The Chicago Syndicate: Michael Spilotro

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

Friday, December 16, 2005

FBI Nabs Reputed Runaway Mob Enforcer

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, James Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

A reputed mob enforcer who has been the focus of a nationwide manhunt since federal prosecutors unsealed racketeering-murder charges against the alleged top echelon of the Chicago underworld was arrested Friday, the FBI announced. Frank "The German" Schweihs, 75, was captured without incident when agents swooped down on an apartment he had recently rented in Berea, Ky., a hilly area 40 miles south of Lexington.

Schweihs was one of two defendants who slipped away just before federal prosecutors in April unveiled the long-sealed indictment against reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello and 13 others in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation. FBI agents are still hunting Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 76, known as one of the senior figures in the Chicago mob.

The indictment charges that Chicago hoodlums and mob associates conspired in at least 19 unsolved deaths, including that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorsese movie "Casino."

The indictment charges Schweihs with taking part in the racketeering scheme, in which the participants allegedly agreed to commit a number of killings. It also charges him with extorting "street tax" on behalf of organized crime by using "force, violence and fear" against the owners of adult entertainment clubs in Indiana and the Chicago suburbs in 2001.

Schweihs had an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Lexington at which he waived extradition. He will be held there until he can be returned to Chicago, officials said. When he returns, Schweihs will be arraigned before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over the Family Secrets case.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said Schweihs first leased the Berea apartment two weeks ago and paid cash. His previous known residence was in Dania, Fla.

Federal law enforcement officers have been baffled in their search for Lombardo. They offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the two men.

Lombardo wrote a letter to Zagel last May, offering to turn himself in if he were guaranteed a trial separate from the other defendants. He later wrote a second letter, taking issue with news reports in the case.

Lombardo went to federal prison in the 1980s after being convicted along with then-International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams in a bribery conspiracy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stool Pigeon?

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Sam Carlisi, Joseph Ferriola, Joey Aiuppa, Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, Tony Spilotro, Michael Spilotro, Billy Dauber, Ronald Jarrett

Reputed mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. was taking a walk with his son in the prison yard at the federal detention center in Milan, Mich., uttering words that should never have left his lips. During that walk and others, Calabrese Sr. spoke of mob slayings -- ones the FBI says he was involved in, according to sources familiar with the matter. He discussed who was a made members of the Outfit and who wasn't. And he described his own initiation rites into the Chicago mob, where he was a reputed "made" man.

Under Outfit rules, talking about any one of those topics would be enough to get a mobster killed. But what was worse for Calabrese Sr. was that his statements were being secretly tape-recorded, by own his son, Frank Jr., who was in prison with him at the time, several years ago.

During those strolls around the prison yard, Calabrese Sr. spilled decades of mob secrets, details he should have never told anyone, even his own flesh and blood. Now those indiscretions are coming back to haunt him. Calabrese Sr.'s secretly recorded statements helped federal prosecutors build their case against him and other alleged mobsters, including the reputed head of the Chicago Outfit, James Marcello. "Wings" Jim Marcello started in the Chicago Syndicate as the driver of "Black Sam" Carlisi who was the powerful underboss under Joe Ferriola. Carlisi himself started as the driver for Joey Aiuppa when Aiuppa was boss.

The tape recordings are vital to the case and expected to be played at the trial next year of Calabrese Sr., Marcello and others, and should be a highlight. The trial will mark the culmination of the most significant prosecution federal authorities have brought against the Chicago Outfit, charging top leaders with 18 murders. Frank Calabrese Sr. alone has been accused of taking part in 13 of the slayings.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney, Joseph Lopez, downplayed the importance of the tape-recorded conversations on Friday and questioned how the feds could properly interpret them. "My client doesn't know anything about any murders," Lopez said. The feds "gave the son the script, and he followed it. It's all very good theater."

Lopez contended that no fresh details about the slayings pop up on the tapes, and some conversations show "a father puffing up his chest for his son." "They are talking about facts that people 'in the know' would know," Lopez said. "When you hear the tapes in court, everyone will be able to draw different conclusions as to what was said."

