The Chicago Syndicate: Nick Calabrese
Showing posts with label Nick Calabrese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nick Calabrese. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Union Leader with Reputed Mob Ties “The only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.” Federal Judge “You pled guilty to a felony...That’s why you’re here"

Five months after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement, a onetime union leader with reputed mob ties told a federal judge, “The only reason I’m standing here today is because my name is John Matassa.”

Matassa faced sentencing Monday, more than two years after being hit with a 10-count federal indictment. He explained that he’d been targeted by the U.S. Department of Labor. But U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly saw things differently.

“You pled guilty to a felony to avoid going to trial,” Kennelly said. “That’s why you’re here right now. Not because your name is John Matassa.”

Then, the judge handed Matassa a six-month prison sentence and added six months of home confinement. The case stemmed from Matassa’s job as the secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711.

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Kennelly described that organization as “the weirdest union that I’ve ever seen.” He repeatedly mentioned that it collected barely enough dues to pay Matassa’s salary and expenses.

Matassa admitted last February to an embezzlement scheme in which he began in 2013 to split his weekly paycheck from the union with his wife. Prosecutors said she became the union’s highest-paid employee — despite not actually working for it. Matassa’s attorneys said she helped him do his job.

In 2014 and 2015, Matassa raised his wife’s salary without the approval of the union’s president or its executive board. Meanwhile, Matassa had applied for old-age insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration in 2013.

Those benefits would have been reduced if he made too much money. However, as a result of the arrangement with his wife, Matassa collected $75,108 in insurance benefits to which he was not entitled, according to his plea agreement.

The charges against Matassa followed a long career in which his name notably surfaced during the 2009 trial of John Ambrose, a deputy U.S. marshal who leaked details about mob hitman Nicholas Calabrese.

Calabrese became a key cooperator with federal investigators and was under the protection of the marshals. Matassa allegedly functioned as a go-between for the information that eventually made its way to then-imprisoned Chicago mob boss, James “Little Jimmy” Marcello.

Thanks to Jon Seidel.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Is the Answer to Who Murdered Sam Giancana on the Family Secrets Organized Crime Tour?

A Mafia turncoat who ushered in one of the biggest Mob trials in US history is now sharing tales of his former life as a streetwise soldier for the infamous Chicago Outfit, during the fascinating two-hour Family Secrets tour around the Windy City.

‘It’s not just a Mob story, it’s a family story, too,’ says Frank Calabrese Jr., who became so desperate to escape life in organized crime that he ratted out his own father, the Outfit’s Chinatown crew boss, Frank Calabrese Sr., by wearing a wire for the FBI and testifying against him at trial in 2007.

‘Nobody likes to hear their family called dysfunctional and nobody likes to be called a rat, but it is what it is,’ says Frank Jr., 58. ‘I hope that people can get takeaways from it.’

The Family Secrets tour operates several times a week and kicks off from Chicago Chop House in the heart of downtown. Frank Jr., perched at the front of a 37-seat bus, doesn’t hold back on exposing what Mob life is like, warts and all, as he revisits scenes from his family’s crimes and other landmarks.

‘Some things are embarrassing, but in order for people to understand, I have to be straight up with everybody on everything,’ he notes. ‘It does take a lot out of me, because I’m seeing these stories as I’m telling them.

While the bus winds its way throughout the city, including Little Italy, Chinatown and other neighborhoods, Frank Jr. relates his tale of growing up here with a dad who could be kind and loving one minute, then ‘sociopathic’ and ‘explosive’ the next.

He starts the tour with recollections of how Frank Sr., a made man who went by the nickname ‘Frankie Breeze,’ began grooming him at a young age to become proficient in loansharking, gambling and the Chicago way.

One tale he spins is the day Frank Sr. appeared to get into an altercation with a man in the family’s driveway. Upset, Frank Jr., then a teenager, ran and grabbed a baseball bat from the garage and snuck up on the duo.

‘I could see my dad look, and he had this little smirk on his face, like he was all proud of me,’ says Frank, adding there was no fight that day. ‘I didn’t know what my dad was capable of at the time, but years later I was like, “Boy, that guy was lucky.”’

Soon the pair started going on father-son field trips so Frank Jr. could watch and learn. One of his final tests occurred when his dad came home from his ‘so-called work’ and brought him into the bathroom. Frank Sr. turned on the ceiling fan and faucets in case the government was listening.

‘Son, we just killed two guys,’ Frank Jr. recalls his dad telling him as he watched the teen’s face carefully to see what his reaction to the news would be.

All Frank Jr. could think at the time was how his buddies’ fathers probably weren’t having similar conversations in their houses. ‘I’m so excited about it, but I can’t run and tell anybody,’ he says.

Very quickly, recounts Frank Jr. as the bus winds its way through Chicago traffic, he graduated to ‘violence, arson, collections’ and other sketchy gangland behavior. ‘I eventually bought in to all of this, and I was good at it.’

The longer Frank Jr. spent under the tutelage of his ruthless dad, the more Outfit tactics he added to his growing arsenal.

One trick Frank Sr. and other Mob bosses often employed was to tell the aspiring Mafioso they were on their way to kill somebody, even if they had no intention of carrying out a hit.‘They’re just testing you to see if you’re really up to it,’ explains Frank Jr., who today credits his uncle, Nick Calabrese — his dad’s brother and fellow made man — with protecting him from committing the most terrible of crimes: murder.‘I didn’t realize it until years later, but he saved me from my father,’ says Frank Jr. ‘He saved me from crossing a line I couldn’t cross back over.’

That doesn’t mean Frank Jr. didn’t learn how to test his friends’ loyalty by producing a dead body.

On the Family Secrets tour, Frank recounts for his guests the day his dad instructed him to place some sandbags in the trunk of his car and throw a sheet and shovel over them. He then told him to pull up to his pals and tell them he accidentally hit and killed a guy and he needed help burying the body. ‘Let me know how many guys get in the car,’ Frank Sr. told his son.

Hollywood has always played a large role in glorifying Mafia life, and Frank Jr. takes time during the tour to spin some of his favorite related tales, including his memory of seeing Casino, the 1995 film based in part on the Chicago Mob.

“It’s funny, because when I’m watching the movie in the theater I could see that they’re wrong about a lot of stuff, but I had to sit there and shut up because who am I gonna tell?” he laughs.

Talking about the movie, which showcases the Tangiers Casino, the cinematic substitute for the Chicago Outfit’s preferred real-life Vegas hangout, the Stardust, sparks another of Frank Jr.’s recollections.

In 1972, when he was 12, says Frank Jr., he traveled with his dad to Sin City and loved spending his time at the Circus Circus Hotel & Resort’s video arcade. Proving he was developing the chops for manipulation, Frank Jr. says he would wait for his pop to join 20 or 30 of his associates at the dinner table before asking him for money to go play games ‘My dad would give me three or four dollars,’ recalls Frank. ‘Then the guys would say, “Come here kid.” I’d leave there with like $200 or $300 dollars in my pocket!’

