Showing posts with label Paul Ricca. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Ricca. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Making of the Mob: Chicago

The Making of the Mob: Chicago, is an eight-episode docu-drama chronicling the rise and fall of iconic gangster Al Capone, as well as the story of his successors, collectively known as “The Chicago Outfit.” Spanning the better part of a century, the series begins with Capone’s early days in New York and continues through his move to Chicago - to work with his childhood mentor in the underworld. When Prohibition hits, battles break out as the city’s gangs rush to set up bootlegging operations and Capone decides to go up against his rivals. As he consolidates power, he achieves legendary status for his ruthless tactics and over-the-top lifestyle that attracts the wrath of President Herbert Hoover.

Episode 1
Capone’s First Kill
Capone gets a taste of the underworld in Brooklyn with Johnny Torrio. Reuniting in Chicago, they start bootlegging and anger local Irish gangsters.

Episode 2
A Death in the Family
A new mayor forces Torrio and Capone outside Chicago to nearby Cicero. There, Capone's brother Frank fixes an election, placing himself in jeopardy.

Episode 3
Blood Filled Streets
A betrayal destroys peace in Chicago, and Torrio and Capone seek revenge against the Irish gangs. The "Beer Wars" make Capone Chicago's top gangster.

Episode 4
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Capone uses the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to assert his power over his enemies. President Hoover takes notice, and Eliot Ness takes on Capone.

Episode 5
Judgment Day
Al Capone outwits Eliot Ness, but Capone's criminal empire remains in jeopardy when the IRS plants an undercover agent in his gang.

Episode 6
New Blood
With Capone in jail, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo take over. A Hollywood scandal presents Sam Giancana with a chance to prove himself.

Episode 7
Sin City
Tony Accardo sets his sights on Las Vegas, but when Sam Giancana incurs the wrath of young attorney Robert F. Kennedy, The Outfit is threatened.

Episode 8
Last Man Standing
Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana have a falling out, and the fate of the Outfit rests on the outcome. Tony Accardo cleans up loose ends before retiring.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Kiddo, Joe Batters

Tony Accardo, is, without a doubt, the most successful, the most powerful, most respected and the longest lived Boss the Chicago syndicate, or probably any criminal syndicate for that matter, has ever had. During his long tenure, Accardo's power was long reaching and frightfully vast.

He was so respected and feared in the national Mafia that in 1948 when he declared himself as the arbitrator for any mob problems west of Chicago, in effect proclaiming all of that territory as his, no one in the syndicate argued.

He was the boss pure and simple. Unlike Johnny Torrio, Frank Nitti or Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo looked exactly like what he was, a mob thug who could and did dispatch men and women to their death over money or the slightest insult. He was a peasant, even he said that. But he was a reserved man and a thinker, unlike Big Jim Colosimo or Al Capone or Sam Giancana and all those who came after Giancana.

Unlike the other bosses, Accardo knew his limitations. He consulted often with Ricca, Murray Humpreys and Short Pants Campagna because he recognized their intelligence and wisdom and he used it.

He admitted to not having the outward intelligence of Ricca or Nitti or Torrio or even the flare and occasional self-depicting wit of Capone or Giancana. Yet it was Accardo who expanded the outfit's activities into new rackets. It was Accardo who, recognizing the dangers of the white slave trade, streamlined the old prostitution racket during the war years into the new call girl service, which was copied by New York families even though they laughed at the idea at first.

Two decades after prohibition was repealed Accardo introduced bootlegging to the dry states of Kansas and Oklahoma, flooding them with illegal whiskey. He moved the outfit into slot and vending machines, counterfeiting cigarette and liquor tax stamps and expanded narcotics smuggling to a worldwide basis. He had the good sense to invest, with Eddie Vogel as his agent, into manufacturing slot machines and then placed them everywhere, gas stations, restaurants and bars. When Las Vegas exploded, Accardo made sure the casinos used his slots and only his slots.

Watching someone as clever as Paul Ricca and as smart as Frank Nitti go to jail over the Bioff scandal, Accardo pulled the organization away from labor racketeering and extortion. Under Accardo's reign the Chicago mob exploded in growth and grew wealthy as a result.

The outfit grew because, outside of the Kefauver committee, there wasn't a focused attempt on the part of any law enforcement agency to bust up the Chicago syndicate. The FBI was busy catching cold war spies and they didn't acknowledge that the Mafia or even organized crime existed anyway.

Under Accardo's leadership, the gang set its flag in Des Moines Iowa, down state Illinois and, Southern California and deep into Kentucky, Las Vegas, Indiana, Arizona, St. Louis Missouri, Mexico, Central and South America. Accardo's long reign highlighted a golden era for Chicago's syndicate. But it also ushered in the near collapse of the outfit as well. In 1947, as Tony Accardo took the reins of power from Paul Ricca, the outfit produced $3,000,000 in criminal business per year with Accardo, Humpreys, Ricca and Giancana taking in an estimated $40 to $50 million each per year.

Accardo pensioned off the older members of the mob and gave more authority to the younger members of the mob, mostly former 42 gang members like Sam Giancana, the Battaglias and Marshal Caifano.

The money poured in, in hundreds of thousands of dollars every day from all points where Chicago ruled. The hoods who had survived the shoot-outs, gang wars, intergang wars, purges, cop shootings, the national exposés and the federal and state investigations now saw what they had hustled so hard for.

They had more money then they knew what to do with. Like any set of super rich men they hired the best crooked investors money could buy, not the Jake Guzak-Meyer Lansky types either, real investment experts with law and accounting degrees from Harvard and Yale who taught them all sorts of legal tax loopholes to get their cash out of the rackets and into legitimate businesses.

By the time he died in 1992, Tony Accardo, the son of illegal immigrant parents from an Italian ghetto in a Chicago slum, had legal investments in transportation as diverse as commercial office buildings, strip centers, lumber farms, paper factories, hotels and car dealerships, trucking, newspapers, hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

He dictated to his men that "when things are in order at home, it's easier to concentrate on business" so although he allowed them their mistresses and girlfriends, it was his rule that his men spend times with their wives and children. Accardo himself was said never to have cheated on his wife of many years, Clarice.

He declared that no one in the organization could ever threaten or harm a cop or member of the media, no matter how annoying they were. In so long as they were honest and doing their job, they were to be left alone. Yet when an honest Chicago beat cop named Jack Muller ticketed Accardo car for double parking outside the Tradewinds, a mob salon on Rush Street, Accardo made sure that officer Muller was made an example of by his superiors. From that day on, it became commonplace to see hoods park their cars whereever they pleased along Rush street and other places.

Like his mentor Paul Ricca, it was Accardo's firm belief that in order to avoid the tax men, that the outfit should conduct itself as meekly as possible to avoid public attention. Accardo decided that he would keep the lowest profile a mob boss could have and he directed his underbosses to follow the same route. They did, except for Sam Giancana.

Like Ricca, Accardo preached moderation, low profile and patience in all things but unlike Ricca, Accardo seldom practiced what he preached. His estate in exclusive River Forrest, outside of Chicago was extravagant. Far more extravagant then he would allow for any of his men.

Accardo bought the place in 1943 when he started to roll in wartime profits. It had twenty-one rooms, a built in pool...in the house...a black onyx bathtub that cost $10,000 to install in the fifties, and a bowling alley.

The baths were fitted with gold inlaid fixtures, the basement had a large gun and trophy room that sometimes doubled as a mob meeting hall. It had vaulted ceilings, polished wood spiral staircase, a library full of hundreds of volumes of books, pipe organ and a second bowling alley. In the rear of the house stood a guest house.

His backyard barbecue pit, a status symbol in gangdom, was the largest in the outfit only because nobody was stupid enough to build a larger one than the bosses. The half-acre lawn was surrounded by a seven foot high fence and two electrically controlled gates. "It was," wrote Sam Giancana's daughter Annette, "almost obscene the way he flaunted his wealth."

His penchant for showing the world his wealth was in contradiction to his self-effacing ways. In fact, Tony Accardo lacked any real personal flamboyance at all.

A powerfully built man, Accardo was taken with loud clothes, expensive white on white dress shirts, and conservative suits that cost $250, four and half times the average amount for the price of a good wool suit in 1959.

