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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Legitimate Wiseguy Movie to be Directed by Roland Joffe' Featuring the Story of Chicago Outfit Mobster Tony Spilotro and The Kid He Mentored

He was one of the most ruthless, feared and notorious criminals ever to come out of the Chicago Outfit: Anthony ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro. Now, Roland Joffé and Chicagoan Nicholas Celozzi, who is the grand nephew of the late mob boss Sam Giancana and thought of Spilotro as his second father, are bringing Celozzi’s personal story with the mobster to the big screen. The film, The Legitimate Wiseguy, will be directed by Joffé, who was nominated for two Oscars for his brilliant work in the 1980s with The Mission and The Killing Fields.

The film is being described as a contemporary Bronx Tale and was scripted by Celozzi and James McGrath.

Monaco Films, founded by Celozzi and partner Michael Sportelli, will co-produce with financier/developer John Vojtech. The producers will start casting for the film’s three main lead roles — Spilotro, Celozzi and Celozzi, Sr.

Once casting is complete and the film is fully financed, locations will be in Los Angeles. and Las Vegas (where Spilotro’s rise and fall unfolded in the 1970s and 1980s, first as a team of burglars known as the Hole in the Wall gang that operated out of the Gold Rush and later as Chicago’s man in Vegas).

Most audiences will remember Spilotro as portrayed by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s Casino which was based on the Mafioso’s life and work in Vegas during that time. Celozzi’s mentor and a father figure was an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit and oversaw illegal gaming profits, known as “the skim” on behalf of the Chicago mob at a Las Vegas hotel.

Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael Spilotro would eventually both end up dead, buried in a pre-dug grave in a cornfield in the Willow Slough preserve (which is close to the Indiana-Illinois state line) after they left from their homes in Oak Park, IL for a meeting and ended up in the basement of a house in Bensonville, IL only to be mercilessly beaten/murdered.

Celozzi has been in the film business for long while. His film producing and writing credits include the documentary Momo: The Sam Giancana Story, which provides a more personal glimpse into the life of Celozzi’s infamous grand uncle. He also served as executive producer on the 2018 installment of the Kickboxer film franchise, Kickboxer: Retaliation and produced the 2016 Kickboxer: Vengeance, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dave Bautista. Celozzi also wrote and produced, among numerous other films, the psycho-thriller The Lost Angel, Nightmare Boulevard and Shattered.

The Legitimate Wiseguy, based on the true coming-of-age story of veteran Hollywood writer/producer Celozzi, showcases his complex relationship with Spilotro while the Las Vegas gangster quarterbacked the young Celozzi’s acting career in Hollywood.

He credits Spilotro with getting him cast as an actor in The A-Team, Hunter, Magnum P.I. and Pretty Smart. The story of how will be told in the upcoming film.

The Legitimate Wiseguy is described as “a story about family loyalty, an influential but deadly uncle, an oppressed father and an impressionable young man who’s background clashes with his desire to succeed in Hollywood at any cost.”

“I didn’t have the best relationship with my father and he and I argued, and Tony filled that void for me. It was like a Bermuda triangle. The more my father and I argued, the closer I relied on Tony. My father cut me off, I didn’t have a dime, where was I supposed to go? He is the one who went to Tony to ask him to help me. He didn’t like me going to Vegas all the time, but what was I going to do? Though Tony and I had a father-son relationship, I was playing checkers while he was playing chess,” Celozzi told Deadline. “He was always many moves ahead of me. At some point, he brought me further in.”

Celozzi added, “People say he was a sociopath and I understand that and I do believe it and I’m not pretending that he wasn’t, but I also saw a different side to him so when he died, it was very rough for me.”

Monaco Films is currently overseeing development and production of several feature-length films, including 2 Days/1963 which explores the underbelly of the Chicago Mob and their role in the JFK assassination.

A saying during that time in the upper echelon of organized crime circles was: “Kill a man he dies once, kill his son, he dies 10,000 deaths” referring, of course, to the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of the then 46 year-old President John F. Kennedy. Prior to the election, patriarch Joe Kennedy had asked for a favor from the Chicago Outfit via Frank Sinatra who, in turn, went to mob boss Sam Giancana. Chicago delivered by messing with voting process and destroying ballot boxes to ensure a win. The project is being developed with Mark Wolper at Warner Bros. as a six-hour, limited series.

Afterwards, Bobby Kennedy was appointed Attorney General by his brother (the President) with one of his main missions to expose and erase organized crime and dragged a number of people to testify against the mob in the Senate’s Rackets Committee. It was under Kennedy’s reign that the national organized crime syndicate came under attack and resulted in a number of convictions including Anthony ‘Tony Ducks’ Carello, John Ormento, Frankie Carbo, Carmine Galante, Frank ‘Blinky’ Palermo and Alfred Sica and a slew of other men were exposed for having connections. It was seen by the syndicate as the ultimate betrayal by Joe Kennedy, who was a former bootlegger during prohibition.

For 2 Days/1963, Celozzi will relay the story told to him by his Uncle Pepe, Sam Giancana’s brother. The project is being sold by The Exchange and executive produced by Bonnie Giancana (Sam’s daughter). Also, Monaco Films has a crime thriller Revelation (formerly known as 6ix) in pre-production.

David Gersh of The Gersh Agency and Craig Baumgarten of Zero Gravity Management brokered the deal between Joffé and Monaco Films for The Legitimate Wiseguy.

Thanks to Anita Busch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

John DiFronzo, Leader of The Chicago Outfit, is Dead

The leader of the Outfit for more than a decade, notorious for his nickname and his cagey demeanor, died on Sunday-the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

John "No Nose" DiFronzo was 89 years old. He had Alzheimer's disease, according to noted Chicago attorney Joe "the Shark" Lopez who counts mob leaders as clients. "I knew that he was extremely ill and I thought that the ending was going to come and it finally did" Lopez told the I-Team during an interview on Tuesday.

DiFronzo was awarded the mob moniker "No Nose" early in his career when part of his schnoz was sliced off as he jumped through the plate glass window of a Michigan Ave. clothing store window to escape after a burglary. That incident in 1949 happened in the middle of a gun battle with police and left DiFronzo with a mangled snout.

Eventually plastic surgery restored the mobster's nose, but the nickname stuck. Sometimes he was also called "Johnny Bananas" by associates.

"John DiFronzo was at the top during a much different era than other times in history" said Chicago mob expert John Binder. "I mean they were still killing quite a few guys pre-years during the 1960's. Starting in the 1990's that really slows down and by the late 1990's there's very few certifiable or agreed-on outfit hits" said Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit."

DiFronzo had been a longtime resident of River Grove. He would meet weekly with Outfit underlings at a local restaurant near the apartment he shared with his wife.

The I-Team put his regular midday meetings under surveillance in 2009 and conducted a rare interview with the mob boss as he was leaving one of the luncheons. "Lunch with No Nose" as it was coined, was a rare glimpse into Outfit operations and perhaps the last time DiFronzo was seen on television.

The crime syndicate boss, who began as an enforcer, did serve prison sentences for burglary in 1950 and in 1993 for racketeering-and was a suspect in about three dozen Outfit crimes and some murder cases. But he was convicted only a few times and managed to escape the legal fate of many of his mob colleagues.

As the upper echelon of the Chicago Outfit went to prison for life in the 2007 Operation: Family Secrets case, DiFronzo was always thought to have been atop the list of those who would fall in the second round of federal indictments.

"I think about (mob hitman) Nick Calabrese saying that DiFronzo was there when they killed the Spilotro brothers" recalled Lopez. Anthony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael Spilotro were murdered by Outfit hitmen according to federal investigators and buried in an Indiana cornfield. The 1986 double murder was the subject of a Hollywood movie and has never been officially solved.