On occasion, West Coast royalty would head to Chicago, and Frank Jr. takes his tour bus to Rush Street, once the place to see and be seen for major entertainers, like rumored Mob man Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra, says Frank Jr, had connections to the Mafia, and he claims the Calabreses had ‘direct ties’ to Ol’ Blue Eyes, a Chicago club-scene favorite in the ‘50s and ‘60s, because Frank Sr. was close to the crooner’s longtime comedic opening act, Pat Henry. However, he adds, ‘that doesn’t mean Sinatra was involved in doing illegal activities.’

Despite his family’s familiarity with the glitz and glamour that comes with organized crime, Frank Jr. explains that working in the Mob actually required him to live life under the radar to keep the heat off his family and associates. 

‘You learn deception,’ he says. For instance, instead of three-piece suits, fedoras and flashy jewelry, he and his cohorts wore baseball caps, ski jackets and eyeglasses to blend in with their surroundings and not appear too flashy. ‘We didn’t drive Mercedes and BMWs, like you see in the movies. We drove Fords and Chevys.’

And when the older Mob bosses got together to discuss business, it wouldn’t be at a fancy social club.‘They would meet at McDonald’s,’ says Frank Jr. ‘If you walked past them you would think they must be talking about retirement, but they could have been planning a high-profile murder.’

Not that anyone would understand if they happened to overhear. ‘We were so aware of the FBI that everything we did was in code,’ he points out. ‘I could talk to my father in a conversation and he has four names and I have four nicknames. You’d think we were talking about six to eight people and we were really just talking about one another.’

In fact, a discussion about recipes could really be about a hit.

What’s not coded on the tour is Frank Jr.’s refusal to sugarcoat the Mob’s deadlier side, and he goes into detail about the rise and fall of the Outfit’s most infamous upper echelon of villains, including Sam Giancana, who ruled from 1957 through 1966 and was alleged to have played a part in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Giancana’s fatal mistake, says Frank Jr., was he became too high profile. In 1975, Giancana was supposedly meeting somebody he trusted in the basement kitchen of his home in Oak Park, Illinois. He wound up dead, shot multiple times in the head and neck. Frank Jr. claims he and the FBI ‘know who did it’ and it was somebody nobody would ever suspect — but he refuses to tell.

Frank Jr. does spill information on his father’s sordid history of hits. He says he found out later in life that Frank Sr. was part of a crew of hit man dispatched to take care of guys ‘causing problems.’ His preferred method of killing, says his son, was ‘to strangle you and cut your throat ear to ear,’ a method Frank Sr. liked to call the Calabrese necktie.

Despite the intense times, life in the Mafia was filled with just as many boring days and nights, especially when it came to casing targets.

According to Frank Jr., surveillance often included getting a windowed van and putting a refrigerator or dishwasher box inside with little holes poked through the cardboard. One of the Outfit’s henchmen would have the unfortunate task of sitting inside the box with two jugs — one for drinking water and another for waste — and staring out at their target to gather information for as long as 24-hour stretches.

Life in the Mob also meant always looking over your shoulder and making sure the FBI wasn’t on your tail. But if they were, Frank Sr. ‘had a sense of humor,’ and he once wrangled the unwitting owner of a Greek diner into helping him throw off the Feds.

Frank Sr. went into the man’s restaurant, sat at the counter and ordered a cup of soup. When he finished, he asked to speak to the owner, who he hugged and shook his hand. When the proprietor asked if they knew each other, the mobster told him no and that he just wanted to compliment him on his fine food. He then darted out the door.

The FBI quickly descended on the diner and its confused owner. Agents demanded to know why he was speaking to Frank Sr., but they refused to buy the man’s pleas of ignorance.

‘Poor guy,’ laughs Frank Jr. ‘My father always used to do that.’

Other times, the mobsters wouldn’t have to worry about police following them because they would head to an auto yard, steal license plates from a car of similar make and model to what they were going to use in a crime and swap them in. ‘If the cops run the number while we’re driving it matches the car and it matches the color so they’re not going to pull us over,’ explains Frank Jr.

One of Frank Jr.’s favorite stories he recounts on the tour is about how his ‘master thief’ father loved to rob weddings. Frank Sr. would take advantage of the fact everyone was drinking and not paying attention to steal the purses filled with cash set aside for the newlyweds. Other times, Frank Sr. would be more brazen and bring a crew to help line up guests against the wall and steal their jewelry.

‘I don’t talk about this like I’m proud of it, but it was what we knew,’ explains Frank Jr.

As time passed, the elder Calabrese became increasingly paranoid and violent, and his son grew desperate to escape the Outfit. ‘I feared my dad more than anything,’ he reveals of the man who once held a loaded gun to his head and threatened to kill him.

Salvation, Frank Jr. says, finally arrived in 1995 when the feds indicted him, his father, and several Outfit crewmembers. He pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, extortion, mail fraud, perjury and intent to defraud the IRS. The son and dad were eventually incarcerated together in Milan, Michigan, where Frank Jr., sentenced to serve 57 months, hatched a risky plan to free himself from his father’s omnipotence.

He mailed a letter to the FBI on July 27, 1998, and offered to help agents entrap the killer. In what became known as 'Operation Family Secrets', Frank Jr. agreed to wear a wire behind bars and tempt his dad into talking about several gangland murders.

‘I just wanted my father to leave me alone, and the only way I could figure out how to do that was to keep him locked up,’ he says of the life-changing realization.

Frank Jr. was released from prison in February 2000. Seven years later, the 'Family Secrets' trial he was responsible for sparking created a firestorm both in the press and behind the scenes. After testifying on the stand against his dad, Frank Jr. went into a private room, where he had tears rolling down his face because he realized their courtroom confrontation was probably the last time he would see the man alive.

Frank Calabrese Sr., found responsible for 13 murders — likely a fraction of the number he actually committed — died in solitary confinement of heart failure on Christmas Day 2012.

Confirmation he made the right choice by ratting on his dad came when Frank Jr., who wrote the 2011 memoir Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family, learned Frank Sr. tried to put out a $150,000 contract on his head before he died. He believes one of the big reasons he’s still alive to tell the tale is nobody trusted the cagey Mob boss to actually pay up once the job was completed.

Now ‘every day is like a gift,’ Frank Jr. says. ‘I try to be a good person and I try to surround myself with good people.’

And he gives tours and shares his story as a way to somehow make amends with his dark past.

‘I have to deal every day with what I know,’ Frank Jr. explains. ‘I’m not trying to glorify something. I want people to realize you can change your life around; I want to do something good.’

Thanks to Aaron Rasmussen.

