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

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Anthony Volpendesto Tossed from Court While Representing Himself

A federal judge ordered a defendant in a Chicago mob trial removed from the courtroom Thursday morning after the man threatened to have all the attorneys disbarred and loudly noted he did "not consent to any of these proceedings."

The disruption happened in the case of alleged Cicero mob boss Michael Sarno, who will soon stand trial with four other men, including Anthony Volpendesto, who created the disturbance and has been custody since his arrest.

Volpendesto is charged with racketeering for allegedly being part of a jewelry store robbery crew with ties to organized crime.

Volpendesto, who is not a lawyer, has filed numerous legal motions in the case on his own, which have advanced unique legal theories concerning his innocence or how the court has no jurisdiction over him. His attempts so far have not been successful.

Volpendesto referred to himself in court Thursday as "the executor of the Anthony Volpendesto estate" and repeatedly interrupted U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Guzman during a status hearing.

Volpendesto warned all attorneys in the room at one point, "either dismiss or disbar."

"I have no further business with this court," he said at another point, but continued talking anyway.

"I do not consent to any of these proceedings," he said, apparently unaware that his consent is not required.

The judge had deputy U.S. Marshals take Volpendesto away. He could still be heard chattering away in a holding cell as the door to the area opened and closed.

Volpendesto's talkativeness may come back to haunt him and some of the men on trial with him. He apparently made phone calls from jail after he was arrested for one of the jewelry store robberies, and prosecutors had indicated they will introduce recordings of some of those calls at trial.

Also on trial is Volpendesto's 87-year-old father, Sam, who is accused of helping bomb a video poker business in Berwyn in 2003 that was competing with a mob-sanctioned business. Prosecutors say Sam Volpendesto ran a Cicero house of prostitution and once had a suspected government cooperator beaten with a baseball bat, but he hasn't been convicted of either crime.

Guzman said he planned on having the younger Volpendesto brought over to the courtroom on Friday to remind him of the rules of conduct in court and work to obtain his cooperation during trial. If he refuses to come, deputy U.S. Marshals were ordered to use reasonable force to bring him.

Thanks to FoxChicago

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reputed Mob Boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno" Granted Funeral Attendance

In a cooperative that sounds like it's straight from the Sopranos, Chicago mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno has promised a federal judge to observe the Outfit's sacred code of silence known as "Omerta." Or something like that.

Sarno, who has been under house arrest on $1 million bond, will be allowed to leaving electronic monitoring Saturday morning to attend a family funeral. But under one condition. "Mr. Sarno agrees to travel directly to and from the funeral and burial and will refrain from speaking with anyone associated with the Chicago Outfit" states the agreement struck with U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier on Wednesday.

Mr. Sarno has been under home confinement while awaiting trial on charges that he supervised the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing against the mob's wildly popular-and illegal-video poker business.

There doesn't seem to be any precedent for such a general pledge-to extend the mob's sacred code of silence to an accused mob boss who wants to bend his federal bond so that he can attend a funeral. "Omerta" is a key covenant of the blood oath taken by Outfit members. Sarno is considered a "made member" of the mob according to federal law enforcement officials, because he participated in an official "making" ceremony.

Under the terms of his bond according to federal records, Sarno is "restricted to his residence at all times except for medical needs or treatment, religious services and court appearances." He needed special permission to attend the funeral. But it isn't the first time that Sarno has been allowed to leave the electronic confinement of his suburban Westchester home on family outings. Federal judges okayed his requests to attend a family holiday dinner last December and to attend an Easter gathering at his sister's house last spring if he promised to mingle only with actual blood relatives.

The Christmas festivities were held at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago on Dec. 24. The Easter dinner was at his sister's home in suburban Broadview.

Saturday's funeral rites are for Sarno's first cousin, Harry Casaiani according to federal court records. Casaiani owned a popular suburban pizzeria. "Mr. Casaiani passed away on August 9, 2010. On August 14, 2010, Mr. Sarno requests the ability to arrive at St. Cletus Parish, 600 W. 55th Street, La Grange, IL for a viewing beginning at 8:00 a.m. and stay through the funeral mass" states Sarno's motion. "Mr. Sarno also requests attendance at the burial which will take place directly after the funeral mass and will be located at Mary Queen of Heaven Cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Road, Hillside, IL 60162. All services are expected to conclude at 3:00 p.m."

Sarno was sentenced in 1995 to 6 1/2 years in prison for his role in a mob gambling rackets case. He was also named by the FBI in 2002 as one of the top five threats to government informant Nick Calabrese. He is an accused racketeer in the current federal bombing case.

Another defendant in the Sarno case also recently obtained court permission to leave house arrest for a family event. Reputed Chicago video poker king Casey Szaflarski will be allowed to attend his daughter's wedding on Aug. 21 at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago.

In the court OK however, Szaflarski was ordered not to speak with one of the wedding guests&his alleged Outfit boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso. Mr. Szaflarski may have to bite his tongue however. Caruso is the father of the groom.

