The Chicago Syndicate: Michael Marcello

Showing posts with label Michael Marcello. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Marcello. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Flashback: Prison Release of Betty Loren-Maltese Awakens Organized Crime Mystique of Cicero

Prohibition was the law of the land when Al Capone took over Cicero in 1924, muscling his way in with gun-toting hoodlums on Election Day. And many residents were happy to hear his beer wagons rumbling through the streets en route to speakeasies.

More than 80 years later, this sleepy-looking suburb of blue-collar bungalows and strip malls a few miles west of Chicago still hasn't shaken its reputation for mob influence, political scandal and corruption, even as leaders insist they've put it behind them.

"The organized crime mystique _ that's the reason for our image," says town spokesman Ray Hanania, insisting President Larry Dominick has "taken politics out of town government" since taking office in 2005. The story of Cicero and the mob, he said, is "a great story and it's easy to write but it's unfair."

Critics, though, say corruption still hangs thick in the air.

About a week ago, former town President Betty Loren-Maltese returned to Chicago after 6 1/2 years in prison for fleecing taxpayers of more than $12 million in a mob-related insurance scam. The money paid for an island golf course in Wisconsin, a horse farm and a summer home for reputed mob boss Mike Spano, who went to prison along with Loren-Maltese.

Loren-Maltese was boosted into politics by her late husband, former Cicero town assessor Frank "Baldy" Maltese, who was indicted on corruption charges in the early 1990s along with Rocco Infelice, reputed one-time boss of the Cicero mob. Maltese pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 1993 but died of cancer before going to prison. Infelice died behind bars.

No sooner had the once-jovial Loren-Maltese _ sporting her trademark flamboyant hairdo but grim and silent behind large dark glasses _ arrived Monday to start a four-month term in a halfway house, than news surfaced that she and her elderly mother were receiving health insurance benefits from the very town fund that Loren-Maltese was convicted of looting.

Hanania said Loren-Maltese received the benefits under a law she "rammed through" while still in office that provides coverage to all Cicero elected officials for life, and her mother got insurance for serving on the police and fire commission for 10 years.

By Tuesday, officials in the town of about 85,000 decided her mother wasn't entitled to the coverage because she never held elective office, and terminated it. But that wasn't the only problem, critics say. Dominick, a hefty ex-cop who served on the Cicero force for years, also has found jobs for a number of his relatives on the town payroll, including a son who works as the human resources director.

"I think they haven't really changed since the Al Capone era in their approach to government and politics and civic decency," says Andy Shaw, head of Chicago's Better Government Association. "This is the town that time forgot."

Not that some things haven't changed.

Scantily clad prostitutes no longer saunter in the neon haze outside the mob-connected strip joints that flourished along Cicero Avenue in the 1950s and 1960s. Gone are the no-name prize fighters who once slugged it out in a little arena in a cloud of colored smoke and flickering strobe lights.

"The place was crawling with vice and gambling," said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit," a history of the city's organized crime family. "It was the same story in some other little suburbs where the mob could get its hooks in, but Cicero was sort of the crown jewel, maybe because of its location close to Chicago and because Capone pushed his way in there."

Now it all seems comparatively tame. Almost.

In February 2003, a massive pipe bomb erupted on a quiet street in Berwyn, a neighboring suburb. The explosion blew away the front of a company that distributed the video poker machines that federal prosecutors say were used for illegal gambling throughout Chicago and its suburbs.

Prosecutors said it was organized crime's way of delivering the message that horning in on its monopoly on video poker machines was dangerous _ and at the time, the biggest distributor of the machines in the western suburbs was based in Cicero.

It was owned by Michael Marcello, whose brother, James Marcello, went to prison for life following the 2007 Operation Family Secrets trial, the biggest mob case in Chicago in decades. Michael Marcello also went to prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and other offenses for running a gambling business and paying the government's star witness in the Family Secrets case, Nicholas Calabrese, to keep mum.

Then in 2008, Cicero jewelry store owner Mark Polchan and Samuel Volpendesto, a tiny, white-bearded, 86-year-old former manager of a Cicero strip joint, were indicted on charges of blowing up the Berwyn video poker company.

Last year, the charges against the two men became part of a larger, racketeering indictment that added five other defendants, including a Cicero police officer. All have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in September.

Originally reported by Mike Robinson on 2/21/10.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Upper Echelon Chicago Outfit Members Informing for the Feds?

Federal authorities in Chicago have been cultivating information from two "upper echelon" members of the Outfit for decades, according to a court filing in a current Mob prosecution.

The existence of a pair of Mob moles, called "Confidential Informant One" and "Confidential Informant Two," were disclosed by the defense team in an Outfit-related bombing conspiracy.

"Confidential Informant One is an alleged upper echelon member of the 'Outfit' and has been providing information to the government for over 25 years" states the court filing.

Confidential Informant Two is "another upper echelon Outfit associate who had been providing information to the government since 1994."

Both snitches are said to have handed federal authorities information about Outfit boss Michael "Big Mike" Sarno of Westchester.

Sarno, 52, is among several men charged with a scheme to blow up a video poker company in Berwyn that was competing with a mob-controlled firm.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice declined to comment on whether the government had two high ranking Mob moles, noting that the court motion in which they were disclosed was "filed by the defense."

Rice said that "the government/prosecution has not yet responded. As such, there is nothing further I can say at this time."