There never was a Family Secrets II and DiFronzo managed to hold the reins of power into his 80's.

After Lunch with No Nose, the octogenarian Outfit boss told the I-Team that he was "not concerned at all" about being prosecuted. As it turned out, he was correct. He met the fate of old age and a debilitating disease on Sunday morning, passing away less violently then some of those who crossed paths with the Outfit over the years.

"I would say John DiFronzo was no Tony Accardo" said Binder, referring to Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo the long-time Chicago consiglieri who died in 1992. "Now of course they (Outfit bosses) are working during different time periods. It's one thing to be leading an organization when its growing and it's at its peak. It's another thing to be leading an organization when it is clearly declining" Binder said.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff.

Reports that John "No Nose" DiFronzo, AKA Johnny Bananas, Chicago's Top Mobster has Died

Days earlier a “message” had been sent by Chicago mobsters, federal agents believed, when a small bomb exploded outside the home of the daughter of Outfit turncoat Lenny Patrick.

John DiFronzo was just one of a group of alleged mobsters for whom the Feds wanted to send a message back, immediately.

There was no hurry in DiFronzo that day as he breezed north on Dearborn as if it was a noon-time walk, declining to answer any questions.

DiFronzo climbed the ladder of the Outfit ranks from burglar to boss. Reporters nicknamed him “No-Nose” after he was cut jumping through a window in a Michigan Avenue burglary in the 1940s. But to his fellow organized crime brothers he was known as “Bananas” due to his complexion.

In January 1992, DiFronzo was indicted in California in a scheme to run a casino at the Rincon Indian Preservation near San Diego. He and fellow Chicagoan Donald Angelini, were convicted of fraud and conspiracy, though the conviction was over turned and he was released from prison.

By day DiFronzo worked as a car salesman at an Irving Park dealership and often by 4:00 he could be seen entering an Elmwood Park restaurant for his afternoon vodka.

DiFronzo’s name surfaced in the Operation Family Secrets trial in which mob heavy weights Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, Frank Calabrese, Sr. and James Marcello were convicted of taking part in a series of mob hits, including the murders of Tony Spilotro and Michael Spilotro.

During the trial, federal prosecutors named DiFronzo as part of the crew that killed “Tony the Ant” and his brother and buried them in an Indiana farm field. When asked during the course of the trial how prosecutors could name—and not charge—DiFronzo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars’ only response was “good question.”

The Elmwood Park mobster had reportedly been ill for some time. Within hours of the announcement of his death at the age of 89 his Wikipedia page was updated to list his birth as December 13, 1928 and his death as May 27, 2018.

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Moseley.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Family Secrets Mob Book by @JeffCoen is Indispensable to Know How Chicago Truly Works

If you're interested in understanding the real Chicago—and there can be no serious understanding of this completely political city without examining the Chicago Outfit—then you'll soon have a great new book on your shelves:

"Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" (Chicago Review Press) by Chicago Tribune federal courts reporter Jeff Coen.

Yes, Coen is a colleague of mine who is well-respected in our newsroom. But the reason I recommend this book is that I've followed Coen's work chronicling this case. His careful eye and clean writing style have produced years of compelling Tribune stories and now this authoritative account of one of the most amazing Chicago Outfit cases in history.

It involves the FBI's turning of Chicago Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese into a top witness and informer. Calabrese's access and insight into unsolved murders, offered up at trial by the expert killer and brother of a Chinatown Crew boss, were more than astounding. And, in a creepy but necessary way, illuminating.

Calabrese, a deadly though perpetually terrified hit man, testified against the bosses about more than 18 gangland murders in the federal Family Secrets case. Now mob bosses including his brother Frank, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello, and fellow hit man Paul Schiro will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Later this week an Outfit messenger boy—Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who worked in the evidence section and who visited Frank Calabrese in prison to discuss the FBI's interest in an old bloody glove—also will be sentenced.

From the witness stand, Doyle gave Chicago one of my favorite words, "chumbolone," the Chinatown Crew's slang for idiot or fool. He deserves a long sentence. Federal mob watchers consider him to be close to the Outfit's current overall reputed street boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso.

Outfit helpers like Doyle, placed in sensitive government posts, in politics, in law enforcement, in the judiciary, in city inspection and business licensing bureaucracies, have long allowed the Outfit to form the base of the iron triangle that runs things.

"Doyle was one of the most interesting aspects of the case," Coen told me this week. "Here you have a police officer as a mole telling the Outfit when evidence in a murder was being sought by the FBI. I don't think the public is aware of the effort that goes into placing people in low-key clerical positions that give them great access, people that can fly under the radar."

Doyle learned the FBI was interested in a glove worn by Nick Calabrese in the murder of John Fecarotta, who himself received an Outfit death sentence for botching the 1986 burial of brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro.

"If Nick doesn't drop that glove, the FBI doesn't have the physical evidence to tell him he'd be going away forever," Coen said. "Without the glove, they wouldn't have Nick."

Nick's testimony involved the planning and surveillance of his victims, and the final end that came to them, either by a remote-controlled car bomb on a suburban highway ramp, or shotguns from a van along a country road near Joliet, or the laying on of hands and feet and ropes in a suburban basement.

The movie "Casino" depicted Outfit brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield. That's how many of us thought they were killed, until Family Secrets revealed that they were actually beaten and strangled in a Bensenville basement.

In the gangster movies, the hit men are usually the roughest characters. But Calabrese wasn't a movie hit man, he was a real one, so frightened that he wet himself during his first killing.

On the witness stand and in the book, he comes off like what he is, a nerd of homicide, a man plagued by a sickening fear that settled on him at the first one and became like a second skin, and he found one way to deal with that fear—meticulous planning.

"He was nothing like a movie hit man," Coen said. "During testimony, he looked like somebody you'd bump into at a store in your neighborhood. But if the bosses pointed him at somebody, they could sleep, knowing the murder would be done."

On my shelf, there are books I consider to be indispensable to truly knowing how Chicago works. There is:


And now, there is Jeff Coen's Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob.


Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Revisiting the Mob Career of Tony Spilotro

Tony Spilotro, who would eventually be portrayed by Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorcese film "Casino," was born and raised in “The Patch,” a near west side Chicago neighborhood that was a haven for Italian immigrants in the 1940s and 50sTony Spilotro. Spilotro entered high school at Steinmetz, but when his father had a stroke and died the next year, he dropped out and started a full-time life of crime. All but one of his five brothers, along with a number of neighbors, became members of the Chicago mob, and a few played starring roles.

During the 1970s, Tony Spilotro was fronted in Las Vegas by childhood friend Frank Rosenthal (portrayed by Robert DeNiro in "Casino"), who ran numerous mob-backed gambling operations, to become the enforcer for Chicago. Spilotro was already known for his brutality and quickly established an embezzling scheme that took a cut for mob families in Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

Leo Foreman was the first brutal murder that Spilotro was accused of, supposedly in retribution because the loan shark (Foreman) had disrespected Chicago mob boss Sam DeStefano. Spilotro also is thought to have murdered Tamara Rand, a California real estate broker, in 1975, because she was suing over an unpaid $2 million loan to Spilotro’s Las Vegas associate Allen Glick.

When Tony was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1979, which barred him from being physically present in a casino, Spilotro’s role of enforcer was curtailed. By that time, he had branched out into other activities like fencing stolen property and conducting a burglary operation with his brother Michael. The first Chicago mob informants flipped by the FBI named Spilotro in the murder of Leo Foreman, and a half dozen other close associates who accused Spilotro of ordering or carrying out mob murders.

By the early 1980s, Spilotro had already broke with Rosenthal after he had an affair with Rosenthal’s wife. When Frank Cullotta, a childhood friend who had remained an insider, began to fear that Spilotro was going to kill him, Cullotta began talking to the FBI.

