The Chicago Syndicate: Mario Rainone
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Mario Rainone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mario Rainone. Show all posts

Friday, May 22, 2020

Chicago Mobsters Mario "The Arm" Rainone and Paul "The Indian" Schiro Request Prison Release Due to #COVID19

Mario "the Arm" Rainone and Paul "the Indian" Schiro have outlived many of their Outfit brethren.

Now they want out of the federal prisons that have been infested by COVID-19 germs.

Rainone, nicknamed "the Arm" for his skill at muscling those who have irked the Chicago mob, is now asking for "compassionate release" from federal prison where he is due to stay until 2028.

"He is no longer the Mario Rainone of the past," said his attorney Joe "the Shark" Lopez in a newly filed motion in Chicago federal court.

In Rainone's past he was a gangland enforcer with a long history of various mob rackets, burglary, bribery, violent threats and gun-play. He is currently doing time for a 2013 case in which authorities found him in possession of a .357 revolver, which, as a convicted felon currently on parole, was illegal.

Today, according to his attorney, Rainone, 65, "is an ailing senior citizen with a myriad of medical issues."

The motion lists his maladies: skin cancer, cataracts, liver disease, prostate cancer, heart and breathing problems, asthma, tinnitus, cataracts and a tortuous aorta in his heart, which can lead to high blood pressure, aortic insufficiency or premature atherosclerosis.

"Mr. Rainone is at grave risk for a variety of other diseases and health conditions. His health problems have worsened since his incarceration in February 2009, and the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional deadly risk to Mr. Rainone," his motion contends.

Rainone appears to have jumped through the legal hoops that he hopes will certify him for compassionate release, most notably first applying through the warden's office at the federal medical center in Rochester, Minnesota, where he is housed. He filed that paperwork on March 31, according to his motion. "No response has been made by the warden, and, since 30 days have passed, Mr. Rainone has exhausted his administrative remedies," the motion states.

A court hearing on his COVID-19 motion for release is set for May 28 at 9:30 a.m. before Chicago U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber.

As of Wednesday, federal officials say 2,298 inmates and 198 Bureau of Prisons staff are currently infected with COVID-19. Fifty seven inmates have died.

The first mobster-motion for compassionate release came last month, and was filed by octogenarian hoodlum Paul Schiro, who pleaded guilty in 2009 during the government's landmark "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" Outfit murder trial in Chicago.

Schiro, 82, is known by the mob moniker "the Indian" for his Native American appearance and because he was a feared Outfit warrior dating back to the 1970s. He was convicted of racketeering but sentenced also for his role in the 1986 murder of Arizona businessman Emil Vaci, whom the mob feared was cooperating with law enforcement concerning a casino employee killing.

According to Schiro's motion filed in Chicago, "He is in very poor health. He has had lung cancer (now in remission), part of one lung removed, and reportedly had a lung collapse. He currently has COPD, diabetes, a heart arrhythmia, coronary atherosclerosis, cataracts, arthritis and hemorrhoids. He uses a walker for any distances over 10 feet, and a cane within his cell."

The public defender who filed the motion states that the "Covid-19 epidemic is a factor to consider. There are not many people more at risk than Mr. Schiro. ... He is at extraordinarily high risk of death from Covid-19."

Prosecutors note that Schiro has been trying to get out of prison early for the past four years "based on his advanced age and medical issues."

He is currently being held at the federal medical facility in Butner, North Carolina. "Given that the defendant's condition is stable, that he is receiving proper care for his medical problems (and he does not claim otherwise), and that, according to BOP records, he is getting around as necessary, providing self-care inside the institution, the defendant's age and health condition do not -- singly or in combination -- warrant relief," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu states in the government's response to his request. Schiro, he says, "is not deserving of a four-year reduction of sentence."

Schiro's attorney asks: "In this kind of case, is there room for compassion, now, for Mr. Schiro?"

One answer to that question comes from a daughter of Emil Vaci, the man who was murdered as Schiro acted as a lookout for the hit team.

In an affidavit filed by the government, Vaci's daughter Darleen Olson states: "We lost our Father 15 to 20 years too soon due to this crime. Paul Schiro had his life. My Father did not. We are the victims, not Paul Schiro because of his failing health and COVID-19. Paul Schiro needs to serve the maximum sentence he was given and not be granted early release due to underlying health issues, nor the COVID-19 pandemic."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie, Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto's Dining Reviews

Reputed Chicago Outfit lieutenant Rudy Fratto sat in a federal courtroom, with reporters filling the jury box a few feet away.

