The Chicago Syndicate: Outlaws Motorcycle Club
Showing posts with label Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Show all posts

Monday, December 05, 2016

Former Boss of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club forsees Hells Angels Takeover of Chicago

“God Forgives, Outlaws Don’t.”

That’s the menacing motto of the Outlaws motorcycle club, formed in the Chicago area in 1935, now with chapters and thousands of members around the world. But in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, a former Outlaws leader says the group isn’t nearly as fearsome or dominant as it used to be in Illinois. “The times have changed,” says Peter “Big Pete” James, 62, who lives in the west suburbs. “Somehow, there’s no testosterone out there.”

James hung up his Outlaws vest — black leather with a skull and crossed pistons patch — last year amid an internal dispute with other local leaders and his own ongoing fight with cancer.

Contrary to the biker rumor mill, James isn’t returning to the fray, he told the Sun-Times. His wide-ranging interview was unusual because so-called “1-percenter” bikers generally are loath to talk publicly about their business.

Watching from the sidelines, James says that maybe the biggest indication his old club is slipping involves the rise of the rival Hells Angels motorcycle club, which he believes is poised to overtake the Outlaws as the big-dog biker group in the Chicago area — an unthinkable development not long ago.

He predicts — but insists he isn’t advocating — renewed conflict between the two groups resulting from the shifting dynamic.

An attorney for the Outlaws responds only, “There wouldn’t be any comment at this time.” The Hells Angels didn’t respond to inquiries.

Back in the 1990s, the Outlaws and Hells Angels — both which have weathered intense federal prosecutions and allegations they’re nothing more than gangs on wheels involved in drug dealing and mayhem — were locked in “war” in Chicago, as the Hells Angels made a foray into the region, the Outlaws’ long-established turf.

After a series of bombings, shootings and stabbings, the rival clubs formed a fragile truce. The Hells Angels, formed in 1948 in California, gave up their attempt to put a clubhouse within the Chicago city limits and, instead, planted a flag in Harvey, remaining there today.

Since then, the Outlaws have maintained a stronghold in Chicago, with a South Side clubhouse at 25th and Rockwell and a North Side clubhouse on Division Street. It also has several other chapters in northern Illinois.

As regional vice president, James had domain over all of them and also was president of the North Siders. In all, he says there were maybe 100 hard-core members in northern Illinois. But James says smart moves by the Hells Angels — plus waves of prosecutions, poor leadership by some current Outlaws and changing times and attitudes — have changed things.

For one, James says local Outlaws are less willing to take orders from the top. “It used to be the boss’ word was law,” he says. “He says, ‘Ride off the cliff,’ and guys would ride off a cliff. The quality of the members has gone down.”

Fear of prison has also had an impact on some local club leaders, according to James, who’s critical of his old group for not being “entrepreneurial.”

Unlike the Outlaws, Hells Angels members are Internet-savvy, with the group’s local Facebook page accumulating more than 29,000 “likes” and the club selling T-shirts and other merchandise on its website. The Hells Angels also have made money by holding parties at its Harvey clubhouse and at bars in the Chicago area, according to James, who says the club welcomes “civilians” and members of smaller biker clubs to their parties.

“The Outlaws are losing out on the party money,” he says, along with the chance to market themselves and gain supporters.

Chicago-area law enforcement officials periodically have cracked down on both clubs. They say they’ve been preoccupied with other groups in recent years — especially the African-American gang factions behind Chicago’s staggering 50 percent rise in murders this year.

It was more than a decade ago when federal authorities charged Melvin Chancey, the former president of the Chicago-area Hells Angels, with racketeering and drug trafficking.

The last major Chicago law-enforcement crackdown of the Outlaws was more than five years ago. Chicago Outlaws member Mark Polchan was convicted of orchestrating a 2003 bombing outside C & S Coin Operated Amusements, a video-poker business in Berwyn that reputed mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno wanted to destroy to protect his own gambling interests. The pipe bomb blew out windows and damaged the building.

Polchan, who also was accused of fencing stolen jewelry for the mob at his Cicero pawnshop, was sentenced in 2011 to 60 years in federal prison.