Spilotro was acquitted in Chicago on a murder charge stemming in part from Cullotta’s testimony, but by 1986 the mobster had been implicated in about 22 murders and had lots of enemies in and out of jail.  Among other high-profile killings, Spilotro was suspected of being involved in the murder of his mentor Sam DeStefano and mob kingpin Sam Giancana.

There are several theories about how Tony and his brother Michael were lured to a summit meeting likely in Bensenville or North Riverside, Ill., and subsequently beaten and killed on June, 14, 1986.

About 10 days after the murders, the partially decomposed bodies of Tony and Michael Spilotro were found buried in a cornfield within the 12,000-acre Willow Slough preserve, in Newton County, Indiana. The farmer who spotted the site of the burial investigated at first because he thought a poacher had buried a deer killed out of season. The coroner noted that the bodies appeared to have been beaten to death by several people, and numerous people were eventually convicted. Of the 7-8 suspects in the Spilotro killings, several were convicted, others flipped and received lighter sentences in later cases, but everyone who was known to be at the meeting where the brothers were murdered, went to jail or died.

Thanks to Pat Collander.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Review of "A History of Violence: An Encyclopedia of 1,400 Chicago Mob Murders"

From his boyhood memories of the raid on a bookie joint under the Chicago apartment where he grew up to the murder cases he worked on as an officer with the Chicago Police Department's organized crime division, Harper College professor Wayne A. Johnson has been steeped in the violence of mobsters.

Isolated murders, such as the infamous Valentine's Day Massacre or the beating deaths of brothers Anthony "Tony the Ant" and Michael Spilotro, have become scenes in mob movies. "But nobody ever put it in one place before," says Johnson, who has done that with his new book, "A History of Violence:: An Encyclopedia of 1400 Chicago Mob Murders.1st Edition."

From the stabbing death of Harry Bush during the newspaper "circulation war" on July 6, 1900, to the Aug. 31, 2006, disappearance of 71-year-old Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo of Westmont, Johnson has used court documents, police records, newspaper accounts and 14 years of personal research to compile more than a century of suspected mob murders.

"You know what makes it so insidious? Their ability to get into places that affect every aspect of our lives," says Johnson, who notes cases where politicians, judges and police officers cooperated with mobsters. "Once you are into these guys, they own you."

Appearing in countless articles and TV shows as an expert on the mob, Johnson spent 25 years as a Chicago police officer and served as chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission before getting his doctoral degree in education. He's now an associate professor and program coordinator of law enforcement programs at Harper College.

The stereotype of the Chicago mob as the Italian Mafia known as Cosa Nostra is a myth, says Johnson, who says organized crime boasts a diverse collection of people, including many immigrants, who learned how to make money through illegal methods. The criminal groups formed partnerships and cut deals with each other, he says.

Of the 1,401 murders Johnson details, he lists only 278 as "solved," and the number of people convicted of those murders is even lower. "Just because they weren't charged doesn't mean it's not solved," says Johnson.

In teaching his "Organized Crime" class, Johnson tells the Harper students that reputed mob boss Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, who died in 1992 at the age of 86, lived the last years of his life just a short drive away, on Algonquin Road in Barrington Hills.

Student Jackie Cooney, 30, of McHenry wrote a research paper that ended up adding early 20th-century murders to Johnson's book.

"I logged 108 murders, and, of those murders, a portion of them were mob murders," says Cooney, who says she's been interested in the mob since she got her bachelor's degree in history from Roosevelt University in 2008. "I find it fascinating how people make alternative choices to provide for themselves and their families."

Studying A History of Violence: An Encyclopedia of 1,400 Chicago Mob Murdersto become a physical anthropologist while excelling in her art classes at Harper, Daniella Boyd, 21, of Wheeling responded to Johnson's request to draw a grisly scene for the cover of his book. "I did some research," says Boyd, who spent about 12 hours making a graphite drawing of the toe tag on the left foot of mobster Sam Giancana, who was gunned down in his Oak Park home in 1975.

The suburbs are home to some of the most infamous mob murders. On Feb. 12, 1985, the body of 48-year-old Hal Smith of Prospect Heights was found in the trunk of his Cadillac in the parking lot of an Arlington Heights hotel. Suspected of being a sports bookie who had run afoul of the mob, Smith was lured to the Long Grove home of his friend William B.J. Jahoda and was tortured, had his throat cut and was strangled. Jahoda, who became a friend of Johnson's before his death of natural causes in 2004, testified against the mob and helped send reputed mob leaders including Ernest Rocco Infelice and Salvatore DeLaurentis of Lake County to prison.

Another gambling operator who angered the mob, Robert Plummer, 51, was found dead in a car trunk in Mundelein in 1982. He was murdered in a Libertyville house already notorious before it was purchased by a mobster and turned into an illicit casino. In 1980, in a crime that went unsolved for more than 15 years, William Rouse, 15, used a shotgun to murder his millionaire parents, Bruce and Darlene Rouse, in a bedroom of the family home.

"Some people romanticize the mob," says Johnson, who adds that he hopes his book not only makes people recognize the heinous brutality of mobster killings, but might also help solve some of the remaining mysteries. "I hope they read my book and say, 'Yeah, it was 20 years ago, but I know who killed so-and-so.' Maybe we can still do something."

Friday, November 09, 2012

R.I.P. Wishes for True-Crime Author Edward W. Baumann

Edward W. Baumann, a prolific reporter and author of true-crime books, worked at five Chicago-area newspapers over a career that spanned nearly four decades.

Mr. Baumann's specialty was covering crime, from trials and executions to the exploits of the Chicago Outfit. Often working with Tribune reporters John O'Brien and Ronald Koziol, Mr. Baumann's wealth of sources led to myriad front-page stories covering the city's underworld.

"He covered the rough-and-tumble life down in Chicago," said Harlan Draeger, a former reporter for the Chicago Daily News and the Sun-Times. "And he really dug into the history and spirit of the newspaper, during the glory days of newspapering in Chicago."

Mr. Baumann, 86, died Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the home of stepdaughter Lisa McCammon in Paxton, Ind., said another stepdaughter, Leslie Ferraro. He had been suffering from a blood disorder and heart disease, Ferraro said. He was a lifelong resident of Kenosha, Wis.

Edward Weston Baumann attended Bradford High School in Kenosha and served with the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific during World War II. He then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin.

He began his newspaper career in 1951 at the Waukegan News-Sun and soon became the Waukegan correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. In 1956, Mr. Baumann joined the Daily News full time, covering criminal courts. He worked on the paper's rewrite desk and was an assistant city editor before joining Chicago's American in 1962. He later became the American's city editor and then the administrative assistant to the publisher of a successor paper, Chicago Today.

"I have very positive memories of him as an editor and a rewrite man," said former American reporter Len Aronson. "He was a very good writer, and he was very much always interested in a good story. And he managed a tumult of rogues at the American. There were more curmudgeons and characters in that newsroom than I've ever met in my life, and he seemed to ride that wave with good equanimity and good humor."

In 1974, Chicago Today was absorbed into the Tribune, which Mr. Baumann joined as a senior staff writer.Mr. Baumann covered a host of high-profile crimes, including ones that were planned but never happened. He wrote a front-page article for the Tribune in 1984 about a mob plot to assassinate former Mayor Jane Byrne for failing to push hard enough for legalized casino gambling in Chicago.

He covered the 1986 slayings of Chicago Outfit member Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael. That same year, Mr. Baumann wrote a detailed analysis of the top 10 Chicago mob figures featured in a celebrated 1976 photo, which authorities seized during a raid of an alleged mobster's home.

The photo, taken at a suburban restaurant, has often been referred to by law enforcement figures as "The Last Supper." Mr. Baumann described each of the 10 figures' fates after the photo was taken, riffing off Agatha Christie's novel "Ten Little Indians."