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.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Examining the Crimes of the Calabrese Family #FamilySecrets

Why are we so fascinated by the mob? Well, there's violence: garroting, shooting, stabbing; the thrill of men hunting men. Money: While most of us sweat for our daily bread, gangsters take what they want. The unknown: Gangster stories give us special knowledge of dark, hidden places in the city and in the human heart.

That last point is important, because half the fun is pulling back the veil. The author strips away the pretenses and pleasantries of daily life and reveals how the world really is. Which is to say that force reigns supreme, not intelligence or character or merit. But part of the popularity of gangster lit is the assumption that the veil is only ever half-raised. Mob stories feed our most paranoid fears by implying that so much more remains to be told. Because we really can't see the subject whole, never know the limits of the mob's influence, we can imagine it as all-powerful, with cops, politicians and businessmen bought and paid for. Authors let us in on the secrets, but the thrilling question always remains, just how big is this menace?

That is one of the reasons that Chicago Tribune reporter Jeff Coen's "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" is so refreshing. He never reaches beyond his story, sticks close to his evidence, lets the carefully gathered wiretaps and eyewitness testimony and reporter's notes do the talking. Like Nicholas Pileggi's classic "Wiseguy," on which the film "GoodFellas" was based, Coen keeps it at street level, focusing on his distinct cast of characters, the gangsters and their victims, the federal agents, local cops and attorneys who played out the drama.

During the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Frank Calabrese Sr. operated a lucrative loan-sharking business on Chicago's South Side. He had ties to higher-ups in the "Outfit," as the Chicago mob is known, men like Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, and James "Jimmy Light" Marcello. Calabrese was not a nice man. In the late '90s, his son, Frank Jr., musing on his father's abusiveness, decided to turn state's evidence against the old man. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, young Frank's uncle Nick (Frank Sr.'s brother) also decided to cooperate with the feds.

With that the Outfit's cover unraveled, and the case finally came to trial in 2007. Coen gives us fine-grained pictures of the loan-sharking and extortion, and, above all, at least 18 killings.

Nick Calabrese, a reluctant hit man, committed multiple murders at brother Frank's behest. Nick told the feds that his sibling would willingly kill him had he failed to carry out a hit. Frank Calabrese himself specialized in garroting his victims, then cutting their throats to make sure they were dead. Coen gives us gruesome accounts of the murders and burials in corn fields and at construction sites.

"Family Secrets" isn't for everyone. It is a complex narrative of a long case that resulted in several convictions. The devil is in the details, there are a lot of them, and they thoroughly de-romanticize the mob.

This is a well-written and researched book, but its subject might disappoint some readers. Unlike the East Coast mob, Coen tells us, "Chicago had been unified for much of the century, since the days of the infamous boss Al Capone. ..." That statement is true but a bit deceptive. This late 20th Century crew seems a little pathetic. They're not exactly the gang that couldn't shoot straight, but they're certainly not Capone's Outfit either. When we pull back the veil, we get a strange blend of Don Corleone and the Three Stooges.

Thanks to Elliott Gorn, who teaches history at Brown University. He is author of "Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One," published this year by Oxford University Press.

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

Friday, June 02, 2017

Feds want John "Pudgy" Matassa's union duties limited as reputed mobster awaits trial

Federal prosecutors want a reputed Chicago mob figure to curtail his day-to-day duties at a local laborers union while he faces charges stemming from an alleged scheme to fraudulently qualify for early retirement benefits.

John Matassa Jr., 65, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a 10-count indictment charging him with wire fraud, theft of government funds, embezzlement from a labor organization and making false entries in union records. The most serious charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly released Matassa on his own recognizance, requiring him to turn in his passport and firearm owner's identification card.

During the 10-minute hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Rothblatt said prosecutors had a "sincere concern" that while awaiting trial, Matassa, secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711, would be free to communicate with witnesses in the case and continue to make decisions on how to spend union members' dues. Rothblatt said prosecutors would be asking for Matassa's communications and financial duties to be restricted while the case was pending.

Matassa's lawyer, Robert Michels, objected, saying the union has a board of trustees that is "fully capable" of making personnel decisions without court intervention.

Kennelly asked prosecutors to put the request in writing before he ruled.

Matassa, of Arlington Heights, appeared in court Thursday in a blue suit jacket and shirt with no tie. He spoke only to answer "Yes" in a husky voice when Kennelly asked him if he understood his rights.

An indictment handed down last week alleged that Matassa put his wife on Local 711's payroll in a do-nothing job in February 2013 while lowering his own salary, authorities charged. He then applied for the early retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration's Old-Age Insurance program, listing his reduced salary, enabling him to qualify for those benefits, the indictment alleged.

The charges also alleged that Matassa personally signed his wife's paychecks from the union and had them deposited into the couple's bank account.

In the late 1990s, Matassa, nicknamed "Pudgy," was kicked out as president of the Laborers Union Chicago local over his alleged extensive ties to organized crime.

Matassa's name also surfaced during the 2009 trial of a deputy U.S. marshal who was convicted of leaking sensitive information to a family friend with alleged mob ties, knowing the details would end up in the Outfit's hands.

The leak involved the then-secret cooperation of Outfit turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, whose testimony led to the convictions of numerous mob figures in the landmark Operation Family Secrets.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that some things haven't changed.

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

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

Now it all seems comparatively tame. Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Attorney for Roman Catholic Priest Who Plead to Conspiracy with Mob, Cries Foul on Feds

The lawyer for a former prison chaplain awaiting sentencing for passing notes from convicted Chicago Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. accused federal prosecutors Wednesday of making "inaccurate and highly inflammatory" claims that the priest had also divulged the secret location of the mobster's turncoat brother.

Prosecutors alleged in a sentencing memorandum earlier this week that Eugene Klein had revealed secret information to Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas, who was in the federal witness protection program after his stunning decision to cooperate brought about the landmark Operation Family Secrets probe.

In a court filing Wednesday, however, attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin wrote that Klein never knew where Nicholas Calabrese was being held and never took any steps to find out, even though as an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he could have done so.

Durkin called the allegations "consistent with the hostile and over-the-top position the government has taken throughout this case." He asked U.S. District Judge John Darrah to strike the references to Nicholas Calabrese from the court record and possibly delay Klein's Thursday sentencing so the judge can hold an evidentiary hearing into the matter.

Klein, a Roman Catholic priest, admitted in a plea agreement with prosecutors that he violated the most restrictive prison security measures possible that had been placed on Calabrese by conspiring with the convicted hit man to recover a supposedly rare 18th-century Stradivarius violin said to be hidden in the mobster's vacation home.

In asking for the maximum of five years in prison, prosecutors alleged for the first time Monday that Klein had also revealed information about the location of Nicholas Calabrese despite knowing that he "was in grave danger" because of his cooperation with law enforcement. But Durkin included in his filing an FBI report that showed Klein had told agents in April 2011 that another inmate had told him he knew where Nicholas Calabrese was located. Klein relayed the message to Frank Calabrese Sr., who "asked Klein to find out all he could about the matter," the FBI report stated.