Frank Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., put his life on the line every time he secretly tape-recorded his father, who was always cagey, always suspicious. The men were in prison together on a loan-sharking case the feds had brought against Calabrese Sr. and his crew. Calabrese Sr., who ran the crew, got nearly 10 years in prison. His son, Frank Jr., who had much less involvement in the matter, got more than 4 years.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was known for his brutality and ruthlessness, both on the streets and at home, ruling his family with fierce intimidation. To this day, Calabrese Sr. still tries to reach out and rattle family members, whether by getting messages passed out to relatives from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where he is being held, or having rats put on the porch of another family member, sources said.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was extremely leery of even his closest associates, much less family, making it that much more of a challenge for the younger Calabrese to get him talking. Frank Calabrese Jr. not only had to get his father chatting about matters that his father would be extremely reluctant to talk about. The son also had to get his father to discuss those matters clearly, with enough detail, to be useful to federal prosecutors.

If Calabrese Sr. or any other prisoner found out the younger Calabrese was wearing a listening device in the prison yard, his life would have been in peril. But somehow, Frank Calabrese Jr. exceeded all expectations.

Despite all the danger to Calabrese Jr., he received no major benefits from the FBI. His main motivation was trying to ensure his father would stay behind bars for the rest of his life, law enforcement sources said. Calabrese Jr. was released from prison in 2000.

One recording Calabrese Jr. made even helped persuade his uncle Nick to cooperate with the feds. Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother Nick Calabrese had a long history together and were tight. They would often do mob killings together, authorities said. But what was once a close partnership is now a blood feud, with Nick Calabrese confessing to 15 mob hits and helping the FBI. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s own words helped turn his brother Nick into one of the FBI's most valuable informants.

The key conversation came one day when Frank Calabrese Sr. and Frank Jr. were in prison and discussing Nick Calabrese and whether he was cooperating with the feds. Nick Calabrese was not cooperating at the time, but relations were tense between the two brothers. Frank Calabrese Sr. was refusing to have his underlings send money to help support his brother's family, according to court testimony. And Nick Calabrese was still sore over how Frank Calabrese Sr. had treated his own sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt, in the loan-sharking case, effectively hanging them out to dry.

Frank Calabrese Sr. assured his son on the recording that he had gotten word out of the prison that if Nick Calabrese was helping investigators, then he would have no objection to his brother being killed. Frank Calabrese Sr. said that this was the life he and his brother had chosen. When the feds played that tape for Nick Calabrese, he began cooperating. But that wasn't the only factor contributing to Nick Calabrese's change of heart.

On another recording with his son, Frank Calabrese Sr. scoffed about a mob hit that his brother Nick nearly botched and talked about it in detail. Calabrese Sr. told his son how Nick Calabrese had been assigned to kill fellow mob hit man John Fecarotta in 1986.

Fecarotta had messed up an attempt to kill Tony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, and mob bosses decided that Fecarotta had to go.

According to court records and law enforcement sources, Fecarotta was set up on the ruse that he and other mobsters were going to drop off a bomb. Fecarotta apparently never figured out that the device they were carrying was fake, made up of flares taped together to look like dynamite. Nick Calabrese and Fecarotta were heading to the job site in a stolen Buick. As they pulled up near a bingo hall on West Belmont, Calabrese pulled his gun to kill Fecarotta. But Fecarotta fought him off, struggling with Calabrese until the gun went off, wounding Calabrese in the forearm.

Fecarotta ran for his life, and Nick Calabrese bolted after him, knowing if Fecarotta escaped, it would mean Nick Calabrese's own death sentence from the mob.

Nick Calabrese shot and killed Fecarotta, but Calabrese made a critical error. He left behind a bloody glove, which investigators recovered and kept. Years later, DNA tests tied Nick Calabrese to the glove and the murder.

On the secret tape recordings, Frank Calabrese Sr. spoke of other murders involving him and his brother. In one instance, Frank Calabrese Sr. bragged how he had orchestrated a shotgun slaying in Cicero of two men, Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski. They were sitting in a car outside Ortiz's bar on Cermak when eight shots were pumped into the 1983 Mercury, killing both men. Ortiz was killed over drugs, law enforcement sources say. Ortiz's family has denied Ortiz had anything to do with drug dealing. Morawski was killed by accident.

Calabrese Sr. also discussed his role in the 1980 slayings of mob hit man William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, in Will County. Calabrese Sr. implicated his righthand man, the late Ronald Jarrett, as being involved, too. Jarrett was slain in a mob hit in 1999. I was living near Jarrett at this time. Calabrese Sr. even talked about mob hits he had no involvement in -- the murders, for instance, of Tony and Michael Spilotro.

Martin Scorsese's celebrated Las Vegas gangster movie, "Casino," had the men being beaten to death with baseball bats in an Indiana cornfield. But the movie got it wrong. Tony Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas, had been lured back to the Chicago area. Spilotro, a made man, was told he was going to be promoted and that his brother was going to be made into the Outfit.