Mr. Baumann also edited the Tribune's INC. gossip column after the column's founder, Aaron Gold, died. "We always called Ed 'Invisible INC.,' because he didn't want his name associated with a gossip column," said retired Tribune reporter and WGN radio host Kathy O'Malley. "He was the essence of the grumpy old man, but he also was one of the funniest people I have ever met. He had a wonderful sense of humor."

Retired Tribune reporter Michael Hirsley recalled Mr. Baumann as a "very competent, very bright newspaperman" with little ego. "He could be very understated and self-effacing," Hirsley said.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Mr. Baumann also was active in the Chicago journalism community, serving as president of the Chicago Press Club and a director of the Chicago Newspaper Reporters Association. Both before and after retiring from the Tribune, Mr. Baumann and Ray Shlemon prepared the paper's Pulitzer Prize submissions each year.

Mr. Baumann wrote or co-wrote 10 true-crime books, including a profile of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

"I really admired Ed's writing style," Draeger said. "He had a nice, flowing style with a nice, journalistic touch. His books all had that characteristic, too."

Mr. Baumann spent almost his entire career commuting from Kenosha to Chicago, and he once calculated that the miles he rode daily in his career added up to circumnavigating the globe 42 times.

After retiring from the Tribune in 1988, Mr. Baumann freelanced, writing travel articles and crime stories for the Tribune. He also spent 13 years as a volunteer with the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, working as a cowboy, a roustabout and an animal handler.

Mr. Baumann's first wife, Caroline, died in 1975. A daughter, Amy Cairo, died in 2010. In addition to his stepdaughters, Mr. Baumann is survived by his wife, Lenore; a son, Corey; another stepdaughter, Carole Reid; 12 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson.

After private services, a public luncheon is set for noon Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church, 7104 39th Ave., Kenosha.

Thanks to Bob Goldsborough.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sale of James Marcelle's Reputed Ranch Could Get Expensive for Former Owners

Being married to the mob can get expensive. For one senior citizen couple, William and Ann Galioto, it could wind up costing them $473,485.62. Plus interest.

The potentially big bill marks the end of a fascinating tale involving a horse ranch in Big Rock, just west of Aurora, a chatty mistress, and the head of the Chicago mob.

It begins as many sad stories do, as a love story — or at least as a story of mutual attraction in the flattering lighting of a Cicero strip club more than 25 years ago. That 's where a young woman, tending bar, met an up-and-coming Chicago mobster named James “Little Jimmy” Marcello. Marcello fell hard for the bartender, so hard he began a relationship with her lasting for decades.

In 1986, Marcello signed a contract to buy a ranch in Big Rock for him and his mistress. They used assumed names, Connie and James Donofrio, and even gave the property a cute name — the C&J Ranch, records show.

Marcello paid his mistress thousands of dollars a month for living expenses. He figured she would never rat on him, even though Marcello learned early on that his mistress had once been a snitch for the federal government. Little Jimmy was wrong.

Just how wrong he would learn in 2007, as he sat in a federal courtroom in Chicago, as a defendant in the historic Family Secrets mob trial, watching his former mistress testify against him.

By then, Marcello ran organized crime in Chicago. His conviction in the Family Secrets case would send him to prison for life. Marcello helped murder several people for the Chicago mob, including setting up Anthony and Michael Spilotro. In 1986, Marcello drove the brothers to the Bensenville area home where they thought they were receiving promotions within the mob. Instead, they were beaten to death.

As part of Marcello’s sentence, a federal judge ordered him to pay more than $4.4 million in restitution. The court order would create complications for the Galiotos.

Ann Galioto is James Marcello’s sister and an entrepreneur in her own right. She is listed as the president of a company that ran a strip joint, Allstars Gentlemen’s Club, for years in west suburban Northlake, before the club burned down in 2010. At the time, the fire attracted the attention of federal investigators, as did the financially creative way some of the club’s strippers were allegedly being paid, according to a law enforcement source.

Ann’s husband, William, is a former Chicago cop, who made headlines in 1995 when Mayor Daley killed a multimillion-dollar low-interest city loan to him and his partners to build a movie studio on the West Side, over concerns about Galioto’s past.

More recently, William Galioto had his name on another real estate deal — Marcello’s horse ranch in Big Rock, the feds say.

While the feds allege Marcello bought the property, it was put in William Galioto’s name. At one point, while Marcello was in prison, he was secretly taped by the feds discussing whether the property should be transferred out of his brother-in-law’s name to one of Marcello’s flunkies. Marcello was worried he couldn’t trust the Galiotos, according to the feds.

That never happened, and in 2008, after Marcello was convicted in the Family Secrets case, Galioto sold the ranch for about $500,000. The feds contend that William Galioto was merely acting as a front for his brother-in-law, Little Jimmy. Prosecutors call William Galioto nothing more than Marcello’s “alter ego” in the ranch sale. The feds want those sale proceeds, however they can get it.

A federal judge will decide if the Galiotos will be on the hook for the money. An attorney for the Galiotos declined to comment Monday.

So for now, the federal tab goes to the couple — $473,485.62. Plus interest.

Thanks to CST.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Growing Up the Son of Tony Spilotro

The only son of Tony Spilotro talks about what it was like growing up in the shadow of one of Chicago's most notorious mob bosses.

When Anthony "Ant" Spilotro walked into a room, he caused hearts to race and sometimes stop. At only 5'5", Spilotro's power wasn't from muscle; it was from an ability to intimidate and an unpredictable temper.

Hollywood tried to chronicle Spilotro's life in the movie "Casino." Now, his own family videos and an interview with his son offer a different take on these blood relatives.

This is what most people remember about Tony Spilotro's life -- it ended in a midnight grave. It was June 1986. After a horrific beating, vengeful mob bosses drove Spilotro and his brother Michael to an Indiana cornfield where they were buried.

"I just want people to understand that he wasn't this monster," Spilotro's only son Vince told the I-Team.

Vince Spilotro knows that rewriting his late father's life story will be difficult. His father was arrested 13 times before age 20; he was initiated as a full Chicago Outfit member at age 25 after authorities believe he committed his trademark torture killing, putting a victim's head in a vice until his eyeballs popped out. From 1971 to 1986, Tony Spilotro ruled Chicago Mob rackets in Las Vegas.

"I just wanted it to come out that he was a man, he did have family, just the human side of him, just tell the truth about it. Even if you're going to tell something bad, tell the truth about it. You know what I mean? You don't have to make up a whole bunch of stuff, " Vince Spilotro said.

It is unclear how many people Spilotro killed during his Outfit career because he was never convicted of murder, but Outfit investigators put the number at between 12 and 20.

"I mean, I take this home with me every night. I mean, I've been taking this home for 20 years," said Vince Spilotro.

Now he is sharing it with the I-Team, and soon Vince Spilotro will be sharing it with the paying public.

Opening next month at the Tropicana Hotel, in the city limits his father once ruled, the interactive Mob Experience will feature Spilotro family memorabilia including baby shoes and pictures -- and guns and bullets.

"I knew what he did," said said Vince Spilotro. "He was just, you know, just a loving father."

And Spilotro family videos that show Tony "Ant" as Tony "Santa." At family parties, including Vincent's birthday's as a boy, where sometimes tony and the boys would play cards off to the side. On family trips to Disneyland, where even a budding Outfit boss waited in line.

GOUDIE: "Do you think your father saw you as someone who would eventually replace him?
SPILOTRO: No, not at all. Here's what happened. In the beginning he didn't, it was all school, you have to do this, you have to do that. In the end he was, he had quadruple bypass, he was getting tired. He was sharing more. I don't know if that's grooming me, but it was still, school, school, school."