His usual lawyer, the always snazzy Art Nasser, was unavailable. So Rudy had another attorney: Donald Angelini Jr., son of the late Outfit king of bookies, Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini.

Though Angelini was pleasant and professionally buttoned down on Friday, Fratto, 66, seemed a bit lonely at the defense table, waiting for his criminal hearing to begin.

That scraggly beard hid his chin, and he was comfortably dressed in the Rudy look: black shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, just like a Hopalong Cassadicci.

I didn't want him to feel lonely, so I said hello and asked about a line in the federal charges, in which he was described as Rudy "The Chin" Fratto.

Hey, Rud? What's with "The Chin"?

"I don't know," Rudy said. "I don't know where they got that,"

Did the FBI get you early?

"Not too early," Rudy smirked.

Like 6 a.m.?

"No, they came later, for coffee," Rudy said.

He'll need his sense of humor. I've heard that last week's new charges are just the beginning of a larger tsunami coming for the Chicago Outfit and its political messenger boys.

In January, Fratto was sentenced in a federal tax-evasion case. That was his first conviction ever.

On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to the new charge, which involves alleged bid-rigging in contracts at McCormick Place and leverage by the Cleveland mob.

McCormick Place has long been the Outfit's playground. In 1974, the Tribune reported the payroll read like a "who's who of the Chicago crime syndicate."

The 1974 payroll list included mobsters such as the late Rocco Infelice (natural causes), the late Ronnie Jarrett (unnatural bullet holes) and the 11th Ward's favorite Outfit bookie, Ray John Tominello (still alive, investing in Florida real estate).

Quiet hit man Nicholas Calabrese also was on the McCormick Place payroll. He killed dozens of men and decades later was the star government witness in the Family Secrets mob trial.

Another McCormick Place payrollee was the Outfit's Michael "Bones" Albergo. Nick Calabrese and his brother Frank got rid of "Bones." They buried his body in a pit a few hundred yards from Sox Park.

The federal Family Secrets trial put mobsters in prison for life. Other reputed bosses who were not charged, such as John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, have gone underground.

Sources say DiFronzo refuses to see anyone. His only sit-downs take place in his Barcalounger, when he watches TV. And Andriacci has apparently been suffering from Fedzheimers, a malady that makes politicians and wiseguys forget lots of things, like how to find Rush Street.

Fratto has a scary reputation. Yet he's always been friendly and charming to me. Then again, I've never spotted him in my rear-view mirror. That happened to Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone. Mario didn't believe in coincidence and was so shaken by the sight of Rudy Fratto in his mirror that he ran straight to the FBI.

In the courtroom, Rudy's wife, Kim, dressed in a black shawl, said hello.

"It's always nice to see you, Mr. Kass," said Kim.

The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Fratto.

After Rudy was fitted with a home monitoring device, the couple took a long lunch in the newly remodeled second-floor federal cafeteria.

When they finally came down, they didn't want to talk to reporters. Then I asked Rudy a question he couldn't refuse:

Was the food in the federal building as good as it is at Cafe Bionda?

Rudy, always the jokester, couldn't resist.

"No," he said, "but it's better than Gene & Georgetti's, though."

Rudy knows how much I like Gene's, the best steakhouse in the city. Yet for years, Rudy had made Cafe Bionda, at 19th and State Street, a personal hangout. On her Facebook page, Kim Fratto lists Cafe Bionda as one of her favorites.

With such strong recommendations, my young friend Wings and I felt we had to stop there for lunch. Cafe Bionda is a short cab ride from the federal courthouse. And a long pistol shot from McCormick Place.

We were hoping to run into head chef/owner Joe Farina to ask him about Rudy's favorite dish.

Wings ordered the Linguini con Vongole. I had the signature Nanna's Gravy. It was all delicious. Sadly, Joe wasn't in, so I left a note with our server:

Dear Joe: Sorry I missed you. Rudy recommended your place to me. The food was great. John.

The coffee was great, too. And I thought of all that coffee Rudy and his friends will be drinking, and the Rush Street guys, and the politicians, buzzing on caffeine.

They might want to stay wide awake, and keep a pot of coffee on, just in case the feds come knocking some morning.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mario Rainone, Reputed Chicago Mobster, Pleads Guilty to Residential Burglary

A reputed member of the Chicago mob was sentenced to 71/2 years in prison Monday when he pleaded guilty to burglarizing a Lincolnshire house.

Mario Rainone, 54, pleaded guilty to residential burglary during a hearing before Lake County Associate Judge George Bridges.