The top-ranking Outfit informant told authorities that Mike Sarno was in charge of certain Mob rackets during the time Jimmy "The Man" Marcello and his brother Michael were in prison, according to the court filing.

That informant also reported that Sarno was "feuding" with west suburban Mob boss Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, an imbroglio that "came to a crescendo just before Zizzo was last seen."

The rotund Zizzo, 71, was last seen on Aug. 31, 2006 by his wife as he drove to a meeting from his Westmont home.

There were no names provided for the two informants. A third mole was also disclosed in the court filing, but no details were provided about that person's role in the Outfit.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Casey "Whole Nervous System's Shot" Szaflarski Remains Behind Bars

The new alleged king of video gambling for the Chicago mob told a federal judge Tuesday that his "whole nervous system's shot" -- but it wasn't because the feds had just arrested him.

Casey Szaflarski told the judge at his initial court hearing that he had just had spinal cord surgery.

"I take a lot of medicine, your honor," Szaflarski said. "My whole nervous system's shot."

Despite his medical conditions, Szaflarski, 52, who lives in the Bridgeport neighborhood, will be held behind bars at least until his bond hearing Friday, after federal prosecutor T. Markus Funk said he could pose a danger to the community or might flee before trial.

Szaflarski was charged as part of the criminal case against alleged Cicero mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno, reputed high-ranking Outlaw motorcycle gang member Mark Polchan and five other men.

As one possible indication of how lucrative the video gambling business can be, federal prosecutors are seeking $3.6 million in illegal gambling proceeds from Szaflarski, Sarno and Polchan as part of the criminal case against the men, according to a new forfeiture allegation added to the case.

Szaflarski also is charged with failing to report more than $255,000 in income on tax returns from 2004 to 2006.

Szaflarski apparently took over the video gambling business run by the onetime head of the Chicago mob, James Marcello, and his half-brother, Michael. Szaflarski allegedly told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello.

Szaflarski is accused of sharing proceeds of his gambling business with Sarno, a reputed mob leader who's also been dubbed "Big Mike" and "Fat Ass," according to court documents filed in the case.

Sarno, in turn, is charged with ordering the pipe bombing of a Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003 that was competing with Szaflarski's business.

Investigators from the FBI, IRS and ATF gathered evidence against Szaflarski when they raided more than 20 bars and restaurants in Chicago and the suburbs last year with illegal video gambling machines. They seized thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and stripped the video poker machines of their circuit boards.

State lawmakers recently legalized video gambling, but bars and restaurants can't legally operate the devices until state regulators fashion rules overseeing what will be the largest expansion of gambling in Illinois history and distribute licenses.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Casey Szaflarski, Suspected Mob Video Poker King, Arrested on Gambling and Tax Fraud Charges

A Chicago man suspected of running a video poker business linked to the Chicago Outfit was arrested today on federal gambling and tax fraud charges, authorities said.

Casey Szaflarski, 52, was added to an indictment brought last year against Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno, a reputed mob figure accused of running a ring that pulled jewelry heists and bombed a competitor's video poker business.

Court records show authorities suspect that Szaflarski, who owned Amusements Inc. of Berwyn, entered the video poker business with the help of Mickey Marcello, a member of the mob's Melrose Park street crew who pleaded guilty in the landmark Family Secrets case.

Federal authorities carried out searches last year at businesses suspected of keeping machines run by Szaflarski's business, court records show. Agents also searched a 2007 black Hummer allegedly used by Szaflarski while making visits to businesses that used his machines. Authorities believe the machines could bring in more than $2,000 a day.

The charges against Szaflarski alleged he failed to report more than $255,000 of business income to the Internal Revenue Service between 2004 and 2006 and also failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007.

He was charged with one count of conducting an illegal gambling business, three counts of filing a false federal income tax return and one count of failing to file a federal income tax return.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rudy "I'm a Reputed Good Guy" Fratto Heads to Prison and Yells at Blogger

For years, Rudy Fratto has been dubbed a reputed top Chicago mobster. But Fratto sees its differently.

“I’m a reputed good guy,” Fratto said Wednesday, outside a federal courtroom, just moments after a judge sentenced him to prison for a year a day for tax evasion.

Indeed, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly found Fratto “has done an outstanding job of raising a family,” but said Fratto’s crime was too serious to allow him to sentence Fratto to home confinement, as Fratto wanted, rather than prison.

Fratto, 66, of Darien, had avoided paying taxes on more than $800,000 on income over seven years by having various firms, including a gaming technology company, pay him through a bank account of a defunct trucking company that Fratto controlled.

“I was living beyond my means, and I was taking care of my family,” Fratto explained.

Fratto could have been sentenced up to 18 months in prison. By being sentenced to a year and a day, rather than a year, Fratto becomes eligible for good conduct time and could serve as little as 10 months of his sentence.

Fratto’s family tearfully requested that he not be sent to prison, citing him as the family’s role model.

Right after his sentencing, outside the courtroom, tensions ran high as Fratto and his family clashed with a blogger who attended the court hearing and has written negatively about Fratto. Irate family members had to be restrained as Fratto yelled at the blogger, “Get out of here.”

The tax evasion charge, investigated by the IRS, marks the first time Fratto’s been convicted of a crime.

Before his current problems, “I never been arrested for anything,” Fratto explained. “Not traffic. Not a DUI. Nothing.”

But he’s been a target of FBI investigators for years.