Obituary listing for the cousin whose funeral Sarno will attend:

Harry A. Casciani, 58, of Burr Ridge, beloved Fiancé of Lilian; devoted Father of Gino, Rocco (Nina), and Carmen (Jacquie); loving Grandfather of Luca, Danilo, and Mia; fond Brother of Linda (Stanley), Laura (Jim), and Christine (Steve); son of the late Sergio and the late Jeanette; dear Uncle and friend of many. Harry was the proud owner of, and passionate about, his business Casciani's Pizzeria; and cared for his staff and customers like family. He was a very proud member of the Chicago Bears Family and above all else, loved his family, friends, and food. Visitation Friday 3 to 9p.m., at Hallowell & James Funeral Home, 1025 W.55th St. Countryside. Funeral Prayers Saturday 9:15 a.m., from the funeral home to St. Cletus Church, LaGrange. Mass 10 a.m. Entombment Queen of Heaven Cemetery. Funeral Info 708-352-6500.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo Murdered According to Fed Theory

It's a Chicago mob mystery that's still unsolved: Reputed Outfit boss Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo -- an aging, longtime survivor of mob intrigue and betrayal -- drove away from his Westmont home on Aug. 31, 2006, never to be seen again.

His abandoned Jeep turned up at a Melrose Park restaurant, and speculation ran rampant.

Was Zizzo, 71, cooperating with the feds?

Was he trunk music?

Now, new information in a court record obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times sheds new light on the circumstances leading up to Zizzo's disappearance.

Investigators think Zizzo was murdered. New information suggests he was clashing with another top mobster just before his disappearance, according to the court filing.

Zizzo was feuding with reputed Cicero street crew boss Michael "Big Mike" Sarno, 52, and "that came to a crescendo just before Zizzo was last seen," according to a confidential federal informant described in the court document as an upper-echelon member of the Outfit who has been providing information to the government for more than 25 years. The informant is not identified.

Sarno is charged with ordering the bombing of a Berwyn company in 2003 that was competing with an Outfit-sanctioned video poker business. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu have alleged that Sarno used his ties to a motorcycle gang leader to carry out the pipe-bombing.

Sarno has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with Zizzo, and Sarno's attorney, Michael P. Gillespie, rejected Friday any suggestion that Sarno had anything to do with Zizzo's fate. "That's absolutely ridiculous," Gillespie said. The attorney also said that claims that Sarno is a mob leader are "just not true."

The dispute between Sarno and Zizzo is not specified in the court document, which quotes an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

Both men, though, have allegedly been involved in a highly profitable mob business that has resulted in violence before.

Zizzo, at one point, oversaw video gambling for the mob. He was the boss of Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, who was gunned down outside a Brown's Chicken and Pasta in suburban Lyons in 2001 in a dispute over video poker territory.

Sarno is also allegedly involved in the video poker business, along with illegal bookmaking and juice money collection, and is known for his fearsome reputation on the street.

Both Sarno and Zizzo were among the reputed mobsters listed as threats to the physical safety of Nicholas Calabrese, a mob killer turned star federal witness in the historic Family Secrets case against mob leaders.

Sarno, now under house arrest, recently made headlines when he was allowed to attend a family Christmas-time dinner last year at the swanky Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ex-Cop, James Formato, Pleads Guilty in Mob Case

A former suburban police officer admitted that he took part in a mob-related ring of criminals responsible for robberies, burglaries and setting off a giant pipe bomb that blew apart the offices of a video gaming company.

James Formato, 43, a husky, bearded former member of the Berwyn police department, appeared before U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman and pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Formato also gave federal prosecutors a potential witness with inside knowledge of the alleged crime ring, pledging to cooperate with the government's seven-year investigation in exchange for leniency when he is sentenced.

Seven other defendants, including reputed mob boss Michael Sarno, have pleaded not guilty to charges in the indictment.

The investigation began in February 2003 after a giant pipe bomb ripped through the Berwyn offices of a video gaming company. Prosecutors say it was a message from the mob to stop horning in on its highly lucrative video gaming monopoly in the western suburbs.

Formato admitted in his signed plea agreement that as a Berwyn officer he found out that federal agents were interested in a brown van that had been seen in the vicinity of the blast. He said that through a go-between he sent the information to Mark Polchan, a Cicero jewelry store owner and member of the Outlaws motorcycle club who is among those charged. Polchan has pleaded not guilty.

Formato also admitted that in the fall of 2002 he was paid $3,000 for transporting $150,000, some of it the proceeds of a burglary, across state lines to his father in Florida.

Formato also said he served as a lookout outside a west suburban residence while two men were inside burglarizing it. He said he warned one of the burglars later that police had an artist's sketch of him. He also said he took part in at least two other home burglaries.

