The Chicago Syndicate: Paul Schiro
Showing posts with label Paul Schiro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Schiro. Show all posts

Friday, July 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reviewing the History Behind Famous Mob Nicknames

A colorful nickname comes with the job when you are a reputed Chicago crime boss, often whether you like it or not.

The trial of Michael "Big Mike" Sarno is getting underway in federal court in Chicago, with prosecutors arguing that the 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound Sarno wasn't just imposing because of his size, but because he was the big man behind a violent mob jewelry theft and illegal gambling ring.

Imposing aliases have captivated the public and aggravated mobsters since the days of Al "Scarface" Capone, a fact that apparently was too much for one prospective juror. The juror, a suburban businessman, told U.S. Judge Ronald Guzman he would be biased by the repeated use of nicknames during the trial. So Guzman sent him home.

Defense attorney Michael Gillespie said he's not worried about his large client's nickname, which is pretty mild for an alleged mobster. "There's nothing nefarious about that nickname," Gillespie said. "But I do think (federal prosecutors) put the nickname in there for a reason. They could've just charged him as 'Michael Sarno.'"

A big appetite is a more benign way to get a pet name than, say, Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, the former reputed mob kingpin who earned his sobriquet for beating people with baseball bats. The story goes that after hearing of one such beating, Capone himself said, "That guy, (Accardo), he's a real Joe Batters." Throughout his life, everyone called Accardo "Joe," said Gus Russo, author of "The Outfit."

"They started to call (Accardo) 'Big Tuna' in the press, but no one ever called him that," said Russo. Mobsters' nicknames often were generated by the press or FBI agents eager to antagonize their targets, a favorite tactic of longtime Chicago FBI chief William Roemer. "(Roemer) was the one that referred to (Outfit Vegas boss) Anthony Spilotro as 'The Ant,'" Russo said. "That was (Roemer's) way of infuriating these guys."

Attorney Joseph Lopez said the press hung the nickname "The Breeze" on his loan-sharking client Frank Calabrese Sr. "That's a media nickname. No one ever called him that. He was 'Cheech,'" said Lopez. "Cheech is 'Frank' in Italian. It's a neighborhood thing. These guys get their nicknames like anyone else, as young kids in the neighborhood."

Of course, former Lopez client Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiaramonti was known for attacking juice-loan delinquents with a hatchet, the attorney acknowledged. "Hatchet earned that nickname," said Lopez, noting that jurors heard Chiaramonti strangle an informant — who was wearing a wire at the time — during a trial in the 1990s. "I called him Tony."

When reputed mobsters deny, or take offense to, their nicknames, it may be because they haven't heard them until someone plays them tapes of a wiretap. Wiretaps in Sarno's case will show that some of his lieutenants often called their boss "Fat Ass" behind his back. Not a good career move in most jobs, and a potentially deadly one in The Outfit.

"These are not guys you might want to call by a nickname to their face," said Markus Funk, one of the lead prosecutors in the Family Secrets trial that featured defendants Frank "the German" Schweihs; Paul "the Indian" Schiro; and Joseph Lombardo, who was listed with three nicknames: "the Clown," "Lumbo" and "Lumpy."

U.S. attorney's office policy is to include nicknames in an indictment only when the monikers are used in wiretaps or correspondence, said former prosecutor Chris Gair. However, modern mobsters are so paranoid about wiretaps and FBI surveillance that they seldom even risk using a nickname, Gair said. Their coded euphemisms get so vague, often it's clear the mobsters can barely carry on a conversation.

"Instead of a name or a nickname, they'll say something like 'You know that guy down by Grand and Ogden (avenues)?' 'You mean the guy who stands outside the grocery?' And the circumlocutions are so obscure, it's obvious they don't know who the other guy's talking about," Gair said. "But they're so paranoid, they still won't use a name."

Gair, for the record, said he seldom used nicknames in cases he handled.

"I would almost never put (nicknames) in an indictment. FBI agents and IRS guys have a nickname for everybody," he said. "For most guys, they use nicknames the way you or I do among friends."

Thanks to Andy Grimm

More Mob Nicknames

Monday, April 05, 2010

Will Calabrese Family Secret Stash Provide Insight into the Mob?

Nearly $730,000 in cash, about 1,000 pieces of jewelry and loaded handguns found hidden alongside recording devices in a mobster's suburban home show there are still plenty of mysteries to unravel about the notorious Chicago Outfit.

The discovery in a secret compartment behind a family portrait in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s home — a year after the massive Operation Family Secrets trial sent Calabrese and several others to prison — may trigger a fresh look at everything from unsolved shootings to a jewel theft ring once run by the former Chicago Police chief of detectives.

"I would say it's a treasure trove, really," James Wagner, one-time head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago and the Chicago Crime Commission.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice would not comment extensively on the investigation or search of Calabrese's home in Oak Brook, which was revealed in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. But he said investigators would run ballistics tests on the weapons and attempt to trace the jewelry and track down owners.