Most recently, federal investigators listed him as a top threat to Nick Calabrese, a former mob hitman who had turned into the star witness at the Family Secrets mob trial.

Fratto also allegedly attended a meeting in 2001 to approve the expansion of the video gambling territory of top mobsters James Marcello and his half-brother, Michael.

On Wednesday, Fratto tried to appear unruffled about the proceedings, but as he walked down the hall he shouted, “What a f------ joke!”

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Saturday, April 25, 2009

US Marshal's Office and FBI's Relationship is Icy at Mob Leak Trial

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose sat in federal court on Thursday to hear lawyers portray him two ways:

An honorable screw-up hoping to impress an Outfit-friendly father figure, or a criminal conduit to reputed Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Either way the jury decides, the relationship between the U.S. marshal's office and the FBI is at best icy these days, though they won't formally admit it. But you could see the two tribes in the gallery in U.S. District Judge John Grady's courtroom, sitting stiffly as if in church at a wedding, the in-laws glaring, already at war.

The marshals in their street clothes, shoulders hunched, not happy, sitting behind their man Ambrose. The FBI agents and prosecutors impassive, across the aisle, sitting behind their team.

The cause of the deep freeze? Ambrose himself.

Ambrose has been charged with leaking extremely sensitive information to the mob about the most important federal witness in Chicago's history -- turncoat Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese. And with lying about it to federal agents until he later confessed to the FBI about what he'd done. But according to his lawyer Frank Lipuma, all Ambrose really confessed to was screwing up, bragging to a family friend that he was protecting a major Outfit witness.

Ambrose's friend was William Guide, a former crooked cop with Outfit connections, who spent time in prison, convicted with Ambrose's father, Thomas, in the Marquette 10 police drug dealer shakedown scandal.

What Ambrose said about Calabrese ended up in recorded prison conversations beginning in January 2003 between Mickey Marcello and his Outfit boss brother Jimmy.

What also came out during the trial is that Ambrose apparently thought that by leaking a little information, he could win favor from the Outfit and use their street network as a source of information to find fugitives.

At least, that was his story as told to senior FBI agents Anita Stamat and Ted McNamara when they finally caught him in 2006.

The International Olympic Committee might not know this, so don't tell them, but Chicago has a history of law enforcement conduits to the mob. The job has been held by many -- a patrol officer in the evidence section, hit men in the Cook County Sheriff's office, even the chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department.

Since the time of Paul Ricca, the Outfit has had puppets, in politics, on the bench, in business and law enforcement. That's how it survives, while politically unsophisticated street gangs suffer legal troubles. And what was so unique about Ambrose is that he was a federal law enforcement officer guarding a federal witness.

"He screwed up ... shot his mouth off," said Lipuma, a former federal prosecutor himself, in a riveting closing argument, full of passion, trying to poke holes in the case. "John Ambrose admitted he broke policy. He broke procedure. It may have been a violation of policy. ... But he's an honest man."

Prosecutor Markus Funk was once the new guy on the federal organized crime team. But now he's the veteran, with the most significant convictions in Chicago history under his belt: Jimmy Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and others from the Family Secrets trial.

"This is straightforward theft," Funk told the jury. "The defense is throwing up these vast smoke screens to confuse you. He confessed. Not once, not twice, but three times. He shot his mouth off? There was no criminal intent? He admitted it. That's not a legal defense. That's a crime."

The defense also brought my column up again, the one of Feb. 21, 2003, that broke the story that Nick Calabrese had disappeared from prison and speculated (correctly) that he was in the witness protection program.

Lipuma said the column was the "linchpin" of the defense because after it ran, Calabrese's cooperation was common knowledge. But a month before the column was published, Jimmy and Mickey Marcello were already talking about Calabrese's federal "baby-sitter" funneling information to them.

If Ambrose were, say, a plumber, you might excuse him for screwing up and talking about a federal witness to an Outfit messenger boy.

A plumber might be excused, because a plumber wouldn't be expected to know about witness protection. But Ambrose is no plumber, is he?

He's a deputy U.S. marshal.

For now.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Not the Hollywood Mob, It's the Chicago Outfit

In the mobster movies, a car pulls up and heavy men in hard shoes get out. And in the quiet suburban house, the wiseguy turned government witness stands foolishly in his new kitchen, oblivious in his bathrobe, scratching, boorishly guzzling milk from the carton.

The guns come up. The milk spills. The feds lose another witness.

Happily, it didn't happen in real life to Nicholas Calabrese, the Chicago Outfit hit man turned star government witness in the Family Secrets trial that sent mob bosses, soldiers, even a corrupt cop to prison. Calabrese is very much alive. Yet in federal court this week, the story of Outfit penetration of witness security is playing out in the case of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, accused of leaking sensitive information about Calabrese—including his movements—to Chicago's mob.

It's a difficult case to prove, since U.S. District Judge John Grady tossed out key evidence on Thursday. He invited an appeal by telling the jury "I made a mistake" in allowing secret prison tapes to be played linking Ambrose's late father, a Chicago cop convicted in the Marquette 10 police drug scandal, with other crooked cops connected to the Outfit.

Whether Ambrose is found guilty or not, it's obvious that imprisoned Outfit boss Jimmy Marcello and his sleepy brother Michael—who testified in a rumpled orange jumpsuit Thursday—believed they'd cracked the security around Calabrese.