"Although Klein did not intend to do anything more, he told Calabrese that he would see what he could do," the report said. Klein, however, was never told which prison the inmate thought Nicholas Calabrese was in and he never took any other steps to find out, according to the report. Nicholas Calabrese was behind bars at the time for unrelated mob charges.

Nicholas Calabrese was the first made member of the Chicago Outfit to testify against his cohorts, and his testimony at the Family Secrets trial in 2007 led to life sentences for several Chicago mobsters, including his brother. Although he admitted to killing 14 people for the Outfit, Nicholas Calabrese was given just 12 years in prison because of his unprecedented cooperation.

Frank Calabrese Sr. was first placed under special administrative measures after he was allegedly seen in court mouthing, "You are a (expletive) dead man," at a federal prosecutor.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Did Father Klein Leak the Location of Mob Informant Nick Calabrese?

Federal prosecutors in Chicago want to send a Roman Catholic priest to prison for five years for a crime that involved the Chicago mob and a plot to steal a priceless violin.

Father Eugene Klein wore a Roman collar, but the story line is less God and more godfather. The elements resemble a mafia movie: secret messages from prison, a violin stashed in a vacation retreat, and a priest recruited by an outfit hitman. But the trailer is about to come to an end on Thursday, when Father Klein is sentenced for helping a late mob boss in solitary confinement.

For Chicago mob boss Frank Calabrese, killing was a breeze, hence his nickname "Frankie Breeze". In 2011, Calabrese was at a Missouri penitentiary doing life for 13 Chicago mob hits in the Family Secrets case. He was considered a security risk and held in solitary confinement when prison chaplain Father Klein became more than a spiritual advisor.

Klein plotted to help the outfit boss recover a rare, centuries-old violin that Calabrese had hidden years earlier here in his Wisconsin summer home. The plot was aimed to prevent U.S. authorities from finding the violin and selling it to pay off the mobster's debt to society. But that's not all he did. Now authorities say Father Klein told Frank Calabrese where Nick Calabrese - his brother and the key witness in the case - was living while he was in the witness protection program.

According to a court filing Monday, prosecutors want to send the priest to prison for the maximum five-year sentence because they say he had clear disregard for others and for the trust placed in him, and that new information Klein revealed to Frank Calabrese about the location of his brother, Nicholas, "knowing that Nicholas had cooperated against his brother and was in grave danger as a result."

Father Klein's attorney Tom Durkin compared the priest's 60-month recommended sentence to that of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whom prosecutors recommend less than six months.

Durkin told the I-Team: "They recommend no more than six months for Dennis Hastert and ten times that amount for Fr. Klein. That is absurd."

"This latest revelation that the priest, the defendant, tried to help identify the location of a witness that's a bombshell and that can explain why the government is seeking so much time because it undermines the witness security program," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer.

During trial, Frank Calabrese threatened to kill a U.S. prosecutor. The mobster was considered a ruthless killer and a dangerous prisoner.

Soffer says Father Klein used his religious position to help Calabrese communicate with the outside world - conduct he says resulted in the government asking for such a lengthy sentence.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Drug Kingpin Saul Rodriguez Seeks Deal Like That Given to Other Gangsters for Cooperating

A drug kingpin whose testimony brought down a former Chicago cop and a murderous kidnapping crew is asking for a big break in his upcoming sentencing because of his extensive work as a rat for the government, but prosecutors are balking at the request.

Saul Rodriguez — who killed at least three people, including his best friend, kidnapped dozens of people and put millions of dollars of cocaine and heroin on Chicago’s streets — is seeking a sentence like the ones given to the key witnesses who helped the government break the Chicago mob and the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

Nick Calabrese, the top witness in the Family Secrets case against the Chicago Outfit, got a 12 year sentence. And twin brothers Margarito and Pedro Flores each were recently sentenced to 14 years in prison for their cooperation in the investigation of Sinaloa boss Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, the FBI’s most-sought fugitive until his arrest last year. But federal prosecutors said Rodriguez, whose sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 17, should receive a 40 year prison term because of the particularly evil nature of his crimes.

“Rodriguez had his best friend, Juan Luevano, murdered and then showed up at the funeral acting like a mourner,” according to a filing in federal court in Chicago.

“Rodriguez had 29 individuals kidnapped so that he could steal drugs or money. Six of his victims were children. One was an elderly grandmother.”

In their filing, prosecutors acknowledged that Rodriguez’s help was valuable — among those sent to prison due to his testimony was former Chicago Police Officer Glenn Lewellen — but the case pales in comparison with taking down Chicago’s top mob leaders or the top drug dealer in the world.

“Though Rodriguez’s cooperation was significant, it is inapt to compare it to the Flores brothers who secretly recorded meetings with cartel leaders while in Mexico,” the government said.

“The Flores brothers helped bring down an entire Mexican drug cartel,” the government said, adding that Calabrese “cooperated for seven years, wore a wire against notorious mob killers, testified against his own family and helped solve 13 murders.”

Thanks to a plea agreement, Rodriguez avoided a life sentence, but a “40-year sentence is necessary to ensure that Rodriguez will never again terrorize others for his own benefit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block wrote.

Rodriguez has received permission from the court to file his sentencing arguments under seal.

Thanks to Frank Main.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Nick Calabrese Testimony to be Used at Sentencing of Rudy "The Chin" Fratto

In this Intelligence Report: Federal prosecutors are winding up to throw the book at one of Chicago's top organized crime figures. The I-Team has learned details of next week's sentencing for mob boss Rudy Fratto.

The government wants outfit boss Rudy "the Chin" Fratto to take it on the chin next Wednesday when he is sentenced for his role in a contract bid-rigging scheme at McCormick Place.

Even though Fratto is from a Chicago mob family, he has managed to skate through his career largely unscathed, a routine prosecutors want to end.

In the run-up to next week's federal sentencing, Fratto has seemed to relish his role as a court jester of sorts.

Even though the record of 68-year old Fratto has been devoid of serious criminal charges, something his attorneys will point to next week, prosecutors will ask that Fratto pay the price for a lifetime in mobdom.

According to new records obtained by the I-Team, prosecutors plan to use the testimony of Nick Calabrese to paint a chilling picture of Fratto. Calabrese is the outfit hitman-turned-government witness who was a central witness in Operation Family Secrets.

Quoting Calabrese, prosecutors will say that Fratto was a "made" member of the Chicago outfit, and that in a Hollywood-style fingerpricking ceremony on Father's Day of 1988, Fratto was inducted in the mob. According to the government, a "person would not even be considered for that status until he had committed a homicide on behalf of the outfit." And, Fratto prosecutors say, he "represented himself to be a boss of the Chicago outfit."

It was in that role that Fratto offered to provide mob protection in exchange for a share of the profits from forklift contracts at McCormick Place.