James describes Polchan as his one-time “confidant” and says, “I love him.”

He says he has continued to receive occasional visits from federal agents looking for information on the biker world that he says he’s unwilling to give. “I try to be polite, to a point,” he says.

He figures his former club isn’t engaged in criminal activity at the same level as in the old days. Drug dealing, he says, worries graying members who don’t want to face a prison stretch lasting decades.

Even if things seem more low-key, though, “It doesn’t mean there’s not violence,” James says. “It’s just not as flagrant.” But there have been reports of Outlaws roughing up members of weaker Hispanic biker clubs in the Chicago area since James left. The apparent aim: to force them to ally more closely with the Outlaws, which has long enjoyed a “support system” from other clubs.

James says there’s nothing wrong with building alliances, but it’s stupid to enlist “Neanderthal” methods, adding, “They’re not thinking it through.”

James says that when he was in charge, he created a confederation of dozens of biker clubs, part of an effort “to change the stereotype.”

He says the TV show “Sons of Anarchy,” which aired on FX from 2008 to 2014, popularized but also caused headaches for “1-percenter” biker clubs — so-called for representing the 1 percent of bikers supposedly involved in crime.

“I watched the show,” he says, laughing. “It was like an Outfit guy watching ‘The Sopranos.’ Kind of a joke.”

Fans of the show about a criminal biker group in California formed their own clubs and made pilgrimages to the Outlaws clubhouse on Division Street to ask James to “sanction” them. James says he refused to avoid giving the feds a reason to charge him with racketeering.

He says those newbies might dress the part and ride around on Harleys but don’t share 1-percenters’ “toughness.”

Jay Dobyns got a firsthand look at the 1-percenter lifestyle when he infiltrated the Hells Angels in Arizona as an undercover ATF agent in the early 2000s. No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels.

“These guys are not book smart but have their Ph.Ds in violence and intimidation,” says Dobyns, now retired and living in Arizona. “I think the term ‘brotherhood’ is very easily thrown around in today’s society. We hear it and use it a lot. They take it to a life-and-death level. When I was with the club, there were guys who would have stepped in front of a bullet for me. Now, they want to put a bullet in me.”

Dobyns says he crossed paths with Chancey — “one of the true believers that the elimination of the enemy was a critical part of the mission, the survival of their own club. In that area, the enemy was the Outlaws.”

The continued animosity between the Hells Angels and Outlaws makes James’ recent friendship with George Christie an unlikely one. Christie is a former high-ranking Hells Angels leader who left the group in 2011 and was “excommunicated.”

Christie and James both have appeared on CNN to offer their expertise on biker life and both wrote books on the subject — James’ memoir is expected to be released next year.

James says the main reason he wrote the book was to show how far things have slipped in what he regards as a once-noble brotherhood and to spur change in leadership and attitudes among the Outlaws in Illinois.

“It used to be guys banded together who believed in something, and they had fun,” James says. “There’s no brotherhood left in the Outlaws any more.”

He says the Outlaws in Chicago have a choice to make as their rival grows and encroaches. “The choice is fight or flight,” he says. “They know the Angels will push them out of town. Who’s going to light the match?”

James says he won’t be on the front lines if that happens. Last year, he had his “God Forgives, Outlaws Don’t” tattoo covered up with a new design. “I’m borderline ashamed already to say I was once one,” he says.

Thanks to Robert Herguth and Frank Main.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chicago's Summer of Bloodshed 2016 Grows as Politicans Ignore Threat of Gangs

2016 is turning out to be Chicago's Summer of Bloodshed.

272-278 people were murdered during the first six months of this year. Over 1300 people were shot and wounded.

Going into summer, 16 people were killed and 87 wounded this month alone. This week, six people were shot and killed and 87 wounded. It appears the numbers will not abate as the weather heats up.

Most of these murders are directly related to the gang and drug business. Retaliations, competition, and other factors of violence that go hand in hand with organized criminal enterprises.

The gangs are fomenting a guerrilla war on our city. It is a war of violence. murder, and mayhem. The politicians are not concerned about or ignore the scope and power the gangs hold in this city. This war is costing scores of lives, many of them innocent people. It is a war that terrorizes whole neighborhoods.

