The Chicago Syndicate: Michael Marcello
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Showing posts with label Michael Marcello. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Marcello. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Evidence In Mob Murders Surfaces In Casino Battle

The first piece of evidence in the Operation Family Secrets mob murder case surfaced Tuesday during a battle over a casino license. As CBS 2's John Drummond reports, a top FBI agent believes the undercover videotape shows a link between the mob and Rosemont Mayor Don Stephens.

James Marcello is identified by the FBI as the boss of the Chicago mob. In March 2004, the FBI videotaped a conversation between Marcello and his brother, Michael, at the federal prison at Milan, Michigan.

Stephens, the long-time mayor of Rosemont, had lobbied hard for the Emerald Casino Inc., to be granted a license to operate in Rosemont. But the Illinois Gaming Board rejected the Emerald bid, citing alleged mob ties. At a special hearing Tuesday on the Emerald license, the gaming board watched an undercover videotape from the Operation Family Secrets investigation. On the tape, the Marcello brothers discussed whether the mob would have a piece of any casino in Rosemont.

The two men did not use proper names when discussing the matter. The FBI said "he" referred to Stephens.

James Marcello: “Are we gonna be in there at all?”

Michael Marcello: “I don’t ... MGM or one of them companies will wind up with it. I mean he ain't going to get it like he wanted it before but...”

James Marcello: “They'll pay him so much a month and that'll be it.”

James Marcello: “You gotta say it. This guy really knew what he was doing, Mickey. They could say what they want about him.”

Attorney Robert Cliffford, who represents Emerald Casino, was skeptical of the meaning of the tape. “When I first saw this my reaction was you have a couple of sideways talking about stuff they don't know an awful lot about,” Clifford said. But top FBI organized crime agent John Mallul said that Stephens had a special interest in Emerald getting a license since he could exercise some control over it.

A spokesman for the Rosemont mayor ripped the FBI tape, calling it "meaningless." He said it proves nothing and suggests the gaming board has a "vendetta against Mayor Stephens."

As far as the videotape itself, this is the first time we've seen some of the mountain of evidence expected to be used against James Marcello and other alleged mobsters in the Family Secrets case. The video portion clearly showed the Marcello brothers having a chat in a day room at the Michigan prison. But the audio was difficult to make out. We had to read from a transcript provided by an FBI agent.

Thanks to Bulldog John Drummond

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

FBI Says Mob Eyed Rosemont Casino

The reputed head of the Chicago mob and his half-brother were caught more than two years ago on FBI surveillance videotape discussing organized crime's efforts to infiltrate a casino in Rosemont, the head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago testified Tuesday.

A portion of the grainy and muffled videotape, recorded surreptitiously in the visiting room of the federal prison in Michigan where James Marcello was incarcerated at the time, was played openly for the first time. It was part of the Illinois Gaming Board's ongoing public hearing aimed at stripping the Emerald Casino once planned for Rosemont of its riverboat gambling license. But attorneys for Emerald attempted to cast serious doubt about the relevance of the tape and whether FBI Special Agent John Mallul's opinion of what Marcello, the reputed boss of the Chicago mob, and his half-brother Michael Marcello were discussing in the coded conversation was accurate.

Emerald attorney Robert Clifford also pointed out that the portion of the tape played was only a two-and-a-half minute piece of a five-hour conversation and that the testimony was part of the gaming board's effort to yank Emerald's license by sullying Rosemont's reputation. "Is this fair to produce this?" Clifford said. "I don't think so."

According to Mallul's testimony about the discussion, James Marcello asked Michael Marcello what influence and control organized crime would have in a Rosemont casino. They also discussed what role longtime Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens would have in the casino deal.

"Are we gonna be in there at all?" James asks on the tape as he sits next to his half-brother in the crowded visiting room.

"I don't ... MGM or one of them companies will wind up with it," Michael responds. "I mean he ain't gonna get it like he wanted it before."

Mallul testified that the "he" Michael Marcello referred to was Stephens. In July Mallul testified that an informant had placed Stephens in a suburban restaurant meeting with several high-ranking members of organized crime to discuss what control the mob would have over contracts at the casino.

"It's my opinion based on this conversation, Donald Stephens had a special interest in having Emerald itself be a casino in Rosemont," Mallul testified.

When asked to describe "special," Mallul said he thought the mayor had an "extraordinary interest" in Emerald being selected as the casino in Rosemont as opposed to another casino firm, in part to have more control over the casino.

Rosemont attorney Robert Stephenson questioned Mallul's opinions about what the vague conversation between the brothers was actually about. "The guy is either a liar or incompetent," Stephenson said. "In either case, he should be immediately fired by the FBI."

In April federal prosecutors charged the Marcello brothers, along with more than a dozen other alleged members of organized crime, with an array of crimes. James Marcello is charged with the murders of Anthony Spilotro and Michael Spilotro in 1986, and Michael is facing charges that include conducting an illegal gambling business.

The March 24, 2003, conversation between the two brothers also included a new allegation that former Chicago alderman and Cicero village attorney Edward Vrdolyak played a role in getting former Chicago Crime Commission investigator Wayne Johnson to settle a defamation lawsuit Stephens had filed. The two brothers implied that because of the settlement, Rosemont was allowed to continue to seek a casino.