Calabrese, 71, was one of several reputed mobsters convicted last year in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 decades-old murders. He was blamed for 13, sentenced to life in prison and was one of four defendants ordered to pay more than $24 million, including millions in restitution to the families of murder victims. Tuesday's search was tied to that order. But the discovery could mean learning even more about the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit.
Wagner said investigators will try to determine ownership of the seven loaded guns by tracking serial numbers and testing for ballistics matches on homicides and shootings nationwide.

As for the jewelry, some pieces still in display boxes or bearing store tags, Wagner suggested several likely investigative avenues. The first could be the Outfit-connected jewelry-heist ring run by William Hanhardt, the former Chicago Police chief of detectives. Hanhardt is in prison after pleading guilty to leading a band of thieves that stole $5 million in jewelry and fine watches in the 1980s and 90s. One of Calabrese's co-defendants, Paul Schiro, was sentenced to prison in 2002 for being part of Hanhardt's ring. And a witness at the Family Secrets trial testified that Hanhardt collected $1,000 a week and a new car every two years in return for making sure mobsters were not caught.

Wagner also said that before the murdered body of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro was found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, he was not only the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas but also operated a jewelry store there. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for a number of jewelry thefts, Wagner said. Investigators may try to determine if any jewelry from those thefts found their way to Calabrese's home, Wagner said. But he also noted that tracing the diamonds, particularly the loose ones, is a long shot. "I'm not aware of any ability to trace those," he said.

Still, the newly found recording devices — suction cups use to "tap" into telephone conversations and several microcassettes — could prove particularly intriguing. One had the name of a convicted Outfit member written on it.

"This could be important evidence for them, evidence against other people involved in some of the same activities" as Calabrese and the others who were convicted last year, said former assistant U.S. attorney Joel Levin.

The tapes could contain the kind of code words that came out during the Family Secret trial, Wagner said.

During the trial, Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., acted almost as an interpreter for jurors listening to secretly recorded tapes of conversations between the two. He told jurors, for example, that when his father was telling him to pick up "recipes" he was telling him to collect money and when he told him to "keep 10 boxes of Spam ham," he was instructing his son to keep $1,000 for himself.

Wagner does not know what is on the tapes. But if they feature Calabrese Sr.'s voice, "The possibility exists that he used code terminology on the tapes and I would expect them to reach out for (Frank Calabrese Jr.) for interpretation again," he said.

Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, said he doesn't know who stashed the items, saying Calabrese has not lived in the home since the mid-1990s when he was sent to prison for another conviction. Nor, he said, did he have any idea who was on the recordings.


Thanks to Don Babwin

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family Secrets Jury Deliberations Were Systematic, Often Contentious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chicago Mobsters Ordered to Pay Restitution

Chicago mob bosses convicted in the landmark Family Secrets trial have already been ordered to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Now they'll have also to pay up with their bank accounts.

Judge James Zagel late Monday afternoon ordered more than $24 million in fines and restitution to be paid, including $4.3 million to the relatives of 14 men who had been murdered by the mob. The gangland killings were the centerpiece of a prosecution that dismantled the Outfit's upper echelon in 2007.

Zagel's order means that Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese, James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Paul "The Indian" Schiro are responsible for paying restitution for the murders, some of which occurred in the 1970's and 80's.

The court-ordered repayment is intended to cover the loss of income by the murder victims.

The government had estimated that the murder victims' lives, by way of lost earnings, were valued at $7.4 million. Prosecutors wanted the above four defendants and convicted corrupt Chicago police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle to split the restitution tab. But Zagel let Doyle off the hook for most of the money.

"I expressed at sentencing that, in my view, Doyle was not an active or full member of the conspiracy in the 1960s," wrote Judge Zagel."None of those murders occurred after February 1999, the latest date at which there is little doubt over Doyle's participation in the conspiracy. Accordingly, I apportion 1% of the total restitution amount to Doyle, or $44,225.73. As to the remaining $4,378,347.16, I hold Defendants Calabrese, Sr., Marcello, Lombardo, and Schiro jointly and severally liable."

In addition to the restitution, forfeitures totaling $20,258,556 were imposed on the men as payback of ill-gotten profits from years of mob schemes, scams and rackets.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will Leniency to Nick Calabrese End the Chicago Outfit's Foundation of Fear

Chicago Outfit hit man turned star government witness Nicholas Calabrese, who killed at least 14 men and wet his pants on his first murder assignment near Sox Park decades ago, stood in court to talk about fear.

"I chose my path in life," he told U.S. District Judge James Zagel before he was sentenced as the last man in the historic mob prosecution known as Family Secrets. "I was always with fear, and underneath that fear, there was a coward."

Not the Hollywood image of the Outfit hit man, but then Hollywood has always glamorized the mob. American audiences, so numbed by living in an increasingly bureaucratic culture, demand recognizable archetypes to fulfill escapist fantasies. It's Tony Soprano they want, the politically incorrect and unrepentant white guy who takes what he wants. But that's Hollywood, and Nick Calabrese is from Chicago, and he testified to wetting himself as a grown man, when he strangled Bones Albergo years ago with his brother Frank.

He's been afraid since he was a kid, afraid of Frank, afraid of failing at his work. That fear forced him to become meticulous in his planning of murders, so fussy about details that he sounded more like a grandmother at a quilting convention than some archetypal gangster.