For too many years, well over a decade, the politicians kept convincing the people of Chicago the gangs are fractured, their leadership either in prison or retired, and there is no real gang structure. The killings are by small "factions" or independents.

Chicago should know better. Chicago politicians are not known for honesty or integrity.

The major gangs are highly organized and structured. Why else would gang members young and old, show up at a murder trial of fellow Latin Kings wearing their colors?

"The courtroom was full of Latin Kings wearing gold jerseys, and family members and other friends, old Kings, young Kings, future Kings. They were angry. They smirked. First they murmured, then they got louder." (John Kass/Chicago Tribune)

It appears the Latin Kings are telling Chicago, the police, courts, and public, "We are here, we are here to stay, there is nothing you can do about it."

This is in your face public relations.

Need further proof? The Outlaws, one of the most notorious criminal motorcycle gangs, boldly put their South Side headquarters on the corner of 25th and Rockwell. There is what appears to be a bullet proof barrier protecting the entryway and a steel clad door behind it. Federal authorities claim the Outlaws are major meth manufacturers and distributors. They are also known for violence, mayhem, and murder.

Make no mistake. Chicago gangs are organized, structured, and are responsible for the murderous chaos in various neighborhoods. The politicians refuse to acknowledge it or let the police crack down.

The violence problem is not going to get solved by treating gangs as if they do not exist. It is not going to abate by believing the gangs are fractured and the violence is caused by independents and wannabes.

Gangs are criminal organizations. They are not social clubs or neighborhood protection organizations. They are not a social science phenomena, as academics would have us believe. Gangs are organized crime groups. Their only purpose and reason for existence is crime. Crime is their business. In some areas, crime is the only economy.

All members of gangs are criminals. Gang members have no positive social redeeming values. They are a detriment to society. They are the enemy within, a cancer on our city.

Traditional organized crime, which ruled this city for decades, is a mere shadow of its former self. Yet, they are still monitored for criminal activity. Over one thousand murders are attributed to the Outfit, from the Capone era to the present. Few, if any, were innocent victims.

We do not know if anyone is closely monitoring Chicago's street gangs. We only know what the politicians want us to know. Next to nothing.

For some inexplicable reason, the gangs are not considered to be as dangerous to society as the Chicago Outfit. They are not treated as organized criminal enterprises to be destroyed. Yet, day after day, week after week, month after month, the death toll rises.

Politics plays an important role in crime. The gang organizations have been left alone for way too long. The "reasons" are too many to list. They all boil down to the same things, cowardice and corruption.

City Hall and the County Building are dens of cowards. The politicians fear being labeled racist. Many enable the gangs and benefit by their existence. They are associates of organized crime.

If the politicians will not allow law enforcement to expose the gang leadership, structure, and membership, then it is time for some other organization to do it.

The Chicago Crime Commission is toothless. They tout the same lame excuses as the politicians. Former Mayor Daley pulled out their teeth and claws when they were about to expose organized crime's incestuous relationship with Chicago politicians. From then on, the CCC has been an unreliable and sometimes laughable source on organized criminal enterprises in Chicago. They, like the politicians, refuse to fight the good fight. They keep trying to justify deserving their grant money and other donations.

Something new and courageous is needed to get information to the people. To expose the gangs, their associates and enablers, and their structure and leadership. Make no mistake. All the illicit money generated is going to the top. There needs to be a structure for that.

A new organization is needed to investigate, expose, and report on these organized criminal enterprises, their associates, and enablers. It needs to be funded properly and privately. No government grants. Those are controlled by the very politicians whose heads are in the sand.

There are enough well meaning, civic minded, wealthy people in Chicago who could fund an intelligence, organized crime research, and reporting organization. It would need to be a hybrid group of former law enforcement, prosecutors, and journalists. A Better Government Association on steroids. A group that would be fearless, dauntless, and bold. As bold as the Outlaws, whose club is proudly festooned in one of Chicago's gang infested areas.