Fratto ran the mob's rackets in Elmwood Park, according to federal agents, where his relative, Luigi Tomaso Giuseppi Fratto, was gangland boss leader from the 1930s into the 1960s.

Luigi Fratto was also known as "Cockeyed Louie" due to his off-kilter eyeball. On Wednesday, the government wants the descendent Rudy Fratto's sentence to be "substantially in excess" of what the law prescribes for the McCormick Place scheme, making it clear he should pay a premium for all those years he got off easy.

The recommended sentence is no more than two years in prison. But the government hopes Judge Harry Leinenweber will hand Fratto much more than that.

In newly filed court documents, lawyers for Fratto claim he is remorseful and regretful and, as they say, not a bad apple.

Fratto is asking for probation -- no prison time, but rather home confinement.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Mob Wives Chicago Cast

As the second season of VH1′s ratings hit “Mob Wives” continues to captivate fans with the never-ending, real-life drama in New York, the network introduces a new group of “Syndicate Sisters” with the debut of the franchise’s first spin-off, “Mob Wives Chicago,” to premiere Spring 2012.

Mob Wives Chicago

“Mob Wives Chicago” follows the lives of five women allegedly connected to “The Outfit,” Chicago’s version of the Mob, as they bear the cross for the sins of their Mob-associated fathers. With lives that are right off the pages of a story book, each woman has chosen her own way to live her life in the city that was once home to Al Capone, sometimes in spite of and many times because of who her father is. Along the way these women battle their friends, families and each other as they try to do what’s best for themselves and their children. But ultimately, it is the ghost of their fathers they battle, living and dead, as they try to overcome and persevere in the face of these men’s notorious legacies.

Meet the cast of “Mob Wives Chicago”:

RENEE FECAROTTA RUSSO: Renee is a strong independent businesswoman who was raised by her uncle, “Big John” Fecarotta, following the death of her father. An alleged loan collector and hit man for “The Outfit,” Fecarotta was Renee’s mentor and best friend until being gunned down by fellow mobster Nick Calabrese. Fiercely loyal to his memory, Renee still abides by the “code”: never associate with rats…take it to the grave.

NORA SCHWEIHS: Nora is back in Chicago to take care of some unfinished business. Nora’s father, Frank “The German” Schweihs, was reputed to be one of the most notorious hit men for the Mob. Schwiehs, whose alleged “hits” were not limited to the Mob, has long been rumored to be responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. Shortly after his death in 2008, the government confiscated his remains before he could be properly buried. Nora has returned to Chicago to learn the whereabouts of his body. Despite growing up hearing stories of his viciousness and brutality, Nora idolized her father and she continues to defend him… even to his grave.

PIA RIZZA: Pia may have a mouth like a trucker, but she’s spoken zip about her father since she was a little girl. Vincent Rizza was a dirty Chicago cop who worked for the Mob, testified against the Mob and then went into the Witness Protection Program. Pia has struggled all her life to hide from the shame of having a “rat” for a father. It’s been especially difficult to avoid the judgments and finger pointing in a town that celebrates the folk heroes and glory days of the Mob.

CHRISTINA SCOLERI: As an unemployed divorced mother of a 9-year-old, Christina is struggling to provide a stable environment for her daughter. Christina is the daughter of Raymond Janek, a one-time thief and alleged fence for the Mob. Serving 20 years off and on for various offenses, Janek finally went straight in 1987, and his relationship with his daughter remains distant. Christina’s father is a reminder of her own unstable upbringing, and she’s determined not to repeat the sins of her father.

LEAH DESIMONE: Leah is the over-protected daughter of William “Wolf” DeSimone, a supposed “associate” of the Mob, but Leah’s keeping mum. Leah never knew, and knew never to ask what her Dad did for a living. Leaving one day in a suit, Wolf would return days later in street clothes with no explanation and none expected. Now “retired,” Wolf still keeps tabs on his little girl. But as vigilant as he is of her safety, Leah is equally secretive of her Dad’s profession … if you’re “connected,” you NEVER talk about it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Excerpt from Frank Calabrese Jr's 'Operation Family Secrets'

I set myself up in the corner of the prison library at the Federal Correctional

Institution in Milan, Michigan, and banged out the letter to FBI Special

Agent Thomas Bourgeois on a cranky old Smith-Corona manual typewriter. My mobster father, Frank Calabrese, Sr. — who was serving time with me in FCI Milan — had taught me to be decisive. So when I typed the letter, my mind was made up.

I didn't touch the paper directly. I used my winter gloves to handle the sheet and held the envelope with a Kleenex so as not to leave any fingerprints. The moment I mailed the letter on July 27, 1998, I knew I had crossed the line. Cooperating with the FBI meant not only that I would give up my father, but that I would have to implicate my uncle Nick for the murder of a Chicago Outfit mobster named John "Big Stoop" Fecarotta. Giving up my uncle was the hardest part.

When I reread the letter one last time, I asked myself, What kind of son puts his father away for life? The Federal Bureau of Prisons had dealt me a cruel blow by sticking me in the same prison as my dad. It had become increasingly clear that his vow to "step away" from the Outfit after we both served our time was an empty promise.

"I feel I have to help you keep this sick man locked up forever," I wrote in my letter.

Due to legal and safety concerns, it was five months before Agent Thomas Bourgeois arranged a visit to meet with me at FCI Milan. He came alone in the early winter of 1998. In 1997 the FBI and Chicago federal prosecutors had convicted the Calabrese crew, netting my father, Uncle Nick, my younger brother Kurt, and me on juice loans. Bourgeois seemed confused and wanted to know what I wanted.

I'm sure Bourgeois also wondered the same thing I had: What kind of son wants to put his father away for life? Maybe he thought I was lying. Perhaps I had gotten into an argument and, like most cons, was looking to get my sentence reduced. Yet in our ensuing conversation, I told Tom that I wasn't asking for much in return.

I just didn't want to lose any of my time served, and I wanted a transfer out of FCI Milan once my mission was accomplished. By imprisoning us on racketeering charges, the Feds thought that they had broken up the notorious Calabrese South Side crew. In reality they had barely scratched the surface. I alerted Bourgeois that I was not looking to break up the mob. I had one purpose: to help the FBI keep my father locked up forever so that he could get the psychological help he needed. The FBI didn't know the half of his issues or his other crimes.

When asked by Bourgeois if I would wear a wire out on the prison yard, I promptly replied no. I would work with the FBI, but I would only give them intelligence, useful information they could use, and with the understanding that nobody would know I was cooperating, and I would not testify in open court. Outfit guys like my dad called that "dry beefing." Frank Calabrese, Sr., was one of the Outfit's most cunning criminals and had been a successful crew chief and solid earner for the Chicago mob for thirty years.

He could smell an FBI informant a mile away. If he hadn't talked about his criminal life in the past, why would he do so now?