At the time of the Feb. 12 burglary, Rainone was on parole for a racketeering and conspiracy conviction in federal court for his activities as a member of the Leonard Patrick Street Crew.

Assistant State's Attorney Marykay Foy said Rainone, of Addison, and Vincent Forliano, 39, of Bloomingdale, were under surveillance by a task force of police from several jurisdictions in northern Illinois.

Police watched as the pair drove from Bloomingdale to Trafalgar Square in Lincolnshire, walked into a condominium complex and emerged a few minutes later with property under their coats.

Officers followed them to an intersection in Addison, where their car was stopped and they were arrested after a purse, cash and jewelry taken from the Lincolnshire house was found in the vehicle.

Both were charged with residential burglary, which Foy said carries a mandatory prison sentence of four to 15 years upon conviction.

Foy said Rainone was convicted of residential burglary in 1972, and in 1992 pleaded guilty to the federal racketeering charge in exchange for a sentence of 171/2 years in prison.

He is currently charged with violating his parole in that case and faces another federal charge of possession of a weapon by a felon based on a handgun that was discovered in his house after his arrest in the Lincolnshire case.

In addition, Foy said Rainone faces federal charges of bribery in Wisconsin for having contraband food smuggled into the prison where he was serving time.

Forliano has pleaded not guilty to charges in the Lincolnshire case and is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 27.

Thanks to Tony Gordon

Friday, March 06, 2009

Mario Rainone, Reputed Former Mob Enforcer, Arrested

A man once known as an enforcer for the Chicago mob has been indicted on a charge of illegal possession of a gun.

Fifty-four-year-old Mario Rainone was arrested on a charge of residential burglary on Feb. 13 and is currently being held by Lake County authorities in lieu of $500,000 bond.

The one-count federal indictment charged Rainone with being a career criminal in possession of a firearm. Police found the gun when they searched his home following his arrest.

Rainone was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in 1992 after pleading guilty to a racketeering charge. Prosecutors said he told a restaurant owner he would end up in his own walk-in freezer if he didn't pay $2,000 a month.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Convicted Chicago Outfit Extorter Suspected in String of Home Burglaries

Police have identified two ex-convicts -- one with ties to the Chicago Outfit -- as top suspects in a burglary ring traveling the North Shore and other suburbs lately.

Former mob extortionist Mario Rainone, 54, of 930 Grant St., Addison, and convicted burglar Vincent T. Forliano, 39, of 362 Glenwood Drive, Bloomingdale, were arrested Saturday and charged with burglarizing a Lincolnshire home on Trafalgar Square two days earlier.

Police would not disclose exact details of the arrests this week, except to say that investigators from various police departments had identified Rainone and Forliano as potential suspects in a string of area home burglaries.

"We started noticing there were patterns to other burglaries," explained Lincolnshire police Detective John-Erik Anderson. "Through intelligence sharing, we came up with these guys' names and put them under surveillance."

Police have not disclosed what evidence led to the arrests, but "they've been pretty much under regular surveillance for awhile now. It was a result of that regular surveillance that led us to arrest them," Anderson said.

Both men were picked up by Addison police and turned over to Lincolnshire on Saturday. They were charged and transferred to Lake County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Anderson expects other police departments in Lake, Cook and DuPage counties to file additional burglary charges in this case. Several burglaries have been reported in Deerfield, Buffalo Grove, Northbrook and elsewhere in the past month, though authorities had not officially tied those crimes together by the time the arrests were announced.

In 1992, Rainone pleaded guilty to six counts of racketeering and extortion in federal court. Prosecutors said he shook down several businesses for cash on behalf of a Chicago mob crew, including Francesco's Hole in the Wall Restaurant, which was then located in Wheeling.

Rainone was sentenced to 17 1/2 years but was released early, in December 2006, according to a Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate registry. He is still on parole and is wanted by South Barrington police on theft charges, Anderson said.

Forliano was paroled from the state's East Moline Correctional Center last May after being convicted of theft in Cook County. His record also includes burglary convictions in Cook and DuPage counties dating back the past two decades. In 2001, he was arrested by Winnetka police on suspicion of burglarizing condominiums on Green Bay Road.

Rainone was scheduled a Feb. 19 bond hearing in Lake County Court, while Forliano is to appear on Feb. 20.

Rainone's defense attorney, Sam Amirante, says he will ask the judge to reduce his client's $500,000 bond, which he described as unusually high for a burglary charge. Amirante could not say whether the arrest would lead federal authorities to revoke Rainone's parole. "Mr. Rainone should be presumed innocent, just like everyone else," he said.