Chicago's millionaires, billionaires, major businesses, and financial sectors finance a host of organizations. The arts, architectural preservation, parks and recreation, programs for youth, museums, and other civic and cultural groups. It is time they focused on law and order.

All the great things about Chicago are tarnished by the daily murder, mayhem, and bloodshed on the streets. If the politicians will not do their jobs or let the police do theirs, then it is time for others to take up the mantle. With enough publicity and exposure of organized criminal enterprises, the politicians will have no choice. They will have to act. Swiftly and harshly.

Chicago is becoming the laughing stock of the nation. There is no reason for this.

It is time for good people to do something. If it means embarrassing the politicians, so be it.

The next innocent victim could be your child.

Thanks to Peter Bella.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

U.S. Attorney Announces Largest Federal Organized Crime Prosecution in Indianapolis History


Earlier this week, more than 300 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, including 11 different SWAT teams, simultaneously converged on more than a dozen locations across Indianapolis. In a matter of hours, 42 arrest warrants and 17 search warrants were successfully executed without incident or serious injury. It was the largest combined federal-local operation in Indianapolis history.

This afternoon, joined by these law enforcement partners, United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced the arrest and federal indictment of 42 Indianapolis-based members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (OMC), an international criminal organization alleged to have operated out of a clubhouse located at 305 Jefferson Avenue, on the near-eastside of Indianapolis.

“If you are operating an organized criminal gang in this city, the clock is ticking,” Hogsett said. “It might be tomorrow, it might be weeks from now, but it is only a matter of time before you wake up to the sound of law enforcement at your door.”

In the seventy page, 37-count charging document unsealed this morning, it is alleged that beginning in May 2009, members of Indianapolis OMC engaged in organized criminal activity in Indianapolis and across the state. The indictment charges the 42 alleged gang members with a wide variety of offenses, including racketeering, mail fraud, money laundering, extortion, drug charges, wire fraud, witness tampering, and operating an illegal gambling operation.

“For more than three years, a volatile mixture of guns, drugs, and motorcycles allegedly fueled a dangerous criminal organization in Indianapolis as sophisticated as any business in this city,” Hogsett added. “This morning, we closed down that business for good.”

“This enterprise-based investigation and today’s takedown focused on disrupting and dismantling what the indictment alleges to be a violent, criminal outlaw motorcycle gang by targeting its senior leaders and key members,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Allan Jones. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, and our partner agencies are committed to making the streets of Indiana safer by the disruption and dismantlement of gangs like the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.”

Examples of alleged criminal activities include numerous instances in which OMC members used violence and the threat of force to collect personal debts from individuals in Indianapolis and elsewhere. The members are also alleged to have operated an illegal lottery scheme in Indianapolis that trafficked in thousands of dollars a day.

Additionally, the indictment describes an alleged March 2010 scheme in which members of OMC allegedly recruited and paid an individual to purposely drive a U-Haul truck into the rear of a vehicle containing numerous OMC members, all of whom then filed insurance claims totaling tens of thousands of dollars. In other instances, OMC members are alleged to have hidden the vehicles of other OMC members so as to allow them to collect auto insurance claims for their supposedly stolen vehicles.

Defendants named within the indictment include:

Joshua N. Bowser, age 32
Kent D. Whitinger, age 49
James W. Bain, age 50
Dominic R. Mangine, age 71
Michael A. Schlicher, age 38
Stephen M. Whitinger, age 57
Lawrence Gregory, age 47
Stephen D. Duff, age 22
Steve A. Reynolds, age 37
Joseph Alarcon, age 32
David L. Whitinger, age 54
Ronald P. Taylor, Jr., age 43
Jose Diaz, age 36
Justo Rojas, age 43
Hector Nava-Arrendondo, age 29
Jorge Sedeno-Callejas, age 27
James Stonebraker, age 58
Norvel Terry, age 45
Thomas Swan, age TBD
Michael A. Knoll, age 47
Michael E. Hamilton, age 53
Edward J. Bolen, age 47
Michael Medlin, age 68
Jamie A. Bolinger, age 34
Vance Canner, 43
Bryan E. Glaze, age 20
Richard C. DeMarco, Jr., age TBD
Mark A. Bisel, age 49
Charles N. Ernstes, II, age 52
Joseph Maio, age 59
Pamela K. Cummins, age 44
Rigo Rocha-Lopez, age 34
Carlos Mena, age 47
Jorge Daniel Ledezma-Cruz, age 26
Cesar Granados, age 31
Brian T. Peacock, age 60
Russell Pryor, age TBD
Steven Lecclier, age TBD
Anthony Leach, age 44
William Anderson, age 42
Terrell Adams, age 28
Scharme L. Bolinger, age 34