James Marcello, now the reputed head of the Chicago mob, allegedly drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville-area home and their deaths, according to court testimony. Although, it was not like this in the movie, several sources within the FBI have already suggest this from their CI's.
On tape, in the prison-yard conversations with his son, Frank Calabrese Sr. names the mobsters who were there to kill the Spilotro brothers, including his brother, Nick. As the men surrounded Tony Spilotro, he begged for time to say a prayer, a novena, sources said. His killers declined and proceeded with their work. I find it dubious that Tony "the "Ant" would have begged anybody for anything, especially to say a novena.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir Staff Reporter Sun-Times

Friday, September 23, 2005

Legendary Mob Boss Tocco Dies

Legendary south suburban Chicago mob boss Albert "Caesar" Tocco has died in prison at age 76.

He was just 16 years into his 200-year sentence for racketeering, conspiracy, extortion and tax fraud when he died, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

Tocco, whose estranged wife Betty testified he helped bury the bodies of the mob-associated Spilotro brothers in an Indiana corn field, died Wednesday at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

The preliminary cause of death appears to be complications from high blood pressure, said Carla Wilson, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons.

At the height of his power, Tocco ruled all the rackets south of 95th Street, federal officials said. Though he was never charged with any killing, prosecutors linked him to at least nine gangland-style killings, including those of the Spilotros, mob hit man William Dauber and vending machine operator Dino Valente.

Federal authorities nabbed Tocco in Greece in 1989.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

FBI Says Mob Eyed Rosemont Casino

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Michael Marcello, Tony Spilotro, Michael Spilotro
Friends of mine: Don Stephens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Chase and Brett McNeil

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo, Reputed ex-Mob Leader for South Suburbs Dies

Dominick "Tootsie" Palermo, the reputed organized crime boss of the south suburbs until his 1991 conviction for extorting protection money from northwest Indiana bookmakers, has died in a federal prison hospital. The former resident of South Holland and Orland Park was 88.

Palermo, who also was suspected of having a role in the 1986 murders of crime syndicate figure Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael Spilotro, died Friday in the Federal Prison Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., a spokesman said Tuesday. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Palermo and five members of his reputed crime family were convicted Aug. 16, 1991 by a federal jury in Hammond of racketeering charges arising from a scheme to extort protection money from vice and gambling operators in northwest Indiana. He was sentenced in 1992 to 32 years and 3 months in prison and fined $250,000. Palermo was due to be released from prison Aug. 10, the medical center spokesman said.

John Hoehner, the U.S. attorney in Hammond at the time, predicted Palermo's conviction would have "a substantial impact on organized crime in northwest Indiana."

In fact, syndicate crime has diminished considerably in the region south and southeast of Chicago, federal authorities and organized-crime observers said. But the reduction, they said, probably has more to do with changes in society than with the imprisonment of many people who had controlled vice in the area,

"The world has changed from the 1950s and 1960s when organized crime still thrived," said John Binder, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who wrote "The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America)," a book detailing the history of the crime syndicate.

"Gambling, which was the lifeblood of the mob's operations in the south suburbs, has been legalized as a result of the riverboat casinos," Binder said. "Furthermore, people have become a lot more knowledgeable about organized crime. Consequently, they no longer put up with mobsters infiltrating local labor unions or operating in their communities the way they used to."

Not much was known publicly about Palermo's activities until his trial and sentencing. "The guys that controlled the south suburbs kept a low profile because they had everything locked up in their neck of the woods," Binder said.

Federal authorities said Palermo, who worked as a Laborers International Union field representative, became the reputed head of the south suburban mob after former rackets boss Albert Tocco, a one-time Chicago Heights sausage-maker, was convicted in 1989 of ruling a crime family through acts of murder and extortion.

Attorney Kevin Milner, who represented Palermo during his 1991 trial, remembered his client Tuesday as "a grandfatherly type of guy, soft-spoken and friendly." But prosecutors saw Palermo, then in his 70s, as something else, describing him as a "top mob capo" who, along with his underlings, employed terror tactics, including threats of bodily harm and arson, to collect "street taxes," or protection money, from vice and illegal gambling operators.

At Palermo's trial, 11 people testified that they paid the money rather than risk harm to themselves, their families or their businesses. And two FBI agents who developed evidence against Palermo's shakedown operation testified that they secretly recorded the group regularly counting extortion money in a Calumet City restaurant.