Thanks to Matt Kiefer

Chicago Outfit's Former "Go-To" Guy Busted for Burglary

Mobster Mario Rainone has crossed both sides of the law enough times, it is a wonder his legs aren't permanently tangled.

After a spasmodic career as both a criminal and a government witness, Mr. Rainone, 54, is once again sitting in jail. This time Rainone is in the Lake County lock-up on one count of residential burglary and on an outstanding retail theft warrant from South Barrington.

For years, the beefy hoodlum was considered a prime "go-to" guy for the Chicago Outfit's Northside Crew.

In the 1980's, when Mob bosses needed a job handled quickly and efficiently, Rainone was often enlisted to get things done according to Outfit investigators. He was especially adept at collecting unpaid debts, whether as a result of Mob juice loans or illegal gambling debts.

Among the legends of Mario Rainone is the time he informed a shakedown target that his family would pay if he didn't. The old man asked Rainone exactly what he meant. Rainone told the elderly extortion victim that if the debt wasn't handed over, he would kill his children and plant their heads in his front yard. The man settled up.

Rainone quit Organized Crime in late 1989, when he was deployed to murder a wayward mobster. As he prepared to take up a position for the hit, Rainone realized that he was actually the intended target. Rather than waiting to be whacked, Rainone escaped to his truck and sped away.

He went straight to the FBI in Chicago and spilled his story. Agents convinced him that he could only help himself by wearing a wire and working undercover against his one-time Mob bosses.

Rainone got a couple of wise-guys on tape but his cooperation was short-lived. He stopped helping the FBI in November, 1989 when a his mother's front stoop was blown up. The message-bombing freaked Rainone, who felt it was better that he spend a stretch in prison rather than his mother end up in pieces on her porch. So he gave up witness protection and in 1992 pleaded guilty to extortion and racketeering. He was sentenced to nearly 18 years and released in 2006.

Rainone, last known to reside in Bloomingdale, was arrested on Friday by Lincolnshire police and charged with the Feb 12 burglary of a home in the Trafalgar square subdivision. Also charged as an accomplice was Vincent T. Forliano, 39, of Addison.

Both men are being held on $500,000 bond. Rainone is schedule to appear in Lake County Court Tuesday at 9am. Forliano is due in court on Friday at 9am. The duo has been under investigation by several northwest suburban police departments in connection with a string of home invasions.

Other than the alleged burglary business, the connect between Rainone and Forliano is not known. Mobwatchers say if the accused break-in artists were not paying a kick-back to the Outfit, known as "tribute" or "street-tax," Rainone could once again find himself on short hit-list.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, November 04, 2007

FBI Reopens Cold Case with Mob Connections

Joni Merriam Simms was waiting for her father to take her to lunch 20 years ago.

"I was at work downtown, I waited and waited, and he didn't call," Simms told me the other day. "It wasn't like him, not calling."

Amoco Oil company executive Charles Merriam, from the prominent Republican political family that once tried to reform the city and fight the Chicago Democratic machine, had been murdered.

The night before -- at around 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, 1987 -- two men knocked on the door of his northwest suburban home. He was shot twice in the chest, once in the head.

You could say he was killed under the weight of the iron triangle that connects corrupt politicians, corrupt cops and the Chicago Outfit. The investigation was bungled by Cook County sheriff's police, with missing files and evidence, including a monogrammed glove from the scene that disappeared. But there is news. The FBI has reopened the unsolved murder. Investigators are using DNA techniques similar to those that helped the FBI break the Operation Family Secrets case of 18 other, previously unsolved Outfit homicides.

"We are investigating," FBI spokesman Ross Rice told me on Friday. "We are doing some advanced forensic testing that was not available at the time of the Merriam killing."

Unfortunately, the Merriam family has seen leads die before. They also read the fascinating Chicago Tribune series, "Forbidden Friendships Between Cops and Criminals," by investigative reporter David Jackson in 2000. It connected the dots of the Merriam murder, reaching into City Hall, the highest echelons of the Chicago Police Department and the Outfit.

Chicago met Jackson's series about police and the Outfit with a telling quiet. The series was dead on, but was officially met with silence. No blue-ribbon committees were formed, no politicians reacted with outrage at news conferences staged for TV, nothing. "That's why 20 years later, my family closely followed the Family Secrets trial," Simms said. "And we were glad that some members of the Outfit were found guilty of various crimes, yet extremely frustrated that my father's murder remains unsolved."