An ardent fisherman, he often spent long weekends fishing the waters off Florida or Bimini or Mexico, most of the time taking Sam Giancana along as his bodyguard.

Over time, he made real efforts to improve himself. He traveled with his wife, or Frank Nitti's son or sometimes alone to tour the great museums and churches of Europe. When Clarice joined a group of educators and traveled around the world to study the living customs of other societies, Accardo sometimes joined her.

Otherwise, Accardo's attempts at respectability were often bumbling. Once, friends managed to have him brought into a private and very exclusive golf club. Everything was fine until Accardo called his thugs to a general meeting on the links. The boys brought no clubs and instead sped across the course in golf carts, ramming into each other and had a picnic on the sixth fairway. The membership was appalled and requested that Accardo resign, which humiliated him no end.

Accardo was a compulsive gambler and was one of his own best customers at his club in Calumet city; the Owl Club. Even towards the end of his life, when he wasn't able to get around as freely, Accardo phoned in his bets. He once said that if he died at the crap tables, he would die a happy man.

He enjoyed his role as the big boss, he liked having his men gossip about him, having them bow and fall all over themselves trying to keep him happy. Accardo made no secret of the fact that he looked down on them and made sure they understood that they were subordinate to him. However he was careful not to act superior around Paul Ricca, the man who had trained him for his position.

Unlike any that came before him or after him, Tony Accardo was totally in charge of his organization, from top to bottom, in large measure due to the fact that Accardo was a feared man and he ruled by fear, and he delighted in his reputation for brutality. But his ruthlessness was probably unneeded, since he was seldom challenged in his position, in large part, because Chicago is ruled by one family, unlike New York, which is ruled by five families. As a result, the control of the organization was easier.

He could be extremely moody and sullen and took offense easily and seldom overlooked even the most delicate of slights against his powerful, and he was powerful, position. "Tony," said one of his acqaintances, "could have the disposition of a rattlesnake, it depended on his mood."

When he snapped, the most accurate way to describe his temper tantrums, the stone cold facade of a businessman, and the thin veneer of respectability dropped away and the world got a peek at the real Tony Accardo.

He could be charming when he had to be, in so long as it wasn't for long periods of time, but otherwise he was surly, rude, crude, and foul-mouthed. "Basically," an FBI report read, "Accardo is a rather simple and often crude and surprisingly cheap individual."

Once, when a teenage waiter was too slow to serve him his hamburger in a restaurant, Accardo sat and fumed. When the teenager arrived with the hamburger, Accardo grabbed a knife off the table and slashed the child's arm open.

On another occasion, Accardo ordered the death of a lawyer for the Chicago Restaurant Association to be killed when the two had an argument over disclosing to the IRS Accardo's $125,000 retainer.

Only the pleading of the always level headed Murray Humpreys saved the lawyer from Accardo's gunners.

Accardo was born to Francisco and Maria Accardo, Sicilian immigrants, on April 28, 1906. He was baptized at the infamous Holy Name Cathedral, seven blocks away from his home on 1353 West Grand Avenue, near Ogden, on the West side.

However, there is some evidence that he may have been born in Italy, in or near Palermo, Sicily. His mother would later file a delayed birth affidavit with the federal government stating that Tony was born in 1904 in Chicago, a full year before she arrived in the United States.

One of six children, Accardo dropped out of the Holy Name Cathedral School in the fifth, or possibly the sixth grade, and took to petty street crime, working mostly in the loop.

While still only a child, he came to the attention of Vincenzo de Mora, AKA Machine Gun Jack McGurn, who was then the leader of the Circus gang, which was run out of the Circus Café at 1857 North Avenue. Both operations, the gang and the café, were owned by Claude Maddox. Maddox would later play a pivotal role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Among the tens of thousands of young and impressionable poor Italian boys who survived in the teaming slums of Chicago, Jack McGurn had an almost godlike stature, so, when McGurn chose Accardo to act as his Gofer, it was an honor.

On March 22, 1922, a young Tony Accardo was arrested for the first time, just six weeks before he turned sixteen, for a motor violation. Several months later, in 1923, Accardo was arrested for disorderly conduct inside a pool hall. He was fined $200 plus court costs. According to court records, Accardo said that he was still living with his parents, which is doubtful, and that he was employed as a delivery boy for a grocery store in Little Italy and later as a truck driver which apparently was true.

Most professional crooks kept a full time job, if in name only, to appease any judge that they might stand before. At that point in his very long criminal career, Accardo was restricted to muggings and pickpocketing inside the loop during the day and stalking on drunks and old people at night.

Like so many other Chicago mobsters who came up through the ranks, Accardo drove a Capone beer truck part time. He graduated to look-out status and then burglaries in the west side.

In 1923, when McGurn left the circus gang to join the Capone operation, Accardo was 17 years old and already an experienced and reliable full time criminal and a big time member of the Circus gang.

By 1925, Tony Accardo had been promoted from daylight muggings to driving for Jack McGurn around town. It signaled to everyone that Accardo was on the way up.

In the summer of 1926, when Al Capone was locked in yet another beer war, he told McGurn the operation needed new gunmen and to "go out and find somebody." The somebody that McGurn got was Tony Accardo who now had a first rate reputation as an enforcer due to a bloody incident that had happened at the start of the year.

In January of 1926 that year the Circus gang, almost exclusively Italian in its makeup, was having a problem with an equally tough Irish street gang called the Hanlon Hellcats, which made its headquarters at the Shamrock Inn. The Hellcats were creeping in on the Circus gang's territory and Accardo was dispatched to take care of the problem any way he saw fit.

At midnight on January 20, Accardo and at least three others blasted the hellcats to kingdom come with shotguns as they left the Shamrock. A police squad from the Austin district was nearby and gave chase but Accardo was shrewd enough to know the law, he ordered the guns to be tossed away just a few minutes before the cops collared him. They were released on bail and eventually the case was dropped, due to lack of evidence.

Now McGurn rushed Accardo over to Capone's office at the Lexington Hotel. Capone, still in his fire-engine-red pajamas at five in the afternoon looked Accardo over and said, "McGurn likes you, so I make you. So you are now one of us, if you fuck up, we take it out on McGurn. He is your sponsor. Fuck up, it's his ass. You work in his crew, he is your capo."

Accardo was assigned to be a hall guard for Capone, spending most of his time in the Lobby at the Lexington, a shotgun on his lap covered by a newspaper.

Capone took a liking to Accardo. Once, the story goes, after Accardo beat a Capone enemy senseless with a baseball bat, Capone saw him in the lobby of the Lexington and yelled, "There's my kiddo, Joe Batters!"

Joe Batters. The name stuck and Accardo loved it. Even years later when he was running the mob, Accardo, who insisted on being called "Mr. Accardo" by his people and their families, allowed a select few to always refer to him as Joe Batters.

Accardo was eventually assigned, with his partner Tough Tony Capezio, whom Accardo had brought into the organization, to kill Hymie Weiss of the Moran gang. Accardo knew Weiss from his childhood. They had attended the same schools and were both regular parishioners of the Holy Name Cathedral and that was where, on October 11, 1926, Accardo and Capezio killed Weiss as he entered his headquarters at 740 North State street near the Holy Name Cathedral.

Right after that Capone decided that it was time for Mike the Pike Hietler, a pimp from the old days of the Levy, to go too, after Capone learned that Hietler had been talking to the authorities.

On April 29th 1931, Heitler was found in the town of Barrington, his car still on fire and the only way they identified Mike the Pike was by his dental remains. He had been strangled and shot before he was set afire. Tony Accardo on has long been considered one of Mike the Pike's killers.

Accardo is also strongly suspected of having been the trigger man behind the Jake Zuta murder as well. It was Accardo who killed gangster Teddy Newberry after Newberry made an attempt to corner organized crime in Chicago.

Accardo may also have been assigned to the St. Valentines Day hit squad. Authorities believe that Accardo was the killer dressed as a Chicago policeman and armed with a double-barreled shotgun.

It was Accardo who set up and supervised the hit on union hustler Tommy Maloy. When Frankie Yale, Al Capone's old boss from back in his days as a Brooklyn thug, tried to take over the powerful Sicilian Union, it was again Accardo who was called in for his firepower.

By early 1940, Accardo was a power in Chicago and in the national Mafia.