That fear led him to become the first "made man" ever to testify against the Outfit, in the most significant prosecution of the mob in modern Chicago's history.

Outfit bosses Frank Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo and James Marcello have been sentenced, as have enforcer Paul Schiro and Chicago cop Anthony "Twan" Doyle. On Thursday it was Nick Calabrese's turn.

The families of his victims came up first, testifying tearfully about fathers who were shotgunned or strangled or tortured, never to see their kids grow up, graduate, marry and start their own families. Some wept, others spat out their hatred at Calabrese, and all asked Zagel to let him rot in prison.

It would have been the easy thing to do. Yet Zagel's job isn't about emotion, but rather about logic and the law, and he began to speak slowly, eloquently about leniency.

Not leniency to Calabrese, but leniency to all the other families of other victims unknown, future victims of other killers who might receive some small measure of justice if the law showed some mercy on Calabrese, to persuade men like him to testify in court.

"There is a phrase used in state courts, when individuals are charged with murder: 'Against the peace and dignity of the people of the state of Illinois,' " Zagel said. "And murder is a kind of war, and the organization you are involved in engages in that war, with faction against faction, and against the people."

Zagel noted that in another federal courtroom in April, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose will go on trial for allegedly being an Outfit messenger, guarding Calabrese and sending the bosses information about murder sites visited by Calabrese and FBI agents when the investigation began.

I wrote about the beginning of Family Secrets before it was called Family Secrets, back on Feb. 21, 2003, when Calabrese was quietly swept into the federal witness protection program, when the Outfit began to tremble, and I listed some of the murders that would be solved. I knew the Outfit bosses were worried. What I didn't know was how easily they could penetrate the federal shield.

The Outfit "will not forgive or relent in their pursuit of you," Zagel said to Calabrese, adding that even when he's a free man, Calabrese will never draw a secure breath.

He was sentenced to 148 months in prison, but given the time he's already served, Calabrese will be out in about four years. He should be available to testify in other trials.

Without Calabrese's testimony, there would have been no prosecution, and the big bosses would be out on the street, ordering hits, spreading corruption, sending their political errand boys to carry messages to local governments.

Watching him sitting at the defense table, an old man in jeans, glasses and a gray sweat shirt, trying to keep his lips from quivering and losing, it became clear that while the Chicago Outfit relies upon corrupt politicians to protect it, the Outfit was built on what was obvious in Nick Calabrese's eyes:

Fear.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nick Calbrese's Lawyer to Seek Mercy from Courts

A lawyer for Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese has asked a judge for mercy by noting Calabrese's decision to cooperate in the landmark Family Secrets investigation almost certainly saved lives.

Calabrese's choice to testify against mob leaders James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., undermined the Chicago mob's ability to carry out its work, lawyer John Theis wrote in a document filed Friday.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel is expected to sentence Calabrese next Thursday. Theis wrote in his memorandum that Calabrese will address the court as Zagel decides his fate.

"The fact that Defendant is and will be asking the court for a sentence which is reflective of his cooperation in this case is meant in no way to diminish his complete remorse and contrition for the pain and sorrow which he has caused many individuals and their families," the filing said.

Calabrese has admitted taking part in more than a dozen decades-old killings, including the infamous murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro. His testimony was the centerpiece of the Family Secrets trial in 2007, which resulted in convictions for the five men on trial.

Marcello, Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr. have since been sentenced to life in prison. Another defendant, Paul "the Indian" Schiro, was sentenced to 20 years for a murder in Arizona in which Nicholas Calabrese was the trigger man.

Prosecutors have told Zagel they would make no specific recommendation for what Calabrese should receive for his crimes, relying on Zagel's discretion. Calabrese has been incarcerated in the Family Secrets case since 2002.

The new filing indicates Calabrese will cite his extraordinary cooperation as a made member of the Outfit when he is sentenced. He decided to help the government for complex reasons, the filing said.

A heavy sentence would be a de facto life term for Calabrese, who is 67, Theis argued. In addition, his family will live in fear no matter what the judge does, the filing said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob by Jeff Coen


Painting a vivid picture of the scenes both inside and outside the courtroom and re-creating events from court transcripts, police records, interviews, and notes taken day after day as the story unfolded in court in 2007, this narrative accurately portrays cold-blooded—and sometimes incompetent—killers and their crimes. In 1998 Frank Calabrese Jr. offered to wear a wire to help the FBI build a case against his father, Frank Sr., and his uncle Nick. A top Mob boss, a reputed consigliore, and other high-profile members of the Chicago Outfit were eventually accused in a total of 18 gangland killings, revealing organized crime's ruthless grip on the city throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. After a series of other defendants pled guilty, those left to face off in court alongside Frank Sr. were James “Little Jimmy” Marcello, the acting head of the Chicago mob; Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, one of Chicago’s most colorful mobsters; and Paul “the Indian” Schiro. A former Chicago police officer who worked in evidence, Anthony "Twan" Doyle, rounded out the list. The riveting testimony and wide-angle view provide one of the best accounts on record of the inner workings of the Chicago syndicate and its control over the city's streets.