The Marcellos knew of Calabrese being driven around town to murder locations where he briefed the FBI on unsolved hits that formed the basis of Family Secrets, which sent Jimmy and others to prison for life. They knew Calabrese called his wife from a phone dialed as Ambrose guarded Calabrese.

The Marcello brothers knew all about it in January 2003, weeks before I revealed in a Feb. 21, 2003, column that Calabrese was talking to the FBI about a series of unsolved homicides—including the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro—and that his federal prison records had disappeared.

Though I'm flattered the Marcellos are loyal readers, and that Ambrose's defense would try to use my column to argue that the leak could have come from just about anywhere, Mickey Marcello testified Thursday that he knew about Calabrese because a law-enforcement source was spilling.

According to Marcello, a fat reputed Chicago mobster, Johnny "Pudgy" Matassa Jr., would tell him what the source learned. Then Marcello would drive to federal prison to tell Jimmy. Then, unbeknownst to the Marcello brothers, the FBI would tape what they said.

"John says his source was giving him a list of names," the balding Mickey testified. "... I had John. He had who he had, who I presumed was a law-enforcement officer."

Matassa and Marcello would meet, but not over checkered tablecloths, candles stuck in bottles of Chianti.

"One time it was Dunkin' Donuts, various restaurants, places like that," Marcello said.

He said Matassa told him about others Nick Calabrese was helping the FBI to investigate, including the boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo—implicated but not charged in the sensational Spilotro murders. And about Anthony "The Trucker" Zizzo, who later disappeared from a Melrose Park restaurant lot and has never been found.

Mickey Marcello, a font of information, developed a severe case of Fedzheimers when asked about Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, and those two brothers from Bridgeport, Bruno and Frank "Toots" Caruso. Andriacci and the Carusos were not charged.

"Andriacci. 'The Builder,' " said Ambrose lawyer Frank Lipuma during cross-examination. "Is he a mob boss?"

"I don't know," Marcello deadpanned.

"Are you aware of the Carusos who run Chinatown/Bridgeport?" Lipuma asked.

"No," Marcello said. "I'm not aware of that."

"Aren't they associated with organized crime?"

"They know a lot of people," sighed Marcello. "I guess you could say that. That they know a lot of people."

So do the Marcello brothers. They knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Nick Calabrese was taking the FBI to places where murders were committed.

That's not Hollywood.

It's Chicago.

Thanks to John Kass

Mob's Secret Language Revealed

Rub your stomach? That's code for John Matassa, also known as "Pudge" for his love of the sweets.

Brush your nose? Must be talking about boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Rubbing fingers together denotes hush money paid out to a moulieri, or wife.

For the benefit of a federal jury hearing the case against accused turncoat federal agent, Michael "Mickey" Marcello on Thursday deciphered the gestures and phrases he and his brother used to discuss mafia business while behind bars.

Marcello told jurors the information he discussed with his brother, Outfit street crew leader Jimmy Marcello, in a Michigan prison came from "the baby sitter," the guy whose father died behind bars and who dialed phone numbers for a wanted hit man-turned-witness in protective custody. But Mickey Marcello, reluctantly testifying Thursday in his prison-issue orange togs and laceless shoes, said he never knew the source's real name or how he got access to the secrets.

Prosecutors fingered deputy U.S. marshal John T. Ambrose as the man who leaked word to the mafia about Nick Calabrese, the protected witness Ambrose guarded.

The FBI got smart to the leaks in 2003 when they caught the Marcellos on tape talking about Calabrese's covert cooperation with federal investigators. But the brothers talked in code and used a slew of gestures to disguise their conversations about criminal Outfit business. And they almost never named names.

One tape in particular was played twice for jurors Thursday before U.S. District Judge John Grady then decided to strike it from the record. On it, Jimmy asked where the news of Calabrese's cooperation came from.

"The guy who is giving it to you?" James asked.

"The guy who is his babysitter," Michael responded.

"Oh yeah?"

"Baby sitter guy. Same guy."

"Same guy that was at the other place with him?"

"(Nods affirmatively) Same guy that took him the first time."

Baby sitter guy, Marcello said, is a law enforcement source whose father was part of the "Marquette 10" police corruption case and since has died, which describes Ambrose's father.

Marcello, 58, pleaded guilty in 2007 to racketeering charges in the Family Secrets mafia case and is now serving his sentence. Thursday the judge had to constantly remind Marcello to sit up and speak into the microphone.

Marcello's answers came in short bursts, rarely in full sentences, as if he never got over a lifetime of communicating in code to foil eavesdropping investigators and evade wiretaps. Granted immunity by Judge Grady, Marcello didn't balk at any of the questions, but punctuated his answers with lots of "whatever you call it, I don't know."

Mickey Marcello's source was John Matassa, who Marcello said was still separated by several sources from the leaker.

"But you didn't know the information was coming from the marshal's office, right?" defense attorney Frank C. Lipuma asked.

"Right," Marcello said.

"There's no indication you know where Matassa got the information from, right?"

"Right."

Thanks to Lauren Fitzpatrick

Mickey Marcello is Reluctant Witness in Deputy US Marshal John Ambrose Trial

FBI recordings caught brothers James and Michael Marcello anxiously discussing information in 2003 that their Chicago Outfit associate Nicholas Calabrese might testify against them and others.