The maximum sentence for each of the two charges to which Formato pleaded guilty is 20 years in prison and the maximum fine is $250,000. But under his plea agreement, his cooperation with the government could earn him a sentence of 60 percent of the low end of the sentencing range under federal guidelines -- 78 to 97 months by preliminary calculations.

Thanks to CBS2Chicago

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reputed Mob Poker King Out on Bail

The alleged video poker king of Chicago, who once said he wasn't sure who owned the Bridgeport home he lives in, saw that home pledged to make his $250,000 bond Friday for his release from jail.

Casey Szaflarski, 52, is charged with helping run a video gambling operation for the Chicago Outfit. His sister put up the house, which is held in a trust.

Szaflarski was equally vague when questioned by a court official on his finances, leading Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk to say "there are more questions than answers as to his income. We believe he has provided false information."

Szaflarski's attorney, Catharine O'Daniel, said Szaflarski wasn't being dishonest, just cautious, because he did not know what he should say because his lawyer wasn't present during the interview on his finances.

The bond hearing turned into a family affair when it was revealed that Szaflarski illegally had two guns. His ex-wife, who still lives with Szaflarski, handed them over to a relative, Chicago Police officer Mary Versetto, who said she is keeping them in her home.

Szaflarski is the son-in-law of the late Chicago mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia. Versetto is LaMantia's niece.

When Funk questioned her, Versetto had few details about Szaflarski's guns.

She said she didn't actually know whose guns they were.

She said she didn't know where the guns had been stored. But she did believe they weren't stored in the house where Szaflarski and his ex-wife live.

Versetto, who was not in court but questioned over a speakerphone, sounded impatient with the prosecution's questioning, at one point asking, "Is that it?"

Szaflarski is accused of sharing profits of his video gambling business with Michael Sarno, who is also charged in the case and is the reputed head of the mob's Cicero crew.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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

Berwyn Businessman Casey Szaflarski Arrested on Federal Illegal Gambling and Tax Fraud Charges; Added as Eighth Defendant in New Indictment

A Chicago man who allegedly helped a criminal organization run its illegal gambling activities was arrested today on federal gambling and tax fraud charges, federal law enforcement officials announced. The defendant, Casey Szaflarski, acting through his Berwyn business, Amusements, Inc., was charged with conducting an illegal gambling business since 2002, along with two other men—among seven total—who were charged previously. The gambling and tax charges against Szaflarski were brought in a superseding indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury last week and unsealed today following his arrest. The charges allege that Szaflarski failed to report more than $255,000 of business income between 2004 and 2006, and that he failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007.

Szaflarski, 52, was scheduled to be arraigned at 2:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in Federal Court in Chicago. 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, for a total of five counts in the 16-count superseding indictment.

The new indictment was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Federal officials commended the assistance of the Berwyn Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.

The charges against Szaflarski were brought in a superseding indictment in United States v. Polchan, et al., 08 CR 115, in which seven other defendants were indicted in May 2009 on racketeering conspiracy charges alleging eight years of criminal activity, including armed robberies and thefts, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, and arson, including the pipe-bombing of a competing Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003. Szaflasrki was not charged in the racketeering conspiracy or arson counts. He was charged with conducting an illegal gambling business, ongoing since at least 2002, with co-defendants Michael Sarno and Mark Polchan.

Today’s indictment adds a new forfeiture allegation seeking at least $3,607,201 from Szaflarski, Sarno, and Polchan as proceeds of the alleged illegal gambling activity. The indictment results, in part, from federal search warrants that were executed at more than two dozen suburban locations, including bars and restaurants, on May 27, 2009.

The three counts of filing false federal income tax returns allege that Szaflarski failed to report the following income from his closely-held business, Amusements, Inc.:

* at least $78,417 for 2004 when he reported total income of $373,736;
* at least $82,355 for 2005 when he reported total income of $262,842;
* at least $94,593 for 2006 when he reported total income of $286,071.

The indictment further alleges that Szaflarski failed to file a federal income tax return for 2007 when he received gross income of at least $95,911.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

The counts against Szaflarski alone carry the following maximum terms of incarceration: operating an illegal gambling business—five years; filing false federal income tax returns—three years; and failing to file a federal income tax return—one year. In addition, each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, except the failing to file count, which is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $100,000. Defendants convicted of tax offenses must be assessed mandatory costs of prosecution and remain liable for any back taxes, interest, and penalties owed. If convicted, the Court must determine a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. Szaflarski and the defendants charged previously are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Dinner Plans for a Mobster

What does a reputed Chicago mob boss under house arrest do for holiday dinner?

First, if possible, get a judge to let you outside your house.

Next, don't waste the opportunity and get approval to go to the swanky Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago on Christmas Eve.

That's just what reputed Cicero mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno did.

A federal magistrate judge recently approved that trip for Sarno, 51, of Westchester, to have dinner with his extended family at Joe's Seafood, 60 E. Grand.

Sarno, out on $1 million bond, is typically allowed outside his home only to go to church, the doctor or court.