Charles Merriam was responsible for monitoring about 1,000 Amoco service stations in the Midwest. A few of those stations were owned by restaurateur Frank Milito, a twice-convicted felon and casino investor with ties to mobsters, top politicians and cops, including one of his best friends, former Police Supt. Matt Rodriguez.

It was Rodriguez's friendship with Milito that led to Rodriguez's highly publicized resignation in 1997.

When Milito was convicted of tax evasion involving his gas stations in 1986, Merriam moved to take the stations away from him. Angry words were exchanged in court. Milito was furious.

"We knew my father was doing something that nobody at Amoco wanted to do," Joni Simms said. "Weeks before he was killed, we were aware that he was going to be doing something pretty dangerous. He was threatened before he was killed."

One man interviewed in the case years ago was Pierre Zonis, Milito's brother-in-law and a gas station manager. Zonis was also questioned in two other Outfit-related homicides, the 1982 killing of auto mechanic Richard Campbell, and the 1986 hit on Giuseppe Cocozza, a bust-out gambler and gas station manager.

Zonis is a Chicago cop, though he's been listed by the Chicago Crime Commission as an Outfit associate. He'd seen both Cocozza and Campbell hours before their deaths. And a few hours before Merriam was killed, a call was placed to Merriam's unlisted phone number from a pay phone in a gas station run by Zonis.

"I'm supposed to be a mob hitman because a pay phone in my gas station was used?" Zonis told the Tribune years ago.

We tried to reach Zonis last week, and left a message at the 23d District where he works. If he calls, I'll let you know what he says.

I'd like to know about his relationship with Mario "I'm no Beefer" Rainone, an Outfit loan shark and godfather to one of Zonis' children; and Mario's little buddy, the perpetually quiet Albert Vena.

Rainone recently called me to proclaim he never ratted on any Outfit guys, even though he did help the FBI tape an incriminating conversation between himself and North Side gangster Lenny Patrick.

Now Rainone is out of prison, perhaps hanging around with his friend Vena, who twice beat murder charges against him. Neither Zonis, Rainone or Vena has been charged in connection with the Merriam killing.

Milito is in prison on yet another tax charge. Zonis remains a cop. City Hall keeps pushing for the mayor's big casino. And Joni Simms?

"I don't think people understand the impact the Outfit has," she said. "I don't think people realize how it impacts local politics and local police officers."

She understands the Chicago Way. I figure her dad, Charles Merriam, understood it, too, the moment he opened the door.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, April 27, 2007

Beef from Mobster Who Says He is No Beefer

Friends of ours: Mario Rainone, Nick Calabrese, Gerald Scarpelli, Lenny Patrick, Gus Alex

It's so nice to talk to loyal readers, even an angry reader who's spent the last 15 years in federal prison for being a notorious juice loan collector for the Chicago Outfit. But I'd prefer not being hectored on an empty stomach. All those blunt Paulie Walnuts vowels make me hungry.

"I think you want to talk to this guy right away," said the young fellow who answers the phone around here. "He wants a correction. He keeps talking about beef."

5 Dollars a Steak SaleBeef?

"He insists that he's not a beefer and that you wrote in the column the other day that he's a beefer. 'Tell John I'm not a beefer,' he said. So I'm telling you."

What's his name? "Mario Rainone."

So I called him, out of respect for his ability to remain alive.

"I'm no beefer!" said Rainone, the Outfit tough guy who plead guilty to racketeering and extortion in 1992. "You keep saying I'm a beefer, and it's not true. You're ruining my life."

Ruining his life? What about mine? I was starving for the classic Chicago sammich, Italian beef with hot peppers on crusty bread. But he was using Chicago slang, employing the words "beef" and "beefer" to refer to a guy who complains about, then informs on, his associates.

"Enough is enough already!" he pleaded. "I got released 90 days ago. I don't know nothing."

Here's what Rainone was upset about. This week, I wrote a column about the upcoming "Operation Family Secrets" trial, involving top Chicago Outfit bosses and their hit men and 18 previously unsolved Mafia assassinations.

The case is largely built on the testimony of mobster Nick Calabrese, who beefed on his brother to the feds. But other mobsters have spilled their gravy on what they know, in other unrelated cases. And all these stories, cobbled together, have helped federal authorities develop extensive dossiers on the mob. Naturally, guys like Rainone are nervous.

"It's ridiculous," Rainone said. "I don't know nothing about 'Family Secrets.'

I never said you did.

"It's in the paper," he said.

Read it again. But he didn't, because he was upset, for good reason.