The indictment further describes the structure and hierarchy of local OMC chapters. Each chapter has a president, vice-president, treasurer, and enforcer. OMC maintained chapters in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. These local chapters answer to a regional chapter—in this case, the “Black Region”—and finally are under the umbrella of a national leadership body, which coordinates the activities of the numerous regions within OMC.

According the indictment, members are admitted to the OMC after a lengthy, phased process designed to measure a potential member’s commitment to the organization and to guard against law enforcement infiltration. After associating with OMC for a period of time, an individual may become known as a “hangaround,” and, after one year, a hangaround may be sponsored as a “probate,” or prospective member. At all times during this process, it is alleged that these individuals must follow orders by OMC members, often including criminal activity.

After at least six months of acting as a probate, individuals are eligible to become a full member of the OMC by unanimous vote, at which point they may be “patched” and wear identification associated with the gang. This OMC identification involves a leather vest and often includes numerous symbolic patches, including “MC” (motorcycle club), “AOA” (American Outlaws Association), and “1%er” (meant to describe a non-law-abiding motorcycle rider). Other patches and tattoos identified within the indictment include “Snitches are a Dying Breed,” as well as “GFOD,” which stands for “God Forgives, Outlaws Don’t.”

Today’s arrests are the culmination of a lengthy investigation as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Violent Crime Initiative involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, the Indiana State Police, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

According to Senior Litigation Counsel Bradley A. Blackington, who is prosecuting the case for the government, all 42 defendants face up to decades in prison and substantial fines if they are found guilty. Blackington also noted that, if convicted, many of the assets gained through the alleged criminal activity would be eligible for federal forfeiture. A large portion of those proceeds would be reinvested in local law enforcement efforts.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mark Polchan Sentenced to 60 Years in Prison

Mark Polchan — a high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle club who was also the righthand man to a Chicago mob boss — was sentenced Friday to 60 years in prison for helping run a group of criminals who robbed jewelry stores and bombed a business in Berwyn.

Polchan, 43, looked at one of his attorneys, his eyes wide, after U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman handed down the prison sentence. “Every dollar he made had a victim,” Guzman said of Polchan, who ran a pawn shop in Cicero that the judge said was “the epicenter” of the organized criminal enterprise.

Polchan was a career criminal who treated his family well but was in the business of “terrorizing the rest of us,” the judge said.

Polchan oversaw a group of men who robbed jewelry stores and also arranged for the bombing of a Berwyn storefront that was competing with a video-poker business run by reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Sarno, who is to be sentenced next month.

Polchan’s attorneys argued that he wasn’t a leader of the organization and that much of the testimony against him at trial was from unreliable informants — arguments the judge rejected.

Polchan declined to make a statement. “Your honor, I was gonna say some things, but I’m kind of overwhelmed by some of the things I heard,” Polchan said, after a description of his wrongdoing by federal prosecutor Amarjeet S. Bhachu. “I can’t do it.”

In handing down the sentence, Guzman said, “the public needs to be protected from Mr. Polchan and the idea that organized criminal activity might be worth something, might be worth doing.” The case was investigated by the ATF, the FBI and the IRS.

Polchan will likely spend more time in prison than his boss, Sarno, given the way the men were charged. When Sarno is sentenced Nov. 18, he can face a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, much less than Polchan.