Sarno -- described in court documents as a made member of the Chicago mob -- is awaiting trial next year for allegedly overseeing the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing against the mob in the lucrative video poker business.

Federal officials also believe that Sarno discussed putting out juice loans with an associate who is a reputed high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, records show.

In 1995, Sarno was sentenced to 6½ years in prison for his role in a mob racketeering case.

Sarno, also dubbed "Fat Ass" by some colleagues, has denied any wrongdoing in the current case. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

A manager at Joe's Seafood had nothing to say Tuesday about Sarno's choice of restaurant.

The good news for Sarno is that the restaurant's specialty, stone crabs, are in season. Jumbo stone crabs -- three per order -- go for $57.95, according to the restaurant's online menu.

If he has a taste for steak, the bone-in New York strip will run him $45.95. And he can wash it all down with a bottle of Chateau Pavie at $490 a bottle on the restaurant's reserve wine list.

Prosecutors wanted it made clear to Sarno that he could make no trips other than to the restaurant on Christmas Eve, and he could only mix with family members -- not his alleged crime family -- and the judge agreed.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, July 27, 2009

85 Year Old Denied Release from Custody in Reputed Mob Pipe Bombing Case

A federal judge today refused to release from custody an elderly Oak Brook man charged with the Outfit-related pipe-bombing of a video gambling machine business.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier said he believes 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto has serious health problems but found the risk of flight was too great to release him from the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown.

Volpendesto is charged in a case that links the Chicago mob and the Outlaws motorcycle gang to the pipe bombing of a Berwyn business that was in competition with the Outfit. Reputed mobster Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno also was indicted in the case.

Nathan Diamond-Falk, Volpendesto's lawyer, argued his client is suffering at the MCC from bladder cancer and an infection from a cut he sustained in the spring. It would be a life sentence for Volpendesto to remain jailed before a trial, Diamond-Falk said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk told the judge Volpendesto looked vigorous in court before the hearing started and was "acting like a clown, frankly." Volpendesto can be heard on secretly made tapes in the case linking himself to the Outfit and the 2003 bombing, Funk said.

At different points in one recording, Funk said, Volpendesto bragged about working for mobsters with ties to legendary Outfit boss Al Capone and claimed he also worked for the late mob boss Sam Giancana.

At Funk's request, a jail official informed the court about Volpendesto's ongoing medical treatment at the MCC.

Schenkier ultimately rejected Volpendesto's request, noting the crime was very serious and suggesting that despite the fact Volpendesto is confined to a wheelchair, he could still flee and not be available to have his case heard by a jury.

That could be his choice, Schenkier said, or the choice of the Outfit if the mob perceived Volpendesto could help the government. "He might have assistance in not being around at trial," the judge said.

Thanks to WGN

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reputed Chicago Mobster, Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno Released on $1,000,000 Bond

Reputed Chicago Outfit figure Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno pleaded not guilty today to racketeering charges that allege he ran an illegal gambling operation and coordinated the bombing of a rival.

Sarno was indicted last month in connection with a mob-connected criminal ring that also allegedly ran jewelry heists and intimidated witnesses. He was charged in connection with the 2003 bombing of C&S Coin Operated Amusements in Berwyn.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier ordered Sarno released to home confinement on a $1 million bond secured by four properties owned by his family members.

Prosecutors have alleged the ring operated with the protection of two suburban police officers, including former Berwyn officer James Formato, who allegedly provided information about law enforcement activity.

Agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive seized between 20 and 30 video poker machines in raids carried out in conjunction with the indictment last month. Sarno faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, June 01, 2009

Top Outfit Member and Current Cicero Police Officer Face Racketeering Indictment

Racketeering indictments have been handed up against a top Outfit member and a current Cicero police officer on charges that include armed robbery, arson and illegal gambling.

The case grew from a 2003 bombing of a gaming house in Berwyn that was allegedly ordered by the mob and carried out by members of a violent motorcycle gang.

The lead defendant is Mike Sarno, a career hoodlum who as a rising mob figure was known as "Fat Boy" due to his bulging, 350 pound waistline. Now, as a 51-year old boss Sarno is known in Outfit circles as "The Large Guy."

Sarno's home was among six locations that were the subject of search warrants last summer.

Sarno has already served time in prison for his involvement in organized crime.

The word "mob" is no where to be seen in Thursday's rackets indictments and federal prosecutors declined to speak the words "outfit" or "underworld." But they didn't have to.

Mike Sarno, the lead man charged, is already a convicted mob boss who investigators say has worked his way up through syndicate ranks during the past three decades.

When the I-Team last saw Mike Sarno, it was outside his home in suburban Westchester. On Thursday night, eight months later, Mr. Sarno was named in a federal grand jury indictment.

Sarno is charged with leading an eight year crime spree that featured lucrative jewel heists and forging an alliance with the outlaws motorcycle gang. Their partnership punctuated by a bombing in west suburban Berwyn, intended to take down a video poker machine company that was competing with the mob's own illegal gambling business.