When museum plans were unveiled last summer, Tony Spilotro's reclusive widow Nancy was also in attendance. Their family treasures will be on display with some from Chicago boss Sam Giancana and Vegas founder Bugsy Seigel.

GOUDIE: "What would your father think about you selling family memorabilia for a profit.
SPILOTRO: He wouldn't like it. It's a two-way street. I think he'd like that I'm telling the truth, selling it for a profit sounds a little seedy...These people are going to protect it, they're going to display it a little more classy than if someone bought it on eBay."

For the Spilotro family, it is a chance to tell inside stories about the days growing up in their Las Vegas home as the son of a Mob boss.

Spilotro said, "I helped when I was a kid, at 18 years old, helped design this room, at our house, it was a place called the 'Security room.' There was a steel door, which was covered with wallpaper, you never knew it was steel. A solid door with the frame. The walls were all insulated with concrete and stuff. I mean, you couldn't get in that room."

And after almost 25 years, the museum and this interview, are a chance to come to terms with the past.

"I just like to tell everybody that he's just a man that grew up, raised a family and got caught up in some things that maybe he shouldn't have, but he lived it the way he lived it," said Spilotro.

The founder of the Mob Experience museum says he isn't setting out to glorify the Chicago Outfit. He says that showing the living contradictions that were Chicago Mob bosses is aimed at giving the public new insight about a significant American criminal group.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

FBI Files Released on Chicago's Most Feared Mobster Frank"The German" Schweihs

The FBI called him a "psychopath" and "an extremely ruthless, cold-blooded and malicious individual with a violent temper."

He was dubbed "one of the top 'hit men' in Chicago for the past 10 years," back in 1975.

Investigators were warned: "Extreme caution should be exercised ... in view of his propensity for violence." And a confidential source once told the FBI he was "a very mean individual and that he had on one occasion shot a girlfriend in the head."

One nickname he was known by was "The Nut."

But for decades, Francis John Schweihs was best known - and feared - on the streets of Chicago by a nickname that spoke only of his heritage: "The German."

Though he was reputed to be a prolific mob killer, Frank Schweihs never went on trial for a single murder.

He died in 2008 at the age of 76 from complications of cancer. It was just a few months before he would have faced the most serious charges of his life, as part of the landmark Operation Family Secrets case that sent top Chicago Outfit bosses and killers to prison.

Many of Schweihs' secrets went to the grave with him. But his once-secret FBI files - 531 pages in all, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times - shed new light on a man widely considered to have been the most-feared Chicago mobster ever.

According to one report in the FBI files: "Sources have also indicated that Schweihs is allowed a free reign in Chicago due to his violent nature.

Sources have also indicated that Schweihs is called in by various Chicago crews to do hits."

His FBI file shows authorities were interested in Schweihs for many reputed mob hits in Chicago and elsewhere, including killings in M ilwaukee and Kansas City.

Schweihs' penchant for violence, his hair-trigger temper and his twisted behavior made him stand out even in the Chicago mob. Schweihs started his criminal career as a thief. One time, he defecated in a cash register while he and his young partners in crime robbed a business, sources say.

The late mobster Michael Spilotro warned his teenage daughter in the 1980s: If she ever saw Schweihs around their Oak Park home, call the cops and lock the door.

Schweihs once was caught on a secret government wiretap telling an undercover informant: "I won't see you for a while. I gotta - I got a f------ hit," according to a FBI transcript of the conversation.

Schweihs was also a member of a sophisticated burglary crew in Florida, where he spent much of his time when not in Chicago - and where he once ran into serious trouble with the law.

It was May 1975. He was arrested in Fort Lauderdale after two brothers, who were checking on their auto-body shop late at night, came across Schweihs and another man apparently trying to break into a Wells Fargo bank next door. Schweihs was convicted in that case in 1976. The prosecution victory in the Florida case was short-lived. A federal appeals court overturned Schweihs' conviction.

He wouldn't do prison time until the mid-1990s, when he was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for shaking down pornography bookstore owners for money.

In the mid-1970s, Schweihs was inves tigated for more than a year for allegedly extorting two restaurant-quality Vulcan ranges out of a guy who owed him money. Schweihs used them at his own Old Town restaurant, the Meat Block, according to the FBI files.

The Internal Revenue Service once had Richard Johnson - a legendary undercover agent - strike up a business relationship with Schweihs. It was a remarkable feat because Johnson was black, and Schweihs, beside being paranoid about law enforcement, was a virulent racist. Schweihs would brag about how he could sniff out FBI agents.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in 2006, Johnson recalled how he convinced Schweihs that he was interested in buying a restaurant property from him that Schweihs had converted into an Italian bicycle shop when he had problems with his liquor license.

Another time, Johnson said, Schweihs wanted to show him how strong a Plexiglas screen in the building's vestibule was. So Schweihs picked up a baseball bat and hammered at it in a frenzy for a minute. "I'm looking at him and ducking at the same time," Johnson said. "It was like he was in another world."

Schweihs, oddly, given his own reputation for violence, told Johnson that Italians could learn something from black people, saying, "You guys march and raise hell and shoot each other." But Johnson's undercover investigation had to be cut short. Schweihs began threatening the life of then-Cook County Board President George Dunne, who Schweihs mistakenly believed was behind his liquor-license problems. Dunne was warned of the threat, and the investigation ended.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Jimmy DeLeo Era Begins

An important Illinois political story took place on Wednesday.

It didn't happen in Springfield or at Chicago's City Hall.

It took place on a quiet street in Oak Park. There were no TV cameras, no press aides. It was a somber ritual marking the transfer of power.

Sam Banks, the longtime political boss of the 36th Ward on the Northwest Side of Chicago, was laid to rest. He passed away after a long bout with cancer. The funeral was held at St. Giles Roman Catholic Church.

One of Sam's pallbearers was his former political apprentice, State Sen. James DeLeo, D-How You Doin'?

Sam was the guy for years. But there's a new guy now, reaching beyond the ward, from Rush Street to Rosemont and beyond:

Jimmy.

The night before, at Salerno's Galewood Chapels on North Harlem Avenue, thousands of clout-heavy people attended the wake in rooms crammed with flower arrangements.

Attendees included trucking barons, asphalt kings, Republican and Democratic officials from across the state, right down to Christy Spina, the former driver for imprisoned Outfit boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo. And there were plenty of judges, who along with the lawyers, helped form Sam Banks' network.

Criminal defense lawyer Tom Breen delivered the eulogy in church.

"If I were writing a newspaper column about Sam Banks," said Breen, "my newspaper column would be about a man who worked hard all his life, who loved his family, his career. That's the Sam Banks I would write about.

"He was a good person, he was a generous person. And I think we will miss him terribly."

Banks did love his family, and Breen is a fine lawyer. But he's no newspaper columnist. You can't write a column about the 36th Ward without asking some FBI types about the Chicago Outfit.

Almost two decades ago now, the old mobbed-up 1st Ward was scattered to the winds by federal prosecutions. The late Ald. Fred Roti, 1st, was sent to prison. With City Hall's official position that there is no Outfit, the old 1st Ward boundaries were erased on the city political maps.

"Once Roti was out of business, they did have other people to assume the same power and control in the 36th Ward," said Jim Wagner, the former head of the Chicago Crime Commission and longtime chief of the FBI's organized-crime section.

"If you're in organized crime, you're not going to give up the position of influence and authority," Wagner said. "You're going to turn to a replacement. That's what they are thought to have done."

Banks was low-key. He wasn't a showoff, no spaccone, like some. Again, remember, despite federal theories, there have been no Outfit-related charges. Sam was never charged. It's not illegal to know guys who know guys.

"What does that mean, ‘mob-associated?'" said DeLeo years ago, when the Sun-Times asked about political contributions he received from businesses connected to reputed Outfit boss John DiFronzo.