Polchan was charged first in the case, and by the time the federal investigation was wrapped up against Sarno, the statute of limitations for the Berwyn bombing had expired, so Sarno couldn’t be charged with that crime. Polchan’s conviction on the bombing charge alone guaranteed him a minimum prison sentence of 30 years, a fate Sarno will not face.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Large Guy Trial Starts

An unusual organized crime case began Wednesday in Chicago federal court. Prosecutors say there was an alliance between the Outfit and the Outlaws. In this Intelligence Report: Why is this considered a "large" case for the government?

The Chicago Outfit has always been an insular organization, top hoodlums usually unwilling to welcome other criminal groups to the fold. So this alliance that federal prosecutors say was forged between the Outfit and the Outlaws motorcycle gang is considered unique in all of mobdom.

The largest part of this five-defendant case walked into the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday predicting victory. Michael Sarno, 52, known in mob circles as "the Large Guy," is a convicted west suburban rackets boss now on trial for allegedly ordering the 2003 firebombing of a Berwyn business that was competing against the mob's illegal video poker trade.

Standing trial with Sarno are 86-year-old Samuel Volpendesto, his son, Anthony, Mark Polchan, an admitted member of the Outlaws biker gang, and Casey Szaflarski, who allegedly ran illegal gambling operations.

According to the indictment, Sarno oversaw the Outfit-Outlaw joint venture and received a cut of the illegal wagering profits.

"I think that case provides a perfect illustration of why the Outfit is still dangerous and shouldn't be counted out," said T. Marcus Funk, former federal prosecutor. "Forming an alliance like that, being adaptable, being able to change with the circumstances, and also using being able to use violence when necessary. It may not be something done on a daily basis like it was in the 50s, but violence is still a tool for the Outfit."

The case took shape in 2008 when FBI agents raided several Outlaws clubhouses, seizing weapons, bulletproof vests and police badges-- at the same time executing search warrants on Sarno's suburban home.

As a budding hoodlum, Sarno once tipped the scales at about 400 pounds, and at that time went by the nickname "Fat Boy."

Even though he appears to have dropped a few pounds, by whatever mob moniker Wednesday, the issue of nicknames was a factor in jury selection. Several prospective jurors were dismissed after saying mob nicknames might cause them to be prejudiced against the defendants.

Several casino employees were also dismissed. Six jurors were seated to hear the case.

The mob trial will be off Thursday for federal Veterans Day and jury selection resumes on Friday morning. It is expected to last about three weeks.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Sunday, April 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to CBS2Chicago

Monday, February 08, 2010

Is Casey Szaflarski the King of Mob-Controlled Video Poker Throughout Chicagoland?

Casey Szaflarski allegedly runs a multimillion-dollar video poker business for the Chicago mob. But he's the first to tell you he has a fuzzy memory.

When lawyers in a civil case tried to figure out how much he was worth, he forgot to bring any financial documents -- even though he had been ordered to do so.

"An oversight," Szaflarski said.

He also told lawyers he doesn't own the Bridgeport home he lives in -- and isn't sure who does. He transferred his interest in the home to a trust, but wasn't sure how or when. And although federal court records suggest he's the new king of mob-controlled video poker in the Chicago area, he says he doesn't know how much he owns of Amusements Inc., a Berwyn company that distributes video gambling machines.

"Yeah, I have a bad memory," Szaflarski, 52, said at the time.

Szaflarski's bad memory got him sanctioned by the Cook County judge overseeing Szaflarski's civil case a few years ago. But that could just be the start of his problems.

Newly unsealed court documents show Szaflarski is a target of an ongoing federal investigation of mob-controlled video poker machines across the Chicago area. The investigation comes as the state has recently legalized video gaming in an effort to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into its coffers. But bars can't legally have the machines pay out until a state agency sets rules to regulate the machines and distributes licenses. Top mobsters, meanwhile, have been caught on secret FBI recordings welcoming the legalization of video poker machines, a business they have dominated over the years.

Last May, agents from the FBI, IRS and ATF simultaneously hit more than 20 Chicago and suburban bars, in one of the largest raids of its kind. Law-enforcement officials stripped the video gambling machines of their computer circuit boards, collected thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and took gambling records, according to court documents from the investigation overseen by prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

During the raids the afternoon of May 27, Szaflarski was stopped in his black H3 Hummer. He had $6,214 in cash on him. Szaflarski is accused in court documents of driving in his Hummer and making the rounds of bars where his video poker machines were located, then splitting the proceeds 50-50 with the bar owners.