Tony Accardo managed to have a 1944 arrest for gambling withdrawn, when he told the court that he intended to join the army. Accardo's lawyer, the legendary mob mouthpiece, George Bieber, told the court: "This young man is eager to get into the fight, don't deny him that right."

The judge released Accardo on the agreement that Accardo would report to his draft board, which he did. But, by then, Accardo was running the Chicago outfit since Paul Ricca was in jail. He already had a 21-room mansion, and an estimated income of $2,000,000 a year, and he wasn't about to give it up for the $21 a week paid to an army private.

Two days later Accardo appeared before the draft board, explained his background in crime, his position in the organization and was summarily rejected by the Army as morally unfit.

The gambling charges were dropped because Accardo had done as he was ordered by the court. In 1945, after he was instrumental in the release of his boss, Paul Ricca, from federal charges for his role in the Willie Bioff scandal, Ricca resigned as the outfit's leader, and promoted Accardo to the top spot.

Accardo held the position, off and on, for the next forty years but in 1958, Big Tony called the boys together at the Tam O'Shanter restaurant and introduced Sam Giancana as the new boss with the simple sentence: "This is Sam, he's a friend of ours."

Thanks to John William Touhy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mob Gets the Tax Man, @TheMobMuseum Receives Donation of Artifacts from the Estate of Famed IRS Investigative Chief Elmer Lincoln Irey

The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, recently added to its Archives a collection of artifacts related to U.S. Treasury Department official Elmer Lincoln Irey (1888–1948), famed chief of the U.S. Treasury Department’s law enforcement agencies. Active from 1919 until his retirement in 1946, Irey eventually oversaw the operations of the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS Intelligence Unit, U.S. Customs and the Bureau of Narcotics, the Alcohol Tax Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Irey led investigations credited with the prosecution of many notorious mobsters, including Al Capone, Waxey Gordon, Leon Gleckman, Johnny Torrio, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, Moe Annenberg, Tom Pendergast, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca and Louis Campagna. He is also recognized for the capture of suspected Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann. The Irey artifacts, which include newspaper clippings, correspondence between Irey and Charles Lindbergh as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, photographs and other records, were donated to the Museum by the Gridley family.

The Mob Museum Archives are available to scholars, researchers and working press on an appointment basis. Building an archival collection enables the Museum to serve as a resource for those working in the fields of organized crime and law enforcement.

“We’re extremely grateful to Carole Irey Gridley and the entire Irey family for donating this collection to the Museum,” said Jonathan Ullman, executive director and CEO, The Mob Museum. “Adding important materials such as these to the Museum’s Archives is one of our long-term priorities. Irey’s investigative work for the U.S. Treasury Department was instrumental in apprehending many of the early 20th century’s most infamous Mob figures.”

A new exhibition, including the Irey objects and artifacts, is in development at the Museum with its public opening expected to be announced next year.

Monday, September 24, 2012

October "There Goes the Neighbor Hood" Gangster Tour

John BinderThe Chicago Outfit, Mob historian and author of The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America), conducts the popular "There Goes the Neighbor Hood" tour of gangster history in Oak Park and River Forest. This exterior tour visits 15 houses in these two suburbs which were previously owned by major hoodlums, including Tony Accardo, Paul Ricca, Sam Giancana, "Tough Tony" Capezio, and "Machine Gun Jack" McGurn. John will discuss the criminal careers of the former owners, the interesting features of each home, the family's time there, and answer all questions from the audience. The tour lasts two hours and is a deep immersion into the history of organized crime in Chicago from Prohibition to the present day. It is by minibus with no walking required.

Date/Time/Details:
The bus departs from (and returns to) the Oak Park Visitor Center at 1010 Lake St. in Oak Park at 11:00 a. m. and 1:30 p. m. on October 14.  Please call the Visitor Center at 708-848-1500 (or www.visitoakpark.com) to purchase tickets.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

John Dillinger Was Bad for the Business of the Chicago Outfit

After watching the excellent new Johnny Depp movie "Public Enemies" -- the story of romanticized desperado John Dillinger's murder in Chicago with the help of the Outfit -- Wings and I realized something.

We were hungry. So we walked over to Volare, the fine Italian restaurant at Grand and St. Clair on Wednesday evening, where three amazing things happened:

1. We had the most superb sausage and peppers in the universe. The sausage was beyond tasty, the peppers perfectly cooked, the sauce to kill for.

2. A group of people came in, the women in red dresses, the men in 1930s gangster outfits, fedoras for the guys, the women with much cleavage, feathered hats, tiny veils, red lips. It was a surprise party for Craig Alton, the fellow who runs Untouchable Tours, taking tourists to famous mob murder scenes, including where Dillinger fell facedown, near the Biograph Theater on Lincoln. We went over to say hello. He seemed like a nice fellow, dressed in a straw hat with suspenders, a fat, painted tie and a curly mustache. They were all going to the movie afterward. I asked: Don't you tour some of the newer sites, like the Melrose Park restaurant where Tony Zizzo disappeared a few years ago? Or the 2001 hit of street boss Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti in Lyons? "No," Alton said, sheepishly. "The guys who did that are still alive."

3. At another table nearby was a handsome Italian family. Mother, father, sons and grandsons, proud, straight backed, polite. They proved their good manners by quietly chanting "chumbolone" at us.

The father, who said his name was John, announced to his family and half the restaurant that he grew up on Chicago's Taylor Street and then in River Forest.

"You wrote about Al Capone, and you also wrote about the real boss, the old man," said John. "You went past Capone and wrote about the real boss."

Paul Ricca?

"Yes," said John. "Paul Ricca."

Capone got all the attention. Ricca, a quiet fellow, never wanted to be a star. He let Capone get the applause and wisecrack with reporters. Ricca made the decisions and built modern organized crime in America. Hollywood has never made a movie about Paul Ricca. That should tell you something.

The Ricca mention by a stranger in a nice restaurant brings me back to "Public Enemies," directed by Michael Mann.

Mann gets it. He was born in Chicago, and produced one of my favorite films, one that actually speaks truth about this city: "Thief," starring James Caan. In that film, real Chicago cops played gangsters, and real gangsters played Chicago detectives. In any other town this might be seen as ironic. Not here.

So in "Public Enemies," Mann allows truth to press up against the Dillinger myth, the one with which generations of Americans were led to believe that The Lady in Red caused Dillinger's demise.

All The Lady in Red got was deported back to Romania, if she got that far and didn't end up on the bottom of the Cal-Sag Canal. And the Chicago Outfit got what it wanted: happy cops and happy FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, who kept winning at the racetracks while insisting there was no organized crime in America.

Mann understands Chicago. I'm not going to spoil anything. Anyone with a room temperature IQ knows how this one ends. But it was Mann's method of revealing this real Chicago truth that I found fascinating. It was in a big speech, by one of the actors playing an Outfit guy, talking to Depp's Dillinger.

Big speeches are usually disasters and belong only in manipulative TV shows like "Law and Order," where the big speech is delivered before the final commercial by a wise old actor with crinkly eyes.

In a movie, the big speech can ruin things. It can pull you out of that willing suspension of disbelief directors work so hard to achieve, and it can plop you back into reality, tasting the stale popcorn and the stale message from the actor delivering the big speech.

You might guess that I'm not a big fan of the big speech. Except the one in "Public Enemies," with the Outfit giving the message to Dillinger.

It's set in a wire room, with bets coming in on the phone, and Dillinger is told that the old freelance days are done. Freelancers bring heat and embarrass the locals. Businesses don't need heat. It costs money.

"You're bad for business," Dillinger is told.

It was almost subtle by comparison to other big speeches. But it was necessary, because the romantic outlaw had to learn the truth from the guys who snap their fingers and have chiefs of detectives and mayors shine their shoes.

Freelancers were entertaining, once. But freelancers cost too much. They get crushed.

Like John Dillinger.

Thanks to John Kass

Saturday, April 25, 2009

US Marshal's Office and FBI's Relationship is Icy at Mob Leak Trial

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose sat in federal court on Thursday to hear lawyers portray him two ways:

An honorable screw-up hoping to impress an Outfit-friendly father figure, or a criminal conduit to reputed Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

Either way the jury decides, the relationship between the U.S. marshal's office and the FBI is at best icy these days, though they won't formally admit it. But you could see the two tribes in the gallery in U.S. District Judge John Grady's courtroom, sitting stiffly as if in church at a wedding, the in-laws glaring, already at war.