"Our allegations in the indictment are that people broke the law; and that they broke it in a number of ways. Some having to do with illegal gambling, some having to do with robbery and theft and arson," said Patrick Fitzgerald, United States attorney.

Sarno, newly charged on Thursday, aka Big Mike, Mikey, Large and the Large Guy, allegedly oversaw enterprise gambling and that bomb attack.

From the time Sarno was known as "Fat Boy" and went to prison as a mob soldier 15 years ago, Outfit experts say he was destined to lead a street crew. That is just what he did with the Enterprise, according to authorities who say the headquarters was a jewelry store in Cicero used to fence stolen goods.

The store, owned by outlaw biker Mark Polchan who was previously charged along with 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto of Oak Brook and Kyle Knight who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating.

Four other men are charged with the robberies and jewel thefts including Volpendesto's son as well as James Formato, a former Berwyn policeman, and Dino Vitalo, an 18-year Cicero policeman who is still on the job. "He was sent home on administrative pay leave. That's where he is now. He is off the streets. Town president immediately indicated that if these charges prove to be true they are sickening and there is no room in the Cicero Police Department," said Elio Montenegro, Cicero spokesman

There are no court dates yet in this case.

Cicero officials say at some point Officer Vitalo will be placed on unpaid leave.

Feds are allowing him to turn himself in at the time of arraignment; same for the ex-Berwyn cop. And, curiously, the same consideration is being given to Mike Sarno, the ex-con crime syndicate boss. Sarno was not one of those arrested on Thursday. The U.S. attorney offered little explanation except to suggest that they do things for a reason.

Here are details provided by the United States Attorney in Chicago:

Five new defendants, together with two others who were initially charged last year with using a pipe bomb to damage a Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003, were indicted on sweeping racketeering conspiracy charges alleging eight years of criminal activity, federal law enforcement officials announced today. The charges encompass at least nine armed robberies and thefts, arson, illegal gambling and obstruction justice, including by current and former suburban police officers who are among the seven defendants. New defendant, Michael Sarno, allegedly oversaw, directed and guided certain of the group's illegal activities, including causing previously-charged defendants Mark Polchan and Samuel Volpendesto, to bomb C & S Coin Operated Amusements, a video gaming device business in Berwyn, to eliminate competition and to protect and enhance the group's own business relationships, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that the seven defendants were associated in a criminal enterprise that existed since at least 2001 to generate income for its members through illegal activities, including: committing armed robberies and thefts from jewelry stores, businesses and private residences; transporting stolen goods across state lines; committing thefts and obtaining stolen items from interstate shipments of goods; purchasing, possessing and selling stolen goods; using threats, violence and intimidation to advance the enterprise's illegal activities; committing arson; operating and facilitating illegal gambling businesses, including the use of video gambling machines; obstructing justice and criminal investigations by tampering with and intimidating witnesses; obstructing justice and criminal investigations by gathering information about the existence and extent of ongoing federal criminal investigations from sources including corrupt local law enforcement officers and law enforcement databases; and traveling in interstate commerce to further the goals of the criminal enterprise.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $1,878,172 from six of the seven defendants as proceeds of the alleged racketeering activity.

Law enforcement agents yesterday executed federal search warrants at more than two dozen suburban locations, including bars and restaurants, in connection with the ongoing investigation.

The 12-count superseding indictment was returned on May 21 and unsealed today, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.

All seven defendants, including four currently in custody, will be arraigned at later dates in U.S. District Court.

Sarno, 51, of Westchester, also known as "Big Mike," "Mikey," "Large," and "the Large Guy," allegedly oversaw the group's illegal gambling ventures and received a share of the illegal profits from Polchan, 41, formerly of Justice, who also occupied a leadership role. The indictment alleges that Polchan identified targets for robbery and used his business, a sole proprietorship operating under the names "M. Goldberg Jewelers," and "Goldberg Jewelers," located at 1203 South Cicero Ave., in Cicero, to conduct meetings with criminal associates, as well as to obtain, store, and sell stolen goods that were either transported across state lines, obtained through robbery or thefts from interstate shipments, or obtained through the fraudulent use of access devices, such as credit cards.

Polchan also used Goldberg Jewelers to plan the group's illegal gambling activities with Sarno, and to temporarily house video gambling devices prior to distributing them to various locations, including clubhouses operated by the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, of which Polchan was a member.