"In the year 2001, is there really a mob in Chicago?" DeLeo asked then, perhaps rhetorically.

Jimmy can be amusing. He's a funny guy.

Shortly after that witty comment, Chicago was treated to the most significant Outfit investigation in history. The "Family Secrets" case led to what amounts to life prison terms for top mob bosses and hit men.

In the "Family Secrets" trial, DeLeo and Sam's son, zoning lawyer and banker James Banks, were named in testimony by Ann Spilotro, widow of slain gangster Michael Spilotro, as the buyers of a business she owned. In other testimony, Sam Banks was named by a convicted burglar as an alleged conduit for protection money to corrupt cops.

Then in 2008, pressure on the 36th Ward organization increased. The Chicago Tribune investigative series "Neighborhoods for Sale" documented how clout influenced the politics of zoning in Chicago. While Sam Banks was strong, the Banks family was the first family of zoning in the city.

His brother William Banks was the alderman. For decades, Billy was chairman of the powerful City Council Committee on Zoning. Back when I covered City Hall, every time James Banks appeared before Uncle Billy's committee with a zoning matter, Uncle Billy would stand up and loudly excuse himself, saying he wanted no conflict of interest.

Then Billy would walk into the back room, perhaps have a sandwich, and wait while the other aldermen approved his nephew's zoning request. They probably didn't want a conflict of interest with Sam.

Recently, things have changed. With the feds interested in the 36th Ward, Billy has retired from the City Council. Jimmy might let him keep the Democratic committeeman's job and play with the precinct captains and pretend he's got power, but that's about it.

In his eulogy Wednesday, Breen said that moments after the family asked him to speak in church, his phone rang. It was the guy. It was Jimmy.

"He (DeLeo) said, ‘Tom, you know there is a time limit and you know that it's in a church, right?'" Breen recalled, getting some laughs. "So the golf jokes were out the window. The dinner jokes were out the window."

Jimmy is now retiring from the state Senate. He'll become a lobbyist. He still has his title insurance company business partner, Senate President John Cullerton, D-DeLeo, running things in Springfield.

Like Sam before him, it's time for Jimmy to go low-key. After all, he's the guy.

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where Were the Spilotro Brothers Killed?

For 23 years, it's been a mystery just where Chicago mob boss Tony Spilotro and his younger brother, Michael, were killed.

CBS 2's John "Bulldog" Drummond got the very first look at a home in unincorporated Bensenville where neighbors and others believe the Spilotros may have met their violent end.

No, the killing of the infamous Spilotro brothers didn't happen the way it was depicted in the movie "Casino." They were not beaten in an Indiana cornfield and buried alive.

Instead, the Spilotros met their demise in the basement of a home in unincorporated Bensenville, where they had been lured to their deaths with a promise of career advancement.

The brothers had worn out their welcome within the Chicago Outfit.

On June 14, 1986, Tony and Michael Spilotro met mob lieutenant Jimmy "The Little Guy" Marcello at a motel parking lot in Schiller Park.

The brothers got into Marcello's car in what amounted to a death ride. The Spilotros, however, were concerned about treachery. Michael told his wife, "If we aren't back by nine o'clock, something very wrong has happened."

The federal government's key witness, Nick Calabrese, testified in the "Family Secrets" trial that he was waiting as Marcello drove the car into an attached garage.

Ed Muniz, who bought the home in question in 2000, gave Drummond a tour of the house, where neighbors and friends say the Spilotros were slain.

"You could just see the layout of the house was perfect" and secluded for the Spilotro killings, said one acquaintance of organized crime figures, who asked that his identity be concealed.

It's not certain if Muniz's home is the location where the Spilotros were killed. But it's understood the fatal beatings occurred in a basement in the same area.

Marcello led the two brothers down to the basement. By the time they got into the cellar fists were flying; so were the knees. The Spilotros were met by a host of their former colleagues. They were beaten unmercifully. Tony Spilotro asked if he had a chance to say a prayer. The killers said no.

Although Muniz has his doubts about whether his home was the scene of the slayings, friends and family are concerned that something terrible happened in the basement.

"I had a friend who went down there, and he got a really weird aura," the owner said. "To my daughters, it kind of creeps them out a little bit."

Even his next-door neighbor -- now deceased -- was haunted by goings-on at the house.

Was this the house or not? Calabrese, the federal witness, couldn't find it for the feds.

CBS 2 shared its information with the FBI. Agents indicated they'll be looking into it.

Thanks to John Drummond

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Widow of Mob Associate Linked to Illinois State Senator, James DeLeo

Illinois state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) -- who has made public statements questioning the existence of the Chicago mob -- was credited by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office with trying to help the widow of one of Chicago's most infamous slain mobsters.

The Northwest Side lawmaker is listed in a secret hiring database the then-governor's aides kept as the political sponsor for Anne Spilotro, the widow of murdered mob associate Michael Spilotro.

She's among 146 "recommended" job candidates linked to DeLeo by Blagojevich's office, though it isn't clear for what job.

Thirty-nine of them wound up being hired or promoted, according to the records, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, making DeLeo one of the top go-to guys at the Statehouse for jobs inside the Blagojevich administration.

"There's names on there I've never recognized," DeLeo said when shown copies of the job lists bearing his name. "I don't even know where they came from, who hired them. I have no idea who most of those people are.

"It makes me angry people's names are on a list with my name coded in there [and] that I don't even recognize any these names."

DeLeo said he knew Anne Spilotro but had no idea why she was on his jobs list. "Would I remember that name? Would I remember that name?" DeLeo repeated. "I'd remember that name. I would remember that name."

Michael Spilotro's brother, Anthony Spilotro, was once the Chicago crime syndicate's Las Vegas boss. The bodies of the brothers were found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield after they were beaten to death in a 1986 mob hit.

In 2007, Anne Spilotro testified in the landmark Operation Family Secrets mob trial that she felt ripped off by DeLeo and another investor who bought her business in the late 1980s, after her husband was killed.

Spilotro, an employee of the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation since 1998, said she never discussed changing jobs or a promotion with DeLeo. "I haven't even talked to him for years," she said.

Another name on DeLeo's jobs list is the daughter of Marty Gutilla, managing partner of Tavern on Rush, the bar DeLeo co-owns with Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and others.

Shauna Gutilla Kelley, a $99,924-a-year division head for the Illinois Commerce Commission, was hired by Blagojevich's administration in August 2003. Since then, her salary has risen 59 percent, state records show.

DeLeo denied persuading Blagojevich's administration to hire or promote her -- though he acknowledged recommending Kelley for a state job "two administrations ago," under now-imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan.

Thanks to Dave McKinney

Sunday, September 20, 2009

John DiFronzo, Reputed Chicago Mob Boss, Connected to Two Constuction Companies That Receive Substantial Government Payments

It’s called Omerta – the code of silence. It’s an old world Mob term that still applies here in modern-day Chicago. And when we started asking about two companies tied to the Mob, we saw it in action.

“Will you get the hell out of here?” one woman yelled when we asked. “Jesus Christ!”

“We just want to know who runs the business,” FOX Chicago investigator Dane Placko replied.

“None of your damned business!”

“D & P Construction” and “JKS Ventures” in Melrose Park are family-run businesses. The family is headed by John DiFronzo, the 81-year-old reputed boss of bosses of the Chicago Outfit.

Former FBI agent Jim Wagner spent his career busting the mob. Now, the head of the Chicago Crime Commission says the businesses are being run by convicted felons. When Dane Placko showed Wagner our video of the business owner, Wagner said he looked like the John DiFronzo he remembered: “He’s actually remained in very good shape for a man his age.”