The suit stemmed from comments Johnson made in 2001 about a "troubling ... litany of associations" between Stephens and six people the commission considered to have criminal or mob ties. The month after Johnson accepted the job of Cicero police chief in 2003, Johnson and Stephens privately settled the suit when Johnson said in a letter that he had "no personal knowledge about Mayor Donald E. Stephens' business dealings."

"The V guy put his arm around him," Michael Marcello said, referring to Vrdolyak, according to Mallul. "Put 'em over there in that town [Cicero]. He backed off the other guy [Stephens] out there."

Johnson and Vrdolyak both flatly denied the assertion, saying they never met each other until after Johnson became police chief, a job he left this year. "Ed Vrdolyak had nothing to do with that letter," Johnson said.

"It's absolute folly to say that anything like that ever went down," Vrdolyak said. "LSD must be coming back. It's nuts."

The testimony came on the second-to-last-day of testimony in the hearings. The administrative law judge overseeing the case, former federal judge Abner Mikva, is expected to rule no sooner than next month.

Thanks to John Chase and Brett McNeil

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Infrastructure of Chicago mob

The 14 Operation Family Secrets defendants indicted on racketeering, conspiracy, or gambling charges are part of the Chicago Outfit, which makes money for members and associates through illegal activities.

The chain of command:

James Marcello
Leader of the Chicago Outfit, known as "No. 1"

Provides advice to the Boss

Second in command, also known as "No. 2," reports to Boss

Street boss/crew leader, reports to sotto capo

  • Frank Calabrese Sr., South Side/26th Street Crew capo, continued criminal activities from jail through Nicholas Ferriola and others.
  • Joseph Lombardo, Grand Avenue Crew capo

Generally given territories throughout Chicago. May include "made men" --trustworthy people--usually of Italian descent, who have murdered for the Outfit.

1. South Side/26th Street or Chinatown

  • Nicholas Ferriola - collected money made by extortion demands from Frank Calabrese.
  • Frank Saladino
  • Nicholas W. Calabrese - a "made man" and brother of Frank Calabrese Sr.

2. Grand Avenue

3. Melrose Park

  • Michael Marcello - kept his jailed brother James informed on activities. Michael operated an illegal video gambling business.

4. Elmwood Park

Assist the Chicago Outfit through criminal enterprise

  • Frank Schweihs - an enforcer, collected and imposed "street tax" for himself and other members.
  • Paul Schiro - a criminal associate of Frank Schweihs and deceased member Anthony Spilotro.
  • Employees of M&M Amusement: Joseph Venezia, Dennis Johnson and Thomas Johnson operated video gambling machines in Cicero, Berwyn.

Retired Chicago Cops

  • Michael Ricci - a retired Chicago police officer, assisted Frank Calabrese by delivering messages to crew members, collecting money generated by extortion demands and providing false information to FBI.
  • Anthony Doyle - a retired Chicago police officer, who tipped off Frank Calabrese Sr. of law enforcement investigations into the murder of John Fecarotta and whether individuals cooperated with police about mob activities.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Officials go after Lifeblood of Chicago Outfit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrested in Illinois were:

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

Nicholas Ferriola, 29, of Westchester.

Joseph Venezia, 62, of Hillside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Todd Lightly

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Franklin Park Police Officer Robert Urbinati Linked to Chicago Mob

A former Franklin Park police officer acted as an important communications link between a high-ranking mob boss in prison and his minions on the outside, a federal prosecutor disclosed in court Tuesday.

The fresh details about former officer Robert Urbinati, 60, came at a court hearing in which he was sentenced to 33 months in prison for his role in a suburban, mob-run video poker empire.

Urbinati admitted in February to taking $500 a month as a Franklin Park officer to protect the video poker machines in local bars. But he also would reach out in the early 1990s to Michael Marcello, the brother of convicted mobster James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, who was in prison. Urbinati would relay Outfit problems to Michael Marcello, who would visit his brother James in prison and get answers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Levine said. Urbinati is related to the Marcellos, but the family relationship wasn't specified in court.

When James Marcello gets out of prison next year, he is expected to lead the Chicago Outfit, law enforcement sources have said.

Urbinati's attorney, Joseph Lopez, disputed the government's contention that Urbinati was an important link in the mob's communication network, calling the accusation "highly speculative" and without a basis in solid evidence.

Prosecutors, though, have pointed to a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation in which Urbinati and another player in the conspiracy, Thomas Tucker, talk about problems they are having with Robert Natale, then the mayor of Stone Park, who wanted a larger bribe payment for his services to the mob. Both Tucker and Natale were convicted as part of the investigation.

In the recorded transcript, Urbinati tells Tucker that he "was with Mickey [Marcello] last night. I explained everything to him, he's going to talk to Jimmy, but he said, even he said . . . you know that guy [Natale], he was supposed to get something."

Michael Marcello was not charged in the case. And Lopez called James Marcello "a model prisoner."

The sentencing of Urbinati wraps up the current case. The investigation, though, into illegal video gambling in the suburbs continues.

The machines are a cash cow for the Outfit. One machine alone can rake in $100,000 in profits a year, with the mob splitting the take 50-50 with the bar owner. And there are hundreds of such machines in the Chicago area.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said the crimes Urbinati committed were "very disturbing," especially since his sentencing came when Americans were commemorating the dedication and sacrifice of so many of its men and women in uniform in relation to Sept. 11.

"He was a crooked cop," the judge said of Urbinati, who wore a badge in Franklin Park from 1968 to 1995.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir


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