Among those convicted with Palermo in 1991 was Nick Guzzino of Chicago Heights, whom the FBI identified as Palermo's underboss in the south suburbs. Guzzino, who was 50 when he was convicted, was sentenced to 39 years and 6 months in prison and fined $185,000.

Guzzino, Palermo and Tocco, who is serving a 200-year prison term, were suspected of taking part in the Spilotro murders after Tocco's estranged wife, Betty, testified in 1989 that her husband told her that he and the other two were involved.

At the time of their deaths in 1986, Anthony Spilotro, 48, was the reputed overseer of the Chicago mob's Las Vegas gambling operations and was awaiting trial on racketeering charges in Nevada. His brother, Michael, 41, was under indictment in Chicago on federal extortion charges. Their bodies were unearthed in a Newton County, Ind., cornfield.

The murders remain unsolved.

Thanks to Stanley Ziemba


Friday, March 04, 2005

JFK Connected to Mob DNA?

Solving a Mafia murder case is a tall order. Since the early 1900s, more than 1,100 murders have been linked to Mafia activities in Chicago but only 14 people have been convicted in those killings. Soon though, the FBI may be able to resolve dozens of mob hits, many with links to Las Vegas. It's a case that might even shed light on the assassination of a president.

The FBI calls it Operation Family Secrets, (Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob). The I-Team has reported on it in the past. It's been underway in Chicago for more than two years and may finally be getting close to the indictment stage. The targets include major figures in the Chicago mob. The victims include tough Tony Spilotro, once the king of the Las Vegas streets. If the FBI hits the jackpot though, this operation could resolve even bigger mysteries.

Lawmen in Las Vegas and elsewhere harbored all kinds of suspicions about Tony The Ant Spilotro. They suspected him in as many as 22 gangland murders. They indicted him for skimming Las Vegas casinos. And regarded him as the Nevada ambassador for the feared Chicago mob. But the law never managed to put Spilotro away. That job was carried out by his Mafia associates.

In 1986, Spilotro returned to Chicago to meet with the family. His body and that of his brother Michael Spilotro were found days later, buried in an Indiana cornfield. Both were savagely beaten. Spilotro's widow Nancy told the I-Team the FBI never tried to solve the murder, but she's convinced that her husband knew the people who did it. "When he went away like that, left all their stuff behind and they go -- you know. That's no good. They leave their watch and their wallet. They had to know somebody to get them to go to the place," said Nancy Spilotro, Tony Spilotro's widow.

Sometime later this year, someone may finally be charged in Tony Spilotro's murder. That someone will likely be Spilotro's former boss, Joey The Clown Lombardo, for decades a reputed top figure in the Chicago mob.

John Flood, former Chicago Police officer, said, "Lombardo in Chicago is the last of the major giants and in the United States few men have his stature in organized crime."

Former Chicago cop John Flood should know. For years, he was part of a Chicago Police team that chased the mob and says Lombardo once tried to kill him. Flood expects the FBI's Operation Family Matters to produce indictments soon.

The two-year probe reportedly has mob informants and is aimed at the top tier of the Chicago outfit, which means Joey The Clown. Tips have already led FBI agents to unearth the bodies of murder victims. DNA evidence has been obtained from crime scenes and is now being analyzed in forensic labs around the country. It is all but certain that the Spilotro murders are among the cases that are being analyzed. But there are many more unsolved cases in the Las Vegas-Chicago nexus and Lombardo, allegedly, was in a position to know about all of them.

John Flood says, "There is not a shadow of doubt that because he was such a young man involved with major mob figures going back to Al Capone, he would know anything that happened regarding assassinations, not only in Chicago but Las Vegas, across the country. He's a top guy and a tough guy."

Flood says Lombardo would have to know about the murder of teamsters pension fund executive Alan Dorfman, who loaned millions to Las Vegas casinos and was indicted with Lombardo for trying to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon.

Former mob ambassador to Las Vegas, Johnny Rosselli was preparing to testify to Congress about mob plots to kill Fidel Castro. His body was found floating in a drum. Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, once the overlord of Las Vegas rackets, was murdered in his home just before he had to testify. Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared in 1975 and is believed to have been murdered by Midwestern mob families. Lawmen think Lombardo knew about all of them, including one of the biggest murders of all time.

John Flood says, "Sam Gianacana, supposedly involved in the building of Las Vegas, his brother said Sam told him before he died it was Chicago organized crime guys that assassinated John Kennedy."

That's a whopper of a story, but there is other testimony hinting at a Chicago connection to the JFK slaying. Jack Ruby was a Chicago mob flunky before moving to Dallas. But Flood says he doubts Lombardo would talk, indictment or not.