The marshals in their street clothes, shoulders hunched, not happy, sitting behind their man Ambrose. The FBI agents and prosecutors impassive, across the aisle, sitting behind their team.

The cause of the deep freeze? Ambrose himself.

Ambrose has been charged with leaking extremely sensitive information to the mob about the most important federal witness in Chicago's history -- turncoat Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese. And with lying about it to federal agents until he later confessed to the FBI about what he'd done. But according to his lawyer Frank Lipuma, all Ambrose really confessed to was screwing up, bragging to a family friend that he was protecting a major Outfit witness.

Ambrose's friend was William Guide, a former crooked cop with Outfit connections, who spent time in prison, convicted with Ambrose's father, Thomas, in the Marquette 10 police drug dealer shakedown scandal.

What Ambrose said about Calabrese ended up in recorded prison conversations beginning in January 2003 between Mickey Marcello and his Outfit boss brother Jimmy.

What also came out during the trial is that Ambrose apparently thought that by leaking a little information, he could win favor from the Outfit and use their street network as a source of information to find fugitives.

At least, that was his story as told to senior FBI agents Anita Stamat and Ted McNamara when they finally caught him in 2006.

The International Olympic Committee might not know this, so don't tell them, but Chicago has a history of law enforcement conduits to the mob. The job has been held by many -- a patrol officer in the evidence section, hit men in the Cook County Sheriff's office, even the chief of detectives of the Chicago Police Department.

Since the time of Paul Ricca, the Outfit has had puppets, in politics, on the bench, in business and law enforcement. That's how it survives, while politically unsophisticated street gangs suffer legal troubles. And what was so unique about Ambrose is that he was a federal law enforcement officer guarding a federal witness.

"He screwed up ... shot his mouth off," said Lipuma, a former federal prosecutor himself, in a riveting closing argument, full of passion, trying to poke holes in the case. "John Ambrose admitted he broke policy. He broke procedure. It may have been a violation of policy. ... But he's an honest man."

Prosecutor Markus Funk was once the new guy on the federal organized crime team. But now he's the veteran, with the most significant convictions in Chicago history under his belt: Jimmy Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and others from the Family Secrets trial.

"This is straightforward theft," Funk told the jury. "The defense is throwing up these vast smoke screens to confuse you. He confessed. Not once, not twice, but three times. He shot his mouth off? There was no criminal intent? He admitted it. That's not a legal defense. That's a crime."

The defense also brought my column up again, the one of Feb. 21, 2003, that broke the story that Nick Calabrese had disappeared from prison and speculated (correctly) that he was in the witness protection program.

Lipuma said the column was the "linchpin" of the defense because after it ran, Calabrese's cooperation was common knowledge. But a month before the column was published, Jimmy and Mickey Marcello were already talking about Calabrese's federal "baby-sitter" funneling information to them.

If Ambrose were, say, a plumber, you might excuse him for screwing up and talking about a federal witness to an Outfit messenger boy.

A plumber might be excused, because a plumber wouldn't be expected to know about witness protection. But Ambrose is no plumber, is he?

He's a deputy U.S. marshal.

For now.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will Chicago's Mob History and Clout Mentality Follow Obama to the White House?

The city of Chicago is one of the few major metropolitan areas that runs away from its past at every opportunity. Yet, indeed, the very construction of the city led to the term “underworld.” And with rampant corruption controlled by infamous individuals like “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, Murray “The Camel” Humphrey and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Chicago can hardly bury its past — no pun intended.

Since the turn of the 20th century, what Carl Sandburg referred to as the “City of Big Shoulders” was perhaps the center of organized crime in the United States. Though New York had its Syndicate and Detroit had the Purple Gang, many believe true power in America’s underworld was concentrated in something called the Outfit.

With the election of Barack Obama will come a great deal of history-laden baggage, which will make the movie “The Godfather” seem like a Walt Disney cartoon.

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago’s brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip. A failure to do so would quickly leave them on the outside looking in — without protection from the media, the law and any other threat which loomed on the horizon.

The question is not whether Obama will use the lessons he learned in Chicago as president. The question is: How much of that lesson will become the modus operandi for the Obama adminstration? Some say it might become Chicago on the Potomac, when referring to the political mechanism Obama may surround himself with. If so, it will be our nation’s darkest nightmare come true. And combined with the Clinton-brand of Arkansas politics, there may truly be a new day in our nation’s Capitol.

But how did the Daley Machine take root in Chicago? A book titled, The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern Americawritten by Gus Russo and published in 2001 gave Americans a frigthening glimpse into the Daley Machine and how it got its start.

After Capone left power, due to his conviction on tax evasion charges in the early 1930s, it was Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo who truly called the shots in what many refer to as the Mafia. Even “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, originators of organized crime in New York, would not make a move without consulting the Chicago Triumvirate whose innovation and power criminologists say was matched by none.

Since the hay-days of mob activity in Chicago, the city has done everything possible to shed its dark past. But its reputation lives on — despite the efforts of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. In the early century, individuals like “Big Jim” Colismo controlled gambling and prostitution in the city. With the advent of Prohibition, organized crime found its true calling through the sale of bootleg alcohol, combined with the pandering trade. Added profits were topped off by a very lucrative illegal gambling racket.

After Capone’s departure, the mob moved into the numbers game — which had made millions for underworld entrepreneurs in the African-American community. Union corruption — which was master-minded by Murray “The Camel” Humphrey — brought great fortune to the Outfit as well. Eventually, the mob moved into the illicit drug trade. Until the early 1960s, the Chicago Outfit was ruled with an iron hand by Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo.

Though in later years, more flamboyant underworld figures, such as Sam “Mooney” Giancano and lesser players, including Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, and the Spilotro Brothers of the movie “Casino” fame, controlled organized crime in Chicago, the FBI virtually wiped out mob activity in the city — although remnants of the Outfit still exist today.

Chop shops and vending machines (poker, cigarettes, etc.) are still reported to be controlled by criminal entities. But the glory days of the Chicago Outfit are said to be long gone. Yet, the public doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of those wild times gone by.

Indeed, Chicago’s current mayor may not hold that office if not for the influence the Outfit had when it came to the election of his father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the Daley link with organized crime is one of the reasons why the city does all it can to obscure Chicago’s dark and corrupt history. You will not find city-sponsored tours of famous gangland hang-outs. Even historical landmarks, like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at 2122 N. Clark St., though an empty lot, are nagging reminders of a bygone era which City Fathers would rather forget.

The Outfit played a significant role in Richard J. Daley’s coming to power. Hizzoner "The Boss" was the protégé of 11th Ward Committeeman, Hugh “Babe” Connelly whose ties to the mob go way back to the days of the “Moustache Pete’s” who included prominent underworld figures like Johnny Torrio who first brought Capone to Chicago. Daley took over Connelly’s 11th Ward seat in 1947. In league with people like 11th Ward Ald. “Big Joe” McDonough, by 1955 the Mob was grooming Daley to be Mayor and, with the help of the Outfit, his election became a reality.

For example, in the very mobbed-up 1st Ward, Daley won a plurality of votes by a staggering margin of 13,275 to 1,961. After his election, Daley moved to solidify the Outfit’s power in the city. In 1956, Daley disbanded “Scotland Yard” an intelligence unit which had compiled reams of detailed records about Chicago crime figures. All this was to the grief of the Chicago Crime Commission who believed Daley’s election had set the city back a decade -- as far as the prosecution of organized crime.

Perhaps Richard M. Daley received much of his education from his father whose political coffers were stuffed with mob cash, according to the FBI. And perhaps the free rein given to organized crime by the Father implanted ideas in the mind of the son regarding possible revenue expansion through alternative sources. It’s possible today’s Chicago mayor learned a very important lesson from Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, who secretly financed the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1955, the same year Richard J. Daley was elected mayor. For nearly a quarter of a century afterward, the Chicago mob skimmed literally hundreds of millions of dollars out of Las Vegas casinos while operating with near impunity in Chicago, their home base.

Richie Daley had to see the unlimited amounts of cash that could be directed into city coffers through the expansion of gambling in Chicago. And though most of what used to be underworld crime has been incorporated into white collar America, gambling becomes even more seductive, no matter what memories of Chicago’s past may be dredged up in the process.