The author, Jeff Coen, is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, covering federal trials and investigations from the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in downtown Chicago. He was present in the courtroom throughout the Family Secrets trial, and his pieces on the case were featured in a popular series in the Chicago Tribune. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Joey the Clown Given Life in Prison

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was sentenced Monday to life in federal prison for serving as a leader of Chicago's organized crime family and the murder of a government witness in a union pension fraud case.

Lombardo, 80, was among three reputed mob bosses and two alleged henchmen convicted in September 2007 at the landmark Operation Family Secrets trial which lifted the curtain of secrecy from the seamy operations of Chicago's underworld.

"The worst things you have done are terrible and I see no regret in them," U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said in imposing sentence. He also sentenced Lombardo separately to 168 months for going on the lam for eight months after he was charged.

Lombardo grumbled that he had been eating breakfast in a pancake house on Sept. 27, 1974, when ski-masked men beat federal witness Daniel Seifert in front of his wife and 4-year-old son and then shot him to death at point-blank range.

"Now I suppose the court is going to send me to a life in prison for something I did not do," Lombardo said. He said he was sorry for the suffering of the Seifert family but added: "I did not kill Danny Seifert."

In a last-minute effort to bolster his alibi, he read from two documents signed by Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, now serving a 15-year sentence for wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police to run names through law enforcement databases. Pellicano was originally from Chicago.

Lombardo was one of the best-known figures in the Chicago underworld. His lawyer, Rick Halprin, told jurors during the trial that he merely "ran the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue" but was not a killer.

Witnesses said he was the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew — which extorted "street tax" from local businesses and engaged in other illegal activities.

He was sent to federal prison along with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension manager Allen Dorfman after they were convicted of plotting to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was charged with no wrongdoing in the case.

Lombardo was later convicted in a Las Vegas casino skimming case.

Seifert was gunned down two days before he was due to testify before a federal grand jury. His two sons spoke at the sentencing about the pain of losing their father when they were still children.

Joseph Seifert recalled how he saw mobsters "chase my father like a pack of hungry animals" before shooting him.

Nicholas Seifert said that he succumbed to depression over the killing. "I felt like a coward for many years for not seeking revenge for what those men did to my father," he said.

Lombardo used a wheelchair in court. Halprin declined to say what health problems his client has but said he needed to be sent to a prison where he would get adequate medical care.

Zagel acknowledged that he thought carefully about Lombardo's age in deciding on a sentence. But he said he wanted one that would not "deprecate the seriousness of the crime."

Zagel has already sentenced Calabrese to life and reputed mobster Paul Schiro to 20 years. Schiro was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison seven years ago after pleading guilty to being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the Chicago police department's former chief of detectives.

Still to be sentenced are James Marcello, reputedly one of the top leaders of the mob, and Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who became an enforcer for Frank Calabrese. Also still to be sentenced is Nicholas Calabrese, Frank's brother and an admitted hit man who became the government's star witness.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mobster, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, Given the Maximum Time in Prison

The first defendant to be sentenced in the Family Secrets mob conspiracy case was given 20 years in prison by a federal judge today, the maximum amount of time he could receive for his role in the conspiracy.

Paul "the Indian" Schiro had appeared emotionless during the landmark 2007 trial, but addressed U.S. District Judge James Zagel briefly today as he was about to learn his punishment.

Schiro accused Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk of "misquoting things," and said he had no idea why the jury had found him guilty. "I went to trial with co-defendants I never met in my life," Schiro said.

Zagel said there was plenty of evidence linking Schiro to the conspiracy, and to the 1986 murder of Emil Vaci. The jury had been unable to reach a verdict blaming Schiro for that killing, but Zagel said Schiro had been involved.

He likened Schiro to a sleeper agent who was an Outfit associate allowed to carry out his own burglary activity. But Schiro never hesitated when asked to help kill Vaci, who was shot to death in Arizona after he began being interviewed by a grand jury.

"There was no evidence of his hesitation," Zagel said. "He was available."

Four others were convicted in the case, and their sentencings are set to begin within days, beginning Wednesday with Frank Calabrese Sr. The defendants were accused in a decades-long conspiracy that included 18 gangland killings.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Operation Family Secrets Mob Trial Sentencing to Continue This Week

Federal agents tried for more than three decades to penetrate the deepest secrets of Chicago's organized crime family -- the names of those responsible for 18 ruthless murders aimed at silencing witnesses and meting out mob vengeance. They even called the investigation Operation Family Secrets.

Their patience was rewarded six years ago when a mob hit man began to spill the family secrets as part of a deal to keep himself out of the execution chamber. And starting this week, three aging dons of the Chicago underworld convicted in September 2007 as a result of that testimony are due to receive long sentences -- quite likely life.

Two alleged henchmen also convicted after the 10-week Family Secrets trial are expected to get long sentences as well.

"These were the main guys who ran the crime syndicate -- they were ruthless, they were absolutely ruthless," says retired police detective Al Egan, also a former longtime member of an FBI-led organized crime task force.

Wisecracking mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 80; convicted loan shark and hit man Frank Calabrese Sr., 71; and James Marcello, 66, all face a maximum of punishment of life in prison.

Former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, 64, and convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 71, weren't convicted of any murders but the jury found them guilty of participating in what prosecutors say was a long-running conspiracy that included killings, gambling, loan-sharking and squeezing businesses for "street tax."