A few years ago, Outfit soldier Gerald Scarpelli told what he knew to the FBI. Later, Scarpelli strangled himself with plastic bags. In prison. So who wouldn't understand a man suffering from agita after beef?

Rainone's former supervisor, Lenny Patrick, another gangster, also beefed on his boss, Gus Alex, who years ago, according to news reports, put out a hit on my new friend Mario, who beefed on Patrick, which led to Alex.

It's confusing, but symmetrical, like that song, "Circle of Life," only think of it sung by Frank Sinatra instead of Elton John.

"I was locked up since 1990. I never testified," Rainone said. "Then you want to put my name in the papers with this. I never cooperated with the FBI. I have never been a witness. You know like I know, if a guy is going to beef, he is going to beef. But I didn't beef."

Yet according to news accounts, federal testimony, court documents and the FBI supervisor who worked on the Rainone case, Mario was a deluxe beefer with extra juice and peppers. "He's trying to rewrite history, and that's fascinating," said Jim Wagner, the FBI supervisor who interviewed Rainone and is now president of the Chicago Crime Commission. "He cooperated. Now he's putting out the word he never beefed? Obviously, he's feeling pressure."

After living a life collecting gambling debts the hard way, Rainone had an epiphany and decided to call the FBI. But instead of angels, he spotted two associates tailing him in another car. Outfit guys don't believe in coincidence. Rainone figured they weren't going to ask him for coffee and cake, not even poppy seed. He figured they were going to kill him.

So he flipped and told the FBI many things, and they put him on the phone with Lenny Patrick, and Patrick flipped on Alex. Then Rainone had another change of heart and tried to flip back again. He refused to testify in court. Yet by then, his beef was overcooked, and he did 15 years.

"In max penitentiaries," he said, "not those [easy] joints."

I asked about the two guys in the tail car, if their names were Rudy and Willie, and how he felt phoning Patrick with the FBI listening. "I've got no knowledge of that. It was all lies. I paid for my crimes, and I am not going to pay no more. I don't know those guys. I don't know none of them. This is ridiculous."

He also mentioned that it might have been a mistake to beef me on a column when I was hungry. "I shouldn't have called you. That's my mistake. Listen, I know that Friday's paper will be worse than Wednesday's," he said.

These days, Rainone said he's looking for a job, perhaps as a truck driver: "I'll take anything." But if he can't get a job driving trucks, perhaps he could ask a builder for meaningful, fulfilling work. Or you readers might know of something appropriate.

"All I want is to live a legitimate life," he said. And all I wanted was a legitimate lunch.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, August 18, 2002

The new 'Outfit'

In a secretly recorded conversation between two Chicago mobsters, the late "Singing Joe" Vento croons a love song of sorts about a top Outfit leader.

"You know the guy we met?" Vento asks mob enforcer Mario Rainone.

"Yeah," Rainone says.

"You think he's a nobody?" Vento asks.

"No, I know he's somebody," Rainone says.

"You better believe he's f------ somebody," Vento says.

That somebody is James Marcello.

James "Little Jimmy" Marcello has climbed his way to the top of organized crime in Chicago through murder and mayhem, law enforcement sources say. But Marcello’s biggest edge in getting the top job may simply be his age - he's only 58, a full 15 years younger than the gray old men thought to be running the show while Marcello waits to get out of prison.

At the moment, "Little Jimmy," as Marcello is known, is sitting in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., serving out his 12-1/2-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. But when he gets out next year, mob watchers say, he's expected to take on a big new job--head of the Chicago Outfit. But if Marcello is a somebody, he's still not a really big somebody--and he never will be--at least not when compared with the infamous men who ran the mob before him, powerful hoods like Al Capone, Anthony Accardo, Sam Giancana and Joseph Aiuppa.

Marcello is doomed to be a lesser mob boss because the Chicago mob itself today is less of a power, squeaking along with much less money, far fewer members and a fraction of its old political influence.

In Capone's day, his boys raked in more than $100 million a year--more than $1 billion in today's dollars. Today, the Chicago Outfit pulls in just $100 million, according to law enforcement estimates.

In the 1980s, the Chicago mob had roughly 200 "made" members, each of whom ran his own various illegal businesses. Today, according to the FBI, the mob is down to about 50 made members--not enough hoods to fill up a small prison cellblock. And in the mob's heyday, the tentacles of organized crime in Chicago, like organized crime families across the nation, reached deep into labor unions, city and suburban police departments, city halls and the Statehouse.

