens, shined shoes, loaded boxcars at Union Station for 69 cents an hour and handled room service at the Blackstone Hotel.

He was also quite the athlete, playing on wrestling, basketball, fencing and swimming teams and even taking square-dancing lessons. He found a passion for golf and caddied for top Chicago gangster Jackie Cerone. He was also quite the gin rummy cardshark. But he didn't have to rely on cards for cash. His criminal work was apparently quite profitable, authorities said. In recent years, while Lombardo pleads poverty, his family trust benefitting his ex-wife, son and daughter has sold real estate for millions. Authorities believe the trust was set up to keep the feds from seizing assets.

Lombardo's success was punctuated by violence. He has been a suspect in numerous murders but never convicted. What's more, authorities say, he had control over the most allegedly vicious hit man around, Frank "The German" Schweihs. Schweihs is charged in the Family Secrets case with Lombardo. Schweihs would talk about doing an Outfit killing like he was taking out the garbage, court records show.

Even before Lombardo was a somebody in the Chicago Outfit, he was "the Clown."

It was 1964, and Lombardo was on trial in Chicago with other alleged loan sharks for beating a man who owed the mob money. The case was making headlines, and so was Lombardo. When police took his mug shot, he opened his mouth into a cavernous yawn to stop the cops from getting a good photo of him.

Even then, Lombardo -- then going by a variation of his birth name, Joseph Lombardi -- was referred to in the press as the Clown.

The other notable twist: Lombardo was innocent of the charge. But he was part of a clever plot to scotch the case, authorities said. When police rounded up the loan sharks, they arrested the wrong Joseph Lombardi. At the time, two Chicago gangsters had that name and looked similar. Defense attorneys for the men realized the error but kept silent to spring a trap on prosecutors, authorities said. It worked. When the victim took the stand, he could identify all the defendants as his attackers, all except the Clown.

"Talk about having your jaw drop and your case collapse," said attorney Louis B. Garippo, who prosecuted the case. Lombardo walked out a free man. His fellow mobsters walked too, after a jury acquitted them.

Lombardo's antics would be only his first of many public displays.

After he was arrested in 1980 for leading police on a chase, he left the courthouse one day, past the press corps, hidden behind a newspaper with a peephole cut out for his eyes. He was tripped up, though, as he went through the revolving door.

When Lombardo got out of prison in 1992, the FBI in Chicago began getting strange phone calls from a man identifying himself as Long John Silver. The caller would let agents know when he was going to call through newspaper ads.

The caller provided good info about the Outfit's hierarchy but was anxious to steer agents away from one person -- Lombardo's son, Joseph Jr., whom agents were investigating but never charged. Agents traced the calls as coming from pay phones near Lombardo's home, sources said.

The phone calls never amounted to much, and the agents never proved they were coming from Lombardo. But there was a tantalizing clue. Flip the initials for Long John: you get J and L. Short for Joseph Lombardo? Lombardo could pull that stunt, agents figured.

To get into the Chicago Outfit as a made member -- to have the full rights of membership -- a candidate must murder for the mob. Lombardo's qualifying kill was allegedly the 1965 hit of mob associate and hotel owner Manny Skar, according to court records. Lombardo allegedly shadowed Skar for two days before Skar was killed as he exited his car to enter his apartment on Lake Shore Drive.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Lombardo was on the move, wearing multiple hats for the Outfit and allegedly signing off on the murders of three close friends.

The first was in 1974 -- the slaying of businessman Daniel Seifert. Seifert ran a fiberglass business in the suburbs and was an unwitting front for Lombardo. Lombardo and Seifert were so close that Lombardo baby-sat Seifert's kids. But when the feds came calling and Seifert decided to cooperate, Lombardo decided his friend had to go, authorities charge. On Sept. 27, 1974, Seifert was gunned down outside his Bensenville factory as his wife and 4-year-old son watched. With Seifert dead, the charges against Lombardo evaporated. Lombardo is charged in connection with Seifert's murder in the Family Secrets case along with racketeering.

The next to go was insurance magnate Allen Dorfman, who went on Hawaii golf vacations with Lombardo. Lombardo was close to Dorfman, a clout-heavy insurance broker. Lombardo and Dorfman allegedly schemed to control the Teamsters' pension funds, which loaned millions to build Vegas casinos. Lombardo would allegedly muscle people for Dorfman.

In one conversation, secretly tape-recorded by the feds, Lombardo spoke to mob lawyer and casino investor Morris Schenker, who wasn't coming up with the money Dorfman believed Schenker owed the Outfit.

"Now, it's getting to the point now where you either s - - - or get off the pot," Lombardo said to Schenker, who was 72 at the time of the 1979 conversation. "If they come back and tell me to give you a message and if you want to defy it, I assure you that you will never reach 73," Lombardo said.

Schenker died of natural causes. Dorfman did not, getting gunned down in 1983 in Lincolnwood after Outfit leaders worried he'd turn stool pigeon.

Three years later, another Lombardo friend, mob killer Anthony Spilotro, was beaten to death along with his brother, Michael Spilotro. Lombardo allegedly oversaw Spilotro, who was the Outfit's man in Las Vegas. The Spilotros and Lombardo were close. Their families came over on the same boat from Italy.

In the end, though, Anthony Spilotro had to die, Outfit leaders decided. He was causing too much heat in Vegas, including taking out a contract on an FBI agent.

The Spilotro brothers were lured to a Bensenville area home on the ruse they were getting promotions. Instead, when they went down to the basement, several mobsters surrounded them and beat them to death. They were buried in an Indiana cornfield.

In recent years, Lombardo has kept a low profile. He has been seen hanging out more at the Italian restaurant La Scarola than with other mobsters.

His defense -- unique but possibly workable -- is that he has moved away from the mob life.

In short, he's retired.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir


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