Polchan and Volpendesto, 85, of Oak Brook, remain in federal custody since they were arrested and charged last summer with participating in the bombing of C & S Coin Operated Amusements. On Feb. 25, 2003, a pipe bomb was detonated outside a building at 6508 West 16th St., in Berwyn, that housed several businesses, including C & S, which at the time leased coin-operated vending and video machines. The explosion outside the storefront entrance to C & S caused broken windows and damage to the interior ceiling and wood frame above the doorway to the business. No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred at night. The new indictment contains the same three counts  conspiracy to use, and actual use of, an explosive device to damage property, and use of a pipe bomb  that were pending against them previously. Polchan and Volpendesto have both pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Also indicted were:

James Formato, 42, a former Berwyn police officer who allegedly acted as an interstate courier for stolen money; conducted physical surveillance of potential targets of illegal activity under the guise of carrying out his duties as a police officer; participated in an attempted armed robbery; and provided information concerning ongoing law enforcement investigation into illegal enterprise activity, including the bombing of C & S Coin Operated Amusements;

Mark Hay, 52, who allegedly participated in robberies of jewelry stores; identified potential targets for robbery; participated in the surveillance of robbery targets; and acquired stolen vehicles for use in robberies;

Anthony Volpendesto, 46, Samuel Volpendesto's son, who also allegedly participated in robberies of jewelry stores; identified potential robbery targets; and participated in the interstate transportation of stolen goods; and

Dino Vitalo, 40, a Cicero police officer since 1991, who allegedly caused law enforcement databases to be used to provide information about potential targets of illegal activity and ongoing federal law enforcement investigations; provided advice on possible federal law enforcement activity; searched the area surrounding Goldberg Jewelers for electronic surveillance equipment used by federal law enforcement; and filed a false police report in order to provide a false alibi for other members of the conspiracy.

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, the indictment alleges that one or more of the defendants participated in robberies, some armed, of jewelry stores and commercial businesses in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and in some instances caused stolen jewelry to be transported across state lines. The robberies included the:

May 23, 2002, robbery of items valued at approximately $60,000 from Jacqueline's Jewelry in Valparaiso, Ind.;
June 6, 2002, robbery of items valued at approximately $48,000 from Husar's House of Fine Diamonds in West Bend, Wis.;
July 9, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $78,221 from Uffenbeck Jewelers in Fond du Lac, Wis.;
July 24, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $236,902 from LD Jewelers, in Hickory Hills, Ill.;
April 26, 2001, robbery of The Gold Mine Jewelry Store, in St. Charles, Illinois, the stolen items having a total value of approximately $29,780;
May 1, 2002, robbery of items valued at $239,752 from Lenna Jewelers in Hinsdale;
March 2003 attempted armed robbery of an individual who resided in Berwyn; and the
Aug. 25, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $645,517 from Marry Me Jewelry Store in LaGrange Park.

And one or more defendants allegedly participated in the 2002 residential burglary of a home on Rockwell Street in Chicago, stealing approximately $540,000, of which at least $150,000 was later transported to Florida.

In addition to the racketeering conspiracy against all seven defendants, Sarno and Polchan were charged with operating an illegal gambling business between 2002 and at least July 2008.

Formato alone was charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct of justice, while Polchan and Vitalo were charged together in a separate count with conspiracy to obstruct justice. Polchan alone was also charged with one count of possession of stolen goods from interstate shipments; three counts of filing false individual federal income tax returns; and one count of failing to file a federal income tax return.

An earlier defendant in this investigation, Kyle C. Knight, 45, formerly of Merrillville, Ind., who was charged in 2007, has pleaded guilty to supplying explosives used in the C & S bombing and a series of robberies, and he is cooperating while awaiting sentencing.

Federal officials said the investigation is continuing, and they commended the assistance of the Berwyn Police Department. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

If convicted, the charges in the indictment carry the following maximum terms of incarceration: racketeering conspiracy  20 years; conspiracy to use an explosive device to damage property and using an explosive device to damage property  a mandatory minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years; using a pipe bomb  a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least 30 years and a maximum of life; obstruction of justice  20 years; operating an illegal gambling business  5 years; possession of goods stolen from interstate shipments  10 years; filing false tax returns  3 years; and failing to file a tax return  1 year. In addition, each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, except the failing to file count, which is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $100,000. Defendants convicted of tax offenses must be assessed mandatory costs of prosecution and remain liable for any back taxes, interest and penalties owed. The Court, however, would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Racketeering Indictment Nabs Reputed Mob Boss and Police Officer

A reputed mob boss, a police officer and five other men were charged Thursday in a sweeping racketeering indictment that alleges eight years of armed robberies, burglaries, jewel thefts and arson based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno, 51, of Westchester allegedly masterminded much of the group's illegal activity, including a February 2003 pipe-bomb explosion that wrecked the storefront offices of a company distributing video poker machines.

Prosecutors say the bombing was a message from organized crime to stop intruding on its $13-million-a-year video poker gambling business.

Sarno, 51, went to prison in the early 1990s as a member of an organized crime family based in the western suburbs headed by Ernest Rocco Infelice.

Federal agents searched Sarno's home last July and also raided the headquarters and various hangouts of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. An alliance has developed between the violence-prone club and the Chicago mob, prosecutors say.

Sarno's attorney, Terence P. Gillespie, did not return a message for comment. But he said in a previous interview with The Associated Press that Sarno was not a mob member and was "a legitimate businessman."