On Thursday, Michael "Mickey" Marcello was on the witness stand in Chicago's federal courthouse, reluctantly reliving those undercover recordings in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose.

Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and thick glasses, Marcello, 58, squinted at transcripts of several recorded conversations with his brother and deciphered the vague codes and signals they used to furtively discuss Calabrese's enrollment in the witness protection program.

Marcello testified that he learned of Calabrese's cooperation with law enforcement from reputed mob figure John "Pudgy" Matassa Jr.

Ambrose is on trial on charges that while twice guarding Calabrese, he leaked Calabrese's cooperation to a family friend with alleged mob links, knowing the sensitive information would end up in the Outfit's hands.

Marcello denied directly knowing Ambrose or knowing that Ambrose was allegedly the source to the mob of Calabrese's cooperation.

When asked who he was referring to on one undercover recording when he identified the source as Calabrese's "baby-sitter," Marcello said, "The guy that watches him."

Marcello testified that Matassa indicated that the original source was in law enforcement. But Matassa said he himself was receiving information from another man named "Billy," Marcello said.

Marcello said that he presumed that referred to William Guide, a former Chicago police officer convicted in the Marquette 10 police corruption trial in the 1980s. Guide was a close friend of Ambrose's father, Thomas, who was also convicted in that prosecution and died in prison. But a key 2003 video recording in which the Marcello brothers discuss the source's ties to the Marquette 10 defendants, the initial clue that led authorities to investigate Ambrose, was belatedly removed from evidence Thursday by U.S. District Judge John Grady.

Grady reversed his earlier decision to allow the videotape as evidence even though the jury had already viewed it twice during the trial. "I apologize for making a mistake," said Grady, ordering the jury to ignore that particular videotape and hand in transcripts of that tape.

Prosecutors have argued that Ambrose leaked details of Calabrese's cooperation to Guide with the knowledge that it would reach organized-crime figures. Ambrose's attorneys have admitted that Ambrose talked to Guide about protecting Calabrese but contend he had no criminal intent.

Marcello, serving an 8 1/2-year sentence on racketeering and conspiracy convictions, spent more than five hours on the stand, responding to most questions with clipped, one-word answers. When questioned about his own organized-crime ties or the rank or status of other Outfit figures, including his brother James, he became visibly uncomfortable, stammering answers and pleading ignorance.

Outside the courtroom, Marcello's lawyer, Catharine O'Daniel, said that her client had testified only because he was granted immunity and threatened with an additional sentence for contempt if he did not appear. "He is not here willingly," O'Daniel said. "He's as willing as I am whenever I go to get a root canal."

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Secret Prison Video Highlights Testimony at Mob Leak Trial

Secretly-recorded video of two Chicago Outfit members discussing mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese's cooperation with federal investigators highlighted the first testimony in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose in local federal court today.

Grainy footage of James and Michael Marcello, taken from the waiting room of a Michigan federal prison in 2003, showed the brothers using code words, subtle gestures and whispers to discuss what information Calabrese was sharing on dozens of mob murders in the Chicago area.

"He admitted to being involved in 19 of them things," Michael Marcello told his brother in one recording, referring to Calabrese and the number of mob murders he had disclosed to authorities.

FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth said such discussions were the first clue to authorities of a significant leak about Calabrese's cooperation with investigators. "We were shocked," said Maseth, describing the response of agents when they heard specific information about Calabrese's disclosures being discussed by the Marcellos.

Prosecutors say Ambrose, who protected Calabrese during two visits to Chicago in 2002 and 2003 as part of his witness security detail, was the original source of the "highly sensitive" information that eventually made its way to the Marcellos.

Video recordings were also played of the Marcellos, seated side-by-side in a waiting room with their heads almost touching, discussing that the leak's source was the son of a figure arrested in the Marquette 10 police corruption trial in the 1980's. Ambrose's father, Thomas, was convicted on felony bribery charges in 1982.

Earlier, Maseth gave the jury a crash course in the Chicago Outfit, describing the structure of the organization and defining what made particular figures "made members." Maseth also described Calabrese as "the most important organized-crime witness that has ever testified in this district and perhaps in the United States."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Diane MacArthur asked Maseth what consequences Calabrese could face if his cooperation was discovered by members of the Outfit. "The level of risk was the ultimate level of risk. He could be killed," Maseth said.

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

Friday, April 10, 2009

John Ambrose - The Mob's Babysitter?

Top Chicago Outfit bosses described a deputy wiith the U.S. Marshal service as the "Mob's Babysitter."

The deputy goes to trial next week on charges that he provided sensitive witness information to the Outfit.

When the court bailiff announces "United States versus John Thomas Ambrose" on Monday in a Chicago courtroom, history will be made. It will be the only time since George Washington swore in the first U.S. Marshals that a deputy has ever been charged with leaking inside information to a criminal organization.

When Chicago Deputy Marshal John Ambrose broke down doors for the Great Lakes fugitive squad, it was seen across the country during a CNN special report. But it was what Ambrose was doing behind closed doors, away from the cameras, that authorities say makes him a criminal.

According to federal charges that Ambrose will face beginning Monday, he leaked information about mob investigations.

"The breach could have put at risk the life of one of the most important witnesses ever developed in Chicago against the Chicago Outfit. It could have put at risk US Marshals, and family members of that witness," said Robert Grant, FBI agent in charge.

That witness was Nick Calabrese, mob hitman extraordinare. In 2002, Calabrese began secretly cooperating with the FBI in an investigation called Family Secrets.