The case is a major success for the FBI in its war on the mob.

"It led to the removal or displacement of some of the most capable guys in organized crime," says author John Binder whose book, "The Chicago Outfit," tells the story of organized crime in the nation's third largest city. And it sends a strong message to members of organized crime: Do you really want to be the guy at the top? Because we're going to get you in the future."

Lombardo is the most colorful defendant. He was sent to federal prison in the 1980s for conspiring with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension fund manager Allen Dorfman to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was never charged with any wrongdoing and the bill became law with his support.

When Lombardo got out, he resumed life as the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew, prosecutors say. He denies it but his attorney, Rick Halprin, told the trial he ran "the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue."

When the Family Secrets indictment was unsealed, Lombardo went on the lam for nine months. And when he was brought before Zagel, the irrepressible clown quickly lived up to his nickname. The judge asked him why he had not seen a doctor lately.

"I was supposed to see him nine months ago," Lombardo rasped, "but I was -- what do they call it? -- I was unavailable."

"A little joke now and then never hurts," he told the trial. But the jury found him responsible for gunning down a federal witness.

The jury also found Calabrese responsible for seven murders.

His own brother, Nicholas Calabrese, 66, testified that Frank liked to strangle victims with a rope and slash their throats to make sure they were dead.

Nicholas Calabrese became the government's star witness after he dropped a bloody glove near the scene of a mob murder. He agreed to talk out of fear that agents would match his DNA to that on the glove and he would be sentenced to death.

Among other things, he said his brother Frank liked to give names to their mob hits.

One was known as "Strangers in the Night," he testified. That was because the Frank Sinatra song was playing on the jukebox while two men were strangled in 1978 in a suburban Cicero restaurant.

Marcello was at one time the mob's big boss, according to federal investigators.

The jury held him among those responsible for the murder of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, at one time the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the movie "Casino."

Spilotro and his brother Michael were found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield.

Doyle is the only one of those convicted at the trial who is not accused of direct involvement in the murders.

Schiro was sentenced to prison for 5 1/2 years in 2002 for being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the former chief of detectives of the Chicago police department, William Hanhardt. Prosecutors claimed he was to blame for a mob hit in Phoenix. But the jury deadlocked on the case.

Nicholas Calabrese is to be sentenced Feb. 23.

Thanks to CBS2

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Restitution Filing Doubles Value Requested for Mob Murder Victims

In a separate court filing, the lives of 14 mob murder victims have gone up in value.

Federal prosecutors originally filed court motions last fall citing the earnings potential of victims and the monetary loss to their relatives. At that time, restitution to be paid by top Chicago mobsters convicted in Operation Family Secrets was put at $3.9 million.

Updated figures filed in federal court on Friday put the restitution at $7,450,686.00. Prosecutors say the increased value is based on new information provided to experts who figured the restitution. Government lawyers are asking the court to force lead mob defendants to split that figure five ways and be made to pay survivors of those who were rubbed out by assassins.

The convicted hoodlums who are being asked to pay up are: Frank Calabrese Sr., James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro and Anthony "Twan" Doyle.

All of the men are due to be sentenced by the end of February, at which time Judge James Zagel is expected to impose restitution and also $20 million in fines that the government has requested.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Family Secrets Mob Trial Sentencing Dates Set

A federal judge has set sentencing dates for five men convicted in September 2007 at Chicago's Operation Family Secrets mob trial.

They were convicted of a decades-long conspiracy that allegedly included loan sharking, squeezing victims for "street taxes" and a series of mob murders.

Judge James Zagel on Tuesday set the sentencings of Paul Schiro and Anthony Doyle for Jan. 26, Frank Calabrese on Jan. 28, Joseph Lombardo for Feb. 2 and James Marcello on Feb. 5.

Zagel set Feb. 23 for sentencing Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, an admitted hit man who became the government's star witness.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sentencing of Mob Handyman, Thomas Johnson, Kicks Off Chicago Outfit Sentencing Season

'Tis the season to be sentenced for the Chicago Outfit.

By the time the New Year rings in, more than a half dozen hoodlums will have guaranteed reservations at the Holiday Pen.

Mob handyman Thomas Johnson on Tuesday became the first of several Operation Family Secrets defendant to be sentenced this month. Johnson, of Willow Springs, was handed a 30-month prison term and three years of supervision after pleading guilty to his role as an Outfit handyman. U.S. District Judge James Zagel also fined Johnson $7500. He will surrender on March 3, 2009 to begin serving his sentence.

"It is undisputed that Johnson for over seven years engaged in illegal conduct for and with Outfit associate Michael Marcello and his (Michael Marcello's) brother, Outfit boss James Marcello," stated federal prosecutors in sentencing reports. "Johnson's full-time employer was Cicero-based 'M&M Amusements,' which was a large-scale illegal gambling business operating for the financial benefit of the Chicago Outfit."

In Johnson's plea agreement, he admitted rigging video poker machines so that they could be used for actual wagering. "Johnson and others did so by installing a 'knock-off' button or switch which enabled the bar owner to keep track of winning and losing plays. Johnson and his co- conspirators then placed these illegally-altered machines at dozens of bars, restaurants, and clubs throughout Chicagoland" stated prosecutors.