I searched my soul to make sure I wasn't doing this out of spite or because Dad had reneged on taking care of me and Kurt financially in exchange for doing time. This couldn't be about money! After Agent Bourgeois's first interview with me at Milan, he reported back to Mitch Mars, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Chicago Organized Crime Section. Mars wanted to know if there was enough to present the case to a grand jury and gather a bigger, more inclusive case against "the Outfit," Chicago's multitentacled organized crime syndicate, which dated back to the days of "Big Jim" Colosimo and Al Capone.

As I lay in my cell bunk, I thought about my refusal to wear a wire. Suppose I gave the Feds information, but my father got lucky and walked? I'd be screwed, Uncle Nick would be stuck on death row, and after my dad's sentence ran out he would bounce right back out on the streets to continue his juice loan business and murderous ways.

What if what I was doing was wrong? How could I live with myself? I loved my dad dearly, and I love him to this day. But I was repulsed by the violence and his controlling ways. I had to decide between doing nothing and cooperating with the Feds, two choices I hated.


I knew that if I did nothing, my father and I would have to settle our differences out on the street. One of us would end up dead, while the other would rot in prison. I would be incriminating myself, and I didn't want an immunity deal. If I needed to do more time to keep my dad locked up forever, so be it. After I sent the letter, I was determined to finish what I started. I contacted Agent Bourgeois one more time to tell him I had changed my mind. I would wear the wire after all. All the deception my father had taught me I was now going to use on him.

My father's own words would become his worst enemy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Code of Silence for Reputed Mobster at Daughter's Wedding

By the time many a man and woman get married, their families aren’t speaking to each other.

In the case of an upcoming mob wedding in Chicago, though, the silence is court- ordered. A federal judge laid down the law in the wedding of Frank Caruso and Brittany Szaflarski.

Brittany’s dad, Casey Szaflarski, is the reputed video poker king of Chicago. He’s under house arrest and wanted the judge to let him out to attend his daughter’s wedding on Aug. 21 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.

The judge decided Szaflarski can go, but there’s a catch.

He can’t talk to his boss, the reputed head of the 26th Street mob crew, Frank “Toots” Caruso, who happens to be the father of the groom, also named Frank.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ordered Casey Szaflarski not to utter one word to the elder Frank Caruso, or face jail. Federal prosecutors are concerned the men could talk mob business amid the nuptials.

Casey Szaflarski was arrested in March for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation. He was put under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He is charged in the case with seven other men, including the alleged head of the Cicero mob crew, Michael Sarno. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu allege Sarno ordered the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing with Casey Szaflarski’s.

The elder Frank Caruso has not been charged in the case.

Casey Szaflarski asked the judge to let him attend a host of wedding activities. He wanted to go to his daughter’s bridal shower luncheon at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue and then the rehearsal dinner at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel Aug. 18. Casey Szaflarski also hoped to spend the night in the Palmer House, so he could attend the post-wedding brunch there the next day.

The judge nixed those requests.

As part of the judge’s ruling, prosecutors will receive a list of everyone who attends the wedding. The guest list could be interesting since the bride and groom come from families with extensive ties to organized crime.

The groom, the younger Frank Caruso, made national headlines when he was arrested for the 1997 racially charged beating of 13-year-old Lenard Clark as Clark was riding his bicycle through Armour Square. Frank Caruso was sentenced to eight years in prison. He is the great-grandson of the late Bruno Roti Sr., one of the earliest leaders of organized crime in Chicago and the head of what would become the 26th Street mob crew. The groom’s father, Frank “Toots” Caruso, was listed by the FBI as one of the Chicago mobsters who posed a threat to the safety of star mob witness Nicholas Calabrese, the onetime Outfit killer who testified in the Family Secrets case.

The bride, Brittany Szaflarski, is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a well-known mob burglar, who was accused in court papers of once paying $20,000 to one of the most corrupt judges in state history, Thomas Maloney, to acquit his son in a murder case.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Feds Raid House of Frank Calabrese Sr. - Discover Hidden Recording Devices, Tapes, Notes, Cash, & Jewelry

Federal agents say they discovered potentially incriminating tapes and notes -- along with almost $730,000 in cash and about 1,000 pieces of apparently stolen jewelry -- stashed behind a large family portrait during a search of the family home of convicted mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr.

Authorities said they found recordings of what they believe could be "criminal conversations" that Calabrese taped with mob associates years ago.

They seized several recording devicesFamily Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob, such as suction-cup microphones used to tap into telephone conversations, and 10 to 15 used microcassettes -- one of which appears to bear the last name of a convicted Outfit member, agents said.

There also were "handwritten notes and ledgers" that could be records of extortion and gambling activities, authorities said.

In addition, authorities discovered seven loaded firearms they believe had been used in criminal activity because they were wrapped so no fingerprints would be left on them.

In a court filing this afternoon, federal authorities said they want to seize the property to satisfy some $27 million that Calabrese was ordered to pay in forfeiture and restitution following his conviction for a series of gangland slayings and sentence of life imprisonment.

Calabrese's lawyer Joe Lopez said he was surprised to hear about the search at his client's home on Tuesday. He said Calabrese's wife and their two sons, one of whom is in college most of the year, live in the home.

He said the home had been searched on other occasions over the years by the FBI and said he was surprised the items were not uncovered in the past. "Now that this is coming up it leads one to wonder what is really going on in this case,'' said Lopez. "I was surprised, I think everyone was surprised who heard of this."

He said he did not know if family members knew about the items found in the home because he has not had a chance to speak to Calabrese's wife or his client. He said Calabrese does not have access to telephones and is "kept under lock and key."

He said that among the items that were found at the home was at least one recording that he believed was made in 1998 after Calabrese was in custody. He said that Calabrese was in brief custody in 1995 and was released on bond, and then surrendered himself to authorities in 1997 and was in federal custody in Michigan. "He's been in custody since 1997," said Lopez. "I have no idea what those recordings are. For all I know it's Frank Sinatra singing."

He said that the money is going to the government because the government went into the home to search for any assets that would go to the government as part of Calabrese's outstanding forfeiture order. "There is no recourse. The money belongs to them. They can seize assets to satisfy judgment just like any other judgment creditor,'' said Lopez.

Calabrese, 71, was one of the five Outfit associates convicted in the landmark Family Secrets trial that riveted Chicago for weeks with its lurid testimony about 18 decades-old gangland slayings.

The code name for the federal investigation came from the secret, unprecedented cooperation provided against Chicago mob bosses by Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, and his son, Frank Jr. Their testimony peeled back layers of Outfit history as they detailed hits, bombings, extortions and other mayhem by the mob's 26th Street crew.

When he was sentenced to life in prison a year ago, Calabrese denied he was a feared mob hit man responsible for more than a dozen gangland slayings. "I'm not no big shot," said Calabrese, dressed in an orange jumpsuit with a strap holding his glasses on his mostly bald head. "I'm not nothing but a human being, and when you cut my hand, I bleed like everybody else."