One of the primary duties of the U.S. Marshal service is to protect government witnesses. The ultra secret, cloak and dagger style witness security program, or WITSEC as it's known, has protected 17,000 people since 1970 and officials claim not one has ever been harmed.

Calabrese was a protected witness. Deputy John Ambrose was assigned to protect him.

According to federal records, as a supervisor, Ambrose had access to confidential case information, including details of Calabrese's cooperation, where he would he housed, and when he would be moved.

It was during secretly recorded prison conversations between Chicago mob bosses that federal agents knew there was a leak.

The discussions between Outfit leader Jimmy Marcello and his brother Michael were in code. But on numerous occasions when they talked about "the babysitter," feds say that was their code name for Ambrose who was babysitting Nick Calabrese and allegedly leaking inside information to the mob through an Outfit connected family friend.

"No system is perfect. And much of what we do depends on trust and confidence and honor," said Gary Shapiro, first assistant U.S. attorney.

Federal authorities said they were shaken by what they said they found and Ambrose was called in and question by his superiors on several occasions. He denied having contacts with mob lieutenants John "Pudgy" Matassa and or with "Little Tony" Rizzo who had recently gone missing and has never turned up.

Records reveal Ambrose told investigators several conflicting stories including one that he leaked outfit information to curry favor with Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo but only for the purpose, he said, of helping to locate federal fugitives in the future.

"John Ambrose is not connected to the mob at all...it rests on impressions and opinions of an FBI agent," said Frank Lipuma, Ambrose' lawyer.

Ambrose lives in south suburban Tinley Park. He has never publicly spoken about this case. In a 2005 TV interview, Ambrose did discuss how his father motivates him to be a federal lawman. "As corny as it may sound, I feel like he's (my dad) nudging me in a direction or opens my eyes to something," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Ambrose.

Ambrose' father, Thomas, was a Chicago police officer, highly decorated and respected until he was snared in the notorious Marquette Ten police corruption scandal in the 1980's.

Another one of the Marquette ten was William Guidie, John Ambrose' family friend, the one to whom he allegedly passed inside information.

Nothing happened as a result of the breach and Calabrese went onto help convict the top bosses.

Federal judge John Grady said that 40-year-old Ambrose isn't charged with being a member of the Outfit, of murdering anybody or being involved in the Family Secrets Trial and that he is concerned about sensationalizing the proceedings.

That said, Judge Grady is allowing some witnesses in the Ambrose trial to testify from behind screens so no one will see their faces.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brother of Mob Boss to Testify Against U.S. Marshal

For months, Michael Marcello passed along key information about a top mob snitch during his 2003 prison visits to his half-brother, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello -- the Chicago Outfit's top boss.

The details about the key witness, mob killer Nicholas Calabrese, were allegedly coming from the man assigned to protect Calabrese from the mobsters who wanted him dead -- deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose.

Now, in a stunning reversal, Michael Marcello, once his imprisoned half-brother's eyes and ears on the street, will testify against Ambrose next month, a prosecution filing shows.

Ambrose is charged with leaking important information about Nick Calabrese to the Outfit. Marcello could provide key testimony about how the information allegedly made its way from Ambrose to Ambrose's friend with Outfit connections to reputed mobster John "Pudgy" Matassa to Michael Marcello to James Marcello. Matassa has not been charged in the case.

Michael Marcello pleaded guilty in the Family Secrets case in June 2007, admitting he ran an illegal video-poker business. He didn't agree to cooperate then and got 8½ years in prison.

It's unclear what prompted the turnaround. Prosecutors would not comment, and an attorney for Marcello did not return a message. Such cooperation often results in less prison time.

Prosecutors secretly recorded Michael Marcello's conversations when he visited James Marcello in prison.

The Marcellos were intent on finding out what Nick Calabrese had revealed about James Marcello's involvement in the 1986 killings of mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

James Marcello drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville area home, where the two men believed they were going to get promotions in the mob, according to testimony in the Family Secrets case. Instead, several mobsters, including Nick Calabrese, pounced on them and beat them to death.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sentencing of Mob Handyman, Thomas Johnson, Kicks Off Chicago Outfit Sentencing Season

'Tis the season to be sentenced for the Chicago Outfit.

By the time the New Year rings in, more than a half dozen hoodlums will have guaranteed reservations at the Holiday Pen.

Mob handyman Thomas Johnson on Tuesday became the first of several Operation Family Secrets defendant to be sentenced this month. Johnson, of Willow Springs, was handed a 30-month prison term and three years of supervision after pleading guilty to his role as an Outfit handyman. U.S. District Judge James Zagel also fined Johnson $7500. He will surrender on March 3, 2009 to begin serving his sentence.

"It is undisputed that Johnson for over seven years engaged in illegal conduct for and with Outfit associate Michael Marcello and his (Michael Marcello's) brother, Outfit boss James Marcello," stated federal prosecutors in sentencing reports. "Johnson's full-time employer was Cicero-based 'M&M Amusements,' which was a large-scale illegal gambling business operating for the financial benefit of the Chicago Outfit."

In Johnson's plea agreement, he admitted rigging video poker machines so that they could be used for actual wagering. "Johnson and others did so by installing a 'knock-off' button or switch which enabled the bar owner to keep track of winning and losing plays. Johnson and his co- conspirators then placed these illegally-altered machines at dozens of bars, restaurants, and clubs throughout Chicagoland" stated prosecutors.