Johnson's talents were not limited to tinkering on machines. He was also a skilled bookkeeper, according to federal investigators. "He created two sets of written documents during the weekly accountings held with the proprietors where the gambling machines were located. Johnson would record the true amount of income retrieved from the machines, and split this figure with the proprietors as agreed. On 'settle-up day,' Johnson also created another set of written records ("collection reports") which falsely recorded a lower amount of income generated by the machines, namely 50% of the actual income generated" authorities said.

Johnson's pleaded guilty of conducting an illegal gambling business and tax fraud. Government agents estimated that he cheated the IRS out of nearly $1.69 million.

Attorneys portrayed Johnson, 53, as little more than a mob stooge, who was a "minor participant, if not a minimal participant. In a court filing, they said Johnson's "involvement was limited to participating in a non-violent illegal gambling operation. Furthermore, within the gambling operation, Mr. Johnson was a low level employee. Mr. Johnson regularly visited business owners participating in the gambling operation to collect proceeds and collection reports from the machines. In return, Mr. Johnson was paid $2,400.00 per month."

The Family Secrets defendants who were convicted at trial will be up for sentencing next week, including former Chicago Police Department officer Anthony Doyle and Paul "The Indian" Schiro, both on Dec. 10

The namesake of the USA vs. Frank Calabrese case as it is officially known, Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese, will be sentenced on Dec. 11 in the Dirksen Building courthouse.

He will be followed by Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo on Dec. 15 and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello on Dec. 17.

The key witness in the landmark case, one-time Outfit assassin Nick Calabrese, will be sentenced on Jan. 26, 2009. Nick Calabrese, who has admitted his role in more than a dozen gangland hits, turned government witness and fingered his brother Frank in the mob plots.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Family Secrets Mobsters Seeking Gifts of Leniency and Mercy During Holiday Season Sentencing

It's not even October but several top Chicago Outfit bosses are already thinking about Christmas and hoping they'll receive gifts of leniency.

In rat-a-tat succession this December, five mobsters who were convicted in the milestone Operation: Family Secrets prosecution last year are now scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel.

The pre-Christmas list of defendants who will stand before Judge Zagel begins with Anthony "Twan" Doyle, a former Chicago police officer. Doyle is to be sentenced Monday, December 8. Doyle's sentencing and the others will take place in Zagel's courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn in downtown Chicago.

An Italian-American who was born "Passafume," the ex-cop changed his name to the Irish "Doyle" when he joined the Chicago Police Department. He was convicted of being the Outfit's "go-to guy" during some of his 21 years on the police force. The jury found that Doyle was part of a racketeering conspiracy that used violence to achieve its goals.

Next up in court will be Paul "The Indian" Schiro, who is due to be sentenced Wednesday, December 10. Schiro was convicted on racketeering charges.

The following day, Thursday December 11, lead defendant Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese, Sr. will be sentenced. It was Calabrese Sr.'s son and brother who both turned government witnesses and brought down the elder's Outfit street crew like a house of parlay cards. Nearly one year ago, a federal jury blamed "The Breeze" for nearly a dozen gangland murders and on Dec. 11 Calabrese Sr. is will face a sentence that will likely keep him locked up for the rest of his life.

The pre-holiday sentencing will continue the following week, on Monday December 15, when Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo will appear before Judge Zagel. Lombardo was also convicted of racketeering in connection with the old, unsolved mob murders, including those of notorious Las Vegas boss Anthony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael. The Spilotros were found buried in an Indiana cornfield in 1986 after a dispute with their Outfit superiors. "The Clown" is known for his courtroom antics, such as peering out from behind a homemade newspaper mask, wise-cracking with lawyers and judges and once leading news crews on a downtown chase through a construction site. He is likely to be less jovial on Dec. 15, when he faces what will be tantamount to a life sentence.

The final sentencing for the five major Family Secrets defendants will be Wednesday, December 17. James "Little Jimmy" Marcello will also face the potential of life in prison for his role in mob killings and the collection of Outfit "street tax." The mob crew strong-armed protection money from businesses, ran sports bookmaking and video poker businesses as well as loan sharking operations. They rubbed out some of those who might have spilled their secrets to the FBI.

Admitted mob hitman Nick Calabrese, brother of Frank "The Breeze," will be sentenced Monday, January 26, 2009. Nick Calabrese had a hand in at least 15 gangland hits before turning informant. His cooperation was key to the original indictment of 14 Outfit bosses and soldiers and the success of the prosecutions.

Several lower-echelon members of the mob crew have already been sentenced. Also, Judge Zagel has denied defense motions for new trials.

Sentencing Dates

Anthony Doyle Sentencing Dec 8

Paul Schiro Sentencing Dec 10

Frank Calabrese Sr. Sentencing Dec 11

Joseph Lombardo Sentencing Dec. 15

James Marcello Sentencing Dec 17

Nicholas Calabrese Sentencing Jan 26, 2009

Frank Schweihs -- Died before trial.