The investigation of Szaflarski is part of a larger probe that has already resulted in charges against the reputed mob boss of Cicero, Michael "Fat Ass" Sarno, and an allegedly high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, Mark Polchan.

Sarno is charged with ordering a pipe-bombing in 2003 of a Berwyn video poker business that was competing with Szaflarski's company, court records show. Polchan allegedly organized the bombing and also worked to put Szaflarski's video poker machines in Outlaw clubhouses throughout the Chicago area.

To track the FBI investigation, Polchan allegedly received help from crooked suburban cops, whom he paid off with free sexual favors from prostitutes, court records show.

Szaflarski appears to have taken over the multimillion-dollar video poker distribution business of Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother Michael, court records show. James Marcello was convicted of racketeering and other crimes in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets mob trial, and his half-brother pleaded guilty to racketeering. Both are in prison.

Szaflarski told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello, court records show.

Szaflarski has allegedly contributed money from the video poker business to Sarno, who is also known as "Big Mike" and "The Large Guy," according to a federal search warrant affidavit. Sarno recently made headlines when he received permission from a federal magistrate judge to get out of house arrest so he could have Christmas Eve dinner at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

More indictments are expected in the Sarno case, but Szaflarski has not been charged with any crime.

Szaflarski could not be reached for comment, but an attorney who has represented many well-known Chicago mobsters, Joe "The Shark" Lopez, said Friday he was stunned by the allegations. "He's a businessman with a good reputation," said Lopez, who said he knows Szaflarski but does not represent him. "He's just a normal, everyday, Joe Citizen. I'm shocked to hear these allegations."

While operating a video gambling distribution business for at least 10 years, Szaflarski has managed to stay under the radar.

His wife, Denise, however, made the news during the city's Hired Truck scandal when the Chicago Sun-Times revealed she was one of the owners of a trucking firm that received more than $400,000 under the program.

Denise Szaflarski is the daughter of the late mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, who was a well-known Outfit burglar. Her brother, Rocco "Rocky" LaMantia, set up the trucking company, called Dialex Trucking. Rocky LaMantia is now in state prison, serving a six-year sentence for robbing a pawn shop.

Casey Szaflarski appears to have been making a profitable living from his business. From 2003 to 2005, he made an average of $142,000 in salary and other compensation from Amusements Inc., according to his tax records cited in a judicial order.

Szaflarski has a long history of legal battles. He was behind an unsuccessful lawsuit to throw out an Elmwood Park ban on video poker machines in town. And he's been involved in a series of lawsuits over legal bills stemming from that original case and a related one.

One of the attorneys who represented Szaflarski in the legal bill cases was Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Peraica, who is also a private attorney, said Friday he represented Szaflarski because he knew him from living in Bridgeport and from attending the same church, St. Jerome.

Peraica said he had "no idea" Szaflarski had possible connections to organized crime and has not represented him in any criminal cases.

While his client has made a good living off video poker, Peraica himself has been one of the most vocal opponents of allowing video gambling into unincorporated Cook County.

Last year, the County Board voted to ban such devices after state lawmakers decided to legalize them to fill Illinois' depleted coffers.

Szaflarski's business donated $500 in 2008 and another $500 in 2009 to Peraica's political campaign fund. Peraica said he saw no conflict in accepting the contributions. Szaflarski never mentioned the video poker ban to him, and Peraica, in fact, voted for the ban, he noted.

"This is all rather remarkable," Peraica said, pledging to return the contributions if Szaflarski is indicted.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Monday, June 01, 2009

Top Outfit Member and Current Cicero Police Officer Face Racketeering Indictment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are no court dates yet in this case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also indicted were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Racketeering Indictment Nabs Reputed Mob Boss and Police Officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also charged in the indictment:

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Thursday, August 07, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the Video Report from Investigator Chuck Goudie

Thursday, July 31, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jeff Coen and Todd Lighty

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