The mob at its most powerful was impressively diversified, drawing hundreds of millions of dollars from loan-sharking, pornography, bookmaking, prostitution, extorting legitimate businesses, looting union pension and insurance funds, ghost payroll jobs in government, burglary, profit skimming at casinos, robbing jewelry salesmen, bankrolling drug dealers and whatever else somebody could dream up to grab a buck.

Who's the MOB BOSS lite of the Chicago underworld?

For generations, there was seldom any question. Capone was the man. Then Nitti. Then this guy or that guy. Some were unfamiliar names to the public, but ask anybody paying attention—the cops, the U.S. Justice Department, some punk breaking into houses trying to make his Outfit "bones" - and they could tell you exactly who was boss of the mob. No longer. If there is a top boss now, he's more of an underworld boss lite. Law enforcement sources, disagreeing even among themselves, say one of these three men is in charge. (Some mob experts believe Lombardo runs the mob now. He's 73. Other mob watchers say John ''No Nose'' DiFronzo runs the show. He's also 73. Still others say it's Joe ''the Builder'' Andriacchi. He's 69.) Today, the mob is still into a lot of that stuff, at least along the edges, but it relies heavily on a single source of income--illegal gambling. The Chicago Outfit is simply too decimated to be doing much more, brought low by relentless federal prosecutions and changing times.

In the last 20 years, federal prosecutors in Chicago, armed with evidence produced by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, have put mob leader after mob leader behind bars--more than 150 made members, associates and workers.

Mob boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi, for whom Marcello worked as a chauffeur, died in prison in 1997. (Carlisi was sentenced to serve 13 years for convictions on mob racketeerings, loan sharking and arson in connection with an illegal gambling business in the Chicago area and the West suburbs.) Mob boss Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa went to prison in 1986 and died in 1997, a year after his release. (Joey Doves started as a gunman for Capone. He served time for skimming profits from the Mob's interests in its Las Vegas casinos.) Top mob counselor Angelo "the Hook" LaPietra went to prison in 1986 and died in 1999, shortly after his release. ("The Hook" was a member of the Mob's 26th Street Crew that patrolled South of the Eisenhowser Expressway including the gambling dens of Chinatown and Chop Shops on the Southside.) Top mob lieutenant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo went to prison in 1982 and was released in 1992.

What's left of the mob's leadership is getting old. This, of course, assumes that anybody is really in charge. Adding to the Outfit's problems, many top mobsters moved from the city to the suburbs years ago, abandoning those tough old Chicago neighborhoods that were always the mob's best recruiting grounds. New talent can be hard to find.

The Chicago Outfit today makes most of its money from illegal gambling. Those video poker machines in the back of local bars and social clubs feed millions a year to the mob. Illegal sports gambling, whether through a neighborhood bookie or an offshore betting operation somewhere in Central America, feeds millions of dollars more to the mob.

The mob also continues, though at a slower pace, to finance drug deals, engage in loan-sharking--lending money at exorbitant rates to those people no bank will touch--and to wield influence in organized labor, despite a strong federal effort to purge the mob from such unions as the Laborers and the Teamsters.

Indeed, the mob's continued influence within unions remains so strong that it--along with the mob's influence in politics--will be the subject of a future installment of the Chicago Sun-Times' "Crime, Inc." series.

As the sons of old-time mobsters pick up law degrees and MBAs, the new Chicago mob also has developed a fondness for setting up quasi-legit companies, such as insurance firms, designed to rip off clients at the first opportunity.

One example the feds point to is Specialty Risk Consultants, a reputed Outfit insurance company that is accused of siphoning more than $12 million out of the town of Cicero.

That scheme, though, didn't fare well on two fronts. Eight reputed players in the scam, including Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, are on trial in federal court, and the jury in the case is expected to start its seventh day of deliberations Monday. (On January 9th, 2003, Betty Loren-Maltese revieved a sentence of eight years in prison from U.S. District Judge John Grady)

While the scam showed some sophistication, the profits from it weren't invested well. Key members of the scheme are accused of plowing millions of dollars into an isolated Wisconsin golf course that they had hoped to turn into a casino. The feds dubbed it the mob's "Fantasy Island," and that's all it ever was. No casino ever opened, and a white elephant remains.

Though the Chicago mob's top leadership has been decimated, young Turks have begun to turn more to violence, threatened and real, according to FBI experts and other law enforcement sources. Most obviously, two men have been shot dead in mob hits in recent years, but there's also the cheap day-to-day viciousness.