A federal judge didn't buy it. Saying he had no doubt Calabrese was responsible for "appalling acts," U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced him to life in prison at a hearing marked by emotional testimony from victims' relatives and a heated exchange with his own son.

Another of Calabrese's sons, Kurt, stepped to a lectern to tell Zagel that his father beat him throughout his life. "In short, my father was never a father," said the younger Calabrese, describing him instead as an enforcer who hurled insults as regularly as he threw punches, ashtrays, tools or whatever else was within reach when his temper exploded.

The son asked his father whether he might want to apologize for his conduct. "You better apologize for the lies you're telling," the father barked back in the crowded courtroom. "You were treated like a king for all the things I've done for you."

"You never hit me and never beat me up?" Kurt Calabrese answered incredulously before glaring at his father and stepping from the courtroom a moment later.

In another dramatic courtroom scene, Charlene Moravecek, widow of murder victim Paul Haggerty, yelled at Calabrese for cutting Haggerty's throat and stuffing him in a trunk. Her husband had no connection to the mob, she told Calabrese. "You murdered the wrong person," she said. "That shows how smart you all are."

"God will bless you for what you say," Calabrese replied calmly from the defense table.

"Don't you mock me, ever," Moravecek responded through tears.

In September 2007, the same jury that convicted Calabrese of racketeering conspiracy held him responsible for seven murders: the 1980 shotgun killings of hit man and informant William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte; the 1981 car bombing of trucking executive Michael Cagnoni; and the slayings of hit man John Fecarotta, Outfit associate Michael Albergo, and bar owner Richard Ortiz and his friend Arthur Morawski.

Zagel, using a lower standard of proof than the jury, held Calabrese responsible for six additional murders, including Haggerty's, making him eligible for life imprisonment.

Nicholas Calabrese had testified in gripping detail about how brother Frank beat and strangled many of his victims with a rope before cutting their throats to ensure they were dead. Zagel said it was that family betrayal that stuck with him as he presided over the trial.

"I've never seen a case in which a brother and a son -- and counting today, two sons -- testified against a father," the veteran judge said. "I just want to say that your crimes are unspeakable," Zagel said later.

Allowed to address Zagel before he was sentenced, Calabrese rambled for half an hour about how his family had conspired to steal from him and then falsely blamed him for mob crimes to keep him behind bars. He called his brother a wannabe gangster who collected for Outfit bookmakers. Calabrese didn't deny being a loan shark, but he said his organization never resorted to violence to collect debts.

Cagnoni's widow as well as relatives of Morawski and Ortiz testified about dealing with decades of grief over the violent deaths of their loved ones.

Richard Ortiz's son, Tony, said he was 12 when his father was shot in a car outside his Cicero bar. Ortiz said he ran to the spot where the killing had occurred.

"I remember the crunching of the broken glass under my feet," said Ortiz, who recalled that his father's trademark cigar was still lying on the ground.

"I picked it up and held onto it, knowing it was all I had left of him."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto's Dining Reviews

Reputed Chicago Outfit lieutenant Rudy Fratto sat in a federal courtroom, with reporters filling the jury box a few feet away.

His usual lawyer, the always snazzy Art Nasser, was unavailable. So Rudy had another attorney: Donald Angelini Jr., son of the late Outfit king of bookies, Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini.

Though Angelini was pleasant and professionally buttoned down on Friday, Fratto, 66, seemed a bit lonely at the defense table, waiting for his criminal hearing to begin.

That scraggly beard hid his chin, and he was comfortably dressed in the Rudy look: black shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, just like a Hopalong Cassadicci.

I didn't want him to feel lonely, so I said hello and asked about a line in the federal charges, in which he was described as Rudy "The Chin" Fratto.

Hey, Rud? What's with "The Chin"?

"I don't know," Rudy said. "I don't know where they got that,"

Did the FBI get you early?

"Not too early," Rudy smirked.

Like 6 a.m.?

"No, they came later, for coffee," Rudy said.

He'll need his sense of humor. I've heard that last week's new charges are just the beginning of a larger tsunami coming for the Chicago Outfit and its political messenger boys.

In January, Fratto was sentenced in a federal tax-evasion case. That was his first conviction ever.

On Friday, he pleaded not guilty to the new charge, which involves alleged bid-rigging in contracts at McCormick Place and leverage by the Cleveland mob.

McCormick Place has long been the Outfit's playground. In 1974, the Tribune reported the payroll read like a "who's who of the Chicago crime syndicate."

The 1974 payroll list included mobsters such as the late Rocco Infelice (natural causes), the late Ronnie Jarrett (unnatural bullet holes) and the 11th Ward's favorite Outfit bookie, Ray John Tominello (still alive, investing in Florida real estate).

Quiet hit man Nicholas Calabrese also was on the McCormick Place payroll. He killed dozens of men and decades later was the star government witness in the Family Secrets mob trial.

Another McCormick Place payrollee was the Outfit's Michael "Bones" Albergo. Nick Calabrese and his brother Frank got rid of "Bones." They buried his body in a pit a few hundred yards from Sox Park.

The federal Family Secrets trial put mobsters in prison for life. Other reputed bosses who were not charged, such as John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, have gone underground.

Sources say DiFronzo refuses to see anyone. His only sit-downs take place in his Barcalounger, when he watches TV. And Andriacci has apparently been suffering from Fedzheimers, a malady that makes politicians and wiseguys forget lots of things, like how to find Rush Street.

Fratto has a scary reputation. Yet he's always been friendly and charming to me. Then again, I've never spotted him in my rear-view mirror. That happened to Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone. Mario didn't believe in coincidence and was so shaken by the sight of Rudy Fratto in his mirror that he ran straight to the FBI.

In the courtroom, Rudy's wife, Kim, dressed in a black shawl, said hello.

"It's always nice to see you, Mr. Kass," said Kim.

The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Fratto.

After Rudy was fitted with a home monitoring device, the couple took a long lunch in the newly remodeled second-floor federal cafeteria.

When they finally came down, they didn't want to talk to reporters. Then I asked Rudy a question he couldn't refuse:

Was the food in the federal building as good as it is at Cafe Bionda?

Rudy, always the jokester, couldn't resist.

"No," he said, "but it's better than Gene & Georgetti's, though."

Rudy knows how much I like Gene's, the best steakhouse in the city. Yet for years, Rudy had made Cafe Bionda, at 19th and State Street, a personal hangout. On her Facebook page, Kim Fratto lists Cafe Bionda as one of her favorites.

With such strong recommendations, my young friend Wings and I felt we had to stop there for lunch. Cafe Bionda is a short cab ride from the federal courthouse. And a long pistol shot from McCormick Place.

We were hoping to run into head chef/owner Joe Farina to ask him about Rudy's favorite dish.