Forensic Psychology programs can give you a great insight into the minds of the mob and also lead to a great career.

Thanks to Daniel T. Zanoza

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Will the Chicago Outfit Assign Hitmen to Compose 'Trunk Music' Against the Writers Guild?

Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart has come up with a novel idea to end the six-week-old writers’ strike – bring in the Chicago mafia to whack a few leaders of the striking Writers Guild.

In a column that ran in Daily Variety on Dec.10 under the headline “A way to settle so it’s all in the ‘family’” – with the word ‘family’ in quotes to make sure we all know he’s talking about the Mafia – Bart writes: “OK. I’ll admit it: I was once on reasonably friendly terms with Sidney Korshak” – the Chicago mafia’s man in Hollywood for more than 50 years.

KorshakSupermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, who was the go-to guy for the late-Universal Studios mogul Lew Wasserman when contract talks stalled, was a master of “the trade-off,” according to Bart, although in fact, Korshak was even more the master of a quite different art – the art of the implied death threat.

“Korshak died 11 years ago,” Bart writes, “but had he been alive today, he would have been dismayed by the state of disarray in Hollywood. The writers and show-runners don’t seem to appreciate what management has done for them, he would have declared. And the companies similarly seem to have lost their talent at hard bargaining.

“Korshak surely would have enhanced the proposed compensation for digital downloads (one of the sticking points in the contract talks), and had his offer not been embraced, a few individuals might have been downloaded as well. Peace would prevail.”

Here, by ‘downloaded,’ Bart apparently means whacked; and by “a few individuals,” he assumedly means union leaders, since they are the ones to whom contract offers are generally made.

“Does he know what century we’re in?” asked an astonished member of the WGA’s hierarchy. “Next he’ll be calling on Pinkerton agents to fire into our picket lines.”

Of course, Bart, who is a longtime member of the Writers Guild, may be just joking around – showing off the tough-guy image he has of himself, which is something he’s known to do on occasion. But a reasonable reader might ask: Is this anything for the editor of a newspaper to joke about during an increasingly tense strike?

Joking or not, whacking troublesome Hollywood union leaders is something that Korshak’s friends in the Chicago syndicate were known to do once in a while. One famous case was the murder of Willie Bioff, the #2 guy in the one of Hollywood most powerful unions, who in 1943 publicly identified Sid Korshak as the mob’s man in Hollywood.

Korshak’s ties to the Chicago mob go all the way back to the 1930s and the days of Al Capone. In 1943, his name came up during the sensational trial of some of Chicago’s top mobsters on charges that they’d extorted more than $1 million dollars from Hollywood’s movie studios. Unlike today, however, back then Daily Variety had an editor named Arthur Unger who wasn’t so cozy with the mafia, and who bravely crusaded against the mob, writing editorials in which he called on Hollywood to run the gangsters out of town.

The scandal began in the late 1930s when the Chicago mob seized control of one of Hollywood’s most powerful unions - the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents most of the behind-the-scenes workers in show business.

Frank Nitti, who was running the outfit while Capone was serving time for income tax evasion, controlled the union’s bosses, including Willie Bioff, who was finally indicted on charges of extorting money from the studios in exchange for labor peace.

During the trial, Korshak’s name came up when Bioff testified that he had been introduced to Korshak by one of the mob defendants, who had said: “Willie, meet Sidney Korshak. He is our man. . . . Any messages he might deliver to you is a message from us.”

Nitti had killed himself shortly after being indicted, and a lot of top mob guys went to jail, including Johnnie Roselli and Paul “The Waiter” Ricca. And in 1955, a decade after he was released from prison, Bioff was blown to pieces by a car bomb, which in those days was a signature mob hit.

Korshak, who was once described as “the toughest lawyer in America,” was never charged with any crime, and moved easily between gangsters and movie moguls. Though not licensed to practice law in California, where he lived for many years, Korshak served as an adviser to many of the top Hollywood studios. And at the same time, authorities said, he was also an adviser to such mob figures as Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Gus Alex.

In 1978, the California attorney general’s Organized Crime Control Commission issued a report that called Korshak “the key link between organized crime and big business,” noting that he was a “senior adviser” to organized crime groups in California, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York. In a rare interview, Korshak denied the allegations. “I’ve never been cited, let alone indicted, for anything,” Korshak told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1978.

In Hollywood, Korshak helped broker numerous deals for some of the top studios. In 1973, he mediated in the negotiations that led to the sale of MGM’s theaters and properties in its overseas markets to Cinema International Corp., a joint venture between MCA and Paramount. MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf & Western owned Paramount, personally negotiated the deal with MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian - with Korshak as mediator.

Bart knew Korshak back in those days, too – back when Bart was second-in-command at Paramount Studios in the 1970s – back when Korshak was the mentor of Bart’s mentor – Robert Evans, who was head of production at Paramount.

“Sidney (Korshak) was in my office every day for 10 years,” Evans said in an interview for my L.A. Weekly cover story about Bart in 1994. “There’s not a day that went by when I was in Los Angeles that Sidney wasn’t there…Sidney and Peter and I spent a lot of time together. They never broke bread. But, you know, Peter was my right-hand guy and Sid was my consigliere, so naturally they met.”

In his book, “The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life,” Evans wrote that Korshak “was not only my consigliere, but my godfather and closest friend . . . my lifelong protector.”

Bart, whose coverage of the strike has been criticized for toadying up to management, was a newspaperman in the 1960s before he joined Evans and Korshak in running Paramount Studios. In 1990, Bart actually boasted in an article for Gentlemen’s Quarterly that he carried a gun while covering riots in Los Angeles for The New York Times in the mid-1960s. “I carried a gun in my last days at The Times,” he said, claiming that he had twice been shot at while covering a race riot. “My philosophy was: If a man’s going to shoot at me, he’s going to get it right fucking back. I was a good shot. But it was not Times policy.” (Nor is it the policy of any newspaper in the country.)

And he says he wasn’t joking about having shot people during the Watts Riots. When asked about this in 1994, he told LA Weekly that the gun he used was taken from him “by an L.A. cop who was chasing somebody that ran past. He said, ‘Hey, Pete, do you have a gun? And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Hand it to me.’ That’s the last I saw of that goddamn gun.”

So maybe he’s kidding about killing union leaders, and maybe he’s exaggerating about shooting black people during the Watts riot. But either way, maybe the Writers Guild should ask: Why is this guy still a member of this union? Isn’t there some bylaw against members advocating the murder of Writers Guild leaders – especially during a strike?

Thanks to David Robb

Magazines.com, Inc.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thanks to Feds, We Hear the "Lies"

Federal prosecutor Mitchell Mars was telling the jury about a litany of 18 Outfit murders -- solved by federal investigators, not locals -- and he put several corpses at the feet of convicted mobster Frank Calabrese Sr.

"He has left a trail of bodies, literally ..." Mars said Tuesday, as Calabrese began shouting, interrupting him.

"THEM ARE LIES!!" Calabrese shrieked, startling the jury.

It was the real Frank coming out after weeks of suppression in federal court, with that tight little smile of his. It was Chinatown Frank, the scary Frank with the famous thumbs, and federal marshals inched closer lest Frank pop for good.

Mars didn't flinch, and he continued speaking.

" ... during his career with the Outfit."

Then the jury retired to deliberate on the second phase of the landmark Family Secrets trial -- deciding which Outfit figures committed previously unsolved murders -- and my guess is that the jury is ready to be done with this.

What must bother Calabrese, and his co-defendants Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, and James "Little Shamrock" Marcello, is what Mars told that jury.

"This is not a case of guilt by association. It is guilt by participation in a criminal organization that protected itself and its members by homicide," Mars said. "They lived to kill. They lived to have money, and they lived to kill."

The "Them are lies" shriek was the dramatic highlight of the day, but here's one thing that isn't a lie:

Since the Chicago Outfit began controlling select politicians at City Hall, and select businesses and select cops and county judges, there have been hundreds of Outfit hits. And local law enforcement hasn't solved one for more than 40 years. They've only solved a scant few Outfit killings since Paul "The Waiter" Ricca let Al Capone pretend to be boss of Chicago.