Attorneys for the other defendants were not reached immediately. Messages were left at the offices of four defense attorneys whose names were learned.

Two men arrested the day of the July 2008 searches and later indicted, Mark Polchan, 41, an acknowledged member of the Outlaws, and Samuel Volpendesto, 85, were also charged in the fresh indictment. They are accused of setting off the bomb that demolished C&S Coin Operated Amusements of Berwyn, a video poker device distributor. At the time, a video poker distributing company controlled by members and associates of the Chicago mob had a grip on the market for the devices, experts say.

Video poker devices are legal in Illinois if they are not used for gambling, but bartenders often pay winners under the table in many places and experts say the mob frequently takes a healthy cut of what the machines take in.

Gov. Pat Quinn is deciding whether to sign a bill to make video poker gambling legal to finance public works _ something good government forces deplore. They say the machines are addictive and some breadwinners have gambled away their paychecks.

Also charged in the indictment:

_James Formato, 42, a former Berwyn police officer accused of serving as a courier for stolen money, taking part in an attempted robbery and other crimes.

_Mark Hay, 52, described as taking part in the robbery of jewelry stores.

_Anthony Volpendesto, 46, son of Samuel Volpendesto, who also is alleged to have taken part in robbing jewelry stores.

_Dino Vitalo, 40, a Cicero police officer since 1991, accused of searching law enforcement data bases and using the information to tip off criminals and searching for electronic surveillance equipment around a jewelry store operated by Polchan. Cicero officials on Thursday placed Vitalo on administrative leave.

Prosecutors are asking the court to force the defendants if convicted to forfeit $1.8 million _ a possible measure of the amount taken in the robberies.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Details Emerge of the Chicago Outfit Connection to the Outlaws Motorcyle Club

Just as the mob reflects only a sliver of Italian America, federal authorities say hardened criminals make up only a small portion of the Outlaws motorcycle club, an element known in biker circles as the "one percent." But it is those Outlaws and their associates in the Outfit that authorities say have built a "Double O Alliance."

Prosecutors alleged that in 2003, the Double O Alliance bombed a videogame company in west suburban Berwyn.

C&S Coin Operated Amusements had been cutting in on the mob's illegal video poker racket, according to federal agents who say the bombing was a message from the mob.

Last week, the feds raided several Outlaw clubhouses in metro Chicago, seizing numerous weapons including a live grenade, police badges, a bulletproof vest and a stun gun. And they made two arrests. One man was 41-year-old Chicago Outlaw Mike Polchan, whose arm tattoo stands for "God forgives, Outlaws don't." The other was 84-year-old Samuel Volpendesto from Oak Brook. According to prosecutors, Volpendesto ran Outfit strip clubs and a call girl business.

According to federal charges, both men carried out the 2003 bombing of C&S Amusements. On a secretly recorded FBI tape played in court Wednesday, prosecutors say Volpendesto was heard describing the bomb had one long wick and a back up as well.

"You light both of them. In the event one don't work, you got at least a chance the other one will work," the recording says.

Volpendesto's family and his lawyer didn't want to speak publicly Wednesday, and Polchan's attorney declined an interview.

Prosecutors say a suburban Outfit member nicknamed "The Large Guy" ordered the Outlaws to bomb C&S. That would be the Chicago mobster - according to federal sources - Mike Sarno, the hoodlum who used to be known as "fat boy" before going to prison for mob crimes. Now out and all grown up at age 50, Sarno lives in the suburbs with a wife and kids. He is known as "The Large Guy."

When FBI and ATF agents raided Sarno's home last week, they seized a large quantity of cash, but he was not arrested. "No comment means no comment," Sarno said in response to questions.

The Outfit-Outlaw search warrants, executed at the same time last week, were no coincidence "It's been an ongoing effort from, perhaps, the beginning, for both the Outfit and the motorcycle gangs," said James Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.

Their roots are in the same era. The Outfit grew from Al Capone's violent mob in the 1930s, just as the Outlaws motorcycle club was born in west suburban McCook in 1935.

The Outlaws' Chicago South Side club headquarters, at the corner of 25th and Rockwell, is non-descript. The front door on the corner though is solid steel. And there is a small bulletproof window. And if that wouldn't be enough to stop an attack, there is a sliding steel plate that can be drawn in front of the main door with its own bulletproof glass right in the middle.

The FBI says there are more than 250 Outlaw chapters worldwide and 38 affiliated gangs in metro Chicago. "You are going to have a small percentage who have a willingness to do other things than just ride a bike, and the Outfit will use that," Wagner said.

In the Berwyn bombing case, that 84-year-old defendant wants out on bond. He says he's suffering from cancer, heart disease, bad hearing, two artificial knees, poor blood flow, high cholesterol, carotid artery problems, herniated disc, sleep apnea and is on oxygen. Prosecutors want him behind bars and say he's "a career criminal who has not been slowed by Father Time."