Johnson's talents were not limited to tinkering on machines. He was also a skilled bookkeeper, according to federal investigators. "He created two sets of written documents during the weekly accountings held with the proprietors where the gambling machines were located. Johnson would record the true amount of income retrieved from the machines, and split this figure with the proprietors as agreed. On 'settle-up day,' Johnson also created another set of written records ("collection reports") which falsely recorded a lower amount of income generated by the machines, namely 50% of the actual income generated" authorities said.

Johnson's pleaded guilty of conducting an illegal gambling business and tax fraud. Government agents estimated that he cheated the IRS out of nearly $1.69 million.

Attorneys portrayed Johnson, 53, as little more than a mob stooge, who was a "minor participant, if not a minimal participant. In a court filing, they said Johnson's "involvement was limited to participating in a non-violent illegal gambling operation. Furthermore, within the gambling operation, Mr. Johnson was a low level employee. Mr. Johnson regularly visited business owners participating in the gambling operation to collect proceeds and collection reports from the machines. In return, Mr. Johnson was paid $2,400.00 per month."

The Family Secrets defendants who were convicted at trial will be up for sentencing next week, including former Chicago Police Department officer Anthony Doyle and Paul "The Indian" Schiro, both on Dec. 10

The namesake of the USA vs. Frank Calabrese case as it is officially known, Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese, will be sentenced on Dec. 11 in the Dirksen Building courthouse.

He will be followed by Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo on Dec. 15 and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello on Dec. 17.

The key witness in the landmark case, one-time Outfit assassin Nick Calabrese, will be sentenced on Jan. 26, 2009. Nick Calabrese, who has admitted his role in more than a dozen gangland hits, turned government witness and fingered his brother Frank in the mob plots.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frank "The German" Schweihs, Chicago Outfit Mob Enforcer, Dies Awaiting Trial

Frank "the German" Schweihs, a reputed Chicago Outfit enforcer once described as one of the most feared men in the city, died Wednesday in a North Side hospital after being transferred from the Metropolitan Correction Center, where he was awaiting trial.

Frank 'The German' SchweihsSchweihs, 78, was cancer-stricken and too ill to face charges in last year's landmark Family Secrets case, one of the biggest mob trials in Chicago's history. The frail Schweihs was scheduled to go to trial Oct. 28. He appeared at recent hearings in federal court in a wheelchair.

On Wednesday, Schweihs died in Thorek Memorial Hospital, said jail spokesman Vincent Shaw.

Schweihs initially went on the lam after the sweeping indictment came down in 2005, but authorities were able to track him down in an apartment complex in a small town in Kentucky late that year.

His upcoming trial had been threatened when Schweihs signed a do-not-resuscitate order that might have forced officials to move him from the downtown jail, which has no medical facility. But Schweihs rescinded the order.

During the Family Secrets trial, in which five of Schweihs' co-defendants were found guilty, witnesses testified that Schweihs was a henchman for capo Joey "the Clown" Lombardo. Schweihs was identified during the trial as being involved in the 1974 hit in Bensenville on Lombardo business partner and federal witness Daniel Seifert.

Schweihs' last court appearance June 10 was memorable, as he complained loudly and barked at federal prosecutors. One of them, Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, who was part of the trial team on Family Secrets, had looked in his direction as he spoke with his attorney Ellen Domph.

"You makin' eyes at me?" Schweihs snarled. "Do I look like a [expletive] to you or something?"

In a recent court filing, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel to seat an anonymous jury to hear the Schweihs case, noting that he used violence to rise in the Outfit starting in the 1960s.

"Throughout this phase of his life, Schweihs continued to use seemingly irrational brutality for 'effect,' portraying himself as the consummate 'tough guy' at every opportunity," the government's brief stated.

Trial testimony during last year's Family Secrets case made it clear that Schweihs was someone who others linked to the mob feared most.

Michael Spilotro, who was killed in a mob hit along with his brother, once told his daughter that if she ever saw Schweihs around their home, she was to call 911 immediately. Brothers James and Mickey Marcello, defendants in the case, had another nickname for him: "Hitler."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dennis Johnson Sentenced in Chicago Mob Video Gambling Ring

A bit player snared in a government crackdown on the Chicago mob was sentenced last week to six months in federal prison for converting video games into gambling devices.

Dennis Johnson, 38, of Plainfield was also given three years' probation following his release for his part in the video gambling racket run out of suburban Cicero by suspected mobster Michael "Mickey" Marcello.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said that although Johnson was not the mob leader that some of his co-defendants were, he was instrumental in a multimillion-dollar scheme.

Zagel sentenced Johnson to the minimum under the federal guideline range, saying he deserved credit for pulling himself together and changing his lifestyle since pleading guilty in June 2007.

Prosecutors did not press for a stiff sentence. "He was a small cog in the large wheel of the Outfit," said Markus Funk, one of three prosecutors who secured convictions against suspected top-echelon Chicago mobsters at the trial.

The case is one of the biggest targeting organized crime in Chicago. Defendants are accused of operating the Chicago Outfit - another name for the city's organized crime family - as a racketeering enterprise.

Johnson and his brother, Thomas Johnson of Willow Springs, both worked for Marcello's Cicero-based M&M Entertainment.