I might be wrong. There might be one, or two, solved in the last four decades by local law enforcement, perhaps the real police in blue uniforms, the men and women who don't get promoted because they don't know the secret political passwords. And if I'm wrong, I'm sure that interim Chicago Police Supt. Dana Starks will invite me to Cafe Bionda for lunch and lecture me on my heresy, as legendary Bionda chef and Reserve nightclub fixture Joe Farina whips us up something tasty. But according to a Chicago Tribune investigation in 1989, no Outfit murder had been solved in Cook County in 20 years.

That was 18 years ago.

The report focused on the Cook County sheriff's office, and how high-ranking sheriff's officials "sabotaged investigations of brutal, execution-style murders and covered up evidence of possible crimes of other law enforcement officials, and judges."

Back then, sheriff's officers, the Tribune said, systematically concealed evidence, blocked efforts by other law enforcement agencies to interview witnesses, and hid their own relationships with organized crime suspects in murder investigations.

One of the murders was the 1976 slaying of Michael Curtin, a chemical company executive found facedown in the back of his tan Cadillac in Maywood, strangled, Chinatown-style, and shot twice in the head for good measure.

Curtin's murder was not one of the 18 homicides in the Family Secrets trial.

A tiny black notebook was discovered in Curtin's pocket. In that notebook, the Tribune reported, were the names of Cook County judges and lawyers, with dollar amounts written alongside.

Lt. James Keating seized the evidence, including Curtin's precious little black book, which vanished forever, as did the bullets that were mysteriously removed from Curtin's cold skull. Keating was convicted in 1986 for taking payoffs to protect Outfit vice operations in the suburbs. And in 1989, he was convicted in federal court for racketeering and murder conspiracy.

Since then, he's been in prison. Some literary muse must have whispered to him in the federal pen, because he's written a novel, "All on the Same Side," about the friendships between politicians, local cops and the Outfit.

One of the characters in the book is a so-called Chief William Murphy -- who vaguely resembles former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt, himself in federal prison for running an Outfit jewelry heist ring with Schiro.

Murphy's buddy is a mob boss named Dominic, who answers to another mob boss named Johnny, who may or may not have been shot in the nose years ago in real life, ruining his looks. And Murphy promises to kill investigations.

The book is fiction, sort of. But here are two facts:

If it weren't for the feds, the Chicago Outfit wouldn't worry about murder cases. And Frank Calabrese wouldn't have to scream "Them are lies" to the jury deciding the rest of his life.

Thanks to John Kass

Saturday, August 18, 2007

From Eating Oatmeal as a Boy to Earning for the Mob

Chicago Outfit loan shark and accused hit-man Frank Calabrese Sr. didn't have the gall to wear his First Communion suit on the witness stand. It wouldn't have fit, anyway.

Instead he wore a pale sports coat just on the edge of ivory, like an older bride with plenty of miles, still yearning for the white on her big day.

Calabrese testified in his own defense in the "Family Secrets" trial on Thursday, explaining that as a boy, his family was so poor they ate oatmeal most every night, that he had to leave school in the 4th grade to help deliver coal. And, how he grew up with an intense desire to protect the weak against the strong, even when the weak owed him money from his juice loans and couldn't pay him on time.

"I hated bullies and I still hate them today," said the knightly Calabrese, led through his story by crafty defense lawyer Joseph Lopez.

Yet when court resumes Monday, Calabrese will face cross-examination by federal prosecutors, so the jury won't see Sir Frank of Chinatown, but a different Frank, the Frank on federal tape giggling about murders.

The jury will hear about his many alleged victims, dumped into holes like so many goo-goo dolls, those yellow rubber toys of years ago. Put your thumbs on their throats, squeeze hard, and their eyes bug out, the tongues protrude, they make a strange noise, which is the way his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, described the effects of Frank's heavy work in earlier trial testimony.

"Murder? No way. No way," Frank kept telling Lopez, also resplendent in a pink shirt and electric yellow tie, as Lopez directed him through more than two hours of testimony designed to give context to Calabrese's life and have his client repeatedly deny he killed anyone.

Lopez's theory is that Frank's son and his brother Nick conspired to rip off Frank's money and keep him in prison. It's an interesting theory. But on Monday, as those tapes are played, the tapes his son Frank Jr. recorded in prison conversations with his father for the FBI, the theory will have a side effect.

Calabrese's co-defendants -- Joseph Lombardo, Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle and James Marcello -- will look up and feel the fork in them and know they're done.

Some of my colleagues have been tempted to say that the Chicago Outfit is done, too, but it is not. Today's web was woven long ago, when Paul "The Waiter" Ricca moved here from New York and quietly allowed Al Capone to play the loud baboon in the shiny suit.

Calabrese is an example of this influence, a portly squire from the Chinatown crew, which still reaches into the 11th Ward, home of mayors. His brother-in-law was the late Ed Hanley, president of the powerful international hotel workers union, who dabbled in wiseguys and politics from Chicago to Las Vegas.

Hanley got him a city job, and later Frank got Nick a city job running McCormick Place, and depending on what testimony you believe, they either killed a lot of people together or they didn't, but they made a lot of money.

Calabrese explained on Thursday that the Outfit is dedicated to money, composed of two kinds of men, those who earn, and those who do the heavy work.

"And what is the heavy work?" Lopez asked.

"Killing people," Calabrese said, "but I didn't kill people, I was an earner ... I earned millions ... I didn't have time to do that other stuff."

He did this, he said, by loaning money at high rates to gambling addicts who couldn't go into a bank and apply for loans.

Listening to him, I wondered how lousy he must feel, in prison now, with so much opportunity outside, as City Hall pushes quietly for a giant city-run gambling casino, one that would have its own "independent" gaming commission controlled by the mayor, so it won't be subject to bothersome state regulations.

Loan sharking is part of gambling, in casinos or on Rush Street, though scary collectors aren't featured in the commercials. Calabrese testified that in his loan-sharking business, he never threatened or hurt anyone, but they paid anyway, but not from fear.

Yet it was instructive, with Calabrese explaining the meaning of "the sit down," a meeting designed to settle disputes, like the time Butch Petrocelli (one of the alleged victims) "kept sticking his nose in there" to try and take away Calabrese's card games, Calabrese said.

"It was all done diplomatically," Calabrese said. "The head of this group sits there, the head of that group sits there. And someone very important, like [late Outfit boss] Joey Aiuppa sits there."

Lopez asked: "Was there any swearing or cursing?"

"Swearing or cursing? Oh, no. It was diplomatic," Calabrese said. The way he said "oh, no" was quite odd. It was something a PTA mom would say, not some Chinatown bone-crusher who sat meekly before the boss.

The jury stopped taking notes, and stared, transfixed, as if a penguin from the zoo were sitting in front of them reading "The Divine Comedy." And Calabrese faced them, in his almost white ivory jacket, blinking.

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chicago Mob Time Line: January 1, 1985

Friends of ours: Sal DeLaurentis, Chuckie English, Sam Giancana, Joe Ferriola, Fifi Buccieri, Turk Torello, Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo, Fat Tony Salerno, Genovese Crime Family, Dominic Palermo, Tony Spilotro, Rocco Infelise, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Michael Carracci, Jackie Cerone
Friends of mine: Hal Smith, Dom Angelini, Chris Petti


IN THE YEAR 1985: Sal DeLaurentis was strongly suspected of playing a role in the torture murder of a bookmaker named Hal Smith. A few months before federal investigators caught Solly D on tape telling Smith that he would be "trunk music" unless he made a $6,000 a month street tax payment to him.

- Chuckie English, Sam Giancana's top aide, died with vast interests in the Phoenix area, real estate and construction.

- Joe Ferriola, AKA Joe Negall, was now the boss over the Chicago mob. He had been with Fifi Buccieri's crew until Buccieri died, and Turk Torello took over. When he died, Ferriola took over and eventually assumed control of all the gambling in Chicago.

It was widely assumed that Tony Accardo was still in charge of the organization, just as Paul Ricca had been in charge when Accardo and Giancana were running things.

- Tony Accardo sold his condo on Harlem avenue and moved into affluent Barrington Hills, to live on the estate with his daughter Marie, Mrs. Ernie Kumerow. Mr. Kumerow is a union official.

- Fortune magazine declares that Tony Accardo is the second ranked boss in the country behind Fat Tony Salerno in New York of the Genovese family.