Wings ordered the Linguini con Vongole. I had the signature Nanna's Gravy. It was all delicious. Sadly, Joe wasn't in, so I left a note with our server:

Dear Joe: Sorry I missed you. Rudy recommended your place to me. The food was great. John.

The coffee was great, too. And I thought of all that coffee Rudy and his friends will be drinking, and the Rush Street guys, and the politicians, buzzing on caffeine.

They might want to stay wide awake, and keep a pot of coffee on, just in case the feds come knocking some morning.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, March 05, 2010

John Ambrose Sent to The Prison Where His Father Died

A federal judge in Chicago said a former deputy U.S. marshal convicted of leaking information about the Operation Family Secrets mob investigation will have to serve his sentence in the same Texas prison where his father died.

In his ruling today, U.S. District Judge John F. Grady denied a request by John Ambrose to be assigned to any federal prison other than the one in Seagoville, Texas.

Ambrose was sentenced in October to four years in prison for leaking information that mob hit man Nick Calabrese was cooperating with authorities in the Family Secrets case.

Ambrose's father, Thomas, was a former Chicago police officer who was convicted of corruption in 1982 in the "Marquette 10" case.

Thomas Ambrose died in 1986 as he jogged around a track at the Seagoville prison.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez Responds to Media Reports on 15th Ave Adult Books in Melrose Park

Our most recent "Shark Tale" addresses the allegations brought against an adult bookstore in Melrose Park that has been accused of running a sex party room. Their attorney, Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, picks it up from here.

The press never seems to go away for some of my clients. Recently, FOX Chicago claimed to have went undercover in Robert Urbinati's wife's bookstore. Bobby was a codefendant of Tony Centracchio an alleged outfit boss who died before the feds could send him away for a few decades.

Bobby did his time like a man unlike Frank Calabrese Jr."the balless wonder" and his chicken man Uncle, Nick "The Slayer" Calabrese.

The bookstore is located in an industrial area of Melrose Park. There is a party room in the back which hosts can rent out for parties. Like any other party the guests can enjoy themselves and in this case they were swingers and freaks of all types. The Bookstore does not sell liquor, drugs or provide sex partners. These parties are be invitation only and not open the general public. The patrons pay an admission fee and receive a red band to enter. Once inside they do what people have been doing since "Adam and Eve" or "Eve and Eve" or "Adam and Adam". The party room remains under the control of the host and the owner does not provide anything other than the space to play. There is nothing illegal about this type of party.

The media hit on it because its in Melrose Park and there is an Italian name. Otherwise, its not a story if some other guy, like a Sam Tong, a Herb Gold, a Bob Perez, or a Mike Anderson, were the owners. Its news because of a few vowels. The media could not link it to "The Outfit" because there is not a link. This is America and its citizens have a constitutional right to assemble and party. They are exhibitionists who are protected by the constitution.

The feed back on the story has been positive. Its yesterday's news. The media reported a non-story because the bottom line was that nothing was illegal. I hope the free advertising helps the store in this troubled economy.

Thanks to Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Friday, January 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reputed Mobster Rudy Fratto Jr. Seeks to Become a Homemaker

Although his Outfit ancestors were known as "Cock-eyed" and "One Ear," reputed suburban Chicago mob boss Rudy Fratto Jr. wouldn't mind being known as "the Homemaker."

Reputed Mobster Rudy Fratto Jr. Seeks to Become a HomemakerAfter copping a plea as a tax cheat, Fratto, 65, has asked a federal judge in Chicago to give him a term of home confinement when he is sentenced on Wednesday afternoon.

"In light of the responsibilities and obligations he, and he alone has, not only to his family, but to his Government, we request that the Court impose a sentence of home confinement for a term and with the most stringent of conditions and requirements the Court deems appropriate," states a motion asking for mercy and leniency filed by Fratto's attorney Arthur Nasser.

Among Fratto's obligations according to the court filing, is the complete and total care of his wife Kim who is allegedly convalescing in their Darien home following a misstep out their front door. Kim Fratto broke bones in both of her feet in the accident last July and required surgery, states her husband's motion to avoid jail time. Fratto's attorney submitted extensive medical reports and copies of Mrs. Fratto's foot X-rays to support the contention that she is incapacitated.

A few months after the accident, Mr. Fratto pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a single charge of tax evasion. In the plea agreement Fratto admitted not paying $141,192 in taxes on more than $835,000 income beginning in 2001. The prescribed penalty for such a violation is 12-18 months in federal prison.

"Mrs. Fratto's only caretaker since the accident to the present time and into the future is her spouse, defendant Rudy Fratto. He must attend to her most basic everyday needs" contends Fratto's lawyer. "In addition to attending to Mrs. Fratto's basic needs, he must also act as cook, house cleaner, dishwasher and chauffeur" for his wife and several of the couples' children.

Prosecutors are not convinced that Rudy "the Homemaker" Fratto deserves such mercy. At tomorrow's sentencing hearing, the government will contest any leniency for Fratto. "A sentence of home confinement would send the wrong message to him, his associates, and the public in general" say federal prosecutors in a pre-sentence filing with Judge Matthew F. Kennelly.

The associates of Fratto's who might get the wrong idea include his underlings who toil on the streets for the Outfit's powerful Elmwood Park Crew. Although never charged with a crime, Fratto has been named as a Mob associate and recently as a crime syndicate leader by local, state and federal law enforcement agents.

His most notable relative was Luigi Tomaso Giuseppi Fratto, who was a gangland leader and labor racketeer from the 1930s into the '60s. Luigi Fratto was also known as "Cockeyed Louie" due to his off-kilter eyeball.

As the I-Team first reported, federal investigators considered the modern-day Fratto to be a major threat to the safety of mob witness and reformed hitman Nicholas Calabrese. Calabrese' compelling testimony helped put away top hoodlums during the recent Family Secrets mob murder trial.

Fratto was also photographed over the years by federal surveillance teams during meetings with mob leaders. In 2001 he was seen at a secret Outfit summit to plot the takeover of video-poker turf in the suburbs.

On another occasion, Fratto was observed meeting with former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt. The men were to work out details of a proposed gangland hit, according to testimony in 2002 during a sentencing hearing in Hanhardt's jewel theft case. The hit did not occur and Hanhardt is serving a federal prison sentence.

On Wednesday, the government will attempt to convince Judge Kennelly that Rudy Fratto should join Hanhardt in prison. Fratto's lawyer will argue that his client deserves home confinement-even with certain conditions.

"Those requirements can include electronic monitoring, periodic reporting to the United States Probation Office, unannounced residential visits during hours of confinement by designated law enforcement personnel, any method of telephonic monitoring of residential and mobile/cell telephones (or no cell phone), continued employment during specified hours which will enable him to carry on his income producing activities, all of which will enable him to pay off the outstanding income tax liabilities he has incurred as a result of his defalcation" states defense attorney Nasser in court papers.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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