The two acknowledged they altered video games so they could be used as gambling devices, placed them in taverns and clubs, and collected the proceeds. Bogus records hid the profits, they said.

Thomas Johnson and Marcello have also pleaded guilty. Thomas Johnson is awaiting sentencing. Marcello got eight years after admitting he tried to buy the silence of jailed mobster Nicholas Calabrese - the government's star witness - by paying his wife $4,000 a month in hush money.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Plea for Mercy Reduces Mobster's Sentence

Saying he was swayed by a family's plea for mercy, a federal judge sentenced a mob figure to 8 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for passing information to his imprisoned half-brother, a reputed Outfit boss.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he had planned to impose an even stiffer sentence until Michael Marcello's son, Sam, and others spoke of his dedication to his family.

"He's a decent man, he's remorseful and he's very conscious of his actions," the son said of Marcello, who pleaded guilty in June to racketeering and conspiracy to conduct affairs with organized crime. "He's always insisted I conduct myself with principle. "

Zagel said Marcello's loyalty had made him an exceptional family member but may also have led him down "the disastrous path" to his mob activities.

"Maybe one of your principles is one of your problems," the judge said. "Maybe you were too good of a brother."

Zagel said he had intended to sentence Marcello,58, to more than nine years—the maximum called for under federal sentencing guidelines.

Thanks to Azam Ahmed

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deputy US Marshal Breaks Down Meeting with Prosecutors Regarding Mob Leak

A deputy U.S. marshal from Chicago, once a rising star in his office and now accused of leaking information to the mob, was questioned about possible contacts with other reputed mobsters, according to testimony in federal court Tuesday.

Investigators quizzed Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose about any contacts he had with top reputed mobsters John "Pudgy" Matassa and Tony Zizzo, who is now missing, according to testimony. Ambrose denied even knowing who the men were.

Ambrose, 39, is charged with lying to the feds about leaking secret information about mob killer Nicholas Calabrese, who decided to cooperate with the government and was in the witness protection program.

The feds caught on tape two mobsters, reputed Chicago Outfit boss James Marcello and his half brother, Michael, talking about Calabrese's "baby-sitter" -- their code name for Ambrose -- and the information "the baby-sitter" was providing to them.

The hearing was to determine whether statements that Ambrose made to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, the head of the FBI in Chicago, should be tossed out.

Ambrose contends he was in custody when he made statements and was not read his Miranda rights, so the statements shouldn't be allowed in. The feds say he wasn't in custody and gave the statements freely in talks with Fitzgerald and Grant in September 2006. Fitzgerald testified Tuesday that he told Ambrose he was not under arrest -- which Ambrose denies.

U.S. Marshal Kim Widup, Ambrose's boss, backed Ambrose's account in one key detail. Widup said he believed Ambrose was in custody when he was being questioned, which could support Ambrose and undermine the prosecution's case. Ambrose's uncle, Gerald Hansen, a retired Chicago police officer and current federal court security officer, visited Ambrose while he was at FBI offices and also said he believed his nephew was in custody.

It's unclear how much those statements will assist Ambrose. U.S. District Judge John Grady said he likely wouldn't consider their opinions all that helpful.

Ambrose broke down on the witness stand as he described how he was confronted by Fitzgerald and Grant.

"I was thinking about my wife and how she was going to raise the kids if we were separated, how we were going to provide," Ambrose said, tears coming to his eyes. "I felt I had been hurled into a vat of quicksand, and Mr. Fitzgerald was throwing bricks at me," Ambrose said.

Investigators were worried that Ambrose might kill himself, and lured him to FBI offices on a ruse.

Ambrose had to hand over his gun, a customary procedure, before he went up to 10th floor conference room at FBI offices, where he was confronted by Fitzgerald and Grant.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Clown to Enter Center Ring at MobTrial

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Nick Calabrese, Michael Marcello

In the upcoming defense of the five men on trial in the Family Secrets case, there will be one star attraction: the Clown.

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo will take the witness stand in his own defense, his attorney, Rick Halprin, said in court Wednesday as the prosecution all but wrapped up its case.

Lombardo's defense "obviously centers around his testimony," Halprin said. And he has been put at the highest levels of the Chicago Outfit in trial testimony. Lombardo, 78, has never testified in a criminal case in his own defense. He gave a deposition in a union proceeding and spoke to the judge before he was sentenced in a criminal case in the 1980s.

Halprin deferred his opening statement for Lombardo until after the prosecution rested its case. Halprin is expected to give his opening on Monday.

Lombardo has an alibi for the day Seifert was killed. He contends he was reporting his stolen wallet to police at the time of the murder.

Defense attorneys for other men on trial, including the reputed head of the Chicago mob, James Marcello, will say Monday whether their clients will take the stand too.

As prosecutors brought their case to a close Wednesday, they played several more secret tape recordings made when Marcello was visited by his half-brother, Michael, at a federal prison in Milan, Mich. The tapes appear to show great concern by the Marcellos over the cooperation of Nick Calabrese, a mob killer who has testified at the trial.

Michael Marcello was the owner of a company that put video gambling machines in bars in the western suburbs. IRS Revenue Agent Michael Welch testified that the company failed to report at least half its income from 1996 to 2003, to the tune of $4.3 million. A top mob investigator with the IRS, William Paulin, testified earlier that when he and other agents searched Michael Marcello's company in 2003, they found thousands of dollars in apparently unreported cash.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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