- According to Dominic Palermo's wife, who was an FBI informant, her husband Dominic got the order to kill the Spilotro brothers at a meeting he attended at the Czech Restaurant in Chicago. Palermo said that Joe Ferriola ordered the hit and Rocco Infelise gave it his okay.

Palermo, who worked for the very mobbed up Chicago Laborers local 5, was left behind in the cornfield by the other killers after they took the Spilotro's out. Palermo walked five miles to a phone both and called his wife, told her what happened and had her pick him up.

From that information, the FBI was able to locate the Spilotro bodies. The corpses were not, as the story so often goes, discovered when a farmer plowed them up. Rather, the Chicago office of the FBI probably spread that story to cover its informants.

- The Chicago mob's new boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo decided to try and skim money out of legalized gambling at the Rincon Indian resort, on a federal reservation in San Diego County, California. It was a last ditch attempt to keep their grip on the Nevada gambling scene but the entire scam was a disaster.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The first time the reservation scam was discussed was in July of 1985, between DiFronzo, Dom Angelini, who, at the time was Chicago's man in Vegas, and underboss, Sam "Wings" Carlisi at a meeting held at Rocky's Restaurant in suburban Melrose Park, Illinois.

The plan was to finance the tribe's venture into gambling, take over the operations, skim money from the casinos as well as use it to launder money from narcotics sales. Dom Angelini placed Chris Petti, the outfit's man in San Diego, in charge of the takeover. Petti was ordered to deal directly with Angelini's brother-in-law, Michael Caracci, a soldier in the DiFronzo crew.

To work the scam, Caracci called Petti at the same San Diego pay phone they had been using for years, which, unknown to them the FBI had tapped years before. They decided that although the Rincon deal looked good, Chicago didn't want to sink any money into it.

But that they would, however, get involved if an outside source wanted to put up the financing to take over the Indian gambling resort. Petti made contact with Peter Carmassi, whom he had been told was a money launderer for a Columbian drug cartel.

Carmassi, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, showed interest in the Rincon casino deal. In several tape recorded and filmed meetings with undercover agent Carmassi, Petti laid out the entire scam to take over the Rincon reservation gambling concession.

On January 9, 1992, the government indicted Petti, DiFronzo, Carlisi and the reservation's lawyer, on 15 counts of criminal conspiracy. DiFronzo and Angelini were convicted and got a 37-month sentence, with fines approaching one million dollars.

- Corbitt joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department, and was assigned to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. However, he was indicted and convicted for racketeering and obstructing justice in 1988.

- Jackie Cerone got nailed on federal charges for skimming $2,000,000 from the Stardust Casino in Vegas and was sent to prison in Texas.

Thanks to Mob Magazine

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cermak tale teaches more than history

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Giuseppe Zanagara, Paul "The Waiter" Ricca

It felt strange giving a history lesson to a potential mayoral candidate about the Chicago Outfit and Chicago politics. And I probably should have kept my mouth shut. But when did that ever happen?

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Chicago Democrat, and I were talking politics over the phone Wednesday. He explained the importance of coalitions and how other Chicago mayors have put such coalitions together. "If I don't organize Latinos, who will?" he said. "How do I challenge others to be fair and just and more equitable, if I don't organize that voice? If that leads people to seeing me purely in a very myopic way, well, you and I both know that's not representative of my life's work." What is a politician's life's work? This is an eternal question.

I'm more interested in the immediate, like: Will Gutierrez position himself as a viable alternative to Mayor Richard Daley as the feds hammer City Hall? Or, is it more likely that a three-way mayoral campaign between Gutierrez, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) and Daley would split the vote and keep Daley in office? Consider it the Incumbent Protection Committee. We'll see. These can't be answered in a day, and Gutierrez was talking about coalitions.

"My life's work has been about immigrants. If you came to my office, you'd see Polish people, right? Irish people, Greek people, others, my office is rich in the immigrant history of Chicago. You go to my rallies, you see Asians, from China and the Philippines. That's been my history, but that's kind of the history of Cermak, wouldn't you agree? He kind of put together a coalition of those that were not part of the Thompson machine." Anton Cermak? "Yes," Gutierrez said.

Some of you have probably driven on the street named after Cermak but not known what happened to the former mayor. Gutierrez is correct. Cermak was a masterful coalition builder.

This is how I understand what happened: Back in the 1920s, the puppet mayor was William "Big Bill" Thompson, a blowhard who once threatened to punch English King George "in the snoot." But one snoot he'd never punch belonged to Al Capone. Thompson couldn't even think about touching Capone's snoot. That would have been more painful than punching himself in the nose hard, every day for a lifetime.

After doing the Outfit's bidding for years, Thompson was used goods. The boys found another politician--Anton "Pushcart Tony" Cermak, who was elected mayor in 1931 on the reform ticket. Foolishly, he decided to double-cross the Capone gang by siding with Capone rivals and sent police to exterminate Capone successor Frank Nitti.

Unfortunately for some, Nitti survived. So Cermak decided to take an extended vacation and hang out with President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Florida. On the night of Feb. 15, 1933, a former Italian army marksman, Giuseppe Zangara, was waiting in a crowd at Bayfront Park in Miami. Zangara had three things going for him as an Outfit assassin. He had an inoperable disease, he had a family and he had a gun. From about 30 feet, he popped Cermak in the chest. Roosevelt was not injured because he wasn't the target. Zangara was later executed.

By this time, Capone was in federal prison, slowly going insane as the result of a little something he picked up in his earthier travels between Chicago hotel rooms. His illness is well known to people who've watched the many movies made about Capone.

As I've written before, Hollywood never made a movie about Paul "The Waiter" Ricca. He was too shy. And he wisely let others pretend they were the boss and grab all the publicity. But he knew how to send a message. There was a main Chicago thoroughfare leading from the Capone headquarters at the Lexington Hotel on 22nd Street to the Outfit's hangouts in Cicero. This road was renamed Cermak Road. Every hood traveled it. They laughed. And every politician understood. But that's such ancient history.

On Wednesday, Chicago was still the reform capital of Cook County. And Gutierrez was talking on the phone about coalitions. "Cermak put together a coalition of those who were not part of the Thompson regime, right?" Gutierrez asked. Right. "And he put together a great coalition, of disparate people," Gutierrez said. And what happened to Cermak? There was a silence. "Oh, I know," Gutierrez said. "He got assassinated." I explained how Cermak was honored with his own street.

"Oh, I never thought of that," Gutierrez said. "I didn't know about that. I guess my point is, I look at the history of the city of Chicago, I look at the turn of the century, you know the Bohemians came together. It was a revolution in Chicago politics. Ask all the Irish politicians that have been elected ever since."

Gutierrez would make an entertaining candidate and might become mayor someday. He's smart enough. And besides, he likes history.

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo Index

Anthony Accardo (1906-1992): mob boss, The Genuine Godfather Joe Batters

He had the longest career of any U.S. mobster. Tony Accardo, aka "Joe Batters" or "Big Tuna," served as the boss or chairman of the board of the Chicago Outfit from 1944 until his death in 1992.

Accardo was born in Chicago, the son of Sicilian immigrants. His father was a shoemaker. He grew up at Grand and Ashland avenues and started as a common street burglar, involved mostly in petty larceny. This caught the eye of "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn. Accardo joined the Circus Gang, working his way up the ladder of minor league organized crime. Gradually he progressed from muggings and pocket picking to armed robbery and aggravated assault. He became a member of Capone's Gang after he successfully planned and executed the Hanlon Hellcat shootout in which he led the killing of 3 rivals. As a teenage hood with the Al Capone mob in the 1920s, he participated in lots of Prohibition-era violence. By age 16 he was a high-ranking bodyguard, gunman and "enforcer." In 1929 he participated in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre of Capone rival Bugs Moran's gang on Clark Street.

Accardo received his nickname from his reputation for swinging a ball bat to mete out violence to rivals and others who'd displeased his bosses by failing to make their weekly loan-shark payments. After he killed two of those men, Capone is to said to have commented "This kid is a real Joe Batters".

By the '30s, with the end of bootlegging, the Mob turned its attention to even nastier stuff, like narcotics. During that era the Chicago Syndicate drove all the non-Italian gangs out of business until the Mafia was in complete control of the city's illegal activities. Accardo became Paul "The Waiter" Ricca's second in command. When Ricca went to prison from the Hollywood Extortion Case, Accardo stepped into the position of acting boss of the Outfit in 1944. He often visited Ricca in the federal penitentiary masquerading as his lawyer to obtain direction.