Consider, for example, the business tactics of the Giuliano brothers, Thomas and Christopher, who were convicted in 1999 of using muscle--beating a man up--to force the man to pay gambling debts. The victim owed Thomas Giuliano $75,000 and was told that amount would skyrocket to $200,000 in about 30 days if he didn't pay up. Thomas Giuliano, 33, allegedly warned the victim that he should show up to one meeting or "I'm gonna come through the window and grab you." When the brothers finally did track down their man, at his place of work, Christopher Giuliano, 29, grabbed the man's neck with both hands and began pushing his head into the wall. Fortunately, FBI agents, who had the business under surveillance, rushed in and saved him.

Or consider the case of alleged mob soldier Anthony Giannone, from suburban Bartlett, who made this colorful threat to a man who owed him $55,000: "When I find you, every day it rains, I'm gonna make you remember me." The implied threat, authorities explained, was that Giannone would break the man's bones. And even after the victim healed, his mauled body would ache when it rained.

Who's the boss?

Is it Joey the Clown?

Or No Nose?

Or the Builder?

The fact that mob watchers are not even sure who's running the Chicago Outfit these days--Lombardo, DiFronzo or Andriacchi--is seen by some as a sign of great sophistication.

"That very fact that you need to ask that question shows how effective the Outfit is," argues St. Xavier University Professor Howard Abadinsky, who has written on Chicago organized crime.

Or it could mean there is no clear leader willing to step up and take the heat from the feds, other observers argue.

The Chicago mob, Abadinsky points out, wisely keeps a low profile, especially compared with the New York mob, which has a way of gathering headlines through gunplay. Or as then mob boss Tony Accardo once told FBI agents in the early 1970s, "We're gentlemen in Chicago. They're savages in New York." But there have been those two mob hits in the last three years. In 1999, mobster Ronald Jarrett was shot dead outside his Bridgeport home. Two years later, Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti was shot outside a Brown's Chicken & Pasta in south suburban Lyons. And so, some observers wonder if the violence will escalate over turf disputes.

Abadinsky, for one, doubts it. "They've been successful, they've been controlled, they are much more hierarchical," he said. "They've been able to control the kind of violence that would generate attention."

To rise to the top of any organization, you have to build an impeccable resume and pay your dues. And it helps to have family in right places.

By these standards, law enforcement sources say, James Marcello is perfectly positioned to take command of the Chicago Outfit. Especially given his relative youth--he's 58.

He worked for Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation as a laborer from 1960 to 1973, but it has been his other jobs, like working as the No. 2 man for "Wings" Carlisi, that spoke to his true talents.

Marcello, who lived in the Lombard area, has shown he's crafty and paranoid about surveillance. He's feared. And stone-cold ruthless.

At his trial, prosecutors said Marcello took part in planning the hit of a mob associate, Anthony "Jeeps" Daddino, which never took place, and was a prime mover behind the unsuccessful torching of the Lake Theatre in Oak Park. But Marcello is best known in mob circles for his alleged part in the slayings of the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and Spilotro's brother Michael.

In 1986, the Spilotros were stripped to their underwear, beaten senseless and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. No one has ever been charged in the case, but investigators have long believed Marcello helped set up the brothers for the hit.

Marcello's brother-in-law is former Chicago police officer William Galioto, whom the Chicago Crime Commission named a mob lieutenant in its 1997 organization chart.

Galioto was an investor in a new movie studio being planned on the West Side in 1995. The project attracted front-page headlines--and fell apart--when Mayor Daley killed a $5.5 million low-interest loan for the studio after learning about the mob ties. And Marcello's nephew is John Galioto, business manager of Laborers' Local 225 in Des Plaines until it was forced into trusteeship in the late 1990s because of alleged ties to organized crime and extravagant spending. Both Galiotos have denied any connection to organized crime.

Even without such impressive connections, Marcello's name is enough to invoke dread. Take, for instance, this secretly recorded conversation between Richard Spizziri, who worked for Marcello, and a man behind on juice loan payments.

"I don't want to give this to Little Jimmy," Spizziri says. "If I give this to Jimmy, he's gonna send somebody. He's gonna send f------ . . . f------ nine guys out, and they will find you."

During another chat, Spizziri describes the talents of the dedicated professionals to be dispatched.

"I don't want youse to get hurt," he tells the debtor. "I really don't want you to get hurt, 'cause they don't send f------ people like Sean," Spizziri says, referring to a big guy who works for him.

"Sean's a f------ goof. . . . Sean does what you tell him to do, a couple of slaps and it's over.

"These people, when they send these people, they like what they're doin'. This is their job.

"They love it."

Reported by Steve Warmbir


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