Lombardo's Chicago attorney acknowledges that his client is a target of the FBI investigation, but he denies any wrong doing by Lombardo. Lombardo has given a DNA sample to the FBI. So have three other suspected mobsters.

Ex-cop John Flood says he doubts Lombardo would roll over or spill the beans about any murder, let alone the JFK assassination, but says it depends on who else might be indicted with him.

Stranger things have happened.

Thanks to George Knapp


Friday, February 21, 2003

Chicago Outfit Bosses Dive for Cover as Enforcer Nick Calabrese Talks

Editor's note: John Kass broke the story of the federal investigation dubbed "Operation Family Secrets" in February 2003.

Until recently, the bosses of the Chicago Outfit felt relatively safe, with their connections in politics and local law enforcement. But now, they're on the verge of FBI-inspired paranoia.

They're not concerned where fellow mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo is hiding these days. There's a good reason for The Clown to keep a low profile: Formerly imprisoned mob loan shark and enforcer Nick Calabrese is talking to the FBI, sources said.

Investigators are being given a road map through crime and time, including unsolved Outfit murders going back over decades.

FBI agents have spread out across the country armed with search warrants to collect DNA evidence, hair cuttings and oral swabs, from dozens of Outfit bigwigs. Sources familiar with the investigation said search warrants for the mob DNA have been sealed.

This must aggravate some folks, including imprisoned Chicago street boss Jimmy Marcello, convicted of bookmaking and loan sharking. Marcello hopes to be released from a 12-year federal prison term in a few months.

Marcello, Calabrese and Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr, a convicted loan shark, spent years together inside. When old friends talk in prison, they reminisce about dis and dat and dat other ting, don't they?

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Thursday that Nick Calabrese's federal prison records had disappeared. My highly educated guess is that he is now in the witness protection program.

"No comment," said the U.S. attorney's office. "No comment," said the Chicago FBI.

Some of the victims of unsolved Outfit hits being discussed with FBI agents might be familiar to you.

They include Anthony Spilotro and Michael Spilotro, the vicious gangster brothers beaten to death and dumped in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. If you saw the movie "Casino," you know how it happened. Joe Pesci, one of my favorite actors, played Tony. And if you're a faithful reader of this column, you know why the Spilotros were available to be murdered. A few weeks earlier, they beat a federal criminal case against them in Las Vegas.

The key federal witness against them had his testimony undercut by a then-heroic former Chicago police chief of detectives, William Hanhardt.

Hanhardt's surprise testimony as a top cop and defense witness undercut the credibility of hit man-turned-government informant Frank Cullotta. (Frankie got a bit part in "Casino," too, as a hit man).

During the Spilotro trial, Hanhardt was a hero cop, with friends in the newspapers and in Hollywood, where he was glorified in the TV show "Crime Story."

Now, though, Hanhardt is serving a long federal prison term for running an Outfit-sponsored jewelry theft ring. Still, Hollywood may make a movie about him. But nobody made a movie about hit man John Fecaratta. He was killed outside Brown's bingo parlor on Belmont Avenue three months to the day after the Spilotros' bodies were found. The Spilotros weren't supposed to be found. Federal investigators figured Fecoratta was punished for botching the planting of the Spilotros.

Outfit enforcer Billy Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, left a Will County courtroom in 1980. They were hacked to pieces by shotgun blasts during a high-speed chase along a lonely country road.

Daniel Siefert was murdered in front of his family at his plastics manufacturing plant in 1974. Siefert was a key government witness in a federal case against Lombardo, in connection with a scheme that bilked the Teamsters Union pension fund out of millions of dollars.

Siefert was with his wife and 4-year-old son when the Outfit came for him. He ran a short distance after the first shot, but it knocked him down. A gunman walked up to the fallen Siefert, pressed a shotgun against his head, pulled the trigger.

Lombardo and six others were acquitted two months after Siefert's murder.

Nick Calabrese is not as flashy and as loud as his brother, Frank. Nick is quiet. He was to be released this year. Then a strange thing happened. His prison records disappeared. They don't exist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Carla Wilson, a bureau spokeswoman, was helpful Thursday in finding Frank Calabrese, and prison records on his sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt. But no Uncle Nick.

"If he were in the witness protection program, then we would not be able to access that information," she said. Then she said she had to check something and later had a different story about Uncle Nick's vanished records.

"I really can't speculate about that," she said. "All I can tell you is that I don't have any public information on him."

That's OK. We'll wait.

Thanks to John Kass


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