Eventually, around 1947, Accardo became the boss himself. Under Accardo's leadership, the Chicago Outfit expanded its dominion, taking Las Vegas away from the New York mob. This was first done through the Stardust Casino (which yours truly just visited as documented at the Vegas Syndicate and it is was I use the Stardust Odds for my NFL picks at the Sport Syndicate) and later expanded to several other casinos. Joe Batters also aggressively enforced a city-wide street tax, which ordered that the Outfit get a percentage of any money made illegally.

Around 1957, Accardo passed the leadership over to Sam Giancana. As consiglieri, Accardo removed Giancana in 1966 and named Sam "Teets" Battaglia top guy. This was the start of a "boss" merry-go-around that eventually led to Joe Batters assuming the role of boss again in 1971 and had him ordering the hit of Giancana in 1975 as he was cooking dinner in his basement after returning from Mexico.

Despite everything that went on in his empire, Accardo never spent a single night in jail. In the 1950-'51 Kefauver hearings, Accardo took the Fifth Amendment 172 times. In 1960 he was sentenced to six years in prison for income tax evasion but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of "prejudicial" newspaper publicity during his trial.

Accardo ran the Chicago Outfit for 40 years as boss and/or consiglieri until he died in his sleep due to heart problems at 86 in 1992.

In the past, I used to list all of the articles below in which Tony Accardo appeared. However, by clicking on the label with his name, you can find the same results.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mob better watch out: Best mayor is getting mad

Today, readers reflect on the big news about the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation, which led to the indictment of several Outfit bosses and the closing of 18 previously unsolved mob killings.

Hey, John, the Outfit is in serious trouble now. Forget about the U.S. attorney and the indictments. Know who's mad at them? The mayor. The mayor's mad at the hoods and the mob. He says they run drugs and everything else and he's really, really mad at the mob. Wow, are they in trouble! When Mayor Daley starts fighting them, look out. T.P.

Dear T.P. -- Jeepers, you are a sarcastic Chicago resident. Are there more of you? It's just another reason why he's the best mayor in the cosmos. I'm calling TIME Magazine right now, mister!

I feel prompted to write you after reading your April, 26, 2005, column ("Mob charges tell a story, but more isn't told"). When you discussed how the Chicago Outfit's survival has been dependent upon help provided by crooked politicians, judges and cops, it reminded me of a book I read as a teenager, CAPTIVE CITY CHICAGO IN CHAINS. Have you read this work? Can you recommend any other books that cover this topic? I've been fascinated by this subject matter since I was a teenager. Thanks. P.P.

Dear P.P. -- When I first started covering Chicago politics in 1980The Outfit, someone lent me a worn paperback copy of Demaris' "Captive City," which fascinated me by detailing the incredible web of political connections between civic leaders, politicians and the Outfit. It was so good that, naturally, I stole it. It is the best book on the subject I've ever read. If you'd like to read more about the mob and politics, I'd recommend reading this newspaper and also "The Outfit" by Gus Russo. (Appropriately enough, a friend gave me Russo's book while we were having a drink on Rush Street.) Also, the William Brashler book The Don about Sam "Momo" Giancana, and Mafia Princess: Growing Up in Sam Giancana's Family by Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, who makes a great pasta sauce. And, the Web site of the Laborers International Union of North America (http://www.laborers.org/.) has plenty of information. If anyone can recommend other books on the Outfit, please share them with me and I promise to steal them too.

John, my son-in-law gave me the book "The Outfit" for Christmas. I was enjoying it but had to take a break because suddenly, everything I saw was "connected." I was stunned to realize that the Outfit probably provided the bottles of milk I drank in elementary school. I started looking over my shoulder; the Outfit seemed to dominate my thinking; and every businessperson, waiter, delivery guy looked like they were part of it. I would mutter "mob connections" in unlikely places. My family became concerned that I had developed some kind of mob dementia. They would laugh, but I would nod knowingly, like some old crone in Sicily. J.H.

I had a similar experience recently. A friend mentioned the great philanthropic family, the Annenbergs, and I said they started as tough guys in Chicago's old newspaper circulation wars, under the tutelage of Paul "The Waiter" Ricca. The friend looked at me as if I was crazy. I just smiled, knowingly.

It's commendable that they round up all these old mob guys. I'm sure they've all done something one time or another. But it's Godfather 4. What are they going to do, put them in the retirement home? How about the drug gangs, Chinese mob, Russian and Ukrainian mobs, the black gangs. What about the sex offenders? They just grabbed another one. But they put a monitor on Martha Stewart's ankle, so we feel safe at night. So they're going to put these mob guys in the senior citizen home? Big deal. B.D.

You're not the first American of Italian descent to have such feelings about the mob story. Another is my wife. When I asked her, she said: "So I'm the token angry Sicilian in the column, the one who's angry about how these criminals reflect on us? They're criminals, but we all look bad." I don't think the indictment of Joe Lombardo makes Italians look bad. It makes Lombardo look bad.

But I also think that because Italians are now considered white, which wasn't always the case in the U.S., writers take more liberties with the Outfit than we do with the equally ridiculous behavior of the black and Latino gangs.

Bill Dal Cerro, of the Italic Institute of America, is someone always on the lookout for anti-Italian images in the media. He just wrote me a letter saying it was important to focus not only on the gangsters, but also on those public officials--crooked politicians, judges, cops--who've allowed the Outfit to prosper in Chicago and suburbs.

"We hope you can pursue this line of logic," Dal Cerro wrote. "It is uncharted territory. You are going to get hell for it because it challenges the notion that `organized crime' is somehow an `alien' [read: Italian] thing which pollutes the pristine veneer of an `uncorrupt' nation. As my Uncle Louie used to say, `@#$$% {circ} &*!'"

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, August 18, 2002

A century of Chicago mob bosses

Here's a thumbnail history of Chicago's mob leaders. Dates are approximate.

1910
"Big Jim" Colosimo (1910 to 1920). Chicago's vice lord runs brothels and nightspots, shot dead in 1920 at his popular restaurant. Death cleared way for Capone

1920
Johnny Torrio (1920 to 1925). Reserved boss, eschews violence, retires in 1925 after a fouled-up hit leaves him barely alive.

1925
Al Capone (1925 to 1932). Made Chicago mob famous. Perhaps the most successful mob boss ever, the subject of countless books and movies, done in by the IRS for tax evasion.

1932
Frank Nitti (1932 to 1943). With help from Jake Guzik, rebuilds the Outfit after Capone's departure. Commits suicide after he's indicted in 1943.

1943
Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (1943 to 1950). Has a son who's a drug addict and decrees no Outfit member can have anything to do with narcotics trafficking.

1950
Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (1950 to 1957). Considered the most capable Outfit leader ever. Never spends significant time in jail. Always plays key role as adviser, but facing a tax case, he officially hands reins over to ...

1957
Sam "Mooney" Giancana (1957 to 1966). Attends the infamous Apalachin, N.Y., meeting that draws national attention to organized crime, draws even more focus on the Outfit with his flamboyance, shared a girlfriend with JFK, flees country for eight years, slain in 1975 at his Oak Park home.

1966
Sam "Teets" Battaglia (1966). Tough leader who is convicted in federal court same year, dies in prison.

1966
John "Jackie" Cerone (1966 to 1969). Considered one of the smartest underworld figures, a strong leader, then the feds pinch him.

1969
Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio (1969 to 1971). The mob killer is an unpopular leader, then he's convicted of bank fraud.

1971
Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa (1971 to 1986). A Cicero mobster who ran gambling and strip clubs and grows into the job, with help from Accardo, Gus Alex and, later, Cerone. He is convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

1986
Joseph Ferriola (1986 to 1989). Heads the Outfit for only a few years before succumbing to heart problems.

1989
Sam Carlisi (1989 to 1993). Protege to Aiuppa and mentor to James "Little Jimmy" Marcello. Carlisi and his crew are decimated by federal prosecutions.

1997
John "No Nose" DiFronzo (1997 to present). Called mob boss by Chicago Crime Commission, but other mob watchers disagree.


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