Already Sentenced

Michael Marcello -- 8 1/2 years prison
Nicholas Ferriola three years in prison
Joseph Venezia -- 40 months prison
Dennis Johnson -- 6 months in prison

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mystery of Juror Excused from Family Secrets Mob Trial Revealed

The Chicago Mob is an illicit business, notorious for its myths, mystery and folklore.

One baffling moment in the recent history of the Outfit now has an explanation. The incident occurred last year near the end of the Operation: Family Secrets prosecution of five members of the Outfit.

One juror, an alternate, was excused from the panel without explanation by trial Judge James Zagel.

In a ruling on defendants' post-trial motions Wednesday, Judge Zagel, for the first time, disclosed the reason for the juror's dismissal. She seemed to be frightened of the mob.

Zagel wrote that the female juror's posture and demeanor "revealed at best discomfort and perhaps anxiety or panic." When she asked the judge if any threats had been made against her during the trial, he excused her. None of the defense attorneys objected at the time.

There have been numerous cases the past 75 years in which the Outfit tried to buy justice and influence judges and juries when hoodlums were on trial. Mob bosses have also been known to silence witnesses and intimidate jurors.

For those reasons, the names of jury members impaneled in the Family Secrets case were not made public, and they were anonymous. But, considering the well-documented history of Outfit intimidation and violence against those working for justice, we now know that at least one juror seemed unwilling to take the risk.

The five members of the Chicago Outfit were all convicted last year in the government's landmark mob case and Wednesday were all denied new trials by Judge Zagel.

In a written order handed down by Zagel, the guilty verdicts for murder, conspiracy and racketeering will stand against Outfit bosses Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr, James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello and Outfit soldier Paul "the Indian" Schiro. Mob associate and former Chicago police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle was found guilty of racketeering. His post-trial motion was also denied.

Judge Zagel said in his order that the motions were being denied "because there was ample evidence to support the jury's verdict" and that the jury was within its right to believe government recordings and witness testimony.

Specifically, Zagel noted Joe Lombardo's testimony on the witness stand worked against him and that Lombardo's advertisement in a newspaper stating he was no longer in the Outfit was "nothing more than a stunt."

The defendants argued that Judge Zagel should have granted a mistrial when he received a note during the trial from a juror saying that other members of the jury had formed opinions about the case before all the evidence had been heard. The defendants' motion stated that "some [jurors] also mentioned that they would be very upset if they had to deliberate for more than a few days while waiting on a decision that should already be made or close to being known." After receiving the note, Judge Zagel questioned each juror, dismissed two of them and says that he stands by his determination that the rest of the jury was not tainted.

Lombardo, Marcello, Schiro and Doyle also argued they were entitled to a new trial because a juror observed Calabrese threaten to kill Assistant US Attorney T. Marcus Funk, during closing arguments. Zagel stated jurors were able to differentiate between the defendants, so it would not have clouded their judgment.

Zagel acknowledged that Funk did "misstate some of the evidence in his closing argument." But the judge denied Schiro's motion for a mistrial because Funk and co-council Mitch Mars pointed out the mistake.

Zagel said he disagreed with several of the defendants' complaint that media coverage leading up to and during the trial tainted jurors and that the identities of the jurors should not have been anonymous.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Monday, October 01, 2007

All-Star FBI Team Responds to Letter and Puts Its Stamp on Chicago Outfit

The letter that spilled the Outfit's Family Secrets arrived at the Chicago offices of the FBI in November 1998.

It was addressed to now-retired FBI supervisor Tom Bourgeois, who was then the organized crime section chief. It was from Outfit prince Frank Calabrese Jr., serving a prison sentence in Milan, Mich.

Junior offered to implicate his father, Frank Sr., and uncle Nick in the unsolved murder of Outfit hit man John Fecarotta.

"It came in the mail. I couldn't believe it," Bourgeois told me last week during an interview with current FBI agents at the FBI's expansive new headquarters on the West Side. "We went to Frank to authenticate what he told us in the letter. And then we formulated a strategy on how we were going to approach this case. Strategy was the most important part here."

The recently concluded Family Secrets case took agents countless hours transcribing and decoding prison-house code, in which, for example "Zhivago" meant the two murdered Spilotro brothers buried in a cornfield. It also sent them reinvestigating cold Outfit hits from 30 years ago.

"It's hard to explain to the public how much work is involved," said James Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission and a former FBI supervisor, who trained several of the agents. "You have to sit and transcribe those conversations in paper format, and that takes days and days of work right there, a mountain of paperwork," Wagner said. "And go back and find old witnesses."

Family Secrets began long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There were two FBI squads working the Chicago Outfit then. One was working the Calabrese end, the family that ran the Chinatown crew through gambling, loan-sharking, extortion and murder. But there was another FBI squad focusing on mob-boss heir apparent Jimmy Marcello of the western suburbs, who was preparing to get out of prison and run things the Chicago way.

Both squads folded into one after 9/11. Though resources were shifted toward terrorism, the Chicago FBI kept some of its top people on the Family Secrets case that many of you have been reading about this summer.

This weekend, thousands of words and hours of video will be devoted to great sports plays, the stupendous touchdowns and home runs, and all that pressure on the necks of the Cubs and Bears, professional athletes whose names are known to millions.