Back in the day, John DiFronzo earned his nickname “No Nose” when a shard of glass clipped his nose during a gun battle with police. In the historic “Family Secrets” mob trial, a government turncoat testified that DiFronzo took part in the murders of mobsters Michael and Anthony Spilotro, who were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield. He was named in open court, but DiFronzo has never been charged with the crime.

FOX Chicago investigator Dane Placko spent several days over the summer watching John DiFronzo going in and out of D & P Construction – sometimes spending hours inside. When we finally talked to him, he appeared to be right at home.

"What do you do for D & P Construction and JKS?" Placko asked.

"Me? Nothing. Nothing," DiFronzo replied.

"Well we see you here quite often,” Placko continued.

"It's just my brother. It's my brother."

"Peter?" Placko asked.

"Yes, that's my family,” said DiFronzo.

"Who owns D & P?"

"His wife I think."

Josephine DiFronzo signs her name as the owner of the business. When Placko asked whether Mrs. DiFranzo was in, people at the business did not seem happy.

"Go away. Don't worry about who's here,” said one woman.

"They're not here. Go away," said a man.

Ultimately, FOX Chicago News never saw Josephine Spilotro at the company’s headquarters on the Northwest side. She stayed at their multi-million dollar home in Barrington, while her husband Peter went to work.

Peter DiFronzo also is reputedly a made member of the Chicago Outfit. And we saw Joseph DiFronzo, the youngest brother, who just got out of federal prison after he was caught running a massive indoor marijuana farm. When he arrived at D & P headquarters driving his brother’s car, we approached him to ask some questions.

That’s when a woman on the property told DiFronzo to leave the property rather than talk to us. “Go, go, go,” she yelled at him through the closed windows of DiFronzo’s Chrysler 300.

No one wants to talk about it, but the DiFronzo family clearly has a keen sense of business. Trucks hauling gravel, Dumpsters and fancy Cadillacs pass through the gates all day long. And millions of your tax dollars help keep it going.

"A basic rule of government and politics in the United States of America is you do business with reputable companies,” says Andy Shaw of Chicago’s Better Government Association. “You don't do business with gangsters, you don't do business with mobsters. You don't do business with people with a long record of felony convictions. You don't do that.”

Well, it turns out they do that in Bellwood, Stone Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights, Schiller Park and River Grove.

Suburbs and government agencies which have made payments to D&P Construction and JKSS Ventures since 2001 from the Freedom Of Information Act:

Bellwood: $1,013,295
Stone Park: $61,052
Schiller Park: $79,670
Franklin Park: $1,586,722
Elmwood Park: $787,462
Leyden Township: $59,218
River Grove: $384,416
Cook Co. Forest Preserve: $32,212
Melrose Park: $1,088,041
Stone Park: 61,021
Harwood Heights: $300
Norridge: $1,300
Oak Park: $7,497
Elmhurst: $8,640
Northlake: $75,556

Thanks to Dane Placko

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family Secrets Jury Deliberations Were Systematic, Often Contentious

The anonymous jury that decided the Family Secrets case was exhausted.

After methodically working through stacks of evidence to convict four mob figures and a former Chicago police officer of racketeering conspiracy, jurors had become bogged down during a second round of deliberations.

For the first time in three months, personality conflicts flared and jurors snapped at one another as they tried to decide if the four mobsters could be blamed for 18 gangland slayings stretching back decades.

"There were times when we all looked out the window for a while and no one talked to each other," one juror recalled.

Two years after the landmark Family Secrets mob trial gripped Chicago with its lurid details of mob mayhem, jurors who sat in judgment have finally broken their silence.

Two of the jurors -- a man and a woman -- spoke last week to a Tribune reporter at a Loop restaurant, insisting their identities remain secret out of continued concern for their safety.

Even two years after the summerlong trial in 2007, few of the jurors know the names of one another, they said. Their identities had been publicly concealed to protect them from possible retaliation by the Chicago syndicate and to shield them from the news media.

Instead, jurors addressed one another by nicknames. Some took on names of characters in the trial, while others won monikers that might have been passed on by the mob itself. A tall juror became "Shorty" and another was called "Puzzles" because he often sat solving them during trial breaks.

As they began their deliberations, jurors pored over their notes -- one juror filled 16 pads of paper -- and sorted through carts of prosecution evidence -- documents, photos and even ski masks worn by hit men.They wrote questions on large "post-it" notes and stuck them to the wall. When they ran out of space, jurors took down decorative pictures to make more room for their notes.

The two jurors said the panel began the initial deliberations by deciding whether a criminal enterprise known as the Chicago Outfit existed. Then they considered the alleged role of each of the defendants they had spent months staring at from the jury box.

"I found them all to look mild-mannered and pleasant and grandfatherly," the female juror said of defendants James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul "the Indian" Schiro, and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, the ex-Chicago cop.

The man said most of the jurors began to figure out the importance of the trial after hearing about the infamous murders of mobster Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, whose bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

The jurors said the first round of deliberations went smoothly. If anyone was uncertain, others would calmly go back over the testimony, according to the two. The evidence was strong, they said, and jurors took four days to convict all five defendants on a host of counts, voting by a show of hands.

The jury was surprised, though, to find out that their work was not over after three months, the two said.

They again placed notes on the wall, building a chart with the 18 murder victims on one side and the four mobsters on trial across the top. They placed check marks by the defendant's name if they felt he could be held responsible for a particular murder.

"There was a lot more talking and a lot more disagreement," the female juror said. "People were passionate about Round 2."

The jurors said the panel delved more deeply into the centerpiece of the prosecution case -- the testimony of mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese. The former hit man admitted committing 14 murders himself and linked the four mobsters -- including his own brother -- to many of the gangland killings.

To some jurors, Calabrese was a tortured man who calmly named names as he recounted murders he was forced to commit with other Chicago Outfit members, but others on the jury wouldn't rely on his word alone to find blame in a killing. "Fundamentally, Nick was himself just like one of those guys in the room," the female juror said. "Some people just weren't able to get past it."

The result, the jurors said, were strained arguments and frazzled tempers.

The male juror was among the leaders who thought Calabrese was believable because other evidence corroborated his testimony. He recalled one instance when Calabrese fought tears on the witness stand as he recounted how an attempt to blow up the car of a businessman targeted by the mob almost resulted in killing the man's wife and child. "That was either the best acting job ever or somebody who's facing some serious demons," the juror said.

The jury wound up finding Lombardo, Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. responsible for 10 of the murders, but deadlocked on the other eight slayings. The two jurors said the jury deadlocked on murders that relied only on the word of Nicholas Calabrese.

The jury found Marcello responsible for the Spilotro killings, but it was close, they said. Calabrese testified Marcello drove him to a house where the brothers had been lured by the promise of mob promotions and helped beat them to death in the basement.

Calabrese had alone put Marcello at the murder scene, but the jurors said there was just enough evidence to buttress his account. Relatives of the Spilotros had testified that Marcello called their home the day the brothers were killed and that Michael Spilotro worried enough about the meeting to have left his jewelry at home. But there were discrepancies in the government evidence, the jurors noted. Calabrese had put a mobster at the murder scene who was actually under FBI surveillance at the time, making his presence there impossible. But the jurors said they chalked it up to a memory lapse and moved on, confident they had made the right decision.

The jurors said they weren't surprised to see Marcello, Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr. each sentenced to life in prison this year. Both said they supported the controversial 12-year prison sentence that U.S. District Judge James Zagel imposed on Nicholas Calabrese.

The male juror said he thought the judge had done a good job explaining his decision, even though some family members of victims found the sentence unfair. No one would dispute that Calabrese was a killer, he said. "You have to look at what he was able to bring forward on all of this -- he gave people answers," the juror said. "But I'm glad I didn't have to make that call."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Sunday, July 12, 2009

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, June 01, 2009

Illnois General Assembly Scholarships Have Mob Association Now

If the Tribune's series on political clout influencing University of Illinois admissions hasn't made you angry enough, try this one:

Kurt Berger is a corrupt former Chicago Buildings Department supervisor now in federal prison for taking bribes. A couple of years ago, he had a problem. It wasn't just the FBI.