Watch the Video Report from Investigator Chuck Goudie

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Are the Chicago Outfit and the Outlaws Motorcycle Club Connected to a Pipe Bombing?

The west suburban home of a reputed mobster was among the locations raided by federal agents investigating a 2003 pipe-bombing outside a Berwyn video and vending machine business.

Authorities confirmed searching a home in the 3000 block of Kensington Avenue in Westchester that is registered to Michael Sarno, 50, who was convicted in the early 1990s of being part of a crime family led by mobster Ernest Rocco Infelice. Sources said Sarno, who was released from federal prison in 1999, was the target of the search and that a large amount of cash was recovered.

Sarno has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the bombing. He could not be reached Thursday for comment, and his lawyer declined to comment.

On Thursday authorities unsealed an indictment against Samuel Volpendesto, 84, of Oak Brook and Mark Polchan, 41, of Justice, following a series of raids across the Chicago area Wednesday by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In addition to the search at Sarno's home, raids were conducted on Polchan's Cicero pawn shop, Goldberg Jewelers, and three clubhouses of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club in Chicago, Elgin and Kankakee.

During an initial appearance Thursday in federal court, Volpendesto was all smiles. "Looks like I'm having fun, huh?" he said as he held up his handcuffs for reporters.

Both Volpendesto and Polchan were charged in connection with a nighttime explosion outside C&S Coin Operated Amusements in Berwyn. No one was injured, but the blast blew out windows and caused extensive interior damage.

A lawyer for Volpendesto and Polchan denied either has connections to the Chicago Outfit or the Outlaws. "Sam couldn't get his leg over a motorcycle," attorney Alexander Salerno said of Volpendesto, who he said has bladder cancer and needs to be on oxygen.

Volpendesto was charged in 1990 in the baseball-bat beating of a government witness who was cooperating against Infelice. Salerno said the charge was later dismissed.

The FBI SWAT team on Thursday brought in its military-style armored vehicle to pop off heavily fortified steel doors at the Outlaw's North Side chapter in the 3700 block of West Division Street. Agents later used a torch to remove a padlock from a door. The assault vehicle's presence in the Humboldt Park neighborhood brought curious onlookers with their cameras to the scene.

Kyle Knight of Merrillville was charged last year with supplying materials for the Berwyn pipe-bomb as well as conspiring to rob a series of jewelry stores. Court records show he is scheduled to plead guilty later this month. Prosecutors have said Knight and at least five other undisclosed individuals robbed the jewelry stories of a combined $1.27 million and shot a New York salesman during one holdup.

Volpendesto and Polchan pleaded not guilty Thursday in the bombing case and were ordered held by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox until a detention hearing next week. Neither was charged in the jewelry heists.

According to court records, Polchan has a record of arrests for felony aggravated battery and burglary charges as well as numerous misdemeanor charges from the 1980s and 1990s.

Last year, a patron at a downtown nightclub where Polchan worked as a bouncer sued Polchan after an altercation at the club. Polchan ordered the patron, Adam Cavitch, to leave the club because the flip-flops he wore on the dance floor violated the club's dress code, said Cavitch's lawyer, Kevin McNamara.

As Polchan was escorting Cavitch from the club, the two exchanged words. Polchan allegedly punched Cavitch, shattering his cheek bone, McNamara said. Attorney Al Ambutas, who represents Polchan in the lawsuit, said his client denies the allegations.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the scope of the investigation that snared Polchan and Volpendesto. Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, who is assigned to the organized crime section, told the judge he expects to play audio and video tapes from the investigation in court at the detention hearing Wednesday.

Both face up to life in prison if convicted, authorities said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen and Todd Lighty

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will Family Secrets Mob Trial Convictions Doom Chicago Mob?

Does Monday's conviction of four top mobsters mean the end of the Chicago Outfit?

Hardly.

The Outfit long has controlled illegal gambling operations -- from sports betting to video poker -- and has financed Chicago-area drug dealing, said Chicago Crime Commission President James Wagner, a former top FBI mob fighter. Money from those ventures often is invested in law-abiding businesses because "you've got to have somewhere to send that cash in order to legitimize it," Wagner said.

History has shown that when Outfit members get sent to prison, others take over. The most recent transfers of power happened long before the Family Secrets trial began, Wagner said. "This will solidify the positions of the people already out there," he said. The trial "hasn't eliminated anything."

Who runs the Chicago mob isn't clear. Reputed mobsters not charged in the Family Secrets case who are still powerful in the Outfit include John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi, Al Tornabene, Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso, Marco D'Amico and Michael Sarno, law enforcement sources said.

Al Egan, a former Chicago Police detective who investigated organized crime here for three decades, said the verdict wounded the Outfit but won't kill it.

"This put an extremely huge dent in it," said Egan, who worked on the federal Organized Crime Task Force. However, "It's not going to be stopped."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Chris Fusco

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