FBI agents on Family Secrets aren't on baseball cards. Their names are not known. Yet they're a team more important than a bunch of ballplayers.

The lead case agent was Mike Maseth, who knew relatively little about the Outfit when he was assigned the Calabrese case at its beginning. He spent nine straight determined years working the case and countless hours with Nick Calabrese after he flipped him. And agent Anita Stamat, working on the Marcello angle, decoded the Outfit dialect with the help of Ted McNamara, the FBI's walking Outfit encyclopedia. Veteran John Mallul was the supervisor with the institutional memory who took over when Bourgeois retired.

"Ted McNamara was the mastermind with the code," Stamat said. "He's worked organized crime for 15 years. He helped guide us through the context of the prison conversations. We were recording them in the visiting room. There could be 200 people there, having their own conversations, and sometimes, Marcello would say, 'Cover your mouth,' to his brother Michael, thinking we were reading lips."

They didn't have to read lips, because they were listening and taping.

Other agents include Luigi Mondini, Chris Mackey, Christopher Smith, Tracy Balinao, Andrew Hickey, Mark Gutknecht, Dana DePooter, Trisha Holt and Tim Keese. And from the Internal Revenue Service, there were Bill Paulin, Laura Shimkus and Mike Welch.

You might not know their names, but mention Maseth or Stamat or Mallul or McNamara or the others around wise guys, and their faces freeze. The officials say is the new reputed Chinatown boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso, wouldn't be afraid of an NFL linebacker, but he'd tighten up if Ted McNamara came by for a pork chop sandwich at the Caruso polish sausage stand on 31st Street in Bridgeport.

Outfit bosses Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Marcello will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison as a result of the case, and Paul "the Indian" Schiro might die inside too. The youngest person convicted in the Family Secrets trial is Anthony "Twan" Doyle, 62, not a boss but a Chicago cop who spilled police secrets about the Fecarotta murder to the Outfit.

Once the FBI flipped Nick Calabrese and began decoding the prison talk of his brother Frank and of Marcello, the case mushroomed. One phase is done. Other cases are being developed as you read this. "I feel this is what the FBI does best," Mallul said, "good old-fashioned police work and investigations, combined with fortuitous events that align themselves."

Like a mob princeling sending a letter to the FBI.

Thanks to John Kass

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Upholding the Legacy of Al Capone

To me the Chicago Outfit has always meant a Bears shirt and some loud sweatpants.

That's how little I've followed our neighboring city's organized crime syndicate until this week's verdict nailing five of its aging leaders and associates.

It's like "The Sopranos" episode that Tony hoped would never come. Tough guys with colorful nicknames were dragged into court by the feds to answer to charges of racketeering, illegal gambling, extortion, obstructing justice and 18 murders dating back to 1970. The jury returned guilty verdicts on the other counts but has yet to decide on the murder charges.

A panel of 12 peers, if that word can apply to a mobster trial, convicted James Marcello, 65, said to run the Outfit; Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78; Paul "the Indian" Schiro, 70; Frank Calabrese Sr., 70; and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, 62, a former Chicago cop.

The summer-long trial followed an investigation code-named Operation Family Secrets because two star witnesses were the brother and son of accused hit man Calabrese, who shouted, "Them are lies!" as the prosecutor told the jury he had left a trail of bodies.

Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, who pleaded guilty, said he peed his pants in fear as they dug a shallow grave for one victim. And he recalled that "Strangers in the Night" was playing on the jukebox at the restaurant where one guy was whacked.

There was plenty of mob-speak about high interest "juice loans" and grownup bullies collecting "street taxes" from fearful merchants. The jury saw surveillance photos and listened to tape recordings made in secret. They heard about "made" guys and "capos," bookies and henchmen. There was even talk of a severed puppy head and a dead rat being left to get someone's attention.

Wisconsin, long a vacationland for gangsters, got only brief attention at the trial. The Outfit buried a few hundred thou in cash up here but found it soaked and smelly when they dug it up.

Calabrese's lawyer tried to put a wholesome sheen on his client by saying he might as well be "a cheese salesman from Wisconsin."

One old-time Outfit figure mentioned at the trial was Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio. According to the Journal Sentinel archives, he oversaw organized crime activity in Milwaukee for his Chicago bosses in the 1950s and 1960s. He died in 1971.

Much better remembered here, of course, are the Balistrieris - dad Frank P. and sons Joe and John. They lacked a cool name like the Outfit, but they were the faces of our reputed Milwaukee mob. All three went to prison in the 1980s but were later released. Frank died in 1993, and his sons still live quietly here in town.

The FBI in Milwaukee has an organized crime detail, but these days they spend more time on groups from Eastern Europe and Asia, and street gangs.

"We don't see the Italian organized crime as being a large threat in the Milwaukee area," said special agent Doug Porrini. "There just haven't been any cases since the Balistrieris," Milwaukee U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic added.

That's OK, we don't miss it. The level of disorganized crime here is bad enough.

The U.S. Department of Justice in Chicago admitted that this prosecution wounded the Outfit but did not kill it. As these men go off to prison, new leaders will step in.

It just wouldn't be Chicago without someone upholding the legacy of Al Capone.

Thanks to Jim Stingl

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

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