In 2007, Berger's son was a student at a state school, as Berger was facing time in the federal pen. The feds shut down his bribe operation, and he needed some extra cash for the tuition. But he didn't have enough. So he gladly accepted the gift of your cash. That's right, yours. And who helped him to your cash?

Why, none other than state Sen. James DeLeo (D-How You Doin?), the eminent philanthropist.

Under a little publicized program called the Illinois General Assembly Scholarships, DeLeo provided a year's free tuition for the son of the bribe-taker at Northern Illinois University.

The program is available to all Illinois legislators. Each lawmaker receives the equivalent of two four-year scholarships (actually tuition waivers) for state schools every year. Legislators may parcel these out in any way they wish.

State records show that in 2008, DeLeo handed out eight one-year scholarships, including the one to the Bergers.

Other recipients were the son of Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Edward Doherty, whose son attends the University of Illinois at Chicago. Chief Doherty is the brother of Far Northwest Side Ald. Brian Doherty (41st).

Another DeLeo waiver went to the son of James McKay, the chief of death penalty prosecutions at the Cook County state's attorney's office.

Berger doesn't have much of an income in prison. But Chief Doherty makes $120,000 a year, city records show. The county lists McKay's salary at $150,000 a year.

McKay said that he hardly knew DeLeo and that his position had nothing to do with it. He said his son, whom he described as an A student, applied on his own. "I don't have any clout," McKay said. "He's not the son of some politically connected person."

Doherty said his son has received the tuition waiver from DeLeo for the last two years. The chief has known DeLeo for years, and Doherty's wife, Gina, is an aide to state Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago). "My son's achievements got him the scholarship. He excels," Doherty said. "It's open to anybody who lives in the district and it's up to DeLeo. Were we happy? Absolutely."

The political tuition program has been around for decades, dispensing millions of dollars each year. Those who receive the tuition waivers are eager young people who want to go to college. But some are also clout kids.

The Tribune investigative series "Clout Goes to College" -- by reporters Jodi Cohen, Tara Malone, Stacy St. Clair and Robert Becker -- has been detailing a different aspect of political influence in higher education. Politicians, lobbyists and university trustees frequently use clout to win admission to the U. of I. for students who wouldn't otherwise qualify. But what of high school seniors with top grades and exceptional ACT scores who aren't accepted at U. of I. because somebody's somebody who doesn't belong got their spot? DeLeo and his obedient sidekick, state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Jimmy), are big players in the admissions game. Sunday's "Clout Goes to College" installment shows that in the last five years alone, the two have backed at least 50 students who ended up on the admissions clout list.

That list is called "Category I." But the one I'm writing about today -- the money part -- also needs a cool name. How about we call it the "We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent Scholarship Fund?"

I figure that, for some clout kids, the two lists intersect.

It's nothing new for DeLeo. A few years ago, he helped the daughter of one of the Chicago Outfit's favorite law enforcement officers, corrupt former Cook County Undersheriff James "The Bohemian" Dvorak. With Dvorak in prison, DeLeo waived tuition for Dvorak's daughter at Eastern Illinois University, though she didn't live in Jimmy's district.

Records show that in the past, DeLeo has accepted campaign donations from mob-controlled businesses. In 2001, the Sun-Times asked him if this meant he was connected.

"What does that mean, mob-associated?" he said. "In the year 2001 is there really a mob in Chicago?"

That was years before DeLeo was mentioned in the recent Family Secrets trial of Outfit chiefs, when mob widow Annie Spilotro testified that DeLeo and zoning lawyer James Banks purchased her husband Michael's restaurant, in a building owned by mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.

On Friday, we called DeLeo. But not at the casino in Aruba. Instead, we called his Springfield office to ask about both of the clout lists. But no word from Jimmy. And Kurt Berger? He'll spend the summer in Duluth, Minn., as inmate No. 19350-424, and is scheduled for release in September.

That's an exciting time, when students are eager to buy new school supplies, the crisp notebooks, pencil sharpeners, snazzy book bags. And school begins anew, the Chicago Way.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Chicago Mob Order

Last week's death of an old-line Chicago Outfit boss reveals some changes in the way the crime syndicate does business.

As Chicago organized crime figures die off or go to prison, authorities tell the I-Team they are being replaced by far less flamboyant Outfit bosses, men who conduct mob rackets quietly and collect the proceeds with skilled efficiency.

The new mob order has never been more apparent than at last Wednesday's wake for high-ranking outfit boss Alphonso Tornabene, who died on Sunday at age 86.

It looked just like any other wake for any other man who'd lived a long life. The friends and relatives of Alphonso Tornabene streamed into pay their last respects all day on the northwest side.

A few mourners apparently didn't want to be seen at the wake for a man who recently headed the Chicago Outfit, according to testimony from a top underworld informant.

Mob hitman Nick Calabrese told the FBI that Tornabene administered the sacred oath of the Outfit to new members, a position reserved for only top capos. It's a ceremony that Calabrese described just as Hollywood has depicted over the years with a blood oath and a flaming holy card.

On Wednesday night, at Chicago's Montclair Funeral Home, the ceremony was less fiery. The holy card had Tornabene's name on it.

The attendees included Tracy Klimes, who says Tornabene was a great man who once cared for her family after her own father died, and knew little of his Outfit ties. "People always judge a book by its cover and I know there's things that people say about people but he had a wonderful heart," said Klimes.

The scene on Wednesday was far different than the crowds that turned out at Montclair more than thirty years ago after flashy Outfit boss Sam Giancana was assassinated and where attendance by Giancana's underlings was considered mandatory.

In 1986, mob bosses from other cities and a Hollywood actor showed up for the wake and funeral of Anthony and Michael Spilotro who had also been murdered by their Outfit brethren. But by 1992 at the Montclair wake for godfather Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, only a few top hoodlums dared to attend such a public event.

The Accardo funeral and Tornabene's wake on Wednesday are evidence that the new mob order calls for discretion in business and in life.

There was one notable mourner on Wednesday night: suburban nursing home owner Nicholas Vangel.

During the Family Secrets mob trial, Mr. Vangel was shown to be a confidante of one time mob boss Jimmy Marcello. Although Vangel wasn't charged, the government showed undercover video of Vangel visiting with Marcello in prison and discussing the FBI investigation.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene Named as Original Operation Family Secrets Targets

Reigning Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo was an original target of the Family Secrets investigation, according to these 2002 Justice Department records released on Tuesday, along with Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene, the Outfit's elder statesman.

"The objective in the case is to indict and convict...high ranking members of Chicago organized crime...including DiFronzo...and Tornabene," stated the government. But despite a case summary naming them as targets, neither DiFronzo nor Tornabene were among the fourteen Outfit members charged in 2005 with murders and mayhem.

As of 2007, Tornabene was still meeting with suspected Outfit figures and as of last month, the I-Team found DiFronzo still controlling Outfit rackets and meeting with mob underlings at a suburban restaurant.

The U.S. Marshal service files were made public on Tuesday night in the case of Deputy John Ambrose, now on trial for leaking information to the mob about Nick Calabrese, the highest ranking Chicago mobster ever to become a government witness.

According to the witness protection records, Calabrese said he and John DiFronzo planned and committed the most notorious mob hit in last 25 years: the gangland murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro, found buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Nick Calabrese's testimony was to be so spectacular, that 24 men were listed by the feds as threats, all of whom would want to kill him.

Nick Calabrese lived to testify and federal prosecutors won the Family Secrets case. But as the records show, there are still some secrets left.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

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